Apr 18, 2009

An Interview With Mike Brooks of Here Be Dragons

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Here Be Dragons have released three CDs, "Alcohol & Rain, Celtic Bonding and "Bright New Tomorrow".Their live shows have had crowds dancing and partying in festivals and venues across Europe and in the USA. From 2009 they will also be offering an "Unplugged" set for more acoustic venues.They've played to many thousands of people around the world. Their largest crowd was 30,000 in Bologna.

Americymru: Who are Here Be Dragons?

Mike: A band who play wild Celtic music from Wales. Mike Brooks Vocals (and various stringed instruments), "Big Willy" Morrsion on drums, Kyle Jones on bass, Helen Blackburn fiddles and Delyth Jones squeezes (Accordion)

Americymru: What are the backgrounds of the people in the band and how did you end up together?

Mike: I originally formed the band when I was an expat; I was living in London. Lineups have changed over the years but Will has been there since pretty much the beginning. The rest we met as friends of friends. Kyle is from Cardiff like me. A friend from West Wales told me his sister plays accordion in a duo with a fiddler and that's how we met Del and Helen.

Americymru: You perform your own version of "Sospan Fach" . This , of course, is a traditional Welsh folk song about a small saucepan. For the benefit of our American readers can you tell us a little about this rather surreal ditty?

Mike: Sospan Fach words are silly but the song is more than the words. It's sung pasionately at rugby matches to support Wales or Llanelli (Town in West Wales). It was also sung going to te trenches in the first World War. So it's sort of more about the singing than the song, if that makes any sense.

Sospan Fach

Americymru: You've played the States before? Can you tell us a bit about that? How did you enjoy the experience?

Mike: We've come across twice for Celtic festivals in Florida and Chicago.

On our first trip Will kept shouting "Where are we?" and we'd joyfully answer "In America!" it was a big deal, a big trip. The gigs went well and we were well recieved. I wrote the song "One Night Stand" on that trip - enough said!

Chicago was great too. A well organised Welsh society, The "Chicago Taffia" met us there, with a limo. In fact both trips we got met at the airport and were given beer to drink on our way back from the airport. Each time I thought "I could like this country!" (Easily bought, eh?) Chicago is a huge and impressive town. The festival was big too, big crowds and a warm reception. It was great standing on stage looking at the Chiacgo skyline behind the crowd in Grant Park. That night we got to meet the locals to which always helps, if you can't do that then why travel? We're still in touch with a people in Chicago. I hope we return before too long.

Americymru: OK...now for a dumb question. A lot of your songs are about drinking. How important is that in Welsh culture and in particular in Cardiff?

Mike: Anyone who has seen St Mary's Street on a Friday or Saturday night would know. On those nights 50,000 people come into town to get drunk. Hen nights, stag nights, nights out with the lads or girls, birthdays, work nights, you name it. Drink is part of the culture the way food is in France or Italy. In Europe there is a North South divide with drink. Wales along with Irish, Scots amnd Scandinavians drink way more than those in the South.

Tonight Cardiff Blues Rugby won a major cup so the fans will get drunk to celebrate. Cardiff City (Soccer) lost six nil so, to drown their sorrows, the fans get drunk.

I'm Not Drunk

Americymru: You have a song entitled "The Senghenydd Explosion" Care to tell us a little about the background to that?

Mike: This is true story about the worst mining disaster in Britsh history. 439 died in an explosion in a mine not that far North of Cardiff. Mining is a big part of the history of South Wales. To anyone who comes here I'd reccomend a visit to Big Pit mining museum where you actually go underground and get a glimpse of what life was like. Mining was and is a horrible job but it binds the community together as every day the miners put their lives in each others hands. Obviously this is true of miners the world over as well as of soldiers and sailors.

Americymru: "Auntie Henrietta o Sicago"...any resemblance to any real person alive or dead?

Mike: I didn't write this so I can't say if she was real. It's a fun song in Welsh about Chicago so we had to sing it when we went there. It's nice to sing about places you visit. Our accordion player at the time has an Auntie in Chicago so we dedicated it to her.

I like to write songs about places we visit often blurring fact and fiction like in a drunken memory. "Celtic Bonding" is like that. I enjoy singing "The Modena Rambler" in Modena (Italy) or about Cardiff in Cardiff. Any Welsh songs about Portland?

Auntie Henrietta o Sicago

Americymru: Where can people go to hear you play and buy your music?

Mike: We're on Silverwolf Records in the USA. If you can't get a CD in your local idependant record store, I'd say go to our Website www.herebedragons.info and we'll sell you one. I'll sign it too if you like. If you're too stingy to buy a CD then you get (different) songs for FREE buy joing the supporters club on the same site.

Americymru: What are your future recording and performance plans at the moment?

Mike: Well both are work in progress. We have gigs in the pipe line for Italy, Wales and the USA. The Left Coast Eisteddford is on 22nd August in Portland, Oregon. Hopefully we'll get a few other dates around it in the USA.

At the moment we're working on three albums:- A "Best of" in English and Welsh translating songs we've done before, an album of songs connected with Welsh rugby and a new album of original material.

Americymru: Any further message for the members and readers of "Americymru".

Mike: Keep flying the flag, singing the songs and drinking the beer when you can. Also don't keep Welsh culture a secret, let non Welsh friends have a taste too.

Hwyl fawr!

Here Be Dragons

Interview by Ceri Shaw Email

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