Journey back to the Wax & Seal Studio Diaries – II

Welcome to the second part of our Wax & Seal Studio Diaries retrospective!  (If you’re starting here, you might want to go back and read the first part.)



By this time in the recording, I was struggling badly with my voice.  I was lucky enough to never have any real issues with my voice in the past.  If it was ever hoarse, it recovered quickly, and I was used to getting a fairly clear sound.  This all went awry in Freiburg.  I tried everything from homeopathic treatment to coating the back of my throat with iodine*, but we were clearly trying to treat the symptoms of some other problem which went undiagnosed.  Whenever I returned to Ireland everything cleared up – and whenever I was there I began to suffer again.  I realised a year or two later that I used to get a slight upset stomach from Weizen (wheat beer) when they started serving it in Dublin.  It was not enough to be very noticeable – but I eventually put two and two together.  I had been suffering from acid reflux overnight, after drinking weizen beer – which explained why my voice was at its worst in the mornings, and began to improve as the day went on.  So, to this day there are certain vocals on the album that I’m not happy with because I can feel the effects of my suffering vocal cords.  At least I figured it out in the end!


* I do not recommend this.  It is RANK! 


Wax & Seal – Day 237 – 6 September 2004 – Freiburg

For “Withnail & I”, Bruce Robinson wanted to describe Marwood’s current state of mind and his surroundings to the actors. (If you haven’t seen it, do so immediately). He wrote something like this…

Dostoyevsky described hell as probably no more than a room with a chair in it.  This room has several chairs.

Niels, Shane & Mitch outside Ivy Court

Niels, Shane & Mitch outside Ivy Court

We’re knee deep in backing vocals country right now. Experimentation and a little bit of messing going on. Not sure what it will sound like. It’s kinda funny when you’re in the middle of it, because you have the backing vocals up unnaturally loud in the mix so that everyone can hear what you’re doing… This has the strange effect of turning every song into Bohemian Rhapsody. Which I have no major objection to really, but it does sound a little out of place.

We’re moving to Temple Studios on Thursday. It will be good for everyone methinks. The change of scenery will lend an air of progress to the proceedings. It will be nice to hear everything in a different environment too.

As Nigel Tapley once said, “anything starting with ‘this bloke…’ is bound to be legal”. True enough….

Philipp Rauenbusch laying down bass on Live What You Feel

Philipp Rauenbusch laying down bass on Live What You Feel

[NOTE:  This next paragraph was prompted by me waking up to a text message from an old friend from Dublin who was at the time living in the UK.  I decided to recount the tale without mentioning too many names for fear that they may be identified.  Harmless fun, but still not strictly legal!]

So, this bloke and his mate, decided after having a nice little lock in, to go down to Asda at about four or five in the morning. So, they get some grub and a mini-golf set (obviously). Then they stroll across the car park to a very well known English Premiership football team’s grounds. They proceed to scale the wall (still drunk) and make their way onto the hallowed turf, where they commence a game of mini golf and their own little mobile-phone photo session. They then stroll out the large gates of the ground at about seven in the morning (Yes, in broad daylight. God only knows what the night watchman was up to).

Der Teigi



T & Shane breaking bread, with the hallowed Hofner (?) guitar Willie Brady played.

T & Shane breaking bread, with the hallowed Hofner (?) guitar Willie Brady played.



NOTE :  Around this time, we moved from Ivy Court studios in the centre of the old town of Freiburg, to Temple Studios which was a bike ride or tram/walk along the Dreisam river past SC Freiburg (the local and impossibly tiny Bundesliga team stadium).  Temple Studios was a mastering studio, and had the right equipment for the job.  It was a bad fit, and the process took FAR longer than it should have, which took valuable funds away from our promotional budget and funnelled it towards needless studio days.

Wax & Seal – Day 246 – 15 September 2004 – Freiburg


I have begun to pick up the strange and unusual (to me that is) local dialect, adding “le” to the end of words, like “Hallöle!”. Or using shortened everyday expressions like “Tach” which is how they seem to pronounce Tag or Guten Tag. It’s interesting (to me alone, probably).

I’m over in Temple Studios now. I have a routine. I set out on a bike I borrowed from Shane and ride alongside the Dreisam River all the way out to the studio (which is situated on the Schwarzwald Strasse … or Black Forest Road). It’s a lovely ride, and It’s downhill on the way home which has got to be a plus.

Temple Studios

Temple Studios

We’re transferring all our recordings over from Ivy Court to Temple Studios, getting every track lined up and ready to go, and in the meantime listening to albums and songs we like to help keep us focused. I’m in good form and enjoying the change of scenery and fresh forest air. The equipment in this place is pretty cool. The kind of place where you wouldn’t mind go shopping with decorating your bachelor’s apartment in mind. It’s wall to wall iPod, iMac (the one that looks like half a football lying down with a screen sticking out of it on a protruding metal bar… nice), PCs, scanners, faxes, … that’s before I even mention any of the sound equipment which I must admit I do not understand or even recognise… only that it must be good. There is an implement Shane brought over called a Joe Meek Compressor, named after a mad London-based sound engineer and producer who revolutionised all sorts of sound equipment and produced some of the strangest records of his time… Met a sticky end too if I remember correctly.

I’m reading a book called Stasiland, about East Germany and the effects the Stasi had on its members, informers and victims. It’s essentially a collection of the personal accounts of these people’s experience written by an Australian writer who interviewed them while working in Berlin after the fall of the Berlin Wall. There are some mind numbing tales about how far a state will go to retain control. Brilliantly written. I haven’t been able to put it down, which makes eating tricky.

I’m beginning to think about lunch… mmmm

Der Teig (mmmm… bread…)

Wax & Seal – Day 284 – 23 October 2004 – Freiburg

Shane Brady

Shane Brady

George’s St Arcade is done now too. Monochrome will be done within the next hour I would estimate. We’re working at tremendous speed now. We need to. It’s a bit of enjoyment finally after so much stress and worry. Worries not over… but then sure if they were, where would the excitement be?  Suppin’ tae in the Phoenix Park tea rooms bored out its mind after seeing the barmy polar bears, no doubt.

The deadlines are encroaching so we must work fast. Apparantly Monochrome sounds like something Pink Floyd should have done. I don’t know about that. I’ll tell you later when I’ve formed an opinion. In the meantime the view is quite nice from the fence.

Aboot in Freiburg

Aboot in Freiburg

We took some nice photos with Britt recently. Some great ones. Maybe one or two will find their way onto the album sleeve. No decisions made yet.

So, that’s all for the moment. I may write something this evening too, depending on my mood. Take care now.

Mind yourselves
Der Teig


Wax & Seal – Day 287 – 26 October 2004 – Freiburg

Shane & Philipp

Shane & Philipp

Six O Two was being tackled this morning. It’s nearly done now. It sounds sweet with all that pedal steel madness going on in and Niel’s other guitar bit too. Very nice. Like a lullaby.

Just heard that John Peel, the DJ on BBC Radio 1 has died. A sad day for the music world. He was only 65.

So anyways, Frank is eating a banana beside and making me feel a little bit hungry. What to eat? What to eat?

There’s a sign by a part of the train station in Freiburg used for dropping off passengers, that I was told said “Kiss & Ride”. Disappointingly, it says “Kiss & Rail” or something like that. I thought I had stumbled upon the best thing since sliced bread. The Irish would be queueing up for it.

Kiss & Ride

Kiss & Ride (20 minute limit!)


While We’re on the subject, English phrases have infiltrated almost all aspects of life over here. It’s disturbing. A lot of the phrases are completely misused too which adds to the peculiarity of it. TV is the worst though. It’s like watching the Fast Show sometimes… “welcome to dee Big Show”. Don’t get me started on MTV though. Such abuse of the word music I have never before encountered.

Um, yes… sorry about that rant.

Der Teig


NOTE: This was the final entry in the diary.  The end of a tough marathon… and the start of a fight to get the album out there onto the airwaves, into the newspapers, and magazines, and your CD collections.  Never underestimate the struggle you’ll have.  Never mistake another starting line for your finish line!


Day — – 11 November 2004 – Freiburg

By a church door in the centre of Freiburg. This shot featured in the album booklet. By Jenni Henke

So we’ve secured the album release for early 2005. Probably february. We’re still planning and adding dates to our tour of Ireland (and the town of Freiburg!) at the end of November. Rehearsals are going well.

Big congratulations to Phantom FM. They’ve worked hard for that licence. Of course all of us Irish artists are selfishly rubbing their hands with glee at the thought of more airplay… well, We’re not all saints! I’d write something entertaining now but Bell X1 beat me to it (can you find that post & hyper link?!). They’ve started recording their eagerly awaited third album in Dublin and their studio diary is worth a read if you have a few minutes. Anyway. Congrats again to the Phantom crew.

Everyone is rallying around getting stuff done at the last minute for our flights, van rental, accomodation, music gear, etc etc etc. Times have been pretty frantic lately. I don’t know where I am. The main thing is that We’re now at the “selling” point of the record’s lifetime. I’ll get myself together sometime soon I hope. Sure there’s always Christmas. As Phil Hayes would say I’m looking forward to a Whopper Chrimbo.

By Jenni Henke

In lieu of having the liner notes to read now, and before we start entering the crazy period of touring and radio gigs, I’d like to thank everyone who was involved in the production of the record. Also, a big hug to all the people here in Freiburg who have been real friends to me during my stay. Without them it would have been really really tough. Also, to all my friends and family who have gone through a lot of hard times in the time that I’ve been away. I shouldn’t gush… but yeah, they’ve all been fantastically understanding and supportive, when they had enough strife of their own. Anyways. Yiz all know who yiz are.

Adieu, Adieu, Der Teig


With Gerry Anderson in BBC Radio Foyle's studios in Derry/Londonderry

With Gerry Anderson in BBC Radio Foyle’s studios in Derry/Londonderry

And so to conclude, and to finish disputes…  that was the final entry in the Wax & Seal studio diary.  The rest is history.  (Well it’s all history, technically.)  The album was released on Friday, 4th March 2005.  It received some great reviews, but got very little airplay in Ireland until we released the second single, “Know You Hate Me”.  That got a lot of play which was heartening.  Probably the best support I received was on BBC Ulster and BBC Radio Foyle, which I’m forever grateful for.  Honorable mention for Cherrie McIlwaine, and of course, the late great Gerry Anderson who played me every morning for months.  

If you find yourself wanting to read the diary in full, and in order, you’ll find it here ( It’s as it was typed back in 2004 on the hand-coded php-driven website). I haven’t gotten around to making those pages prettier, replacing all the question marks with apostrophes (damn german keyboards), or slotting the entries into proper individual blog posts, but some day soon I will.

I made a playlist of some of the songs we were listening to, inspired by, or obsessed with around the time of the record! It’s really all over the map, but I’ve tried to arrange the playlist so the transitions don’t jar too much. You can listen to it on spotify here.

Wax & Seal is available to buy here and you can stream it on spotify here.

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Wax & Seal Studio Diaries I

Tadhg - By Britt Schilling

By Britt Schilling

Somehow, this month, my debut album, Wax & Seal, has turned twelve years old.  It’s on the cusp of secondary (high) school.  It’s slamming doors.  It has an attitude, hormones, and doesn’t take any advice from its long suffering parents.

I’ve been digging through the archives here at The Cooke Report and I’ve found some of my studio diary entries from the recording sessions in Freiburg!  I figured I would compile some of the entries here and share them. They’re erratic, and they’re numbered from the very first day I went into the studio so while the numbers make it look like I was there for an absolute age, that’s not the case. Frustratingly we spent more time out of the studio than in it, for various reasons, but it was all worth it in the end, and if you’re here, you’d probably agree!

I’ve really enjoyed putting these together. I hope you enjoy reading them!

NOTE :  The night before flying to Germany to begin recording Wax & Seal at Ivy Court in Freiburg’s Altstadt.

Wax & Seal – Day 1 – 14 January 2004 – Home

Schwabentor, Freiburg.

Schwabentor, Freiburg im Breisgau

So it’s the night before recording and none of the children can sleep. Just like Christmas. I’m listening to Buzzin Fly and trying to imagine what my album is going to sound like when It’s finished while trying to relax my mind in order to get back to sleep and I’m simultaneously making mental notes to remember socks, strings and this thingummy and that whatummy.

It’s clear to me now, before I do my first gig in Germany, that there is something perverse or at least ironic about spending your college life and a year abroad learning french and then going to record an album in Germany, a place where understandably they don’t speak too much french.

The stories of the Happy Monday’s producer who dismantled an entire drumkit because he was unhappy with the sound in the room, only to reassemble it again on the roof, keeps popping into my head.

mr t

Wax & Seal – Day 8 – 21 January 2004 – Freiburg

Note : After some heavy days and nights in the studio, we finally finished George’s Street Arcade, a song inspired by the doorstopper sandwiches and cosiness of Simon’s Café. Here’s the morning after we wrapped on the recording.

We finished up at midnight last night after some inspired mandola playing from Niels. He

Niels playing melody harp on George's St Arcade.

Niels playing melody harp on George’s St Arcade.

picked it up and played it the whole way through after one trial run. He’d never played mandola before. It’d make you puke and feel inadequate in the way that the good musicians always do.
The guitars sound great. Really chugging along yet sitting nicely in the groove. The drums are fantastisch – those half beats have transformed everything. It’s a straight-forward song really, so I think we’ve succeeded in pulling it away from the standard approach, although it is quite traditional at the same time. So we have the basics down and I’m doing vocals tomorrow.
And now for something completely different. I had this really dramatic new tune that I wasn’t really sure if we’d do but it seems to have struck a chord (puntastic) with everyone. As we speak, or rather as I type and you read, Mitch is sitting in control room with a Korg machine on his lap about the size of a Milk Tray but much more offensive with loads of flashing lights and dials and buttons all over the shop. It looks like he’s playing a game. But It’s no game I assure you. Not sure where this will take us but I have this vision of an electronica backing an acoustic guitar track with haunting vocals and samples of people chatting on their way between stalls and coffee shops somewhere in the city. I’m half expecting Thom Yorke to come in for guest vocals.

Alex, Tadhg and Mitch in the hallway of Ivy Court Records

Alex Paeffgen (keys), Tadhg, and Michael “Mitch” Schillinger (drums) in the hallway of Ivy Court Records.

I got some jumpers to keep me warm earlier today. Plain and functional. Very peaceful here right now. It’s amazing how many times a day you can use the phrase “Ich habe keine Deutsch”. My other most useful phrase is one I borrowed from a BBC language website. It’s for car owners. “Volltanken Bitte” means “fill ‘er up” basically. However I can use it at the pub, having tea with the musicians… so useful. I get strange looks but sure what the hell. I feel really bad about not knowing German.
Oh yeah, the song title is George’s St Arcade.

Wax & Seal – Day 14 – 27 January 2004 – Freiburg

It’s 02:02 local time in Freiburg. Late night again tonight. So I suppose technically this is the 28th but sure we won’t get all technical this late in the day.

Flo Galow (Kontrabass)

Flo Galow (Kontrabass)

Shane Brady, producer and captain of the ship, in the live room.

Shane Brady, producer and captain of the ship, in the live room.

I’ve been talking about the snow for days now… but the snow stuck today in the town. We stumbled around town a few hours ago when we went for a little break. Quite amusing. I expect much mirth and merriment will follow tomorrow. I have scheduled an afternoon snowball fight tomorrow with schnapps for everyone afterwards.
We finished the basic Ivory Heart stuff today. The guys seemed impressed by the level of madness in the basic tracks. I must say they are very patient fellas. My timekeeping is a little erratic at times. History is always kind to the writer. Bear this in mind when reading these diaries.
Florian, as usual, has been bouncing off the walls dying to play more stuff. So while the iron was hot we laid down a basic track for Like A Stone. It’s a lonely sort of song, yet not depressed… I don’t know… almost glad to be sad…. or something.. melancholic… but not in the bad way that many songs described as melancholic can be. Mitch got some beautiful deep snare sounds due to some nice miking and yet another of his fine crazy ideas that he is becoming known for. To protect his genius I cannot reveal his secrets. Niels has some beautiful playing on this too. Really sweet.
Anyways, It’s time to go home now, and I’ve got an aching head. So eh… yeah. Later kids.
Herr Cooke

Wax & Seal – Day 22 – 4 February 2004 – Freiburg

Today started with a few guitar bits. It was all running well as usual. Niels on top form.
The evening session was dedicated to Wax N Seal. We took a much more gentle

Mitch, Niels & Shane discussing the finer points.

Mitch, Niels & Shane discussing the finer points.

approach than last time. Due to some early jamming we decided to use twin acoustic guitars, live and with vocals. Bit mad. Took us a while but we got it. Bottled it. Mitch’s egg playing is fantastic. We played sans-click too so god only knows how he kept up with speedy gonzales (that’s me by the way). Bless the whole team’s patience! It’s cool. It’s all Ballerina and Independence Day Van Morrison… Who’s cooler than cool?
Ice Cold T

Wax & Seal – Day 127 – 19 May 2004 – Freiburg

Dear Diary,
I get the feeling we’re being watched. Call me paranoid, but…
My new thing is hats. I buy hats. I look like a cross between Franz Ferdinand (the band

Argh, mein Augen!

Argh, mein Augen! – by Jenni Henke

not the dead guy from the 1910s), Robin Hood and one of Bertie Wooster’s more stylish friends.
I have my own personal translator and tour guide here in Freiburg who has also become my official make-up artist and language tutor. Although you should probably ignore the language bit because I severly doubt that she would like to be associated in any way with my piss-poor German.  I got some shots of Freiburg from the top of the Schlossberg (the big hill that is basically an ant’s foot away from the centre of the town). The sun is out and everything looks great. I’m experimenting with photography. If anything at all comes out properly I’ll be extremely surprised and very happy with myself. I’ve decided to develop my inner-Luddite in order to balance my increasing nerdiness – what with all the writing, diaries, reading, learning languages, etc. So I’m using a completely manual camera. Completely manual. It has a slot for batteries that you can use for a light meter… but I’ve thrown them away. Who needs em? Well, we’ll see on thursday when I get the first batch of photos back. So now that I’ve got pictures of the outside of Freiburg I’m gonna take shots of the city and the city-zens.
Mitch bought a new car. He’s very happy with himself. As he should be. Niels is in the

The Feierling Brauerei. Cause of, and solution to, all of my problems.

The Feierling Brauerei. Cause of, and solution to, all of my problems.

wars. He had a little accident with his eye. So I’m hoping all will be okay in a week or two. Alexander came around with all his keyboard bits again. So we have every piece of the puzzle now. Florian is still terrorising the Med. I got an email from him recently. Didn’t understand one word. Shane translated it for me. I still didn’t understand a word.
Last night I learnt a new phrase for “goodbye and good luck”. It comes from just south of Hamburg, or at least that’s where Mitch heard it. It goes like this: “Hau die hühner” which means “Hit The Chicken”. I’m busily incorporating it into my daily speech.

Der Teigelheimer

Wax & Seal – Day 128 – 20 May 2004 – Freiburg

Note : There were a few tracks we recorded which didn’t make the final cut for Wax &

Ivy Court Records

Ivy Court Records

Seal. One of the tracks was an early incarnation of Elvis in us All, which eventually found its way on to Fingertips of the Silversmith. My reference to the Bell X1 diaries, I think, referred to their tour diaries from an Eastern European jaunt they were on with Turn. There was a hilarious video they made of the event on their website. Would love to see it now.

Tadhg and kontrabass

There was a considerable age gap between us…

After our very slow start this time around We’re now flying through the material making great progress. The songs are sounding better every time I hear them. Maybe It’s because of the sun. I don’t know. Elvis & Foolish Part sound funking fantastic.
Mitch is due to arrive in about half an hour. We’ve had this old Korg beat on “George’s St Arcade” that sounds almost but not quite entirely unlike coconuts (to borrow a phrase from DA). It’s been niggling away at us ever since we used it. Breaking point arrived yesterday when we decided that it was time to get the biggest filthiest thonking thumping mother and father of all drums to replace the little Korg. So with Mitch being *just a little bit* more experienced than us at playing drums, we decided that it was only fair that he should play it!
I have since been informed that my hat is Dean Martin all over. So there.
Big up to DP and Phil keeping diaries alive and well over on the bellies site. Check out Phil’s science tip of the day. I think there’s a book in that somewhere. If in doubt, plug it out. Suddenly all those electricity black-outs in my area while I was growing up in the bad old eighties make sense to me now.

Der Teigelheimer

Tram in Freiburg - By Jenni Henke

Tram in Freiburg – By Jenni Henke

Thanks for reading this far!

We’ll post one more selection of the diary entries soon, with some photos. If you find yourself wanting to read the diary in full, and in order, you’ll find it here ( It’s as it was typed back in 2004 on the hand-coded php-driven website). I haven’t gotten around to making those pages prettier, replacing all the question marks with apostrophes (damn german keyboards), or slotting the entries into proper individual blog posts, but some day soon I will.

If you’re liking this trip down memory lane, I also thought it might be a nice to make a playlist of some of the songs we were listening to around that! It’s really all over the map, but I’ve tried to arrange the playlist so the transitions don’t jar too much. You can listen to it on spotify here.

In the meantime, Wax & Seal is available to buy here and you can stream it on spotify here.


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Gerry Anderson – Keep At It, Kid

I grew up far from any flavour of BBC.  I was reared in two-channel land.  Our television aerial was blown down during Hurricane Charlie in 1987.  Exposure to the BBC, UTV, Channel 4 or their radio equivalents went the way of the aerial.  For us it was RTE 1 and 2 – Glenroe, The Angelus and adverts for Ivomec-B :  “kills immature fluke, early immature fluke, and stamps out scour”.  (To this day I have no idea what any of that means.)  As a result of this, I didn’t know Gerry Anderson until later.

When I heard that Know You Hate Me, the second single from my debut album, Wax & Seal, was being played regularly by the BBC, I was ecstatic.  Technically, this was international exposure!  After a month or two, some sterling PR work by Bernie Divilly, and a visit to Broadcasting House in Belfast, I was finally on my way to Stroke City (Derry/Londonderry) for a live session on a daily morning show presented by Gerry Anderson.  As I’m coming over the Sperrins fumbling to find Radio Foyle on my crappy car radio, I hear the flügelhorn solo from Know You Hate Me.  As the song closes, I hear a voice saying, “… that waaaas Tadhg Cooke.  And with a name like that… he won’t be marchin’ on the twelfth!”  And bang – straight into another song.  He had epic delivery.

Most radio shows I’ve known featuring phone-ins and multiple guests were carried out with military precision.  The producers/engineers did most of the organisation and logistics, making sure the guests are lined-up and cued and the presenter was being handed the right things at the right time.  Meanwhile the presenters were cocooned in their soundproof fishbowl, understandably focussing on when the next ‘bit’ is coming up, where they need to be, what line they’re on, etc.  Some shows would issue you with call times literally hours before the radio show even started.  It’s not for the faint of heart.  So, it was a surreal experience to be collected from reception by an almost suspiciously relaxed Gerry Anderson.  He made tea for us both, and sank into the sofa opposite me.  We chatted a little about music, influences, and god knows what else.  It must have only been a minute before his show started when he sat up and said, ‘well, I have to go now… I’ll see you in a wee while!’  A moment later he was on air.

Some presenters (and admittedly, an awful lot of guests), are incredibly awkward with any kind of banter, off-the-cuff remarks, wordplay, or surreal threads of conversation.  They just can’t handle it.  But Gerry had a way of putting everyone at ease with his particular brand of banter – even the regulars who used to ring in especially to argue, complain and debate with him…  and consequently, the listeners loved it too.

While playing one of my songs live in studio, out of the corner of my eye I see Gerry leaning back with his feet up, eyes closed, and a smile on his face.  I’ll never forget that.  That’s the image of Gerry Anderson that I’ll always have in my head.  A man seeming to quite enjoy his job!  It’s something to aspire to.

On 6th August 2005, I wrote to him from an internet café in Clifden, the next stop on my little tour, to thank him for the radio session and for promoting a lunchtime show at Café Nervosa in the Nerve Centre in Derry by the city walls.  He replied, “Keep at it, kid. You’re on a winner.”  Gerry was very kind and supportive to a very green young version of me, and I know he must have done the same for a thousand other local musicians and bands over the years.  Sadly, that’s now a remarkable thing on this island.  Ní fheicimid a leithéid arís.

Some absolute geniuses went and animated sections of his radio shows.  Apparently they aired on BBC a few years back.  I’ve some catching up to do!  They’re well worth a watch/listen. This one’s called : Fainting Hen.

A tribute from The Thin Air : 30 years of serious mucking about Gerry Anderson 1944-2014.
BBC on Gerry Anderson

Van Morrison – The Bang Sessions

Van Morrison – Blowin’ Your Mind.

I have just received the strangest, actually genuine, email ever. I’ve been asked to “help spread the word” about a pledge campaign for a limited edition release of Van Morrison’s Bang! sessions, because like many Irish musicians, I’ve mentioned Van on my website probably more than once.

Now, here are a few reasons why I find the email a little strange.  Instead of numbering the list, I’ve decided to use exclamation marks, which seem more appropriate to my state of bewilderment right now :

! – Please help promote Van Morrison.

!! – Please help promote a re-release of already heavily exposed 50 year old recordings. (Including such unknowns as half of the material from “Astral Weeks” plus a little known tune by the name of “Brown Eyed Girl”.  Obscure, I know.)

!!! – … which as a bonus, on its very own vinyl, includes the deliberately “unreleasable” crud that Van recorded in order to get out of his contract, featuring lyrics like “Oooh aah you got ringworm”, in the knowledge that it would, could nor should ever be released. Except that it was.

!!!! – Since Van Morrison usually wouldn’t need to run a pledge campaign, and Bang! no longer exists as a label, and the Berns family still own the recordings apparently…  who exactly is doing this?

!!!!! – I refer back to exclamation mark one. I’m still not over that.

Of course, in expressing my puzzlement at the email/campaign, I have also unintentionally shone a light upon it.  However, I couldn’t avoid saying something about it.  It’s just too bloody weird.

Nollaig 2013

C'mon 2014 - I'll fight ye!

C’mon 2014 – I’ll fight ye!

“The Christmas” as we tend to call it in Ireland (like old folks speaking about a new technology… the facebook, the twitter, the email) is upon us.  It’s time for evaluation and introspection, celebration and mourning, festivities and preparation.  2013 is almost at an end.  But I won’t delve too deeply into that.  I’d just like to share a few developments with you.

I’ve recently moved to a new job which is slightly more flexible and more amenable to the musical side of my life.  The switch was pretty hectic, but things are settling down now, and I’ve begun to play shows again and reacquaint myself with the outside world.  I’m extremely grateful to get the opportunity again.  With a bit of luck and a lot of hard work, we’ll meet on the road or over the airwaves soon.

In the past month, I’ve played a few shows – a full show at Tricky’s McGarrigle’s in Sligo, a guest slot at the Apollo Sessions at The Bleeding Horse (no horses harmed), and an opener for my old touring friends Storyman (formerly The Guggenheim Grotto) at The Workman’s Club.

I’ve also had the exhilarating experience of treading the boards at Ireland’s national theatre, The Abbey, to close a performance of The Risen People, written about the worker’s lockout in Dublin 1913.  (Being 2013 of course, it’s part of the centenary commemoration of the event.)  It’s a strange experience to walk onstage cold and with pure uncut adrenalin pumping through your system, as everyone else is on the downward end of their curve, to play a song… and then be left with nowhere to put all the excess adrenalin at the end of your 4 or 5 minutes!  I wanted to go out and lift tram carriages over my head afterwards.  It was a once in a lifetime opportunity, which I was honoured to seize.

The Abbey Theatre

We’re currently drawing up plans for 2014, and I can confirm that we will be visiting Germany in March.  We’ll leak further details through all the usual channels as soon as we can.

Thanks so much for your emails, support and belief throughout 2013.  Onwards and upwards.  I promise to follow through on my commitment to more writing and blogging, posting and sharing in the new year…  I swear!  I really need to ease up on my self-editing.  Considering that most people will be focussing on what Rob Ford or One Dimension are saying/doing, my behaviour here should be fine…  Should be.

Nollaig shona agus áthbhliain faoi mhaise daoibh!




New Popshifter Interview

I recently did a little phone interview with Paul Casey from a pop-culture blog called Popshifter.  It was published a few days ago, so here’s the link :

I really enjoyed it.  It’s been a while since I’ve done a full interview, so I apologise for my meandering, scattergun descriptions, overuse of pronouns, and general messiness of thought.  I have a tendency to spew verbiage out as quickly as it appears in my head, lest I lose my train of thought, or the words go out of fashion.  I know this is not wise… nor pretty to listen to… although it can be amusing at times.  Sometimes it even gets me into trouble, as it does 24 hour news anchors when they’re asked to riff on a topic for 2 hours straight.  Inevitably random words will align themselves into an unintended insult, a slur, a slogan or a Shakespearean play.  (Yes, I am that group of monkey typists locked in a room.)

Nevertheless, Paul ably wrangled my musings into some sort of structure – so fair play to him!

I Like Your Manifesto, Put It To The Testo!

“I like your manifesto, put it to the testo” – The Sultans of Ping F.C.

For a long time, this blog was merely a repository for gig notices, occasional newsletters and photos from foreign lands.  I want more.  From now on it will be my diary.  Fairly unfiltered and concerned with everything and anything that takes my fancy.  I need a proper outlet for it rather than dumping it all into emails to my long suffering friends.  I’ll install a ‘select category’ button somewhere, so you can simply view the posts you want to read.  (“Music-only”, “all” or “daily nonsense” or something to that effect.)  So, the blog will continue to function in the old traditional way, but you’ll have the option of devouring my daily ramblings if you so wish.  The choice is yours.  (Choice.  I’m good to myself!)  And so… for a confusing explanation and brief catch-up, read on…

For the past two years, since the release of Fingertips of the Silversmith, my second album, I have felt increasingly lost.  Sitting in a vacant lino-floored laundrette, I’ve been waiting, interminably waiting, and watching my mind slop slowly against the porthole glass.  Going nowhere. I realise that I’m entirely to blame for 99% of my failures.  (The other 1% is of course your fault, as a member of that useful catch-all group : “people”!)

Yes, the music game has changed.  Few people really know if there are goalposts anymore, never mind whether they’ve been moved or not.  However, music is not to blame for my inability to make decisions.  It’s not responsible for my “financial embarrassment”.  Music is not to blame for my stasis.  Nor for the rut that I dug for myself – the one that I’m finding nigh on impossible to climb out of. I’ve heard it said that one should never invest anything more than you are fully prepared to lose.  We’re probably all guilty of breaching that guideline.  I certainly am.

By the end of the promotional campaign for Fingertips of the Silversmith, having spent so much that I was unable to fund a proper tour and pay musicians/petrol-money, I was flat broke.  Eventually, luckily, I still had a job offer on the table.  (A rare thing in Ireland these days!)  I took the job in order to rescue my situation, but it was a huge blow to find myself back working long full-time stressful hours, that finished too late and left me too tired to gig in the evenings.  I realise how ungrateful that sounds – loss of pride and self-respect when I FIND a job…  it’s ridiculous, offensive even, but that was my honest reaction, drenched of course in two gallons of guilt. A good friend of mine once shared with me the rules set by a well-known New York jazz player, whose name escapes me :  Always look a million dollars – and never let anyone see that you’re broke.  These would be good guidelines but for one thing…  If everyone follows those rules, and nobody is willing to admit that we might have a problem, then how can we change or fix anything?  We’re expected to vacantly talk everything up, like Comical Ali on a roof in Baghdad boasting of Saddam’s victories just as the American tanks roll into picture behind him.  Just like our looney Irish economy, no-one willing to acknowledge the problems.  We’re the climate change deniers.  We’re the facilitators.  Music is the drug, and we’re terrified that dissent will stem the flow of those lovely blue crystals from Los Pollos Hermanos.

So here’s the thing.  I’m no revolutionary leader.  (A bit of a relief really – Irish revolutionaries traditionally end up betrayed and executed by their own.  As any correct Irish economist will tell you.)  In truth, I can barely lead myself to get up in the morning.  But I’m officially quitting with the ludicrous put-on-a-good-face that we do so well here.  I’ve rarely done it in private – but I’ve tried to steer clear of this talk in public as much as I could.  I’m rethinking that.  Dishonesty is not helping many people, is it?  But the first step on the road to recovery is admitting you have a problem, isn’t it?  I need to do that. Our country certainly needs to do it.  On the radio every day I keep hearing people saying that they’re sick of all the negativity, and that we should stop talking the country down.  We should be optimistic, they say.  Optimism is an outlook though.  A framing or re-framing.  Optimism will not mend your car, broken leg, or nation. As if talking positively will cure the economy and encourage investors!  Investors don’t listen to desperate pleas – they’re just looking at the figures.  If the figures don’t make sense, your über-positive dodgy salesman banter is not going to help.  In fact it just embarrasses us further.  We’re the fools who can’t or won’t admit that things here need radical, radical change.  Who do you think is impressed by our failure to admit we have a problem?  Europe certainly isn’t.  Tim Geithner certainly wasn’t, when he threatened the EU with hellfire if the Irish nation wasn’t held responsible for the actions of a few small privately-owned banks.  Until we admit that we have a problem, aren’t people supposed to refuse to help us?  That’s certainly what the ECB and EU have been doing so far.

So to hell with all of that.  I’m not going to deliberately set out to be negative – but I refuse, on moral grounds, to sugar coat everything.  I’m going to call the pot black, the kettle black, and the death star : a negative development in the quest for a universal peace.  We’re all grown-ups here (aside from a few avid feline readers who I’m sure are following this intently given the vast photographic evidence of IT-savvy cats).  If things are working out, I’ll shout it loudly from the blog-tops.  But if things are shit, I’m going to describe them as not going well.  There is nothing to gain from it.  Investors and business leaders will invest when they spot an opportunity to get in at the bottom of possible economic growth.  They’re not looking for reassurances from those “wonderful” politicians of ours.

The main thing anyway is to be a bit truer to my own self… and “put myself out there” a bit.  I’m a bit nervous, but more exhilarated by the prospect of it all. For the past year and a half I’ve been playing very few shows, touring very little, and I’ve been unable to commit to anything creative properly due to the silly working hours I’m doing.  This is not good. Am I overly negative?  I’m not really a glass empty or glass half-full kind of person.  I don’t fit well into either category.  My problem is much more fundamental than that.  I’m much more likely to fixate on things like :  Whose glass is this anyway?  Do we know for certain that it is a glass?  Humans generally don’t work well with grey areas.  Our brains function like a series of binary switches : on/off, good/bad, tasty/nasty, etc…  The world is usually a lot more complex than that, but binary choices allow for useful shortcuts.  They prevent our brains from collapsing under the sheer weight of computation that would go into every moment of every day if we were not routinely making these sweeping generalisations.

Like “this wall is white” instead of “this wall is white except for 2 microns of unidentified black soot in the top right-hand corner of the wall”.  Precision can be a killer.  Again we’re back to grey areas.  We must try to maintain the beauty of observation without being capsized by its heavy load.  Science is “the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis with an ugly fact.”  I’m going to attempt to live in a grey area in this blog.  Embrace the doubt and try to allow precision to creep in… but not so much as to destroy everything!  And so, onward into the grey…

25 Things

I found this hidden on my facebook page, and decided to dust off the cobwebs and repost it here.  This was written in January 2009, back in the days when you didn’t have to pay The Facebook Corporation when you wanted to share thoughts online with your friends.  It was the result of the only illuminating chain post ever – 25 things.

“I want everyone to know that I’m not in the least bit fooled by all of this superstition business. I’m only doing this out of courtesy… I feel guilty knowing all of this crazy shit about people and keeping quiet about my 25 random things. I’m not tagging anyone but the people who were nice (or bored) enough to send me theirs! 
I just hope this isn’t mind-numbingly boring for you all…”

  1. Of my grandparents, I’ve only known my maternal grandmother.  My maternal grandfather met me briefly though.  He sang and acted in the theatre, so it would’ve been nice to have known him better.
  2. I was once in the middle of a weird stand-off moment between Reg Presley from The Troggs and Paul Jones from Manfred Mann. Paul’s an evangelical Christian and Reg believes in crop circles and aliens. They’re not entirely compatible.
  3. I once watched a World Cup match with Daniel O’Donnell. Yes, there WAS a sweater around his shoulders. There were other people there too.
  4. Every time I play football (or “soccer” for the Americans!), the big toe on my right foot bleeds. It doesn’t hurt, but it stains my sock.  [2012 update : This stopped happening eventually.  New boots stopped removing my toenail mid-game.]
  5. One of the weirdest drives I’ve ever made was from Dublin to Kenmare on a beautiful clear night while I was in college. I had to stop on the road between Killarney to Kenmare, which winds on for miles and miles through amazing scenery, in order to wake-up and physically push the sheep off the road. They wouldn’t budge. Big woolly boulders in the middle of a tiny boreen. Thugs!
  6. I have never broken a bone in my body, which is miraculous considering the stupid things I’ve done.
  7. I learned how to walk at about 3 years of age. Until then, I realised that rolling was by far the quickest way to get around, and used it to devastating effect. I could also climb out the window before I was 1. I don’t know how that works either.
  8. My parents, in an effort to get more than 1 hour of sleep, eventually nailed the sides closed, and nailed a lid down onto my cot. Not to be outdone, and inspired by the WWII prisoners at Colditz, I decided to tunnel out, by pulling back the mattress and mesh wire bottom, wedging myself into the gap and wriggling until I hit the ground head-first.
  9. The prison theme continued into the garden, where in an effort to avoid the early death of their first-born, my parents surrounded my play-area with very tall chicken wire fencing.
  10. At three years old, incensed at being sent to bed at 10pm, while the sun was still shining outside and there was clearly valuable playtime left, I jumped out my bedroom window to avoid the sentry near my door. I missed the corner of the steel oil tank by centimetres, and didn’t quite expect the force of the fall. My heels dug into my backside, leaving me quite sore, but grand. The “tuck and roll” technique has its flaws. I was aided by my superman t-shirt, which had a nice blue cape. If it weren’t for that cape…
  11. I haven’t chosen an epitaph yet, but I think it’ll be hard to beat Spike Milligan’s, “Dúirt mé leat go raibh mé breoite!”, which is Irish for, “I told you I was ill.”
  12. Hairiest moment while driving – when the gearstick came off in my hand, mid-corner, leaving me in fourth gear – which is not the nicest gear to be stuck in. It’s very disconcerting when it happens, by the by.
  13. Most accomplished moment while driving…  Coasting from the Swiss Alps towards Turin with the fuel reserve light on, in the middle of the night, because the Swiss petrol stations in the ski resorts were not open 24hrs and didn’t take our French debit cards. The Mont Blanc tunnel was still closed due to the fire a year earlier, so we tried to cross the mountains… but the mountain roads had snowed over, so we had no option but to turn back to Italy.
  14. I’m a mine of entirely useless information, like Michael Caine, but with a more realistic Cockney accent.
  15. I have an addictive personality… tinged with a bit of OCD. Hence my fear of computer games and gambling.
  16. I’ve played shows in French and broken, nay, shattered German. Not the songs themselves, just the banter… (It’s really hard to sing “Elphinbine Herz”).
  17. Strangely, I’ve had more problems with my name in Ireland than anywhere else. Bloody Paddys!
  18. I’m a Virgo. I don’t believe in horoscopes, but I’m apparently typical of Virgos. I’m obsessive about details, and I over-think everything… including this sentence.
  19. My first concert was The Big Day Out in Galway (the Wescht of Ireland) in 1996. The line-up included The Divine Comedy, The Cardigans, Nenah Cherry (I can’t remember if Youssou N’dour was there with her), The Bluetones, Ron Sexsmith and Radiohead. Donal Dineen DJ’ed in between acts (I distinctly remember a euphoric “I want to hold your hand”.) If there was ever a doubt before, I was totally lost to music from this point on. I took the three hour bus journey alone too, which I’m proud of. I later discovered that one of my future best friends was at the same gig. I’ve a sneaking suspicion Ash played too, but I’ve no evidence of that whatsoever.
  20. Anyone who tries to tell me that my University years were the best of my life, automatically gets filed into the “blithering idiot” sector of my brain. I spent hours every week learning how to prove conclusively that 1 is equal to 1, without the aid of narcotics. It was not fun.
  21. I feel really guilty going to areas where I don’t know how to say at least a few poorly pronounced words in the local language.
  22. I’m an idiot, but I think the fact that I know I’m an idiot makes it less of an issue. Although maybe that’s just me being really idiotic.
  23. Mick and Kev from The Guggenheim Grotto dubbed me “The Singing Duvet”, and I think it’s the best description I’ve heard thus far. Thanks lads! (Most common names include : Tiger, Tigger, Der Teig, Todger, Taj, The Long Fella, and Ya Lanky Streak of Piss… no, that last one’s not one I use myself.)
  24. Good music sessions, after gigs or at friend’s houses, is one of the most amazing experiences you can have. It’s a shame that more people don’t get to witness them.
  25. I believe that there’s more than one true love out there. I know I’ve missed one already, so if I ceased to believe in that, I’d be forced to combust right here in front of your eyes.

Tadhg to Tiger over on Friendface

Greetings dear readers…

This is just a short note to notify of a slight change to our internet presence. Facebook, despite appeals from all quarters, refuses to allow page names to be changed. This means that our Tadhg Cooke page cannot become “Tiger Cooke”. Slightly annoying, and not very consistent – in an age when consistency is really required (although admittedly not often shown).
So we’ve set up a brand new page called, yes, you’ve guessed it : Tiger Cooke. There’s a little link box on the right hand side of this page. Yes, that’s over there! –>
Please do join us, and help spread the word, so we don’t feel so lonely. It’s tough starting from scratch.

Dear FriendFace. Please move to Tiger Cooke. Thank you.

In other news, there are things afoot behind the scenes here. All will be revealed soon – but keep your eyes peeled in Dublin in the next two months. Also, I must post some tales from our New York/Philadelphia shows in March. Myself and Tony Maceli enjoyed three fantastic shows at three great venues. We have some photos, and more have been promised to us. (If you have any yourself – please do send them on!)

More soon – I promise!



Goodbye 2011

Dear 2011,

It’s been emotional. I said goodbye to some dear friends and close family. You bade farewell to some vicious dictators. What does it all mean? Does it need to mean anything? Well, some meaning would probably help, and would certainly aid our bid to get “2011 – The Movie” picked up by Hollywood, but really, it doesn’t need to mean anything. In the year that Gil Scott Heron died, I’m not sure what he would have made of the many revolutions that were both televised AND live. (I just hope that they lead to better lives for us all.) So, in no particular order…

In a freezing cold Irish February, myself and one Rory Gavin headed down to Dun Laoghaire for a glamourous video shoot. The glamour ended about halfway down the pier when the full force of the biting north wind slapped my cheekbones. I’m really proud of the video – but almost even more proud of my survival on that pier in a mere shirt. The line between bravery and stupidity really is a fine one. (The video link is further on down – the embedding feature doesn’t seem to be working tonight.)

David Geraghty and I set off for Germany in the Autumn. We hit the mean streets of Berlin, Hamburg, Bielefeld and Münster after a gorgeous start at the Münsterland Festival. Huge heartfelt thanks to Jenni & Purgen, The Donots, Patrick, Kathrin, Lars, all at the Ramones Museum, and the countless other lovely folk who put us up, and put up with us.

After such a lovely tour in Germany, we thought we might extend it a wee bit. The Scratcher in the East Village was the venue for our first New York show together. Plagued by sound problems, when we finally got going, I was a bit shocked. I hadn’t realised how large the crowd was. We had to improvise a little – performing part of the set acoustically on guitar and banjo in the heart of the bar surrounded by a motley crew of New Yorkers, adopted New Yorkers and of course, the Irish. Also, we took advantage of Paul Noonan’s presence to have an impromptu interlude of BellX1 tunes. I need to stay longer next time…

The Workmen’s Club, a stunning new venue on the Liffey turned one year old in 2011, so we organised a show to celebrate that fact. Nixer Night, which featured Rob Malone (Lir, David Gray), David Geraghty (Bell X1), Cathy Davey, Vyvienne Long and myself, was a candlelit soirée to the soundtrack of everything from Sea of Bees to Marvin Gaye, not to mention the stunning original music on display. It was designed as a one-off… but I suspect, and hope, there will be a reprise. We have a lovely memento of the occasion taken by our good friend (and genius) Bob Dixon.



Back in Spring, we (Dave Redmond & I) ventured out to the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Austria for a tour. It was our first time in the region, so everything was bright, shiny and new to our weary eyes. It’s been a while since I was in a country where I did not understand a single utterance from anyone’s mouth – and I’d forgotten how tough it can be. Luckily we had Ivi looking after us. Most of the tour was unamplified which was a rare treat.

I got around Ireland in the solo… em… line-up?… more than I expected to this year. I teamed up with Colm Lynch and Fiach for a clutch of gigs around Ireland – there’s even evidence of some Christmas tunes floating about on the interweb… although you’re probably sick to your back teeth of Christmas songs at this stage. Maybe next year. I had the pleasure of opening for Mélanie Pain and her band – if you don’t know Mélanie, you may know her work with Nouvelle Vague. Fantastic show. And after a gap of a few years, I finally got back to Northern Ireland thanks to John Deery & The Heads. We had some fine times in Belfast, Dublin and, of course, their hometown of Derry.

I played in London a bit this year. Huge thanks to Rae, Ana Maria, Sarah and all at Urban Fog, Bar Bodega and The Mermaid. Urban Fog was a beautiful installation and bar in Dalston… and a fantastic event. I’m just glad I missed the riots that engulfed whole swathes of that postcode a few months later. The definitive list of things one should not carry through a riot zone include : “massive barely-portable continental quilt” and “guitar”.

Tiger Cooke ‘Your True North’ from rory gavin on Vimeo.

That’s it for now… I’ll leave you with the blurry unresolved mess of firsts, lasts, and undefineds that happened in the last 12 months : The Queen visits Croke Park; the POTUS visits Ireland; the Arab Spring sweeps across North Africa into the Middle East… and is still going; a tsunami kills thousands in Japan, cripples a nuclear plant, and forces the evacuation of huge swathes of land already obliterated by the tsunami; Bin Laden and Gaddafi are killed; Kim Jong Il is no longer looking at things; the world’s first synthetic organ transplant is carried out; the US shuttle program ends; UNESCO recognises Palestine as a state; musicians Gerry Rafferty (Stuck In The Middle With You, Baker Street, etc), Gil Scott Heron (The Revolution Will Not Be Televised) and Trish Keenan (of Broadcast – check this out : Broadcast’s Papercuts, featuring the vocals of Trish Keenan) pass on; the US ends its war in Iraq; the Euro’s existence looks increasingly shaky as the EU writes off 50% of Greece’s debt, bails out Portugal, and still no end is in sight; in September, encouraged by the Arab Spring and frustrated with every single politicians’ unwillingness to do anything for the people they represent – the Occupy Movement starts, spreads to over 80 countries and after an initial media blackout, eventually creeps into the news;

I hope that you all have a wonderful 2012, and that we meet on the road soon. Slán agus beannacht libh!