Legendary hell-raisers Alabama 3 are known to music fans as one of the best live bands around and purveyors of electronica-tinged acid country gospel, but to the average man on the street, they will likely always be known as the band that wrote ‘The Sopranos’ theme song.
The band’s lead singer Larry Love, or Rob Spragg to his postman, was shocked at the death of the show’s leading man, James Gandolfini, which he puts down to “too much good living” and the band held a minute’s silence his memory at a recent Belfast concert.
“We didn’t know him that intimately, but I met him a few times,” he recalls. “It was a real shame, 51 years old.”
‘Good living’ is how one could euphemistically describe the lifestyle led by Larry and his band of merry men and women over the past two decades. Hearing of the death of his contemporary must have provided the gravel-voiced Welshman with food for thought?
“Are you saying that I had an intimation of mortality? Yeah. He’d only got two years on me. Exactly!”
Larry is currently at home, looking after his kids during school holidays. With his elder daughter now in her teens, she is at an age where she is aware of her father’s hedonistic lifestyle, but Larry is not concerned that she and her younger brother will seek to follow his path in life.
“They hate my music! They have no respect for me at all, which is the way I like it really. If I can steer them away from a life of crime, I mean rock and roll, all the better!”
The young Robert Spragg similarly diverged from the chosen path of his father. The son of a Mormon preacher, his preaching through the ‘First Presleyterian Church of Elvis the Divine’ is likely not what his father had envisaged.
A religious upbringing clearly left some impression, though, as Alabama 3’s back catalogue is packed with religious references. From ‘Too Sick to Pray’ to the 2011 album, ‘Shoplifting for Jesus’, religion looms large.
“All music is littered with references to some sort of spirituality or other, I just think we take it up a notch,” he says, joking that he recites a prayer each night to atone for his sins. “A Hail Mary and everything else – I cover all bases!”
The religious theme continues in Alabama 3’s upcoming album, with the working title of ‘The Men from W.O.M.B.L.E’. The acronym stands for ‘World Of Militant Beat-Liberating Executioners’, says Larry, and the album, “a massive mix-tape” which should be completed by October, veers from sexually explicit to born-again extremism, taking in Detroit house sounds.
Never one to shy away from expressing his opinions, Larry found himself in hot water with RTÉ fashion presenter Kathryn Thomas last year, when she took umbrage at his inflammatory comments about police and bankers during the IFTA awards.
It hasn’t changed the Welshman’s view that bankers should be punished for the devastation that has been wrought on the Irish economy and beyond, despite his mocking retraction.
“I said on the microphone, ‘you should do a bit of rioting’ for a laugh and I got in big trouble for encouraging the youth of Ireland to rise up. So no, you should be very accepting and lie down, meek as lambs!”
The recession has had some good points though, argues Larry, one of them being a thriving underground music scene.
“I would say the music I’ve heard over the last three or four years coming out of Ireland is f**king banging,” he says, noting that audiences, too, have changed since the crash came.
“We’ve been coming [to Ireland] before the Celtic Tiger, during, and after, and it’s like the crowds have gotten a bit more realistic. They’re not so f**king polite to tourists!”
Alabama 3 play an acoustic set at Róisín Dubh, Dominick Street on Sunday, 11 August at 8pm. Tickets, priced €20, are available on the door or for €18 online at www.roisindubh.net.