Interview: Mickey Bradley

With the legendary Undertones heading to the region for a pair of shows this week, DAVE STEVENS put the questions to bassist and founding member Mickey Bradley.

We’re looking forward to a couple of local gigs, in Norwich and Bury St Edmunds. Tell us about any particularly memorable gigs by The Undertones in Norwich or East Anglia?

One of the first shows we ever did in England was at the UEA, supporting The Rezillos, in November 1978. I remember thinking it was a very cool place – lot of 60s brickwork (I haven’t been back in several decades, so my memory may not be trustworthy).

What I also remember that night is overhearing someone in the audience, who, like me, was watching The Rezillos. And they said “The support band were good”.

Chuffed, I was – chuffed.

What was it like supporting The Fall in Norwich 10 years ago (at the benefit gig for the John Peel Centre for Creative Arts)? We would be really disappointed if you don’t have any interesting Mark E Smith stories.

Sorry, but to my eternal disappointment (also a tiny bit of relief) I didn’t get to see the great MES that night, apart from when he was singing. So, no stories.

But I did realise that I’m more a fan of The Fall’s records and not necessarily the, er, live experience. But I was very, very happy to be in the old home of Anglia TV.

It was the old home for Anglia TV, wasn’t it? Or was our singer Paul [McLoone] telling me stories, again? (It’s what is now Epic, so Paul was spot-on with that – Ed)

The Undertones are one of Northern Ireland's biggest musical exports
The Undertones are one of Northern Ireland’s biggest musical exports

Will you pay your respects to John Peel while you are in the area?

In terms of going to his grave, we did that the last time we were playing at the Apex in Bury St Edmunds. We had to go, given what John did for us.

Whether we’ll get time to do it on this visit, I don’t know. Although I would love to do the Spinal Tap at Elvis’s grave thing – trying to do harmonies, and failing badly.

I’d like to think John Peel would appreciate that.

Around the time of Positive Touch, I remember going along to the soundcheck at the UEA and getting the album signed. During the soundcheck the band did Booker T & The MGs’ Green Onions as well as a few of your own songs. Do you do any unexpected songs nowadays? If not, what would you play?

We had a keyboard with us (although was that the Positive Touch or the Sin Of Pride tour?) and Damian [O’Neill, lead guitar] was going full Time Is Tight.

These days we mainly do our own songs during a soundcheck, to correct the mistakes we made the show before. Or to refresh our memory. Or maybe to slightly change something.

Our drummer Billy [Doherty] often requests we play Waiting For My Man, by The Velvet Underground. He says it’s good for him to sort out his monitor mix.

Mickey Bradley and friends are playing their rescheduled dates in the UK
Mickey Bradley and friends are playing their rescheduled dates in the UK

You’ve got Hugh Cornwell supporting you during some of your current gigs (although not the two East Anglia gigs). What should people watch out for during his set?

Just watch him, because he really is something of a punk rock icon. He does Duchess, he does Skin Deep, Always The Sun, London Lady, and some great new songs, too.

And the two chaps playing with him are brilliant, too.

How was the Devil’s Arse?

Bigger than I thought it was going to be…

A classy cavern, if that’s possible. Small, but with a solidly built stage. And it’s in a beautiful town called Castleton in Derbyshire, which is almost as beautiful as Derry.

I think there’s a regular audience there, and they seemed to think we were good.

No one fell through from the field above. Thankfully.

The Undertones are playing Norwich and Bury
The Undertones are playing Norwich and Bury

It’s great hearing the old classics, but it’s also good to hear new songs. You’ve not produced a new album since Dig Yourself Deep in 2007. Is there anything new planned?

To my eternal shame, I haven’t written a song since the ones that I did for Dig Yourself Deep.

John [O’Neill, rhythm guitar] is still very productive, but in his other non-Undertones music.

But if we were doing brand new songs, that would mean dropping some of the older new songs, or even dropping some of the old Undertones songs.

Or we would have to play for two hours a night. I mean, come on…

(Does this sound like a rational excuse for not working? Good.)

There have been a few collaborations with other groups by band members since Dig Yourself Deep, such as with Ash and Baby Shakes. Are there any other collaborations planned or is there anyone you’d love to collaborate with?

No one. Not my thing. It’s hard enough even playing with this crowd.

You don’t tend to do full-on tours any more, just short runs of a gigs with breaks. What do you do with the rest of your time?

I have a radio show [After Midnight With Mickey Bradley], but that’s only once a week so I can’t count that.

I walk the dog with my wife, but that’s under an hour a day so I can’t count that.

I really have to paint some rooms in the house, but I haven’t even started that.

I enjoy listening to the radio, or reading papers, but I don’t spend that much time doing that so that’s not the answer to your question, either.

So, the answer is, I don’t know what I do with the rest of my time.

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