‘I once stabbed my brother for stealing a piece of cheese I had cut for myself’

Sports journalist Ken Early and musician James Vincent McMorrow in conversation

When was the last time you cried?

Ken: A Thursday. Bad hangover, very tired, after going from Lisbon to Copenhagen. I was by myself listening to the Les Misérables soundtrack.

JVM: Wow.

Ken: Bring Him Home. The saddest one of all. When you're in a delicate frame of mind, you kind of pursue tears.

JVM: I cry on planes habitually. Apparently you're more susceptible to crying on planes.


Ken: I find flying makes me more emotionally fragile.

JVM: It's a bona fide thing. I was on a plane to Australia a while back back listening to Samson by Regina Spektor and I just burst into tears. The air hostess came up and took a food order from me. She didn't skip a beat. The professionalism on Etihad is magnificent! She didn't even blink. But that wasn't the last time I cried. My friend Simon Fitzmaurice passed away recently. That's the last time I cried.

What is your death row meal?

JVM: As much as possible.

Ken: You probably regress to childhood when you know you're going to die.

JVM: The pretentious hipster in me says chicken and waffles.

Ken: Roast chicken, gravy, and mashed potatoes.

JVM: Yeah, something comforting. Christmas dinner would be a good one.

Ken Early says his favourite piece of clothing was a 2002 World Cup shirt, which he was lost. File photograph: Cyril Byrne / The Irish Times

What’s the worst advice you’ve ever got?

JVM: When you do this job, people tell you not to do it almost on a daily basis when you start. I could pick any member of my family top to bottom who at some point has been like "this is not the road for you". Is that bad advice? They didn't think they were wrong at the time. I like when people tell me not to do something because I'm belligerent.

Ken: So people tell you not to do something and then you do it?

JVM: Well, yeah!

Ken: So you have oppositional defiant disorder.

JVM: Is that a thing?

Ken: Oh yeah.

Do you have a favourite item of clothing?

JVM: I did have a nice shirt I lost in Houston I was really upset about. You can't give me nice things.

Ken: I lost a shirt I got in the 2002 World Cup, a white t-shirt that had a green abstract design and the word "Priority". When Ireland got knocked out of the World Cup, I was in this hotel, and the players were getting pissed, and there were fans there and the players were swapping their FAI shirts with fans. Alan Kelly tried to swap his sweat-stained, beer-soaked one with me, and I was like, "no". I then lost it a few months after. That's the only item of clothing I ever loved.

What is the stupidest thing you’ve ever done?

Ken: I don't usually tell people this, but I did once stab my brother for stealing a piece of cheese I had cut for myself. That was probably the stupidest thing.

JVM: With a knife?

Ken: Yeah. It was really deep and he had to go to hospital. I was like, "it's ok, I'll go with him," and my mum was like, "no. What are you going to tell them? 'I stabbed this guy'?"

JVM: How old were you?

Ken: 22 or 21.

JVM: I thought you were going to say "seven or eight".

What subject do you wish you had studied in school?

Ken: I wish I had done just languages in college. Then I would have actually had a real skill that would have opened up other things.

JVM: I'm the same. Languages. I've started learning Spanish and I love it.

What is the most expensive thing you own?

Ken: A computer?

JVM: Musical instruments. Do they count? They're tools. I'm not an extravagant guy.

Is there anything you’ve always dreamed of doing that you haven’t done yet?

JVM: I've wanted to build a recording studio in Dublin for the past two years, but nobody will give me or sell me a building to do it, because everybody is waiting for somebody to turn their interesting warehouse into an office space. I like my home town, and I'd like to be able to do something here.

Ken: Write a book, probably.

Musician James Vincent McMorrow says he’s wanted to build a recording studio in Dublin for the past two years. File photograph: Robbie Reynolds

What fault do you most tolerate in other people?

Ken: I would say ignorance. It's all relative. It's not always somebody's fault.

JVM: Silly little things, because I'm usually guilty of them myself. I try to be attuned to not being hypocritical… Everything is very frustrating these days. I'm listening to too many political podcasts.

Ken: Oh God, yeah.

What’s your favourite travel destination?

Ken: Sorry to sound like such a twat, but Berlin. Places you go to, it's not really about what the place is like, but how you feel when you're there.

JVM: My opinion on places is coloured by the fact that I go through them at an intense pace. My interactions with places are also coloured by shows. Tokyo. It's insane, magical, really safe.

Ken: Tokyo is a place where it feels like being on a different planet.

Is there an artist that right now you’re very much connecting with?

Ken: Not very contemporary, but Tolstoy. You have these gigantic books - that who really has the time to start - but I remember I was on holidays reading some awful thriller, and I had Anna Karenina on my Kindle. I thought maybe I should try and read this book that's been there forever. From the first couple of pages it's like: this is f***ing amazing, incredible. I ripped through the whole book. The same with War and Peace. I mean, what I'm really reading is Constance Garner, the translator, a Victorian lady who did all the original translations. There are so many different kinds of characters; rich people, poor people, men, women, different ages, different situations. All of it is so real. The characters and themes are so brilliantly rendered. It's all so clear. It's not dressed up. Basically I've just been reading everything of his in English. He's got loads of stuff to say.

JVM: I watch a lot of movies. I'm a big Greta Gerwig fan. She is a compelling human being.

James Vincent McMorrow is a musician. His album True Care is out now. Ken Early is a member of Second Captains, presenting across podcasts, radio and television.