Jack L: On My Culture Radar
The singer on a Stephen Fry podcast and why The World at War should be mandatory viewing
Jack L on stage
Current favourite book
I’m in the middle of The Big Yaroo by Patrick McCabe, his follow-up to The Butcher Boy. It’s about Francie Brady’s continuing adventures as a grown man living in an institution, and living in his dream world. I’m enjoying revisiting the character.
Lennons is the restaurant of the Visual . . . gallery and theatre in Carlow. The art spills into the restaurant, and it’s always changing – so it looks nice; the vibe is always warm, and it’s one of those places where you’ll never get a bad meal. The last time I went there, I had the hake, which was delicious. They have fish and vegetarian dishes, and ever-changing specials on a chalkboard that you can actually read from wherever you’re sitting – that should be mandatory in restaurants.
Claire Garvey is a creative fashion designer with a shop in Cow’s Lane, Dublin, who’s made some outfits for me over the years. She also does clothes for Nile Rodgers and others. I won’t stay her work is steampunk because it’s not just that, but it’s avant-garde: old but futuristic. She puts feathers on clothes, and I’m all for that.
I’ve been listening to Talk Talk’s Spirit of Eden, which is a masterpiece. It came out in 1988 and set up artists like Radiohead and Spiritualized. The band were in the studio for a long time, which gave it atmosphere unlike any other. I Believe in You is my favourite track – you’re transported somewhere else, it’s literally like time travel.
New York was once the capital of the world, but now it feels like that’s San Francisco. Maybe because all the technological wizards live there, and everything seems so Star Trek. I love Haight-Ashbury, and going into Amoeba Music, the huge record store. I see if I can find any of my old American releases in there, and I have once or twice. My initial fascination with Haight-Ashbury was because it was the centre of the hippie movement in the 1960s that was a reaction to the second World War. It’s been manipulated into a joke now, but when you think about the principle of a revolution of love, it’s such a positive thing.
It’s hard to get away from Joaquin Phoenix because of Joker – his acting was impressive and crazy. I also thought Michael Shannon was amazing in The Iceman. Perhaps actors excel when they’re playing psychopaths.
I listen to podcasts endlessly. Stephen Fry’s Great Leap Years traces the big leaps in technology from the first steps to where we’re going. He does it in his own style, which makes it more interesting than just listening to the history. I enjoy the Irish History Podcast too – each episode is fascinating.
I avoided getting a smartphone until I found out about the Star Walk app, which is like Google Maps for the sky. It tells you the location of stars and planets in real time. It even shows you where the sun is when it’s on the far side of the Earth. I love that we have the technology to do that now. I’m fascinated by astronomy. I had a song on my last album called The Sunset Is Blue on Mars (which it is), and I’m a patron of the Blackrock observatory in Cork. The stars were our television when we didn’t have television: our ancestors studied them more than we do, and it started myths and stories.
Every Christmas, I rewatch The World at War, from 1973. The documentary is comprised of the black and white footage of the [second World] War, with Laurence Olivier narrating. I think everyone should be made to rewatch it every year, to understand how good we have it now.
I just watched The Irishman. To see De Niro, Pacino, Pesci and even Keitel in the movie is a fantastic thing. They won’t get to do that again. As much as the movie is stilted by the CGI, it still works.