Do you think that you are a very nostalgic person? I have been for most of my life, but I am trying to live in the future now, but I am nostalgic for things that haven’t happened yet [laughs].
I don’t know, it’s a crazy world. It’s the dawning of a new world, perhaps a birth of a new kind of romance, or so they tell me, and I haven’t figured it out yet, they say the good outweighs the bad, I just don’t know. For romantic types it is difficult, because the mystery that made life worth living is going, as you can have instant access to information at the touch of a button, it’s like being God, what do we do with this? We must move beyond it somehow, but it is very difficult if you are a sensitive person in the world.
That is why your record remains such a beautiful, touching document, I continue to go back to it. Oh wow, I’m sorry to hear it [laughs], bless your heart, I hope you’re doing better. I actually haven’t listened to it since we mixed it. I am very familiar with those feelings you might have been having. I am very nostalgic for time actually – in the modern age I think we will keep looking back, as we have a strange concept of time because we are living longer, and time has taken on a different feeling. You know, I am still trying to figure out that record of mine for myself. The confessional aspect was good, because it was good to acknowledge the sins, and get those things out, it has done me some good, and seems to have done some others good. I suppose when you are making grown men cry at shows you are doing a good thing [laughs].
Thinking about this strange world, and beacons of romance and reason within it – Warren Ellis instantly comes to mind. He is of another world entirely, and the interview you did with him illuminated so much. Your questions were funny and evocative and elicited so much from him. My favourite phrase of that interview was “the beards stay together”, as you must. It gave me an insight into a different kind of writing for you – have you ever thought of writing a book? Yes I have, and thank you for those words, I really appreciate that. I was so delighted that they printed that article, I was so delighted to have the opportunity. Warren has been such a hero of mine for years, but I had no idea how many questions I had for him, and that was actually the shortlist, you should have seen the longlist [laughs]. It just kept pouring out of me, I appreciate him so much and the music he makes. He is one of the last true greats, and makes this windswept romantic music that captures a sense of yearning. I saw him so many times as a young boy when he came through Texas and played, so it is a real treat for me to hear that you liked it. I have had a few people tell me that they enjoyed it.
His response to your question about how he reconciles the artistic side of himself and domestic side was very interesting. He sometimes seems like a conduit for a power far greater than even he can understand. I was so glad that he answered those questions. I shot them out there, not thinking he would answer half of them, but he took the time to do it, and for those few people who read it, it has been really helpful for them, because it can be a problem for people, trying to reconcile those things. My grandmother had a saying, “people can be too heavenly-minded to do any earthly good”, and some people are not quite wired for this world, and the mundane things. And he was really inspirational. The first tour I did with him in 2005 was amazing, because I saw him go between those worlds, he could turn it off and on quickly – I still can’t, and I am amazed by him. I think that you can get to a point where you can, as an actor might – to get to a point where you are strong enough, and your muscle memory is strong enough, and your emotions are strong enough, to just switch over and back and forth, where you are legitimate and true to it, but not detrimental to your own self. Sometimes it can be fine, but sometimes you can’t come back from it.
And he was quite wild, especially in his tippling days, and that almost threatened to tip the balance. [Laughs] Oh yeah. He had to go sober, and has been for many years, I have only been sober for 4 years. I think for people that are close to that, you either get sober or you…
Fall down the rabbit hole. [laughs] Yes, and you don’t come back.
He said he was worried that when he had his first child, as an artist he might never be able to reach what he had previously, but as soon as he got on stage, he did, and was relieved. He felt the domestic life might overwhelm the creative – but it is comforting that wasn’t the case, I think it obviously makes a difference if someone finds personal happiness, as that can be a fuel in itself. They can coexist. Not always, you know, it’s a legitimate concern for people, as sometimes your instinct kicks in and it is too difficult to maintain, or sometimes the family suffers for it, which is common. Had I asked anyone else, the answers wouldn’t have been interesting at all, I think it is also that Warren and I are cut from similar cloths.
In that interview you also mention The Rest is Noise by Alex Ross, which is a brilliant book about the cacophony of noise of the 20th century – what did you take from it? He has a wonderful way of writing about music, which is very difficult, but maps out the way music can hold social history in its composition, that it is also a witness to the world, its tensions and its progressions. He talks of someone like Steve Reich, and then the different kind of tension present in Public Enemy’s work, relaying a very real tension amid racial conflict, and he makes it so accessible. I know. I am not a fan of atonal work myself, but I appreciate it existing. After years and years I still haven’t got the bug for it, I am on the melody side of things. I appreciate that book a lot and the way Ross can bring music to life, and history as a real character – even though he takes certain liberties, and there are lots of assumptions in there. People like to compartmentalise things, and say work is created from a certain period in someone’s life because it gives a certain meaning, or symbolism – but as people we are not programmed that way, like a catalogue. Everything cannot be quantified in a numerical way, like – this was about the death of my wife, this is about the war – I mean, maybe Sibelius was just super-sad, and had a long line of romantic let-downs, or whatever -no-one knows why he is sad, he is just melancholic, and it was nothing to do with the war being objected to by critics. It’s difficult because as listeners we want to attach something to it. But I like it, I like the way he brings things to light, and makes classical music exciting, and makes it tell history as a storyteller, and his enthusiasm for the future, and I agree with him, or what he implies – that we might be on the cusp of something now. I think with this new technology it signifies the death of romance, but the birth of a new kind of romance, where every little girl or boy in towns from Ireland to Texas can compose a symphony within a matter of minutes, with the good stuff hopefully eventually filtering to the top. It might takes years, but that melody will eventually shine through.
The hope would be if they do use their laptop to compose, that afterwards they would take a big run through the fields, and cannonball into the sea, or something similar. If this technology is here to stay, I think people need to find a way for it to accommodate nature, not a synthetic life,and still be in thrall to nature, because it is probably the greatest teacher of all, and the most idiosyncratic. [Laughs] I think maybe are getting to a point now where they can run through the fields, and compose and conduct at the same time, it is going to be some sort of marriage, maybe [laughs]. I know, it sounds horrible, but don’t worry, right now they are just dating [laughs].
Josh T. Pearson plays Whelan’s on Friday night with The Spook Of The Thirteenth Lock. Tickets are on sale now priced €16.50.