The musical style of the band, an eclectic mix of fast energetic rock, folk and ska sung in English and French, sounded like the Pogues trying to be the Clash with moments of Tom Waits, Madness, Jacques Brel and Taraf de Haïdouks thrown in for good measure. In the final years of the band some electronic, sampling and dub elements were added. The strength of the Barking Dogs was their live performances where direct interaction with the audience and humour were an essential part of the show. The between-song banter sometimes lasted longer than the songs themselves. The instruments played were guitar, double bass, electric bass, drums, Roland SDP11, mandolin, violin, accordion, trumpet, saxophone, penny whistle, harmonica, casio SA-5, vacuum cleaner. Although apolitical they played a number of benefit gigs for anti-racism and charity causes.
The band was formed by 3 Englishmen in Paris at the end of 1988 and played mostly covers of country and Irish traditional tunes in the Paris Métro, before rapidly widening their repertoire to include their own compositions and covers of songs by Tom Waits, the Pogues, Motorhead and Jacques Brel. At that time Paris was in the midst of the French alternative rock movement and live music bars were plentiful and Busking was more-or-less tolerated.
1989 saw the addition of a double-bass player and the first of many trips around Europe, travelling by train, playing in the street and in bars and staying either in cheap hotels or with local people.
The band's line-up changed gradually over the next 8 years, with musicians from the UK, France, the USA and Germany.
They recorded a never-released album in Switzerland in 1990 with sound engineer Martin Pearson. The first real album Une nuit tranquille chez les Barking Dogs (A quiet night in with the Barking Dogs) was recorded in just 3 long nights in 1991 at the legendary Mix-It Studio in Paris. This album saw the addition of a drummer and a trumpet player making the band a 5-piece.
The band set up its own publishing company Woof Trade Publishing Limited which was taken over by the band's co-manager, when the band split, and became WTPL.
The second album Bark is considered to be most typical of the band's style. It was recorded in Switzerland and released in 1993.
A live album recorded in Paris was released in 1994.
The 4th album Spasm was released in 1996 and was a considerable change in style as the arrival of new musicians brought with it a new palette of musical influences, notably electronic music, particularly drum & bass and eastern influences from Arabic and Indian styles.
The band split at the end of 1996. 10 years later, in 2006, the Japanese label Galactic released an Early Years CD with the first two albums packaged together, and a vinyl single, the first in the band's history.
The Barking Dogs were one of the hardest-working bands in France. In the first 3 years the band played an estimated 3000-4000 times in the street and the metro in Paris. The next 5 years saw long periods of solid touring with over 600 concerts throughout Europe.
The band has played in France, England, Ireland, Spain, Belgium, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Italy. Some live video clips of various quality are now on YouTube!
- Une nuit tranquille chez les Barking Dogs, 1991
- Bark, 1993
- Live, 1994
- The early years (Japan), 2006
- Hugo Scott (1988-1996)
- Keith Farquhar (1988-1993)
- Jason Barnard (1989-1996)
- Chris Lea (1992-1996)
- Marcus Godwyn (1992-1996)
- Scott Taylor (1991-1993)