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Whipping yarns

It was the chance to jump onboard the second half of the ninth wave," says Ferghal McKee, in a smoky Dublin accent. I've just asked the Whipping Boy frontman why he and his band mates decided to get back together again. And his response is a lot more colourful than I'd expected.

"It's a very harmonious time in the culture of Mother Earth because of what's happening," he rants. "It's a change in tone and energy around the world. It's 'create and destroy' time. It's the end of things and the beginning of other things. And it all ends around the October 28. So you've got a fine timeline -- to be standing still or moving forward. And for those who are standing still, the big tsunami of sh*t's coming for them."


Oh dear. Poor Mckee appears to have contracted Jim Corr fever. But then he has always been a little unpredictable (stripping on stage; cutting himself with broken bottles while an audience watches in horror -- the list goes on). And if it's the end of the world as we know it (Google October 28 2011 -- something about the Mayan calendar, Roland Emmerich, etc.) then at least he and his bandmates are prepared to move forward and to go out with a bang.

On a more serious note, Whipping Boy will forever remain one of the greatest Irish bands to have never hit the big time. In 1988, the Dublin group came together to play a 21st birthday party in Edenderry. After three songs, they were politely asked to leave the venue.

Seven years later, they would release what many still believe to be one of the finest Irish albums of all time -- their 1995 major label debut Heartworm.

McKee's beguiling brand of half sung/spoken vocals over grungey guitars struck a chord with Irish rock fans. But it wasn't to last. By the end of the '90s, it was all over.

Of course, we've already had one reunion. In 2005, all four original members reconvened for a string of live shows. This time around, however, only Mckee and drummer Colm Hassett (not to mention long-standing touring guitarist Killian McGowan and two new members on guitar and bass) are back in the game.

As McKee and Colm explain, the desire to record a new album (Whipping Boy's fourth) is still there, and the band are currently working on new tracks. But let's talk about the good old days -- when everything fell apart. There doesn't appear to be any single explanation for the demise of Whipping Boy. They "ran out of energy", and before they knew it, the gang had moved on to other things -- real life, essentially. Mckee even got a job as a chef.

Given a second chance, are there things that they might have done differently? "Yeah, not signed to Columbia!" he laughs.

Was it an amicable split from the label? "At the end of the day, we were just glad to get out," he replies.


Let's go further back to when the band initially started out. The lads found inspiration from Sonic Youth, Spacemen 3, and My Bloody Valentine. Creating their own destiny was important, they explain. Well, that, and blowing the Smashing Pumpkins offstage in Dublin at the SFX.

"That was the first time we knew we were a real band," smiles McKee. "When Billy Corgan starts to rip off your riffs and your hairstyle, you know you're doing something right."

This time around, there is "no bullsh*t". Are they enjoying it more? "Yeah, because you don't know what's going to happen tomorrow, man," he says. "We don't make any plans -- you can't make any plans in rock'n'roll." Never a truer word spoken. I hope they make it past October.

Whipping Boy perform Heartworm in its entirety at The Academy on September 17