Barry McCabe - The Gibson-Mann
RockTimes: When did you start playing music?
Barry McCabe: (laughing) Do you mean how long have I been playing or what age was I when I started? I got my first guitar at the age of 14, which is quite late actually. A lot of people start playing music when theyre still children. But I think I learned quite fast. I remember once that the music teacher gave us a song to learn before the summer holidays. I learned it a bit and then I enjoyed my holidays. After the holidays the teacher asked which song we had stopped with. The kids mentioned another song; an easier song and everybody played it for her. I was caught somewhat aback as I hadnt been practising that one and hence sounded a bit rusty. When she commented on it I reminded her which song shed taught us before the holidays and this one was a bit more complicated. I played it and it didnt seem that difficult to me and after that she always gave me more complicated songs than the other pupils. Thats it I started to play music while still in school. Before I left high school I was already playing in a real band.
RT: What was the name of the band?
BMC: Albatross. It was called Albatross right from the start. We played together for 10 15 years. The line up changed sometimes of course.
RT: Have you always played the same style of music?
BMC: Ok. When we started we played only in our own area, of course. Its normal that you play more cover songs when you start, your favourite songs. At one stage I started to write my own songs and to bring them into the set. We were very busy and we played a lot of gigs. The other two guys in the band were older than I was and they had more private commitments. They suggested that I look for a couple of younger players because at this stage I wanted to tour all around the country. Well, I found two guys and that was the real start: we wrote our own songs and played them. Hmm...it was Rory (Gallagher) who was my biggest influence.
RT: Tell us something about your favourite guitar.
BMC: My favourite guitar or my favourite guitarist?
RT: Your favourite guitar!
BMC: (laughing) Well, Im not a Fender-man! Yes, even though Im a Rory fan Im one of the rare ones who doesnt play a Fender. The reason is quite simple. I grew up in a little village. At that time it was very difficult to get musical instruments they werent many music stores in the area where I lived.
But there was this guy who had a garage, full of all kinds of things, a bit like Aladdins cave really. As a teenager youd disappear into this cave and just totally lose track of time. Whatever you wanted he seemed to have it, all sorts of musical things, a lot of Top-40 bands even went there for equipment. He always seemed to have just the right thing for you. I went to him because I was looking for a guitar. He used to whistle all the time and I remember him saying to me maybe I have something for you. He had an Ibanez copy of a Les Paul, with the classic Les Paul shape and sound this really fat sound. It was a very good guitar even if it was only an Ibanez. I was more than happy with it.
Later on, after Id earned enough money I decided I wanted to buy a Strat. I tried one but it didnt have the right feel it was too small, too thin and too easy and I thought Ok, youre a Gibson-man. Ive never played Strat and I think I never will. It doesnt have that fat sound like a Gibson guitar does. Ok, maybe if I was sitting in a studio and thought maybe this song or that song might sound better with a Strat then I think I might try it, to see if it would sound better but I could never use it for my live gigs because my whole equipment is set up for the Gibson-sound and a Fender wouldnt have that sound. My amps are worked out for this fat sound and anyway I really like my Gibson guitars.
RT: Barry, let´s talk a bit about your musical heroes.
BMC: Hmm... Im sure youll be surprised Rory, yes Rory (everyone laughs). I discovered Live In Europe at the age of 13. That record really changed my world and everything began with it. I recognised that I wanted to be musician and to tour around the world. To have someone like Rory as an idol when youre a teenager had another positive effect. Its very sad that he had to die so young; that he had so many problems with alcohol because he always warned against the consequences of alcohol and drug abuse. If youre a teenager and your hero says something like that you take it to heart. Rory had the biggest influences on me in every way. One of my other heroes is Peter Green because of his Gibson sound. I loved his sound. It was unbelievable. He could put so much feeling into just one note. He taught me that the most important thing wasnt to play fast but to pay attention to the feel/tone.
Another influence was Phil Lynott, primarily because of his songwriting. He really had a way with words that was perfect. But I also like a lot of other guys, like Jackson Brown and James Taylor, who just can sit down a write wonderful songs with their acoustics, and of course I like bands such as like Molly Hatchet or Lynyrd Skynyrd. My musical taste is very wide but definitely Rory and Peter Green are the two who influenced me the most.
RT: Please answer spontaneously what you think about the following names: Walter Trout.
BMC: Oh, I know him very well. Weve toured together often. Somebody once described him as Muddy Waters on LSD. Walters style of playing is the exact opposite to Peter Greens. Walters attitude seems to be: Why should I only play 100 notes when I can play 1000? Thats his style. I like him a lot as a person and I like his style of guitar playing.
RT: Brush Shiels.
BMC: A very important man in the history of Irish music. I believe that many people underestimate his influence. I also know him. Hes a very important musician.
RT: The Wolfe Tones.
BMC: Oops... not really my thing, neither musically nor politically. Theyre very popular in Ireland, but not really my thing.
RT: Dan Baird.
BMC: Ah, the Georgia Satellites, I liked them a lot. I like this kind of guitar-based Rock n Roll.
RT: The last name: Guinness.
BMC: (laughs loud) I think I helped keep their profit margin high for a good 20 years. Guinness is as Irish as my own name but... be careful, dont drink too much!
RT: Tell us something about your next CD.
BMC: I have to be a bit careful what I say here because Ive just started working on it. And when you start working on a new CD you should keep all your options open. I dont want to say too much because otherwise people await too much from it and this blocks its development.
Im busy with it at the moment. The songs seem to be coming together alright. Im working together with the band on it and I like what Ive heard so far. Itll be along the same lines as The Peace Within CD, marrying together Irish music and blues, maybe a bit closer than the last time, but its too early yet to really say much more about it.
When you make an album the end result can be very different from the ideas you started out with. Some of the things you thought would work dont work and other things work that you thought wouldnt work. Just recently I had a song I thought wouldnt work with the band because it was written for the acoustic but it worked really good and sounded fantastic. Things always change and so Id prefer not to say too much more about it at this point. But we can talk about it at a later stage if you like.
RT: Ok! What about a DVD release?
BMC: Im often asked about that. At the moment its in to make a DVD or add one free with the CD, but... for me if Im going to do something then I want to do it right or not at all. For me its more than just filming a show with one or two cameras. I think thats too one-dimensional. If someone buys the DVD and watches it at home in his living room in the cold light of day, and maybe hasnt seen the band yet, he wont will be able to understand the live power and the atmosphere. I want to be able to show a three-dimensional impression of what I do. It also should contain interviews and more information about the songs. So it would get a more spacious feel. Of course Im thinking about it and would like to do it but now is not the right time for doing it.
RT: When will you visit us in Germany?
BMC: You personally?
RT: Argh, I meant more a tour...
BMC: Germany is a very big country. To organise a tour there properly you need a really good booking agent. As Im not touring constantly these days I dont have a full time agent in Germany, so if you know somebody Maybe well be in Germany soon - a gig in Hannover, the Bluesgarage. I hope well be able to do some more gigs, but its not sure at this moment. Its not that I wouldnt like to do it.
RT: Please tell us about your live experiences with Rory Gallagher.
BMC: When I played together with him?
BMC: I knew Rory quite well. I played with him in Holland. I knew his crew, his band, everybody connected with him so it was a very easy-going affair, no problems at all. Of course it was a special situation for me: I played with a three-piece band at that time. Rory has also had three-piece line-ups. I was the singer of the band and Rory was too. I sang through the lead vocal mic. and used the two main vocal monitors. Half an hour later Rory I was standing in the audience and saw Rory standing there, singing through the same mic. and using the same monitors. What can I say that was a very special moment.
After the interview Barry took his good mood with him on stage