An interview with Karl “Keytar” Kelly, the fastest fingers in Ireland
Sophie Mitchell interviews the busiest keytarist in the country.
When you mention “The fastest fingers in Ireland,” there’s only one man you could be talking about.
I was privileged to be asked to interview the nation’s number one keytarist, Karl 'Keytar' Kelly, who is a member of Ireland’s hardest working band, The Celebrations, the Lotto HQ band. When the day arrived, I had my questions ready to go.
I looked forward to meeting Karl in person at the Lotto HQ and had hoped I would get to witness the excitement of the winner’s siren going off, calling the band into action.
When I walked into reception, Karl was there waiting for me. Without any introductions, he asked me to follow him.
“Can we do this on the go? I have a 15-minute break and need to get lunch”.
I swiftly followed him outside to the nearby Luas and I barely had time to swipe my Leap Card before we hopped on.
Pulling myself together, I quickly realised that it was now or never, I had to start asking my questions. I hadn’t been expecting this, but I guess it was sort of “rock n’ roll”. I noticed he had brought his keytar with him.
“Karl, you’re known for having the fastest fingers in Ireland, what is it like playing such a key part in the band?”
“I wanted an easy life,” he replies, looking lovingly at his keytar, Betsie. “I love Betsie but never wanted to be the centre of attention.”
He is cut off by the sound of the Luas chime as it closes its doors. He is on high alert as he grips Betsie tighter and zones out of our conversation.
“Sorry, sudden noise distracts me. It reminds me of the winners’ siren playing over and over in my head…”
Sensing Karl is perhaps a little exhausted, I ask him if he still feels excitement every time there is a new winner.
“At first it would be a big celebration, we would all jump up to perform with glee. We’ve seen so many winners throughout the years. So much joy. We tried playing the song differently for each decade. That was fun.”
I ask him what his favourite decade was.
“Oh, definitely the 1980s. Loved the outfits. Loved the winners. And it was a golden age for the keytar… But now it’s all so different. My arthritis is catching up to me and this easy gig isn’t so easy anymore with all the winners.”
The shop he wants to go to is only a Luas stop away, we arrive quickly. We step off and he tells me I can wait at the stop for our return trip. I offer to hold his keytar when he goes into the store but I’m given a confused blank stare as he turns to go in. He returns shortly with three energy drinks, for Jerry, Kim, Phil and himself. He clearly needs to stay awake.
I tentatively ask him about Phil. “How do you feel about Phil beginning to work on solo music? Do you have any solo plans yourself?”
“I don’t have solo plans. This band and playing for the winners is my life. I don’t think Phil will ever leave us either. Going solo never really works out for people.”
I nod my head in agreement as Paul McCartney, Michael Jackson, and Beyonce pop into my head. And with that, we have arrived back to the Lotto HQ and Karl has to go back to waiting for the siren to go off.
"It could happen at any moment," he says before walking away with Betsie swinging.
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Note: The Celebrations is a fictional band, and all characters represented are fictitious.