a short site about The Divine Comedy

What's up i-Q

Plunged into fame’s inferno by a clutch of hit singlers, the poll-topping Casanova and songwriting services on behalf of the Father Ted team, Neil Hannon of The Divine Comedy continues his one-man battle of wit against shit with his new offering A Short Album About Love. Susan Corrigan meets the man with the lightbulb head who turns himself on in the dark.

Where are you?

I am in Kingstom, Ontario, historic university town at the neck of the St Lawrence River, where it enters the Great Lakes. This might not exactly help my reputation as a member of the international jet set.

On your new mini-LP, A Short Album About Love, there are loads of happy songs about being besotted. Why so cheerful?

Maybe they’re just self-satisfied. There’s a feeling of relaxation in the old nerve-ends after the ganglia-jangling experience that was Casanova, which went on forever and was about the most torturous of subjects. Whereas love itself is a lovely, lovely, lovely subject.

Is this the first time you’ve ever been in love, then?

I don’t know if I want to go into this, although it might seem like a prerequisite. To be honest, the very fact that I am in love is reason enough to be protective and refuse to talk about it!

So are you still glad to be unhappy?

Totally! I’m a miserable fucker who aspires to happiness…someday, he whimpered.

What New Year’s resolutions have you made?

I’ve made one or two. Number one I suppose is to stop being such a bad loser at Scrabble. I can’t bear to be defeated because I love the game so much. I’ll probably make another feeble attempt to learn French. People assume this is a skill I already have and to tell you the truth, so did I. I wish my assumptions were actually correct. Also I must, I must, I must improve my bust.

The bigger the better, the tighter the sweater.

Apart from that, perhaps I’ll start living for myself and not for the general public.

How do you live for others, then?

I give them all these beautiful songs and leave no time for myself. People are not nearly grateful enough.

Did you expect to have hit singles this year, or did you expect Casanova to appeal to the same set of shy boys and Mod-obsessed girls who bought your other records?

This past year has been phenomenal. I was especially glad that The Frog Princess went into the charts because that’s my own favourite song and it means I can inflict it upon my audiences for the rest of my days. Considering we’d never released a single until this year, it does mean we’ve moved up a rung. Now, of course, I just want to throw it all away because that’s what you’re meant to do in this day and age, right? Be a flash in the pan, right?

Most popstars choosing to spurn the limelight go mystic or move to a remote hut in the Orkneys. What will you do?

I may take up backpacking. I’ll wander aimlessly around major cities in Scandinavia with my day-glo rucksack on backwards, as they do, like Peruvian ladies carry their babies.

What’s the most dangerous situation you’ve ever been in?

In St Malo in Normandy, I think I metamorphosed into Henry Rollins. There was a full moon and lashings of the local brew. I was singing my sweet little songs and the audience was leapng onstage and jumping all over one another, so I had to be abrupt with them. I had to say “Stop! Or I will not proceed!” Apart from that, the experience of tour buses and sleeping in evil coffin-sized spaces while wheels turn around and around…and around. I was always sure a huge articulated lorry would crash into the side of our transport. Now, I feel much safer.

What is your favourite romantic rendezvous?

Probably outside the tour bus after a gig. In someplace like Glasgow in the pouring rain.

A lot of people use your gigs as an antidote to Oasis culture, but I’ve heard that make an excellent aphrodisiac too. What do you have to say for yourself?

Well, I’m glad to be responsible for bringing about a vast number of unwanted conceptions. Unless they successfully used the rhythm method of course.

Most people know you as one of those people anointed for stardom by Chris Evans. Is he a twat, or what?

He has a brilliant way of looking straight through you and walking straight past you, which I’m sure is well-practised. When I met him, he was very polite and so were all of us, but we know when we weren’t wanted so we left.

Any records you wish you made?

I could be flippant and say A Love Supreme by John Coltrane or Green by REM. Basically, though, why could I want to make anyone else’s records? I make quite good ones myself. The new one’s my dream record in that it took a mere nine days to make instead of a gut-wrenching eight months like Casanova did.

We’ve had New Man and New Lad, so the media have now invented New Cad to describe men like Daniel Day-Lewis who do sneaky things like get married to another woman behind their girlfriend’s back. Apparently, you’re meant to be a New Cad too.

Oh really? I’m sure I am a cad, but I’m not a new one. I’ve been around for ages.

You’ve written all the music for Father Ted including ‘My Lovely Horse’. What haven’t you done a cameo apparance?

I’ve been begging for ages but they keep saying things like “We’ve already filmed that part”. Maybe next time. Actually, they’re probably fobbing me off because I’m Protestant. In that case, they could ask me to play a Loyalist terrorist or something.

There’s the ever-present threat that ‘My Lovely Horse’ will be released as a single. When?

I don’t care anymore. When you least expect it, there it will be, and you’ll think “Oh, did they really have to do that?” It’s difficult mainly because we can’t decide who should own up to it – me or the show’s writers.

Wouldn’t your dad, the Bishop of Clogher, go a bit mental if he saw you on telly in Catholic vestements?

Oh, he’d disown me immediately. Actually I’m only kidding; he really likes the show.

Have you ever been offered our for fisticuffs?

If I had, I probably would never have noticed. I’m always hearing how someone’s been unspeakably rude to me, to my face, and I never realise it at the time. If someone did challenge me, I’d run, hide and whimper in the corner. Because I don’t want to die.

And just where do you get your natty little suits?

I nick them off tramps in the street. They’re difficult to buy because of my size. The blue one that I’ve been wearing for three months solid was made for me by a little old man in Pimlico. It’s the first suit I’ve had that’s fitted me, but I don’t really like it because it’s a big figure-hugging. I think I need something slightly more modest. Erm, it shows off my butt.

Susan Corrigan
i-D 02/1997