geführt von Markus Hiereth / Peter Freiwerth
am 18.9.2006, vor dem Konzert in der Kuba-Kulturhalle
What set do you play this evening?
I don't know yet. There are maybe five or six songs I always do and other songs I change. I've never been here. The show is always a little different if I am in a new place. Obviously a lot of songs from my new album innocence because I am still promoting that album and it is still fresh to me.
You play a solo set?
What is new about the new CD Innocence?
It is the first time that I recorded an album in my home. I wrote the songs in my home and the recorded the album in my home which make the album have a different feeling. When You write a song and then you go to a studio you have to create an atmosphere in your mind, in your imagination, to make the song feel alright. But when you are in the same room where the songs have been written, you don't have to do that. I think it makes the album feel more intimate than the earlier albums. It's very personal.
If one reads the lyrics, one comes to this point. In one song you describe a walk with your father.
That song is not about me. You are talking about "Thank you for bringing me here" There is one line in the song that says "So I will grow up to be an Irish girl" and obviously I'm not a girl. It's about a friend of mine who spent sixteen years in a prison in England for a terrorist crime he didn't commit. When he came out, he probably never imagined that he would become a father, but he did. He was two years free when he married a woman and became a father and when I met him, his daughter was eight years old and he told me about this walk with his daughter on a beach in Ireland and that's a beautiful story that inspired me to write that song.
I understand it as a personal statement. I did not understand the line when I read it.
I think it's very difficult for people. German, Dutch, Belgium, Swiss audiences are very patient and forgiving. It must be difficult if you hear songs on the radio with another language. That's why when I'm releasing albums I always print the words.
Why have you chosen the title "Innocence". There is a song by the Sex Pistols that says "No one is innocent"
I became fifty last year and I just decided to think about things that became important to me. Like hair and teeth. And things that would be important to hold on to when you get older. And maybe as a songwriter also a little innocence. I start to believe that if a songwriter looses some sense of innocence, the songs eventually become shit. I think that You have to have some sense of innocence, and wonder and beauty. You just become a cynical angry old man which must be very boring. .... There's a lot of silence for a radio show.
You played all over the world. Do you see differences in the audiences?
The big difference I notice in Germany is that the German audience clap far longer than other audieces all over the world. I find that german audiences are incredibly polite. In the beginning, it frightened me. I used to think "These people do not enjoying themselves". They are just sitting there and are not having a nice time. But they applaude ... Actually, it took me a couple of years to find this... I find that the German audience is quite shy. I used to think that they were cold, but it's not coldness at all, they are shy and very quiet actually. In places like Australia, or in Holland or Belgium, audiences are very alive, from the very start, but with Germany it's different. I think German people live a lot in their heads. And so, when somebody comes and is singing, they are very quiet, and they are listening, and listening, and eventually, there is a little enthousiasm. You just have to be a little more patient. I used to get very panic here on stage, I used to think these people hate me. But actually, it take them just a little longer to respond. I actually like it like that. Once you accept it, and you get used to it. There are'nt huge differences between audieces, but that would be definitely one that I know.
The list of Your CDs is already quite long and you worked solo. I thought about this situation. When a group goes apart, the artist is thrown back very far. And you have a difficult situation because you have to convince the people yourself. But you have some kind of familiar work for years and work constantly on that what you want.
To answer your first question. I am very happy as a solo artist. And it is a valid question: How do you keep motivating yourself. How do you keep it interesting. As you say. If somebody leaves a band, the dynamic, the energy is different. I am very aware of this. As one person alone, after two or three albums, it could be very boring, not only for me, but also to the people listening for it. But if you listen to the ten albums from "The acoustic motobike" to "Riverside", "Turf" "Salty Heaven", "Amsterdam", "Between the mountain and the moon" every one is different. Because what I do is like this: I put out an album and I tour for a year or eighteen months and then just stop, I don't write any songs. It means, that, when I begin six months later, I am completely terrified, it is like a child going to a new school. What am I going to do? What am I going to say? And I always listen to different music. I don't listen to singers-songwriters. Sometimes I am listening to jazz, sometimes to north-african music, Gypsy music. I hardly ever listen to Rock'n Roll. So in other words, when I come to write songs and then to record them, there is always something a litte different going on here . It is never the same feeling. It always is a little bit dangerous for me. So, from a recording and writing point of view, yes, it is a challenge. because my biggest nightmare is to make the same record twice. That's boring for me and if it's boring for me it's boring for the people. And it happens a lot with singer-songwriters. They make an album, and its beautiful. And they make a second album, and its also a bit beautiful but it's also a bit like the first album. And they make a third and it's already "Oh enough". So, I try to keep it exiting for me, then there is some possibility that other people would be interested as well.
It's an interesting question because nobody ever asks this question to a poet.
It's understood that they do it alone. You need musicians to work with.
I don't need musicians. I've made two or three albums that are totally solo. There are times that I choose to work with musicians because I love to, but it has to be right. I mean the world is full of really shit rockbands. And yet, somehow, this is OK because it's got to have drums, bass, electric guitar and that's like a formula that people have for what modern music should be. The great thing about being alone is that, when I want to, if I listen to some song that I have written, I can say, this needs a jazz drummer, a nice pianist, maybe a saxophone player, but the next album maybe has completely different needs. But if I am stuck with the same three guys, it's like stuck in a bad marriage. I'm sorry. I love the freedom of exploring new music and not having to explain to anybody else. I don't have to go to a meeting and have to say: "I am now listening to North african music and this is where my inspiration for the next album comes from" and the guys say "I don't like it". So, there is incredible freedom in being alone. That's just the writing, but as a performer, then it means I'm with an audience - your first question was, what my set will be - I might decide three minutes before I walk on stage. If I am in a band, i can't do that.
That means the you have to find musicians.
I am always looking for new people, to work with new inspiration. I'm always looking for a new person to bring with me. So, the audience will not just hear me tonight, but they will hear another singer(1) from Ireland.
It's not about me. It's about the songs, and that's my problem with rockbands, it's never about the songs: "We are a bass player, a guitar and the drums!" so all the songs have to have a bass player, a guitar and the drums, even if the songs sometimes don't need anything, just a guitar. But because we're a band, we all have to play the same shit, over and over and over again. For me it is the song. I listen to a song and I record it and I say that song is perfect like that: Just guitar and just voice, nothing. And the next song really needs something more. I treat the songs just like children. "What does this child need?" to go out into the world and be heard by people. Each song has different needs. Sometimes it just needs the simplicity of a guitar, sometimes strings, bass, but everything is possible when you're not trapped in a band.
How will you solve this problem on an evening, when you want to play a track that has strings.
It's not a problem. Because the atmosphere of a show is completely different from the atmosphere of an album. Most people listen to albums alone. I listen to music alone, in the kitchen, in a car, in the bedroom ... When You're in an audience, it's completely different, it's a shared, a community experience. I don't like to get the same element on the record and then on the show. If I go to a gig and think the band is playing exaclty as it is on the record, then why didn't I stay at home and listen to the record. I can get something else by just performing it alone on the stage. And also it is also much easier to have the connection, the dialogue with an audience, it's really very easy. You need to sit and enjoy the show.
You're not only write songs yourself. You always play cover versions. When is a song interesting for you to cover it?
Hard question. Sometimes, three years pass by and I don't learn any cover version. I don't hear anything. But, the question for me with a cover version is: "If I learn this song, can I bring something of myself to it?" Otherwise there is no point. If it has some connection with my life, or my rhythm, or my sound, my voice, I can make something with it. Otherwise there is no point.
Why you've choosen LL Cool J's "I need love"
It's an unusual one because I was in peoples minds "Why does an Irish folk singer does something like this". But I was living in New York that time. And everything that I was hearing was rap music: in the street, in the bars, cars. Songwriters are like poets, they are affected by their environments. If you live in the middle of country, you write quiet songs, when you listen to birds in the morning and everything is peaceful. If you're living in New York and everything is noise noise noise, boum boum, that's what I was hearing all the time, I actually decided I wanted to learn a rap song. But a lot of rap songs, I don't like them, because they are sexist, they are nasty, mean, I don't like their lyrics, but I heard this one song and I thought, wow, this is a really great song and it took me six months to learn. It's the most difficult song I ever learned.
Many of your songs contain impressions from nature, from Ireland, you mention landscapes. What is the reason to you to live in some place or to change place. You could live everywhere as a musician. Do you think again to go to the Netherlands for example?
I can live anywhere as long as I live in Ireland. Because that's where my family is, and that's where my responsibilities are. So I can't really live anywhere. And I do move a bit in Ireland. I don't live in other countries the way I did twenty years ago. I think that it's unlikely that I'll live in Germany or in Holland; I'll always visit. I'll never live in America again. The only place I would like to live would be Australia. I'm basically a spiritual tourist, that's what I am.
I am a tourist, who travels the world who meets people and sees a little, captures a little bit of the feeling of a town or area; but your are right. A lot of my songs are in the landscape, in the fields around where I live.
Do you get this inspiration as a tourist or if you have a series of gigs and you take one week off. Or do you really travel as a tourist.
Not enough. Because I travel so much as a working musician, that, when I go home, the last thing I want to see is an airport. In order to travel the way you are talking about, I would need to stop gigging for a year. I might do this soon actually, because in thirty years I've never taken a year off. The only way to travel like this is to have no shows and bring my spanish guitar and go to places. And I will do it some day; I would like to, but at the moment, it's not really possible, because I am committed to my records, I have a new record, coming out in three months time. So it's a difficult thing.
I'll give you an example: About 15 years ago, I did my first show in Switzerland, in Lausanne, and that night, I went to a punk club to listen to a punk band. It was all punks there, a really great atmosphere. Young swiss punks. I met some of them and it was my first night in Lausanne, I've never been there, so I asked one of them to take me for a walk and she took me for a walk around the city and she brought me to this bridge, a bridge called Pont de Bessière. It's a big bridge, 20 meters above the road, and there is a motorway underneath the bridge and every christmas, an average of five teenagers would jump of the bridge, on the motorway, and die. ... two o clock in the morning and i felt this incredible shock. I went home. And a month later, this idea is still in my mind. I got a phonenumber from this person and I phoned her. I said, tell me about this bridge again. And so she told me the whole story and about this guy who used to go and sleep on the bridge at christmas time to stop kids from go and jumping. So I wrote this song, called the "Bridge of sorrows" which actually became a top ten hit in 1993. Had I never gone to Lausanne, I never would have written that song. It's a beautiful thing when it happens, but you can't plan such a thing. You can't say 'Oh I go to Prague and write some songs"; 'cos You might go to Prague and be completely bored or not feel any inspiration. These things kind of come to you, naturally.
You write songs, personal, not very political. But I think you have a political opinion.
I don't really believe in songs and singers of having the power to change the world. Maybe when I was younger, I did. I'm not interested in the idea that because I write songs and have a guitar, that I have anything to say that might change anything. I think this is a strange idea, that a guy with a guitar should feel responsible to say something to make the world a better place. I kind of love the world the way it is. I love the chaos. But sometimes, when something happens in the world and I feel really freaked out by it, then I write something about it. But I don't wake up in the morning and feel to say something about Iran, it's important, I must say something about.
I don't think I am a very important person. I think the least valuable thing that I have is my opinion. What's important to me is love, the only thing that matters, in my songs and in my work, in my music, everything. Everybody has an opinion. As Clint Eastwood said one time: "Opinions are like assholes; everybody has one." I come from a country full of a lot of opinions. If you walk down the streets in Dublin or Belfast, and stop a person, and ask what do you think of d.d.d.d. South Africa, North Corea, Iran, Palestine, Libanon, everybody has a different opinion. So, I am just a singer. I know what I want to express. And if I feel pain about something that happens in the world, I will say it, but I have to feel the pain. It's not coming from here . If it's coming from here , then I am trying to impress people with my opinion and that's bullshit and that's all I have to say.
1. Sabrina Dinan