The following interviews with Daryl Ball was conducted in two parts with the help of Rick Chisholm in July and November 2004.
PART ONE - INNER VISION
Q: So what are your earliest musical memories?
A: I've grown up with music. There was often music being played in the house. Also I loved going on long car journeys when I was young when my parents would have the radio on or been playing cassettes of The Beatles, Wings, Cream, The Rolling Stones and I loved listening to those.
When I was about 10 I remember my Mum had the Billie Jean 7' single which just blew me away! Another big favourite around that time too was Adam Ant. When I was about 12 I got a lot of my Dads old LPs from the attic. I remember in particular listening to Abbey Road and Let It Bleed over and over. The Beatles and Rolling Stones are still two of my favourites 20 years later. I saw the Stones on their 40 Licks Tour in Sydney, they were fantastic.
Q: So when did you start playing music?
When I was 14 I worked weekends in a Camping Store. An older guy called Pete had an idea of putting a band together and needed a Bass player and so I got a bass and little practise amp that Christmas.
Pete never did put a band together so I thought I would get my own band. Originally the band was myself and some schoolfriends, Norman Nicholl, Geoff Baxter, Barry Kennedy and Ggordon Kennedy. We never actually rehearsed we just called ourselves a band. We didn't even have a name! Soon, Barry and Gordon lost interest and dropped out and were replaced with Jason Whiteside and so Inner Vision was born.
We rehearsed for about 6 months, which involved a lot of actually learning how to play our instruments. Then a school talent contest was about to happen. We felt we were ready to be heard but needed a singer! I can't remember how we heard about Marc Carey but he turned up to audition with us on the same day we were auditioning for the talent contest. Marc didn't know the words to the songs and sung from behing the curtains!! LOL ... Anyway, he sounded good and was instantly likeable, he fitted perfectly into the group. Marc had also some experience playing local bars which was a big bonus.
At the contest we did three songs The Troggs - Wild Thing, Guns n Roses - I Used To Love Her and The Beatles -Dizzy Miss Lizzy. We didn't win but we really enjoyed it and got a good reaction. It was a promising start .
Q: And how long did Inner Vision last?
I think we were together for over a year. We rehearsed hard and certainly improved as musicians a lot. We played mostly covers, a real mix, everything from The Beatles, Stones, Springsteen, U2, Clapton, Poison, Free, Transvision Vamp, Guns n Roses, lots of stuff but there were also a few early attemps at some original material. We eventually played about a dozen gigs in total including a really big charity event which we headlined and was captured on video. We were a good little band, really fun guys. I really enjoyed it and learned a lot.
PART TWO - THE NORWEGIANS.
Q: So, after Inner Vision what came next?
A: Well after we had parted company I was doing my A Levels and a mutual friend told me of another local band looking for a bass player.
That turned out to be The Norwegians who had been playing locally for a couple of years but at that stage only had singer Gary Hood and guitarist Richard McDowell still together. We hit it off well and within a few short weeks played our first gig as a three piece (using a drum machine) for Children In Need at Ballymenas Sportsbowl. Shortly after this Aaron Blair from 'Prize Arcana' jumped ship to join the Norwegians as our second guitarist and finally we found a drummer when Paul Bennett returned home after having been living in the US for a while.
Q: How would you describe The Norwegians music?
A: It's always difficult to put a label on music but the earlier Norwegians before I joined were very much a Punk band so there was still an element of that but we had a bit of a more mainstream wider appeal. Guitar driven pop is one way of describing it. On listening to it recently a lot of the stuff still sounds fresh today.
Q: What was your first experience in a recording studio like?
Pretty scary!! I was only 17 when we went into Homestead Studios to do our first recordings. I just remember finding it all a bit overwhelming. It was very hard work and a much longer process than I'd imagined but it was very exciting.
Probably the song that got most airplay was a ballad called Suffer in Silence written by Gary Hood. I still think Gary was a brilliant songwriter and I love his voice. Later when I started trying to write my own stuff he was a big influence. There's also a lot of great stuff written which sadly never was recorded. It's a shame people won't get to hear those songs.
Q: The Norwegians developed a reputation as a great live act?
A: Yes, definitely! We rehearsed very hard and played every gig we could get in any venue, anywhere. We mostly started out with support slots but as our set list grew and as we became more popular we did a lot more headliners. The Norwegians always had a fantastic energy and excitement to our live shows. We got a lot of great press. I remember we only played one show in our home town of Ballymena in The George. It was one of the best crowds we ever played to. The venue was just crammed with people, a mix of those who faithfully followed us around locally and others who had just heard about us or read about us coming to see what all the fuss was about. They had to close the doors and there were over 100 people turned away. It was a very proud night for us.
Q: The Norwegians did quite a lot of recording but only a small amount of the material was ever released.
A: Yeah, there was the NINE compilation CD featuring nine N. Irish bands each contributing 2 songs each, then later we had our own independently released 8 song Cassette Turn It On released which sold out really quickly. Oh yeah, we were also featured on an Oxfam compilation charity album and played a great fundraiser show at the famous Ulster Hall in Belfast.
A couple of years ago The Last Revolutionaries Waltz was released on one of the BURBs compilation CDs which was a great opportunity for a new audience to hear us. As I've said before a lot of great material never made it to the studio.
Q: You also worked with a few big names over the years?
We used to do regular support slots with a great Glam Rock tribute band called Glam Slam which featured Stiff Little Fingers guitarist Henry Cluney and Downtown Radio DJ Johnny Hero. Their shows were always great fun. We also had a couple of good support slots with The Buzzcocks and also Mike Peters from The Alarm. Oh yeah, there was also a gig with Dave Finnegans band. Dave played the crazy drummer in The Commitments. He had so many great stories to tell.
Q: The Norwegians went out in style with a successful 4 week north American tour in 1993?
A: That was a bit of a dream come true for the band! We'd already played a couple of successful dates in England and were considering a UK tour but decided what the hell lets do America! We spent about 6 months setting the tour up, talking with promoters etc. In the end we played I think about 15 dates over a 4 week period, taking in places like New York, Boston, Chicago, Pittsburgh and St Louis. I just regret we didn't have more time to do more sightseeing. Most of the time was spent travelling in the back of our Transit van or in Motel rooms!
In Boston we played support to UK heavy rock band The Almighty who were touring the same time as us. We'd met them before as their singer Ricky Warwick is actually Gary Hoods cousin, so that was a great night. Playing CBGBs in New York was another highlight.
Q: Didn't you play on the island of Nantucket where they billed your arrival as a 'Half Way To St Patricks Night' celebration?
A: LOL, Yes, that's true! That was probably one of our best experiences of the tour. We were really given the VIP treatment and probably sold more copies of the 'Turn It On' cassette after that one show than any other. They loved the whole Irish connection, they just loved us...
Q: And so The Norwegians finished shortly after that tour?
A: Yes. We probably looked, sounded and played at our absolute peak on that tour so in many ways it's a shame it ended there. There was some record company interest off the back of the publicity generated by that US tour and the 'Turn It On' release but unfortunately it didn't work out. Paul never came back to the UK after the tour and he still lives there. When we came back from the US without a drummer we were all a little bit worn out. We'd been doing it for nearly 4 years and it just felt like time to take a break. Apart from a few rehearsals and a bit of a reunion a few months later at Richards wedding where we got up and played a few numbers together the Norwegians sadly came to an end...