Influential Cork musician Cathal Coughlan dies aged 61
Singer and songwriter Cathal Coughlan has died aged 61.
Coughlan first rose to prominence with the highly influential Cork post-punk band Microdisney, which he formed in 1980 with Sean O’Hagan. The duo moved to London, becoming a five-piece band, and recorded five albums, first for Rough Trade Records and then for Virgin Records.
He was an inspiration to many musicians who followed. The enduring appeal of their music was on full display when the band returned for two reunion gigs at the National Concert Hall in Dublin and the Barbican in London in 2018.
When Microdisney ended in 1988, Coughlan formed another acclaimed group, Fatima Mansions, which combined abrasive rock noise with traditional folk music.
His highly individual and fiercely idiosyncratic lyrics were filled with striking imagery and biting social and political commentary. A series of more experimental solo albums followed, as well as several collaborations, including with French composer François Ribac, and North Sea Scrolls, a concept album recorded with Luke Haines and Andrew Mueller.
Coughlan’s final solo album, Song of Co-Aklan, was released in 2021, featuring contributions from many musicians he had worked with over the previous 40 years, including Sean O’Hagan. Even more recent is the release three months ago of a hAon, the debut album of Telefis, the duo he formed recently with Irish producer Jacknife Lee.
“I’ve had a bit of a rocky relationship with music,” Coughan told The Irish Times in February. “Initially I took it seriously because I dropped out of education, and luckily I met Sean O’Hagan, and together we met a group of people in Cork who were much more free to mind that both of us. So we fell into that, and music became a way of life for a while.
“But obviously I had a pretty complicated relationship with commercial success, so I did other things for a living. I was lucky enough to be able to indulge in some pretty impractical ideas of how I could make music, because I wasn’t considering my rent.
Coughlan is survived by his wife, Julie. A memorial ceremony will be held among close friends and family in the near future.