Music Editor Kevin O’Neill questions the enigmatic Evil Uncle before he comes to Cork in support of the release of his debut album.

How did you begin playing music?

There was always music in my house growing up. Every car journey was a singsong. One day I found a Beatles chord book and eventually taught myself on my Mam’s old guitar after many frustrating failed attempts.

Where did the name Evil Uncle come from?

I had a dream many years ago that I was playing a gig and this huge giant of a man stood up and starting shouting at me “You’re name is Evil Uncle!” over and over again and he wouldn’t stop. I woke up fairly freaked out but thought who am I to argue with an imaginary ogre?

Tell us about the Evil Uncle journey so far. How long have you been performing under the name?

It has been a real adventure. I started off gigging years ago as frontman in Dwight and we were Cork based (my brother Emmett who will be drumming on my tour was born in Cork and Eoin Barry-Murphy was on bass guitar). The lads emigrated and I was sad for a while and tried to forget about music. Then one day about a year ago I just started playing again and all these songs that had been in the back of my head for years escaped. I went travelling with a guitar and a laptop and charger and recorded most of the album (illegally) in the ruins of John Lennon’s apartment in the derelict Maharishi’s ashram in Northern India – that’s where the Beatles wrote most of the White Album apparently. Sentimental? Me? Since then I have been insanely busy playing gigs and getting the album printed and organising the tour. This is my baby and I take care of every detail of this myself. Complete control freak….

What are the major influences on your musical style?

I love The Kinks. The way Ray Davies tells a story is amazing. Also the Grandaddy (and now Jason Lytle) approach to recording and songwriting always makes me go ‘WOW’. My brother Emmett and I always sing Everly Brothers’ harmonies and they have definitely influenced how I think vocal harmony should sound. Jarvis Cocker and Super Furry Animals would be two others that spring to mind.

The release of the EP was publicised in a unique manner – you quite literally gave the album away. What brought this about?

As a relative unknown I just wanted to get the music to people. I love getting free stuff and I thought what’s better than getting a free CD? Not much. And any good drug dealer worth his salt knows that the first one is always free. Hopefully I have hooked in a few Evil fans for the future. Call it an investment!

How did you find the recording of your debut album?

Frustrating, heart breaking, hilarious, rewarding. I am a bit of a perfectionist and am never happy until something sounds like it does in my head. Lots of screaming at walls and hair pulling before that beautiful moment of elation when it all comes together.

How do you feel now that the album is finally set for release?

Proud. Immensely proud and happy. And excited. I can’t wait for people to hear it!

Do you prefer performing live, recording music or writing music?

I love all three for different things. Writing keeps me sane and can be very therapeutic. When recording I love throwing weird things in the mix and finding that they work. Live is the greatest buzz of all though. A good gig and audience reaction will make the hair stand on the back of my neck and keep me smiling for days.

What can we expect to see as part of an Evil Uncle live show?

Plenty of noise! I will be performing with my brother Emmett on drums and ukulele and other instruments and it will be informal, accident prone, fun and musical. I don’t take myself too seriously at all and at the end of the day it is all about having fun and entertaining the people good enough to come see the show.

How do you find your tracks transfer over into the live setting?

I think they work well. Obviously I have license on the recordings to have all sort of backing instruments and effects so live it is scaled back a little and I love the way that the songs stand up on their own. Every gig is different and I like changing songs to suit the mood of the evening, myself or just to make things strange / awkward.

The tracks on the EP are very colourful and personal – is there anyone in particular that has influenced the writing of these songs? Haha I could tell you but I would have to kill you. And all your readers. Which really would make me an Evil Uncle. Then again, there’s no such thing as bad publicity…..

What are your plans now that the album is out in the world? Have you many more tour dates planned around the project?

After the launch in The Sugar Club I’ll be playing Roisin Dubh (Galway), Cork (The Roundy), Kerry (St John’s Theatre), Kilkenny (Cleere’s Theatre) and Belfast (The John Hewitt) as well as a bunch of university gigs. I think I’ll be doing an average of two gigs a day for a few weeks. Evil overdrive. I’m also really looking forward to a quiet Christmas. Unless I start writing album #2!

Evil Uncle plays a show in the Roundy in Cork on November 18th. He will also be performing in the Old Bar in UCC at lunch-time on the same day. Do not miss out!

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