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Interviews   

Pat McManus in perfect honesty


Although he’s a talented guitarist, a charismatic person and a musician worth seeing on stage, Pat McManus was never extremely successful. His career has been punctuated by several strokes of bad luck that made him lose hope.

Walking Through Shadows is an album title that symbolizes the mountain of obstacles that life unfairly puts in the way of many an artist, despite a colossal investment. In terms of transparency, Pat goes even further, and the song “Walking In The Shadows Of Giants” is an admission of jealousy towards those who came before him and found success. We can only bow to such honesty.

But don’t be mistaken: Pat McManus is not one of those embittered musicians who spit on the big guns, hiding their jealousy behind dubious artistic opinions. The guitarist’s respect and admiration for Jimi Hendrix, for example, never faltered. Pat McManus is not blasé. His disappointment made way to a pragmatic acceptance of his situation, and his (typically Irish, or so he says) patience and composure allow him to smile whatever the circumstances. In the end, those qualities are the reason he never gave up.


« That relationship (with France) goes right back to the Mamas Boys days when we had two album which were released on Virgin in France. It meant that some of the very earliest tours that the Mamas Boys did outside of Ireland were in France. So you can image how that felt to us. We were a young band from Ireland and we got to play in France, in all of the beautiful cities and there were always wonderful people in France. »

Radio Metal: You released a live album which was recorded at Raismesfest in 2009. In general, when an artist decides to make a live album, they choose to play for an audience that came solely for them but instead you chose to perform in front of a festival audience. Why?

Pat McManus: It’s very simple. The film crew who were there were recording various artists at the same time. We weren’t even aware that there was a film crew there until they asked permission to film some of the show. So we said “why not” because it doesn’t really matter to us and it didn’t cost us anything. Then at the end of the concert they said that we could either use it for a DVD or just say no because it was not good enough. The way that I looked at it was that it was a way of promoting the band on a festival stage, in front of a festival audience and we were quite happy to let that run.

So the choice was made after the show?

Yes. We were not even aware that they were filming it until after the show when they told us that they had filmed the show and we said “oh good!” Then we saw the footage and we thought that it was ok.

It’s true that this gig was quite magical. I was there and it was pretty impressive…

Yes. For us it was lovely and a great festival to do. It was great to be on that stage and with that crowd. They made us feel so welcome. I think that the band was actually quite different to the other bands on the bill that day, but they made us feel very welcome so we relaxed and enjoyed the show ourselves.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but this is not the first time that you release a live DVD that was recorded in France. Could you tell us a bit more about your special relationship with France?

Yes. Well it’s kind of funny because that relationship goes right back to the Mamas Boys days when we had two album which were released on Virgin in France. It meant that some of the very earliest tours that the Mamas Boys did outside of Ireland were in France. So you can image how that felt to us. We were a young band from Ireland and we got to play in France, in all of the beautiful cities and there were always wonderful people in France. We always felt that we had a special rapport with France because they always made us feel so welcome and they were always so generous to the band. It was very special. When the opportunity to make a DVD arose, some friends of mine got together and helped make the situation possible and of course it was France that we wanted to do it in.


« No matter what you do there is always someone who has done it before and who has been there. It’s a nod to all of the great blues and rock musicians who have been there and might have left us. You are standing in the shadows of giants all of the time. Guys like Hendricks… Those guys were fantastic and there will never be anybody like that again. »

You have a new album coming out called “Walking Through Shadows”. What can you tell us about it?

This is the album that I am most proud of at the moment. It came together very fast and it has eleven or twelve new songs on it. It’s the rockiest album that I’ve done because it’s not as technical as the last one which had quite a few different types of music and influences on it. This is a more straightforward rock’n’roll album. It’s more coherent, more together and it makes more sense when you listen to it. Sometimes with my albums, they can move from one direction to another but not with this album. The band are playing together on it this time as well which is much better. When we played for the DVDs, we were playing a very short while together so we didn’t really know each other but now we know how each other plays. In my point of view it’s the best album we have done.

The title “Walking Through Shadows” symbolises the idea that one has to go on in spite of obstacles. Is this title a way to symbolise your career? The shadow representing all of the obstacles that you have faced with Tommy’s illness, musicians leaving the band or more generally how the music industry works today which almost made you lose hope in the days of Celtus…

Yes that is correct. That’s why I thought that it was a great title. It was actually my manager who came up with the title. I have a song on the new album called “Walking In The Shadows of Giants”. It’s also a nod towards all of the musicians that have been before me. No matter what you do there is always someone who has done it before and who has been there. It’s a nod to all of the great blues and rock musicians who have been there and might have left us. You are standing in the shadows of giants all of the time. Guys like Hendricks… Those guys were fantastic and there will never be anybody like that again. It’s also saying that and what you said before. You are walking through the shadows and hopefully you can come out the other side of the shadows and hopefully you gained a bit more knowledge.

About this particular song, “Walking In The Shadows of Giants”, what you said was very positive but is there not any frustration? After such a long career, did you not hope for more visibility or success internationally and not just is Ireland?

Yes, it means that as well. I did feel frustrated at times because I thought “how come I’m always second” and I always seemed to be walking in the shadows of somebody else (big laugh). It’s not arrogance on my behalf. It’s just the way it seems to be. It’s a bit of tongue in cheek and a bit of a laugh really. Here we are again walking in the shadows of giants (laughs). It was meant like that. I had a conversation with my manager in which we brought up the name. I said “you know something, I’m almost like a second division footballer because I’m always walking in the shadow of somebody else!” She thought it was a great title so she told me that I should write a song about that.

Well it’s very honest of you to admit that.

Well I think that there’s no harm in being honest. I speak the truth and that is how I sound.

Never give up! If you love music then you won’t give up anyway. This is how I have always felt about it. Of course there will be good times and bad times, but you can’t throw in the towel every time something doesn’t go your way. That’s life for everybody.

The difficulties you have faced, these unforeseen situations or even lack of luck can make even the most passionate of musicians lose faith, so what kind of advice could you give to the people who want to give up?

Never give up!

Well that’s easy to say…

Never give up! Never give up! If you love music then you won’t give up anyway. This is how I have always felt about it. It doesn’t matter to me whether there are five people in the audience or fifty thousand people. It would make no difference because I would play as though it was my last concert. This is because I love music and I love playing music and I love trying to connect with people whilst playing music. Of course there will be good times and bad times, but you can’t throw in the towel every time something doesn’t go your way. That’s life for everybody. You could have a job and get fired but that doesn’t mean that you will throw in the towel and give up living. I decided very early on that my career was going to be easy and I will never give up on that. It has always been an achievement for me to stick to making a living with music. My achievement is that I can make music and continue to make music.

So writing music is what made you keep going?

Yes. Even if I wasn’t doing it professionally, I would still be writing songs at home just for pleasure. It’s my form of relaxation. I don’t watch television; I just try to be creative. Even if nobody else likes it, I don’t care because I like it (big laugh).

Where does your nickname The Professor come from?

That’s from Dublin, in the very early days of the Mamas Boys. I would get musicians coming up to me after the shows and asking me what kind of strings I used, what chords and what kind of guitars and I would tell them. I was not secretive about it at all. One night, there were three or four people asking me about what I had on stage and our tour manager came over to ask me to get into the car, but they said “oh no! Wait a minute! Leave the professor alone, he’s teaching us here!” So that’s how it started and then there were people coming to the gigs looking for The Professor.

Since it’s your nickname, do you teach music?

Yes I do. In Ireland I teach violin and a little bit of guitar but mostly violin. Also, when I am not touring, I have about twenty or thirty students that I teach during the daytime. I have one student who plays violin and who is already champion at this game so I am really proud of that. I teach during the daytime and then I gig at night in Ireland as well so I am pretty busy.

Gary Moore who recently passed away was also Irish and you once shared the stage together. Did you know him personally?

I knew him because the tour that we were on together lasted a couple of months. I wouldn’t say that I knew him intimately but we did talk and have conversations. In fact, the last time we spoke was about 18 months ago when he rang my house. He was in Ireland and he just wanted to know if I was still playing so I told him that I was. At the time he had an album called Bad For You Baby coming out and we spoke about it. That was the last time that I spoke to Gary.

Last year you were on tour with Scorpions and Karelia in France. There were some technical problems and you didn’t play in Liévin. Was this frustrating?

Of course it’s frustrating. We would have loved to play but it was nobody’s fault. The Scorpions crew did their best to make everything work but they couldn’t because of a technical fault and there’s wasn’t sufficient time for us to go on. So we had to say “c’est la vie” and accept it (laughs).

I met you in Strasbourg and I thought that you might be a little frustrated or angry because you hadn’t played the night before but you were completely cool with it. It was impressive. Is this something typical of the Irish?

Yes I think so. It wasn’t going to change the situation so what is the point of getting upset about it? It was nobody’s fault and the guys did everything in their power to try and fix it. So we just said “hey guys don’t worry about it”. Those things happen. It’s rock’n’roll. We were excited to play the Strasbourg gig so it gave us something to look forward to. Of course we would have wanted to play but these things happen.

That’s a great state of mind…

(laughs) Well these things happen. The Karelia guys were apologising and they were really lovely. The Scorpions guys were really sad about it and the road crew were also quite down about it not happening. At the end of the day, they tried their best and they are only human. They didn’t make the problem, it just happened, so these things happen.

Interview conducted by phone in March, 2011
Transcription : Isère
Pat McManus website: www.patmcmanus.co.uk



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