Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Monday, May 20, 2013

Martin A. Egan A Question and Answer Session- Poet, Painter, andMulti-Platinum Song Writer

A question and answer session with Martin A. Egan

Biography Martin A.  Egan

Martin A. Egan is an Irish Singer Songwriter who had until March 5th 2010 never released an Album but despite this reached Multi Platinum Status in Ireland and Europe in 1997 and also 2006 writing "Casey" a Song about the adventures and misadventures of the profligate Bishop of Kerry for Christy Moore, 1997 also saw Egan working in Collaboration with the Hothouse Flowers, resulting in  “The Making of Us All” featuring on "Your Love Goes On" the first Single from their 2005 "Into Your Heart" Album. While working with the Flowers a number of Songs were written and recorded in Peter OToole's Home Studio in Lacken Co Wicklow. One of these Songs "The Tune"  featuring Peter on Bass, Bouzouki and Guitar became the Title Track of his Current Album. Another Co-write "Talking to the Wildman" also ended up on the Album.
The Black Romantics Collective featuring members of Jack's Band, In Tua Nua, The West Seventies and other seminal Dublin Bands recorded Egan's  Spoken Word Piece: “The Shepherd and his Maiden” on their Album  “Nine Parts Devil" Martin also worked with Poppy Gonzalez (ex Mojave 3 piano player) and her Band Hush Collector for whom he co-wrote the Title Track “Flowby” for their Debut E.P. on Candy Cone Records and the Late Woody Sagoo whom he also managed.
Martin has also worked with Eamon Carr of Horslips and written a number of Songs with Will Merriman of the Harvest Ministers one of which "Ruined Shoes" currently features as part of his Live Set.
He was Nominated along with Mary O'Regan of Draoicht for the German Music Award in 1997 for Mary's Solo Album "Every Punch needs the Kiss" for which Martin wrote the Title Track along with 3 other tracks.
Martin Egan is also a recognised Irish Neo-Expressionist Artist and although he has not produced any new work since 1997 is about to begin a New Multi-Media Project involving Experimental Music, Painting, Spoken Word, and has also completed a Book of Sonnets on the Theme of Grief and Loss which will also be incorporated into the New Project.
Martin Egan returned to the Studio on March 22nd 2010 to complete Recordings begun in Ashtown Studio's in late 2009.  having finally released "The Tune" along with a Video of the Title Track on March 5th 2010 on his own Slinky Vibe Label Martin feels that he has at last put his past to rest. The New Album fondly known by the Working Title Part I includes work written with the participation of Brian Conniffe the Sound Sculpture Artist who has worked with a number of highly respected Musicians. Part I features Paul "Binzer" Brennan and Tommy O'Sullivan on Drums and Dara "Dip" Higgins on Electric and Double Bass. Tommy O'Sullivan also  contributed Guitar on a number of Tracks. Martin begins work on Part II on January 6th 2011 and Part I will be released in 2012Creating work in many disciplines is a way of Life Martin and Other Projects which for the moment remain secret are in train and will be brought to fruition over the next few years.
"The Tune"recorded between 1992 and 1997 with a great many Irish Musical Luminaries of that and the current time is now available in a Signed Limited Edition C.D. Format or by Download or at and is Distributed Nationwide by Mail Order from Claddagh Records is available by Download from or on C.D. from City Discs in Eustace Street Temple Bar Dublin, Freebird at the Secret Book and Record Store in Wicklow Street, the Sound Cellar in Nassau Street and also on all the usual Online Outlets. A slide Show of Martins Paintings is available in the Photo Gallery and will also be available to buy with a Price List included.

1.  One of your songs, “Casey” is about the “misadventures of the profligate  Bishop of Kerry”-I have no idea what that involved and I am guessing outside of Ireland not many people understand what that means.  My first thought was that it might be related to the scandals in the Church in Ireland-can you explain this a bit and let us know why this inspired you to write a song about the Bishop, please?

Bishop Casey was the local Bishop in Kerry when I moved there from Galway in 1980. He had been Bishop of Galway while I was there also. He was notorious for his very erratic and high speed Driving. I was told the Core of the Story when I was working cutting turf with the local villagers and added my own idea's after that. Bishop Casey was arrested in London for drunken driving and I compared the British approach of "We don't give a damn who you are" to the Irish Gardai at the time which was very subservient to the Church. Later on the Song was recorded by Christy Moore and when Casey was exposed
along with Michael Cleary as having in Casey's case a Child by Annie Murphy Christy added the current last verse. It was written initially as a bit of fun but turned into something more serious after the Niall O'Brien Affair and all the Polticis of those times which we are only seeing the very nasty results of now,

2.  How did you get involved with writing a song for Mary O’Reagan?

I didn;t actually. I was a Busker for many years in in Dingle and Tralee in Co. Kerry, playing Music and having Exhibitions in the Summer and Writing and Painting through the Winters. Mary was in a Band called Draoicht with the Mulcahy brothers Frank and Tom (a very fine Songwriter himself). They heard me singing when they were starting off and then included "Every Punch Needs a Kiss" in their Live Set . Mary left the Band after a Tour of the German Speaking Countries in Europe, Austria, Germany Switzerland etc and was offered a Solo Deal by Magnetic Music in Germany. She recorded the Album and honoured me by using the Song "Every Punch Needs a Kiss" as the Title Track and recording 3 more Tracks as well. To everyone's surprise it was Nominated for the German Music Award (Folk Category) which helped with Radio Play and Sales very nicely

3.  Your bio says you are recognized as a Neo-Expressionist artist-can you please explicate this in non technical terms.

I was actually called a Neo-Expressionist by people within the Arts but never really saw myself as that. I began Painting as a means of getting beyond word based writing a medium in which I found myself having increasing difficulty expressing myself. I was suffering Writer's Block more and more and became a Painter quite by accident beginning by painting with cheap Chinese Acrylics I saw in a shop window in Dingle and progressing to Large Canvas Paintings. I was driven mostly by a need to express what was occurring internally that words
could not convey. The Primary drive was a search for a sense of Identity as a man and as an Artist after the loss of 3 children and the resultant collapse of my marriage, Music and Wors while still present were increasingly unable to express the non-verbal aspects of Loss. A lot of this had to do with my Upbringing, it also had to do with a stubborn streak in me as an Artist, a refusal to let any experience of my life pass by without documenting it and I suppose a refusal to experience all that Grief and Loss without getting anything Creative or for want of a better word Eternal out of it.

4.  Regarding your poety, I hope this is not to personal a question but it is brought up on your webpage.  What is the personal background to the 89 sonnets you lost  in the summer of 2010, which were sonnets to your deceased children?  

I have been writing since I could talk. Not just Poetry but Monologues, Spoken Word with Poetry, Songs, Short Stories, Plays and 3 Feature Film Scripts Poetry is how I initially began Performing live. I am from a very Musical Family and I think writing gave me a sense of separateness from the Family, in terms of identity especially musically. I wrote and had published my first Poems in the U.K. at the age of 13 after an
English Teacher told me I would never be a Poet. It is only recently that I have started to publish Poetry again. I was born in the same Hospital as Michael Hartett, grew up in the same street and then New Housing Complex Assumpta Park in Newcastle West and have only recently put the Writing pattern that has emerged into context from reading extensively about Michael and his methods of writing which parallel my oww methods in an uncanny fashion without any planning on my part.. The loss of the 89 Sonnets was a big deal but I had Working versions of about 40 transferred to my Computer so in fact really only lost 49 but once the heat of writing goes off things it is very difficult to reheat them so to speak. The loss of my Children has taken me into far deeper losses a lot of which were hidden within the Family History and have led to a lot of thinking about Cultural Identity and the reduction of the Irish to a second class Race in many ways and I do not
mean in the sense of how to look good or earn a living or any of that social nonsense. This as you might imagine is open to a lot of misunderstanding but being misunderstood is the Poets lot in my experience.

5.  “Green Water” seems almost like an elegy to lost youth, to memories of a passion once felt.  Is there a sense in which a long for the past, better times before time and sadness deeply intrudes in all of your work?

"Green Water" is an Elegy to the 3 Women I have loved most in my life, none of whom I am going to name here. It is also related to the place of Water in the great Mysteries of Nature, Reproduction and Love. Its Symbolism of a connection to Flow, Eternal Life and the original Irish Muse.

6.  Over the last year I have listened to a lot of traditional Irish music through the internet on my IPAD.  Much like “Green Water”, a lot of it is a longing for the past and an attempt to accept that your best and maybe Ireland’s best days are over?   What is your reaction to this?

My Parents love of Music and their playing of it was evenly divided into 2 Camps. My Mother loved Irish Traditional Music and played with a lot of the greats in Sessions in London in the 50's and 60's. My Father loved Jazz and played the Tenor Saxophone so Home Rehearsals were always a Comedy Routine and a Battle of Wills over what would be played in the Live Sets, my Father cursing
the Irish Content and my Mother my Father's attempts to Jazz up Irish Music. They were both Trained Reader's and had played with Show-bands before the Economic conditions of 50's Ireland forced them to emigrate. I think it was G.K. Chesterton who said of the Irish that "All their Wars were Merry, and all their
Songs were Sad". "Green Water" is
more about my own capacity to feel love deeply after being frozen by loss for a very long time than it is actually about sadness. It is also a paean to the loss of deeply experienced love for my exes and my children.

7.  What were the last three books you read?

I suppose to be honest I can't say I've read any of the last number of Books I've been reading as they are all Poetry
and in my experience Poetry changes every time I read it so there is no actual "Read" involved. On the other hand I read a vast amount of Genre Fiction particularly John Connolly the Irish Supernatural Author whose books I found really beneficial right from the first one in that they dealt with the same issues (apart from all the violence) as those that preoccupy  me. John lives locally and we run into each other locally all the time so he knows the impact books like the "Killing Kind" ~"Bad Men" etc have had on my own process. I have the kind of mind that cannot learn much by rote but can learn volumes from someone else's description of a state or experience and John's Books are so well researched that the conditions described (while in a fictional situation) are in fact real experiences related to the Author by people who actually experienced those events.

8.  Why did you stop painting for eleven years-what has given you the motivation to start again.  How has the business side of art, selling and buying pictures changed in the laat decade?

I felt that I was continually repeating myself. I was commanding larger and larger Prices fro my Work but felt that I was conning people. That I had reached the limits of whatever skills I had and I needed more. Circumstance dictated things as well. I moved and had nowhere to paint and couldn't afford a Studio. I wanted to work big and the Computer Generation has meant that Studio Space is measured by the Square Foot rather than the needs of the particular Artist. The Movement toward Animation etc and all the things which can be done Online has impacted on Space and Proce of Space enormously. I personally hate small Paintings unless they are a use for waste Paint from another Picture. I painted anything up to 25 Medium to Large Paintings at a time when I lived in Kerry. So I stopped. My Songwriting was vastly
improved by Painting as I wasn't trying to squeeze the inexpressible into a mode of expression any more.

9.  You have written a long poem entitled “Falling for A Dolphin”, about the arrival of Funghi the Dingle Dolphin.
  Can you talk a bit about how swimming with Funghi impacted you?  How can swimming with dolphins have a healing impact on people with psychological issues?  Did you sense a higher level of intelligence in dolphins than in say, dogs?  Did you feel a sense of bonding from the dolphin to you?   

I was involved with the whole Funghi explosion in Kerry and met Dr Horace Dobbs, one of the Pioneer's of the Research into Dolphins healing capabilities but never swam with Funghi myself. I also DID NOT write "Falling for a Dolphin", this was written by the English Actor and Polymath Heathcote Williams whom I had known in the early to mid 70's in London where he was involved in the Anti Jubilee Festivities and also acting in Derek Jarman's Films of the time. I saw the obsession with Dolphins and Healing in a lot of people as a form of transference or substitution in much the same way animals substitute for children with some people. While I understood the principle of "innate healing" within certain creatures I certainly didn't partake of it myself. I think I was too involved with working out how
to deal with my problems internally that I didn't want to invest emotional energy in an outside Agency animal, vegetable or mineral. The "Dolphin Song" was inspired more by the Ancient Greek ideal that Dolphins are harbingers of good luck, good health and a boon from the Gods than swimming doctors. I think the presence of absolute innocence in the animal sense is also a contributing factor

10. Please talk a bit about government funding of the arts in Ireland.

I think the main problem with Arts Funding is one you have already pointed out and is one that troubles me a lot. Control. True Creativity is beyond all social control and merely reflects the Society it manifests within. The Artist or the Organisation becoming the Art is nonsense of the highest order. It results in a political landscape of people scrabbling for position, grants and titles, visibility at all costs. Art will happen whether there is money or not. It is not a thing to be trifled with or boxed off into Categories or into dry Semantic platitudes and concepts as is currently happening with the Graduate and Post Grad Class. They have developed a language and a sense of being apart which is neither good for Art nor for emerging Practitioners. What needs
to be remembered is that Art must be separated from the Establishment for it to develop properly. The collusion between the Establishment, Trinity, D.I.T. The Abbey and the Gate to make Art in all its forms a safe preserve for the cultured few is what is killing creativity. This applies across the Board from incomprehensible (to me) Academic Texts to equally incomprehensible to me Arts Criticism. The Irish are particularly prone to this horrible habit of applying a Snobbery Quotient. a Music for Middlebrows attitude to Art which would reveal infinitely more were it left to be a mystery and thus outside all the intellectual juggling and mind games that go on.  Not that I wouldn't mind being inducted into Aosdana because some very fine (and uncontrollable Artists) whom I know personally are numbered among its Fellows.

11.  Who are some of your favorite authors?  what writers do you find yourself returning to over and over again?
Charles Bukowski, Samuel Beckett, Marcel Proust, Louis Ferdinand Celine, Michael
Hartnett, Brendan Kennelly, Michel Vassal, Kate O'Shea, Kit Fryatt, Oran Ryan

12.  People say Shakespeare killed the English theater -did Yeats do something similar to Irish poetry?

Shakespeare didn't kill English Theater, he created it to a certain extent and certainly expanded it out of its then shape of rabble-rousing Pro-Government Policy. Post-Modernism killed English Theater. A lot of the Playwrights of the last 100 years have run out of Idea's and certainly in the last 50 started to emulate current Film-making as in dumping nods and references to other Writers/ Director's/ D.I.P.'s all over their Work to the detriment not only of the Work but to the forward motion of Film and Theater. The extremes in Irish
Playwrighting are exactly the same, the present mixing of multi discipline themes together in the hope of getting a bit of originality via contrast and juxtaposition or Homage is a prime offender. It has made Theater a pain for me and Film an irritation. I don't go to see things that have been done or Pastiches of things that have been done. I go to see what hasn't been done. Yeats for all his faults viz a viz Celtic Twilight and proper Therapy for Mother Issues not being available in his youth was incredibly honest emotionally. His use of Noh Concepts was revolutionary and his calling of the emerging Bigots and advocates of Violence equally valid. I know a number of Yeats Poems by heart and can see why he would be so misunderstood by peop-le that have never learnt how to use their minds properly. Hartnett had a very valid point also in his condemnation of Yeats and his very clear understanding of Yeats as being and belonging behind the Pale Ramparts and
poaching on native Irish Cultural territory from there and other questioners of Cultural Identity in Ireland such as Hartmett and Brendan Kennelly. That by no means cheapens or demeans Yeats' contribution to the visibility of Ireland as a serious contender in the framework of World Arts. A  lot of the Native Irish Writers and Poets saw Yeats' metaphysical concerns as a sort of inverted snobbery, an "Us and "Them" mentality applied to the entire Country but that has more to do with the "Plain People of Ireland" being sat on as a subject race and very little to do with Yeats's search for the core Identity of the Irish. What people tend to forget is that all of Yeats' work was Poetry, not just the Love Poetry but all the Dramatic Work as well. I always advise people that Yeats continually changed his work as he said himself  A Paraphrase) "I do not simply remake the Poem, I remake myself".

13.  An experiment-please make up your own question and answer it?

Q: "Whats the best way to see over the horizon?

A: "Get off your knees"  

14.  How did you first get involved in writing, song and poetry?

I wrote a Book based on the Adventures of Spartacus after seeing the Kubrick version of it when I was 6. I wrote my first Song when I was 7 when I was given a Harmonica to help with asthma

15.  What is your latest project?

My latest Projects are a Book of Poetry
and a Triple Album Part 1 of which I am hoping to release in September 2013

16.  Quick Pick Questions
a.  Samuel Beckett of John Synge:  Beckett
b.  Dogs or Cats? Neither
c.  Day or Night:   Night
d.  last movie seen? Djago Unchained
e.  RTE or BBC?  Both useless

17.  Tell us a bit about your educational background, please.

Attended Convent School St Ita's in Newcastle West, also National School in Newcastle West. Secondary Modern St Gregory's in Kenton Middlesex U.K.  Left St Gregory's at 15. Hated every minute I spent at School.

18.  What jobs have you had outside of artistic/literary musical work?

Printer, Greengrocer, Council Worker, Laborer, Organic Farmer

End. I offer my great thanks to Martin A. Egan for taking the time to provide us with such interesting responses.

Mel u

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