In The Beginning:
In the late 1970s and early 1980s the fishing village of Howth, Co. Dublin had a thriving music scene. In late 1982 the ex-members of the two Howth bands, Vis A Vis (a 3 piece experimental bedroom band with access to a studio) and Deaf Actor (stalwarts of the Dublin post punk scene) got together to see what would happen under the working title ‘Iphigenie In Tuanua’ . A number of experimental recording sessions (combined with extended partying in Howth) took place over a number of months that eventually led to the formation of In Tua Nua in early 1983.
The early players included:
From Vis A Vis: guitarist/engineer Ivan O’Shea, composer Martin Clancy and opera singer Miriam Blennerhassett.
From Deaf Actor: drummer Paul Byrne and two of the bands side-kicks, Sax and clarinet player Daragh Tanham and violinist Steve Wickham
(played on U2’s ‘War’ album and later joined The Waterboys).
Initial demos were recorded by Ivan in Eamon Andrews Studios where he worked as house sound engineer. Once the songs were ready, Lombard 24 track studio was booked with engineer Gerry Leonard (guitarist with Howth band ‘The Spies’, later became David Bowie’s MD).The resulting demo was called ‘Welcome The Freshness’.
The next series of sessions were used in part as the search for a permanent female vocalist. Also engineered by Gerry in Lombard, these recordings were more solid and rock based and included Jack Dublin (Deaf Actor), piper Vinnie Kilduff (played on U2’s ‘October’ album), the 15 year old Sinead O’Connor (who had attracted Paul’s attention when she sang at his sister’s wedding) and of course Leslie Dowdall who had previously been recorded by Ivan with her band ‘The Assembly’. The resulting demo had two songs:
‘Take My Hand’ featuring Sinead”
“Stop Turn’ featuring Leslie”
After some very positive feedback from various music contacts in London the gang got together and cemented the first official line up under the name ‘In Tua Nua’, an abbreviation of the original name and which coincidently was the rough translation of ‘ A New Tribe’ in Irish.
In Tua Nua Mark 1
In the spring of 1983, as well as recording demos in Eamon Andrews Studios, In Tua Nua started rehearsing in Daragh’s garage on top of Howth hill and then moved into a cottage on Balscadden road overlooking the sea where they wrote and rehearsed everyday for six months. Some members gave up jobs while
Leslie and Paul dropped out of college to give this a real go. There were some common influences amongst the band such as Japan, Durutti Column, Echo and The Bunnymen and early Simple Minds but add to that Leslie’s folk and blues influences, Steve’s interest in jazz and Vinnie’s trad roots and you had a real melting pot. These early rehearsals produced far more instrumentals than songs. In fact at a very early gig in the Summit Inn, Bono brought a mate along called Jim who told Leslie afterwards that ‘you have a great sound but no songs’. It turned out to be Jim Kerr of Simple Minds and it was the night before the Phoenix Park concert.
Vocals: Leslie Dowdall
Guitar: Ivan O’Shea
Keys: Martin Clancy
Drums: Paul Byrne
Bass: Jack Dublin
Violin: Steve Wickham
Pipes & whistles: Vinnie Kilduff
Sax and Clarinet: Daragh Tanham
That summer the band recorded a demo using the Peter Eades ‘Eerie Mobile’ recording lorry. They took over Daragh’s parents’ house while they were on holidays and parked the lorry in their driveway. Hilariously the Tanham family arrived home early to find Paul in the middle of a drum take in one of the bedrooms with mattresses up against the wall for sound.
The resulting demo included ‘Truth City’.
The First Gig
The band hadn’t intended to play live until they had a full set of songs but when asked to play at a youth rock festival on the back of a truck on the prom at Howth harbour the band agreed to play their first 7 songs (plus a few repeats as encores).
The band went down a storm and started to plan another gig, this time up at The Summit Inn on top of Howth hill. By the end of the summer the band had played twice at The Summit and decided to play a headliner in the city. Rather than play a pub venue like The Baggot, they decided to announce their arrival with a gig in a top venue where international bands played and so booked the Television Club. The band ran buses from Howth to make sure they filled the venue and it worked. They walked out on stage to a packed venue and an 800 strong crowd. This was helped in no small way by Radio Nova who played the band’s demo on all their prime time slots including the breakfast show for the two weeks leading up to the gig.
In six months In Tua Nua had achieved what took most bands a few years. This trend was to continue into 1984 where they played headlines at both Trinity College Dublin and UCD’s rag balls and then got a slot with Bob Dylan at Slane Castle.
In Tua Nua now needed to get a record out and Steve had the answer. While on tour with U2, Bono had mentioned to Steve that he wanted to start a label called ‘Mother Records’ to help Irish bands by financing singles in order to attract the attention of the major labels. Steve called Bono who promptly arrived out to Howth with The Edge where they met with the band and firmed up the idea. Bono then arranged for the band to meet with Adam Clayton who wanted a hands-on role in the project. The result was the band went into Windmill Lane Studios with Peter Walsh as Producer (who had just produced Simple Minds’ hit album New Gold Dream) to record ‘Laughing At The Moon’ as a single and ‘Coming Thru’ as a B-Side. On hearing the results U2 advised them to flip it so that ‘Coming Thru’ was the single. They were right, ‘Coming Thru’ was a massive radio hit in Ireland, released just in time for the Slane gig with Dylan.
The Island Record Deal
By the time the Bob Dylan gig at Slane came around all the major record labels were in a frenzy to sign In Tua Nua. Believing they needed a label that would support albums and touring, the band opted for Island Records and signed with them the day before Slane. The band soon travelled to London to meet the label team, buy new instruments and discuss recording. Their A&R person Nick Stewart didn’t want to rush anything and suggested a mini Album to be recorded in September 1984 for a November release. The band asked him to book Steve Nye (produced Japan, Sylvian, Sakamoto) as he had a great feel for mixing rock, electronic and ethnic sounds. All seemed to be going well!
Three days before going into the studio Nick Stewart found out that the booking had not been made with Nye. Windmill Lane Studios threatened to charge the studio costs either way. The band said they would produce themselves but it was against Island policy. In a panic the band begged Australian producer Steve Cooney, a friend of Vinnie’s, to produce them. Cooney was an exponent of ethnic and folk music, while the band were mostly quite the opposite. Things didn’t run smoothly and the band completed less tracks than they had hoped. One of them, ‘Take My Hand’ ended up becoming an 8 minute long haunting track that sounded more like Clannad than In Tua Nua. On the up side In Tua Nua the won the Stag/Hot Press Award for Best New Band.
In Tua Nua first TV Appearance.
In November 1984 the first Island single ‘Take My Hand’ was finally released and amusingly was named Single of the Week in Melody Maker. The band had no affinity with the record and after a few attempts at playing it live never performed it again. With a few lyrical changes (Tainted Hands) and a choir added it later got used as the theme for the film ‘The Doctor And The Devils’.
Plans were now under way to record their debut album ‘Map Of Days’ with Ian Broudie who had done great work with Echo and The Bunnymen (he later became The Lightning Seeds). Stewart, who always thought Leslie had reminded him of Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane, suggested that the band do a cover of ‘Somebody To Love’. This went against everything the band stood for but the band agreed. In Jan 1985, the band finally went into Windmill with Broudie to record their debut album. The band spent 8 weeks recording and mixing. The single ‘Somebody To Love’ was a huge success with their fans in Ireland (many thought it was an original) and Mert Avis shot a video for the single which he filmed in front of Powerscourt Waterfall, all lit up at night.
Somebody to Love
That summer the band put in a memorable performance opening for U2 at Croke Park. Meanwhile Island decided they wanted Broudie to remix the album in Liverpool. Before the new mixes were complete Island MD Dave Robinson quit and Island were left rudderless. All releases of new acts were suspended. After a few months Dave Matthews (Matthews Southern Comfort) was asked to come on board to help develop the roster of new talent and was asked to remix the In Tua Nua album yet again. Around this time, tired of waiting for something to happen, Steve Wickham decided to leave and join The Waterboys. In the absence of a proper MD, the financial controller was now running Island and in late 1986 dropped In Tua Nua (and 9 other bands) without releasing their album ‘Map Of Days’.
The New ‘New Tribe’
After the shock of being dropped and finding themselves in debt the band took stock and regrouped. They decided to move away from the method of writing by jamming riffs and turn to good old-fashioned, chord-based songwriting. To begin with everyone had to go away and write a song by him or herself. The results were quite good but very diverse.
Shortly after this Vinnie decided to leave the band also. So now they were down to 5 members. Although the band felt they could function perfectly well this way, manager Mark Clinton advised that the pipes and violin were crucial to the bands’ sound so they agreed to look for replacements for Steve and Vinnie. After lots of searching and auditioning the band finally found Aingeala De Burca (violin) and Brian O’Brian (pipes and sax). Now seven again they went back on the road around Ireland and started to attract the attention of some labels, especially Virgin Records who loved to pick up and succeed with bands dropped by their indie rival Island.
Early 1986 Island records, Italy released a compilation album entitled ‘Somebody To Love’ which had some tracks recorded for Map Of Days. Meanwhile the band were signed by Ronnie Gurr of Virgin Records and also played at Self Aid where their performance grabbed many of the headlines.
In Tua Nua – Self Aid – Seven Into The Sea
Virgin Records and A Debut Album…Finally
The band went into Westland Studios (ex Lombard) with Will Gosling as producer-engineer assisted by Tim Martin to record ‘Seven Into The Sea’ as a single, a rocker written by Jack very much in the style of Deaf Actor. At this point also Martin Clancy decided to play less keys and concentrate on guitar adding some Keith Richards grit to the band’s sound. The result was a thunderous rock/dance crossover track which became an instant hit in Holland where the 12” remix also went down very well. Later that year in November the band went there for a small tour and met Grace Von Oven who started up a successful fanclub that played a big part in the band’s success there.
After Self Aid the band travelled to The Wool Hall Studios in Bath to record the album with Will Gosling. Much of the time was spent working on the next single ‘Heaven Can Wait’. Later that year, after the bands’ first tour of Holland they went back to Bath, this time to work with David Lord in his studio where they recorded three more songs, ‘Right Road To Heaven’, ‘Valuable Lessons’ and ‘Walking On Glass’ (Leslie’s first full solo composition). ‘Heaven Can Wait’ was released in early 1987 with ‘Belt Me’ as the B-Side and the band filmed a video with John T. Davis (famed for his documentary on Route 66).
Heaven Can Wait
In May 1987, In Tua Nua finally released their debut album ‘Vaudeville’. They spent most of that summer playing doing promo in Europe. They had numerous slots at festivals around Europe so rather than return home each week they rented cheap accommodation to both keep down travel costs and give the band a chance to write for the next album. They ended up spending two weeks in cabins in a rain sodden forest in Holland, two weeks in a farmhouse on top of a mountain in San Sebastian, Restagassi in Italy and a week at a rehearsal complex in a built up suburb of Munich.
USA and The Long Acre
The European tour ended in Munich supporting U2 in the Olympic Hall for two nights. Don Dixon (produced REM) flew into Munich to see the band’s second night with U2 and then go into a studio and record a single with a view to travelling to North Carolina to work with him on the album. The band all loved Don from the moment they met him. The two songs they did were ‘Some Things Never Change’, which was released as a single later that year, and ‘Sweet Lost Soul’ both written in Restagassi.
Over the course of this working/travelling Summer Paul and Martin had discovered the benefits of co-writing. They regularly finished each other’s songs, Paul adding melody to Martin’s Leonard Cohen style musings and Martin adding some spice to Paul’s lyrics. Jack soon followed suit passing a couple of unfinished songs for them to rework the lyrics and melodies. Emigration, a major talking point among the band’s friends and families was a theme that was creeping into a lot of their songs. Finally In Tua Nua had found a writing style, so long after finding their sound.
On their return to Ireland the band then went into rehearsals for a month but without Leslie who had been told to rest her voice completely. It was left to Paul to do all the singing until Leslie was back in action. The result was the transition from Paul as Leslie’s backing singer to Paul as a singer in his own right and to mark this the band decided that he would sing one of the songs on the album. Meanwhile, Clinton was busy organizing some show case gigs in LA and New York to show Virgin US what they had passed up on by not releasing the previous album over there.
In November 1987, the band travelled to Charlotte, North Carolina where they spent three weeks recording ‘The Long Acre’ in Reflection Studios. Quite significantly Jack was now playing guitar on nearly every song, as was Martin so Ivan switched over to bass. This worked out well in the studio and decisions on who would play what live could wait until the New Year. The band felt confident they had two good singles in ‘All I Wanted’ and ‘Don’t Fear Me Now’ and the showcases were a huge success. Plans were immediately put in place for the release and touring of ‘The Long Acre’ in the US. The band finished the year on a high with a sell out show at the Olympia Theatre in Dublin.
In Tua Nua Mark III
In early 1988 Aingeala de Burca left the band so the search was on for violin player number 3. As luck would have it Lovely Previn (daughter of world renowned pianist and conductor Andre Previn) was living in Dublin so the band offered her the gig, which she accepted. Switching to become production manager, Ivan also left the band (and went on to become a very successful sound engineer). The band now needed either a guitarist or a bass player to cover all the extra parts that Jack had played on the album. As it happened a bass-playing friend from Howth, Matt Spalding, was living in LA and looking for a way out. His style was very like Jack so he took over bass freeing Jack to move full time to guitar. Having just Lovely and Matt appeared in all the promo photos for The Long Acre and its singles.
‘All I Wanted’ became the bands most successful single reaching number 69 in the UK charts and becoming a college radio hit right across the US. The band followed up with the single ‘Don’t Fear Me Now’ and toured Europe and the UK that summer which included playing with Fleetwood Mac at the Nürburgring. Their only Irish date that year was a secret gig at the legendary Baggot Inn in Dublin to launch the album. In November the band embarked on their first full-blown tour of the US playing 28 dates in 31 days starting in Dallas and finishing in Atlanta.
Los Angeles and The Break Up
In January 1989 the band started rehearsing and demoing new material in their new studio/office complex in Lotts Lane in Dublin. LA Producer Paul Fox was booked to produce the next album and arranged for Leslie, Paul and Martin to come to LA to try some co-writing with some songwriters that he knew. The fruits of this were ‘When Night Comes Down On Sunset’ written with Mark Goldenberg (Automatic – Pointer Sisters), ‘Change’ written with Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly (Like A Virgin – Madonna, True Colors – Cyndi Lauper) and ‘Sweet Nothing’ written with Pamela Reswick, Stephen Werfel (Good To be Back – Natalie Cole).
During this time the band parted company with manager Mark Clinton. In June the rest of the band arrived, recorded the album and went home again in July. Finally in late August 1989 Leslie, Paul and Martin arrived home with the completed mixes, which had been very warmly received by Virgin LA, to find that the band was splitting up. Then followed ten months of litigation over the name. Between September 1989 and June 1990, after being so close to breaking big in the US, In Tua Nua died a slow quiet death. There were no big announcements and no press articles, they just slowly vanished.
The Easter Rising
Late 2003 Paul got in touch with other original members, Leslie, Martin, Ivan, Jack and Steve to see if they wanted to get together for a 20th anniversary drink. Steve and Vinnie didn’t make it but the rest of them had a right old time and buried the past. The upshot was that Leslie, Paul and Jack decided they wanted to do some gigs and play some of the LA album live while the others gave their blessing but were too busy themselves. Paul brought in Derek Cronin on keys, Mairead Nesbit on violin and Leo Rickard on pipes while Jack recruited their old guitar roadie Andrew Bass on guitar (as he knew the guitar parts better than anyone).
On Easter Sunday, 11th April 2004, this new line up took the stage to a full house in The Baily Court Hotel Ballroom, Howth. While Paul and Leslie had done a few gigs together over the years, it was 17 years since Jack and Paul had played together as a rhythm section. As Jack said of his playing partnership with Paul ‘it was like putting on a comfortable old pair of slippers’.
The band did a few more gigs that year finishing with a Christmas gig in Howth. In January 2005 Leslie went to the US for six moths so everything was put on permanent hold. In 2007 Paul oversaw the re-mastering of Vaudeville, The Long Acre and the unreleased LA album calling it ‘When Night Came Down On Sunset’. The three albums had a short-lived digital release on iTunes through Setanta Records but were eventually taken down due to legal reasons. Since 2005 Paul’s media company Optophonic have worked to keep the band’s name alive through their website, YouTube, MySpace and facebook.
In 2010, Italian record label MP & Records released ‘Vaudeville’ and ‘The Long Acre’ on CD with bonus tracks using Paul’s digitally re-mastered versions. This proved to be a spark and in 2011 the band decided to go into the studio to re-record ‘All I Wanted’ in order to have something of their own to kick start some promotion and get things moving again.
In 2012 the band released the updated ‘All I Wanted’ on iTunes and played at Ireland’s biggest music festival ‘Electric Picnic’. Everything was going great and an Irish Tour was booked for the Autumn. But a week before the Tour the band found out that the Tour Promotor was a in fact a fraudster. There was no tour. This was a big blow to the band who had rehearsed all Summer long. Still the band rolled on and booked a Christmas date at The Button Factory, Dublin. Since then the band have headlined the annual ‘Night For Pieta House’ at The Olympia Theatre three times, the most recent was April 2017.
Following on from the great reception they received at The Olympia, the band decided to do an Irish tour.
To be cont…
© In Tua Nua 2017