As the men from Ballymun and Finglas took their seats, Christy Dignam led the conversation and explained the origins of the group. Dignam and lead guitarist Joe Jewell were ‘working as telephone technicians at the time’.
Billy McGuinness who was a baker, rehearsed with the band in drummer Alan Downey’s house on the condition that he would provide cakes for the rehearsal. He was eventually allowed into the band as a result of a drunken agreement.
When the group formed in the 80’s, it was a period when bands intermingled in Ireland and on the back of this production levels of Irish songs were very low. Aslan wanted to raise the bar in terms of production.
Dignam briefly discussed his studies in Bel canto singing style and how he felt he had to learn how to use his voice. He is now regarded as one of the great voices in the history of Irish music. Questions were opened to the floor early on and those in attendance were very enthusiastic.
When asked about music piracy the band claimed that ‘musicians are getting robbed’ and that piracy is ‘killing music’. For example, arguably their most recognized song ‘Crazy World’ had around 90,000 Spotify downloads which equates to just €16.
Billy McGuinness said they have since removed their music from Spotify and instead sell their albums at their concerts. Alan Downey spoke about the rebirth of Vinyl which has helped to a certain extent, although Dignam rightly emphasised the fact that there is only a small percentage of people that want Vinyl. Joe Jewell made a crucial point, stating that the keywords in downloading is ‘file sharing’ and that streaming sites are oblivious to this.
When asked about the impact of manufactured music, Dignam who was at his usual best claimed that due to the constant influx of this genre we are unlikely to see artists as unique as David Bowie, Elton John or Bob Dylan ever again. Jewell said that there is a lot of ‘throw away music’ now, people listen to what is considered popular in a given week and then when the next week comes along they move on to new music. Record companies are now targeting children from 13-16 years of age while Aslan’s audience is much older which is viewed as less appealing.
The detrimental theme continued with a question on the lack of local new music on Irish radio. While certain countries employ the policy of making sure the majority of music played on national radio is their own, the band felt that the National Broadcasters of Ireland fail to recognise the beauty of Irish music and instead dodge a bullet by playing U2, Westlife or Christy Moore tracks for example.
On the subject of U2, Dignam spoke about how Aslan found it difficult to achieve success due to Bono and co.’s popularity. Although Aslan showed the upmost respect for U2 and Dignam believes that Bono doesn’t deserve the unfair criticism he receives in Ireland.
On the subject of live gigs becoming more important than ever, that is where bands like Aslan stand above the rest. They expressed how much they cherish live performances and that words cannot describe the feeling they get when they travel globally and people are singing along to their music.
Without being too selfish, they believe ‘people never leave an Aslan gig without being moved’. The band have always felt that the purpose of releasing albums are to promote gigs and their idea of success is the ability ‘to continue to perform to a high standard in an intimate setting’. Other points highlighted include the importance of competent management.
Dignam added to this by saying that ‘you never know the factors involved in making a band successful’ and used the example of John Reid’s (casting director of the Commitments and Evita) importance to the success of the Corrs.
Dignam felt Aslan’s recent rise came on the back of when he spent time writing in America. He felt he made better music with Aslan and he said that was a key moment in his career, he came back for a one off gig which was turned into a live album entitled ‘30’. They continue to entertain audiences nationwide and have a new single coming out in January next year.