Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

Notes on a Glen Hansard interview

There is a widespread belief amongst music journalists that Noel Gallagher is a brilliant interviewee. And he really is: Gallagher is a dude who understands that the media want a couple of wisecracks, some off-the-cuff anecdotes and an ability to …

Wed, Jun 27, 2012, 09:00


There is a widespread belief amongst music journalists that Noel Gallagher is a brilliant interviewee. And he really is: Gallagher is a dude who understands that the media want a couple of wisecracks, some off-the-cuff anecdotes and an ability to brilliantly articulate colourful and honest stories which are a lot more palatable than the music he’s put his name to over the years. He was at it again yesterday ahead of supporting one-time agrifunkmetal giants Red Hot Chili Peppers at a half-full Croke Park.

There are other musicians who are also worth taking the time to chat to and, over the years, Glen Hansard has provided some fantastic interviews. I’ve interviewed him a good few times and, aside from cursing the time it takes to transcribe a typical interview with him, he’s proven to be a reliable, thoughtful and often brutally honest interviewee. I’ve no idea what he makes of hacks – probably sees us as a necessary evil – but, like Gallagher, he seems to get it.

I interviewed him again the other week about the release of his debut solo album “Rhythm and Repose” and the interview ran in the paper at the weekend (you’ll find it here). Hansard may have a lengthy history when it comes to releasing music, first via The Frames and later The Swell Season, so it does seem a mite incongruous to be talking about a solo album, but it is the first to feature his name rather than a band name on the cover. He talked in the interview about how this fact gave him a degree of “ownership” which might not have been there in the past.

One thing which became clear in the interview is that Hansard is finally enjoying what the last few crazy years have been all about for him as an artist. There was always a degree of almost-men and, as he used to put it, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory to Hansard and The Frames in the past. But the last couple of years, which saw The Frames hooking up with Anti, the emergence of The Swell Season and the never-ending “Once” story, have been good to him and the band so it’s heartening to see him accepting what has happened and not questioning it again and again. He can’t change what occured when he started writing with Marketa Irglova and began to work with John Carney again and it has been quite a magical period. That it led to New York and this solo album is also part of the process.

He brought up The Frames a few times during the interview. The band he formed well over 20 years ago to perform the songs which caught the ear of Denny Cordell and Island Records have endured for much longer than anyone imagined. These days, The Frames are on a hiatus, with band members currently playing with Hansard on his solo tour as he’s brought them along for the ride, just as he also did with The Swell Season.

When it comes to more music under The Frames’ name, though, he was unsure and that’s an interesting place for him to be in when it comes to the band who’ve been part and parcel of his musical life forever. I saw the band playing their classic “For the Birds” album last year – that infamous gig of two halves – and it was quite amazing (the first half of the show, I must stress). Hansard doesn’t see The Frames as a nostalgia act so we won’t be seeing that again on his watch. But will we see a new album from The Frames in the years ahead? Last words to Hansard himself

“I don’t think the rock band who made “Set List” were necessarily the natural band. I look at “The Cost” and it’s a decent record, but my heart wasn’t in it, I wasn’t passionate about it. We did paint ourselves into a corner in the last few years. You’ve an audience who’ve got their hands in the air and you become the band they want you to be. It was getting boring for me and I have to admit I was more or less leaving The Frames. It was beginning to feel like a cul-de-sac and I needed something else and I think that’s why I went off and did the Swell Season. I was feeling a bit helmed in by that characteristic when I should have had the balls to go into another direction with The Frames.

“Right now, I don’t know what The Frames should sound like. Through the years, we’ve managed to be a band who got on well and made decent music and had a great relationship with each other. If we do get back together, we’ll forget about who we all think we are to each other and what The Frames are supposed to be and just make music.”

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