Fergal Bunbury is, in his own words, the guitarist and strategist with A House and AHOUSEISDEAD. Well: he has been both but is not both now. A House broke up in February 1997 with a final farewell in the Olympia. I was there, singing, swaying, drinking and mourning. I also attended AHOUSEISDEAD when they accepted an award for I Am The Greatest in the NCH in June 2019.
A gig I did not go to was the Pixies’ 20th anniversary Doolittle show in the Olympia in 2009. I wrote in the Irish Independent why I would not go and that is an addendum here. (It’s also here.) My essential point was “I love Doolittle too much to watch it being mummified.” Fergal and I started talking about Pixies last week. He told me that Trompe Le Monde was “the zenith of indie guitar rock”. I disagreed because Doolittle is. I shared with Fergal my 2009 piece.
Responding, Fergal addressed something that had never occurred to me: the correlation and contrast between Pixies’ trajectory since breaking up in 1993 and A House’s since 1997. On Twitter, he said: “The name AHOUSEISDEAD was inspired by Death to the Pixies, which I thought was the best title ever, until they fucked it up by coming back. Call yourselves something else. PIXIESAREDEAD.” He sent me a clear, detailed, handwritten reflection on A House and Pixies on September 25th, and he agreed that I could publish it here.
Fergal Bunbury, still produces fascinating, fractious, moving music, now as FBU62. And let me just say: A House are among the bands I’ve held closest to my heart my whole life since age 17. One of my emails to Fergal ended like this: “Coda. I have the title track of I Want Too Much on right now. Fucking hell, Fergal.”
I am delighted to host fErGaL here.
Fergal Bunbury. September 25th 2022.
Niall, I really enjoyed your piece.
As for the Doolittle gig? You were right not to go. (Neither did I.)
I firmly believe that once a band breaks up they should never reform. (That goes for The Velvets too. No-one talks about those gigs.)
That may sound strange, considering the I Am The Greatest gigs, but I have spent 25 years saying NO to an A House reunion, turning down far less money than Pixies were offered!
When we were approached about playing to receive the Trailblazer Award (Microdisney & A House being the only bands so honoured!), my only stipulation was that it could not be advertised as A House. Hence AHOUSEISDEAD was born.
The idea was to play the NCH and then write new songs and play smaller venues as AHOUSEISDEAD, playing a mix of new & old songs. The NCH was a huge success but was all seated so we decided to do one for the dancers & dreamers at Vicar Street.
Each gig’s setlist was old songs but we radically changed ‘Take It Easy On Me’, ‘How Strong Is Love’, ‘When I First Saw You’, ‘I am Afraid’ and ‘Here Come The Good Times’, and as I said the plan was always to write new songs, which we did, just before the world shut down for two years. (I spent the lockdown writing stuff that was released on Bandcamp as FBU62).
A very wise man less than half my age once told me “No Kim Deal, no Pixies”, and he’s right. The tensions that split the band—one of the best bands ever—inevitably resurfaced, and that was that. Everyone has seen some fairly laboured Pixies gigs from around this time on YouTube etc.
Then, the new material came. As I said here, the pressure to call themselves Pixies was probably immense. Don’t underestimate the pressure we were under to use the A House name. And Pixies would have been under even more pressure. I guess what I’m saying is: they could’ve and should’ve said no. Like we said no. Come up with a new name and start again. As creative people, it should’ve been easy.
As an aside, I think there is a very good long piece to be written about the AHOUSEISDEAD Trailblazer/Vicar Street gig. Old musicians, new musicians, left-out musicians, (there were 3 generations of musicians in the band), crisps, pre/post-Spotify, acrimony, Garageband, record deals, band break-ups, promoters, trying to make a living, old against new music industry, creativity. I think some of the issues we’ve touched on here could be examined in more detail with a specific focus on AHOUSEISDEAD and a wider point of what it takes and means to be a musician in the 21st century.
That is all for now.
Take it easy but take it.