Fionna Kennedy - Forest Fest 2024

This press release spells bad news for unscrupulous eBay sellers, as Kerbdog are set to reissue their two studio albums on vinyl this November through Hassle Hindsight.

The cult Irish alt-rock quartet – Cormac Battle (guitar/vocals), Colin Fennelly (bass), Billy Dalton (guitar) and Darragh Butler (drums) – have teamed up with the Hassle Records offshoot label to re-release their 1994 self-titled debut and its 1997 follow-up On The Turn.

“At the beginning of the 90s, we’d all been knocking about in various indie bands playing in local watering holes in Kilkenny, mainly motivated by gaining the attention of girls, as traditional methods had failed up to that point,” explains Battle. “Colin and I were in the same school and band and when the drummer left, our friend Darragh joined us and Billy came on board to give it extra guitar oomph, as that was what it was all about at the time. During our first practice, it became immediately clear that a clash of indie and metal was an instant win.”


Their 1992 demo sparked a flurry of interest and found themselves courting a number of labels keen to offer the band a multi-album deal. It was a different time.

“It all happened at breakneck speed,” remembers the frontman. “We’d sent the demo tapes to record companies and expected to hear nothing, but my mother and father’s phone was hopping for days with A&R managers from around the world arranging to meet us in Kilkenny. I remember being outside our local before a gig and a stretch limo pulled up, and out gets Tom Zutaut, the man who signed Guns N’ Roses to Geffen Records. This, to us, was utterly insane. So that night he was knocked about the pub with about twenty other record company executives. I believe Tom left early after somebody stage-dived on top of him and bruised his ego, so that was the Geffen angle gone!”

The following day, the Battle household telephone rang again. On the line was Paul Flanagan from Mercury Records, who’d witnessed the chaos unfold at the show the night before.

“He said he needed to see us immediately,” says Battle. “So we met him in a bar in town at lunchtime and he offered us a six-album deal there and then. To four unassuming blokes from a small town in Ireland, this was bigger than winning the lottery.”

Relocating to London, the four worked on their debut album before decamping to the legendary Rockfield Studios in Wales with Jack Endino, the producer responsible for Nirvana’s debut Bleach.

“We were fans of that album, but we enlisted him after we’d heard what he’d done on Push, an album by a little-known Seattle band called Gruntruck,” says Battle. “We went to the studio where Queen did Bohemian Rhapsody and worked very hard on the album and put in the hours. Brazilian metal titans Sepultura were recording there at the same time and we could hear their album Chaos AD coming together. I think some of what they were doing seeped into what we were doing. It made the record heavier and more chunky than we intended, but we were happy with the results. This was long before the record industry would deal us our first kick in the bollocks.”

Their 1993 eponymous debut was impressive enough and spawned four singles, hitting a sweet spot in a Venn diagram marked metal and grunge. But it was their follow-up, On The Turn, which would see them truly find their feet.

In the summer of 1995, the quartet teamed up with producer Garth Richardson (Rage Against The Machine) at the legendary Sound City Studios and A&M Studios in Los Angeles. Lodging at the Oakwood, a sprawling apartment complex favoured by actors during pilot season, the band certainly enjoyed the trappings of their major label deal; hanging out with Duff McKagan one moment, “having a piss” next to Eddie Van Halen the next. One of their own house parties was even shut down by the Los Angeles Police Department.

But in the studio, the band set about crafting a set of hit singles in waiting: the soaring Sally, the brooding Mexican Wave and the satisfying Helmet-like crunch of the album’s title track. Richardson’s production gave the band’s sound a heavyweight punch, while Battle’s songwriting nous truly came into its own, marrying simple, dropped D riffs with a pop sensibility to rival Bob Mould’s post Hüsker Dü band Sugar.

“On reflection, On The Turn should really have been our first album,” says Battle. “Our debut was us scrabbling about trying to find a sound and identity. When it came to writing for On The Turn, it was obvious from the start that it was going to be a very different record on every level.”

Their six-week stay, however, turned into a four-month residency; extended sessions in the studio meant that their second full-length went massively over budget. On The Turn went over budget, a financial consideration not helped by the decision to scrap an initial mix by Alan Moulder (Smashing Pumpkins, Nine Inch Nails).

“We clocked up an eye-watering bill on studios, producer fees and various other experts invoicing the shit out of the band,” remembers Battle. “But boy, did we have fun. It was a four-month party with too many stories to get into here. And it cost about half a million quid. Garth was brilliant and very dedicated to making this sound absolutely huge without compromising the need for a brilliant melody. We really felt that we had made a record that was going to make a very deep impact when it would be released.”

Fate conspired against the band in the cruelest of ways. On their return to Ireland, Dalton, disillusioned by the experience in California, quit the band in order to work for his family’s agriculture business. Then, in early 1996, their label Mercury was bought by PolyGram Records and the band were moved to Fontana and the release of their second album was delayed for over a year.

Four years on from their debut, On The Turn was released to positive reviews in March 1997, but by then, the mainstream music press’ attentions had moved on from alt-rock to Britpop. Their momentum was lost and effectively forced the three-piece to start from scratch and they’d perform to sparsely-attended crowds on their headline tour in the spring of 1997. The album limped into the charts at number 64 and were subsequently dropped, with the trio parting ways less than a year later. Fennelly went to university, while Battle and Butler formed Wilt shortly after, releasing two albums before calling it a day in 2003.

“To cut a very long story short, On The Turn was the right album at the wrong time,” says Battle. “We returned to the UK to find that nothing mattered unless it was about Britpop. I mean, Ocean Colour Scene were being taken seriously for God’s sake. After a lot of delays, various unintentional fuck ups and an unfathomable apathy in regard to pushing the album in America, things nose dived. The album was received with very little fanfare and was forgotten about by all but a few (you know who you are). And that was it. We got dropped.”

But wait. Like all good stories, Kerbdog’s third act is one of redemption.

While the commercial failure of On The Turn resigned the band to the Where Are They Now? file of alt-rock history, the young rock fans who had bought the album and attended their shows, raved about the release with an evangelistic vigour. Despite their back catalogue being deleted – original vinyl copies of the second album currently fetch £300 on eBay – newly-converted fans grabbed copies of the release from file-sharing sites. Cruelly, the band became a cult concern years after the fact, thanks largely to that second album.

The band reunited in 2005, sporadically playing shows at home in Ireland and across the UK; Dalton would rejoin the band before the release of Congregation, a live album which Battle once half-jokingly described as the best live recording to come out of Ireland since Thin Lizzy’s 1978 classic Live And Dangerous. A live tour followed, including a packed headline show at London’s Kentish Town Forum.

“The road is littered with bands whose records are brilliant but have rarely been heard,” says Battle. “This is what happened with On The Turn. The crushing disappointment of the album being pretty much ignored hurt us all pretty badly, and still does to some degree. But that’s showbiz. It’s all about timing and in this case the stars would not align for us However, what has been truly heartening across the intervening years is how On The Turn kind of went off on its own and gathered a fanbase without any of us knowing until I suggested we played a gig in 2005 for some fun.”

And in the most unsettling and strangest years in our lifetime, a glimmer of hope is on the horizon as both albums will be re-released on vinyl, complete with the original artwork and liner notes.

“It’s truly humbling to be bringing out the two Kerbdog albums on vinyl,” Battle continues. “They’re for the fans who’ve supported us from the beginning and vindicated those albums across the years, for those who came on board after we thought the albums were dead and buried and also for ourselves – mainly because I have only one copy of On The Turn on vinyl and I can’t afford to pay the extortionate prices on eBay.”

Kerbdog and On The Turn will be reissued on vinyl through Hassle Hindsight on November 6.

Words: Simon Young