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THE DUKE SPECIAL
www.dukespecial.com
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Duke Special is one of a kind, a unique and talented young Belfast man whose bruised romanticism and soft Northern tinged vocals are at sharp juxtaposition with his wild dreadlocks, smudged eyeliner and unfeasibly wide trousers.

On stage, Duke Special explodes into musical mayhem – the battered old trademark gramophone wheezes, huge cymbals clash, egg whisks and cheese graters break free from the kitchen, a stunt fiddle screeches and the crushed velvet covered piano thumps and tinks in unison – but it’s the very core of the songs, his heartfelt, passionate poems, that will remain in your head long after the lights have gone down.

"My most favourite thing was to sit in the dark, playing the piano. Music was all I wanted to do." The Duke (a.k.a. Peter Wilson) grew up in Belfast.

Soon he began writing his own compositions: "People always used to say that my songs sounded like something from a musical," says the Duke. "For a long time that horrified me." As a reaction, he started playing in a succession of questionable rock bands with little success. "Finally I realised that I had to do what came naturally to me. But I wanted to find a way to play the piano and sing that didn't make me sound like Elton John or Billy Joel."

The concept of musicals led him to consider a more theatrical approach. "I got really interested in vaudeville and music hall. I loved the idea of all these strange Victorian entertainments with their crazy descriptions. I recognised that spirit in what I was doing. I wanted everything to sound 'old'. But most of all I want to be entertaining”.

Adopting the pseudonym of Duke Special, he teamed up with Hag Records and released two limited edition EPs Lucky Me and My Villain Heart. Following on from hundreds of solo dates across Ireland, the UK and Germany and tour supports with Aqualung, Rufus Wainwright, Paddy Casey and John Power of The La’s, the EPs have sold a staggering 6,000+ copies. Meanwhile, Jack White of The White Stripes and The Hives have passed on glowing accolades for the Duke’s recordings.

Duke Special has gradually recruited a small collective of eccentric musicians, including drummer and percussionist Chip Bailey (a clown, a juggler, a renegade Morris-man), Réa Curran on trumpet and harmonium (he has two jobs - fronting a Tom Waits tribute band and acting musical director of a puppet theatre) and Ben Hales of Aqualung on guitar and backing vocals. In some combination they are regularly to be found bringing the Duke's antique songs of confused love to life.

IRISH TIMES - "a voice shot through with equal measures of honey and heartbreak"

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