Interview // The Hot Sprockets
Originally published in the Irish Sun on July 20.
Next weekend sees the return of Knockanstockan to the lakes of Blessington, with a line-up of over 150 acts making it the biggest event in the DIY music festival’s six year history.
For guitarist Tim Cullen of Dublin blues rockers the Hot Sprockets, it’s more than just another weekend in the park – it’s a festival his band helped to set up in 2007 and they’ve been a perennial fixture at the lakes ever since.
“To start off we had this thing called Primal Jelly Social Club – like an open mic night. We got our first gigs through them, just doing it every Wednesday, and then Peter [Keogh] then decided to run a festival for the bands to get away and get to know each other.
“The first one was really tiny – there weren’t many punters there so it mainly just consisted of the bands. I don’t know how many bands played that weekend but everyone got to know each other in this tiny field. Loads of bands went up and helped out for that one and helped cleaning up.
“The second year, all the bands wanted to continue it on and helped with the setup and we’ve just been doing it that way ever since.”
The Sprockets’ fiery mix of old school acoustic blues and dirty rock n’ roll in the Rolling Stones and MC5 style has earned them slots at Electric Picnic and further afield, but for Cullen Knockanstockan represents an entirely different ethos from the corporate festivals.
“It’s less focused on the money-making thing. It’s more focuses on getting people to see unsigned acts. Every year it’s been our best crowd of the year, and I know it’s the same for a lot of other bands – the biggest crowd they’d have played that year is Knockanstockan.
“It’s a good way of supporting underground artists that otherwise wouldn’t get a big crowd, just because the promotion side of the band might not be that good. There are loads of acts I saw at Knockanstockan that blew me away and I’ve been a fan of since.”
With Oxegen off the calendar in 2012 – and possibly even longer – the summer has seen a glut of mega-gigs in the Phoenix Park, Croke Park and the old Lansdowne Road, but Cullen reckons Knockanstockan caters to a completely different type of music fan.
“There’ll be no way to find out until the festival, but I think the Oxegen crowd stick to that kind of music. I don’t know if they’d go to this because of the acts. There would be acts there for them there, but they’re not aimed towards certain types of people.
“It wasn’t as family-focused at the start, but over the years families started coming and bringing their kids. My whole family has been at it each year. Last year there were a good few families there, and this year it’s been extended further.”
The Hot Sprockets have worked hard to become the marquee name on the bill – alongside established acts like the Mighty Stef, Bipolar Empire and the Riptide Movement – though with such an eye-catching name they were always likely to attract attention.
“The lads just bought me a guitar – we even had a name before I could even play! Soper and Joe were in a band before us called Soper’s Dirt. They were throwing around names like SP Rockets, and that became Sprockets, and then we just said the Hot Sprockets because it sounded more like old school 50s/60s era. We just thought ‘that’s a deadly name.’”
The band are currently in the midst of recording their second album – their debut Honey Skippin’ was released last summer – and will be eager to try out new material at the festival.
“We’re hoping to release the new album in the Spring. We have three songs nearly finished and we’re probably going to get videos done for them. The first one was a bit rushed when we were recording it – the whole thing was recorded over seven days. This one we’re spending our time on it and really getting the production down.”
The Hot Sprockets play Knockanstockan on Saturday July 28.