I took a stab at trying to interpret the title of your disc in my review – but it was coloured by my views on the subject – What was your intent with the title Yonder! Calliope?
Well, the title refers again to that uncertainty about where inspiration’s gonna come from next, if indeed it comes at all, and refers also to the years I spent chasing Calliope in and out of bars and police cells and nut-houses and temples and chapels and churches. A lot of the songs deal with the results of that prolonged hunt, from analysis of it all now that I’ve crawled out the far-side of it sober and reasonably stable of the head and with enough strength about me to turn a clinical eye on it. “Yonder! Calliope?” barks the twenty-year-old me from a hospital window or wherever. At the time you never really know for sure, but looking back she suddenly appears in the midst of that car-park or hedgerow like a tiger’s face rising out a Magic Eye picture. I couldn’t see her then for I hadn’t the right eyes in the head. Jesus oh I sound the wild pretentious fuck here.
One more about the lady inspiration – was there any particular reason you chose Calliope instead of Eros or any other of the Muses?
Calliope’s the one I’m most keen on courting because she’s the one who’ll have you shittin’ epic poetry from now till doomsday if she takes the notion. But I wouldn’t kick Polyhymnia off my shoulder, either. The muse of sacred verse, amongst other lyrical arts. Sacred verse… That’s what everyone aims for, I think.
Switching tracks here some. William Golding once talked about living under threat and how that affects writing (he was referring to 1950's US and the threat of nuclear war). You grew up in Northern Ireland, which has known its share of volatility to say the least. Are you aware, or do you think that has affected your work, and if so how?
Well it’s hard to say one way or the other because Northern Ireland is all I’ve ever really known, volatility and all. It’d be much easier for me to gauge the effects of something half ways alien to me on my work. But being born and raised here shaped my politics and my worldview and what-not, and all of that bleeds into whatever you’re doing either consciously or otherwise, and especially so when what you’re doing is so explicitly based on personal history. But I will say that I’ve rarely went anywhere near any Across The Barricades type stuff. I’ve rarely mentioned The Troubles explicitly, although I suppose bits and pieces of sights and sounds that I was exposed to because of such are on evidence in some of the songs; bits of "Don’t Think I’ll Sleep Tonight" or "Blue From Black", for example.
Do you think there is such a thing as a distinct cultural voice in Ireland? I don't mean the new age Celtic nonsense or singing old rebel songs while drinking Guinness in some pub in Boston, more along the lines of Joyce and other crazy poets. Do you feel any connection to anything like that?