A marriage of melody
By David Hennessy
Coleraine banjo player Damien O’Kane has been busy. In addition to bringing out his own albums, he has worked on his folk star wife Kate Rusby’s latest album, a whopping twenty tracks to celebrate her 20th year in the business, and with a tour that takes him right up to Christmas, he won’t be relaxing just yet. Damien can be seen at Hammersmith Cultural Centre on November 3 before he takes to the road with his wife.
“The past couple of years have been quite mental actually,” he says without sounding like he is complaining in the least. “I co-produced Kate’s new record, 20. We started that in January and that wasn’t finished until the end of May. That was a humungous task because there was just so many guests on that album. We were working with quite a lot of great people and that was a fantastic experience.”
Kate’s aforementioned latest record 20 saw contributions from Paul Weller, Radiohead’s Philip Selway, Paul Brady, Declan O’Rourke, Eddi Reader and Damien himself. A recent Live Radio 2 gig at the Royal Albert Hall saw many of them reunited: “Not all of them obviously but Kate got guests who were on the album to come along and at the end of the night for the encore, there was 19 of us onstage. It was just insane I had a brilliant time.”
Damien has been at home in the UK for 14 years now. Is he excited to meet the new wave of Irish emigrants that ensure a young and enthusiastic crowd for him at gigs such as the one he has upcoming at the Hammersmith Irish Cultural Centre? “Absolutely, I just get a real buzz off people of all ages but it’s really great when you get the younger people coming to see the gigs because they’re going to keep the tradition going on. There’s a bright future for folk music, it’s become very popular all of a sudden it’s become a bit of a cool thing whereas before it used to be people wearing cardigans.”
The last few years has seen a revolution in the folk music world led by Mumford & Sons and Kate. Has it been as exciting from Damien’s viewpoint or is the eye of the storm where it is calmest? “It has been totally exciting. I feel privileged to be a part of the folk scene and to be able to share my music and play with Kate. From my point of view, it’s a really great thing to be a part of because it’s become a lot more accessible to people. People might have turned their nose up before when you said you played folk music, now people like Kate have brought folk to a wider audience. And then you have your Mumford and Sons and Laura Marling who have been influenced by folk music. It’s been great to watch and the next ten years are going to be interesting because I think it’s going to get even bigger.”
For the full interview, please buy this week’s Irish World