St. Pats for St. Barnabas – An Interview With Dom O’Connor

On Saturday March 17th, the beating heart of Ireland comes to St. Paul’s Worthing. Local Legends Flash Company return after a four year hiatus with their famously boisterous, St. Patricks Day Party. As always there will be music, dancing, quips and asides and the odd glass or two taken. What is more, it is all in aid of a fantastic local charity. Flash Company are holding this event to help St. Barnabas House, which relies on your donations and charity to carry on the superb work they do and Dom and the band have generously donated all the proceeds from ticket sales to this worthy cause.

Dom, one of the hardest working men in music was hard to pin down but eventually we had a chance to talk about the event, the band, his love of every genre of music and what its like to play in a band with his son, “Game of Thrones” actor, Brenock.

Flash Company are one of the best known bands in the South Coast, how did things start?

Flash Company started in 1987 as an open mic session at the Cellar Wine Bar in Anne Street Worthing. Pretty quickly a band was formed and we called ourselves Flash Company from the song of the same title and loosely linked to the Victorian era Worthing bonfire society’s one of  which was called I believe Flash Company. People seemed to like this ramshackle high energy band of sometimes up to 10 people and before we knew it we were getting gigs in pubs, clubs and festivals all along the South Coast and beyond.

Here we are 31 years later back playing at Cheers II on a Sunday afternoon once a month… ha!

The St Patricks day event was a regular fixture, then you stopped for a few years, was there a particular reason?

Organising the Annual St Patrick’s Party at The Pavilion became more and more work as prices went up and people’s willingness to part with cash , (even for a fun night for charity), went down. Steve and I did all the planning and most of the running round for the events, one year we took our foot off the pedal a bit and very nearly didn’t sell enough tickets to cover costs. We bounced back the following year but only through a huge publicity effort. That’s really hard when maintaining full time “real jobs”.

So who is in the current band?

There’s me, Dom O’Connor – Guitar and vocals

Steve Collett – Mandolin, Mandola and vocals

Lin Bowen – Fiddle

Charlie Cleary – Button accordion

Plus regular guest member Brenock O’Connor – Ukulele, Guitar and vocals

Steve and I were in the original Flash Company line up in 1987 along with Steve O’Brien and Chris Hare. Steve and I also played in a punk band in the late 70s in Basildon, we called ourselves Boredom and shared the stage with the likes of Alison Moyet (Alf then), Perry Bamonte (The Cure), and Martin Gore (Depeche Mode). And yes I was called “Bored Dom” then.

Lin has played in various bands and duos for years sometimes appearing solo as “Ann Bowlyn”, and is particularly well known the Southampton and Portsmouth area.

Charlie has a wealth of experience and his button accordion skills and fantastic musicality is in high demand with local bands, but he’s “Flash Company first” though ok!

Brenock is my son and has been on stage with Flash Company one way or another since he was a toddler. He is currently busy writing songs and playing them around numerous open mic sessions around Worthing and Shoreham, and also was recently featured artist at the Beach House Sunset Sessions. Some may recognise him as the infamous Olly in “Game of Thrones” and he also appears in Sky comedy “Living the Dream”.

What is it like playing in a band with your son, and does he have a different slant on the music?

It’s brilliant playing with my son. We both love a wide variety of music. I think it’s brilliant that youth today listen to anything and everything – not like my day when you were a punk or prog rocker or mod or soul boy and that was exclusive. The music we play in Flash Company is kind of instinctive and definitely fun and we both kind of play off each other when he’s with us for a gig.

What can we expect on the night?

On 17th March we will have over 3 hours of fun Irish Music.  It should be a great atmosphere in St Paul’s; it’s such a great venue. There will be guest spots from old friends, plenty of opportunity for clapping, foot-tapping and dancing, and lots of smiling and laughing, we don’t take ourselves too seriously.

There will also be stall for St Barnabas with some sort of raffle, Oh and a well stocked reasonably priced bar.

Do you favour a particular type of music, would you veer more towards, The Dubliners, Chieftains, Bothy Band, Planxty or later influences like the Pogues, the Waterboys or Bellowhead?

I hate being categorised…. We’re kind of somewhere between the Dubliners and the Pogues with a bit of pub session authenticity thrown in. It’s not unheard of for us to chuck in the odd off script song like Born to Be Wild or Staying Alive and even, in the early days, Pretty Vacant and Puff the Magic Dragon.

That’s a pretty eclectic mix, so what are your personal influences?

Personal influences… for me that is, not the band…  what I like to listen to is: Frank Turner, The Avett Brothers, Steve Earle, Vampire Weekend, The Steel Drivers and Sailor and yes… I did say Sailor.

I know, you can’t beat A Glass of Champagne.

You promise special guests, can you drop a name or two yet?

Special guests are Phil Greene, Clare McGlone and Bernadette Sexton, who moved back to Ireland last year, but is making a special journey back from Ireland to join us.

That sounds like a stage full, do you have a favourite venue or type of venue?

Hmmm favourite venue? I like a proper busy local spit and sawdust pub or a beer festival. Also love love, love, love playing in Steyne Gardens for carnival every year.

I always like to throw a few names in to see which our interviewees prefer so; Brendan Behan or James Joyce?

Behan… met Dominic Behan in a pub in Brighton once, it was a heavy night a long time ago so a bit blurred, but I did meet him.

We sing at least one of his songs….

Sinead O’Connor or Delores O’Riordan

Sinead. no relation.

Phil Lynott or Bob Geldof

Mr Lynott, I was lucky enough to see Thin Lizzy live, a long, long time ago.

Yes I saw them several times in the 70’s and was lucky enough to get back stage at the Hammersmith Odeon, when Brian Robertson played with them, the first time I ever had red Stripe!

What would you say is the best Irish Folk Song ever written?

The best ones are the ones that grew out of tradition, not composed but kind of organically created passed on through travellers and ever changing. I think it’s fascinating how many different versions of songs, lyrics and tunes that have emerged across Irish, Scottish, English traditions and even influenced the blues and rock.

However best song written has to be Fairytale of New York, which was actually written in North London.

I would have to agree, makes me cry every time I hear it, Thanks for your time Dom, to finish up could you tell us in one sentence tell us why St Pat’s for St Barnabas will be the an evening not to be missed.

St Patrick’s day at St Paul’s will a fun party night in a fantastic venue raising money for a brilliant charity.

There are still a few tickets left, so why not do your heart, feet and mind some good and help a fantastic cause at the same time. Come join us at St. Pauls on St. Patricks Day, Saturday the 17th of March.

Watch out for more great live music at St Pauls Worthing and check out my blog Womu, a Worthing music blog at worthingmusic.wordpress.com

Rob Kelly

St Pats for St Barnabas – Saturday 17th March

 

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