' Old, New, Borrowed & Green ' ( Tame Your Tongue)
An optimist is a person who sees a green light everywhere, while a pessimist sees only the red stoplight. . . The truly wise person is color-blind.
Albert Schweitzer (1875 - 1965) French theologian, musician, medical missionary
Celt In A Twist: The Electrics formed in 1988 to play at a Glasgow event known as IMPACT. 17 years later they are still around, and still one of the most authentic and intense bands of this genre, as a review stated. Sammy Horner was one of the original guys, and is still quite an original guy, judging by the music that he and his cohorts put out. Their newest album is “Old New Borrowed Green.” Sam, how are you?
SAM HORNER: I’m doing good, thanks, Cal.
CIAT: So why is it, whenever you want some information on a band, you always go to the bass player?
SAM HORNER: Well you know, that’s the solid player in the band. You can’t trust the drummer, because they’re never going to be on time.
CIAT: Let’s go back to the beginning. How did you all find each other back in 1988?
SAM HORNER: The original guitar player and I were in another band, it was almost that simple. And Dave McArthur the drummer joined us, and a guy who played everything. A guy named Alan Hewitt. And we played IMPACT like you said, just kind of a “one-off” thing. It was an arts festival in Glasgow and then, just bizarrely, the phone kept ringing and we started in universities around Scotland, then within a couple of months we were in Portugal, and Spain, and France. And thank God the phone keeps ringing.
CIAT: Tell us a little bit more about the rest of the band in its current incarnation. Tim Cotteral, Jim Devlin, and Davy McArthur?
SAM HORNER: Well, there’s some news on that. Davy McArthur’s wife just had a baby at the beginning of the year and he felt that it was time to go out. Davy was the only other guy in the band with me from the start. Which is fair enough, you know, with a new baby around and stuff. So, there’s a new guy on drums called Jim Cosgrove, and he’s been doing real good. He’s a real heavy metal guy so that’s kind of fun, having him. And Jim Devlin wasn’t originally in the band but I think he’s played on every single album pretty much. Played guitar. And I think probably about four years ago Jim started coming on the road with us. Jim’s a bit more of a punk guy, you know, he’s always loved the punk rock, hence the sound of the new album I think, because he really is the main guitar guy now in the band.
CIAT: Oh he’s all over it, isn’t he?
SAM HORNER: Oh, yeah. And Tim Cotteral is actually an English bloke, you know, just to show we aren’t racist or anything. We have this English guy playing fiddle and mandolin, and Tim’s actually an amazing musician, but he’s also a great studio guy. He’s a realy good guy with audio technology and it was really Tim and I put this one together. And he’s to thank for a lot of that.
CIAT: Old new borrowed and green has a lot of traditional tunes that you’ve shredded a bit with your electrical ways. How do you approach almost sacred tunes like Caledonia?
SAM HORNER: Well, Caledonia, actually, that’s an original. That’s a brand new tune, that’s not Dougie’s if that’s what you were thinking.
CIAT: Yeah, that’s what we were thinking.
SAM HORNER: No, it’s a completely different song, just the same name. But actually, Dougie does have some influence on it because I always loved his song. And it’s really been done to death. But Frankie Miller’s version of it is, you know, outstanding. And it’s not going to be done any better than Frankie Miller. So we felt something new and something a little bit more uptempo and nod to our Scottish roots as well.
CIAT: The Electrics don’t put out a lot of albums. You’ve got, what, five albums for 17 years of being together.
SAM HORNER: I think we’ve got more. I think we’ve got about eight, actually.
CIAT: Do you find it difficult getting into the studio to record?
SAM HORNER: Not really, it’s just that in the past 17 years I’ve made about 26 albums. I did an album called “The Shanachie” which was sort of Celtic Techno Dance. I did five solo acoustic albums. I’ve also done a whole bunch of like kids stuff and all sorts of things. So I’ve been putting out about three records a year.
CIAT: So the Electrics are just one of your projects.
SAM HORNER: Yeah, and it’s kind of like that for everybody in the band. You know, because Jim’s in about three bands. And the new drummer is in about three bands. And Tim, Tim Cotteral, I think Tim’s one of the two or three fiddle players in his time, so he’s in a lot of demand. So the Electrics is kind of a ….we kind of do festivals around Europe and long weekends away, but we used to do huge tours in the States for about five or six weeks, and actually you know, the tours were insane. We’d start in Alaska and then our next gig would be San Francisco the next afternoon. Or we’d have a gig in Jacksonville, Florida, and have to drive 25 hours and then be on stage the next afternoon. It was crazy stuff. But the other news is actually we’re back in the studio in two weeks for another one.
CIAT: No kidding?
SAM HORNER: This one hasn’t even got to the record company yet. And we’re going to Norway to record and maybe not a full album, maybe a six track EP and DVD. And this festival wanted us back this year and said to us if you come we’ll give you the studio for a week for free.
CIAT: You can’t look that gift horse in the mouth.
SAM HORNER: No, it’s great.
CIAT: I was a little surprised to find the Electrics listed at the Celtic Christian tunes website.
SAM HORNER: Yeah, we’re loved universally.
CIAT:Your delivery of the message is subtle indeed. How do you feel your faith is reflected in your music?
SAM HORNER: I think in America and Canada there’s a whole different thing with that CCN thing, and I think there’s a whole different brand that goes along with it, and we just aren’t part of that brand. We never have been. We’ve always played universities and bars and pubs and anywhere that would have us. But I don’t think it matters who you are. I think you write what you believe and what you think and what comes from inside you anyway. So if you are someone who has faith I think that comes out in things and that’s fair enough. And when you listen to the likes of Shane McGowan and the church of the holy spook you might see some distant memory of being dragged along to a Catholic church. And certainly in the likes of Mike Scott’s writing and Dougie McLean’s a lot of these guys write about spiritual things. In fact a lot of them write about spiritual things maybe even more lucidly than I do.
CIAT: We’re going out on a cover that you’ve done of an old 80s song by the Hooters, called Satellite. So what made you decide to polish up this little gem?
SAM HORNER: Well, there was two things. The title of the album was one thing, Old, New, Borrowed, and Green, so we had to borrow something. We’ve got the green songs, you know, we’ve got Wild Rover in there. And we had the new ones obviously, but we needed to borrow one and I’ve always loved that song. And I think it lends itself to the fiddles and mandolin. I mean it was originally done with accordions, if you remember.
AM HORNER: And the other thing is, I hope you broadcast this out to all the Christian radio stations as well, because this is definitely going to get me banned from them all. This song is probably more apt today than it was then with the whole madness of television evangelists. Promise so much and deliver so little and have absolutely no qualms in asking people for their money. And, are constantly supported by the poor and needy because they sell this hope that just doesn’t materialize. So I always loved the song and I remember at that point when it came out we didn’t have a lot of that stuff on TV in the UK. Unfortunately now we do. And you know with satellite TV now you get what you want really, and they’ve bung all these channels on for free. And they really do make me puke, I have to say. And I thought well, I might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb. So on it went. And quite apart from that it is a great tune.
Sam Horner was interviewed by Celt In A Twist Producer, Cal Koat, March 15th, 2005