Quotes of the year


From John Banville and Harold Pinter, to Jodie Foster, Bill Whelan and Burt Bacharach, the arts world wasn't slow to speak its mind to The Irish Times throughout 2006. Here's a selection of the funniest, most provocative and most stimulating quotes:

Trad and Folk

"James Joyce's English was based on the rhythm of the Irish language. He wrote things that shocked English language speakers but he was thinking in Gaelic. I've sung songs that if they were in English, would have been banned too. The psyche of the Irish language is completely different to the English-speaking world." - Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, Altan.

"I think there's a great universality and internationalism about music that's beyond words . . . It stands by, and speaks for itself, just as a brilliant Jack B Yeats or Picasso painting does." - Neil Martin, composer.

"He was a very disagreeable guy. He had his own ideas about everything. He was cantankerous as hell, but I was his devoted friend, partner and sidekick. I got on pretty well with him because I'd never argue with him." - Ramblin' Jack Elliot describing his friend and idol, Woody Guthrie.

"As well as being a superb musician, Ó Riada was a social activist. He had within his gift the ability to talk to anybody, and I think what he discovered in Cúil Aodha was a very small place full of under-utilised linguistic and musical treasure." - Sean-nós singer, Iarla Ó Lionáird speaking about Seán Ó Riada.

"In all my years of studying harp, I'd never really listened to Irish music, and I didn't realise how wonderful it was." - Classically trained Tríona Marshall, guest harpist with the Chieftains.

"All you need are a pair of ears and a heart." - June Tabor, English singer, on what it takes to enjoy music.

"I think you just have to do what you do and then time will tell whether it was artistically important or not. I don't think that when Mozart wrote The Magic Flute that he was trying to make enduring art. He was trying to make his kids smile and [ to] pay the bills." - The Hayseed Dixies' Barley Scotch.


"Pottymouth was my nickname - when I was younger I used to swear all the time. I'm reformed, though; I've learned some new words. As I've gotten older I realised that swearing is a substitute for lack of vocabulary." - Kathleen Edwards.

"Toasted Heretic should have been cherished and helped, rather than ignored or sneered at, or put down as "quirky band with an arrogant singer". So I certainly didn't help the band, but the virtues I had meant that we recorded albums when everyone else just listened to them. But, yes, if you could suffer from high self-esteem, then I certainly suffered." - Julian Gough.

"The physical thing of having a man following you around all day trying to take your photograph - it's eerie. There is a pure physical response. If you go up and kick a dog, it will bite you. But with photographers, you can't do that." - Coldplay's Chris Martin on being stalked by the press.

"I can't believe Crazy f**kin' Frog is stopping us having our third No 1 in a row. It's not going to break my heart, but I am annoyed." - U2 manager, Paul McGuinness.

"The Live 8 Concert is like holding a party on behalf of people and then shutting the door on them when they arrive. It perpetuates the idea that Africa is a failing, ill place." - Blur's Damon Albarn on the absence of black acts.

"We wouldn't stand a chance now. Look at Pop Idol. I guarantee you that Jimi Hendrix and Marc Bolan would be seen as too weird to get on that show." - The Human League's Phil Oakey.

"Initially I was in favour of the war. Then we got all the reports of there being no weapons of mass destruction. I felt lied to and cheated. So I wrote a protest album." - Burt Bacharach.

"Most big concerts sound disgusting and awful and insultingly bad. It's like going to the cinema and been shown a scratchy film which is upsidedown and the bulb had gone on the projector. The quality of large-scale live music is so shocking." - Brian Eno.

"One thing I like in life is to have a chat and have a bit of fun. You learn more about life that way. You learn bugger-all from books. Unless they're my books." - John Lydon (nee Johnny Rotten).

"I went to New York to be where the beautiful people were and it didn't disappoint me. It's so open. It's a great platform to do your own thing or start new things. When I got there, I started living for the first time." - Antony Hegarty of Antony & The Johnsons.

"My first song was about the smog over Dublin in the 1980s, so yeah, I suppose I was always socially conscious. My first song was not a love song, it was about smog." - Damien Dempsey.


"My wife always says that I will be stuck with this forever: I am the difficult one. With Jack Nicholson they always said it was drugs. Warren Beatty is supposed to have screwed everything that jumped off the curve. I'll tell you, in reality a few of us had as many girls as Warren." - Dustin Hoffman.

"What people need is for Hitler to actually represent evil itself. But what is evil itself? That means nothing to me. I have to perform a living human being." - Bruno Ganz, star of Downfall.

"America is a very divided country now. Not only are there red states and blue states, there are now red facts and blue facts. The right-wing believe in creationism. The left in evolution." - director John Sayles.

"I remember, six years ago, on my 70th birthday, some journalist writing: 'David Kelly is 70 today. But what I want to know is: how come he's been 70 for the past 40 years?'." - actor, David Kelly.

"I think we all have a Wallace and Gromit inside us. Wallace is the part that has wild plans. Gromit is the sensible side, reining you in." - Nick Park, creator of Wallace and Gromit.

"You have to be willing to expose yourself, at least to yourself, to get to some kind of truth about a character." - Ed Harris.

"The only hassle I got about the show was in Dublin. I was in Rathmines one day and this guy pulled up and made limp-wristed gestures at me. I went straight over and threatened him. I just can't abide that kind of shit." - Aidan Gillen on playing gay in Queer as Folk.

"You know the hardest thing to do in Hollywood is burn bridges. There is usually some sucker who still likes me. There is usually some sucker who will still work with me." - director, Terry Gilliam.

"People say as a woman actor your career is over at 40. But then they told me I would never work again after I was 16." - Jodie Foster.

"I did loads of auditions and I didn't get called back. I still get giddy at all the people I get to work with, and I'm still enjoying the work and enjoying life too much that I don't feel like I've done that much." - Colin Farrell.

"To paraphrase one of my heroes, William Blake, it's a crime to evaluate anything by money." - director Jim Jarmusch on the success of Broken Flowers.

"There's a ruthlessness to the city now that wasn't there before. I was in Dublin a few months ago, when we were shooting Breakfast on Pluto, and if I saw one kid throwing up on the street, I must have seen a hundred of them." - Liam Neeson.

"If I grew up in a different background, I could see myself getting a gun and shooting an abortionist. That's my job, to imagine what could happen, what can make people go in different directions." - Palindromes director Todd Solondz.


"I am a dancer. My life is changed." - Sebastiaõ Mpembele Kamalandua, victim of torture, now member of Irish Modern Dance Theatre.

"We have never felt part of the rat race and have been able to give time to our work. The downside is that people ask why we don't do this or that and we reply that we have been [ doing it]. For years." - Oliver Hurley, artistic director of Siamsa Tíre.

"Wherever we are, family audiences - aged from six to 96 - are perfect. That giggling six-year-old child will help the uptight 50-year-old businessman to unwind." - Mummenschanz's co-founder Floriana Frassetto.

"Things have improved for dance, but it is still outside the door when it comes to decision-making." - Mary Brady, Institute for Choreography and Dance.

"It was due to be shown on the South Bank Show late one Sunday night and that day the Sunday Mirror ran some Gay-Orgy-on-ITV type of story. It broke the South Bank Show's viewing- figure record." - DV8 director Lloyd Newson on Dead Dreams for Monochrome Men.


"After nine months of the Special Victims Unit season - 15-hour days, every day - you're more liquid than solid. They have to pour you into a wheelbarrow and take you home and say, 'See you in three months'. And I had one day off: and now I'm here." - Christopher Meloni, who played in the Gate's production of Arthur Miller's The Bridge.

"There was a PS. It said, 'By the way, I just heard 45 minutes ago that I won the Nobel'." - Michael Colgan recounting the last line of Harold Pinter's e-mail thanking him for the Gate's presentation of Pinter 75: A Celebration, the previous weekend.

"If someone had told me the real story. It would have been fantastic. You know, all riding each other, killing each other . . ." - Michael Keegan-Dolan, choreographer of The Bull, on the the Táin Bó Cuailgne story.

"Theatre has become very important for me because otherwise I'm just in the studio all day long composing. All of these things get me out into the world, get me interacting with people and earn me some extra money which is welcome too." - Roger Doyle.

"We tend to go into a room and do a vigorous workout by putting on the kettle and standing around it." - actor Patrick OKane and writer/director Owen McCafferty.

"Strangely compelling, like watching a car crash." - Tim Loane on Bloody Sunday - Scenes from the Saville Inquiry.


"Of course in Turkey I'm seen as being on the 'Western' side, criticised by the nationalists, criticised by the communitarians as not belonging. Even, sometimes, criticised for looking at my country through Western eyes. And in the Western media I'm portrayed as belonging to the East." - Turkish novelist and Impac prize-winner Orhan Pamuk.

"I sent him [ Samuel Beckett] some books of my poems and asked him would he [ nominate me to Aosdana], and he said that he would. You could have knocked me down with a feather." - writer Brian Lynch.

"It's like my characters, all my men are Dad and me in a mess; all my female characters are smart and hopeful, like Mom just trying to make the best of things." - US writer Bret Easton Ellis.

"I'm not a stickler for truth. To me, lying in poetry is much more fun. I'm against lying in life, in principle, in any other activity except poetry." - poet Charles Simic.

"Now, when you look at somebody, it's not simply, 'Are you like me or unlike me? Has your culture produced great artists? What are your rituals?' It's: 'Is your culture safe or not? Will it produce terrorists?'" - theorist and thinker, Homi K Bhabha, on human security.

"I suppose . . . in writing you can't have regrets. I mean, you just get it down the way it was . . . it's only wishful thinking that things could be other than they were." - John McGahern.

"All one wants to do is make a small, finished, polished, burnished, beautiful object . . . I mean, that's all one wants to do. One has nothing to say about the world, or society, or morals or politics or anything else. One just wants to get the damn thing done, you know? Kafka had it right when he said that the artist is the man who has nothing to say. It's true. You get the thing done, but you don't actually have anything to communicate, apart from the object itself." - John Banville, who this year won the Man Booker prize for The Sea.

"I have written millions of words about contemporary England - in journalism. Why don't I take it as the background for a novel? I may do one day. But the simple answer is that it does not excite the novelistic part of my brain; it does not fire it up." - Sebastian Faulks.

"There's still a part of me that thinks I have to write a really good novel. I'm not trying to say I'm not happy with the novels I've written in the past. But it always feels to me like there's another one that I have to write that will really say what I want to say, and really paint this world that I can see hazily in my head." - Kazuo Ishiguro.

Classical music

"I saw Brahms's Hungarian Rhapsody on television when I was two. Tom and Jerry were playing it together. I thought, 'Hey, if a cat can play like that, why can't I?'"- Chinese pianist Lang Lang

"This has been 18 months in the planning - and we're in it for the long haul. We're not going to do it once and then forget about it." - Wexford Festival Opera's executive director Jerome Hynes on its training programme for young singers.

"You had Mozart sitting at the piano, improvising the accompaniment as they went along. Imagine the stress level. Much as I would have loved to meet him, I'm not quite certain if I would have survived that experience - leaning over the shoulder of the composer and trying to read what he has scribbled down." - violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter.

"Ton [ Koopman] really wanted to grab the audience by the collar and get that music off the stage. I just loved that. Because when I was a kid I liked rock music. I believe in the visceral aspects of music and I'd never come across somebody in classical music who had that before I worked with him." - period violinist Monica Huggett.

"My personal desire, I've said it over and over again, is to have an Irish orchestra in the pit." - artistic director of Wexford Festival Opera, David Agler.

"Life in a string quartet is not easy. You live together, like in a marriage, four people from morning until evening, thinking, living, breathing quartets, doing things together. You need 10 lives to play all the repertoire." - Adrian Banciu, cellist of the ConTempo String Quartet.

"Opera can be tough to watch on TV, even though it can be quite compelling to see it live. Sitting and watching a circus on the television is not that exciting either. It's strange that something so compelling live can be so dull on television." - Donnacha Dennehy.

"Only in Ireland could you have this harp as its national emblem, and nobody knows it, nobody's aware of it, nobody's interested in it, nobody plays it, nobody knows what it looks like, nobody knows what it sounds like." - wire-strung harpist, Siobhán Armstrong.

"When you have a school of music devoted to people learning things to a high level, society has a responsibility to them. What are they going to do? There's only a finite number of positions in the Symphony Orchestra, the Concert Orchestra and the Irish Chamber Orchestra." - conductor Kevin Mallon, artistic director of Opera 2005.

And furthermore...

"I thought at first, I can't function like this. You make a commitment with someone, and two months later they don't remember . Why don't Irish people mean what they say? I found it hard to understand, being German and literal, that when people say they will come along to something, it is only a figure of speech." - Dublin Fringe Festival director Wolfgang Hoffman.

"Picasso at the end of his life, while he was raging against the dying of the light, was only learning. You never entirely learn. Just when you think you've got it, it's all over and they turn the lights out." - cartoonist, Tom Matthews.

"The funniest thing on TV maybe since Monty Python was Seán Penn talking about his trip to Iraq. It was a f**king mess. Just look at the transcript. It just makes absolutely no sense. Hilarious." - South Park co-creator Matt Stone.

"We've got 12-year-old boys dressing up as transvestites." - Little Britain co-creator, David Walliams on the show's loyal fans.

"A lot of the audience know that magic tricks are largely sleight of hand stuff, but they're intrigued by the mind stuff. They understand some of the principles behind it . . . but they're confused by how it's all mixed together onstage, which is good for me." - magician Keith Barry.

"You go down to the water and you go in and swim around with the fish. And then you get on the bus and go to work." - Sydney Arts Festival director, Fergus Linehan.

"If all we're going to do is astound with technique, then we shouldn't be at it. Music is not gymnastics. You should be able to move people with a simple passage as much as you do with great technical expertise." - composer, Bill Whelan.

"It's been dispiriting to read press coverage about the festival losing its way and not serving its audience in south Belfast any more." - Outgoing Belfast Festival director Stella Hall.