More information about the Love and Courage podcast, other episodes, and sign-up for e-newsletter at www.loveandcourage.org
More information about the Love and Courage podcast, other episodes, and sign-up for e-newsletter at www.loveandcourage.org
John Lillis is a DJ, producer and teacher, based in the West of Ireland. He is one third of the Rusangano Family, a high powered hip hop act who in 2017 won the Choice Music Prize, Ireland’s biggest music award. Growing up in rural County Clare, John immersed himself in music culture - collecting records and entering radio competitions daily. His approach has always been a D.I.Y one and he has been a major part of growing the hip hop movement in Ireland. A passion for community music and event management led him into the field of youth work, an area that has deeply inspired his creative work and thinking. When not touring the world, supporting Snoop Dogg or hanging out with Ed Sheeran, John is back in his beloved Clare helping empower the next generation of musicians.
The Love and Courage podcast
The Love and Courage podcast features interviews with inspirational people who are making a real difference in the world today. Guests are typically people passionate about social justice, and who have demonstrated courage and conviction in their lives.
Host Ruairí McKiernan is leading Irish social innovator, campaigner, writer and public speaker. He is the founder of the pioneering SpunOut.ie youth organization, and helped set-up the Uplift and the A Lust For Life non-profits. In 2012 the President of Ireland Michael D Higgins appointed Ruairí to the Council of State, a national constitutional advisory body whose members include all current and former leaders of the country. Ruairí is the recipient of numerous awards, including a Fulbright fellowship, and he contributes regularly to the media on youth, health, community and social justice issues.
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[00:01:24] RM: My guest in this episode is John Lillis. John is a DJ, producer, and teacher based in the west of Ireland. He’s one third of the Rusangano Family, a high-powered hip-hop act who, in 2017, won the Choice Music Prize, Ireland’s biggest music award. Growing up in rural Clare, John immersed himself in music culture, collecting records and entering radio competitions daily. His approach has always been a DIY one, and he’s been a major part of growing the hip-hop movement in Ireland. A passion for community music and event-management led him into the field of youth work, an area that has deeply inspired his creative work and thinking. When not touring the world, supporting the likes of Snoop Dogg or hanging out with Ed Sheeran, John is back in his beloved Clare, helping empower the next generation of musicians. John’s love for music is part of his fierce passion for life, something that is truly infectious – which you’ll hear now, in this fascinating interview, recorded in the rooftop office of First Music Contact, in Wicklow Street in Dublin.
[00:02:23] RM: John, thanks very much for joining me on the podcast today. You’re on the crest of a wave – congratulations on the Choice Prize.
[00:02:30] JL: Thanks a million. It’s great to be here, and yes, I don’t think we probably could have done this podcast earlier in the week, because I probably would have been stumbling my words and being quite confused – because, obviously, winning the Choice was a huge thing for us, and it’s taken a couple of days to come back to normality. But we’re definitely grounded again, now.
[00:02:53] RM: So, it has been a spiral of media, and adrenaline, and phone calls, and texts?
[00:02:58] JL: For sure, for sure.
[00:02:59] RM: And it caught you by surprise, I believe?
[00:03:00] JL: It definitely caught us by surprise – because, I think, when you’re in a competition like the Choice… So, we understand that we’re a good live act, and that we make – we like to think – that we make good music. But then, when you’re up against the calibre of some of the people that were on that, it’s just phenomenal that you could take a hip-hop album that’s essentially made in someone’s spare bedroom down in the west of Ireland, and put that in the same category as something like Katie Kim, or Lisa Hannigan, or All Tvvins. For me, it was…going back a couple of years ago, I spent a lot of time watching a group called Adebisi Shank who…one of the guys in All Tvvins was in this group, and they had done everything in kind of a DIY capacity. And then, when he’s shaking your hand on the night and says: “Well done,” it’s like: “Well, we wouldn’t have done this if it wasn’t for people like you.” It’s just really inspiring, for us, and it also, I think, certifies what we’re doing to a certain degree, where you don’t feel like a chancer at it. And it’s not that we feel like chancers at it, but it definitely means a lot to us for the music community of Ireland to turn around and just give us the nod, and say: “You know what, this is different – but it’s still part of this scene. It’s part of this community.” And we felt very welcomed, I think, by the…the last year has been phenomenal for us, and phenomenal in terms of that feeling of support from people. So we’re so indebted to the people of Ireland – it really is a very inspiring thing, for sure.
[00:04:52] RM: And when you say “get back to normal” – I don’t have an impression of this kind of peaceful, quiet normality that you’re just kind of sitting at home, doing the dishes. It sounds like the last year has already been kind of a wave of madness and excitement and travel and adventure.
[00:05:10] JL: For sure. No, that’s it. We all do the dishes, we all do the dishes, for sure. But I suppose the best way to put it is: for us, it’s really about balance. So, while we do a lot of shows, and we travel – Rusangano is now part of our lives, and we kind of live Rusangano, if that makes sense. But when we’re separate from each other, or when we’re not actually active within the group, we take our off time very, very serious. And someone was saying to me recently, where they were like: “Ah, are you up in Dublin all the time? Are you out, are you socialising?” And I was kind of like: “Actually, no. I’m going for really long walks in the woods, and going up The Burn.” And I feel like that kind of balance, between the craziness of gigs and the high energy of being on the road… And because we’re an independent group, we have to do everything ourselves. So, your phone is always on, you’re always answering.
[00:06:16] RM: Yes – you’re a manager, a publicist, every other thing.
[00:06:18] JL: Pretty much, yes.
[00:06:20] RM: That quest for balance – you’re in your, what, mid-to-late thirties?
[00:06:24] JL: Let’s put me in my mid-thirties.
[00:06:26] RM: OK [laughter].
[00:06:27] JL: I’m still in that area [laughter].
[00:06:29] RM: OK – you’re 37, right?
[00:06:31] JL: Not yet! [Laughter]. Getting there.
[00:06:34] RM: OK – so, I’ve burned myself out a number of times, and it’s still a challenge for me. That, you know, the excitement happens, or the cause calls. But I do feel that, with every year that I get older, I get a little bit wiser, hopefully. And I live a little bit on the outskirts of Dublin city, so I have access to nature, I go for those long walks. And I don’t feel I would be able to be in the world, and thrive in the busy world, if it wasn’t for that counterpoint.
[00:07:01] JL: Definitely. You have it exactly. And, for me, and I suppose for the guys as well – we’re very proud of being from the west of Ireland. And we’re probably in a position, now, where people would suggest: “You know, you should think about moving to Dublin, or you should think about moving to London.” And it’s so far from our minds, where it’s kind of like: “Yes, we could – but we’ve come this far.” We always drive back on the same night so, for me, it’s just like a gift to be able to get up on a Sunday morning. You played in Dublin on a Saturday night – to get up on a Sunday morning, have breakfast in your own house, and be like: “I’m going up the coast, I’m going to Doolin. I’m going to try and get into an environment that’s the complete opposite of the night before.” I’m really a big believer in energy. And when we do a show, you’re giving quite a lot of energy.
[00:08:00] RM: Yes, you’re pumping out the energy!
[00:08:03] JL: Yes – not so much me, but definitely the two lads. But there’s definitely an exchange of energy that’s happening in the room. And for me, it’s like, the following day it’s really important that you’re eating good food, that you are outdoors – whether you’re going for a cycle, whether you’re going for a walk – anything like that, but just getting back to nature. Because, if you talked to John from 10 years ago, and I was put into this position, I’d go to play that gig on a Saturday night, and I wouldn’t be going home until Thursday of the following week. But now, I think I’m a little bit more grounded. And I realise that I don’t actually want to… When we do this, we want to take it very serious, and we want it to work, and we’re very much focused on the artistic side of what we do. But, for the artistic side of it to thrive, the business side needs to thrive as well. And when you do those shows, or whatever, and you come home the following day, it’s very important that your head is in the right place. That you’re like: “OK, on Monday morning I can get up, and I can do the band taxes, or I can book the next batch of gigs that are coming up.” And I think those are things that you can’t really be burning the candle at both ends if you want things to succeed. Something will have to give, at some stage. So, I’d rather go for a swim than go for a pint – that’s the best way of putting it.
[00:09:32] RM: So, can you bring me back to the early days, John? Where did music first come into your life? Was it very early on – are you from a musical family?
[00:09:41] RM: I’m from a very unmusical family. Definitely. I grew up in Ennis, in County Clare, just a little bit outside of the town. And my first musical experiences were… I was very lucky – my father worked in the airport, so we had free travel when we were younger. And, I think people would find it bizarre now, but I remember my parents – not from a wealthy background, at all – but I remember my parents explaining to me when I was a teenager: the reason that we used to go to New York, maybe once a year, or twice a year, was because it was cheaper to go there than it was to go to Dublin. So, we would fly from Shannon to New York, you would do your shopping. There was one time that we flew, literally, to New York for the day, and flew back that night. And you did your clothes shopping, or whatever else, over there. So, I would have spent quite a bit of time in the States, because of this opportunity – that my father was working in the airport. And we spent our holidays over there. And while I was in the States, I started to tune into local radio stations on a Walkman. And I was hearing hip-hop where – I hadn’t heard it in Ireland. I might have heard one or two tracks, but it was really… It just completely arrested me, when I heard it for the first time. And I can still remember being in a hotel room with my parents and my sister – and it must have been, like, 5 o’clock in the morning – and I was still awake, going: “This music is just amazing to me!”
[00:11:15] RM: Any particular bands come to mind, or acts?
[00:11:18] JL: Well actually, at that time it wasn’t New York – it was Miami. And I was never a massive fan afterwards, but a group called Too Live Crew, where it was this type of music from Miami called “booty bass.” And, to this day, I’m massive into bass music, and it’s the one element of music, I suppose, that resonates with me the most. But you could see cars going down the street, and you could feel the music coming off it. There was a very gentle wind of music, coming off these cars. And I just was blown away by it. I hadn’t heard music like this before, and it seemed so exotic. And it was also the idea of, like: “How do you make this? This can’t be made with a guitar or drums – I can’t figure this out.” And then, I just made it my business to try and learn as much as I possibly could.
I got a Public Enemy tape when I was 10 years of age – and that literally changed my life overnight. So, up until this, I had heard whatever was on the radio, and might have heard one or two tracks. But until I got this Public Enemy tape… I got it off a friend of mine, who stole it off his older brother for the night, and charged me one pound so that I could take it for one night to copy the tape.
[00:12:48] RM: [Laughter]. Is this guy a millionaire now?
[00:12:50] JL: No, but he made a good bit of money out of me!
[00:12:52] RM: Well, he showed early signs of enterprise.
[00:12:54] JL: That’s it, yes. So, I got that Public Enemy tape – and I was just, from there on in I was kind of sold on it. And I had never heard the idea of politics in music before that. And, from hearing that, it was very obvious: “This is political music. There’s a message to this.” And I continued to just buy tapes, or source tapes – and I heard, I think, Ice Cube, pretty soon afterwards. And I think the LA riots that happened, maybe the year beforehand, and I had heard that he was talking about the LA riots on this record. But prior to the riots happening. So, in some sense, he had kind of predicted what was about to happen in Los Angeles. And I just became fascinated, that: here’s this type of music that is talking about things that…I suppose, just topics that aren’t really explored on the news, or I couldn’t at that time find it anywhere else. But here it is – it’s like this music is the news. This is the real news.
[00:14:02] RM: I have a very similar story, actually. I was fairly bored, for most of my schooldays. And, obviously you have compulsory religion in Irish Catholic-run schools, or whatever, but we had one of these retreat days, and we had these northern youth workers down for the day. But they brought us into a classroom and played Arrested Development for us – and there was one song called “Momma’s Always on Stage.” And it was about a mother that had to turn to prostitution and becoming a stripper in order to feed her child, and we had to kind of unpack that, and discuss that. And I got into Arrested Development, and I started to see… Yes, it was my political education – because there was no civic education at school, whatsoever. And I found that then through folk music, through Christy Moore, the likes of Billy Bragg. So, music has served a massive role in my life, and I think it still does today. And it’s clear it’s influencing your own music.
[00:14:58] JL: Yes, for sure. I mean, again, I did a degree, later in life, in English and sociology. And, if someone had ever asked me: “Why did you go down that route, or what was it about sociology that you were interested in?” I would actually have to say: “Honestly, I heard Rage Against the Machine when I was 12, and they were talking about issues of social justice, and talking about the idea of communism and socialism.” And I remember turning around to my mum and going, like: “What’s communism?” She was kind of, like: “Where did you…where did this come out of? For a 12-year-old?” I was like: “I heard this band talking about it.” And I think that, for me – if someone handed me the Communist Manifesto when I was 12, I never would have read it. If someone had talked to me about civil rights in America at 10 years of age, I probably wouldn’t have wanted to learn about it. But, sometimes, you can put a message into a song, and keep that message quite simple. But that message will just translate over to people – they just feel it, because it’s in the song. And, afterwards, they can get into the nitty-gritty and the details and stuff. But, for me, music has always been the medium to open up so many other subjects or… Like, I never liked science until I realised that music was completely physics – that you can’t understand music until you understand physics. And suddenly, I was like: “Oh man, physics is fascinating.” You know?
[00:16:30] RM: So, that kind of brings us into the territory of youth work, and informal education, where we can allow people to flourish and develop outside of the prism of straight academia. And I think you’ve a background in some youth work as well, don’t you?
[00:16:41] JL: I do, yes. And, again, I suppose everything…all the major turning points in my life – they weren’t really conscious decisions. It was just, maybe, someone would suggest something, and I’d say: “Hey, let’s give it a go.” So, I’m not scared to fail at things – and I fail at things very, very regularly. But I met a guy in Limerick – I knew him from Ennis for a good couple of years – and I think I had done, maybe, one or two workshops in Kerry, and in Galway. And just, a chap that I knew in Limerick was like: “I think you’d be good at working with kids, and trying to convey what it is that… Whether its DJing, or whether it’s helping kids to write raps.” Just, kind of, facilitating these workshops. So I said I’d give it a go – and that was, maybe, seven years ago. I’d just finished a Master’s in Limerick, and needed some money.
[00:17:40] RM: What was the Master’s in?
[00:17:42] JL: The Master’s was in music technology. So, I’m not trained in music, my family aren’t musicians, and everything that I’ve learned through music has just been through trial and error. And I think it’s a really good way to approach things. And, similarly – I’m not saying that you approach youth work through trial and error – but my early stages in it were very much: I didn’t have a background in dealing with young people. I just found that, if I went into a room, I could resonate with them in some kind of way, and hang out with them, and it didn’t seem like it was strained. And I also found that, for me, there’s a beautiful thing in watching someone learn. Sometimes, when you see someone learning something, you realise: “Actually, they’re doing it quite different.” Or: “That technique is different from the way that I would do it.” But you pick up on it, as well. So you see that you just took one road, when there was loads of roads that you could have taken.
But I did some work in Limerick, and then I was offered a job with Clare Youth Service in Ennis, which, for me, was probably the most important element of my education so far – even though it was a job. But I found that the group of people that were in Clare Youth Service at that time – they were just so open-minded, they were very involved in the community, and they gave me the freedom, when I came in there, to launch this new music project, take it in a completely different direction. I’m sure they thought it was absolutely bonkers, at first. But the young people reacted to it. And I then started to realise: “OK, working with young people is something that I’m actually really passionate about, and I want to see if there’s any way that I can work with young people, and help develop a local music scene. Or give kids the things that I didn’t have, when I was growing up.” Whether that’s just guidance – whether it’s someone to go like: “Ah, listen, you like industrial music – maybe you should start looking at these bands here.” But, definitely, Clare Youth Service was one of the places that I learned the most.
[00:20:19] RM: Would you say you had a mentor, there? Was there anybody in particular, in the youth service, that… You mentioned somebody who saw your potential – is that somebody who..?
[00:20:09] JL: I could list, honestly, the entire members of staff. There’s one person, who I still work with quite closely, Brian McManus – and we still work on a project, even today, which is called Five A Day. And that’s mental health workshops where you explore mental wellbeing through creative arts. And we’ve been going to schools, and we’ve been just talking about issues with young people. And even that, in itself, where… Again, I’m saying that I was never trained, technically, as a youth worker – but some of the techniques that you learn through dealing with young people, and presenting these mental health workshops, they make you question yourself as well. So, that was something that I found really intriguing – where I was like… Going back then, I would have been just about to turn 30, and I’m learning all this stuff about myself. But I’m doing it alongside, kind of, a group of kids of 18 and 19, as well. And I just found that it was a really enriching experience, for me, being with Clare Youth Service.
And the very first day I went in there, I suppose I didn’t really know how to interact. And I remember talking to the drugs worker, at the time, and I said something really silly. And I just turned around to him, and I was like: “So, you work with all the bad kids?” And he just looked at me, and he shook his head, and he was like: “There’s no such thing as a bad kid.” And walked away. And it hit me like a punch, and I was like: “Why was that such a terrible thing to say?” And, within six months, it was like: “I completely understand it.”
[00:21:52] RM: Yes, well, that’s what we grow up by. Segmenting people as “others,” and saying: “Well, they’re the bad kids.” And even the term – I don’t even like to use it, but I’m going to use it – the term “knackers” is used a lot. And you don’t hear it in the media, but you hear it in the streets, and in day-to-day language. And it’s used to kind of say: “They’re them.” And it dehumanises someone, ultimately.
[00:22:13] JL: Yes. It’s probably important to say that, prior to me working with Clare Youth Service, I did an awful lot of projects in Limerick City. And, generally – I suppose it’s something that’s associated with hip-hop, but a lot of the time, the people who are most passionate about hip-hop, or want to actually tell their story through rap – a lot of the time these people come from disadvantaged areas. So, my early days of teaching workshops were in South Hill. I did some in Moyross, and I even went to halting sites. There was a couple of times I was sent to halting sites, where it’s just such a fantastic experience. Because: here’s these groups of people that, sometimes, society is suggesting that they’re not going to create something very astounding. But as soon as I went to those areas, and started to engage with those people in terms of creative arts, I was like: “My God! When you produce something, it’s so pure.” Where they don’t feel like they need to be anyone else: it’s not a persona. Just – if a kid from South Hill writes a song, you know that he’s putting his heart and soul into that song. So, before I came to Clare Youth Service, I’d had this experience of being in quite, I suppose, culturally diverse backgrounds, or economically diverse backgrounds. And I just found it really enriching, meeting people from various different places, and seeing that everyone has a story. And everyone’s story is, really, as important as anyone else’s story, as well. It’s just how you work with people to get that story out.
[00:23:56] RM: You mentioned the Five A Day for mental health – what are the five a day?
[00:24:00] JL: The Five A Day for mental health – the five a day, really, can be anything that you choose to be your five a day. So, for me, when I’m dealing with young people, one thing I would say is – like we were talking earlier – I don’t really drink. So, I’ll have a pint occasionally, but it’s something that I realise, for me: one pint, I’m fairly happy; two pints, I’m really happy; three pints, I’m like: “This is the worst party in the world, ever.” So, I just realised: “You know what? I’m going to cut that out of my life.” But everything that you cut out of your life, you kind of have to replace it with something else that’s like a reward system. So, for me, it’s: one positive thing would be getting outdoors. Getting close to trees – I just love being around trees, I love being in forests. I wasn’t, when I was growing up, I wasn’t hugely into exercise. But I make sure that… And, even in the studio, I’ll stop doing something in the studio, go downstairs, and do kettle bells for 20 minutes. Because it just sharpens your brain so much. Your diet is hugely important – and especially when you’re in a band, and you’re touring from place to place, there is a temptation that you’re like: “Well, we’re just going to have to get another kebab.” And we do it in the complete opposite way. People have seen the Rusangano rider, and they’re like: “Lads!” It’s all fruit, yoghurts, nut bars. But, I think…
[00:25:33] RM: You’re dispelling loads of hip-hop myths.
[00:25:35] JL: I know! Yes. One of the things that comes up – when we do these Five A Day mental health workshops, what happens is: we talk and interact with the young people. We try and find out: what are the difficulties that they face in their lives? What are the things in their lives that are triggers for them? And then, we try and see: what would they do to combat stress, or combat anxiety? And one of the things that always comes up – I think it’s come up in nearly every single workshop – is: talk to your mother. Talking to your mother is a very good thing. It doesn’t necessarily have to be your mother – but just that there’s someone in your life, if you have any issues, or there’s stress or anxiety, that you’re like: “Hey, I’m going to share this with someone.”
And yes, like anyone else’s life, my life hasn’t been very straightforward, or it hasn’t been very easy. And there has definitely been times where it’s been extremely challenging. And I’ve had to use the techniques that were taught to me through youth work and stuff, and kind of go: “Actually, I need to take a leaf out of my own book, here. Because things are stressful, at the moment.” And it’s so simple – sometimes even just remembering to breathe. It’s such a simple idea – but just to breathe regularly, to take big, deep breaths, to calm yourself down that at every situation is manageable. No matter what it is, it’s just the way that you approach it. And I think, within Rusangano, that’s something that – again, stressing the thing, as an independent act – some of the things that we do can seem quite daunting. But I think we have a really strong bond between the three of us. We would say that we all feel like brothers, together. So, while I would be petrified to go out into the National Concert Hall and perform there, by myself, you feel enriched by the fact that: “It’s fine, I’ve got my two lads here.” And we’ll always talk about the anxiety of doing a show, or talk about the anxiety of being in the band, in some kind of way, or the stresses that go with it. So, that would be another one of the five a day. I think I’ve hit five, I’m not sure. Have I?
[00:27:52] RM: [Laughter]. You’re thereabouts.
[00:27:53] JL: Anyway, my one is: make some music – because it’s one of the most therapeutic things that you can do. You can get any negative emotions that you have, you can turn it into something beautiful, just by trying to make some music, or draw a picture, or do a sculpture. Anything like that – anything that’s I suppose, a creative way to take what you’re feeling and put it on a page.
[00:28:14] RM: Yes. Expression, I think, is a big one – because, I think, sometimes what’s happening is people are feeling this angst, or rage, or frustration, and it’s being internalised. And it can manifest itself, maybe, as self-harm, or eating disorder, or depression. Whereas, it is better out – whether it’s shared, or through music. And I actually enjoy the fact that, sometimes, rage is expressed through music as well. Because anger and rage are things that are quite often suppressed by society, but I think it’s important to hear rage.
[00:28:47] JL: Yes, definitely. And I know that there are parts when, even just looking at a… I’ll be honest with you, sometimes I see photographs of Rusangano live, and I barely recognise myself. And I’m like: “Why are you shouting? Why is your mouth open so much?” And I think that there’s an element of that, that we all find the live show therapeutic. And particularly for the lads, because they’re talking about things that were particularly problematic or challenging for them, growing up.
And it’s one thing to put it into a song – it’s another thing to actually stand on stage and proudly say that out to everyone. Because, at first, you’re going to be nervous when you say it, and you’re going to be self-conscious. But after a while, I think that that actually does the complete opposite, and it kind of strengthens you. And you’re like: “You know what? I’m going to tell you everything. I’m going to lay it all out for you.” Because that’s the thing that people will connect with most. And they will respect you for it. And any time that I’m working with young people, in a song-writing capacity, that’s one thing that I say: “Don’t ever be scared to put your deepest emotions down on the page. No one will judge you for it. They’ll actually respect you for it way more, because you’ve had the courage to stand up and say: ‘You know what? I’m going to put this out there to the world.’” And I think it’s really important.
[00:30:15] RM: Yes, I find that a lot with public speaking. So, I do a lot of public speaking, and occasionally people ask me for advice. And it might be a bit clichéd to say it, but authenticity, I think, is the number one rule. So, you don’t need to be a prolific speaker, and have the biggest vocabulary, and have the slickest moves. But if you are speaking from your heart, and if you’re stumbling, it doesn’t matter, people are going to connect. “There’s a real, live human being in front of me, and they’re giving it to me real.” Because there’s so much superficial crap around, these days – people are going for the slick… But I like that it’s… I don’t know, I find hope in the fact that, I believe, there is a return to authenticity, and an acknowledgement: “Well, that’s real.” And I think you guys are mirroring that, to some extent. And I think that’s partially what’s attracting the world to you. So, I foresee great things for you, you know? Beyond Ireland. Not that that necessarily matters. But I think it’s of its time.
[00:31:17] JL: Thanks a million. Well, I think you’re definitely right in the idea about authenticity, and particularly in the arts. But it just feels like it’s everywhere, that it’s kind of invaded society a little bit, where – over, maybe, a 10- or a 15-year period – we haven’t been as genuine as we should. I’m not someone who’s massively into social media. I’m into social media because I’m in a band, and it’s part of my job being in a band. Beyond that, I don’t really have any interest in it. And what I kind of feel is going with social media… Social media is something that’s a fantastic gift, because I spoke to my friend in London last night. I spoke to a buddy of mine in the States during the week. And my girlfriend lives in Finland. So, I have dinner with my girlfriend, where she prepares her meal, and I prepare my meal, in Ireland, and we sit down and we have to talk via FaceTime, or Skype, or whatever. But that’s an amazing thing, where it’s like: “OK, I’m not going to see you for three weeks – but I’m going to interact with you every single day, through the Internet.”
So, there are some absolutely fantastic things behind it. I think it’s a double-edged sword, as well, though, where a lot of it becomes about appearance. And our social status, before we even walk outside, is defined by that personality that we’ve developed for ourself online. So that, you could walk down the street, and I may never have met you, but I would know quite a lot about you, because I can follow you on Twitter, or I can Like your page on Facebook. And everyone just has these false concepts of what everyone else is like. And I think they’re slower to interact with people, because they feel like they already know that person.
[00:33:13] RM: Yes, it’s funny – I met a guy in a shop, the other day, that followed me on Twitter, and it was just an awkward moment where I didn’t know what he knew about me or not. But most of what I share on Twitter is quite political – and then, I’m conscious of that, in thinking that there’s more to me than that. I do have the craic, and so maybe I should put up photos of me eating dinner, or something. But yes, it’s an interesting one. But I would, particularly, worry about people that feel they have to maintain that image. Because we don’t necessarily put all our shit on social media. Like, the gloomy, dark days that everybody has – and I worry about that, particularly. That people don’t understand that life is all about suffering and joy – it’s not just the joy element. And I’m not saying that we should just share all the suffering either, but I find that – in the mental health work, in particular – to acknowledge that. And I like that about Buddhism: that if you acknowledge suffering as part of life, it’s no big deal. Suffer, and the clouds will flow on by.
[00:34:18] JL: Yes – I just finished reading an Alan Watts book that was talking about Zen. And, again, I could find so much depth in it, where some of the things that it’s saying… Like I said, my life hasn’t been that easy. There’s been some severe challenges. But I think that a lot of the reason that things are, maybe – I wouldn’t say successful for me, now – but I think that they’re hopefully going in the right direction, is because you allow those challenges in your life. You can’t walk away from a challenge. And when these challenges come into your life, it’s accepting them, looking at them, taking them apart, dealing with them – but moving on from it. And realising that, when you move on from a challenge, you’re a stronger person. That you can face… The bigger the challenge that you face, it’s how insignificant the small challenges seem afterwards, where you just don’t care about the small, trivial things any more. It’s like: “That’s not a real, big issue.” Do you know? And I think – I think it’s really important to realise: life is full of light and darkness. But the darkness isn’t something that we should all try and run away from. And I think that some of the time, we’re all trying to present that we only have lives that are full, bright, that we’re always out for dinner. But that’s not the reality of it.
[00:35:54] RM: You’re at home, doing the dishes!
[00:34:56] JL: Yeah! You never see people taking photos of really bad dinners that they cooked. “Here’s chicken nuggets and beans.”
[00:36:05] RM: So, do you live alone, or do you live with lads?
[00:36:08] JL: I live with one other housemate, at the moment.
[00:36:11] RM: And do you cook chicken nuggets?
[00:36:13] JL: I don’t, no. I don’t cook chicken nuggets at all. A lot of salads, and for me, the most important thing is a big breakfast in the morning.
[00:36:23] RM: Do you have a vice? Because you’re too clean-living, here.
[00:36:26] JL: I have numerous vices that I probably won’t talk about, here. But a vaporiser is one of them, anyway, that I can speak of. And coffee. Coffee and vaporiser, yes, they’re the ones that I’ll admit to. But yes, I try and… I’m certainly not the most clean-living person, but I definitely realised that life is about balance. And I want to be healthy enough to enjoy life.
[00:36:54] RM: And where did you meet the lads?
[00:36:58] JL: I met the lads through, again, Clare Youth Service, to give it its credit. I was involved in a thing in Ennis, which was called the Ennis Street Festival. And Ennis is a small town where… It has a very strong tradition of Irish music, but for me, it’s – and I’m interested in Irish music – but what I’ve kind of felt is that, to a certain extent, it has… I don’t want to “strangled,” but it has slowed down the development of other culture, artistic culture, I think, within the town. Because that’s so dominatnt, you know? It’s like if, I’m sure badminton isn’t massive in Kerry, because everyone’s playing football. You know what I mean? That kind of way.
But I was working for the Ennis Street Festival, or doing some stuff with them, and they allowed me the platform to put some bands and some acts on in the centre of town, in Ennis. And, through the Youth Service, I had been booking acts. I had been working with young groups around the county, and I just got to the stage where I was like: “I really don’t want to put on a four-piece band with bass, drums, guitars, vocals, and singer-songwriters. I just want to make sure there’s something different, as well.” And I had met God Knows a couple of years previously, on this broadcast that was – it was a transatlantic broadcast that I was involved with in Limerick. It took place in Limerick, but it was broadcast in the United States. So, there was a guy over there that had realised there was a bit of a hip-hop scene developing in Ireland – and I’d like to do a special on it. So, he asked us to broadcast from Limerick, and then it would be transmitted in the States. And I met God Knows at that. And he was quite young at the time, but I remember: I was DJing in the background, and while he was being interviewed, he kept letting off these, like: “Woo! Yeah!” Because he liked the music that I was playing. So, fast-forward maybe two or three years later, I said: “I’m going to book these guys for this street festival in Ennis. And let’s see how it goes.” And they showed up – I think maybe 12 of them showed up – and it was... They just did, like, a live grime set in Ennis at 3pm in the day. This was about four and a half years ago.
[00:39:26] RM: Define grime, here?
[00:39:28] JL: Grime as in the – what would you say? –indigenous, urban music of the UK. Current indigenous, urban music of the UK. So the guys did this set in the middle of the street, and it went off! In the middle of Ennis, it went off – I still have footage of it. And I remember going home that night, and watching the video over and over, and I was like: “This is crazy, that this could happen.” And I had been DJing for… I’ve been heavily involved in music since 18 years of age, 17 years of age. So, I’ve ran gigs, I have…which we won’t cover, but I had a period as a rapper.
[00:40:17] RM: Anything on YouTube?
[00:40:18] JL: No.
[00:40:20] RM: Is the grime set on YouTube?
[00:40:21] JL: It isn’t, no. But I may upload it, some footage of it.
[00:40:27] RM: Well, when they make the documentary about the band, then that’s the moment.
[00:40:29] JL: There you go, it’s important to have that stuff. But yes, so I had been involved in music for a while. I had produced three…two EPs of my own music, at this stage, and I was looking for a vocalist. And I just knew, on that day, it was like: “Oh! I think this is it – this is the guy.” So, myself and God Knows worked together, and very quickly MuRli came into the scene as well – and it’s something that he actually mentioned in an interview last week: we never formally asked MuRli to become part of the band. It just materialised. It was like: “Well, he’s perfect, isn’t he?” And now it’s even better than it was before. And yes, there’s a bond between the three of us, where… I think, deep down inside, I was very driven in music. But there’s an Irish mentality of… You never want to actually say: “I’m kind of driven, and I want to achieve something here.” I remember meeting God Knows – he asked me for a quick meeting to do with funding, at one stage. And he showed up to Clare Youth Service in a suit. And I was very impressed that he was wearing a suit.
And I remember, I was like: “What do you want to do?” And he was like: “Ah… I want to be the biggest artist in the world.” And I was like: “Wow! I love this moxy. The way he just comes in and says it.” And, to a certain extent, I think a little of that kind of rubbed off after a while, where it’s like: “Well, why are we kidding ourselves, here? Let’s not aim for middle-height – let’s aim right for the top.” And if you don’t achieve… If you don’t get right to the top, so what? But if you get most of the way up the ladder, that’s significantly better than saying, like: “Ah, I just do it for the craic.” And, look: it’s important to have the craic, but I actually want to do this for as long as I possibly can. I want the lads to make as big an impact as they can – because I genuinely feel like they deserve it.
[00:42:37] RM: What do you think is driving them? Obviously, they’re not here to speak for themselves, but have you a sense of the collective motivation and the individual motivation?
[00:42:47] JL: I think it’s been there in them for a very, very long time as well. All three of us, our most formative years are 10 to 14. I think, anyway. Where, that’s where music really hit us. And the decisions were nearly made at that age, but maybe didn’t vocalise those decisions until early twenties. But in your own head, it was like: the decision was made.
[00:43:19] RM: Can you give me the quick background on the two lads? For people who are listening and don’t know them, or where they’re from.
[00:43:23] JL: God Knows is from…he’s based in Shannon, and he’s living in Shannon for, I think, about 13 or 14 years. He’s originally from Zimbabwe, and I believe he was living in the UK for about a year before his family moved over here. And his father is an airplane engineer, I believe, and that’s why he would have located to Shannon. And Shannon would be quite a multicultural area, because there was so many…because of the airport being there. It was a new town, it was a planned town. It would be the most multicultural part, I suppose, of Clare. MuRli, I think, moved to Ireland around the same time. His story is a little bit different – MuRli is from Togo, and his family left Togo when some of the trouble erupted in Togo. And they kind of knew that, in terms of the politics there, this isn’t going to improve. So, he left and went to Ghana and, I think, when he was in Ghana, trouble erupted in Ghana, as well. He had to go back to Togo, and then, eventually, travel to Ireland. So, both the lads have…nearly 50% of their life was spent in their home country, and 50% of their life was spent in Ireland.
So it’s interesting – and I think it’s a particularly interesting story for them, because their parents are African. The lads are the first generation of people who moved over here – but you’re never going to have that in the same kind of way again. In that, when God Knows has children, or when MuRli has children, those are…they’re just Irish kids. They grew up in Ireland, and they probably won’t understand Africa or African culture in the same kind of way. Whereas both God Knows and MuRli are very interesting people, because they’re Irish in the way that they will interact with you, but they have such strong ties to their African roots, and to their African culture, and… The both of them will greet you with a: “Howya?” and are interested in Irish culture, and then very interested in their own traditions and stuff, as well.
And I think what they’re doing, lyrically, is: they’re tackling something that wasn’t tackled. I’ve looked around for people who were tackling the idea of migration in lyrics, and MIA is one of the only people that I could find. But, even, some of their music would predate all of that. And yes, I have a lot of respect for what the lads have done: for the way that they’ve… Sometimes, I suppose, different communities – especially in rural Ireland – if you come from a migrant background, those communities can kind of stay separate than the traditional Irish community. Like, they’re on the outskirts. And I love the way God Knows and MuRli have just walked straight into Irish society and said: “This is who we are. Get to know us.”
And it’s fantastic – it’s really, really good. And they’ve been embraced hugely, I think, as well – where people are like: “Finally, someone is representing modern Ireland, and talking about the issues of modern Ireland.” Because, stereotyplically, if you think of an Irish person, it’s going to be a white guy with a hurley in his hand. And we have to be honest, that the country that we live in – it’s not like that anymore. It has diversified, and particularly when you come to Dublin and you walk around Dublin, you’re like: “This is such a multicultural city.” And we have to respect the fact that it’s a multicultural city. And there’s so much – there’s just so much benefit, in terms of individuals, from spending time with different people from different backgrounds, and just learning: “Ah, I see. I see that you may see the world slightly different than how I see it. And I start to get an understanding as to why you see the world different. And I start to see the biases that I have, as well.” And it just becomes really, really interesting. I think, the more people that you can interact with, the more enriching the experience is.
[00:48:03] JL: Are you experiencing, particularly… In Ennis maybe – that whole area, Shannon, Ennis – it’s a little bit more multicultural than other towns. But it’s clear to me that racism is quite prevalent in Ireland, and I get a little bit of trolling online, where they attack me for different things. But, I mean, I can survive – I’m a big, white guy. But I’ve seen young Irish people who aren’t white get attacked in the most nasty ways. Is that something you’re aware of?
[00:48:35] JL: I have to be honest, here – for me, probably not. Because, obviously, I’m the white Irish guy in the group, do you know? So, for me, it isn’t an issue. I do know that we released a single last year, and when we put it up online, there was some questionable comments on YouTube. And the more that we looked at it… Like, a lot of the time, those… It’s just complete ignorance. It’s stupidity. And it’s very easy for me to say, like: “Don’t pay any attention to it.” But it’s not targeting me. So I’m not really in a position to say: “Well, this is hurtful or this isn’t hurtful.” It comes down to whoever is feeling targeted by these comments, or by these agendas that people have.
One thing that I will say is: there was one particular character who kept commenting on our YouTube video. Over, and over, and over again. And, eventually, we were like: “I think we’re going to have to say something, here.” So, we posted a comment that said – the chap’s name was Eric, so we were like: “Dear Eric, it seems like you don’t like us. But we love you – so we’d like to meet with you, and we would love to have a chat, if you’re available to sit down and have a conversation with us, at any stage. We would really appreciate it.” And he came back, and he was like: “Absolutely no way would I do this, blah, blah, blah.” And it continued on for a while. And we stopped paying attention, because it was like: “Yes, this is… I just don’t want to waste my time looking at this.” But when we went back and checked it a couple of months later, he had a comment up, where he was like, something along the lines of: “I need to apologise for everything that I’ve said, here. I’ve actually interacted with some people outside of my own community, and it’s been a brilliant experience. So, I want to apologise.” And we were like: “What! No way!” That, in itself, was a really… That’s what Rusangano is about, to a certain extent.
It’s like: meet people that you don’t know, do things that you don’t normally do, and see if you enjoy the experience. But don’t say that you hate something until you try it – because it’s all about learning. If you go into a situation with an open mind, you’ll probably find when you walk away from it, like: “That was great! That was brilliant.” If you walk into a situation with your biases in place, you’re already shutting yourself off from having a good experience. So, we just try and stay as open as we can – and it’s something that… Being in this band has been something important for all three of us. We’ve all said it, for our own personal development, in some kind of way. And learning more about people: how to interact with people, and how not to interact with people, as well.
[00:51:36] RM: So, we still have to meet Eric.
[00:51:38] JL: Yes! [Laughter].
[00:51:40] RM: He might be at the gig later. Can you talk to me about…we’re going to wrap up soon, but I’m just curious about how the album came about. Because I’ve heard a little bit, and I understand that it was a kind of DIY endeavour. And, in so many ways, it’s part of a heroic journey – there was no big record industry, no big money, no big studio.
[00:52:03] JL: Not at all. Yes – Let The Dead Bury The Dead was self-released. We had done some projects beforehand. So, myself and God Knows released – I suppose you could call it an album – called Rusangano / Family. That was one of the first things that we did together, and I think we released that in 2014. And, for me, from a personal side, I suppose it’s kind of important to say: the day that we were due… We picked a starting point for that, for that particular project, and it was 1 January 2014. And, on that particular day – well, we’d been building up to it – but, on that particular day, I got some bad news: that my father was diagnosed with cancer. And I remember thinking: OK, well, that’s it. This project is gone, now – because I’m going to have to be a carer, here. This is a serious… Life has suddenly got very real.
And I think I had a conversation with God Knows at, probably, 3 o’clock that day, to cancel the session, and be like: “This isn’t going to happen. And I don’t think it’s going to happen at all – I don’t think we’re going to be able to do this.” And then, I probably rang him at 10 o’clock, and I was like: “This is on. We’re going ahead with this, and we’re just going to make sure that we make really good music.” So, the whole time that we’ve been making music, I was kind of caring for my dad, at the time. And prior to us sitting down to make Let The Dead Bury The Dead, my father passed away. And it had been there, so much, in the background – where you’re achieving things, but at the same time it’s kind of like… People would see you achieving things and think: “God, that’s fantastic.” But they don’t see the other story behind it.
And the lads, coincidentially at the same time, they had their struggles that they needed to overcome, as well, in terms of…just difficulties in their lives. So, all three of us were in a position where it’s like: “This is really tough.” And when we went to make an album, when we went to make Let The Dead Bury The Dead, I remember: we were driving in a car one day, and God Knows said it as a throwaway. It’s important to say, the guys are Christians. And I’m very much not. Like, I couldn’t be further from it. So there is all these cultural differences within the group, but yet we still get on like a house on fire. But I remember, one day God Knows said: “Let the dead bury the dead.” And I was like: “What?” And he was like: “Let the dead bury the dead.” And I was like: “That’s going to be the album title. That’s it – right now.”
So, before we even wrote a song, it was like: “OK, that’s the album title. Now we have to make it.” And that was always, I suppose, there – that what we wanted to do… People were seeing the live shows – they could see that we’re energetic. It’s colourful. But for us, it was kind of like: “It’s really important that this is balanced, as well. That people see that, despite all the smiles, and jumping around, we have very serious lives when we’re not on stage, and we’re dealing with some very serious things, here.” And yes, I think that what we tried to do was just immerse ourselves in that idea. The album was made, largely, in a spare bedroom in my house, which is a studio, and we’ve added more and more to it.
[00:55:49] RM: Wasn’t some of it made in a car, as well?
[00:55:51] JL: That was the first project. So yes, the first project… And again, just to say: it was made in hospital waiting rooms, and it was then… For me to be able to hear it back, properly, I used to plug in the laptop in the car. But, generally, I was hanging around hospitals all the time.
[00:56:11] RM: So, when they talk about blood, sweat, and tears – there were tears?
[00:56:13] JL: Oh yes – literally blood, sweat, and tears. That was in the first project – and then, going into this, it was kind of… I think you hold onto a lot of grief, and especially when you’re caring for someone, as well. So, when my dad passed away, my mum actually needed to be cared for, then. So, I took over caring for my mum. And the music was the thing… The music was the medium to kind of go: “Let’s get all of this out.” Like you said – you know, the idea of rage, and shouting, or whatever. It was kind of, like: “It’s all going to go into the music.”
[00:56:50] Amanda Palmer talks about: it’s the shit that makes the flowers grow, in terms of…
[00:56:54] JL: You’ve got it. Yes, yes. So, I think all three of us were very clear on the idea that: “If we’re going to do this, it has to be as honest as possible.” There’s no makeup – it’s scars, and spots, and everything is going to go into this. You have to see the true reflection. And yes, we make music very easily. We don’t struggle with it. We’re not – thankfully, anyway – we’re not people that are like: “Ah, the creative juices aren’t flowing.” We all go through periods of: “I haven’t made anything in a month.” Or: “I haven’t written anything in a month,” or whatever. But we’re all quite encouraging within the group, where it’s like: “Look, it’ll come around, it’ll come around.” So yes, we just said: “We’re going to do this. We’re going to do this ourselves, from start to finish.”
We went to America to play some shows, and while we… Just when we came home, we heard from a record label – which would have been really big to me, when I was growing up, as a teenager. So, a lot of my favourite acts were all on this record label – and they got in touch with us, and they were like: “We didn’t see one of your shows, but we’ve got a phone call. Someone rang us from Austin, Texas – in New York – and was like: ‘Sign these guys, now!’” So, the lady said: “When is your album coming out?” And we were like: “Three weeks’ time.” And she said: “OK, I want you to put it back for six months, and we’ll release it, and we’ll give it the proper treatment that it needs.” And just, for us, we were like: “We can’t do that. Because we’ve already told the people that it’s coming out, and we owe it to the people to put it out.” And she was kind of like: “You’re going to do it independently? I can put money behind this.” And we were just like: “No. We made a promise to the people – we’re not breaking the promise to the people.” So, we released it ourselves - and each time that we do something, we learn more, and more, and more.
[00:59:02] RM: And I’m guessing none of you has big bags of cash.
[00:59:05] JL: Oh, certainly not, no. Look, you’re talking to three youth workers. As a former youth worker, you know: the pay is OK. [Laughter].
[00:59:15] RM: The pay is not OK, John. It’s enough to live on, but you’ll never save anything to bankroll a music career.
[00:59:23] JL: Yes, that’s it. But, we’ve never taken… Occasionally, you get a new pair of trainers, if you’re in Rusangano – but that’s that.
[00:59:30] RM: Yes, you do have nice trainers [laughter]. Nice New Balance, there. You need to Instagram a photo of those.
[00:59:34] JL: There you go, yes. So, occasionally, you get a new pair of trainers. Or if I need whatever materials I need to make the music… So, we make sure we invest in good microphones, we invest in good mixers, and anything like that. But all the rest of the money, we actually just keep it, and we go: “This is to further the group.” Because we want this to develop into something, and you need the overheads for it. We were very lucky, in that we have got some support from Limerick City of Culture 2020, and also the Clare Arts Office have occasionally given us small, little bursaries, as well, to work with. So, that’s what allowed us to do it. One grant of 300 Euros will allow Rusangano to put their debut album out.
[01:00:22] RM: Doesn’t that show you the power of funders, and funding, and even small amounts of funding? And why artists need support.
[01:00:29] JL: And you can do all this yourself. I suppose we were lucky, in that I had written for music magazines before, so I was aware of how to write a press release, who to send them to. Small, little things within the press industry, I might have… We might have had a little bit of a head start, just because I’d had a background in it. But yes – anyone can do this.
[01:00:56] RM: Didn’t you get a big opportunity from a big support… Didn’t you get a big support slot?
[01:01:03] JL: Oh we did, yes – we got a few. So, the one that you’re probably talking about is Snoop Dogg.
[01:01:07] RM: Oh yes! [Laughter] You might want to mention that.
[01:01:10] JL: So yes, Snoop Dogg heard… Someone played Snoop Dogg some of our music, and I remember sitting in a buddy’s house that night, and my Twitter started to get more and more active. And then, it got to the point of: the phone was just on full-on vibration the whole way through. And I was like: “Something’s going on.” My buddy was kind of like: “What?” And I was like: “I don’t know. But I think that Snoop Dogg likes us.” And he was like: “What?!” And then, maybe, a couple of hours later, the phone went, and it transpired that Snoop Dogg was going to be coming to Ireland, someone had passed him our music, he liked it, and was like: “Will you come and do the support for two nights?” So, for us, that was just mind-blowing.
[01:01:58] RM: You’re talking about 10,000 crowds?
[01:02:00] JL: No, it was actually… No, it was in the Academy, so it was a real reduced-down crowd.
[01:02:05] RM: But it was a pretty hard-core crowd?
[01:02:07] JL: Oh, for sure, yes. And it would have been the biggest audience that we would have played to, certainly at that point. And that, really, was something that got the wheels in motion for us, and people were like: “Why would Snoop Dogg take an interest in this Irish act?” And we met some other people along the way – we played at a wedding in Galway, and we were in the middle of performing at this wedding, and someone was jumping beside me. And I was like: “Ah, they’re making the record skip!” And then, when I turned, it was Ed Sheeran. And it was like: “What? Ed Sheeran is dancing on the stage, here, beside me?” So, he had been at the wedding, and afterwards, he sat and talked with us, and was like: “Guys, this is really good stuff.” And I remember, two days later, he was interviewed on Today FM, and someone was like: “Is there any Irish acts that you like, at the moment?” And he was like: “Actually, there’s this rap group from Limerick.” And the host was like: “The Robber Bandits.” And he was like: “No, actually, I think it’s called God Knows, My Name Is John, or something?” So, that was great. And yes, we did some support with a group called Run The Jewels, as well. That was quite early on, and they would have been… For me, El-P was kind of like my hero, as a producer. And I loved the politics that Killer Mike was presenting publicly. And when we performed with them, they just afterwards, backstage, said some stuff to us where it was like, a real pinch-yourself moment, where: “Are they telling us that we’re good?” And they actually didn’t seem like they were faking it. They were kind of like: “Woah, you’re really good.” And that’s when we were kind of like: “OK – I think we should really, really start to take this serious. Because anyone that we’ve played with, who we really admire, isn’t looking at us like just the support act that’s brought in on the day. They seem to want to meet us, afterwards, and talk to us.” And yes, you just have to take it…
Every experience like that, for us, is an amazing gift. It’s brought us to another platform afterwards, and we’ve used those things, as well. That’s important to say: that it’s not like we just went and did it, and we never mentioned it again. We’ve used those things to go: “These are stepping stones. These put us in a slightly stronger position – whether it’s dealing with a promoter, or dealing with a festival.” Even just to interact with those people online, every now and again. We’re not in regular contact with Snoop Dogg or Ed Sheeran, I can promise you that – but just to keep relationships going, and to strengthen your own belief in yourself. Where you actually feel like you can do this.
And it’s something that… It’s very hard to explain to people how to have the courage to stand up, and go: “I’m going to give this as good a go as I possibly can, and I don’t care what anyone says.” And, literally, I don’t care what anyone thinks of Rusangano, because I’m having the best time doing it. But if you can throw off the shackles of worrying about what someone is going to think, or whether someone is going to judge you in some kind of way - you find out it just becomes so easy, because you’re so relaxed. Trying to achieve what it is that you want to achieve – if you achieve it, brilliant. If you don’t: well, nothing ventured, nothing gained. But you probably end up on a very interesting path in life, where there’s so much more adventures that are about to come.
Like, I don’t know, in five years’ time, if I’m going to be making rap music. But I’m pretty sure that I probably won’t be going back to the youth services, in the capacity that I was in before. And that’s not to say that I don’t want to do this. I’ve always wanted to interact with young people, because I think it’s a really important thing. And I think it’s really important for me, as well – because I learn as much… Every time I work with a young person, I learn, probably, twice as much as they do. Just to see their outlook on life, and also to see… It’s a great thing to spend time with a young person, because when you’re a little bit older, you have seen… I’ve seen the puddles of life, a little bit, you know? And it’s great when you are interacting with young people, and it’s just all optimism, and the world is still so full of wonder. And they have the potential to achieve anything. Sometimes, young people don’t actually… It’s like they don’t see it in themselves. And I probably, definitely, didn’t see it in myself as a teenager. But more so, now, it’s like: “Yes, I want to help people.” If I feel like that kid is going someplace, or that kid has a calling, but he just doesn’t know that he has a calling – I want to try and help in whatever way that I can, doing something like that. So, if music doesn’t work out, I may go back down that route – but it’ll be a different route, because of decisions that we’ve made to progress, as a band. And I don’t think anyone should be ever scared to stand up and go: “I’m going to give this a go. If it doesn’t work out, that doesn’t matter.” You know? It’s about the journey, it’s not about where you’re trying to get to. It’s the craic that you’re having on the journey – that’s the most important thing, I think.
[01:07:46] RM: And, a clarification for anybody from the US that is listening, that “craic” is not the drug [laughter]. So, on that note, I really, really appreciate all those nuggets of wisdom. And maybe we’ll do another interview in 10 years, and find out where all this leads to.
[01:08:01] JL: Brilliant, yes. I’ll probably be back being a youth worker [laughter].
[01:08:05] RM: I’ll be applying for grants for youth services, from you guys. Look, thanks so much, John.
[01:08:11] JL: No, thank you, thank you.
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