‘Enough people know who we are to keep us happy’
It’s been about 20 years since the Pogues played Atlanta. That long streak ends Monday night.
Formed in the early 1980s afterglow of Britain’s punk explosion, the Pogues demonstrated the surprising natural affinity of Irish folk and punk, spawning a style that still inspires young bands from Dropkick Murphys to Gogol Bordello a quarter-century later.
A short U.S. jaunt brings the Pogues —- reunited since 2001 and with original frontman Shane MacGowan on board —- to the Tabernacle this week.
We talked with co-founder, tin whistle player and sometime frontman Spider Stacy via phone from his U.K. home about the ups and downs of his fabled band —- and why it took them so long to get back to Atlanta.
Q: What’s different about touring today?
A: It’s a lot easier now than it was then. We’re not under any pressure from record companies, we’re not out there trying to promote albums or anything like that. We’re doing this for ourselves —- and the cash comes in handy, obviously.
It’s just really nice to do it without any of the attendant headaches that it used to involve.
Q: The tours you’ve done recently are pretty short. Is that a necessity?
A: Obviously none of us are as young as we used to be. We do as much as we need to, really. We’re coming over in March for the sort of St. Patrick’s Day week, or whatever you want to call it. We do that, and that seems to be sufficient. …
There was a time when we were on the road nonstop because we had to be on the road nonstop. We were promoting albums, and the only way we could keep the band going financially was to go out and do shows to keep the thing rolling. Now, obviously, we don’t have to do that.
We didn’t crack America then, so we’re not going to do it now. We’re quite content with the position that we’ve got. We’re the Pogues, most people, you know, well, not most people, but enough people know who we are to keep us happy
Q: Do the audiences seem different these days?
A: You can see that it’s not just people who came to see us in the old days. If it was just that, we wouldn’t be playing the sort of venues we are playing, realistically. There’s a lot of younger people, a lot of kids out there. It’s certainly true over here [in the U.K. and Ireland], but in particular it seems to be the case in America and even more so in Japan. …
It’s good to know that you’re doing something that’s got sufficient weight to it, and heart to it, and meaning, that it can carry on from one generation to another.
Q: As far as I can tell, it was 1989 when you last played here with Shane MacGowan on board?
A: We only played in Atlanta once before, and that would have been that time. We were really bad at playing the South. It’s kind of embarrassing. It’s actually not our fault; it’s promoters and such. We would have played a lot more given the opportunity.
We did maybe three or four shows in New Orleans, and I know we did Dallas and Houston on two separate occasions. … Other than that, Atlanta and Birmingham, that was the same tour, and Austin. The only tour we did of the South was really those places, which is kind of poor on the promoter’s part. I mean, there’s a huge audience down there.
Q: Did you ever imagine the Pogues would inspire a whole subgenre of bands?
A: That is really gratifying, and it’s not something that I ever really saw happening. At the same time, back in the old days people would say, “How did the band get started with this kind of stuff that you’re doing.” We used to say that the surprise is that nobody had actually thought of it before us.
The whole thing that we do, when you think about it, it is really pretty damn obvious.
Q: Well, it works.
A: Exactly, it works. Like all great ideas, it’s a really simple idea.
Q: Do you expect to be doing this for the rest of your life? Will the Pogues go on forever?
A: As long as people still want us. I wouldn’t want to stop it now, having got it back. Really, we’re all enjoying it more than ever. There’s places that we haven’t been to yet that it’d be really nice to get to.
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