Tom Dunne’s pop-rockers are making their regular nostalgic return next week, but haven’t ruled out writing again, either…

TOM DUNNE is best known today as a jovial presenter on Newstalk radio, but in the late 80s and early 90s his band Something Happens were at the forefront of a burgeoning Irish indie music scene.

Still active today – though infrequently, their shows an ecstatic celebration of what was – Dunne recalls the heydey fondly. “Getting started at all was our greatest achievement,” he jokes. “It was an incredible dream, getting to do things you only think people like Paul McCartney get to do.”

“It was taken for granted back then, for example, that being in a rock band meant doing certain things. We played in the National Stadium, and went to LA to record an album. Those kind of things don’t happen except for really huge bands anymore. Back then you just popped by a different country. It was almost expected.”

Something Happens picked up a huge record deal back then, with the pop-rockers signing up for Virgin to release debut album ‘Been There, See That, Done That’, and making a splash in the UK and the US.

The band even had their own self-penned magazine, writing stories of their times on tour, and once featuring Daniel O’Donnell on the cover. “We had a lot of time on tour, and it was something to do,” Dunne recalls, “getting down all the funny things that happened to us. The Daniel O’Donnell one was definitely a highlight. We used to sell them at shows.”

After several years of touring, the Virgin deal was eventually to turn sour: dropped from the label, Something Happens never reached quite the same heights as they had with their debut release, but continued released new music – much of it highly acclaimed – right up until 1997.

“We’d just heard that we were getting dropped, and I walked into the newsagent and picked up NME, and we were ‘single of the week’, which was a big deal back then” Dunne tells us. “We didn’t know about it. That was an odd week, and we felt a bit lost, I think. We ended up having a very long tail as a band.”

Billy Carter

One of Korea’s most distinct cultural outputs, KPop is world renowned, and – led by the comic satire of Psy in recent years – has established a genuinely global audience, with the US, in particular, a huge market. Its stars, though, rarely appear in Ireland.

Rarer is a showing from a Korean rock act – in fact, it’s probably not even an annual event – and it’s a genre that two years living in Korea taught me is genuinely impressive. The arrival of Seoul act Billy Carter on our shores this May, then, marks an unusual event for the Dublin music scene. We caught up with singer Kim Ji Won ahead of their Whelan’s show at the end of this month.

A lively bunch, Korean psychedelic psychobilly rockers Billy Carter (빌리카터) find their spiritual home in the Seoul student district of Hongdae. That means they’re born out of Korea’s young rebellion: an escape from cultural conservatism, they developed amid an arts-focused drinking district, a party spot where the soju flows like water, and sweaty basement rock gigs are long the norm. Breaking out is less common.

Speaking of the rarity of getting gigs around the world for Korean acts – and particularly for Korean acts that fall distinctly apart from the Kpop genre – Billy Carter vocalist Kim Ji Won explains “Hongdae got extremely huge and full of tourists and local people who want to hang out. Rents got very, very expensive, and so many live venues had to shut down or move. Still there are more venues in the Hongdae area than in any other part of Seoul, but we can find good venues in other areas too. Hongdae is our local but the atmosphere changed a lot. Maybe it’s time to move on to the bigger world.”

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