Cartel: The Exclusive First Interview
CARTEL-ON-LINE: 'AFTERNOON LADS.
Darragh: And good afternoon to you too.
Nicky: It's not afternoon already, is it?
Tim: Jeez, it is and all.
RIGHT, IN JUST FIVE WORDS, DESCRIBE THE SHOW LAST NIGHT FOR ME.
Tim: (thinks) Does... Anyone... Have... A...Paracetemol?
Darragh: Good one.
Nicky: That's a bit of a heavy question to start off with, isn't it?
WELL, WE USUALLY START OFF BY ASKING HOW YOU GOT TOGETHER, BUT SINCE THERE'S A WHOLE BIOGRAPHY ELSEWHERE ON THE WEBSITE, WE'LL GIVE THAT ONE A MISS.
Darragh: Actually, when do we get to see this Website?
THE TAPE'S RUNNING, SO WE'LL TELL YOU AFTER THE INTERVIEW.
Darragh: Can't you just tell me now, and cut it out of the interview?
WE WANT TO PRINT THE FULL INTERVIEW ON-LINE, UNCUT AND UNEDITED. WELL, EXCEPT FOR ANY OBSCENITIES, OBVIOUSLY .
Darragh: (laughing) Obscenities? I wouldn't know a %&*?ing obscenity if it jumped up and hit me in the *?#@!%&$.
Tim: Ah c'mon lads. Watch the #*<%in' language!
Nicky: (sighs) There goes the Disney sponsorship!
SO, SERIOUSLY. HOW DID IT FEEL TO GET ON STAGE LAST NIGHT?
Darragh: (getting very excited) It was incredible... exactly the way we hoped. We deliberately picked that small venue, cause a) It was the place it all began for us, and b) the whole crowd was more or less our family, friends, and the true fans who've supported us from the start. It was really special.
Nicky: Yeah. We weren't sure how it'd go down, but it went well. Even though everything was going wrong yesterday.
Nicky: Well to start with, one of our backing tracks only arrived yesterday morning. Then we found out that the pyrotechnics were...
Darragh: (interrupting) That's fireworks to you and me!
Nicky: As I was saying... Our PYROTECHNICS were cancelled for security reasons... DARRAGH; then our sound engineer was delayed, so we only got half the soundcheck time we needed; Then, we had to remix one of the tracks there and then, because the original mix hadn't copied properly onto minidisc. And finally, the Mercedes that was booked to pick us up outside the venue didn't show, so we wound up being transported to the studio - in front of a documentary film crew, no less - in a banged-up Nissan Micra or something. I tell you boy, it was embarrasing.
Tim: Still, once we got on stage, it all came together. 'Cause we live so far apart, we'd only had four rehearsals together before the show... like EVER. We were worried it wouldn't be tight enough, but it all came good in the end.
LADS, IT WAS HONESTLY INCREDIBLE!
Nicky: Thank you.
NOW, I KNOW IT'S GONNA SEEM LIKE WE'RE HITTING YOU WITH ALL THE HARD QUESTIONS, BUT... WELL, WE ARE. NO HOLDS BARRED IN THIS INTERVIEW.
Darragh: Just the way we like it.
SO THEN, HOW CLOSE, BOTH AS PEOPLE AND AS A BAND, CAN YOU HONESTLY BE AFTER JUST FOUR REHEARSALS?
Nicky: That IS a bit harsh boy.
Tim: Thing is, we really DO get on like brothers. I trust both of them implicitly. A band can't pull off what we pulled off last night if there's no trust. You can't be looking over your shoulder. I have to KNOW that when I spin, Darragh's gonna be spinning too, and when I go high, Nicky's gonna be singing melody under me.
Darragh: We honestly have a great laugh with each other. We're best mates, and because of that, we work well together. And if you think last night was good, just wait 'till you see us when we really get going.
Nicky: And it's not like we ONLY rehearse. We spend hours on the phone, and go out to town and stuff, when we can.
Tim: Thing is, we gelled incredibly from day one. That type of band/mates/vocal chemistry has never happened to me before. (hesitates) Well, once... (suddenly very solemn) ...But that was a long time ago.
(all three go quiet)
Tim: (exhales) Yeah
I KNOW THE OFFICIAL SPLIT STORY. WHAT'S THE TRUTH?
Darragh: (hesitates) The biog is very accurate. There's no secrets. (thinks carefully) Bri got offered this incredible deal. He made a good decision. People always look at us, saying 'God it must be awful for you', but it was just as hard, maybe even harder for Brian.
Tim: All three of us believed completely in Cartel. I was upset, but it was right for him to do it. I remember the days before his Westlife audition, I'd go out to his house and listen to his solo vocal, give him ideas 'n stuff. It was never behind our backs. As sad as it was, as much as I HATED what was happening, he believed it was right, and I... WE supported him fully.
Darragh: I wasn't just in a band with him. He was one of my closest friends. You can't go through what we went through and not be best mates at the end of it.
And even though I'm not in a band with him the friendship goes on. That goes for all of us.
Tim: Cartel was our dream. But Westlife was this sure thing.. no waiting required. Look at him now. I'm so proud of him, what he's achieved. People say that we're just hiding jealousy, but I'm seeing one of my best friends being happy, and nothing beats that.
Nicky: Thay mean it. There's no jealousy or bitchiness. Sometimes I think they're happier when he wins an award or has a number one than he is!
YOU SAY YOU KNEW IN ADVANCE HE WAS LEAVING.
Darragh: Him talking to Louis Walsh [Boyzone's - and later Westlife's - manager] we knew there was a chance. The chance became a possibility, which became a probability, then an actuality.
HOW DID YOU FIND OUT?
Tim: (agitated) Like Darragh said, it was gradual.
BUT YOU HAD TO FIND OUT FOR SURE AT ONE POINT.
HOW DID IT HAPPEN?
AND HOW DID YOU FEEL AFTER YOU HUNG UP?
Tim: Don't want to talk about it.
Darragh: Let's just say it was a rough time for all of us.
Nicky: (trying to change the subject) So, in somewhat happier news...
Tim: ...Homelessness is on the up!
Darragh: (laughing) Yeah.
OKAY, SO WITH THAT OVER, HOW DID NICKY COME ABOUT?
Nicky: Well, one night, about nineteen years ago, my parents got very drunk and started....
Darragh: (interrupting) Okay! Moving swiftly on...
Nicky: Ah no, getting serious. I was in Cork, about five months ago, working away in...
Tim: (interrupting) Actually, I have to say this...
Nicky: Jaysus, at this rate the interview'll be over and I'll have said about two lines! Seriously!
Tim: Shut up, this is good!
Nicky: See what I mean? No, go on. Talk away. I don't mind at all. I can go solo, just you remember. No no, just you talk. I'll just sit here in the corner. In fact I'll turn the other way. Maybe I shouldn't even be photographed with you! I'll be a silent partner. I'll be the one that never talks! (runs out of things to say)
Tim: (waits) Are you finished?
Nicky: (hangs head) Yeah.
(the two start laughing)
Tim: No, really, Dar and I spent months looking for someone who could do even SOME of what Bri could do. It took, like, a year and a half, several attempted replacements, who-knows how many hours of searching...
Darragh: To find someone with the level of talent we needed seemed like an impossibility. Believe me, we searched. To finally find it, more than we'd ever hoped and in someone who is also dead sound, was a god-sent.
Tim: We're so lucky to be in a band with someone as talented and cool - and probably as insane - as Nick. The guy's exactly what we were looking for.
Nicky: (pretending to cry) I take it all back, I love you guys.
(Nicky lunges to hug Darragh, Darragh blocks him, Nicky falls on the floor. Tim in hysterics laughing)
Darragh: Sorry, I thought you were gonna hit me!
Nicky: Right...(gets up) While I still have some dignity...
Darragh: Too late bud!
Nicky: (sitting down) Basically, the lads saw a video of me performing with my old band called All2Gether. We were quite big at the time, and did reasonably well for ourselves, but it just didn't work out. Anyway, they saw the video, said to themselves (puts on rough Dublin accent) 'Who'se that rapid looking bloke with the great songs and the amazing voice - He's the most talented person we've ever seen', and the rest is history
Tim: He's not too far off! When I saw the video, I really felt he could be the one, but I wasn't too comfortable about poaching someone from a good band - especially after what happened to us.
Darragh: So, we got a call one day from some girls who told us that Nicky had left All2Gether, and gave us his number.
Tim: I tried to call his house, not knowing what to say, but he wasn't ever there. After a couple of weeks, I flew off to America on holidays, but I kept trying. One day I finally got an answer. It was his Mam. She said he was out, but said she'd give him a message. About two minutes later, I got a phonecall... it was Nicky. I thought 'Jeez, this guy just rang me, a total stranger, in America, on his mobile! He's mental... I like that!'. Anyway, told him the story, he was reluctant, but agreed to meet us. I remember the first day we met, I just kept looking to Darragh, mouthing 'this is it', and Dar just smiled back. We both knew. Nick warmed to the idea, and before we knew it, it was last night, and we were on stage.
Tim: More or less!
OKAY, YOU'VE TAKEN THE UNUSUAL STEP OF OPERATING WITHOUT A MANAGER. WHY?
Darragh: We've all been, kinda, screwed around by management before. Anyone in the business knows what I mean. Bottom line is... we know what we want. So rather than sell an idea to someone for them to change, we'll sell a finished product! We've put together and paid for everything ourselves. What we did last night was only us! We're gonna go a few months to show exactly what we are, then - if someone is interested in Cartel WITHOUT trying to make us into another band - we'll talk. It's about principals, and not selling out!
DID YOU TURN DOWN ANY OFFERS LAST NIGHT?
Darragh: No comment.
Tim: Ooops, I mean, no comment.
SO, WHO DOES WHAT... IN THE BAND?
Darragh: I wash all our clothes and scrub the stage floor!
Nicky: I make the tea and sandwiches!
Tim: And I sell bootleg tickets outside the theatre door!
WELL, AT LEAST NO OTHER BAND CAN SAY THAT!
Nicky: No, but seriously, the product only looks good because it's everyone! The show last night was almost entirely written, mixed and produced by the band. All the musical arrangement, styling, choreography, it was ALL us. The only help we have is you guys at Sketch [Promotions], and that's just for publicity. I think it's sad to see groups who only sing, and have no say in how they look, what they do on stage, how they harmonise, what songs they do. In that way, we're kind of the Anti-Boyband, 'cause we do all this stuff that the stereotypical boyband doesn't do.
Darragh: At most of the gigs we've done, both with Bri and Nick, we've been the only band singing live, the only band with original material...
IN FAIRNESS THOUGH, YOU DID A COVER VERSION LAST NIGHT.
Nicky: We always will. No matter how good you are, the crowd always wants to hear something they can sing along to. Until you've a hit single, it's good to give them something they can join in to. It's just courtesy. All the rest was more or less original, and, you have to admit, the cover was very very different to the famous version. It's not like we just sang a karaoke song. It was remixed, reproduced, and rearranged by us. Then we sang it our way.
DEFINATELY. IT'S RARE TO SEE A BAND INTERPRET A SONG IN THEIR OWN SOUND LIKE THAT. OKAY LADS, WHAT ABOUT THE PRESS?
Nicky: The press? (launches into shockingly good Shane Lynch impression) Recently... In the press... There's been a LOAD OF F*%&@#g $#!/& about us.
Darragh: (shouting) Look at us now! Look at us now! Look at us now! They say give the Irish alcohol... Look at us now!
Nicky: We're Irish! We're...
(loses concentration, all three fall about the floor laughing)
SERIOUSLY THOUGH, FOR AN UNSIGNED, UNMANAGED, UNPROMOTED BAND, THAT HASN'T EVEN HAD A COMMERCIAL RELEASE, YOU'RE HUGE! I MEAN, HOW DID IT FEEL TO OPEN SMASH HITS - BIGGEST POP MAGAZINE IN EUROPE - AND READ ABOUT YOURSELVES?
Darragh: That was weird. Especially since we didn't know anything was gonna be there.
Nicky: Although, it's not like there was a ten-page article on us or anything. It's more just soundbytes about us when they're talking about Brian, but because of the profile of the magazines, it's a great big plug - especially for an unsigned band!
Tim: For anyone who doesn't know, Smash Hits is like the biggest pop magazine in the world. It's a bible... and for us to even be mentioned is a huge deal, much less talked about positively!
YOU SEEM VERY RELAXED ABOUT IT ALL. THERE ARE GIRLS WHO HAVE YOUR POSTERS ON THEIR WALLS. GIRLS WHO CRY WHEN YOU SING. HUNDREDS OF GIRLS WHO FOLLOW YOU! THAT'S NOT PAR FOR THE COURSE FOR YOUR AVERAGE TEENAGER! I TALKED TO SOME OF THEM LAST NIGHT. I SAW THEM CRYING AND MOUTHING EVERY WORD ALONG WITH YOU.
Nicky: It's flattering boy. It's awkward at first though. What can you possibly say when someone walks up to you and says 'you're a ride!'. All you can do is say thanks, and then walk off thinking about how weird the world is. I don't think any of us are that great looking. I mean, I know we're not ugly, but we're not supermodels either, so it's weird when someone likes you like that. But hey, as long as it lasts, I'll take it as it comes.
Tim: I know this sounds cheesey, but we really are all in it for the music. We'll take whatever comes with it, and the fan attention means so much to us, but once people are getting enjoyment out of our music, I'm happy.
Tim: Jeez, there's so many... For me personally, I'd have to say the Carter Twins!
Nicky: Hmmmm... Mine's Jason from Take That!
Darragh: For musical genius it's probably Mr.Blobby, or maybe Whigfield, but my idol as far as image goes is definately Daniel O'Donnell.
(cue much hilarity, as the lads shout over each other... "The Macarena blokes!"... "Lolly!"... "Spike from 911!"... "Ann Lee!"... "Deuce!"... "Who the %*@> are Deuce?"... "The Muppets!"... "Hey I like the Muppets!"...)
RIGHT, A FEW RUMOURS TO CLEAR UP. I WAS TALKING TO SOME PEOPLE LAST NIGHT...
(all three suddenly stop shouting)
RUMOUR 1 - YOU ALL HAVE GIRLFRIENDS.
Nicky: Em... We've decided not to talk about it in detail; Out of respect for past, present and future girlfriends. Let's just say that at the moment, all three of us ARE seeing girls, but as for identities, and seriousness of relationships, that's between us and the ladies in question.
NOT GAY THEN?
Nicky: No, as you may have noticed, I just said we all had GIRLFRIENDS, not 'partners'; therefore I think it's safe to say we're all straight.
RUMOUR 2 - A FEMALE RADIO PRESENTER ONCE GOT A TAD OFFENDED 'CAUSE YOU STARTED TALKING ABOUT HER 'CURVES' ON AIR.
Nicky: You what?
Darragh: Ah no. This was with Bryan, when we went on this crazy radio show on a Dublin Radio Station. The show was mad, and the female presenter started rating us out of ten, on looks. So, we rated her back.
Tim: Believe me, she scored high.
Darragh: There was no offence taken, either way though. She was a friend.
Nicky: I wasn't there at the time, but the thing is we're not a manufactured band who spout record-company crap about bias in the business and stuff. We speak our minds, but we do it responsibly.
Tim: The show in question was on at 11pm - It's not like we were on kids TV. I know you might not think it, but we're very careful in what we say. It's all controlled. We're just a bit cheeky when we're in the appropriate atmosphere. We try to just be ourselves as much as possible.
RUMOUR 3 - YOU'VE BEEN GETTING STRANGE FAN MAIL?
Nicky: Like, dirty letters and stuff. Well, a bit.
NO, WE MEAN FROM OVERSEAS
Tim: Oh yeah. Man, we've started getting all these e-mails and letters from Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, China... all over the Far East. It's madness. I'm not sure how most of them have even heard of us!?!
Darragh: We used think it was mental getting UK fan mail when we never even did a gig there, but the fans have this mad network, where once one person knows a band, everyone knows them. It's cool.
Nicky: Thanks to everyone who'se sent us letters, e-mails and stuff, by the way. It really means a lot. We DO actually get to read it ourselves, so keep it coming!
OKAY, RUMOUR 4 - A COUPLE OF MONTHS AGO, BRYAN GOT UPSET WHEN SOME FANS STARTED TALKING ABOUT CARTEL. HE SAID HE MISSED IT BADLY.
Darragh: Where did you hear this?
FROM SOME FANS. NOT FROM HIM!
Tim: I don't know then. I wasn't there! Can't answer for Bri, so you better ask him yourself.
Darragh: Basically, I miss Bri. Very badly. But we've all moved on. I know Cartel meant a lot to him, and we all had a great laugh, so I'm sure he misses it too. We're still best mates though, we see him whenever we get the chance, and we're proud of what he's doing.
EVER WONDER 'WHAT IF'?
Nicky: None of us do. You'd drive yourself mad boy!
RUMOUR 5 - WHEN YOU WERE RELAUNCHING CARTEL, YOU WERE GOING TO DENY BRYAN WAS EVER IN THE BAND.
Darragh: At the start, people suggested we don't mention it, so we don't go down as, like, 'Bryan-From-Westlife's-Reject-Band', but I'm proud of what Cartel was with Brian, and I'm not going to hide it.
Tim: We'd never lie about something like that. Cartel wouldn't be what it is without Brian, so he deserves credit, as our friend and our band-mate. He still helps us out all the time. Cartel was a big first step for us. We helped each other develop in the first place.
EVER GET SICK OF BEING ASKED ABOUT HIM?
Tim: Oh, you think!!! Some people just can't let it go, but the thing is, he WAS and IS a part of it, so I'd never try to talk about the band as if he wasn't involved. I'm proud of it - Not because he's in Westlife now, but because he's a part of what Cartel is today, as much as me, Dar, or Nick.
Darragh: You make it sound as if we should avoid the topic. It gets annoying when people only see us as Brian's ex-band, but it doen't annoy me if they ask us about Cartel with Brian as a member, if you know what I mean.
Nicky: And let's face it. Half the reason we've got so much attention is 'cause of him.
DOES THAT BOTHER YOU?
Nicky: Did it bother Westlife that Ronan was their manager? Did it bother Britney Spears that she's fine looking? Did it bother Jordan Knight that he used to be in New Kids On The Block? In an ideal world, people will notice you for your talent, but in reality, you take whatever attention you can to get yourself out there. I'd love people to recognise us for being good performers and musicians, but if it's the Brian connection that gets us noticed, then so be it. I promise you, once people see us on stage boy, they'll know it's not the only reason we're popular!
Darragh: Basically, it gets us noticed, and that's great, but our publicists have been warned not to use it as the major plug for the band.
LAST QUESTION ABOUT BRYAN - I PROMISE. DO YOU HAVE A MESSAGE FOR HIM?
Tim: (thinks, and slowly begins talking, as if we're not there) Bri.... we're proud of you for all you've accomplished. We know it was hard work - more than most people could possibly imagine - but you've made it now, and we're glad you're happy. We always believed in you... We had great craic; we struggled, laughed, grew and learned together, and we have some great memories which I know we'll all keep forever. You know you'll always be a part of Cartel, and you'll always be our friend and soul-mate. Thanks for all you help and support... We miss you man.
Darragh: Amen to that!
SO, WHAT'S NEXT FOR CARTEL?
Nicky: We're taking about two months off boy!
ARE YOU LOT EVER SERIOUS?
Darragh: He's actually being serious! Nick here is gonna be working on producing new material, and remixing old stuff; I'm setting up new ideas and sequences and all stage-related stuff; Tim's off to Canada and the US to spend Christmas with his family, and then meet with some American managers, and hopefully getting new material from some US songwriters. We're all writing, and also working on our individual weakner points, then coming back with clear heads, focused for the busiest year of our lives.
WHEN WILL WE NEXT SEE YOU?
Nicky: I have the lead role in an adult video, called 'Well Endowed'. It'll be in the shops just in time for Christmas!
(Tim shoots him a look)
Nicky: Okay, I'm joking! Sorry, but I've been serious for too long.
Darragh: We'll be doing TV and live shows around Ireland from Febuary onwards, hopefully hitting the UK by July, and we'll take it as it comes from there.
RIGHT LADS, ALMOST OVER. WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Tim: Of the interview, or in general?
Darragh: I liked it. It was blunt; definately not what I expected, but you were straight up, and I respect that.
Tim: Once every so often, it's nice to not be asked our favourite colour, or ideal qualities in a girl.
SO THEN, WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR IN A GIRL?
Darragh: Watch yourself!
Darragh: You'd want to be!
OKAY LADS, JUST ONE MORE QUESTION, AND WE'RE GONNA SINGLE NICKY OUT
Nicky: About time boy. All I've heard are all these questions about the band before I was in it, so now it's about time I got some attention!
RIGHT, NICKY, DO YOU GET A HARD TIME FROM THE LADS OVER YOUR STRONG COUNTRY ACCENT?
(Tim and Darragh keel over laughing)
Nicky: I'm NOT from the country!!!
Tim: (mimicking Nicky in mock country accent) Oi'm not fruhm tha cunthry!
Nicky: Shut up! You, ya big Dublin langer, before I kick your ass!
Darragh: (under his breath) Thick country vegetable!
Nicky: I heard that! I'll kill you as well! Ya think you're hard 'cause you're from Tallaght. I'll tell you straight, you're a pussycat boy!
Darragh: At least I'm not a culchie!
Nicky: (matter-of-factly) I'm from Cork! Cork is NOT in the country. It's a city, the third-biggest in Ire...
(Tim and Darragh in convulsions laughing)
Nicky: Ah, #@$% the lot of ya anyway!!!