Interview: The Saw Doctors

Matthew SparkesA Sugababes cover has given Irish outfit the Saw Doctors their highest-ever profile in the UK - much to their surprise, as MATTHEW SPARKES discovers.Further listening: The Saw DoctorsMatthew Sparkes

A Sugababes cover has given Irish outfit the Saw Doctors their highest-ever profile in the UK - much to their surprise, as MATTHEW SPARKES discovers.

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Membership of the Saw Doctors has never been set in stone. In fact, in the current line-up there are more new names than original and the roll-call of ex-members currently stands at nine - including one that left after a six-figure lottery win.

But despite this constantly-changing line-up the band has clung to its Irish-rock roots and maintains a cult following in its home country and the US. But mainstream success has eluded them on our shores.

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But last year, after a long fallow period, they were dragged back into the spotlight by the unlikeliest of songs.

When making an appearance on an Irish TV show where bands have to cover a song chosen randomly, the Saw Doctors found themselves performing About You Now by the Sugababes.

It proved so popular that the band released it, promising all profits to a cystic fibrosis charity.

To everyone's surprise - and none more than founder-member and father of three, Davy Carton, it was a number one hit in Ireland - despite the Sugababes themselves only making it to number two.

Carton describes it as 'a complete miracle' and 'completely out of the blue', and it's a success that has also drawn the attention of UK listeners.

Now the long-running band is embarking on a 17-date tour which will see it travel the length and breadth of the country, stopping off in Norwich this weekend.

'We've got a tour bus and we've got bunks on it. We can adapt. To be honest, we're good travellers,' said Carton.

The band will be appearing at the UEA, and not for the first time. 'We used to have it regularly on our tour,' said Carton, but explained almost apologetically that time off to see the towns he plays are rare. 'It's a long time since we've been here, so it's nice to come back. It's probably ten years ago.'

And it seems that despite the band having been almost constantly on the road since the late 80s, the job has lost none of its appeal for Carton.

'I wouldn't change anything. It's fantastic. You still get the buzz. There's nothing like getting up there on stage and making a fool of yourself,' he said.

Of course, as tours inevitably do, these concerts coincide with the release a new record, To Win Just Once… The Best of The Saw Doctors.

Carton says that choosing songs to appear on a greatest hits album proved too difficult for the band, so they delegated it.

'We got a friend of ours to pick the songs,' he admitted. 'Everyone would have had different ones, we'd still be arguing about it in 20-years.'

But this may not be the definitive greatest hits, as Carton said the band would consider a second volume if there was demand for it.

And even then, a die-hard's record collection would soon be incomplete again, as there are more releases yet to come.

'We've got a new album ready to go. This was the time to do that, really. Our new band is playing well and singing well, and we're writing nice songs.'

The record, whose name is not yet revealed, is due for release just after Christmas, once the Greatest Hits tour is done and dusted.

Carlton said the upcoming record was one of his favourites, and was hopeful that it would attract a new, younger audience.

But he was also keen to criticise radio stations for failing to give the band enough airtime, which makes it hard to reach new listeners.

For what is an already prolific band there seems to be no end in sight, as the Saw Doctors are already looking ahead - two records ahead - and working on yet another album.

The band's roots go back to the late 1980s when as a little-known local bar band in County Galway when they were unexpectedly invited by Mike Scott to be the opening act on the Waterboys' 1988 tour.

Renamed The Saw Doctors they had success with their second single, I Useta Love Her, a turbo-charged tune about lusting for an old girl during Mass. Despite opposition by the Catholic Church, it became the biggest-selling single in Irish history and spent nine weeks at the top of the Irish charts.

Their first two albums, If This Is Rock and Roll, I Want My Old Job Back and All the Way from Tuam, were both huge successes in Ireland, but they didn't have their first hit on this side of the Irish Sea until releasing a four-track EP, Small Bit of Love.

More than a decade on, and with Carton's love and excitement for the industry barely hidden in his voice, why would he stop? He loves what he is doing, he tells me, and has dreamed of it ever since he was six-years-old.

For a man who once virtually gave up his music career to spend a decade working in a textile factory to support his family, a reluctance to retire and step out of the limelight is entirely understandable.

'It will probably have to stop, but not at the moment,' he said.

t The Saw Doctors play the UEA on December 13.

t To Win Just Once: The Best Of The Saw Doctors is out now.

Further listening: The Saw Doctors