My brother Pato had a band and they were called ‘Drater’.
Drater were unlike any other band that I have ever heard. I think that everyone else who has ever experienced their sound has felt the same way. The guitar chords and riffs were never ordinary, the bass and drums always unusual and powerful. The vocals were huge. They were a real punk band.
Many of us who played in bands in Salthill in the early 80s thought we knew what it meant to be punk. We mimicked The Sex Pistols, the Dammed and The Clash, but until Drater came along we hardly knew that we were just playing at being punk.
Drater were the real thing. They made up the rules of their own music as they went along. It was as if aliens from beyond had heard punk on the radio waves drifting across space and decided that we had all got it wrong and they decided to descend to earth to teach us how it should be done.
I had been in a band who played songs which tried to sound like the Buzzcocks meets the UK Subs meets The Ramones. We had access to rehearsal rooms above an amusement arcade called Leisure Time in Salthill, Galway. My brother Pato had played in a previous incarnation of the band but had been shipped off to boarding school at the recommendation of local priests and police. One summer he returned with some songs and grabbed two friends to work on some of them. Their influences were similar to those of the rest of us but were enhanced with heavier stuff. Stuff that was more real. They had been listening to a wider sonic spectrum ranging from The Velvet Underground, Joy Division and Killing Joke to Crass, GBH, Black Flag and Bad Brains.
Drater made every other punk band in Galway sound like the fucking Nolan Sisters.
At first they were called ‘Frater’. Some tried to fathom why they chose this name and it was concluded that because it was Latin for ‘brother’ they must have been somehow reaching out to their fellow man in some kind of sense of brothership. Utter shite. The name, as I was given to understand it, was supposed to be meaningless. When I asked Jimmy Ward, Drater’s original bass player, why the name was chosen he told me that it was because of the great Tom Frater. (No such person, to my knowledge, has ever existed). Jimmy was a leg-puller, to say the least.
So, to thwart those looking for further meaning, they changed the name to ‘Drater’. This later caused problems when the same geniuses looking for truth where no such thing existed decided that this was the word ‘retard’ spelled backwards. I think the band gave up trying to subvert peoples’ attempts to see a pattern where there was none and just decided to stick with the name.
Around this time Drater would sometimes gather in the garage of our family house. Many musical instruments were gathered here, including a bodhran, an irish drum. The boys had written, in thick marker on the goat-skin, the legend ‘Frater’. After the name change it of course had to be changed to ‘Drater’ and this became the logo. An ‘F’ scribbled over to become a ‘D’.
At times in the rehearsal rooms above Leisure Time, after a few cans of beer in the bus shelters on the promenade or pints in O’Reilly’s bar, jam sessions would occur with members of local punky bands, Shattered Ego, The Real Men and Western Front. They were usually fuelled by reefer, amyl nitrate, stolen booze and an over-the-counter, readily available kind of speed pills known as Do-Dos. And the jams were great. I think. But then the rest of us would usually give up and just let Drater do their thing. Sometimes we’d join in on choruses of songs like ‘Let’s Go To The Party’, ‘Misionary Sisters’, ‘Nice Guys’ and ‘Baked Beans’. Sometimes we’d just jam things like ‘Police And Thieves’ by Junior Mervin or ‘The Guns Of Brixton’ by The Clash.
Once, when we returned from the pub as Drater finished their rehearsal, they handed the room over to us for our drunken jam. They left to an adjoining room to drink cider as we attempted our poorly put-together repertoire. Soon, as the drugs kicked in for both bands they returned, hooded in shroud-like blankets with candles burning on overturned mic stands chanting ‘AZVALIUS VAN PORKUS BANTUS VAN FORSAK’. This would hereafter be known as ‘The Chant Of The Boswell Pig’. At least that’s how I remember it. Some accounts may differ in the telling.
There were a few changes and additions to Drater’s line-up over time, including Mags on bass when Jimmy was in London for a time, Eamann Hallinan on vocals for a couple of songs and Jimmy Lucey, also on vocals for some songs at a gig in Seapoint Ballroom. I played guitar at one gig in the Aula Maxima, UCG, though my performance was not good enough for me to be required for further shows. Do-Dos may have played some part in my downfall, but perhaps I am looking for excuses for my failure.
Drater would do the odd gig here and there (a couple of beauties in The Tuesday Club at The Oasis in Salthill) and would usually go their own ways for a while. Pato and Jimmy would often end up squatting in London, coming back to Galway when things went tits up. Then another Drater gig, new songs, a bigger idea. Colin travelled to Helsinki and beyond. We lost Pato in 94. Jimmy died a few years ago. Mags and Eamann are gone from us now as well. Some of the closer fans have left us too, (we miss you, Peter!) but I suspect that there are hardcore Drater fans out there yet. I count myself among this number.
For me, the younger brother, Drater will always be about Pato. His songs. His vision. He was my older brother, my bully, my hero and eventually my teacher. Or at least he tried to teach me lots of things. He tried to teach me about drawing and painting. He failed in this, but only because his pupil was stupid. He swore that I taught him certain things about music, but I, in turn will swear to my dying day that he was humouring me. The fucker knew how to do that.