Waterboys still on the crest of a wave
Ahead of The Waterboys' two Dublin shows, Mike Scott tells Barry Egan about growing older disgracefully and some epic sessions
Mike Scott has a permanent spiritual sparkle in his eyes. And out of this sparkle, he transmits a kind of punk mysticism. That mysticism in his music is what makes Scott stand apart from many others in his line of work. You know he isn't faking it. This isn't, to paraphrase Donald Trump, fake music of the soul. He means it and as such, it means something to the listener. The Whole Of The Moon ("I pictured a rainbow/ You held it in your hands... I spoke about wings/ You just flew") is on a par, in my humble view, with Bob Dylan, or Leonard Cohen, or Patti Smith. If in 1985, Rolling Stone magazine called him "the new poet laureate of rock 'n' roll", imagine the magic journey his creativity has brought him 33 years later; imagine where he is now.
Magic Mike and his band The Waterboys play Vicar Street in Dublin tomorrow and Tuesday and are plainly in a golden moment. "We've just finished working on the next Waterboys album which will come out in 2019. I can't describe the sound but it is a collection of what I hope people will think are the best new songs I've ever written," Mike says of the band that he formed in 1983 in Scotland (and where in Edinburgh, on December 14, 1958, he was born).
"We've just hired a new manager, the American Danny Goldberg, who manages Steve Earle and in the past has managed Nirvana, Stevie Nicks and many other artists. He's very experienced and supercool," Scott continues, adding: "I'm working with artist Sean Danconia on the cover [of the new album]. I love his montage pop art work. Dublin singers Jess Kav [of Barq] and Zeenie Summers both feature on the album. Dublin bassist Aongus Ralston, the funkiest man in Ireland, plays throughout. Wickham, Brother Paul and Ralph are there as always, the steadfast rocks of the band.
"I won't premiere any of the new songs on this tour because I don't want to have them filmed and posted on YouTube ahead of the album but it's tough because I'm itching to play them."
Who has Mike been vibing to of late? "Musically, I've been listening to The North Mississippi All Stars and the recent very great instrumental album by African drum maestro Tony Allen," he answers, before continuing as perhaps only Mike Scott could... "I've been reading about Brian Jones, Sam Philips and the music of Memphis. In recent dreams, I've joined the Rolling Stones, coached Liam Gallagher on backing vocals and - as I often do in my dreams - turned up to play big gigs only to find there's no PA/ no audience/ no band/ I've forgotten all the songs. This never changes, but fortunately only happens in my dreams. I'm growing older disgracefully, feeling like a teenager as I approach my 60th birthday, wearing sharp suits and a variety of culturally boisterous cowboy hats, not at the same time."
Did The Waterboys really play a gig that lasted seven hours in Spiddal, once upon a time? "No. But we played long sessions. I'm sure some of our sessions went on longer than that. And on our way to Glastonbury in '89, travelling with the Room to Roam line-up - Sharon Shannon in the band - plus our support act Cooney & Begley, all in one minivan, we played a session that lasted from late breakfast at the Oxford hotel, all through the journey across the West Country to Glastonbury, the long slow chug through revellers from festival gate to the artists' area. Then a couple of hours in the back of the van before we even got out, then several hours round a campfire behind the Pyramid Stage, all without stopping. Must have been 10 hours of music. That's the longest I think. On tour in those days the session would be happening backstage, we'd break to play the gig, then restart the session backstage afterwards."
The Waterboys play Vicar Street in Dublin on December 3 and 4.