Celtic Punk Lives!
Starting a band will always be an experience filled with excitement. From the initial practices and those original songs written for and by the band, to the time the group sets foot on a stage for the first time and beyond, there’s a rush of adrenaline encapsulated in those scenarios that can’t be found in any man-made substance. But what happens when things get rough or when life hits everyone square in the face? How do you keep things going and forge ahead through those trials? If you’re the Portland, OR-based Celtic punk act Amadan, you cast aside any lingering ideas of quitting and simply keep plugging away at the music that you love. I had a chance to speak with the group’s driving force, one Mr. Eric Tonsfeldt, about what it takes to keep a Celtic punk band going in this day and age as well as his love for the music in general.
APN: Are any of you guys actually Irish, Scottish, or any combination thereof?
Eric Tonsfeldt (ET): Absolutely, in the melting-pot kind of way. We’re not really flag-wavers, though. One of the guys I started the band with was (and is) from
APN: How did you embark upon playing Celtic punk music? What sparked your interest in the genre? How was the band originally formed? What is the meaning and concept behind your band’s name?
ET: I grew up listening to punk and bluegrass and playing classical music. Irish music interested me early on because of the similarities in lyrical theme to the former two and the musical similarities to all three. The band was myself, a friend named Rupert Hugh-Jones on whistle, and Mikey Morrow on percussion. The three of us got together in 1999 because we thought it would be fun to play the more rebellious and political Irish music in bars. We’d all performed for years in orchestras and bands, but a stripped-down pub band was relatively new idea for us. Also, Amadan is Irish-Gaelic for an idiot or fool.
APN: Who have been the constants in the group despite the many lineup changes over the course of the band’s history? How have these members shaped the direction of the band? Where do you typically go to find new members?
ET: I’m the only original member left, though Kevin Pardew came in early on to play bass. Kevin and I write and arrange all of the music for Amadan. Interestingly, Bill Tollner (the current bass player) has been a constant friend of the band and occasional stage guest for eight years. Having him on board feels great. That being said, we usually draw from a rather large base of friends and musicians we’ve worked with before to find new members.
APN: What drives the band to keep going, even though your chosen subgenre can be viewed as being quite dominated by three principal acts [Flogging Molly, Dropkick Murphys, and The Pogues]?
ET: Interestingly, the reason we keep going is because the music we write, while owing a few things to that sub-genre, is pretty diverse and ever-evolving. I think that if we consciously wrote “Irish punk” songs, it would get musically stifling. Our saving grace has been the ability to nod occasionally to The Pogues and The Clash and do our own thing from there on out.
APN: When playing shows, what kind of bills do you find yourselves on most frequently - punk, rock, or something else?
ET: Yes. To all three. Got suggestions?
APN: I’ll keep an ear out for like-minded bands in my neck of the woods. How has
APN: Someday I’ll get out to Vegas and actually experience that for myself. What plans does the band have for 2009? Do you have any touring in the works? What about an EP of some sort?
ET: An EP sounds great. We’re there for material, and are pretty fired up to do a project of that size. Have a pretty slim schedule right now, so it’s a perfect time to create.