Thursday, December 28, 2017
Pheaturing Neil Hannon From The Divine Comedy
Hello, and welcome the last Phile entry of 2017, people! The ending of a year prompts reflection about all the good and the bad that has happened in the past 12 months. As 2016 wound down and 2017 approached, people were feeling optimistic because 2016 had been less than fun. Remember all the celebrity deaths? Goodness gracious, 2016 was a rough time. In many ways, 2017 has been even uglier, with celebrities trending not because they had died but because of revelations about sexual assault. This year has been the evil step-mother to 2016's evil step-sister. I mean, if we're honest, 2017 has just been the second semester of 2016.
We have almost zero context or information about how or why this new phenomenon is overtaking Twitter. But, someone tweeted this...
And apparently museums aren't just a place to soak in ancient knowledge. They're also factories run by the CIA, using state-of-the art technology to record the features of every person in the world. These "museums" then pump out an exact replica of exactly every face on the planet so they have a record of each person to walk the Earth. Why? No one knows. But it's clear that they then disguise these records as "portraits" from hundreds of years ago. So you don't get suspicious. Alternatively, a lot of people were inspired by the above tweet by Deenerys... which went mega-viral over the holidays... and responded with their own portrait clone-faces, which are completely coincidental and testament to the fact that the gene pool's a lot shallower than we like to think. Much, much shallower. It's safe to say with absolutely no hyperbole that this is the freakiest thing to ever happen on the Internet. Let the hunt for your own face begin.
As the rest of the world tries to catch up on the life and backstory of the newest cast member of the English royal family, a new player has risen to the top of the drama watch: Samantha Grant, aka Samantha Markle, Meghan Markle's half-sister. (Samantha now goes by Markle in her Twitter bio, but she's Samantha Grant in her handle, @SamanthaMGrant. Some reporters find that strange. We'll just call her Samantha.) It's currently unknown whether Samantha is invited to her half-sister's wedding to Prince Harry, a question that becomes more and more interesting every time her salty comments make the news. This time, she delighted royal drama-watchers by taking to Twitter after Prince Harry's odd remark that his own family is "the family I suppose [Meghan Markle's] never had." And of course Samantha had something to say about it...
Including a promotion for her new tell-all. Samantha's book will be titled "The Diary of Princess Pushy's Sister." Additional information for your consideration are the reports from April that Samantha was "reportedly planning to star in a reality show to expose their ongoing family dramas." And the reports from British tabloid "The Sun" that she once called her half-sister a "shallow social climber" with a "soft spot for gingers." And the info from the Daily Beast that she's also "alleged that Meghan stopped speaking to her after she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2008." Excited for the wedding yet? Apologies for this next line, but it has to be written or else the British tabloids will put a curse on my family for not paying them homage with a corny subheader... Meghan may be the princess, but Samantha's the drama queen! Nice. Everyone's really rooting for the reality show rumors to become reality, right?
Who didn't see this one coming? The new Donald Trump animatronic has only been on display for a week in the Hall of Presidents attraction at Disney World, but according to Theme Park University, a fight already has broken out over the robo-president. Wow, that took 6 days longer than I thought it would. In this video uploaded to YouTube on December 27th, you can hear an audience member chant "lock him up!" during Trump's speech. Other audience members start arguing with the protester, one even pointing out that this particular Trump is not even real, and things escalate from there. The Disney Cast Member in the theater tries to step in, but is drowned out by the yelling. It's all... really dumb. Happiest place on Earth, right? The video cuts out just as the arguing gets intense, so we do not know if this fight ever came to blows, but it certainly sounds hostile in there. It is unclear what the protester hoped to accomplish by demanding an animatronic be locked up... especially because we can only assume he knew he would be seeing an avatar of the president when he willingly walked into something called The Hall of Presidents. Hopefully all parties were able to cool off, grab a delicious, non-partisan Mickey Mouse pretzel, and set aside their differences by riding the much less-controversial Space Mountain or something.
In the latest installment of aging rockers voicing the ideological equivalent of "get off my lawn," U2's baby boy frontman Bono told "Rolling Stone" he thinks music has gotten too girly. I can only assume this statement was followed up by a later edited tirade about the dangers of transmitting cooties through extended conversations with women. In the newest, and certainly not the first "Rolling Stone" cover story featuring Bono, the 57-year-old singer told alleged sexual predator Jann Wenner that the music world has been wrongfully softened and tarnished by the increasing presence of female musicians. "I think music has gotten very girly. And there are some good things about that, but hip-hop is the only place for young male anger at the moment... and that’s not good." His commentary is fun because it not only expresses a distaste for feminine artistic influence, but also includes some casually coded racism in the assertion that hip-hop, as huge and wide spreading genre is "not good." If you were hoping for reconciliation through clarity or intent on Bono's part, it's sadly unlikely you'll find it. The more the Irish singer went in-depth, the worse his pull quote sounds. Based on the interview, his main reason for despairing about women's presence in music is the assertion that the art form should be an outlet for anger. There of course, seems to be a large oversight about the many, many things women have to be angry about (see: systemic sexism and the continued existence of Bono). "When I was 16, I had a lot of anger in me. You need to find a place for it and for guitars, whether it is with a drum machine... I don’t care. The moment something becomes preserved, it is fucking over,” Bono mused, whilst staring into a pocket mirror reflecting his tortured millionaire soul. “You might as well put it in formaldehyde. In the end, what is rock & roll? Rage is at the heart of it. Some great rock & roll tends to have that, which is why the Who were such a great band. Or Pearl Jam. Eddie has that rage." Does Bono know about Courtney Love?! Or X-ray Spex?! Or the godmother of rock and roll Sister Rosetta Tharpe?! The whole Riot Girl movement?! Women in rock music have BEEN angry and if they weren't already, obnoxious (but unsurprising) musings from Bono are sure to birth dozens more angry baby female musicians. The whole tone of the interview begs the question: does Bono realize he's the leader singer of U2?! They're not exactly a hard raging band that gets teens in trouble with their parents. Unless of course, swaying with lighters is against your parents religion. Hopefully, for the sake of music as a whole, Bono is able to single-handedly keep the anger alive in rock and roll. I have faith, that with more interviews, he can keep it raging.
Ivanka Trump has a New Year's resolution, but it's doesn't seem to be "stop writing tweets that are so easy to make fun of." Yesterday, President Trump's daughter tweeted a link to an article about the benefits of sleep, and added that her "New Year resolution" was to sleep more. Ivanka Trump really can't get out of her own way. Sure, more sleep would be lovely, but most of us don't really have that luxury. Tweeting about sleeping just set her up for tons of mocking responses, most having to do with her father's administration (and just how out-of-touch with normal life Ivanka really is). Looking forward to seeing if Ivanka Trump posts about any more "New Year resolutions"... like wearing more expensive dresses and going on fancier vacations.
So, I have never been arrested... but if it ever happens I hope I'm not wearing this t-shirt...
Ladies, did you ever read those "Sweet Valley Twins" books when you were kids? I'm really not sure they were written for kids at all with titles like...
Hahahaha. Hey, remember that kid from Bad Grampa? This is what he looks like now...
Feel old yet? If I had a TARDIS I would go back to see the Hoover Dam when it first was built, but knowing my luck I'll go back too far and end up in a pipe when it was being built.
Hey, parents, I hope when your kids go back to school next week they don't bring like this back to you...
Actually I take that back... I hope that they do. So, I was supposed to Google "cast of 'Game of Thrones'" the other day, as one of the cast might be on the Phile soon. But instead I Googled "cats of 'Game of Thrones'" and I discovered this...
Ha! Richard Brake from "Game of Thrones" is the one who might be on the Phile. I have no idea who he plays. If you're thinking about cheating on your loved one you might think twice after seeing this...
Huh? So, you know those Porgs from The Last Jedi? Well, I think they were in some anime before...
Apparently BB-8 and Rey were as well. So, if the Internet could read my mind this year this is what they'll see...
Pretty much all Phile related shit. So, I did a survey people people felt about 2017 and I thought I'd put it in a nice pie chart. Check it out, people...
Yup. Pretty much sums this year up. Hey! It's Thursday. You know what that means...
In 2004, Turkish man Mehmet Yilmaz squirted milk from his eye into a coffee cup at a distance of 2 meters and 70 centimetres, setting a bizarre new Guinness World Record. Mr Yilmaz, 28, has mastered the discipline of eye-squirting... sucking milk through the nose into the eye before squirting it out across a table. Ugh!
This is dumb. If you spot the Mindphuck let me know. Well, I don't know what 2017 was like for you but for some people it just plain fucking sucked. So, here's a new pheature called...
Today's person who had a sucky 2017 is Donald Trump. Why? Because he hates this as much as you do. One of the many articles we've read over and over this year... other than the classic "Trump supporters still support Trump!" trope... is insights into just how miserable this old, cranky man is in his new job and his new house. "Before taking office, Mr. Trump told top aides to think of each presidential day as an episode in a television show in which he vanquishes rivals," "The New York Times" reported. But instead, Mr. President's days are filled with an "hour-by-hour battle for self-preservation," in which he "spends at least four hours a day, and sometimes as much as twice that, in front of a television, sometimes with the volume muted, marinating in the no-holds-barred wars of cable news and eager to fire back." A simple peep at his tweets presents a sad, sad man in pursuit of praise. His approval ratings are in the toilet... you know, that place where he tweets. Other than his golf trips forcing taxpayer money into his pockets, his business is suffering as the name Trump has ceased to become synonymous with "gaudy luxury" and now means "America in decline." Sure, he managed to pass a tax bill that will personally make him millions and is on track to reshape the federal judiciary in a way that suppresses civil rights for generations, but in addition to ruining America, he's also ruining his life. As Mueller and midterm elections beckon in 2018, next year is looking like it'll be even worse. SAD! for him, good for the world.
I don't understand. Hahaha. One thing I do understand and this is football, so once again it's time to talk football with my good friend Jeff.
Me: Hey, Jeff, welcome back to the Phile for the last entry of the year! Was it a good year for you?
Jeff: Always good to be back here on the Phile. Twenty-seventeen? Meh, it has it's moments. It was an up and down year. What about you?
Me: It was a hodge podge of a year. Did you have a good Christmas?
Jeff: I did have a good Christmas this year. We had a bit of a white Christmas, it snowed Christmas Eve. Not enough to be a headache though so it was good.
Me: So, did you hear Carlos Hyde say the 49ers will win the Super Bowl in 2019 after another win with QB Jimmy Garoppolo? How can he look so far ahead?
Jeff: I think he's being way too optimistic. The 49ers are undefeated since switching QB's to Garoppalo, but that doesn't translate to a Super Bowl win. We will see what they do in the draft and free agency. I will admit that the team is looking better now than they have all season.
Me: Speaking of the Super Bowl, who do you think will be in it this year?
Jeff: I'd love to see it be Eagles versus Steelers. It would be my team versus my brother's team. Plus I know someone else who is a big Eagles fan and I really want them to come so close... and then lose!
Me: Ha! I thought this was interesting... Buffalo Bills' DE Jerry Hughes accused the Patriots of paying off referees to help get wins. I wouldn't doubt it, would you? The Patriots have such a reputation for cheating.
Jeff: I don't know that I think they are bribing refs, though the game against the Steelers wasn't the first time the refs helped New England win a game. I made a meme earlier in the week that shows Roger Goodell telling Brady to make up for his four game suspension last season the refs would do what they could to help, then showing two horrible calls that both went in favor of New England.
Me: This is crazy... Every year, the NFL waits until all the games are completed in Week 16 before finalizing their Week 17 schedule in large part to have the best matchups with playoff implications in the late game window and on "Sunday Night Football." But this year, the NFL couldn’t find a game worthy for “Sunday Night Football” in Week 17 so decided to not have one. The NFL released it’s Week 17 schedule last Sunday evening with all the games taking place at either 1pm or 4:25pm. eastern time, with no game on Sunday night. What do you think of this? It's kinda sad, don't you think?
Jeff: It is kind of sad, but there's some benefits for the players. Some more players will be home for New Year's with their families? But there's a lot of bad games this week so there's a part of me that totally understands the decision.
Me: So, what NFL news do you have, Jeff?
Jeff: Steelers clinched a first round bye for the first time in 10 years. The Eagles clinched home field throughout the NFC playoffs as well. The Steelers released their all time sack leader in James Harrison. The good news is there was no major injuries in Week 16.
Me: Hey, Disney has taken over another team again...
Me: What do you think?
Jeff: Nice Bullseye helmet! I could see that!
Me: Okay, so, how did we do last week, Jeff?
Jeff: Both teams I picked won! But not by my spread so I went 0-2 with a Steeler win. You went 1-1 this week with a Giant shut out. As in you got shut out. No points. So sad.
Me: UGH! Let's pick one more time this year... I say Bills by 3 and Texans by 1. What do you say?
Jeff: My picks are Vikings by 4 and Chiefs by 3.
Me: Alright, Jeff, I'll see you back here next Thursday. Have a good and safe new years. Be good. See ya in 2018!
Jeff: See you in 2018!
January 9th, 1935 — December 21st, 2017
Today Anna Wintour became the latest victim of Donald Trump's cyber attacks after the President called her out on Twitter in the wake of "Vanity Fair"'s controversial "Six New Year’s Resolutions for Hillary Clinton" video. In addition to being the longtime editor of "Vogue," Wintour also serves as the editorial director for Condé Nast, the company that owns "Vanity Fair." In case you missed it, "Vanity Fair" came under fire after releasing a satirical video suggesting that, in the new year, Hillary Clinton take up a new hobby like knitting or improv comedy. The sketch was largely ill-received, with many pointing out that the video read as sexist and regressive. "Vanity Fair" later released an apology, saying they that the video was "an attempt at humor, and we regret that it missed the mark." President Trump also criticized "Vanity Fair," but for their treatment of Hillary Clinton... but rather for caving into pressure from the left to apologize for the video. While he was at it, he also took the time to drag Anna Wintour into the whole mess. In the tweet, Trump takes a stab at Wintour, suggesting that "Crooked H," a.k.a. Hillary Clinton, was planning on naming her the Ambassador to the Court of St. James, the formal title for U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom. Trump now claims that Wintour is "beside herself in grief & begging for forgiveness!" That's one way to land yourself on the worst-dressed list for life. Well, that, and those too-long ties. Maybe Trump is just salty that he hasn't been invited to the Met Gala in recent years?
The 72nd book to be pheatured in the Phile's Book Club is...
Phile Alum and author Jim Korkis will be on the Phile in a few weeks. And now for a pheature simply titled...
Phact 1. The World’s Littlest Skyscraper scam was committed on Wichita Falls, Texas. The designer said the building would be 480 in height. Investors assumed it was 480 feet not 480 inches and soon realized they invested $200,000 in a 4 storey building. They lost in court and the builder kept the money.
Phact 2. In 1988, "Cosmopolitan" magazine ran an article stating that women had no chance of contracting HIV from sex with a man because HIV could not be transmitted in the missionary position.
Phact 3. The snow in The Wizard of Oz was asbestos. The Wicked Witch’s broom was made of asbestos, as was the Scarecrow’s entire outfit despite the fact that asbestos’ health risks were already known at the time in 1939.
Phact 4. Robin Williams provided 14 hours of improvised lines for his first animated voice work in Ferngully: The Last Rainforest. Originally given an 8-minute part, after impressing the director, Williams’ screen time was tripled.
Phact 5. George Washington had his own personal recipe for egg nog that he would serve to guests, which included one pint brandy, 1/2 pint rye whiskey, 1/2 pint Jamaica rum, and 1/4 pint sherry wine.
Today's pheatured guest, and the last for 2017, is a singer and songwriter. He is the creator and front man of the chamber pop group The Divine Comedy, whose latest CD "Foreverland" is available on iTunes. Please welcome to the Phile... Neil Hannon.
Me: Neil, hello, sir, welcome to the Phile. It's so great to have you here. How are you?
Neil: I am good. It's an honour, thank you so much for having me.
Me: I've had a lot of requests to have you on the Phile so so glad you are here. I love the new album "Foreverland," which I downloaded from iTunes. I love the duet on "Funny Peculiar," Neil. It sounds like something that could be in an old musical? Did you have that style in mind when you started writing it?
Neil: I think ever since I saw Breakfast at Tiffany's I've been trying to write "Moon River." More specifically I've been trying to write Audrey Hepburn playing a guitar sitting on a window sill playing something when all of a sudden the orchestra comes in. I love that. I think I've tried that over the years and I think I got pretty close with "Have You Ever Been In Love?" from "Bang Goes the Knighthood." But this time I totally nailed it.
Me: When did you know it was going to be a duet? And who is that singing on it?
Neil: That's my better half Cathy Davey. That was funny because I thought suddenly this could be a duet with a female type person. Hmmm, who should I have? And I went through some wonderful exotic notions and until somebody says yes I better get Cathy to sing it so I know what it'll sound like. After much begging she did it and I thought ahhh, it sounds really good... It's really quite sweet and she's just a really good singer obviously. She's a professional. She's part of the reason we... anyway, moving on.
Me: With your songs, the lyrics are always so witty so I imagine they come before the music, am I right?
Neil: I think I was probably writing the words after I had the song laid out and the tune. I would of had bits of the choruses and things as I was writing. It's very hard to pinpoint what part of the process it happens in and why these things occurred to me. It's mostly do to my jealousy of Cole Porter.
Me: I thought it was weird there's no drums on the song. Was that on purpose?
Neil: If you put drums on a song like that it'll sound like a Beatles song. I wanted to keep it away from that and just add a bit of a shaker really. It infuriates my drummer as I constantly try to get him to stop playing drums all the time. We rehearsed it with the shaker but when we got to the venue to play it live for the first time he said, "You sure a little bit of nice brushes wouldn't be better?" No, Tim, you have the shaker.
Me: I love the song "Napoleon Complex." I know a few people who that could be about. Anyway, with the orchestra on it, do you write all those parts yourself?
Neil: Oh, um, I just over do it all the time constantly. I know that I do and I can't help myself. It's a real problem. I grew up in the 70s, I was born in 1970, and therefore I was a child of the Osmond era, you know. I grew up on ELO string laden and it just never seems like a song is finished until I put the strings on. It's really bizarre. I'm sure for a lot of other bands the songs wouldn't be finished until you put the synth-pad on it, or something like that. Yeah, strings for me is a very expensive affliction.
Me: So, what is the "Napoleon Complex" to you, Neil?
Neil: A short guy that wants to rule the world. There's a bit of that in me. There's a bit of the crazed dictator who thinks he knows better than anybody else about how music should be. Hahaha. I likened it to other albums where I don't have the same voice all the way through and it's really nice to throw it into a different perspective. So, I enjoyed having the girl singers coming in the chorus... it's just Cathy again. Pretending to be German. Ironically given the title of the song. I guess this harks back to "Pop Music" by M which I was slightly obsessed by.
Me: Your music is amazing and all over the fucking place. Who were your influences growing up?
Neil: There are specific areas of music which had such an impact on me in my youth or as a teenager or as an early twenties, that these things are in me every time I write or record. They just come out. It doesn't matter how much I want to be something else. But this is what I am. I am actually constructed of these elements. I talked about the 70s thing. Then there's the golden age of British pop from 1978 to '83. The Elvis Costello's and the synth pop and David Bowie's great stuff at the time and weird stuff like pop music. All of that is what really is so engrained in my psyche I would splurge it out when I write. If anybody wants to wonder why my records are so weird you just have to think what goes into them.
Me: There's another historical person referenced to on the album... Catherine the Great. When you write about something like that do you do research on the person or do you just know everything about the person?
Neil: A little bit of research, not much, because too much accuracy and I'm a history teacher all of a sudden. But I have to say I'm a massive fan of Lucy Worsley. If you or your readers don't know who Lucy Worsley is, she's sometimes on BBC 4, and occasionally on BBC 2. She's the curator of royal palaces by day and presents history programs by night. Not only is she adorable but she's brilliant. She's so watchable, she really brings the whole thing alive for me. I think over everything else I was sort of visualizing her in the role, but is os 50/50 in the content of Catherine the Great and my Cathy whose great.
Me: So, do you write on the piano or guitar, Neil? I know you play both... I think. Haha.
Neil: Normally what I write on doesn't end up on the song but sometimes it should and I forget. It was a long writing process on this album and I went over songs again, and again and again and again. Because I was so tired of finishing albums and wanted things to be different. I thought I'll just try every possible alteration of each song until I have the one that does to for me. The only problem with that is after I've done weave versions of the same song I kinda forgotten what's good about it in the first place, so it can have the reverse effects. A lot of the times I go down a certain road then listen to the songs demos and I think screw the last six months of work... let's go back to this. Hahahaha. That's not a big trial, I enjoy all of that so much, that I could really go on for the rest of my life.
Me: Like I said, your music is so complex... how do you remember what you want to do? "Other People" was recorded on your iPhone, right?
Neil: We were doing promotion for The Duckworth Lewis Method's second album "Sticky Wickets," which is available now, and I was in my hotel room, and I was writing this song in my notebook, I've probably been doing to for ten or fifteen minutes, and I thought it's a pretty good idea. I got the tune in my head but I'm going to forget it because I do. This happens to most songs so I sang into my phone and thought no more about it. Then when I listened back to it I thought that was a very good vocal surprisingly for me. It's in tune and when I stopped at the end of the take I sang "blah, blah, blah" I'll finish the rest of the song at a later date. I couldn't think of anywhere else it needed to go, it was a single thought so I thought wouldn't it be funny if I put that vocal on top of a massive string orchestra. Because a songs not finished until it's got stings on, and see what happens. I arranged it and it sounded really good so that's pretty much the end of the story.
Me: Do you do a lot of demos, Neil?
Neil: That's the funny thing, we have Pro Tools at home which is the industry standard program and we have some nice mics so our demos basically become the record. I mean all of the songs on this album I brought as session files to London and we worked on the ones I've already been working on so there's not so much demoing and recording anymore.
Me: With my music project Strawberry Blondes Forever I tried to come up with some clever song titles... your song titles are very clever. Do you have fun coming up with them?
Neil: They always seem funny at the time then they appear on the album and I think... that was a good idea? Sometimes a good idea are in themselves, that's the end of the journey.
Me: Where do you do most of tour writing, Neil?
Neil: Wherever I am at the time, if I'm in the right kind of zone. Majority of actively making songs is at home but then quite a lot of the little creative off points for a better term could happen anywhere. The best place is a train but I never get to go on them. I can't just go on a train for no particular reason. They'd wonder where I've gone. I'm writing. Leave me alone. I'm going to Glasgow over night. Hahaha.
Me: What's your best instrument to write with?
Neil: The best instrument to write with is a new one. In fact I've lost count on how many songs I've written when I've just brought something. Be it a keyboard, or a guitar, or a banjo, or a melodica machine, or this brilliant new apps you can get. I've got a vintage synth collection on my iPad. Oh, no, I'm advertising on your blog.
Me: Haha. It's okay. So, do you get recognized a lot, or people ever think you're someone else, Neil?
Neil: My family is wonderfully small. I think I'm mildly notorious, that would be the height of it. I can walk around in unanimous oblivion, and it's really helpful A) to happiness and well being and B) to creativity because I don't know how really famous people can create anything because they're so aware of themselves and it's reflecting back on them all the time. So I'm suddenly become not in anyway famous. I'm just the bloke who feeds the dogs at five o'clock and write. When I write it's pure selfness. I can do whatever I like.
Me: Neil, all your songs seem very positive to me. Is that correct? Are they?
Neil: Thanks. I'm more optimistic than pessimistic I guess and life is a funny ol' thing. It's interesting to me... I mean boredom is one thing to be afraid of. I think my music reflects that really and I get so much joy just from making music. The joy of making music comes out in the music. There you go.
Me: Do you write in the style of who you admire or do you make up your own music?
Neil: I end up writing in the style of artists I admire even though I don't mean to, so I have to really try and not do that, or else it would be like a Mike Yarwood show. That show my age, there's a reference you and your readers might not get. And like Stanley Baxter... all the greats. Yeah, so I don't try to write like anyone. I try and let my inclinations and habits do the rest.
Me: I know who both Mike and Stanley are, Neil. I used to have a book by Mike Yarwood. He's great. I should try and find it. So, how do you think other people that write songs do? Do you think they do the same thing you do?
Neil: To often I find out young folks that are starting out they managed to write some songs and I think because it's quite a difficult thing to do when you're that age they get very attached to them... can't really see the wood through the trees so they have to be self-critical. If a song sucks just write some more, always write some more. Then they write the better they get at it and the more likely they'll hit the jackpot.
Me: How old were you when you first started writing?
Neil: I started doing piano lessons when I was 7 and when I was about 10 I've written dots on a piece of paper and I said, "Look, dad, I've written a concerto for piano." "Well, I think it might take a little more time than that but hold on... I'm not buying you a synthesizer. It was just literally incremental by my early teens when I was in my Nik Kershaw faze that the sort of writing morphed with what I was listening to. I was writing more and more anti-war political songs because I was listening to too much Sting. They were terrible, I have to tell you. They were awful but that's okay... I had to start somewhere. As I become more indiefied they all sounded like early REM. It took awhile to find my own voice I suppose.
Me: Did you do a lot of reading when you were young?
Neil: Yes. I was a book nerd, because I had no friends. I had some very good friends but not a huge wide social circle. I was that sort of sensitive young man who read "The Enforcer" novels... a lot. I read them over and over again. I've never been a quick reader. I'm not a devourer of books. I think that's any a lot of them make their way into songs because I was so pleased with myself I got to the end of one. Your character is formed by the age of 17 I think. Pretty much everything after that is massaging your basic "you." I will always be looking for that bittersweet plot twist two thirds of the way in.
Me: Are your most of your songs fictional, Neil? Somehow I think they are.
Neil: Yeah, a lot of my songs are fictional and some are a sort of wishful fulfillment.
Me: You've written for a bunch of other stuff as well... the musical "Swallows and Amazons," "Father Ted," "Doctor Who." Is that fun for you writing for so many things, Neil?
Neil: I can do it and I like a challenge which is useful if it's not something I want to do myself. I like it when other people say you do this and I'll give you money. So, it's slightly less than pure art but it is interesting and sometimes incredibly worthwhile if it works out in something you weren't expecting. "Father Ted" was a different thing because that was very early on and they literally said can you give us a tune? So I just gave them the tune of the song I was writing at the time, I thought it would be that easy forever but it only gets harder as time goes by.
Me: So, tell me about The Duckworth Lewis Method. How is that project different then The Divine Comedy? Do you do the songwriting for that band as well?
Neil: It's kind of a mix. There's some songs on the albums that we did on our own writing things. The majority would be coming in with a bit of one and the other person finishing or moving it on in some way. Thomas Walsh and I write fairly well together, whereas I co-wrote with other people and it's been a disaster. I think its because Thomas is funny and human and writes really good tunes. I found with a lot of other people I've tried to write with that ideas were not forthcoming. They would be waiting for me to come up with something and going that... not that... that. I was like, "You're just editing me. You're not writing it." I'm not going to tell you who I'm talking about but anyway... Some people were so fast like we had to get it done in a morning. Then we'll do another one in the afternoon. I was like, "Hold on. Can I go to the toilet and maybe write proper lyrics? I feel so stressed out." It's a lot easier when I'm trying to write a song about cricket.
Me: Hahaha. Neil, thanks for being on the Phile. I hope you'll come back when your next album comes out. Mention your websites and keep making music.
Neil: Thank you. It could be worse. Thedivinecomedy.com. Cheers.
That about does it for this entry of the Phile, and the year. Thanks to my guests Jeff Trelewicz and of course Neil Hannon. The Phile will be back next Thursday with Matthew Nelson From Nelson. Spread the word, not the turd. Don't let snakes and alligators bite you. Bye, love you, bye. Have a safe and happy new year. See ya in 2018!
Not if it pleases me. No, you can't stop me, not if it pleases me. - Graham Parker