Blindboy Boatclub: ‘I had the choice of being a psychotherapist or a mad bastard’

Mask-wearing podcaster and author is first guest at the Irish Times Winter Nights Festival

Hilary Fannin begins her Irish Times Winter Nights Festival interview with Blindboy Boatclub – podcaster, author, musician, mask-wearing public intellectual – by asking how he's coping in the pandemic. Blindboy answers in typically philosophical fashion about asceticism and Buddhism and recalling a run through the gecko-filled Sydney Botanical Gardens a year before. "I call that an existential moment," he says. "The pandemic has me craving that."

They're soon talking about Blindboy's home city, Limerick, and how it has shaped him. They talk about the suicide statistics. "That statistic about Limerick and young men, a lot of those were my friends," he says.

He always disliked the “media slash folklore” version of Limerick. “The Rubber Bandits started in mid-2000s at a time when there were headlines saying that Limerick was the ‘murder capital of Europe’ and things like that and Limerick was being portrayed so poorly in the media and at the same time I was being very interested in hyperrealism and the ideas of Jean Baudrillard… and we wanted to make a hyperreal version of Limerick. Take the version of Limerick that the media was portraying and then purposefully make it really surreal.”

Winter Nights

The Irish Times Winter Nights Festival – supported by Peugeot – is a series of online talks taking place each evening this week, until Friday, January 29th.

Fannin asks about his interest in psychotherapy, He talks about his issues with “anxiety and agoraphobia and mental health issues” and how “while I was in college psychotherapy was free”.

He ended up studying to be a psychotherapist for two and a half years, at which point Horse Outside by his band The Rubberbandits was a hit. “I had the choice of being a psychotherapist or going to tour the world and be a mad bastard.”

He hasn’t left it behind forever though. One of the reasons he still wears the bag on his head, he says, is that “in 10 years time I may decide I want to be a psychotherapist”.

He calls the choice to wear the bag “establishing consent around the data of my face”.

They also discuss his feminism. He’s a feminist but finds talking about it problematic. “Why if I repeat something that I heard multiple women say, is my voice given more validity simply because I’m a man?”

Fannin asks about the Patreon model he uses to fund his podcasting endeavours. He loves the control he has in the medium, he says, which he contrasts with television. Control is also a reason he loves writing short stories. Fannin tells him how much she likes his story Jo Lee, about two starving women who eat a priest. "I wanted the person who read the story to feel and taste every bit of it," he says.

He talks a little about Flann O’Brien, his favourite writer. O’Brien’s brother was his family doctor. “He saw me in the pram when I was about six months old and he said to my ma, ‘that lad will grow up to be very famous and very handsome’ and the irony is I grew up to be famous for having a bag on my face.”

A viewer asks a question about Ireland's political regime. "Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are two cheeks of the same arse," says Blindboy. "Sinn Féin are becoming very popular with young people which is very frightening to the two cheeks of the same arse who are now wobbling and wobbling and going, 'Oh no people now know we're the same arse!'"

Róisín Ingle submits a question about why Blindboy likes Gabriel Byrne so much (this is a bit of cross platform synergy given that Byrne is appearing on Winter Nights this Friday, being interviewed by Hugh Linehan). He notes that Byrne has been present throughout his career. "In the video [for] Fellas, Mr Chrome [his Rubberbandits collaborator] made a two-foot puppet of Gabriel Byrne and in my most recent book I have a story, an alternative fiction on the set of The Usual Suspects where Gabriel Byrne finds a way to snort bags of his own skin from when he was a child to create system restore points."

Byrne, he says, “is the physical embodiment of what men’s aftershave smells like… I’ve nothing but respect for the man, even though he’s saying, ‘Why the f**k is he making two-foot puppets of me? Why are you saying I’m snorting bags of my own skin?’ It’s respect.”

Festival tickets

The Irish Times Winter Nights Festival runs until Friday, January 29th. Upcoming guests include: Ross O’Carroll-Kelly creator Paul Howard; Holocaust survivor Edith Eger; MEP Mairéad McGuinness; Irish-Nigerian author, academic and broadcaster Emma Dabiri; Comedian Dara Ó’Briain; Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon; Taoiseach Micheál Martin; Professor of biochemistry at Trinity College Dublin, Luke O’Neill; 16-year-old award-winning author Dara McAnulty; actor Gabriel Byrne and Washington-based CNN commentator John King.

A single price of €50 admits ticket holders to all events at the festival. Our Digital Subscribers can purchase tickets at the discounted price of €25 – just make sure you are signed in and follow the link below. The discount will be automatically applied.

Ticket buyers receive a link by email allowing them to attend the events each evenings via their phone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer.

For more details see irishtimes.com/winter-nights

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