Interview with Tim from The Hot Sprockets

Robert McDonald

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I caught up with Tim from The Hot Sprockets to talk about their upcoming single launch (Saturday, April 20th @ Whelan’s), the recording of the not so ‘difficult’ second album, financial struggles and the buzz of playing live. The Hot Sprockets, as they wonderfully put it, hail from the Mecca for Delta blues that is… South Dublin.

Dublin’s buzziest band has been together for years and has been steadily honing their craft and garnering acclaim.

Countless ‘ones to watch’ lists have incorporated the Hot Sprockets, it may now be the time for the band to be off those lists into popular recognition. That said The Hot Sprockets are after recognition of a certain type. One based on the quality of their tunes and not to folly into anything that couldn’t be described as ‘whopper’ and a particular quote from Wayne Campbell (Wayne’s World) comes to my mind when trying to define them:  ‘”I mean, Led Zeppelin didn’t write tunes that everyone liked. They left that to the Bee Gees.”

Their brand of Dublin inspired Americana (Dublinana?) rock and roll is far more than a pastiche to their influences but noise wholly their own.

Few bands can match their viguour and sheer energy when playing live. Gigs are as proficient with chorus shouting from fans, as they are sweaty.

The good-time bandits that make up The Hot Sprockets are:(From left to right)  Wayne (Vox/Guitars), Joe (Bass), Franky (Vox/Harmonica/Mandolin),  Tim (Vox/Guitars) and Andy (Drums).

photograph taken by Bob Dixon
photograph taken by Bob Dixon

 

Debut album Honeyskippin’ released in 2011 came with a listening clause that sums up the ethos of the band perfectly.

“To be listened to in the spirit in which it was made”

After a listen to the record it is patently obvious the spirit in which it was made was one that you may struggle to match but have a good time trying to replicate.  ‘Cruisin’’, ‘I’m Leavin” and ‘Sleep Shake’ are tracks that could only be described as stompers but the lads have an impressive variety in their repertoire. Haunting numbers like ‘Long Way From Home’ and ‘Cold Winter’ prove the ‘Sprockets have depth to their ill-groomed facial hair and impressive do’s.

First single to be released from the still to be titled second album (One of the possible titles from Tim was ‘Whopper Buzz Vol. 3, A Sonic Adventure Through Time and Space’) is ‘Soul Brother’. An instantly like-able track with a promo video that is just as like able, with its B-movie splendor of blood and nudity.

While talking to Tim, I got a palpable sense of his excitement for the band and all that goes with it. Tim’s responses are thorough, with many ideas popped into one sentence and the narrative of all responses could be described as ‘liquid’ and contain many splashes of humour however there is a constant humility when talking about the band, their music and the success they’ve had so far.

Q. Where did you record the new album and how was the recording of it?

Tim:

Recording was great, recorded it some of it in Windmill Lane and Grouse Lodge, then did rest of it with Gavin Glass at Orphan Studios. Really enjoyed the buzz doing it and was a great experience.

 Q. How did the recording differ from 2011’s Honeyskippin’?

 When the last one was recorded we only had limited number of days, which was seven days altogether. We didn’t get to do much more with it than what we had, just the bare bones of the tracks.

Which worked but from listening back to the album we could have made it better if we had the time or… more money.

The first one we’re really proud of, the songs are there. And had a great time over there with Boz Boorer (Morrissey, The Polecats) but the second time we got to put more time into and we’re really happy with the results.

Q. Is there a release date yet?

We don’t have a date yet. Things just keep taking longer and longer. It’s getting mixed over in London and we’ve got different things going on like the video and single launch so we’ve been busy getting that ready.

I think we are gonna do this single and maybe one or two more. Then try to get help with putting the album out. To get a production deal or someone to print them lessen the cost for us. If not we’ll keep trucking ahead.

 

singlelaunch

Q. Are you looking forward to the single launch on the 20th?

Yeah, big-time, we have some good stuff lined up with people coming onstage and longer versions of some tunes. There’s gonna be a six-minute version of #### ####### (Censor: keep the surprise for the night, everyone likes surprises). So yeah it should be good.

Q. How did the band start and from the start has been playing live always been a big thing for you?

We started as a live band, we were friends for years and some could play instruments, some couldn’t.

Then they bought me an instrument and then Franky just sort of picked it up. We had a few jams and then a week later we had our first gig. After that then we were gigging every week. Jamming a couple of times a week and even a couple of times a day. So then we built up a live thing before anything else.

So we had good songs we thought, but we always had the raw energy for the gigs. So I think that has got us where we are now because we were getting out there and gigging at such an early stage.

We had some rough gigs along the way but also some whopper ones. The more we were gigging, the more we got to play better gigs than when your not gigging at all…if ye get me!

Q. You’ve been together for years now, have you outgrown any of the first songs you’ve wrote? Like ‘Solid Gold’ and ‘Sleep Shake’?

We’ve sorta stopped playing Solid Gold now but we got to play a 2 hour set in Roscommon a couple of weeks ago and we didn’t know if we had two hours of our own stuff, so we played it.

The only one that has stood the test of time is probably ‘Sleep Shake’. As that always gets people jumping, if there is people jumping we are gonna be pumped up, if the crowd are loving it then you’re gonna like it no matter what.

 

Q. You’ve toured Ireland fairly extensively have their been any plans of playing abroad?

The only other place we’ve gigged is London, last year on Stephens’ Day at The Roundhouse in London with Camille O’Sullivan and was sold-out with like a 3000 capacity or something.

We’re going over to London again with the Strypes. They’ve a gig on and said they’ll help us out.

It is just the cost of touring, getting on the road without anyone supporting you is tough, the money you’re spending before you even get there is just ridiculous.

Q. You’ve known the Strypes for a while now, what do you think of they’re success?

They’re a great band, we played with them first, about two years ago and even then we thought they were going to make a mark. They just always play a stomper of a gig.

They were just really into it and they liked our band as well, they were supporting us in Cavan and talking to them after it they were just really cool kids. We were just bouncing music and influences off each other.

They were just doing covers at the time but even they were the best cover band I’d seen, all the songs were spot on to a tee. I don’t even know what age they were then, like, all just 14 or even 13.

Q. The video for ‘Soul Brother’ is great, how did it come about and did the shoot take long?

The shoot was about three days.  Up in Cavan. We know Finn Keenan, the director, through a friend of ours.

He was up for doing it and we then just started bouncing ideas off each other and came up with this B-Movie idea. Then we used with every B-Movie thing we could think of. Because we’d planned it so well, when we were shooting, it was just boom, boom, boom, Finn just had it planned out perfect.

There are loads of places now that aren’t being used now in Cavan with the recession and stuff, so there is loads of abandoned places and because it’s such a tightly knit town everyone knows each other which helped.

Finn’s Dad was like ‘we can get you a retro looking car’… ‘An old folks home…. and a studio’ everyone in the whole town was helping us.

Even the lollipop man, he lent us his suit when he was on his break!

It was great fun doing it.

Q. Has there been any times with the band where you’ve really enjoyed your time with The Hot Sprockets personally?

You get them nearly every week, like even when you come up with a whopper song and you’re just buzzing off it. Even when you have a good jam it really solidifies it for us, just being in a band making music.

Gigs are just amazing as well the reaction just blows you way… You just really know why you are in it after the reaction.

sprocketstopless
photo by Richard Gilligan

 

Q. Have there been any big milestones with as a band that you’ve been proud of?

Winning the King Kong Club was a big thing. That got us to record the first album, we didn’t have the cash to record the album but once we won that competition then we could do it.

We were in the final of that competition but we didn’t think we were gonna win it. We’ve done a couple of things like that but we thought that we we’re just not the type of band that wins that stuff like that. That was cool, when we won we were just in total shock.

Then even just having an album out. Especially doing with Boz Boorer!

And getting it on vinyl, when you just get your first vinyl and you get to spin it and all when then you’re just listening to it… Since we started the band we were always talking about, like ‘awww if we get vinyl…would be deadly’, but we thought that’d be like 20 years down the line or something!

That is why we did this 7inch (Soul Brother), like they weren’t gonna do it because cash is low but we might as well just pump the money in, it is better to have than not have it.

This second album as well, listening back to it, we’re just really proud of it.

Q. Have there been any tough periods for the band? Even just with the economic situation in Ireland…

The whole time it’s been a struggle financially but apart from that we all get on great. We get to see each other four times a week and when we get to go on the road it’s cool.

Financially, for us, is yeah, that is the hardest thing.

Q. What is the ideal situation for you with the band?

The ultimate goal for is to just keep making music. Keep popping out albums. We’ll be happy 10 albums down the road after we’ve put out all that music and we’re happy with it.

Just keep doing that forever. That would just be the best thing ever!

photo by The Hot Sprockets
photo by The Hot Sprockets

 

Check out the Hot Sprockets at their website: http://thehotsprockets.com/

Or on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thehotsprockets

or follow on twitter: https://twitter.com/thehotsprockets

 

 

 

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Robert McDonald

@therobbyPOP