James Yorkston returns to Cork a year almost to the day since he was last here. That visit occurred a month before the release of his wonderful solo studio album The Route to the Harmonium. Funnily, he was appearing here as part of the acclaimed Yorkston/Thorne/Khan trio and the release of the British-Indian combo’s forthcoming third album, Navarasa : Nine Emotions, coincides with Yorkston’s Irish visit, but Yorkston is here in his capacity as a solo artist.
“It’s ridiculous, he exclaims. “Yeah, it’s not been good planning on my part, I admit. It seems very daft. The Thorne/Khan album comes out on the 24th (January) and then I’m with you on the 26th. I can only blame myself, you know. I have so many things that I look after.”
And indeed he does: aide from his solo affairs and organising Yorkston/Thorne/Khan, Yorkston also runs the monthly club night Tae Sup wi’ a Fifer and is a published author with a third book currently in discussion.
“Still looking forward to coming over,” he tells me. “I haven’t done any solo shows in Ireland for a while, so I’m looking forward to it.”
Having enjoyed many a childhood family holiday in west Cork the Scottish musician has a life-long connection with the county and the country and he relishes any chance to return her to perform. There is, however, one potential obstacle to this on the horizon.
“It all depends on what happens with this Brexit nonsense,” he fumes. “It all depends how easy it’s going to be for travel. We may to have to smuggle ourselves over from the North.”
It certainly puts the question of Scottish Independence back in the frame, and while that is something Yoprkston would welcome he feels the country is suffering from referendum fatigue.
“I mean you can see now that Brexit is going to happen no one is really kicking up a fuss about it because we’re all so tired about it and I don’t think now is the time for another Scottish referendum because I think we would lose. I think people have just had enough of referendums, unfortunately. I wish we hadn’t been scared out of it with the last one because one of the main reasons that we voted to stay within the UK is because of the scaremongering, people saying that we would lose our place in the EU. And of course now we’ve lost our place in the EU anyway,” he says exasperated.
“I mean I can hope and I wish for Scottish independence but I think until things have calmed down I can’t see people voting for more uncertainty.”
The topic of Scottish independence leads nicely to ‘The Irish Wars of Independence’, one of the many highlights from The Route to the Harmonium.
“That was all about Catholicism really,” Yorkston explains. “Because we were brought up in a very Protestant area. And it was nothing to do with me. The 70s, all the stuff that was going on in the North we were brought into it just by the noose of religion.
“It’s just another way, really, of just talking about the idiocy of religion, especially when it’s just two sides of the same supposedly Christian thing causing so much grief and heartache. And then, of course, there’s lots of lines about my childhood. That is really talking about my childhood in the 70s and how it was affected by this friction between the two communities. Because although obviously it’s very bad in the North we felt it as well where we were in Scotland.”
He adds: “There wasn’t tension in the way that there was in the North. It wasn’t like that. It was more just kind of, you know we came from a tiny catholic school and then we were moved in to the main secondary. But of course we’d been taught that everyone else was going to burn in hell, you know. So all of a sudden you’re making friends with all these people, but then in the back of your mind remembering that all these friends you’ve got are going to burn hell,” he chuckles.
But as a child you met the devil in Ireland, if we are to believe ‘The Irish Wars of Independence’.
“That song is quite cut and paste and that was a reference to when we were down in west Cork we used to stay in a place between Skibereen and Baltimore. And there was a folly and my father used to say: ‘That is where the devil lives.’ It was just a way of scaring the shite out of us,” he laughs.
“I think the video for that song explains quite a lot. It’s all imagery. I love that song. It’s a great pop song. I love the chorus. And it’s a big surprise to me that it wasn’t a huge hit. For me it’s poptastic,” he says tongue in cheek.
James Yorkston plays Coughlan's on Sunday, January 26. Doors 8pm.