Undertones and over airwaves . .

Undertone and Today FM DJ, Paul McLoone.
Undertone and Today FM DJ, Paul McLoone.

National DJ and Undertone, Paul McLoone, will lead Derry’s favourite band on stage tomorrow night as the persistent punk rockers continue to celebrate their 35th anniversary.

The phrase ‘popular demand’ sums up The Undertones perfectly. Not only does their back catalogue of six albums remain steadfastly timeless, they have perhaps played more live gigs this year than any of the last ten. This summer they play Electric Picnic and Bennacassim and have just returned from a festival in Italy and a support slot to Bob Dylan at Finsbury Park’s London Fleadh. They are indeed much more than ‘Derry’s favourite band’!

“Bob was great, we had a great slot and it was a good day out. After that we flew out to Italy, that was a great wee gig as well,” says Paul in the cool voice that has helped him make a big impression in Irish radio.

The Lisfannon Park-born singer is also a Today FM presenter. Paul has been, by his own admission, slightly fortuitous when it comes to getting his breaks. Asked to join the Undertones for a one off gig in 1999, he explains how he nearly turned the chance away.

“Billy phoned me and I was in the flat in Dublin. He asked me did I want to do this reunion gig. I said no. It was only a minute or two into the conversation I realised he was asking me to do it WITH the Undertones. I thought ‘I have to give this a lash!’ People asked us to do a few more gigs after those and we were offered a good slot at The Oxegen Festival which was a big spur.”

The new line-up with Paul at the mic has since released two albums, 2003’s ‘Get What You Need and 2007’s ‘Dig Yourself Deep.’ Paul prefers the 2007 release; “The vocals are too low is the only thing,” he laughs.

The original incarnation of the band released four albums in as many years - but those youngsters didn’t have day jobs to factor into the mix!

“We play our live dates at weekends so it is a great mix,” says Paul. “There are plans to bring out another album but the live dates impact on writing the material. We have some demos but the songs have to be right so I think John (O’Neill) is having a rethink about our direction.

“We should have had something to release on the 35th anniversary tour but we never do anything right!”

The last statement is untrue; 35 years in the industry prove that.

Paul tells how his Today FM Drivetime gig was almost accidental. “I was producing Tom Dunne’s Pet Sounds show when he left. I was then left with three questions, Who is the next person? Will Today FM want me to stay? Will I get on with the new person?

“I never wanted to put myself forward but three years later something seems to be working. Accidentally on purpose is how I became a DJ too I suppose.”

The Undertones play The City Hotel tomorrow night in support of Macmillan Cancer Support, City Hotel, Derry, t ickets from 02871 365800.

Listen to Paul McLoone on Today FM 7pm - 10pm, Monday to Thursday.