Duke Special Press Release
Duke Special has taken Music Hall, Northern Soul and intelligent pop and lovingly crafted and carved out a style of his own, proudly led by his love of the old ivories' - Charlotte Dryden, The Fly
'a voice shot through with equal measures of honey and heartbreak' - Roisin Ingle, Irish Times
'Duke Special writes great, repentant love songs, like Rufus Wainwright without the silk cushions, or a less histrionic Bright Eyes' - Ben Graham, The Fly
Bruised romanticism is probably not the first thing you notice about Duke Special. If you meet him in the street, it's more likely to be the unlikely dreadlocks and implausibly wide trousers. If you see him onstage you'll be struck by his remarkable voice, and then perhaps the gramophone and the curious menagerie of supporting musicians. But his songs - heartfelt, poetic and passionate - will be what stay with you.
"My most favourite thing was to sit in the dark, playing the piano. Music was all I wanted to do." The Duke grew up in Belfast with his mother, father and three sisters. "My sisters and I all learnt piano. It wasn't an optional activity." When they were young, the Duke and his sisters would sing traditional Irish songs in churches and community centres. "That's probably where my sense of melody comes from, from folk music, church music - music for people to sing together." It's no surprise then that a Duke Special gig will often end with a sing-along that few can resist.
"People always used to say that my songs sounded like something from a musical," says the Duke. "For a long time that horrified me." As a reaction, he started playing in a succession of rock bands with little success. "Finally I realised that I had to do what came naturally to me. But I wanted to find a way to play the piano and sing that didn't make me the new Elton John."
The concept of musicals led him to consider a more theatrical approach. "I got really interested in vaudeville and music hall. I loved the idea of all these strange Victorian entertainments with their crazy descriptions. I recognised that spirit in what I was doing. I wanted everything to sound 'old'. But most of all I want to be entertaining and connect with people on an emotional level".
Duke Special finally began appearing as himself in 2002, accompanying himself on the piano and with an antique gramophone. "It instantly felt right, and the way it looked on the stage with the gramophone and old box microphone meant that people knew it was something different."
The gramophone is also integral to last year’s album 'Adventures in Gramophone', which features an array of fascinating sounds from cheese graters and wardrobe doors to harp, brass and strings all woven around the piano and his unique voice. "I wanted to create a world for the listener to visit that was unlike anywhere else they'd been or anything else they'd heard."
The Duke has gradually recruited a small collective of eccentric musicians to explore this world with him, including drummer and percussionist Chip Bailey ("A clown, a juggler, a renegade Morris-man. He's definitely one of a kind") who will accompany the Duke on the May shows, and other unusual instrumentalists from around the globe. In some combination they are regularly to be found bringing the Duke's antique songs of confused love and doubting faith to life.
Duke Special has toured extensively over the past year throughout Ireland, the UK and Germany including tours with Aqualung, Rufus Wainwright, Hal, David Ford, Gemma Hayes, Juliet Turner, Bell x1 and the Frames. Meanwhile Jack White (of The White Stripes) and The Hives are among his growing set of admirers.
The new album “Songs from the Deep Forest” will be released ONLY on a box set of 6 seven-inch vinyl records on tour and in selected retail outlets from June 12.
5 May: Northampton Soundhaus
6 May: Stockton Georgian Theatre
7 May: Swindon Riffs Bar
8 May: Southampton Joiners
9 May: Brighton Hanbury Ballroom
10 May: Leeds Cockpit
11 May: Birmingham Glee Club
12 May: Eastbourne Underground
13 May: Swansea Chattery
15 May: Derby Victoria Inn
16 May: Bristolar2
17 May: Liverpoolacademy 3
18 May: Glasgow Barfly
19 May: Aberdeen Tunnels
21 May: Leicester Charlotte
22 May: Manchester Late Rooms
23 May: Wrexham Centralstation
24 May: Newcastle University
25 May: London Bush Hall
27 May: Belfast Empire Hall
28 May: Belfast Empire Hall
16 Jun: Dublin Whelans
For more info, see www.dukespecial.com