The Irish News Metro Section - 15 July 1998
Time has come ... Luka Bloom was forced to leave Ireland because his music was way
ahead of the market. All that has changed
Exile finds heavenly welcome home
In his articulate press autobiography, singer Luka Bloom points out that his 1994 album, Turf, marked
the end of the 'Living in America phase' of his life. So, I asked Bloom, what period of his career is the
new CD, "Salty Heaven", heralding?
"I suppose it might constitute the beginning of a welcome-home phase," Bloom replies. "When
I went to America in 1987 and became Luka Bloom I was really doing something that I never wanted to have to do.
I had just wanted to write songs and make records in Ireland."
That matter-of-fact summary of the singer's decision to adopt a new name seems an almost bland explanation
of how Barry Moore changed into Luka Bloom. At the time he assumed not just a stage name but a new identity.
Yet he makes a subtle distinction: "I planned to travel away from Ireland but always come home to it. But
I ended up having to leave it."
Bloom's exile was as much from the Irish acoustic-folk-rock scene in the mid-1980s, which wasn't ready for
a singer who wrote his own introspective material. Put simply, the relationship between Barry Moore and
his audiences degenerated into a culture clash.
After making three records in Ireland, Moore gave up the ghost, first building up a European following
and then moving to New York as Bloom. From 1988 to 1994, he toured the US and Australia, released
three relatively-successful CDs and generally found his creative feet.
"Salty Heaven" is seen by Bloom as a quiet work that reflects his return to old roots.
"I've spent the last two or three years writing and recording here; and I've managed to get a
recording deal that allows me to live and work here."
The album went through a slow organic process, which began in a cottage in Birr, Co Offaly and ended
in the Abbey Road studios. Bloom lived in Birr without radio, television or human contact, though he says
this was for a pragmatic rather than a poetic reason.
"Basically I'm a lazy person. I'll always find some way to distract myself from having to work. The
sheer act of getting out of the city to where nobody knew me means that there was the possibility that
I'd sit down and write."
The 11 songs have a kind of rural spirituality without being too inward-looking. And Bloom mentions
traditional musicians like Frankie Kennedy and Seamus Ennis. "I'd always hope that I'd acknowledge
where I come from, even though I'm not a traditional musician. Those reference points relate to heroes of
mine: people I look up to."
In a wider sense, the album has an optimistic tone, with one line reading: "I'm a happy man in the
Bloom is less clear-cut about the songs, but he agrees there's a survivor theme.
"When you reach my age, 43, there is an element of having survived a certain amount. It's amazing
some of the things I've gotten through."
As Barry Moore, he wrote some very successful songs in the 1980s. How would he feel nowadays if he
heard "City of Chicago"?
Surprisingly, Bloom doesn't see it as a ghost from his past life.
"About two years ago I started singing it again and doing it in my set. In fact I'll be recording it soon,
and I'm looking forward to that."
Bloom has no immediate tour plans. But he says he'll be on the road in September; hopefully
"Any time I've played in the north I've always had great shows. And all through the last 20 years
I've taken every opportunity to play there."
Luka Bloom, "Salty Heaven", out now on Sony/Columbia.
- Michael O'Hanlon
Hot Press Magazine - 19 August 1998
Bloom With A View
John Walshe talks to Luka Bloom on the eve of the release of his fourth studio album, Salty Heaven, about his
return to Ireland, the inspiration behind the songs, older brother Christy Moore and the latest generations of the Moore
Luka Bloom doesn't look 43, when I walk into the room in the Berkeley Court Hotel where our interview is to take place,
he's standing in front of the window, guitar strap around his neck and an acoustic six-string in his hand - he strums it and
I'd swear that he's 12 years of age. Every time he plays on stage the look is the same, one of wonder and even serenity.
He smiles, shakes my hand and greets me by name - even though we've never met before. He poses for the photographs
without complaint, knowing it's easier just to do what the photographer wants, joking and smiling the whole time. Then he
sits on the bright yellow couch, with the guitar close to hand should a sudden need for chords arise, and sips away
intermittently on a Ballygowan and a coffee over the course of the next hour.
Of course, he's well used to the promotional obligations that go with releasing an album; after all, Salty Heaven is his
fourth LP as Luka Bloom, the name Barry Moore adopted for himself when he crossed the Atlantic a decade ago. Now
he's back living in Ireland, explaining that there were "very practical reasons" for his return.
"My mother was getting older and I wanted to be around her and to be with her," he explains. "At the other
end of the scale, I have a son who at that time would have been hitting eight years of age, and I felt it was time I was
around him more.
"I'd also achieved a lot of what I wanted to achieve in America in a fairly short space of time, which really surprised me,"
he continues. "By the time I got to 1992 I was already beginning to have a working life back in Holland, Belgium, Switzerland,
Germany and the beginning in Ireland, so my reasons for going to America were starting to disappear. So for personal
and professional reason, it made sense for me to want to come back home - it was nothing more traumatic than that."
It's been three years since his last album, Turf, but Luka hasn't been idle during that time, road-testing new songs on the
highroads and byroads. The songs for Salty Heaven were written about two and a half years ago in Birr, Co. Offaly, but
the album had a long and winding gestation period before its release.
"It was the end of 1994, the beginning of '95," he sets the scene. "I'd been dropped around six months
earlier and I was at a point where I'd had no manager, no record deal and I was kinda hanging onto a publishing deal
that didn't really mean anything. So, in a way, I was back to where I was before I went to America, except that this time
I had an audience and there was a possibility to do something.
"So I made a conscious decision to go off and devote a year to just building a body of songs that would not just
make the next record but would also give me a sense of direction. In order to get stuck into the work, I decided to
get out of town 'cos I'd always been in cities working, whether in Dublin or New York. So I decided to explore a
little of Ireland, to go somewhere where nobody knew me and I didn't know anybody. You don't have to go to
Australia to find that."
Birr fitted the bill nicely. "I decided I'd spend a bit of time there, initially to hide, then to do some work and then
because I really liked it," he smiles. Most of Salty Heaven was written in this period and when the time came
to record, he relocated to Naas, Co. Kildare, where friend of his, Eoin O'Neill, had renovated an old mill, and where
he had the space to record.
It was now April '96 and, by his own admission, Luka had "no real clues what to do. I was scared 'cos I'd
borrowed a fair bit of money to even do that and there was no sign of anybody bursting to sign me." Rather
than release the album independently, Luka (and his new manager Mattie Fox) hooked up with producer Peter
Van Hooke and crossed the Irish Sea for another period of recording.
"It meant taking those performances we'd done in Kildare and allowing all these people I didn't know to come
and play on the tracks," he recalls. "It was a whole new adventure for me and I was a little bit scared of
it but I felt that it was needed and I decided to trust it and goo along with it."
Luka's two and a half year journey eventually took him from Birr to the famous Abbey Road Studios, which he
describes as "unbelievable. Again, I was slightly intimidated because I'm not used to working in what I would
regard as rock star environments. I had visions of going and needing a backstage pass to get inside the door,
but it wasn't like that at all. They were incredibly helpful, professional and extremely good at what they do."
When the album was finished, still had no record deal and was up to his ears in dept. Salvation came along in
the form of Sony Ireland MD John Sheehan. "He had never heard me before. He had never seen any of
my gigs but he just heard it and loved it."
It's just as well John Sheehan did love it. Otherwise the arrival of the excellent Salty Heaven may have been
delayed even further. And make no mistake, Luka's fourth LP is a joy. Some of it reads like a diary entry. Cue
'Ciara', which tells the tale of Luka and the heroine of the title engaging in some romantic activity in Kildare.
"I've never written a song as directly about somebody that I fancy before," he admits. "I'm not
great at that confrontation, in-your-face style of songwriting, but that song is pretty much as it happened. There's
something about her name that in the chorus, lends itself to a sort of pleading, (sings) "Ciara, where the fuck
are ya?' (laughs). That to me is the key of that song, and when it comes to the chorus it has that sense of 'Where
in the name of Jaysus are ye and why won't ye go out with me?'"
Simple narratives like 'Ciara' and the fairy-tale simplicity of 'Water Ballerina' mix it up with more powerful songs
relating to alcohol abuse ('The Hungry Ghost'), the environment ('Rainbow Warrior'), the disintegration of
organised religion ('The Shape Of Love To Come'), and even the famine ('Forgiveness').
'The Hungry Ghost' tells the tale of someone "Falling up and down the main street ... People say that's what
being young is for". No harm there, you might think, considering it's a familiar image from almost every Irish
person's youth, but the famished spectre of the title is none other than the demon drink, ready to pounce on
the recovering alcoholic.
"It was partly autobiographical," Luka confesses, "but the actual story came from something I'd
read about another person, an American guy who was talking about being off the drink for 15 years, having had
to give it up because it was getting to serious for him. It was interfering with his whole life and screwing him up.
Somewhere in the course of the 15 years he forgot how much shit he'd been in and just started drinking. Within
two weeks, he'd lost everything. He got it together again but the second time round he said, 'it was as if there
was a hungry ghost waiting for me'.
"It's been a while since that's been an issue for me, to be honest with you," he continues, "but it
did give me some recollections and a realisation of how easy it can be to forget how much shit went on. I don't
mind being reminded that it wasn't always beautiful out there."
Another track, 'The Shape Of Love To Come', is a two-pronged composition, one part a chronicle of the collapse
of power wielded by the Church and the other a personal search for his place in the world and his own sense of
"I don't mind writing songs about my own confusion but I hope I don't do it in a way that is navel-gazing or anally
retentive or whatever the buzz words are for someone who's a boring old gobshite," he smiles. "It's a challenge
to try to write about a journey or search that you're on that doesn't sound like you're tortured, because they're
not tortured songs."
"I was never a strong Catholicm" he admits, "because I grew up in a house where that was fairly loose.
There was never any sense of having to belong to the Catholic community. My mother was very strong on belonging
to your community and looking after people; if people were having a bad time, to help them out. But she was never
strong on pursuing a religious path - she always felt that that was your own business."
However, Luka believes that simply disowning or condemning one's religious upbringing may not be enough.
"Even the paper you happen to write for, it's always been a great outlet for people who are angry with the
Catholic Church," he says. "But that's something that, in recent years, has become very easy. It's very
easy to just be angry, particularly when there is justification for it, but it's not enough. For me, it's not enough
because I think that if I choose not to be a practising Catholic in Ireland, that's fine, but am I satisfied with being
completely atheistic or completely agnostic? What drives me?
I feel for people who have been completely devoted to Catholicism, who have had their world shattered by
revelations. It's probably not dissimilar from what must have happened in the Soviet Union when the whole
Communist value system just seemed to fall asunder. These people would have been devote Communists
for generations, and all of a sudden the whole thing was meaningless. If you think we've been doing this for
hundreds of years, that doesn't just fall down without there being a serious aftershock, a spiritual aftershock."
This spiritual vacuum has led many people to seek solace outside organised religion. The spirituality Luka
refers to in the song itself seems a lot simpler than Catholicism's rules and regulations and yet he doesn't
show disdain for the Church of its teachings.
"I love the communal aspects of Catholicism, where people gather to help mourn the death of a child," he
stresses. "The Catholic Church, in many ways, is at its best helping people through difficult periods of grieving.
We've had some incredible examples of that recently in the North. I think that organisations and institutions like
the Catholic Church don't just survive in people's hearts because they're oppressive or because they fill people
with fear. They survive because they serve a very important function in people's lives.
It's just that I can't go into a church on Sunday and see some guy stand on a pulpit and preach to me about
morality. I can't take it," he adds. "I don't judge people who choose to do that and I absolutely respect their
choice in doing so. It just never worked for me."
Instead, Luka Bloom has found peace in the natural world, acknowledging a sort of ancient spirituality that
takes its root from the beauty of the landscape. Part of this fascination he ascribes to the fact that he has
lived in cities for so long.
"When I go into the natural world, particularly in Ireland, I do feel closer to myself. I find the songs flow through
me much more easily. It's a fact of my life and I don't make a big deal about it and I don't apologise for it,"
he states simply.
There's a lot of sacred land in Ireland. When you live in a completely urban environment and all your reference
points are urban, when you talk about sacred land people just think, 'Oh, fucking hippy'. But that's an easy way
to dismiss me or anybody else who uses that type of language."
He sums up: "I just find it interesting that at a time when you have incredible religious chaos in Ireland, there is
a certain amount of fear and trepidation, but I genuinely feel that most people are figuring it out. I think the
reason that most people are able to figure it out is because there is an incredible spiritual history to tap into
here. It's not all in books. It's in places. It's in fields. It's in ring-forts. It's in ditches. It's in hills. It's in Kildare. It's
in Meath. It's in everywhere you go in this country."
One of the places mentioned in 'The Shape ...' is the Hill of Tara, which I'm sure anyone who's been there will
agree, is a special place with its own unique, intangible atmosphere.
"You're talking about a very ancient, powerful place," Luka agrees. "If I'm ever within shouting
distance of Navan. I'll always call to the Hill of Tara and just go for a walk up there. I walk around the whole field,
and look out on the plains, and I just feel really charged with it, that fantastic energy that nobody can explain to
me and I don't need explained to me. It's a lovely feeling of belonging. This is part of my heritage and I love it.
"I was up in Virginia, Co. Cavan, a couple months ago and on my way back I went up there, about seven
o'clock in the evening. On my way back down, who did I see coming up to go training on the Hill of Tara
but the entire Meath squad. There isn't even a football pitch there. But Seán Boylan, the Meath trainer,
knows what that's all about. He understands the power of a place like that. And the whole sense of
belonging and the whole sense of history, the whole sense of warriors going to battle. This was three
months before the Championship."
Some might think that the song 'The Holy Ground' is about the same emotions and spirituality, but specifically
it relates to the healing power of music. Luka mentions that, for him, this sacred place is to be found inside.
"That's part of my problem with religion," he explains. "Most religions tell you that the God
you need is outside yourself: you have to go to this church and listen to that man talking and that man will
help to put you in touch with God. Whereas, I really believe that in everybody there is a place inside
themselves where people can get in touch with the God of their choosing."
Even though his holy ground is not a physical place, the physical world is ever present throughout Salty
Heaven, with images of natural beauty cropping up in almost every song. Not surprising, then, that one s
ong in particular, 'Rainbow Warrior', deals with Greenpeace and those who devote their lives to its protection.
"It's only in the last 50 years that it's become uncool to talk about mankind as being connected with nature,"
he maintains. "The vast majority of people live in an urban environment, and, with the pace of technology,
we increasingly distance ourselves from the natural world. But at the end of the day, we still basically
consist of water, air, flesh. blood and shite. And so, much and all as it may seem uncool to acknowledge
that fact, our family is the natural world - we're part of it.
I hate words like ecology and environment," he continues. "Those words are cop-outs for people to
describe someone like me. We're all environmentalists because we are as much a part of the natural
world as animals and fish and birds. I don't care how uncool this sounds, it's a simple fact of reality.
But I don't get up in the morning and wonder what I'll save today," he laughs. "Some people are very
openly and unapologetically politically driven in their songwriting, like Billy Bragg, and I absolutely
admire and respect that. But it has never been a calling of mine. If I respond to something emotionally,
I'll usually end up writing a song about it."
Another subject to which Luka has responded emotionally is The Famine, and the pain and suffering
it caused and still causes today ('Forgiveness'). But does he believe that The Famine is still a relevant
factor in modern Ireland? He pauses for a few seconds before speaking collecting his thoughts.
"I have to arrive at a personal decision for myself before I write a song like that," he explains.
"Because I don't know the answer to your questions. I don't see myself and an authority on Ireland.
I don't see myself as an authority on what's happening in Ireland and I certainly haven't a clue about
what people ought to do to make Ireland a better place.
But we do have a long history of suffering and it's all encapsulated in The Famine, for me. I definitely
still believe it's an issue. Why I say it's a personal thing, is that one of the things I realised about my life
is that if I hold onto bitterness and bear grudges, I become a bitter old bollocks. I don't want to be bitter.
I choose to want to trust people. I choose to want to forgive. It's something that I aspire to, not for any
grandiose reasons, for the simple reason that I want to sleep at night."
Referring to calls for an official British apology for The Famine, he observes, "If I'm depending on
somebody else to apologise, and they don't, then I can hang onto the bitterness forever, and in the
context of the famine, I made a personal decision for me that I wanted to move on and I wanted to
let it go," he says.
"I'm not trying to say it's easy and I would certainly never want to go up to somebody on the Garvaghy
Road or the Falls Road and say 'Don't you think it's time to ...'. Who the hell am I to say that? I'm only
talking from my experience, from my own life. What anybody else does or how anybody else views
the famine in the sociopolitical world or their personal world, is their prerogative. That's something
they've got to deal with. But I certainly think it's something that's worth dealing with, because I do believe
that we have been affected by it. How could we not be? It's only two or three generations ago."
I recently saw Luka play live in Mother Redcap's on the same day that his older brother, Christy Moore,
announced his retirement from music. I didn't find out about Christy's decision until the next day, but Luka
seemed very emotional on stage, performing a version of 'City Of Chicago', a song he wrote that was
made famous by his older sibling. How much did it affect him when Christy decided to call it a day?
"I was very emotional and I was surprised to the extent to which I was affected by it," he says.
"But it's not really that hard to understand. When I was 14 or 15 years of age, Christy was singing in folk
clubs in England and, one of the arrangements with our family was that Christy would bring me to England
for two weeks of my summer holidays. I have very early memories of singing in folk clubs in England
with Christy. Then, the first real gigs I did were in 1972/73 opening for Planxty when they toured the After
The Black Album."
In fact, almost all of Luka's formative gigs, all of 26 years ago, were based around the early working life of
Christy, who even produced Luka's debut album as Barry Moore in 1978. So how big an influence was his
older sibling on the then impressionable teenage mind of the young Barry Moore?
"Funnily enough, musically he wouldn't have been that huge and inspiration on me," he says.
"Our style of music and our taste in music is very different. But I think I've been very affected by his
attitude toward his work, and his way of working with people would have influenced me more than his
"I was very moved that night in Mother Redcap's and I didn't know until that evening that was the day the
retirement was announced. I felt very fragile with it and very raw. He was just in my mind because he's my
brother. It's almost as though people are surprised but people forget before Christy was a singer, before
Planxty, before any of those things, we were brothers and that's the nature of our relationship. That's what
matters, it's all that matters."
With one generation of the Moore clan calling it a day as regards to performing, happily there are more to
fill the gap. Nephew Conor Byrne for one, who released his debut solo album earlier this year; Luka handled
production. The dynasty goes on.
"Well actually, I asked Christy about a year ago would he mind taking some time off so myself and Conor
could get a look in," Luka laughs.
"There's more to come," he promises of the Moore family. "There's one or two others that are
shaping up now. But that's what happens in Ireland. If there's music in a family it tends to filter through, and
some people gravitate towards it and some people move away from it. But when we get together, there's
usually a fair few songs and tunes running around. That's just the way with us."
The rest of the year will be busy for Luka Bloom, with Salty Heaven being released in Holland, Belgium,
Switzerland, Germany and Australia and eventually England and America. So he will be on the road for
about a year, starting in September with an Irish tour which includes Dublin's Olympia Theatre.
All in all, I remark, he seems a happy man.
"Happiness is a funny thing to talk about," he muses. "Happy and hippy, it's funny how
those two words are alike and they seem to turn people off almost as much. Happiness to me is a condition
that includes sadness, it includes darkness. If somebody is a happy person, it doesn't mean that they are
never black or blue or down or frustrated or fucked up. It absolutely includes all of that.
I used to think that I suffered from a condition that I heard once described as terminal uniqueness. When
you get to the point that you realise the everybody has dark periods, and get comfortable with that, and
accept that as part of your life, then it's possible to be happier in the world and about life. But I'd be and
awful gobshite if I didn't look at my life and the way it's gone, and not realise what a lucky person I am."
He cites an example: "I had the occasion recently to find myself in traffic early in the morning and to see
what it's like for people who have to go into that every day, to face into horrific traffic. I think the suburban
dream now has become an absolute nightmare, especially in Dublin. And so many people have to live
it every day to earn their crust, to keep their living standards. There's no point in my life where I would
have been able to do that and survive it. I know that about myself. I've been fortunate enough that I've
been able to find a way to express myself and to give something and to earn a living doing it. That's a
pretty good thing to know starting your day. It's a good reason to be happy.
And I think it's important to acknowledge that. I make no bones at all about acknowledging my basic
love of the world and appreciation for the fact that I am still on the planet, because lots of people I know
and love didn't make it to 43 years, including my own father, who died at 41. I'm the youngest in my
family and I've outlived my father by two years.
Outside even my own family, just people I know, like Frankie Kennedy, like Bill Graham, like Derek
Dunne, like so many good people who were taken away so young. When those kind of things happen
and you're still around, still working and singing and still have that opportunity, it puts things into
Salty Heaven is out now on Columbia Records.
- John Walshe
Irish Music Magazine - Vol 4 No 2 - September 1998
Luka Bloom - Songs from Salty Heaven
...With a Pinch of Salt...
The LUKA BLOOM Interview by David Caren
Only a musician dressed in jeans and a t-shirt with designer stubble and mucky boots can waltz
into the Berkley Court Hotel's foyer grinning like a mischievous schoolboy. "I don't normally
look like this" - the outstreched arm of Luka Bloom, "but what's your excuse Sonny".
Formality transcends into comedy as I begin to suspect that this interview is going to be interesting,
providing I avoid the obvious family tree and brother's retirement.
On the lift journey to the Press suite it is explained to me in detail as to the situation with
the attire: "I am shooting a video for the album, the concept is of a wealthy,
well-dressed gentleman, i.e. myself, who picks up a rather tattered looking hitchhiker,
me in my present state. If I had known we were meeting in the Berkley Court I would of
made sure that we were filming the wealthy gentleman scene first."
My personal recollection of Luka Bloom is of a swaying, acoustic, rapping "Irish"
musician, singing "I need love" by American rapper LL Cool J !!, extraordinary
image yet crackingly brilliant. But we will come to the Americana in Luka's life later.
Ironically when an artist has more than one album under his/her or their belts, the previous
album is often used as an indicator for comparison, or I knew you then, but will I know you
now! As if the question had been anticipated before the interview, or the answer had always
wanted to be given: "This album is getting airplay". The combination of stare
and lengthy pause leaves me to believe that this is an accurate reply to a rather obvious
yet necessary question, but before I move on: "I have always been pretty comfortable
with what I have been doing on-stage in the last 10 years but very uncertain going into a
studio. A lot of people like myself, who are uncertain or insecure would suffer from being
a control-freak which is not very helpful, however this is not to say anything derogatory
of my previous records, because I love them, particularly "Riverside", but
even when there were situations when there were producers I always wanted to be in
charge. At a certain point with this record when the performances were down on tape
we eventually found a producer to come in and transform this record, and it was then
that for the first time in my life I decided to let go. I really allowed someone else's
creative vision to be exercised in the studio which was a very unique and positive
experience. When you write songs it can be difficult to allow someone else's vision
to come to play with the songs. I can be a bit possessive, and it's the first record I have
allowed my voice to come through. I am beginning to think along the lines of being a
singer as opposed to a guy who plays guitar, write songs and sings them."
There is a certain individual style to a Luka Bloom song, once heard, hopefully on
radio!, you can place the artist with the song. So how does Luka account for his
unique vocal exclusiveness: "I think the decision to learn - I need love - was
one of the best decisions I ever made in my working life. I could never have foreseen
the door it would open creatively for me, it was an incredibly difficult song to sing.
When LL Cool J is rapping that song he has an array of samples and he doesn't
have to focus on the rhythm. When I am doing this song I am actually delivering
the whole rhythm myself and speaking over it at the same time, this actually bares
no relation to the rhythm that I am playing and it's taken me ages to get it right.
There are songs on this record like - Blackberry Time - that I have the same talking
style going on over the rhythm of the guitar which is always leading to a point where
I am going to sing something".
"I have realised very recently that I am effected by the environment I am in, when
I was in New York all I was hearing was rap & hip-hop and most of it had no appeal
to me, it became a challenge for me to find something I could learn from that idiom, from
that area, and it would have to reflect who I was and to bring it into my repertoire."
Salty Heaven is Luka's 4th album and his
first with recording giants Sony Music. However this is not the first major Record Company
that Luka Bloom has been signed to. In 1989 he signed to Reprise in New York and
Warner Chappel Publishing ensued. In 1994 he parted from Warner and spent 1995
recording in Birr, Co. Offaly. "Salty Heaven" was recorded between
January of 1996 and was completed by March of '97.
"Originally we decided to licence the finished album throughout all major territories
as I felt I had enough of being with a major label and all of which it entailed. However a
lot of things happened with this record which have been out of my control, because
literally out of the blue, Mattie Fox, my manager, told me that Sony had heard the CD
and loved it, and that threw the cat among the pigeons. I realised that this presented an
opportunity for this record which I put a huge amount of work into, to be heard by a lot of
people around the world and that I should go for it. What was nice about it is that the
relationship began with Sony buying a finished product as opposed to responding
to a demo tape, and then helping us make a record, it said a lot about their belief in
According to Luka Bloom's opening line on his Press Release he is described as
being "one of Ireland's premier songwriters" - no question about that,
however the question I would like to ask any "author of song" with such a prestigious
title is quite simply: on what cloud or peaceful glen does one draw out a song?
"I made a decision a while ago to stop doing this thing of writing a song wherever
I was. I now go to work and write a body of songs and not to stop until the songs are
completed. In the context of "Salty Heaven" there is a flow throughout the
record, a flow of theme, mood and rhythm which comes from making that decision
to write in a specific place for a period of time, and sticking with it until its done. I
don't get up in the morning and say, what will I write a song about today?, it's not
the way it happens for me. I tend to be very melody and rhythm driven first."
The musical memorable moments. For a certain generation it's Dana winning the
Eurovision, for others it's being part of the Riverdance explosion, for Luka Bloom
it's Irish Music in the 70's.
"To me I feel immensely fortunate to be witness the birth of Planxty and
The Bothy Band, they were just two amazing bands to be around. My first gigs
were as openers to Planxty on the black album. I love traditional music and a lot
of the music I listen to is traditional. There are a lot of individuals in the traditional
world who I like to listen to. The traditional band phenomenon does not appeal
to me as much as it did in the 70's, but I love the whole phenomenon that is
traditional music on this island and the more work I do around the world the
more I realise how special and unique what we have here is. To be on an
island were the music is so alive and its not just like a museum showcase
is very special to me."
Success at home does not equal success abroad, however when an Irish artist is successful
in a foreign territory there is always an element of patriotism back home in the motherland
which often then only leads to the Irish Music Industry sitting up and taking notice of one of
their own. In 1987 passenger B. Moore, a.k.a. - Luka Bloom, departed for his new life in
America: "I went to America because I couldn't pay my rent. I had been writing
songs and performing in Ireland for 12 years before I left, performing to 15 people in
Isaac's Youth Hostel on Gardiner Street - I was 30 years of age. I have no shame
about saying all this because I am one of 2 million Irish people who had to leave the
country for economic reasons. I never wanted to, I had a son at this point, my mother
wasn't getting any younger and I loved my family, so it wasn't a joyous moment getting
on the plane and going to America, but it was one of best thing I ever did and changing
my name to Luka Bloom was part of the whole package. One of the reasons, not the
only reason, it was difficult for me, was because in a lot of peoples eyes I was trying
to operate in Christy's shadow."
Bono, The Edge, even Tina Turner did it, these were not the names on their birth certificates.
Before conducting this interview I found it strange perhaps even a little uncomfortable saying
in my head: nice to meet you Mr. Bloom, or How is it go'in Luka! But the changing of a name is
an acceptable tool in the commercial world of the Music and Acting arena.
"The idea of changing my name came after my decision to go to America, however I felt that I
could still end up only in the Irish Community as Christy's brother having escaped that. By giving
myself a new identity I was just another guy going to America with a guitar. In actual fact after
struggling in Ireland for 12 years what happened in America happened very quickly. I decided
to seek a name which was pretentious yet easy to remember and it didn't necessarily sound
like it was Irish, a name that was theatrical and about performance, and could come from anywhere
in the world. Within 18 months I was with Warners, touring and doing festivals in Europe. I became
included on bills for enormous Rock Festivals in Europe in a way that I never really expected.
The risk I took paid off. The best part of it has been that it has given me an opportunity to
create an audience in Ireland."
What is clear now is that Luka Bloom hails from one of Ireland's finest Folk & Traditional families:
The Clan Moore. But who takes top billing at family gatherings when a song is sought?
"Whenever our family get together now there is always song, and there always was songs.
There have been moments when the 6 brothers and sisters sang on a couple of tracks on one of
Christy's records, - The Unfinished Revolution -, and
every now and then we would end on up stage with each other but never in an orchestrated way,
we've resisted that."
However performing publicly with Christy Moore is now unlikely since his retirement this year
so how has this effected to Luka Bloom?
"I feel very differently about it now than I did in the beginning. When I first heard I was very sad but on the
other hand I was relieved for him that he was getting an opportunity to enjoy a whole other area of life. But what
I really care about is his own happiness, I never really think too much about his career unless he chooses to
talk about it. I always have to remind people who ask me about Christy as a singer that the only thing that
concerns me is that he's my brother and that is what he was before he was a singer and that I am sure it's
the same for him with me."
Irish Music Magazine, Sept. 1998
FolkWorld - Live Review - December 1998
Luka Bloom in Frankfurt, Germany
1st of December 1998
By Marcus Metz
Frankfurt venue "Batschkapp" saw Irish songwriter and guitarist Luka Bloom in great form.
Playing different acoustic and semi-acoustic guitars with different tunings Bloom introduced
the audience to his recent album "Salty Heaven". In the beginning of the gig he played
three songs in a row. Later on he started a little chat and the atmosphere got warmer and
His percussive playing of the guitar was amazing, together with the various sound effects
this single instrument became a whole band with drums, bass and keyboard. Apart from
that his sudden changes to the "softer" notes where remarkable.
Between songs like "Ciara" - his recent hit single - or "Water Ballerina"
and their likes Bloom gave a short but effective introducion. His way of leading the audience
through the night reminded me a lot of Christy Moore (forgive me, Luka!) for there was never
a boring moment. Great entertainment!
Bloom didn't leave the audience alone with his songs, he got himself and them connected
to the topics of his own writings: love, spirituality, sorrow, death.
After his last song he thanked the listeners in German but - of course - the people wanted more.
Bloom went out on stage again and played Mike Scott's (The Waterboys) song
"Sunny Sailor Boy" which is regarded as one of Bloom's "hits". The
audience joined in to sing the chorus. At least he played the only song which is to be found
on his album "Riverside": "You couldn't have come at a better time".
Bloom finished his gig with a slow song for his son. "Gabriel" is about angels and
with the use of the foot pedal he gave his guitar an organ-like sound he suppressed
the sound of guitar picking. That song made the circle complete and fitted into
Christmas time as well.
Well done, Luka!