Karl Spain Wants to Rock is a five-part documentary that follows comedian Karl Spain as he travels from Limerick to Dublin with a bunch of hard rockin’ tribute bands, stopping in various spots along the way to play gigs and vote off one band each time in the style of most reality TV programmes. One of the stops the gang made was in Tullamore, and this is where I came in.
I know a couple of lads in the radio business. To be fair, anyone who’s ever been to a pub in Tullamore knows someone who spins a few tunes for the local radio station, Midlands 103. One of those fine gents was approached by the production company, Bang Bang Teo, to be a panel member for the Tullamore round of “The Scrap Metal Tour”, but unfortunately he couldn’t participate, due in part to his lack of interest in rock music, but mostly to the fact that he had a regular paying gig as a DJ that was on at the same time. He sought me out, knowing that I love a bit of the ol’ rock music and am well able to talk shite when called upon.
After he’d passed my details along to the production company they got in touch and had me call down to the Bridge House one rainy Sunday evening. There I met the lads from the bands that were still in the competition at that point namely, Ireland Maiden (Iron Maiden), Metallitia (Metallica), The Rubber Plants (Led Zeppelin), and User Illusion (Guns n’ Roses). The AC/DC tribute, Thunderstruck, had struck out the night before in Limerick. I also met Karl, the production team, and the other two panel members – local warbler and choirmaster Brendan Keeley, and the legendary Brian Tatler from Diamond Head.
I had a great old chat with Brian, and whilst busy trying not to sound too much the fanboy, I still managed to draw him out on subjects like his experiences meeting Metallica (which was an easy conversation to have as I had only watched “Some Kind of Monster” the night before). Brian Tatler is a gentleman, an elder statesman of rock, if you will and it was a pleasure to meet him and, I suppose, work with him. I say work, but all we did was sit at the back, listen to the bands, talk a little to the camera, and drink free booze. Karl was cool enough too, but he really was working and so he was ‘always on’ – making funny little comments at the drop of every hat – I would like to get chatting him in more relaxed times to get his perspective on being on the comedy circuit in Ireland.
Watching the show on Monday night was odd. I had no idea about the task that the bands had been set to get punters into the gig, so that was fun, however any enjoyment I might have gotten from the programme was wiped out by my trepidation at seeing myself on the boob-tube. The best way to convey the feeling of watching yourself like this is to ask a question:
Have you ever listened to a recording of your own voice?
Most people have, and most people hate the way they sound. The first reaction to hearing yourself is “My God! Do I really sound that way to other people? Jesus Christ!” This is usually followed up with a short-lived vow of silence. Now, multiply that feeling by a million-billion times and you’re still not close to what it’s like seeing yourself on TV. After watching myself I not only swore a vow of silence but also promised to redouble my efforts on the invisibility potion I had been working on since I was a child. However, once you realise that you’re your own worst critic these notions quickly pass and you can get back to the idea of fame and fortune as a TV star (though probably not for RTE).
I will admit to one coping tactic I employed, though not deliberately, I watched a recording of the show on my own in the middle of the night, more than a little concerned about how it would turn out. This fear was baseless as it wasn’t me that looked so bad but Tullamore itself, which if Karl Spain Wants to Rock is anything to go by, is a practically deserted, dreary, grey, little place inhabited only by senior citizens, who all hate rock music and snubbed the show by not turning up for the gig.
Firstly, the town was quiet that Sunday, unusually so, due to the fact that local sporting hero Shane Lowry (all the way from Clara, just up the road from Tullamore) was that very afternoon busy winning the Irish Open Golf Championship. This would lead to a huge piss-up in Clara that night, which is where everyone was instead of in the Bridge House listening to the bands with us.
Secondly, and probably most importantly, no one knew it was on. There was no advertising in Tullamore that a gig like this was taking place, never mind that it was being filmed for a TV programme. This may have been down to the producers wanting the bands to do the task of drumming up business, but a few posters wouldn’t have gone a miss. A bit of radio advertising might have helped, but Midlands 103 probably serves the wrong demographic, which is almost certainly why the radio station that features in this weeks episode is not the local one at all, but i105-107 in Athlone – a town over twenty miles away from which few people would travel for a rock gig in Tullamore.
Tullamore is not blameless. The town has a very poor live music scene and there is no venue ideally suited for bands of any persuasion, especially rock. This means that there’s no real interest fostered in the town, so those who like live music are more likely to travel further afield to see bands. The really sad part of this can be summed up by the way Karl Spain bigged up the next episode of the show, when the bands travel to “the metal capital of the Midlands – Mullingar!” Sarcasm aside, there’s a grain of truth in that label and it’s a shame that the live bands who once graced the stage in #1 Church Street all those years ago haven’t been seen in town for such a long time.
I’m glad I got the chance to be a part of helping Karl Spain rock, if for no other reason then I got to down a few pints and listen to some great bands without having to put my hand into my pocket. I’m also glad that it made me take a second look at Tullamore and how it’s music and other cultural outlets need to be helped along, especially after three successful Fleadh Cheoil were held in the town. I’ll definitely be making more of an effort to annoy local landlords and promoters into putting on some decent music. I might also pester those lads on the radio too.
I won’t spill the beans as to who won the overall competition as there’s still three more episodes to go, so if you want to know you’ll have to watch, or ask me in three weeks time.
One final thought – the best part of being on TV is seeing your name in the end credits, I nearly knackerd the Sky+ box rewinding that part!
Martin Minnock – Metal Blogger (as they said in the show, though this new blog has yet to feature any music stuff – yet! (This will be resolved this week (promise (brackets!!!!!)))
To find out more check out these lovely, lovely links:
Programme Website: http://www.rte.ie/tv/programmes/karl_spain_wants_to_rock.html
Tour Website: http://www.scrapmetalthetour.com/
Diamond Head: http://www.diamond-head.net/
Fleadh 2009: http://www.fleadh2009.com/
Shane Lowry: http://www.eskerhillsgolf.com/shane_lowry/introduction.html