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Oyster Band - A Basket of Oysters

J.J. Also, playing for that circuit acquaints you with a great many different venues. We’ve had snooker tables as stages, great barns, aircraft hangars, all sorts of places… and lots of people with different expectations – some in cowboy hats, some totally unaware of what they might get, unable to categorise the music. You learn a great deal about audiences I think. We made a lot of mistakes publicly, but we gave value for money – we were always exciting, even when things didn’t quite work.

I.T. It was never dull!

Do you find it more exciting playing for people who haven’t got preconceived ideas about what kind of folk music they’ll listen to? Presumably at something like a PTA it just hinges on making their feet work?

J.J. Oh definitely. And there’s a real sense of achievement from taking those people through from something very simple and in the end putting them through a dance they never thought (and maybe you never thought) they’d be able to do at the beginning of the evening. And creating an atmosphere like a festival. We gave them some pretty heavy songs too. sometimes: we always tried to keep some songs in – shatter them by the interval and slip a couple of songs in. It’s well worth it.

I.T. Having the two identities running in tandem for a while was very convenient in a business sense, because when there were great commercial pressures on the Dram it was exceedingly convenient to just swap hats and do something else. Now I think it has reached the stage when it’s ready to feed back a little in the other direction – having learned a lot about attack, loose playing, improvisation and that kind of thing, it’s maybe time to kind of drift back a little in the other direction.

Does Fiddler’s Dram technically exist any more?

I.T. Only as a bank account! It’ll never gig again. Colin’s remark in the last Southern Rag about the Dram having become contrived and the Oysters throwing caution to the wind I’m sure sums up Alan’s feelings on it.

J.J. Alan having been at the heart of the Dram arrangements, his intricate guitar playing. He loves to have fun with music and he really has broken off those particular ideas. He doesn’t like to be restrained any more. He’s really enjoyed the fun that we’ve had.

Somewhere between the first and second Oyster albums, you dropped the word ‘Ceilidh from the name. Presumably this means you have intentions of being seen as more than just a ceilidh band?

I.T. Putting it in the name originally was intended to convey the song-and-dance thing, but the number of people who understood that… the word never became totally current in English. The number of people who understood it was outweighed by the number who expected you to go along and do Irish rebel songs or something.

Oyster Band
Oyster Band 1982 Photo: Ian Anderson

From Southern Rag 15, January 1983


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