The relationship between McKee and Page reached a nadir as the band struggled to complete their third album, the deal with Sony having fallen through, and the day they finished that album was the last time the pair spoke for almost seven years.Their biggest hit, We Don't Need Nobody Else, served as a painful reminder of how their lives had imitated their art. The pain was all too palpable for Paul.“I just couldn't go to gigs”, he says. “Going to a live gig was too close, all the smells and sounds, and it was so close to what I loved. A record is a fairly sterile thing and you can listen to music and enjoy it. But the whole buzz of a live gig is something that I so enjoyed. Not to have that was difficult.
Everywhere you went in Dublin there were reminders of the band. It's such a small place and we played in so many different places. I walk down Dame Street and I could nearly name you four or five places that we played and rehearsed in.”
He admits he went through a spell where he was very down; retreating into the darker recesses of his mind, almost wishing people would forget the songs had ever existed.The end of Whipping Boy meant that there had to be a new beginning, to continue to earn a living for his family and so it was back to work. He still has his IT job, even with the re emergence of the band.“I enjoy elements of what I do with my job. I don't go through life miserable that I have to work”, he says. “I don't feel a slave to the wage. Whatever you do in life has some value. You see a lot of bands saying I'd never work a nine to five: it’s soul destroying. The reality is that for most people that's their life and they have to do it. And there is dignity in it, there has to be. There is some dignity to making a living and providing for your family. For a lot of people that's a reward in itself and I can understand that. […]There are no rights or wrongs in anything I think. You have to examine everything on its own merits. I know a guy I worked with; on the outside he appeared to be the happiest guy you'd know. He was very outgoing, everyone loved him and he committed suicide and he had a family of three kids. You'd look at that and you'd say how could that be? Where's the explanation? I'll never know. He probably just didn't negotiate the ups and downs as well as other people.”
****So after the downs for Paul, there are a few ups on the horizon once more. He and McKee talked to each other again in September of last year, arranging to get together for a few gigs before Christmas, and now they are out on the road again with the prospect of recording together again a possibility. But it'll be a process preceded by cautious steps.“We're not making any promises to each other as to what will happen in the future. We're trying to write again. We're not saying there's definitely going to be an album. Time is a huge issue for us now because we're all doing different things.It's going to lead you back to a place where there's going to be that volatile atmosphere again. And I realise it has to have that, probably, to create good music but at the same time it's probably going to lead to confrontations and it's how we all deal with that this time around.”
Paul Page isn't in a dark place any more. The absence of Whipping Boy in his life gnawed away at him all the time the band were apart, stubbornness holding him back from unlocking that happiness.
“There's an element of hope in Morning Rise”, he answers when I ask him about the last track on Heartworm. “Even in the darkest moment there has to be an element of hope. I've never heard great music come from rich happy people.”