Quangodelic: “It’s Like a Runaway Train!”

After years of laying down the funk, the whole funk, and nothing but the funk around Cork City, the multiple-headed beast that is Quangodelic is finally ready to give up their debut album and turn it loose on an unsuspecting population. Mike McGrath-Bryan talks with bassist and bandleader Pat Allott.

Your writer can hear the eyeballs rolling in the backs of people’s heads as he types, but there’s always been something a little of Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band surrounding Corkonian funkers Quangodelic. If not musically, then certainly in terms of structure, a rotating door of some of Cork’s finest musicians coming in and out as they please, resulting some nights in tight, funky performances, and others in controlled, collaborative chaos. It’s all part of the charm for a band that’s been slugging away for years in Cork city on a fairly solitary path, alternating between tutting, smirking social commentaries and livewire takes on funk and soul classics with a Blaxploitation vibe.

A bit mad for a collective that revolves around adopted Corkman Pat Allott, who reclines in a seat upstairs in the Sin É on Coburg Street, right before the evening rush, and regales your writer with the story of how the band’s aesthetic and original material came together from a regular residency at the Roundy, on Castle Street. “It was always live, but I was a big fan of the Munster Soul nights, there were some really good DJ nights in Cork, so when we started doing it, I was thinking, ‘y’know, we might attract more people if they think it’s a DJ thing’. So, we’d do a Black icon on the posters to make it look like a Munster Soul night, try to sneak people in. It was a stupid thing to do, because we called it Quangodelica, and everyone got confused between the band and the night. It was foolish behaviour, but you learn from the mistakes.”

The band’s self-titled debut intends to act as an introduction for new listeners, and has slowly been on the boil for a number of years, reflective of the band’s approach to creativity, recording and the grand balance between anywhere up to fifteen performers across the record’s duration. The theme for the album came to Allott amid all of that chaos, during their studio time in the sadly-defunct Camden Palace Hotel, and that’s a fair assessment of the experience. “It’s always tricky when you’ve got that many people. The advantages to something that big, is a different energy, live. I’ve played lots of different types of music over the years, and this is so much fun. When you’ve got a big horn section, guitars… you can’t out-’ear-damage’ three trumpeters, they’re so powerful, and it becomes this thing. Sometimes it’s really difficult to stop. Quangodelic on a good night, it’s like a runaway train, you don’t know where it’s going to go, what’s gonna happen or who’s going to show up. The advantage of having so many people, is that you can keep the show on the road if you’re missing a few. It’s a matter of who’s available when, ‘cause people have lives!”

That same recording process, and the resultant herding of cats across several studios and rehearsal spaces, has contributed to the feel of the record, a faithful document to the band’s live experience. Getting that feel has been all-important to Allott specifically, and he’s happy with the end result in that regard. The process itself, though, was a reflection of some of the band’s own circumstances and events. “I think the trick was to not use the click track, get it live as possible. It is that simple. If you overthink it… some of it worked really well, some tunes didn’t come out so good so they didn’t make the album. One of the sessions we did, the drummer had got horribly drunk the night before and broke one of his favourite drum machines, which made him really cross and intense, so the songs that needed to sound relaxed sounded awful, but that songs that needed to sound cross, he was absolutely on it.”

The record was mixed by Charleville man Stephen Rea and mastered by Rockstar Studio in the UK. The real stars of this release, however, are Dublin record-pressers Dublin Vinyl, the first new plant in Ireland in over three decades, and specialists in affordable short runs for indie artists. “I have only got good stuff to say about Dublin Vinyl. I handed over the masters to them, and got back a good, thick, 180-gram vinyl. It sounds amazing so far. We kept the length of sides to the right length. Keep it less than 22 minutes a side, and they can do a good thick groove that sounds right.”

Pat’s own excursions into crate-digging over the past few decades have created a rich and varied archive of releases for him to dig into for DJ sets and other adventures, including a lifetime of engagement with community radio stations. This continues today with his weekly slot with Coburg St.-based online station Room101, ‘The Funk, The Whole Funk and Nothing But the Funk’, a pre-recorded set directly from his decks, and the depths of his collection. “I’ve done a lot of DJing (at radio and in clubs) for a long time, and what happened when I came to Ireland was, I was doing a lot of indie stuff, goth stuff like the Sisters of Mercy to keep the punters happy. Then I moved to Dublin, and I was free to reinvent myself, play funk, hip-hop… Alex at Room101 is dead-on. The big thing is sitting down, playing records, getting them onto MP3. The show is (taken from) my collection, and that takes time, but it’s also really nice. When you have shedloads of stuff lying around at home, it’s kind-of sad, so it’s nice to be able to listen.”

The band, in various configurations, is taking on a small run of dates around the county to launch the record, including a February 22nd trip to the Kino, on Washington Street, for a free gig. The venue has played host to the band in the past, and a stage of that size is well-able to play host to the whole ensemble on the big night. But capacity aside, the venue has a special significance for Allott himself. “We were doing a regular one there for a while, it was lovely. Because it’s an old cinema, it’s a ‘dry room’, and treated in such a way that if you hit a snare, it doesn’t reverberate forever. I love the Kino, I took my daughter to see Studio Ghibli films there when she was young enough, when it was still a cinema. I’m delighted it’s still in action at some level, with lots of good stuff on, it’s a great venue.”

Quangodelic play The Kino on Washington Street on Friday, February 22nd. Kickoff is at 9pm, and admission is free. The band’s self-titled long-player will be available physically on the night.