I’m very excited to have Ferdia Mac Anna as my next guest. Ferdia’s path has been as twisted and knotted as they come. In the Irish rock scene of the 70s and early 80s he was known as Rocky of Rocky de Valera and the Gravediggers and later formed The Rhythm Kings, after which he worked for RTE television in production and direction.
I can personally testify he is an fascinating and highly sought after screen writing instructor, as well as a veteran features writer and rock reviewer for several Irish newspapers. If that is not enough his novel, Last of the High Kings, was made into a movie staring Gabriel Byrne.
OK, I know what you’re thinking. He’s famous. I’ve let down my readers. Haven’t I said my main focus is on ordinary people in out of the ordinary lives?
You caught me. But if you’re going to throw my own writing back in my face I have something else I’d like to say…Thank you for noticing!
What are rules for if not to be broken? Besides, I have an excellent loophole for this one. It’s the title of Ferdia Mac Anna’s memoire: The Rocky Years, Story of an (almost) legend. See? (ALMOST.) We’ll just forget the fact that everyone from the Irish Rock scene of the 70s and 80s, including Bono, knows him and leave it at that!
I recommend The Rocky Years because you’ll get three entertaining reads in one:
- Schooling under brutal corporeal punishment of the Irish Christian Brothers, in contrast to a not so ordinary life as the son of the Tony Award Winning director of Dublin’s renowned Abbey Theatre.
- Irish Rock Scene: If you liked The Commitments as much as I did (which Ferdia Mac Anna proof read for its author Roddy Doyle to fact check the Irish rock scene), you’ll love reading what it was like for someone who really lived it—hilarious!
- Cancer Survivor: A very tender and honest perspective of surviving this struggle as a young man. It will change your perspective.
HDYGT: Hello Ferdia, please tell our readers what do you do today.
HDYGT: Most of us mortals dream, but your dreams seem to be in IMAX 3-D. Please tell us how you had the idea for your first band, Johnny Jurex and the Punk Pistols. Is it true you got your first gig before the band even existed, making the name up on the spot?
Ferdia Mac Anna: True. It happend in UCD in 1976. Myself and my friend Seamus McClelland made up the name on the spot. Inspired by Punk and the DIY ethos we decided that we could form a band, write songs and perform live for people purely on the basis that we could not play any musical instrument and/or sing. We figured that if we had a memorable (ie attention grabbing) name the rest would follow. Anyway, we played a gig during Rag Week and the crowd was so impressed by our performance that they tried to electrocute us.
HDYGT: In The Rocky Years you mention your restless youth. Would you say this was pushing back against the oppressive and often brutal Christian Brothers who taught school, or because of the broadening travel opportunities you had with your father directing in places such as Iceland, Paris and New York City?
Ferdia Mac Anna: I’m still restless. Just the other day I was thinking of emigrating to the USA with my wife and kids. It’s something I have been trying to do all my life, but have failed miserably. Maybe one day…
When I was young. I saw myself as a rebel. However, most who remember me from that period say I was a quiet boy who was very helpful to younger kids.
My dad was always working abroad directing plays or lecturing in colleges. At the end of each summer he brought me home albums by bands like The Doors and The Allman Bros Band. The Allmans are still my all time favourite band.
I have never been able to decide between music and book and so I ricochet between the two. I like it that way.
HDYGT: What spurred your interest in writing?
Ferdia Mac Anna: I have been writing since I was six (The Man From UNCLE was a big influence, as were The MONKEES and Sesame Street). I have led a number of lives over the years but I have been active in the present lot since the 80s.
HDYGT: What is your favorite aspect to your work?
Ferdia Mac Anna: Work has an aspect? Well, work has dignity (sometimes) and it pays. I like work.
HDYGT: What quality / skill or both do you feel makes you particularly suited to wearing so many different hats?
Ferdia: I have a tough neck. I get a buzz from it. I sometimes think BIG.
HDYGT: Are there any more twists in your professional path that we don’t know about?
Ferdia Mac Anna: Well, I once worked as a ship inspector in Dublin airport. My job was to arrest illegal animals.
HDYGT: Did this lead to your current position?
Ferdia Mac Anna: Yes. Anything was better than being a ship inspector.
HDYGT: Of your many past incarnations, which ones stood out the most?
Ferdia Mac Anna: I was a rock and roll singer 1977-1983.
It was kind of hard to forget that gig. Then again, I kept diaries. If I ever want to find out what kind of mad eejit I was back then, all I have to do is dig into an old diary.
I was a housedad 2003-2005. Tough but it rocked, and I got to see my kids.
About the rock and roll: The girls. The noise. The music. The guitars. And in that order.
About being a housedad: My kids pleading with me not to cook.
HDYGT: Thank you Ferdia, it’s a pleasure having you!