a short site about The Divine Comedy

Alone again, naturally

Neil Hannon tells Peter Murphy about his decision to revert to "solo guy" status

Auditors In: A quote from the Kavanagh poem might be appropriate, but the title says enough. For Neil Hannon, it's time for a rethink. As reported in the last edition of hotpress, the current Divine Comedy tour will be the last to feature the line-up of players that made its mark on the four from Regeneration back to Cassanova. The singer is not even sure whether or not he'll keep the Divine Comedy tag.

"It just so happens that life moves on," a long-haired and bearded Hannon explains, removing his shades and sipping water in the RTE canteen. "I can't help feeling you're either a band guy or a solo guy and I do get the feeling I was a solo guy from the off, a bit of a loner from schooldays. It's taken quite a while to work that out. But y'know... no harm done."

In the light of the commercial under-performance of Regeneration, Hannon admits that financial considerations were a factor, but a secondary one. Either way, it is now as it was in the beginning, a blank palette, which must be as intimidating as it is exciting.

"Well it's only intimidating because there are people asking me about what's gonna happen," he says, "and when I had my blank palette at the beginning of my career, nobody gave a shit, so it was really easy. But no, I just wanna go away and forget that anybody cares. I've pretty much no idea of what I will do. I'm at the stage, which I've been at a lot of times in the past, where everything I hear that I like, I go, 'That's it!' Like, I got The Strokes' album and went, 'That's it!' And then I got this Tom Lehrer CD, this 1950s comic songwriter, and I went, 'That's It!' But I don't know, you actually have to try and throw out all of these ideas, try and write huge amounts of music and then see some common thread within it all."

In some ways, Hannon's dismissal of his band might've been a move expected prior to Regeneration. Although the players were an integral part of those sessions - even more than on previous recordings - this was the first batch of songs in which Hannon quit raising his eyebrow at the human condition and actually began writing from the heart.

'Lost Property' sounded like a guy taking stock, labelling his accumulations, deciding what to keep and what to throw away. 'Perfect Lovesong' was the diary entry of a man newly married and in love, with almost all traces of archness and irony eradicated. In fact, tracks like 'Note To Self', weren't far from Kurt Cobain style introspection.

"Well, I've got the look," Hannon says, "although I don't quite have the heroin pallor yet! I'm pretty good at melancholy but then tend to deny it afterwards because I don't like the idea of being pessimistic. Whereas a lot of people think about the emptiness and meaninglessness of the universe and get really depressed, I think about it and get really happy, 'cos I think, 'Ha-haaa! Nothing matters! I can do whatever I like!'

"But I do stand out in my back garden and look up at the sky - it's a pretty cool sky from Muswell Hill, because it's a hill and it's not as smog-ridden as the rest of London - and on a clear night you can see a fuck of a lot of stars. And I was looking up at them the other night and thinking, 'I might as well start practising ancient Greek religion and pray to different strange gods in chariots or something like that, because it would make as much sense as any other religion. And it might be more fun.'"

So, this is a far cry from the suited and booted jack the lad of 'Something For The Weekend' and 'The Frog Princess'. To that end, Hannon admits it's easier having a public life once you know who's at home and where it is.

"I like being married," he says. "People make it into such a big deal and that can make it all go wrong. And I think if you just chill out and think, 'This is nice', it makes it easier. You know, some people have said to me, 'I look at all these women that I can't attain - it drives me mad'. And I think, 'Well, you know what it'll be like. You've done that before. You done it a few times, haven't you? And you know it's just like, awful and messy and a bit pants. It's not going to be any better with the person you just saw walking down the street.'"

Does he find that the wedding ring acts as a babe magnet?

"Not really, no," he laughs. "If it is a babe magnet I'm far too bad at judging the signs to ever notice! Luckily I don't have any radar for that kind of thing. Never did. It was all a huge shock to me when I found out people fancied me."

So was all that Cassanova stuff was just a put-on?

"I never actually thought that the women in the front getting a little worked up actually fancied me!" he responds. "They didn't! How could they - look at me! They fancied the idea, you know?"

But is that genuine humility or a safety mechanism against becoming an aging, womanising, coke-addled asshole?

"I dunno," Hannon muses. "I've done all that too, and you kind of get over it."

Not everybody does.

"Oh, sorry. Well, I did. You have to be sure about the reasons why you're doing something I suppose. As long as you always keep in mind the idea that

Peter Murphy
Hot Press 29/11/2001