EMQ’s with DIRTY POWER
Hi everyone! Welcome to our new EMQ’s interview with Dublin, Ireland based Alt Hard Rock trio Dirty Power. Huge thanks to vocalist/guitarist Brendan for taking part.
What is your name, what do you play, and can you tell us a little bit about the history of the band?
The band is Dirty Power. We’re a trio that plays modern alternative hard rock. I’m Brendan. I started the band, write the songs, play guitar and sing vocals.
Dirty Power was formed in London (UK) sometime around 2013 under a different (very bad) name… We’ve been Dirty Power since 2015. Now we’re based between London (UK) and Dublin (IRL). I brought together some of the most capable rocking musician buddies in the London scene to play (now coming together from all over Europe). Demos were circulated and years of songwriting, recording sessions and touring followed. Some great venues and more established acts all leant a hand in getting Dirty Power on its feet, for which I’m extremely grateful.
For a few years, we gigged and toured without releasing anything officially, because that’s what our influences did, and I wanted Dirty Power to be built on a strong backbone of performing live and writing solid and meaningful- but still actually fun to play- songs. Now we’re putting stuff out. In the meantime, the band has been an evolving collective of musicians, so the line-up of who’s on drums and bass changes from time to time, depending on the way we want to do things. That’s how it was from the early days, so it’s cool to be able to call on different people for different circumstances, especially as the music seems to benefit.
How did you come up with your band name?
I had been searching for absolutely ages, for a name that somehow reflected the light and dark shades of our influences. Something that combined the simple pleasures and raw, electric energy of AC/DC and Rage Against The Machine, with the profundity and craft of Nirvana and Muse. Plus, if there was anything resembling a joke to the name, it would help me from getting sick of it immediately. At a rehearsal, while trying to fix a nightmare buzzing sound coming from my guitar effects pedal board, one of the band’s bassists shrugged in despair and said, “sometimes you just get some dirty power”. I said, “that’s it – that’s the band name!” It ticked a lot of the boxes I wanted ticked. Especially that there was something redemptive about it… A power that’s been dragged through the mud and somehow still made it out the other side, all the better for the experience. That seemed pretty ‘Rock’ to me. It was also silly enough to not be pretentious, because ‘Dirty’ is slang in Ireland for “fucking great”. As in, “I’d murder a dirty pint of Guinness right now”, or “that riff is absolute dirt”.
What Country/Region are you from and what is the Metal/Rock scene like there?
I’m half Irish, half Belgian. The bigger half is Irish, but the Belgian part is powerful too.
Ireland has got some great rock and metal bands, whatever your taste may be, along with some cool venues. For acoustic, look no further than The Scratch and Headtrip Acoustic Project. For experimental instrumental rock check out Bicurious and Restive Nation for some extraordinary rock soundscapes. For absolute independent punk moshpit glory, it’s Audible Joes. But if all-out, death-defying heaviness is your fancy, have a little listen to Dead Label and Ten Ton Slug.
The central Chapel of Rock and Metal, in Ireland, is without a doubt Fibber Magee’s Rock Bar in Dublin. We have great memories of playing there, along with Cork’s Fred Zeppelin’s and Galway’s Quays and Sally Longs Rock Bar. I love that these places are flying the rock flag in Ireland, and we’ve made it our business to play them all several times each, and other places in between.
Belgium has places like Rock Classic in Brussels, and I have great memories of going to countless rock and metal festivals in Belgium over the years. From Rock Werchter, to Pukkelpop and Graspop Metal Meeting. Whereas Ireland has a longstanding and unrivalled music culture that runs very deep for the Irish people, Belgium is a crossroads for all the big bands touring Europe that would often unfortunately not include Ireland as one their destinations. I’m very grateful to have had the best of both those worlds, and to pour it all into Dirty Power.
What is your latest release? (Album, EP, Single, Video)
Our latest single ‘Oh God’ is the most recent addition to our ongoing EP “Notions”.
It’s about the relationship with our most primitive, powerful and pervasive natures, the resulting vulnerabilities and how those keep evolving in ever more sophisticated ways, with such impressive effect. The multiple meanings of- and varying ways that people use the phrase- “oh God” reveals a lot about ourselves and the moments we consider to be significant or not. It can mean anything from “oh yes!” to “oh no!” to “oh here we go again…”. Anything from a joke, all the way to being a genuine plea or prayer for something deeply meaningful. A person might also consider themselves to have grown out of classical religious beliefs and traditions, only to find that other things, people, priorities, or idols begin to occupy that part of our minds, personalities and preoccupations. It’s an interesting part of being human that is there whether you know it or not.
In the Dirty Power spirit, of combining deep stuff with simple pleasures, I decided to make a joke of a music video for it. We went to Hyde Park’s ‘Speaker’s Corner’ in London, where people genuinely get on soap boxes and shout at passers-by about their favourite religious texts, politics, or anything really. We did the same, except we were dressed as monkeys and threw bananas at each other. One ‘musician monkey’ handing out free food and water, one ‘religious monkey’ wearing kinky fetish gear and bullets, and one ‘money and power monkey’ who was getting all the attention with his Dirty Power phone, blue suit and dishevelled blonde hair. It was supposed to be a total joke and I realise that not all the themes are obvious in the joke of a video, but people stopped to pay attention and started filming us with their phones, giving us much more attention than we expected… it was a real rush to pull off and film into a coherent story, before things got messy, or the police hovering nearby got involved.
Normally, we would tour after releasing a single. But, along with everyone else, our touring plans were squashed by the pandemic. We decided to release the track and video anyway, because we didn’t want to sit on it for ages longer. Without detracting from the harshness of many people’s circumstances, I hoped it’d give hungry rock fans something to check out and it seemed timely, with everyone re-evaluating their priorities, especially the ones they maybe didn’t realise they had.
The video and track, along with everything else are available at www.dirty-power.com
Who have been your greatest influences?
The band’s more obvious musical influences include Alternative, Punk, Metal and Hard Rock, combined with Progressive elements. Much of the Dirty Power sound is built on Rage Against The Machine foundations, layered with Nirvana arrangements, and topped with occasional intricate instrumental solo sections out of the Satriani, Vai, or Dream Theater playbook. The independent, artistically punk and D.I.Y. -ness of some of our influences also feeds into the whole approach to making music in the studio and live. I’ve also gone out of my way to make the songs translate to acoustic setups too, because we loved Nirvana’s Unplugged album so much that I wanted the band to work in that setting as well as in a loud foot-stomping rock tent at a festival.
What first got you into music?
My Belgian grandfather was a famous poet, and my Irish clan have a great musical legacy that’s still going. Back in primary school, I remember making mix tapes by recording my favourite songs from CD’s. There was an art to it, kinda similar to making playlists now, I guess. It got me through the bus ride home each day and was also a way to connect with other kids on the playground. That was back in my “questionable pop and Belgian electro” days. It was all I knew. But I would occasionally get given a tape, to be told that “this is your cousin’s band over in the US”. Then in secondary school, I really clicked with people who were musicians on some level. They had the best sense of humour and always seemed to have the best time doing anything. Whether it was a civilised family shindig, or a debaucherous house party, music was always a catalyst in the mix. That was when I discovered Rock, Punk and Metal. I already knew and had appreciated lots of music I’d heard as a kid, at home on the radio or on TV – a lot of classical, Irish, pop, etc. But this was different. It was definitely an acquired taste, and some elements took a while to grow into… nevertheless, the likes of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ blew my mind and kicked open so many doors into experiences, skills and perspectives. It was both down to earth and had its head in the stars at the same time. Nevermind and RATM’s first album sum up what was an era of discovering so much good music for me. That backdrop, along with meeting really inspiring musicians along the way, got me into music with no looking back.
If you could collaborate with a current band or musician who would it be?
Dave Grohl. All day. Equally, Matt Stone & Trey Parker (aka DVDA).
If you could play any festival in the world, which would you choose and why?
In the UK, it would be Download at Donington, because despite having been to many, many other festivals, that’s where I witnessed the perfect storm of a line-up a few years back: Day 1 – AC DC to get the party started, Day 2 – Rage Against The Machine to take us to the deep end, Day 3 – Aerosmith for when you’re too exhausted for anything other than perfect ballads performed masterfully…along with about 20 other bands I really wanted to see (Slash, Airbourne, Deftones, etc.). It was perfection in a rock festival.
In Belgium, it would be any of the festivals I grew up going to. Rock Werchter, Couleur Cafe, GMM, Pukkelpop…because those festivals were formative in my younger years and we went to a few of them every year, so I have amazing memories from all of them. Muse would be playing at one, Iron Maiden at another, Fun Lovin’ Criminals and Faithless at yet another…I had to catch them all. Like Pokémon. But better.
The German festivals Rock Am Ring, Rock Am Park and especially Wacken have such an amazing legacy, that it would be an honour to ever get to play them. The same goes for NOFX’s own independent festival – Punk In Drublic, which I caught in Germany and Spain. I just love that they went D.I.Y. with their own punk and beer festival.
Lastly, but certainly not least, in Ireland it would be Slane. But that would be intimidating as all hell and I would legitimately not want to do it, unless it was miraculously, abundantly obvious that we had somehow done something that was actually significantly meaningful to Irish musical culture and heritage. Otherwise, we just wouldn’t get away with it. Nobody would. You’d be shot just for thinking about it…“Oh you’re fantasising about playing Slane someday, is it? We’ll see about that. *Bang!*”
What’s the weirdest gift you have ever received from a fan?
A request to sign their tits. She was not pretty. She also “gifted” me a knock on my hotel room door. I did not answer.
If you had one message for your fans, what would it be?
I’m grateful to be in this for the long haul and consider the inspiring stuff that’s been done by previous generations to be an invitation to do more of the same. So, if you get something out of what we’re doing, cool! Consider it a nudge to start or continue to get good at something you consider to be worthwhile too.
If you could bring one rock star back from the dead, who would it be?
It would be a zombie called Cobain-Cornell-Hendrix-Lennon.
What do you enjoy the most about being a musician? And what do you hate?
I get a lot out of learning and discovering more about music and then applying it to playing, songwriting, performing, creating, touring and connecting with people. The theory, the art, the craft, the techniques… It’s a phenomenal endeavour and really varied set of traditions to participate in. It brushes with the highest of intellectual pursuits, all the way down to the deepest instincts and most basic emotions. Every culture has its musicians. I can get really into any aspect of it. Even genres of music I don’t actually like on first try, to find out what the baby in the bathwater is. Or just to see what they’re doing badly that I might be doing badly too. I’m also into exploring musical equipment and the instruments themselves. You’d be surprised how many good chats you can have with musicians about that stuff, over beers. Some people really know their stuff about their function and character within music (as opposed to how they actually work physically or technologically – that’s not my thang, but I love that others are into that, so I don’t have to be). I’m not an ‘endless setting-tweaker’ at all. I’m into ‘plug-and-play’. But the physics of music – the ‘harmonic overtone series’ and how sound relates to- or interacts with- the world really inspires me, because its subjective and objective components go hand in hand in such a way that really seems to bridge what’s physical and what’s experiential. There also seems to be an unspoken, healthy balance of ‘give and take’ to interactions with musos. Musicians all know what musicians are aiming for – it’s that ‘amazing thing that music can do’ – so it’s always cool to see how and why different individuals are going for that, or collaborating towards it. Apart from being a musician in general, it’s beyond cool when people respond to the music we make in Dirty Power, and it turns out that the things they like most are exactly what we were going for – be that the songwriting, the performance, the theme, the energy, the production or the mix of influences etc.
I don’t really ‘hate’ anything about being a musician. Maybe in the beginning it’s not ideal that the easiest money to be made is by playing a narrow set of crowd pleasers all the time, because there’s so much originality out there to be developed. It’s a shame when so many people sadly don’t seem to know the value of it, how to develop it, or how to appreciate it. I’m not really in love with the way some people have their ego too intertwined with music, either in the form of arrogance as a performer or as a critic. Being a good musician is no substitute for being a decent person, regardless of how well you play the sax. And I’m certainly not into how often being a musician is confused with wanting or needing to be a celebrity or even the centre of attention all the time. And the misunderstanding at large, which resulted in ‘artists’ being voted ‘the most expendable occupation’ during the Corona Virus pandemic, by people who turn to films, games, books, and music during such times of intense vulnerability, without realising that all these things were made by artists is… sadly an unsurprising symptom of a pervasive lack of understanding. But I think I understand how all these things arose, and genuinely see them as things to work around. I’m not a total hippie, but hate doesn’t come into it much.
If you could change one thing about the music industry, what would it be?
No middle men. Artists and fans. Fans and artists. That’s it. I call it the ‘fuck everyone’ business model. All the middlemen would be invited to become musicians and/or fans.
Name one of your all-time favourite albums?
Nirvana – “Nevermind”.
What’s best? Vinyl, Cassettes, CD’s or Downloads?
What’s the best gig that you have played to date?
Although I’ve played bigger gigs, I’d have to say a private gig at a friend’s house in the middle of nowhere. Tiny gig, massive energy. Epic session.
If you weren’t a musician, what else would you be doing?
Drinking and talking nonsense.
Which five people would you invite to a dinner party?
Dead: Jesus, Einstein, Shakespeare, Michael Jackson and Hitler. The icebreaker would be ‘never have I ever’.
Alive: Matt Stone & Trey Parker, Dave Grohl, Billy Connolly and Dave Grohl again.
What’s next for the band?
We still have the release of our latest single ‘Oh God’ to fully celebrate. Normally that would be with a tour… so we’re looking at alternative ways to do that online. We’ve already got another great song recorded – the final instalment of our debut EP ‘Notions’ – along with another instrumental ‘Trailer Track’ and video to accompany it, but the lack of live gigs has given a great window to continue working on other unfinished material. Before the pandemic, touring in parts of Europe had been on the horizon, with whispers of rumours of something happening in the US. But it’s all on hold until it’s a good idea to do anything like that. For now, I’m reconnecting with the Irish roots and traditions. I have a strong feeling that’ll feed into the next chapter, in the form of a second EP full of singles. Or maybe a spree of live streaming hangout sessions.
What Social Media/Website links do you use to get your music out to people?
Our own website is our Headquarters. All our best stuff goes there first. We’ll be using our mailing list, to get the infrequent summary of the story out to people at:
Jaffa Cakes! Are they a cake or a biscuit?
Probably not. Who knows what’s in those things?
Thank you for your time. Is there anything else that you would like to add?
Thanks right back at you! Give us a shout online to let us know where you’re at so we can include new places to tour in the future!
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