Patrick D’Arcy:Pure Pipes (Interview)

Also in this edition: Eve Mctelenn, The Whistling Tree and Will Tun & The Wasters.


From Dublin Ireland to California, Patrick D’Arcy maintained the soul of the uilleann pipes and other wind instruments …making one realize that it is innate passion , not geography that keeps the spirit of the music alive.

Patrick D’Arcy

This week’s featured artist is the smooth man of the uilleann pipes, Patrick D’Arcy. I was literally captivated by his album Wallop the Spot that I had to get his ideas into cyber print for everyone’s pleasure. The album cover shows the charismatic musician grinning away from the camera to his left. The immaculate  instrument is poised ready to be played. Oxford Dictionaries define Wallop as : to strike or hit very hard(verb) or a heavy blow or punch (noun). The title speaks for the album. I think the notes are given more volume and mass with the absence of other instruments. You can literally feel as if each note  is being punched out of the instrument. He made the pipes very intimate giving a lot of angles to be appreciated including the drones. I enjoyed this conversation with Patrick and I hope you do as well.

The uilleann pipes became a star instrument in your hands. What kind of techniques have you developed so far after years of playing?

Thank you Baxter! I don’t think I do anything unusual as far as technique on the instrument goes. I use traditional techniques I’ve picked up over they years from other players and teachers by attending schools like The Willie Clancy Summer School in Clare, Ireland, and also by attending Tionól all over the US. These techniques would include cuts, rolls, triplets, crans and various other finger manipulations to trick the reed into believing that it’s supposed to be playing music and not standing dead in a marsh in California somewhere. Where these techniques are placed in relation to the beat would effect greatly the feel of the tune being played. Also the tempo at which the tune is played. I enjoy a less hurried pace to the music, trying to find feeling in tunes rather than just the thump on the floor.

You are very active in terms of networking with other musicians and creating piping sessions all over California. Has there been a dramatic change in terms of audience attendance now that it is so easy to network with listeners all over the web?

Not that I’ve noticed. When I began it was just before the onslaught of the internet anyway, the early 90’s, so I’ve always been able to email with other like-minded psycho’s. There was a great message board called The Uilleann Pipes Information List where everyone with access to a computer from complete beginners to pipemakers could share thought’s, ideas and opinions and gather information. I suppose people don’t seem as far away as they used to. Nowadays everything is available online. Every rare bit of footage and recording is there to be found and downloaded. It’s overwhelming really the amount of material there is out there. It is a matter of finding what you like and learning it intensely which will lead on to other musician’s and styles. Everything leads to something else.

What has been most memorable experience you had making Wallop the Spot?

Wallop The Spot album
by Patrick D’Arcy

Going for taco’s with Bryan Dobbs, my producer. I like food, but he is intensely into traditional Latino food. A place close to him is a small chain called Rigo’s Taco. After a day of recording we would refuel there and return to the studio for the rest of the night. Also, the recording got me back into listening to music. I hadn’t consciously been listening to traditional music for a while apart from the CD’s I have in my car on rotation at all times. Tommy Peoples, Tommy Reck, Bobby Casey, Willie Clancy and Darach Ó Catháin.
Every time I drive they are playing.
And as I live in Los Angeles, California, that would appear to be quite a bit!

 What’s your favorite track(s) off the album? And why?

I like tracks 2 (The Hag with the Money, The High Part of the Road,The Girl from the Big House ), 3 (The Green Fields of America) and 12 (My Bonny Blue Eyed Lassie). I love playing airs on the pipes and particularly these two. They seem epic to me. I also like track 4, (An Buachaill Dreóite), on the C whistle. It has a nice skip to it that I like. I was very happy with how the pipes recorded, especially the B set… there’s some whack off them! We spent a lot of time getting the sound right. I wanted to reproduce an authentic sound that allowed the listener to experience the pipes in a way that the player usually only gets to enjoy, like you are inside the instrument feeling the reeds buzzing all around you.

 Being Irish and now residing in the United States, do you keep a strong bond with your friends and fellow musicians in Ireland?

I like to think so. It is hard enough due to the distance but, like we were talking about earlier, the internet helps. Everyone is on Facebook so at least we get to see, silently sometimes, what each-other is up to. It is always nice to get together with people when I go home on holiday or on tour. Time can be limited but it’s an important part of those trips.

Having a tune at the Grand Ole Opry. — with Ricky Skaggs and Keith and Kristyn Getty at Grand Ole Opry.

 If you were given a chance to collaborate with another musician for a side project, whom would you like to work with and why?

Wow! … Liam Howlett of The Prodigy! … I think there could be some mad music made in that collaboration 🙂 I have so much admiration for other traditional Irish musician’s that I would be reluctant to impose my musicianship on them! I’d love to get a good trad band together though. It’s very hard thing to do in Los Angeles as there aren’t that many players and they’re all doing their own thing. Having said that though we do have a nice couple of sessions each week that I enjoy. Particularly the one at Timmy Nolan’s in Toluca Lake, my regular Tuesday night session. It is so important for publican’s to be enthusiastic about the music. The owner there is and takes very good care of us. It makes the atmosphere better and the music too! I love it when traditional musician’s from other cultures get together and come up with a hi-bred. Like Spillane, Irvine, Whelan and Parov did with Eastwind or Caoimhin O’Raghallaigh does with Swedish music. Liam O’FLynn also did it with Carlos Nuñez and the Galician tradition. I think Indian music would be a great combination with Irish music, maybe because of the drone commonality? I have had a the great pleasure of playing with Vikash and Prabash Maharaj from Varanasi, India. They are a father and son duo on sarod and tabla. They are consummate musicians – it would be very interesting to record something with them. I also like playing with bluegrass musicians and have had the privilege of playing with some of the best in Nashville like Ricky Skaggs, Ron Block, Andy Leftwich and Ross Holmes. It just grooves in a different way that can be interesting sometimes.

Pat that’s really a good idea…collaboration keeps creativity flowing! So what will we see you doing in the next few months?

I have a Christmas tour coming up with modern hymn writers Keith & Kristyn Getty – It begins the end of November and runs until just before Christmas. There are rehearsals between now and that beginning. I am promoting my CD “Wallop The Spot” like crazy and it’s going very well. If you are a radio show host or write album reviews please contact me!
The official website of modern hymn writers Keith and Kristyn Getty

In January I will be reassessing what to do next. Possibly a house concert/folk club tour? Any venues interested please contact me also.

Please complete this sentence: Music is………………………………………………………..

…what I am. All my life I’ve been eaten up with it… I’m just happy it’s not a disease… or is it!?!!? I wonder if there’s a generic medicine I can take to help cure it 😉

Parting words to your readers and fans?

Thanks for all the support! It is always so nice to meet people when I am out playing that know of my music. Please come up and say hello when I am in your town. And spread the word! <subtle hint>You know Christmas is coming up 😉 </subtle hint>

 Patrick is performing all over California. If you have the time please visit his sites below and also buy Wallop the Spot as a step in getting to know the uilleann pipes.

Other resources

Please visit his bandcamp page :

Video samples:


Featured video: Will Tun & The Wasters live @ the Baz Bunker, Norwich.

Ok these guys are crazy! I mean crazy as in fun and amazing. A big thank you to Will Tun and The Wasters for sending me the link to their live video via twitter. It made my morning. Yes yes yes good spirits.


Post Halloween Amusement: JACK O LANTERN STORY by Eve Mctelenn – jack à la lanterne

Those who frequent the Celtic Harp Facebook page aren’t strangers to Eve Mctelenn’s music. This one is a fine example on how story telling and music can enchant and inspire. Yes this is done in French but it doesn’t matter if you don’t understand. Just Listen…and listen..and you will love the sounds and the music. I am serious.


Featured site: The Whistling Tree

This is a new site devoted to those who want to learn and share the music of the tin whistle. The creator of this page is concentrating more on twitter feeds for now. But with more members, things will definitely change. Better hit the ‘like’ button 😀

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