Wednesday, May 22, 2024

‘Aslan is a religion in Finglas’ – band’s new singer Lee Tomkins says he can never replicate Christy Dignam

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Original band members Joe Jewell, Alan Downey and Billy McGuinness will be joined by singer Lee Tomkins their Ireland tour from March, their first gigs since the death of frontman and founder Christy Dignam in June last year.

Tomkins (37) is a singer and guitarist from Finglas, where the band has its roots, and he is also a big Aslan fan.

Tomkins said “everything is exciting about” his new journey with Aslan, while it is “tough to step into them shoes”.

“You’re never going to replicate Christy Dignam. He’s such an icon of music, especially in Dublin, in Ireland,” Tomkins told Oliver Callan on RTÉ Radio One.

“So I have to put my own spin on things, my own flavour into things.

“Aslan is a religion in Finglas.

“You grow up, and it’s bred into you, as a young kid, your family listened to Aslan, your cousins, your friends. You go to all the gigs.”

Tomkins has been playing music since he was ten and started performing on stage at the age of 15.

“I was the lead guitarist in a band called DC Tempest years ago, and we played with Bon Jovi and Kid Rock,” he said.

The Dublin band and their new singer Tomkins performed the song Precious from the band’s Here Comes Lucy Jones album.

Guitarist McGuinness said it’s very emotional for them to realise it’s the first performance without Dignam.

“After 40 years together, myself, Joe and Alan made the decision to carry on playing the Aslan music. We need a singer. So hence Lee came on board,” he said.

“[Precious] was a song that Christy never sang live, we never played it live.”

McGuinness said going on their new journey is exciting, but every concert will be remembering Dignam.

“We’re looking forward to starting in Cork on March 22, but every gig that we do will be remembering Christy,” he said.

“Because we did share a stage for 40 years, so we’re not just going to erase that memory.”

It comes as the original members of Aslan confirmed they would not be taking part in a celebration of Dignam to be held at Dublin’s Vicar Street in May with Dignam’s daughter Kiera.

The band’s last concert took place a year and a half ago in Kilkenny.

“And little did we know when we walked off stage and said good luck to Christy, we’d never step back on stage again,” Billy said.

McGuinness said it was important for Aslan that the new singer wouldn’t try to copy Christy.

“It was very important that the singer that we found didn’t want to become a Christy Dignam mark two,” he said.

“And Lee has his own individual style. He’s not going to be doing the hand movements that Christie used to do or anything like that. It’s about being himself really.”

Playing music together has been a sort of therapy for the band, McGuinness added.

“What happened was the three of us got together, and we were just playing the songs, and it was like therapy for us after Christie passed,” McGuinness.

“We didn’t advertise for a singer.

“Lee approached [drummer] Alan’s brother Gary Downey and said: ‘Look, I heard the lads are back up playing songs, have they a singer?

“Gary rang Alan and said: ‘Look, there’s a guy from Finglas, he’s a great singer’.

“And that was the way it happened – Lee came in and we didn’t let him out.”

McGuinness added that Dignam would never let Aslan finish.

“I said to the lads: ‘Look, if I died, or Joe died or Alan died, there is no way Christy Dignam would let Aslan finish.’,” he said.

“You can never replace Christie. This is a new journey,” he said.

Meanwhile, lead guitarist Jewell added: “It’s obviously going to be different, people are saying it won’t be the same. That’s true because it’s not meant to be the same.”

“You approach things differently, rearrange songs, the whole approach is that it’s just a new journey,” he said.

Aslan will play six gigs in total, first in Cork’s Cypress Avenue, and then at the Haven Hotel in Waterford on Friday, April 5 and Wexford’s Crown Live on Saturday, April 6.

The band will then play Dolan’s Warehouse in Limerick on Saturday, April 13 and Monroe’s in Galway city on Saturday, April 20 before finishing the tour at Whelan’s in Dublin on Thursday, April 25.

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