Sunday, September 4, 2011

Interview: Nabz Ali, of The Fallen Drakes.

The Fallen Drakes are an Irish success story but their story is an international one. 2011 has seen the band burst onto the Irish music scene with sell out shows and coveted support slots for international superstars and a hit single to their names. We caught up with drummer Nabz Ali, and asked him about their amazing year. He tells us the Fallen Drakes story is a mix of luck, hard work, and tragedy.

How did the Fallen Drakes form?

I was travelling America in 2009 with my twin brother Hyder (Bassist) and we met Brian (McGovern, Vocals & Gutar) in Memphis, we became friends straight away and over many drunken nights we made a pact to start playing together once we got home.  Hyder and I came back to Ireland and Brian continued his travels to South America. About 4 months later he came back to Ireland and we stuck to the deal.

After a few jams we all felt that we were onto something good. We decided we needed another guitar to complete the sound and we put out an ad for a Lead Guitarist. That ad was answered by Mickey Mac (Slovakian native, Michal Bartolen) and the rest is history!

How did the name come about?

After rehearsals one night, we were watching Talladega Nights, and in the movie Ricky Bobby and his team mate Cal do the 'Shake and bake' fist bump! Our Guitarist Mickey thought they were saying 'Fallen Drake'.... yet again the rest is history… But also, we recently found out that The Fallen Drakes directly translated into Slovakian is 'We love Alternative Irish Music Review"'.

Tell us a bit about each member of the band?

Hyder drinks Heineken and Captain Morgan/coke and is thoughtful and quiet
Brian drinks Heineken and Captain Morgan/coke and is humble and soft spoken
Mickey drinks Heineken and Jagermaister and likes cookery programs
And I drink Heineken and Captain Morgan/Orange and I like long walks on the beach

What's the most rock n' roll thing a Fallen Drake has ever done?

We went 2 minutes over time while supporting Bon Jovi in the RDS Arena....yeah....we are mental cases.

All the ladies want to know. Are you guys attached?

One of us is attached and three of us are actively seeking love and affection.

Who are your influences?

We all listen to the widest range of music, so it is very hard to narrow it down. Bands that we would consider that we sound like would be The Killers, Snow Patrol, U2 and just anything that has a big current rock sound!  We look up to young, up and coming bands like Two Door Cinema Club and Temper Trap as they have achieved a lot in the last couple of years and they leave a good blue print for a band like us who are still very much in its infancy.

You've been likened to The Script. But how would you describe The Fallen Drakes sound?

I think we get likened to The Script because they are just so big right now and in the public eye, it’s easy to compare a new Irish rock/pop band to them. We take it as a compliment! But they have a lot more R&B vibes in their music where we would have more of a rock sound. I’d say that we have a current rock sound that is meant to be played in large venues!

Would you agree that The Fallen Drakes are - albeit unintentionally - a good example of successful social integration?

Haha. Great question! And yes of course! Brian is Irish born and bred! Hyder & I are half Irish and half Iraqi and Mickey Mac is Slovakian. We are like a multi-cultural experimental project! It serves us well! We will have to do three homecoming gigs in Dublin, Bratislava and Baghdad!

Has the band experienced any racism?

Not at all! We get more press from the music that we play, rather than our heritage.

What has the reaction been like in Slovakia?

Mickey has been in bands for years over there, so everyone that knows him are really proud that he has managed to set up shop in Ireland and is making a big name for himself! He’s the local hero!

Have the band any plans to tour in Slovakia?

Yes! We actually had a mini tour set up straight after we released the EP back in January, but then we got picked for the Today FM Competition and started getting some serious attention here so the timing didn't work out! But once we get our debut album released, Slovakia is going getting Draked out of it!

You guys have a knack of winning competitions. Have you won everyone you've entered?

If we enter a table quiz we will kick your ass! Ah no we wish! Quite the opposite! The truth is we were completely shocked and humbled that we won two huge National Unsigned Band Competitions. We have been very lucky and we see it as a sign that we have to keep working hard and doing what we do! Somehow we have built up a solid fan base and they support and help us in everything we do so we owe them a lot!

You recently opened for The Commitments in the O2. Was it a surreal experience?

It was so surreal that the only way we remember it is to go to Youtube and look at the videos people posted up. I think everybody dreams of playing in a venue the size of the O2 arena. Once you are up there its like an out of body experience, its over so fast, you can’t describe the feeling! We have been to see so many of our favourite bands in there and like every other musician, we would stand and watch and only dream of being on that stage! Our mammy's and daddy's were proud!

Were you big fans of the movie and did you get to hang out with the band, if so what were they like?

We were huge fans of the movie! We can quote it all! Also we are big fans of The Frames so it was a double treat for us to see Glen Hansard on stage! They couldn't have been nicer! When we were sound checking, we were nervous, very nervous. We went from 200 people in the twisted pepper to 13,000 in one of Ireland's biggest venues! So the pressure was on.

Glen Hansard and Andrew Strong came out as soon as we finished sound checking, they shook our hands gave us a hug and a great prep talk! The rest of the commitments were all great and every one of them came over to us at some stage during the night to wish us all the best!

How did it feel walking out onto the stage at the RDS in front of thousands of people?

SCARY! It’s hard to prepare for that feeling! Such an overwhelming experience. Luckily we had really warmed up before going on so we were eager to get out there and try win over the crowd!

Are you on a first name basis with Bon Jovi now?

Bonny? Of course! Sure he was over in our gaff last week having the craic, swapping hair styling ideas with Hyder. Sound as a pound

Tell us about the songwriting process is it a collective or individual endeavour?

We do it collectively, someone comes up with an idea, a riff, a melody, anything! Then we just work on it as a group until something remotely good comes out! Then, Brian takes off in his car for a long drive while he writes the lyrics. We have a good thing going and it’s beneficial having four minds instead of just one when it comes to song writing.

Are you/the band prolific songwriters and who if anybody is in charge of quality control?

We all have equal say and input into the songs, I think we need all four of us to have equal say or else the songs just wouldn't come out the way we want it.  We argue and fight over it all the time, but at the end of the day it stays in the rehearsal room and we know its a good thing to argue and fight as we want to write the best music we can.  We haven’t even written an album yet, we are still learning, but we are heading in the right direction! We all have our parts to play; it wouldn't be The Fallen Drakes if one of us was missing! Team Drake!
Are the songs based on your personal experiences, pure imagination or a mixture of both?

They are pure imaginative experiences!

Is there a girl from New York and does she like making love with the lights on?

Haha! We thought all girls liked making love with the lights on? Yes? No? There actually is a Girl from New York and that song is about a true story that happened to one of us! But some things you just need to keep personal!

Your debut EP "Death of an Actress" has been critically acclaimed tell us about recording it?

It’s crazy to think it was only 6 months ago when we released it! In a nutshell, we wanted to put some songs online, it was our first few songs we had written!  We wanted show people what we were doing, and we didn't think much of it!  We were very lucky to cross paths with Ger Mcdonnell (worked with the likes of U2, Kasabian & Manic Street Preachers) about a month before we went in the studio!

To be honest we didn't really know what a producer did before that! He has wisdom beyond his years and meeting him definitely was a turning point in our career. He simply knows exactly what he’s doing. He gave us that bigger sound and he can hear things in songs only a man of his experience and talent can foresee. The recording process taught us so much.

Once released we were taken aback by how well it was received and we sold out our E.P. Launch in Dublin only a few weeks after releasing it! So we are proud of that little E.P.!

How did you come up with the title?

Maybe 6 months before Mickey moved to Ireland, his best friend’s girlfriend had sadly passed away. He needed to leave Slovakia and start a fresh and Mickey agreed to come over to Ireland with him. Before she died she had intended to move to London to pursue an acting career after she had finished college. The first night we met Mickey he had told us this story about why he came over and the name death of an actress somehow came about. We said we either needed to write a song about it or name our first release after her. So we did.

Which song are you most proud of?

It has to be the first song on our debut E.P. 'Masquerade'. That song was the one that was chosen when we won both unsigned competitions! It has served us well and I think we owe it to everyone and ourselves to re-master and release it as a single at some stage!

Why should someone part with their hard earned cash to attend a Fallen Drakes concert?

Who wouldn't want to see four sweaty men giving it socks on stage? Well worth the fee. We give it everything, we are always getting better and it’s an honest show with a tight set - we don't rely on gimmicks or anything to make it a great show.

Whats next for The Fallen Drakes?

Debut Album! We need it, we have done so much and achieved a crazy amount with the strength of one E.P. and one Single so it’s time that we do a full album!  We are writing for the album as we speak & gigging regularly around Ireland as well… We always have things going on, be it video blogs, facebook competitions, shooting the breeze with bonny, you name it! Come join us on Facebook for all the latest news!

Death of an Actress E.P. can be streamed from The Fallen Drakes Facebook page and also from Bandcamp:

Review: Duncan Maitland at Stags Head Raw

A new live music club night opened its doors for the very first time upstairs in The Stags Head on Sunday. "Raw" is a welcome addition to the Dublin music scene. The Venue is intimate. The sound is good and the atmosphere is laid back. Upcoming acts include indie favourites Ham Sandwich, The Shoos and Dermot Lambert of Dublin electro pop act Blink, And with many more quality acts being confirmed, it looks as if Raw could quickly become a staple of the Dublin circuit.

The night kicks off with with Niall Brennan. The former lead singer of cult late 90's alt country act The Prescriptions. The band received rave reviews for several EP's; before folding, following the recording of their unreleased debut album.  Brennan's voice is distinctively broad and gravely. He delivers a composed performance including Prescriptions material and more recent compositions. The haunting balled "Alaska" and the jazz standard style "Flight of the Innocents" are among the highlights of the set, from this songwriter's songwriter.

Barry O'Brien from powerpop act Slumberjet delivers a solo acoustic set of uptempo melodic songs from Slumberjet's critically acclaimed 2010 self titled debut album. The influence of Elvis Costello, think "Watching The Detectives" and Jason Faulkner is audible from the off, especially on songs such as"The Letter".   O'Brien's rhythm playing is so hard that it puts a mild natural distortion effect to his guitar in places. Giving it just the right amount of umph.  

O'Brien's vocals are smooth with a great range leading into falsetto territory. At times they are reminiscent of Elvis Costello with a Beach Boys twist. On the basis of this performance we look forwards to seeing O'Brien in full Slumberjet mode in the future.

Duncan Maitland finished the night off with a high quality performance of songs from his critically acclaimed debut album "Lullabies for the 20th Century". Maitland is joined on stage by one of Ireland's premier bassmen Geoff Dorman. The addition of Dorman gives Maitland's performance more of a group feel. 

An excellent rendition of David Bowie's "Kooks" dedicated to Maitland's new born son "Daniel" was an early singalong highlight. While "Horror Stories" and "Somebody Told Me About the Ending" highlighted Maitland's own considerable songwriting skills.

Having previously worked with acts such as XTC and Pugwash, Maitland is best known as the former principle songwriter in Irish band Picturehouse. He delivers a jaunty rendition of the hit single"Heavenly Day" which he penned whilst in the band.

Other highlights of the set include a segway from new song "Love Chain" into a mini version of Stevie Wonder's "Superstition". and the excellent genre hopping "Insect Under the Stone" which sees Maitland mix it up in Bobby Darin territory with a psychedelic twist. Overall a top class performance from one of Ireland's most criminally overlooked artists.