A pint with...
The Divine Comedy's Neil Hannon on bishops, cricket and fights
JOE: It was at the launch of the music channel VHI in London back at the tail end of the last century.
Neil: Was that in a warehouse in East London? I remember that – I hated that gig. People talked all the way through it. People just wanted to eat the free food and drink the free drink and they’d got us playing in the background – a total mismatch.
JOE: All the talking is what caused the fight – some self-important guy with a foghorn of a voice stood with his back to the stage next to me shouting to a girl he was trying to impress who was next to him. I told him to shut up and he didn’t take it well. I suggested he move away from the front of the stage, which he did... following me into the jacks a few minutes later. To be honest it wasn’t so much a fight as a bit of jostling and squaring up to each other.
Neil: That’s a hard physical fight for me. Thank you for fighting my corner. If I remember right that was the only night we ever attempted to play the song ‘Gin Soaked Boy’ live. It put me off forever. It was an impossible gig to do.
JOE: Getting back to the present, what does 2011 hold for Neil Hannon?
Neil: Well, I’ve the gig on 1 April, then after that I’m going to be going out playing solo again because it went down so well last time. I think I can do it again without people telling me to go away. I’ll be doing some writing between gigs, and that’s how the rest of my year will probably pan out.
JOE: How does it feel playing solo when in the past you’ve had a stage full of musicians to back you?
Neil: It has its pros and cons. The main pro is that I can do whatever the hell I like, and I can chat to the audience. It’s a very friendly gig. I love it in that regard. The down side is that all the pressure is on your shoulders and if you screw it up there’s nowhere to hide.
And I do screw it up. Regularly. But I’ve sort of made that part of the show. The audiences are generally on my side – apart from a gig at the Olympia where Thomas [from The Duckworth Lewis Method] heckled me throughout.
JOE: And finally, how do Irish audiences measure up to audiences elsewhere?
Neil: They look completely different. They have eyebrows on their cheeks and their horses are parked outside.
Seriously, every audience you play in front of across Europe – which is basically my domain – is very different. The Irish make a bit more noise. A lot of European audiences are deathly quiet during songs, which can be as unnerving as it is good. But then you get to Istanbul and they talk all the way through.
I’ve actually spent most of my time playing to people whose first language isn’t English, which has made me think that there must be something in the music I make.
Tickets for Neil Hannon and friends’ exclusive JD Set performance of Vampire Weekend’s debut album at the Button Factory are free and are available via registration at www.thejdset.ie .