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Saturday 10 December 2016

Liam has gone, but he's forever recalled in song

Published 27/09/2015 | 02:30

Spine-tingling: Dublin hip-hop star Paul Alwright aka Lethal Dialect
Spine-tingling: Dublin hip-hop star Paul Alwright aka Lethal Dialect

The song, a memorial, is about the empty seat in the studio, about the person who is no longer with the band on stage, a fantastic young man who made an exit stage left - sadly unannounced...

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The story behind the song Headstrong is an emotional but depressingly not untypical one. Paul Alwright, aka Lethal Dialect, tells the tortured tale.

"It was a song I wrote on my last album 1988, produced by JackKnifeJ. We had the track written while I was on tour with Damien Dempsey. We were on tour with the band that are playing here today," he says, referring to his spine-tinglingly soulful performance of Curtis Mayfield's Here But I'm Gone at The Windmill Lane Sessions for Independent.ie.

"But there is a member who isn't here today. His name is Liam Pritchard. He was a guitarist. So the track is kind of about keeping your head strong and keeping a positive mind through any kind of strife and things like that."

I ask Paul to tell the story of Liam.

"He was a guitarist in the band. After the tour, he died by suicide. That was a blow. So we shot the video then and it became his unofficial dedication. He had actually performed the track and it was written before he passed away."

Were you aware of what was going on in Liam's head - not that we ever can know what is going on in somebody else's head?

"Not, at all, no," Paul says. "That's the strange thing about it."

Can you recall any conversations you had with Liam before he died that hinted at what he was at in his head?

"No, nothing that ever stood out as 'this guy is deeply depressed', or anything like that. He was introverted but so are a lot of people, and you never really think of that type of thing as being in the forefront of their minds."

Did you discuss that with Damien Dempsey? Because obviously he has written a song of his own, Chris And Stevie, about the same subject, two friends of his who took their own lives?

"Yeah, yeah. It is a similar thing. It ties in strangely enough and there is a bit of synchronicity, because one of the last memories I have of Liam is him standing backstage watching Damien perform Chris And Stevie - and him absolutely bawling his lamps out.

"But it was a beautiful moment as well. It was just one of those things, out of the blue."

Another powerful song by this magnificent Dublin hip-hop star Lethal Dialect is about his Uncle Joey on the song Brave (which also features Damien Dempsey on vocals).

"The same weekend that Liam passed away, Joe passed away as well," he recalls. "He was a lovable rogue - born and bred in Cabra, a gentleman. He always had a joke, always had a story.

"He was a huge influence on my life and my music. For him and Liam to pass in the same weekend shaped the tone of the last album. It became really sombre, really deep, then."

The album 1988 is named after the year he was born. He says he grew up listening to, and taking in, so many influences in inner-city Dublin.

"My uncle Jackie on my mother's side used to own a pub called The Old Chinaman on Golden Lane. It was an infamous pub. That kind of resurrected the punk scene in the Nineties. There was a lot of punk on in there. There was always dance music in Cabra in the early Nineties too."

Whatever Lethal Dialect was listening to - be it the stories he heard from his two legendary uncles, Joey and Jackie, or punk nights in The Old China Man - something authentic, something wonderful rubbed off on him.

To watch the full interview with Lethal Dialect, plus two exclusive performances, see The Windmill Lane Sessions on Independent.ie. You can now also watch Independent.ie's Windmill Lane Sessions on TG4.

Sunday Independent

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