DUBLIN BOWIE FESTIVAL KICKS OFF THIS WEEKEND – WE TALK TO GERRY LEONARD
The first weekend in the capital celebrating the Thin White Duke launches into action on Saturday – and ahead of all the action, we speak to Bowie collaborator and guitarist Gerry Leonard
The Hot Press Newsdesk, 06 Jan 2016, 16:28
The first Dublin Bowie Festival takes place this coming weekend, with The Grand Social becoming a mecca for all fans of the enigmatic artist.
Attractions will include Record and Memorabilia Markets, screenings of concerts and documentaries, live music, DJ sets and even the chance to strut your stuff on Bowieoke.
The centrepiece of the weekend, though, will be the visit of Gerry Leonard, who played guitar with the man himself as well as serving as musical director on the Reality tour. He performs with ace tribute band Rebel Rebel on the Saturday night (tickets €12), while the Sunday sees him take to the stage under his Spooky Ghost moniker.
Ahead of all those fun and games, our man Colm O’Hare caught up with the Dubliner, now based in New York, who discusses musical ventures with and without The Thin White Duke.
REBEL REBEL WITH A CAUSE
Top session guitarist and Bowie collaborator, Gerry Leonard will be the special guest of Bowie tribute act, Rebel Rebel who headline the eagerly-awaited Dublin Bowie Festival taking place in Dublin’s Grand Social over the weekend of January 9 –10. Leonard, who hails from Clontarf in north Dublin, was guitarist and musical director on the Reality tour – Bowie’s last ever world trek that too place during 2003. He says the invitation to appear at the Bowie event in his home town came out of the blue
“I guess my name just came up,” he says on the phone from his home in Woodstock in upstate New York. “They’ve been doing this tribute thing for the last couple of years and they contacted me and asked if I’d like to become involved. I said, ‘sure’ because it seemed like a nice thing do to. It was such a special time for me in Dublin when we did the Reality tour in The Point with David and it’s always nice to celebrate his work anytime the opportunity arises. I’m doing a guest talk at BIMM when I’m home too which should be interesting.”
Leonard, who has recently been touring and recording with Suzanne Vega, will be brining his own ongoing side project Spooky Ghost to the same venue on the night after his Rebel Rebel appearance
“It’s not the primary thing I do these days but I like to keep it alive and I’ll be doing my third record soon. It’s a little terrifying for me because I have to lay my cards on the table and say ‘OK this is what I’ve got – this is what it is.’ I like to do everything live in a spontaneous way. You’re always trying to push the boundaries a little bit. Technology wise it was difficult to do certain stuff in the past but it’s easier now. I have a box about the size of two packs of cigarettes, whereas on the Bowie tour I had a six-bay rack, which did pretty much the same thing.”
Given Bowie’s vast back catalogue he says it has yet to be decided which songs he will perform on. “They sent me an extensive set-list and there’s a whole bunch of songs on it that I really love. But I’ll probably pick a few that are more appropriate for me and for them. There are so many great songs in the Bowie canon and he’s had great guitar players over the years too. That was one of the great things about doing the Reality tour – taking the songs apart and trying to figure out, say, the Robert Fripp part or the Mick Ronson part or whatever. The music was written to be played, in a loud rock and roll band and there’s nothing more fun for me. But Rebel Rebel will be doing all the heavy lifting on the night “
Coincidently or not, Bowie’s brand new album, Blackstar is also due for release this weekend. Leonard played a key role on the Brixton born legend’s last album, The Next Day – presumably he worked on this highly-anticipated new one?
“Well actually, I’m not involved in this one which is a bittersweet thing for me,” he says. “David came to me and we had a conversation where he said he wanted to try something new and that he wasn’t going to call me this time around but he said for me not to worry. And that’s totally fine with me. I knew he wanted to turn things on its head and I like it when artists take a risk.”
Asked whether he thinks he might be called up at some point in the future for any live duties, should Bowie take to the road again, Leonard is more philosophical.
“It’s the question everyone asks and I only have my own instincts to go on – I don’t have any other information. My instincts are that David doesn’t see doing anything live as something that interests him right now. The idea of getting out there and touring with a greatest hits show just wouldn’t interest him. There would have to be a real vision for him to do something. He’s been doing these videos, which I think is much more creative for him. It’s a dubious honour being on what is possibly the last ever Bowie tour but it’s something I’ll never forget.”
Rebel Rebel with special guest Gerry Leonard appear at the Grand Social Dublin on Saturday January 9. Spooky Ghost appear at the same venue on Sunday 10.
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