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The Making of...Duke Special

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ATL | 13:08 UK time, Thursday, 30 August 2012

Duke Special


Despite his reluctance to stick to one thing and a general creative itch, Duke Special remains one of the most trusted performers in the country. Which is why he's been let loose to programme The Mac, a brand new arts venue in Belfast.

'In the Court of...Duke Special' will run from Tuesday 4th to Sunday 9th September and features the likes of The Futureheads, Cathy Davey and The Blockheads as well as The Duke himself.

To celebrate such an exciting venture, it feels like a good time to find out what has made Duke Special the man he is....


The first record I bought It was UB40 ‘Signing Off’, from their debut album, which is really really good.

The last record I bought was Burning Codes 'Rivers of Hope' which I bought last night. I was trying to learn some songs from it for the week at the MAC I’m curating so I guess it was partly for research and partly for sheer enjoyment.

I have a very distinct memory of my parents taking me to the Opera House when I was living in Downpatrick. They took me to see Tommy Makem and Liam Clancy, seeing them made me want to be on a stage like that and do what they do.

I remember the night John Lennon died, they showed a Beatles film on TV and I had this kind of little epiphany that moved me to wanting to perform but of course there are a 100 different little things that also influenced me.

As for watching music with the guys who I perform with - we tend to normally see music together at festivals so I think the last thing was Foy Vance and Cathy Davey at the Tall Ships in Dublin. But Tom Petty is someone we’ve all really enjoyed listening to as a band, we all really like his stuff.

My last album was called 'Oh Pioneer'. It's hard to pick a single influence but there’s a Broadcast album that I listened to just before I recorded that I liked, lots of electronic keyboards and things.

If I had to share the stage with one local act every night it would be Wonder Villains, they write great music and are very fun hang out with.

If I could have anyone join my band it'd be Stephin Merritt, he’s a great lyricist and plays ukulele!

The first cover I ever attempted was when I was quite young - along the lines of traditional Irish, maybe a track like 'Rocky Road to Dublin' or something like that. The last cover I did was 'Sunday Girl' by Blondie, I had to do a cover version for a radio session at Tall Ships with very little notice and it happened to come on the radio when I was heading down to the festival. I’m not sure if it’s much of a surprise but I’ve really started to appreciate a lot more classical music these days and have started listening to a lot more of it. I’ve heard a lot of it from my son's A Level work recently!


Duke Special curates a week of music at The Mac starting Tuesday. Check here for full listings.



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