The Disappearance of St Dominic: Acko releases debut solo album
After several decades in the music industry as part of pop-punk band Grasshopper and in previous years as a regular fixture on the Grafton Street busking scene, seasoned musician Acko Atkinson is gearing up for the release of his debut solo album.
Acko, 54, is a Tallaght native who spent his early years in Airfield Cottages, which were located where The Square is now, and later moved to West Park.
He went on to develop his skills as a musician when he busked on Grafton Street in his youth and as the vocalist and guitarist in Grasshopper in the 90s. In 2019, he returned to busking after many decades away.
This return to performing reignited Acko’s desire to be a recording artist again, culminating in the release of his debut solo album ‘The Disappearance of St Dominic’ this week.
Acko told The Echo about what he learned from his time as a busker, the support that prompted him to release his debut album, and the long-lost friend that many of the album’s tracks are about.
You were previously part of the pop-punk band Grasshopper in the 90s. What was your best experience as part of Grasshopper?
I had so many great experiences playing with Grasshopper. Our second gig was opening up for Shane McGowan and we went on to do gigs with Public Enemy, The Cramps, Supergrass and lots of other great bands.
But I think the best moment was walking into a shop on Baggott Street and hearing one of our songs on the radio, and to make it even better it was being played by Larry Gogan!
You’re a veteran of the Grafton Street busking scene. In what way do you think having that experience of busking shaped you as a musician?
Busking was a great foundation. I learned how to play to a crowd, how to ineract with other musicians, how to project.
I sometimes wonder if all the buskers now using amplification know how to do that.
We played all day nearly every day, and sure we were making a few quid but we were mostly playing for the love of it. I think that’s the best thing I took away from it.
Several decades after you first went down the path of being a musician, you’re now releasing your debut solo album ‘The Disappearance of St Dominic’. Why does this feel like the right time to release your debut album?
There wasn’t any one thing that made me decide to do it now. The album was sitting on a hard drive, about 75 per cent done for ten or so years.
And when I went busking again three years ago and tapped into that musical joy I was talking about, it eventually led me back to the album.
And then I started to think maybe I could do this. I tried to talk myself out of it, but I couldn’t present myself with a good enough argument not to do it.
I posted on Facebook about it and received a lot of goodwill and enthusiasm from people, the next morning I announced an online fundraising gig and set up a PayPal account, and by the end of that day I had 500 quid – so then I kinda had to do it.
At least half of the songs on the album are about a long-lost friend. Does this friend know you’ve written songs about them?
I hadn’t seen or heard from him in about 15 years and then about two-and-a-half years ago I got a phone number for him from a mutual acquaintance, so I’ve been in touch with him.
He does know about the songs and the album. One of the first things I did when I got back in touch was to send him the incomplete version.
‘The Disappearance of St Dominic’ features a number of your long-time friends as collaborators, why was it important to you to involve them in the album?
A lot of the album is looking back, so it seemed obvious to involve some of the people from back then. I see it as kind of a family affair, but it wasn’t just sentiment – these are hugely talented people.
In most cases I gave no intructions, just presented them with the track and let them go at it. I’m lucky to have so many amazingly talented musicians as friends. And lucky that they were all willing to contribute.
What impact do you hope the album will have on listeners?
I hope people will enjoy it. What I really hope, and I would imagine most songwriters feel the same, is that people can find something in it that they can relate to their own life. And joy, I hope they can find the joy in it.
‘The Disappearance of St Dominic’ is out tomorrow, Friday, February 25, on CD and all digital platforms.
The album can be purchased by contacting Acko on email@example.com or at acko.bandcamp.com.
For more information, visit Acko’s Music Page on Facebook.