Liam McKahey was the Cork-born singer with the London-based band Cousteau, who recorded three albums, 'Cousteau' (Global Warming, 1999 : reissued Palm Pictures, 2000 ; 'Sirena' (Palm Pictures, 2002) in 'Nova Scotia' (Endeavour Records, 2005).

Cousteau lost their main songwriter, pianist and acoustic guitarist Davey Ray Moor, at the end of 2002. Keyboardist Dan Moore appeared on 'Nova Scotia', but also decided to leave shortly afterwards. McKahey and Cousteau's other two original members, electric guitarist Robin Brown and bassist Joe Peet, chose to carry on with acoustic guitarist Tom Clues, another long term mainstay of the group, and new members, pianist Chloe Brown and drummer Paul Wigens. The realigned group toured in 2005, but fell into inactivity shortly afterwards.

Liam McKahey is about to release his debut solo album, 'Lonely Road', a lush-album of torch songs which as all his music recalls Scott Walker and Lee Hazlewood, on the Series 8 label. It was recorded in London with a group of friends including Robin Brown (electric guitar) and Tom Clues (acoustic guitar), and Neil Henderson (percussion), Kirsa Wilkenschildt (percussion) and John Hutchinson (trumpet), all of whom are in the group Copenhagen. Blair Jollands produced it, and also makes appearances on piano and harmonica.

McKahey has recently emigrated with his family to Canberra in Australia. He spoke to Pennyblackmusic from there about 'Lonely Road'.

PB : Cousteau produced three albums. Your first self-titled album had a limited run of 3,000 copies and ran out instantly. When that album was reissued it went on to sell 220,000 copies ? Was the reissue re-recorded or just remixed ? Did the follow-ups, 'Sirena' and 'Nova Scotia' sell as many copies ?

LM : I know 'Sirena' didn't do as well as the debut, which was all re-recorded except for 'Last Good Day', but it still had respectable sales, exactly how many I don't know.

By the time 'Nova Scotia' was released I think our time had well and truly passed. Many people will say it was the writing and maybe they are right, but I am so proud of that album. We all stepped up to the plate and I think it's a fine collection of songs. But to answer your question, I don't know how many albums it sold. It can't have been that many or we would have gone on to make another Cousteau album.

PB : When Davey Ray Moor left the band after 'Sirena', did the band consider folding then ?

LM : Yes, of course, but we were not ready. We were still enjoying each other's company and enjoying the wonderful job we had, and we had another couple of memorable years after he left so continuing was the right thing to do.

PB : When the band were reduced to having just three original members did things become harder for you ?

LM : No, not at all. Robin, Joe and I were the only three original members in the band but I think we became closer as a result. We had to use our talents as musicians a lot more and I think it brought out the best from us.

Craig Vear who had played drums on all the albums except for the Global Warming release was still with us when we recorded 'Nova Scotia'. We still had Tom Clues, who was our acoustic guitar player for many years, as well and in a sense he was the glue that held it all together for me. He was and is an amazing musician and person to have around and he made it all worthwhile. Dan Moore, Chloe March and Paul Wigens are still three of the best players I have ever been involved with, so, no, it was actually a lot easier in a sense.

PB : When did the band fold ?

LM : About three years ago. Our manager as well as the band had had enough. It felt like flogging a dead horse to be honest.

PB : 'Lonely Road', your debut solo album, is just about to come out. Did you record any solo music prior to it ?

LM : Yes, but it was demos mostly. I had been trying my hand at writing on my own though for a while.

PB : It was recorded in London. Was this prior to your move to Australia ?

LM : Yeah, a few months before we left actually. I had the songs, I had the friends and I had the time. It seemed the right thing to do.

PB : How long did it take to write and record ? Did it take longer then any the Cousteau albums to record ?

LM : Some of the songs I had knocking around for year. Some, such as 'Blackwater Pass' and 'Unheeded Tidings', I wrote before and during recording. We had five or six rehearsals in a very good but very basic rehearsal studio in Stoke Newington. Then we recorded eleven or twelve songs at the Fortress Studios in Old Street in four days. It was real old fashioned back-to-basics recording, lots of laughing, playing and alcohol. It was a hoot and I had forgotten how much fun it could be.

The Cousteau albums were a lot different. We had record company money for a start and it was a lot more controlled musically. I had a clear idea of how I wanted 'Lonely Road' to sound, but I picked the players because I knew how good they were so I just let them do their thing. I thought they should interpret the songs as they saw fit and they didn't let me down.

PB : How are you enjoying Australia. Are you doing a day job there or are you doing music there too ? Will you tour this album ?

LM : Yes, it is a wonderful country. If I am being honest I was shit scared to make the move. Changing hemispheres in your forties is crazy but I am glad we did. My wife, who nis Australian, is happy to be home and my kids love it here as do I. I am and always have been a painter and decorator, so that's what I do to pay the mortgage but I am still writing and playing. I have found three amazing musicians and just need two more and I will be gigging again. I can't wait. It has been too long.

PB : Did the album turn out how you expected it to ?

LM : Given the time we had to record and rehearse it turned out way better than I could have imagined. My best mates all came through for me and I will always be in their debt for that. Blair Jollands did an amazing job on the production. I am really happy with it.

PB : Why the dead deer on the cover ?

LM : My older brother painted that piece. I think it fits the album so well. It is sad, dark and beautiful

PB : What do you miss about Britain if anything?

LM : Friends, football and Guinness in that order

PB : What are your future plans ? Are you planning any more recording or are you just going to see how 'Lonely Road' goes down first ?

LM : I am working on some internet projects which are turning out to be very special. I am also just writing and playing with my new band for future performances and releases. I am just doing what I do really.

PB : Thank you for your time.

The top photograph was taken by Matthew Williams

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