Welcome once again to Under The Street Light with Dave McMahon. For your reading pleasure today we
have an interview with Mark McGovern from Sligo bluegrass band, Rackhouse Pilfer.
When did you first realise that you wanted to be a musician?
I realised I wanted to be a musician when I started to gig a lot more often in my late teens and it was something I always enjoyed, from live performance to studio recording and everywhere in between. Also, it just feels like it's just where I feel myself leaning towards and always have done.
How did you get started?
I started playing in Secondary School and got encouragement from family, teachers and friends. I got involved in some cover bands and really enjoyed myself. Then it took a back seat when I went to Galway for a year. After that, I started gigging seriously, playing guitar in various different bands and eventually learning banjo just before Rackhouse started!
Who did you listen to when you were growing up?
I listened to everything my parents had in the house, all the obvious ones; Beatles, Kinks, Stones, all the bands of the 60's British Invasion era, Motown. Then throw some hip-hop and R&B, then Foo Fighters and Queens of The Stone Age then metal and all the way back to Neil Young and Ryan Adams.
How did Rackhouse Pilfer form?
The band formed in quite a seamless manner actually. We were all jamming together every monday night in a venue called McGarrigles and eventually decided with the chemistry and the vibe that we liked where the whole thing was going. Then we needed a name.....
What is a Rackhouse Pilfer?
A rackhouse is where barrels of whiskey or tobacco are stored to age and mature. A pilfer is a petty thief. Basically it means stealing whiskey!
When and where did you play your first gig?
Outside of our monday night gigs in McGarrigles, we played our first official gig in the Radisson hotel in Sligo as a benefit for the special olympics. It was roughly 3 years ago now!
What has been your favourite venue to play?
I'd have to say McGarrigles in Sligo again, it's got a special place in all our hearts, it's where the whole thing began!
What has been your worst concert experience?
Oh dear, here's one that springs to mind.....we were at an outdoor gig playing on a trailer back and a bad combination of wind and rain came along! We all got soaked as did some of our equipment. There's a few bad ones but that's probably the worst!
You were named Hot Press Best Live Act 2015, how did that feel?
It was a special feeling. Especially when there were so many top acts in the competition that we know are astonishing live. It was a serious recognition to receive an award like that and a complete honour!
How was your first gig in Germany recently?
It was great actually, Germany just seems to treat bands and new music really well. The atmosphere was really intimate, and it was a much quieter gig than what we normally do. It actually really suits us too, it's much more of a folky vibe whereas normally our gigs are almost like a rock show in terms of atmosphere.
What was your favourite concert that you went to see?
We actually all went to see Ryan Adams in the Olympia at the beginning of March. He's great both with a band and on his own. Masterful songwriter too!
How much do other musicians influence your music?
Well, there's the influences of what we listened to growing up such as Springsteen, Dylan, Young and the like. But we're also influenced by a lot of rock and I think that feeds the intensity of our performance whereas a lot of string bands and country bands would be clean cut without that influence. I think this core influence is crucial to the forming of our sound actually!
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
I think getting to record Love and Havoc in Nashville is definitely the highlight so far. There were so many heroes that we got to meet. And the quality of musicianship there; it's equal parts inspiring and intimidating! It was eye opening as well as a highlight.
With some festival appearances coming up soon, what is the difference mentally between playing a festival and a gig of your own?
A festival is different in that the chances are you are playing to a new crowd and a much larger crowd at that. You also feel the eyes on you more whereas at a gig of your own you feel like you're not always the centre of focus but that depends on what kind of venue as well.
In 2013 you raised over €9,000 on Fundit to record the second album. How instrumental do you think Fundit can be for musicians and is it changing how musicians approach making an album?
It can be very important to up and coming artists who might not be able to afford making an album on their own and it can help artist to make a much better quality album than they would do otherwise. It is helping bands to make albums without needing a record company so it is enabling artists to become more independent and gain more control.
Who do you currently listen to?
At the moment Sturgill Simpson's Metamodern Sounds in Country Music. It's stuck on repeat. It's good quality country music being brought back again!
What are your top 5 albums of all time and why?
Exile On Main Street - Rolling Stones; it's just the epitome of unschooled raw music that comes from the heart!
Are You Experienced - Jimi Hendrix; This changed the way electric guitars were used and perceived forever.
Van Halen - 1984; Anthem after anthem!! Changed rock's direction.
Nirvana - Nevermind; Changed rock's direction. Again.
Neil Young - After The Gold Rush - My desert island album. A crash course in folk music!
Whats the best advice you have been given in your career?
The best thing I've been ever told is to always do what you're doing because you love it. Otherwise, it just falls apart!
What do you have lined up for the future?
We are just working on some new songs and always rehearsing and writing, both together and seperately. We will be playing in the UK in June, and playing in France in July and early August. By September we will have a lot of songs to choose from and will be working on an album. But the next album will be a stomper. And we might be adding some new instruments into the mix. Watch this space!