Here’s a reprint of a Q and A with Master and Dog that ran in the Big List.
Master & Dog Q and A
Continuing our catch-up with some of the music scene’s latest and greatest acts, this month we meet Phil D’Alton, multi-instrumentalist for those un-pigeonhole-able heroes Master & Dog ahead of the release of their second album. Enjoy.
Hi Phil and welcome to the Big List. First off, your second [self-titled] record is out now. Can you tell us a little bit about it?
Phil: “Thanks for having me! The second record took about a year to make. We had been talking about it pretty much from when we finished our first record as John, Shelly and the Creatures back in 2010. We started it back in May 2011. At the time we were all broke so we pooled together what little money we had and rented a couple of rooms in an old building in Belfast and set up our own recording studio. We spend a couple of months building walls, painting, running cables etc. Myself and Walter from the band now run it as a business.”
It sounds like the infamous “difficult second album syndrome” well and truly passed you by this time. Was it an easy process making the record?
“For the most part, it wasn’t a hugely difficult process. Myself, Walter and Ger write the songs and most of the time we do this separately so there was no huge pressure on one person. There were a few songs that we had been playing live for a while (our first single ‘Canada’ being one of them) so they were pretty easy to put down. The rest of the tracks were brand new so there was quite a bit of to-ing and fro-ing involved with them. We were quite strict on ourselves (for the most part) about not over-thinking anything too much and tried to go with our first instincts.”
You (relatively) recently added multi-instrumentalist Sharon Thompson to the band. Was it easy transition or did it take a while to get everything and indeed everyone gelling together?
“It was extremely easy. Our drummer Kev knew her and suggested we give her a try. We knew it would work straight off. She knew how to play the songs better than us at the first rehearsal. It was a bit embarrassing for us to be honest and made us all up our game.
You’ve also recently teamed up with Canadian label Matchless Minds. How’s everything going with them?
“Great. Nikki [from the label] is a great person to work with and she helps out with other things also. Hopefully the good folk over there will like our stuff when it is released.”
Speaking of all things North American, the video for your new single ‘Canada’ has just been released. Can you tell us a bit about making it?
“The video was made by the Bowsie Workshop in Dublin. I had randomly come across a video for the track ‘We Be Monsters’ by Tieranniesaur and it turned out that I knew Ben, the director, through friends. We met with them and they threw out loads of ideas but the ones that really stuck with us was having someone who had been left behind and having talking buildings. We left it completely up to them to do what they wanted with it. I think after meeting with them we knew that they got what we were looking for and completely trusted them to do something great. We really love it.”
Some of our readers may remember you as John Shelly and the Creatures. What prompted the name change?
“There are many reasons for it. I won’t bore anyone with all of them. The main reason being that people got it wrong all the time. It was always hard for people to remember and most annoyingly, people thought we were a singer/songwriter called John Shelly with a backing band called The Creatures. We never really felt comfortable with it. It was a bit risky changing it after we had a pretty successful year but you have to be able to be proud of what you do in order to do it well and be able to portray that to other people in order for them to believe you. I think we couldn’t do that with Jim, Skelly and the Preachers….”
Master & Dog are one of the few bands who regularly gig both sides of the border. How important is it for you to keep a good profile across the whole of Ireland?
“I don’t think it’s so much of a conscious thing with us. Two of us are from Dublin so I think it helped that we knew the scene a bit down there and it was always a good excuse for us to go home for a bit. We are looking to go much further afield this time with it. We concentrated on it quite a bit when we had a song featured on the Northern Ireland Tourist Board adverts [‘Long May You Reign’] and it made sense to do it at the time.”
Finally, what’s the rest of 2012 have in store for Master & Dog?
“At the moment we are releasing the album at the end of August and then we have a few gigs planned across the country. After that we are planning to go back over to the UK and also over to Germany for some gigs. Top of our priorities is to get the album out to as many people as possible and we hope that people like it.”
‘Master & Dog’ is out now. For more info visit masteranddog.com.