Interview : KERBDOG’s Billy Dalton… Posted: 07/05/2015 by John O'Brien
KERBDOG is a name that’s been etched onto school desks since the mid 90s. A name that’s synonymous with grunge and alternative rock as a whole in Ireland. KERBDOG’s career may look short and sweet on paper, but since they’re initial break-up following their second full length album, there has been a lot going on behind the scenes. Even more so over the last few years since their inevitable reformation. Guitarist, Billy Dalton, was the final piece missing from the band’s sound, and has recently rejoined to complete their original line-up once again. I caught up with Billy before their show in Galway City to find out more about his return to the fold.
“I’ve been playing on and off with them.” The musician told me. “My old band, SOULS, had a mutual drummer, and that’s Darragh [Butler] obviously, and I was with KERBDOG. Between SOULS doing support with KERBDOG, I used to go and do songs with them on stage. It used to go down really well, so they asked me to join, and I said ok.”
I asked what if his presences with the band had been well received on the live circuit.
“Yeah, yeah!” He said happily. “So with the live album especially. It was recorded over three of four different nights. Those very gigs were actually SOULS, my old band, supporting KERBDOG. So I just went up and roughly played all the songs with them and they were recorded so I’m pretty much on the whole live album as well.”
Since the guitarist brought up KERBDOG’s live album, “Congregation”, I decided to ask about the new studio recording that is featured on it. The Kilkenny lads re-recorded an old demo track from 1998 known as ‘Soaking Wet’ and renamed it as ‘Electricity’, making this their first studio track in almost two decades. I asked Billy why this particular track was chosen for resurrection.
“We had a few more kind of in the pipeline. ‘Soaking Wet’ is so old, ‘Soaking Wet’ was kind of born as I was leaving and a couple of other songs, demos, that we have in the pipeline as well. It’s only a matter of time, and getting into the studio. But the original ‘Soaking Wet’ was recorded and the original tapes got fucking destroyed! I’d left at that point, so the boys re-recorded the ‘Soaking Wet’ that’s actually listenable on Youtube and it didn’t sound really good at all. So it was just something there that got out there by accident and it was something that we needed to have corrected. So we literally got together a couple of weeks before Sonisphere, because we played Sonisphere last Summer, and we just went through it a few times and upped the tempo. We put in new fucking riffs; made it kind of fucking kick off! You know, like we used to in songs.” The guitarist said, pleased with the work that he and his band mates had put in. “We were a little bit more mature and it just needed a bit of work. We gave it the bit of work and it turned out really fucking cool!”
Along with the aforementioned Sonisphere, KERBDOG have played many great festivals since their return to the rock scene, including Oxygen and Kerrang’s ‘Weekend of Rock’. It seems that KERBDOG have reached a stage where they’re finally being given a taste of that fabled rock star treatment. I brought this up with Billy, and asked if he believed the band were being shown more respect now than they were in the 1990s.
“Very much, yeah. Back in the 1990s we had bad luck here and there. We had Iron Maiden’s Management, and they kind of sucked as fucking managers. He’d make decisions behind our back and we’d have to fucking run with it. Tours were already decided for us. We were kind young at the time we went along with the shit tours that they got us on and stuff like that. [They] totally missed the plot in getting us on the right support. So we do it all now, we manage ourselves now and we sell the merch ourselves and book the gigs ourselves, you know what I mean? The whole Pledge Campaign was the four of us putting in equal input and deciding what way we should run the whole Pledge Campagin. We just made good, smart, mature fucking choices. On account of that it worked out really well. So we got some really good, cool gigs. Suddenly our name is back!” He announced proudly. “You know, they were writing about us in Kerrang and fuckin’ Metal Hammer and Rock Sound magazine. Suddenly we were just getting asked to do festivals In the UK and we did the Tramlines Festival after Sonisphere. We did another one in Birmingham last summer and we did one in Portlaoise as well as a couple more. But then it all coincided with the UK tour that we did back in November and it was just incredible. The feedback! All the sold out shows across the UK. It was incredible! Out of the ten shows, I think five were sold out. At one of the gigs, I think it was the Birmingham gig, just doing the sound check there was some dude, he just got in as a kind of a fan. We just started playing ‘Electricity’ in the sound check, and he started pulverising the whole fucking venue and he broke his leg… on his own!” Billy said while laughing at the bizarre situation.
With this level of exposure currently on KERBDOG’s side and a loyal legion of fans that they had already established back in the 90s, it seemed that the grunge act are on top of their game. I asked Billy if he believed the band has seen an increase in their fan base since their reformation.
“I suppose we have, yeah.” Stated Billy, clearly pleased with the way things have been going over the last few years. “There’s been a lot of young people at the venues, like, a lot of people we’d never have thought. We did a couple of in-stores in Ireland, pre- the UK tour, and we had all these young guys coming up in their early twenties buying shirts, buying the live album and just showing a new interest. It’s really refreshing, you know? ‘Electricity’ got a lot of air play, constant air play on Paul McLoone, and Fanning played it, daytime radio played it.” He said, referring to their single’s airtime on radio channels Today fm and 2fm. “It got a lot of push, so I was really grateful that everybody kind of, all the fans especially and all the journalists, everybody mucked in and was really genuinely excited about it, like. It was cool!”
Not many Irish bands have had as much influence as KERBDOG, especially considering that they haven’t enjoyed a long and illustrious career. However their impact is proven by a tribute record, on which fans of the band cover their songs as a homage to the musicianship and artistry that was displayed on the self titled “Kerbdog” and “On The Turn” albums. I asked Billy if he’d heard “Pledge: A Tribute to Kerbdog” and what his favourite cuts from it were.
“Oh, I have, yeah. That’s a long time ago, that’s five or six years ago now.” Billy began. “That was all these people, all these other bands like Frank Turner; he was involved in that. So was Jamie Lenman. Loads of other bands across the UK contributed songs, did cover versions of our songs, whichever way they felt like doing them, and some record company released it. I’m sorry I fucking missed it, you know. Like forty bands contributed songs and we just picked the best of them out, and they all came out really killer. I was really flattered!” He said with a sense of amazement in his voice. “At the time we were kinda dormant. We were kind of going ‘Fuckin’ hell!’, ya know? So the whole Pledge Tribute, like, was a four way collection even though I was only partaking in the odd gig. It just led to me being asked to be back playing in the band and all. Very flattering! It’s all on Youtube.” He said returning to the topic of the Tribute album. “Frank Turner did ‘Sally’ and there’s a really good version of ‘Severed’, ‘Mexican Wave’ I think Jamie Lenman done. Actually Jamie Lenman, when we played in the Kentish Town Forum, he came on stage and played ‘Mexican Wave’ with us with a saxophone player! That was incredible. And that’s on Youtube. It’s fucking crazy, you know. It’s really flattering.” He concluded smiling about the show in question.
With ‘Electricity’ making waves on the Irish Rock scene and KERBDOG once again making a name for themselves both here and overseas, I asked the Kilkenny man if there were any plans on a new studio album.
“We have three songs. That’s three songs pretty much bashed out, ready to record. God knows how long that’ll take because Darragh lives in Dubai, Fennelly works in the UK, Battle is in 2fm, as you know, and I have my business in Kilkenny. It’ll just be a matter of getting everybody together in one place and lashing it out. There’s a really good producer, the guy who produced the new album, a guy called Dave Draper who worked with Ginger from THE WILDHEARTS and a couple of fucking bands, like DODGY. And he’s a big fan of the band. His band supported us, they’re called HEY YOU GUYS, on the UK tour and we invited him on to play a couple of songs on the encore. Just for the vibes, it’s really fucking cool, you know. So it’s a matter of time. We hope to bring out a EP next year, all going well, touch wood.”
Interview by Eoghan Murphy