Digging for Treasure; An Interview with Dan Hegarty

Dan Hegarty is an Irish radio presenter on RTE and author. Tn2 Literature editors Michael Mulooly and Sarah Upton spoke with him about his new book Buried Treasure Vol. 2, a follow up to the first book in the series. The books discuss a variety of albums, from all decades and genres, which he thinks have not received the full credit they deserve.


What are the logistics of putting a book like this together? How long did it take to interview everyone and compile it all?

It’s essentially a project that takes a year. Putting this and the last book together took roughly the same time. initially you come up with what it is you want to do; you start off with “where do I begin?”, and for the last book and this, what I wanted to do was highlight music that’s been forgotten about or just overlooked when it was released. I think these albums deserve more recognition and the people I spoke to about them believe that too, so there’s a pretty simple ethos to it, and the project essentially takes twelve months to put together. Nothing’s ever as straightforward as you think though, and there’s a lot of details and conversations to tend to.that makes it time consuming. But it’s worth it.

As a radio presenter and lover of music first, what do you feel the written medium has to offer? Why write a book about music?

Well I suppose I’ve always had the idea that I’d like to write a book at some point or another, and that point came a number of years ago with Buried Treasure, Volume 1.part of it was that there aren’t enough of these type of compendium books around. I love hearing about albums and music that I don’t know about.I’m not one of these people who, if someone says “oh, have you heard so-and-so?”, I’m not going to lie and say that I might have heard something by them, that’s nonsense. It’s always refreshing to just go “I don’t know that, tell me more about it,” so I love when that happens when I’m reading articles or hear something on the radio or on a podcast or whatever.

I think a lot of people also have an attachment to books; they mean something, so to read it out of a book means something special as well. It’s also a challenge, you know? Why not? And the idea behind the book was something I thought that other people would like. I think it’s interesting and I think other people will as well.

“Was there a distinct area of music you focused on in each volume?”

Not really, no. I mean obviously there’s quite a lot of Irish albums in the first volume, and there’s slightly less in this one, not much less though. As a country, Ireland has produced some outstanding music, and I do think that a lot of it didn’t translate internationally the way it might have. I thought that that was something certainly worth pointing out. But no, there wasn’t any “I’m just going to focus on hard rock, or reggae,” it was just literally anything that I felt was worthy of being mentioned. So it’s all sorts of things and not genre-specific.

Some of the albums you cover in the book have come out as recently as in the last few years. Do you feel that a quality album can be distinguished as such straight away, and that no dust-settling period is required for perspective to kick in?

It just depends. Some albums just click and catch on straight away, and others don’t. If you look at an album like Play by Moby which was released in 1999, that took over a year to really break through. That’s quite a long time. Other albums like Tomorrow’s Light and Darkness by Will de Burca which was in the last book, was, in my opinion, amazing and I hoped that it would catch on and it hasn’t in any major way. There’s a lot of people saying really nice things about it, but it didn’t really catch on. It really depends- some albums, like books and films, just grow over time, others you’ll be introduced to, you’ll love, and then you’ll just kind of forget about. That’s just because life is busy and you have other things on your mind and you move onto something else. Music is a very transient thing. I think that’s one of the things I try to do in the book; I just go “hey! Look, there’s this wonderful thing called the past. Sometimes it’s the distant, sometimes the not so distant past, but you should look into it.”

Did any of the artists you reached out to not want you to put their work in a book of albums that you feel have been significantly overlooked?

No, if someone didn’t want to be featured then that’s fine. I asked people for quotes about albums and some got back to me, some didn’t. Some said they were busy, but no, people are busy and their time is precious and you’ve got to respect that, so I wouldn’t be put out by that at all. I never got a flat “no, I don’t want you to do this.” People said “let me get back to you,” and some then didn’t, which I guess is kind of a subtle way of saying no thanks.

To what extent is the “album” as a whole still a relevant and important part of the music industry?

I think some people are very much “I just want to hear a track,” just one tune. I look at an album as the larger picture of what people are trying to create at that particular point in their car. Sometimes it’s nice to see what it is they’re trying to do. I think if people like Taylor Swift and Kanye West – really big names – value the album still, it’s got to mean something.

In the author’s note, you wrote about cancelling your subscription to Smash Hits before moving to more alternative music. Have you grown to appreciate that pop music?

Yeah I interviewed Bananarama at Electric Picnic and had an absolute scream of a time talking to them! I have a real fondness for pop tunes, I still love some of that stuff. Some of the music that I would have read about in magazines like Smash Hits, still makes me go “Oh my God!” when I hear it, like Stand and Deliver [by Adam and the Ants], man I love that tune! It’s amazing. I wouldn’t look down on any of it, i think that’s nonsense. Some of it I was never a fan of anyway, but the thing is, I’d moved on from getting soccer magazines to music. It had just been the next thing. From there I realised that music was going to be something I was really passionate about, and so Melody Maker and NME were just the next step.

Have you considered writing a book on albums that didn’t deserve the attention they received?

I’d rather stay positive. What’s the point? If I don’t like something, I’m not going to start criticising it. If someone asks me openly, publicly, do I like an album, I’ll say it’s not really my cup of tea. If they ask me why I’ll tell them why, but I don’t really see a point in writing a book like that. Maybe someone else will want to do it and if so, best of luck to them. I’d rather stay positive. It’s just a better frame of mind to be in.

Finally, irrespective of the praise it has received, what do you think is the best album of the decade so far?

[Laughs] If I had to pick just one? Aww, oh I don’t know. I mean… I don’t know! I can tell you an album I really like now, which is Freetown Sounds by Blood Orange, which is brilliant. But I don’t know, I’d have to give you a list of about three hundred. I can email it on to you if you like!


Photograph by Ken Heffernan.

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