It's been a bit more than a year since Hybrid Magazine last caught
up with Glen Hansard from Irish musical dignitaries The
Frames and sat down for a cup of tea (or in this case, coffee).
Way back in September, the band had begun its North American tour
for fall of 2005, and David DeVoe had the opportunity for a
quick sip with Glen, to discuss the year, the pitfalls and joys of
touring, great Bob Dylan moments in history and what the future
holds for the Frames.
It went a little something like this:
Hybrid Magazine: How was Australia?
Glen Hansard: It was tough, actually. I mean, the first couple
of times we went down there all the shows were sold out and we had
an amazing tour. And then this time, all the shows were sold out again,
and we were in bigger rooms again
you know, everything was moving
forward. But for some reason, I don't know if it was that last time
I didn't notice it or what, but it struck me this time that even though,
you know, we weren't playing the enorma-domes or anything, we were
playing like 2000 seaters, but it struck me that all our tickets had
sold out way in advance
this is a classic first world complaint
I'm going to give you now, but you know
they were all Irish
people. I won't say one hundred percent, but definitely eighty percent
of our audience in Australia was Irish. Which, for me, kind of disheartened
me a bit
not because we weren't playing
but for me it
was like, what's the point in coming all this way to play for people
you can play for at home?
HM: So it was Irish tourists?
GH: Well, basically Australia's become the new New York, if
you like. Instead of getting the J1, nowadays, what they do is they
go to Australia, because the work opportunities are better and so
on. So, you know for Irish people, Australia has become the new place
to go for a summer job, you know, because it's such a beautiful place.
It just really struck me this time that it was all these people that
were coming to see us, and buying up all the tickets. Which meant
that even though we were playing really big rooms, Australians weren't
really getting a chance to come and see us. Because they wouldn't
be so interested in coming to see The Frames until they heard it on
the radio or they were convinced to go buy a ticket
they'd go buy a ticket. But by the time they kind of got themselves
together to go buy a Frames ticket, they were all gone. So, all I'm
Australia was cool, you know. The gigs were great,
we had a great time, but for me it was more a reflection of how big
we are in Ireland than how big we are in Australia. Do you know what
I mean? And it was kind of frustrating to me, because it's kind of
a long way to travel.
HM: Yeah. That's very interesting.
GH: Whereas, over here it doesn't happen as much. Over here
it's been gradually less and less Irish people at our concerts in
America. Or if they are here, they are blending into the audience
more. They're not making so
'cause basically, you'll always
know an Irish person's in your audience, because they're always the
loudest. And it's a good thing because their enthusiasm is unparalleled.
I meet American bands all the time who come to Ireland and say that
Irish people are the best audiences in the world
them and the
Scots, because they're just so enthusiastic. And as much as that can
be a great thing, it can be destructive, also. Because you can get
people in the audience shouting at you, you know, about your hometown
or some kind of local colloquialism
and basically what it does
is it ends up excluding the rest of the people at the gig. Because
these people are almost saying, "I know you. I know you better
than everyone else in this room." And if there's enough of them,
it can often destroy the atmosphere of the gig. But, you know, I've
spoken to Steve Earle about it and he's telling me that it's
the same thing that happens to him. I spoke to Jeff Tweedy
about it and he says exactly the same thing happens to him. Where
you get these frat boys who come to see him play in
Well, not Hawaii, but I'm trying to think of someplace he would play
Just somewhere, and it's just again, the same thing.
HM: Yeah, I would think that that would be a little bit unsettling
in some ways.
GH: It's a really good thing for any band to play in front
of an audience
the last thing I would ever do on stage is complain
about it or wince about it. But there are times when
come to Denver, Colorado, you'd like to play for people from Denver,
HM: Right. That's kind of the whole idea behind touring.
GH: The point, yeah. I mean, if we were the kind of band that
depended only on an Irish audience, we'd be playing in Fado
not at a theater. And it's something that we've not consciously pursued,
but it's something that whenever we've been offered a gig in America
at an Irish bar, we've always refused it. Because we know what happens
when you play at an Irish bar in America. People will come out and
it will be a great night, but you won't have come all this way to
play in front of people from the town. And that's really what we want
to do. So Australia was really good, but on the other hand it was
frustrating. We get played on the radio there, and we sell records
there, so all that adds up.
HM: What about Austin City Limits? How was that gig, the first
of this fall tour in America.
GH: It was amazing. Absolutely amazing. I didn't really know
what to expect, to be honest
I'd heard about it and I'd heard
that it was a really good festival, but I was kind of thinking to
myself after playing South By Southwest, would it be any good or what
would the atmosphere be like. It was outstanding.
HM: It seems to be better anymore, than South By Southwest
GH: It's better in that it happens all in one place, and there
isn't that secret gig happening two miles up the road, and you can't
get a ticket for love or money because the place only holds a hundred.
But you know, South By Southwest is all based on the gigs that you
can't get into
that's what makes it sort of intriguing, if you
like. Whereas this thing was just a sort of big, open festival. I
flew in from Prague and I got in to New York and made my flight to
Denver, and from Denver to Austin, sped in a car and made it within
three minutes of going on stage. So within three minutes to stage
time, I made it from Prague
26 hours of traveling, but we made
it. We had a really great gig, really enjoyed it. It was a fantastic
HM: Did you get to see some other good music?
GH: I got to see a couple of things. Of course, because I
I kind of just pretty much flaked after
we played, I went back to the bus and kind of just laid down. I saw
Bloc Party, and I have to admit, I'm just
at how popular they are.
HM: I'm a little bit shocked at how that entire sound has
been forced back on the listening public.
GH: I don't mean I'm shocked at how popular they are. I just
I just didn't like them, at all. And usually I can
find something in a band that makes me go, whoa. Whereas with them,
I was just like, Jesus
HM: Honestly, with them
they were a huge buzz band I
think at South By Southwest this year, and I've still never really
heard them. I think I've maybe heard five or ten seconds of a song
here or there.
GH: I can understand all that. I can understand the buzz band
thing and getting behind something that's kind of new and fresh
But I saw them and I watched their set and I thought, "Okay,
this is doing nothing to me. So I'm going to watch it even more intently.
Give it my attention." And I didn't see
I don't see it
at all. I don't get it. Which is quite rare, you know. I get most
HM: Well, they're doing that whole disco pop thing, right?
GH: Yeah. It's kind of up-tempo tunes.
HM: Like the Franz Ferdinand, Bravery thing.
GH: Well, Franz Ferdinand has songs. Franz Ferdinand are a
you know, you can see what Franz Ferdinand are doing.
They're not pulling any punches, they're not calling it high art.
What they do is pretty much straight up rock in kind of an 80's style.
And it's really good. I like Franz Ferdinand
but the Bloc Party
thing went totally over my head. There just doesn't seem to be any
songs in there at all. Unless I'm just missing it completely. I was
probably just jet-lagged. That's probably what it was. Probably shouldn't
even put this in, I'm just
I was standing there with my band, and I was like, "Does anyone
is anyone getting anything from this? At all?" And
everyone was like, "Nope." Very strange.
HM: That's a fairly good consensus. So, Austin City Limits
started your fall tour here in the States
the gigs have been
good so far?
GH: Yeah, really good. From Austin we drove down to Tucson,
because we've been recommended to take some time off there. It's a
beautiful place, but I must admit, I couldn't breathe down there.
The heat was insane. Really enjoyed it though, had a great couple
days there. Hung out with Joey [Burns] from Calexico
and he showed us around a bit. We played in Tucson and we played in
Phoenix, then went north to L.A. We had a great show in L.A. The best
show we've played in L.A. hands down
at the El Rey theater.
Then went north again to San Francisco and we played the Fillmore.
Had a great show at the Fillmore.
HM: I don't think you can have a bad show at the Fillmore.
I think that takes a lot of work.
GH: Yeah, it's just such a perfect room. Did the Fillmore
and then went north again to Portland. Had an amazing gig in Portland.
One of those
it was a Monday night, the audience was full, everyone
was there. Everyone had come up to the front, just stood up front,
but everyone was just in
It was almost like a workshop more
than a gig. Everyone was, "I like that song. How old was that?".
It was one of those shows where the audience and the band became sort
of a living room scenario. And then we went up to Seattle played the
Showbox and we had a fucking amazing gig there. I wasn't sure it was
going to be a good gig after seeing the venue, I wasn't sure I liked
it, and we got in there and the place was packed, the atmosphere was
amazing, everyone was listening. So it's been an incredible tour.
And Josh [Ritter] has been really great as well. It's been
really good for us to play in front of his audience and for him to
play in front of ours. It's been a really good choice to bring him
out, because it's been a really nice mixed bag of people.
HM: That's good. I would assume that that can really make
or break a tour when you are touring with the same opener. Having
compatible audiences is kind of a big deal.
GH: As far as I know, his audience has been very gracious
to us. As in, there's no talk when we're on stage and it's not crazy
it's been very nice. And then we did a thing yesterday that was absolutely
brilliant. I was really happy to have done it, and it was a great
diversion. We did an in-store in Boise, at the Record Exchange, that
was absolutely wonderful. Just played for an hour in this record store,
maybe a hundred people showed up
and again, just that really
nice, no expectations, no
it was really nice. It's been a really
easy tour so far, it's been great.
HM: Well, that's good. There's nothing wrong with that.
GH: No, it's been the easiest tour so far
it's because I'm sober. I don't know whether it's that or not. It
just seems to be coming
HM: That shouldn't make it easier
GH: No, well
The only problem I have is that I want
a beer after I play. But apart from that it's been great for me.
HM: Playing mostly songs off of Burn The Maps? Are
you breaking out a few new songs? What should we expect tonight.
GH: We're breaking out some new stuff, yeah. We played four
mostly four songs a night of new
We're doing about
five off Burn The Maps, maybe three off Dance The Devil,
maybe three or four off Fitzcaraldo
and four off For
The Birds. We're doing a good mix. Whereas on the last tour, there
were a few gigs where we just did the whole Burn The Maps album
from top to bottom
which was kind of risky, but it worked in
the places we did it.
HM: How's that record been doing?
GH: Good, I think. I don't
I actually don't know.
HM: I guess, more than numbers, more than sales, how do you
feel about it now that it's been out for a while. It's been almost
a year now.
GH: I feel great about it. I feel it was the best we could
have done at the time, and it's our there and it's doing its thing.
You know, people generally keep saying to me that it's a slow burner,
but they like it.
HM: I think everyone that I've talked to, everyone that I
know, feels that same way. It takes a while to hit you.
GH: Yeah. I can't see us changing that too much on the next
record. I think that's kind of
we hit a pattern. Maybe it's
just getting older, we're doing it a certain way
a couple new songs tonight and tell us what you think. But I really
felt good about that record. I don't want to make it again; I'd like
to make something that's slightly different next time. But I really
liked what we hit upon there. It was a nice collection
records is a bit like clearing yourself, you know. It's a bit like
clearing your closets or getting the ghosts out. And when it's all
done, then a few months pass by, maybe six, eight months pass by,
and you're totally clean, you're feeling good, and it's all out and
done. And then the dirt gathers up again, you know, the dust and cobwebs,
and before you know it you've got another album in your system. So
that's kind of where I'm at now; just ready to go into the studio
and knock it all out. So we booked it for January
speaking the best way for us to work is book the studio time before
we even have a song written, just so we have a deadline to work with.
HM: It's that college mentality
You know when the end
of semester is, so you have to get everything done by then.
GH: Exactly. It's like, book the launch party before you've
even written a song.
HM: We've talked a lot in the past about books. We always tend
to speak a little about books. And I know a couple of years ago, you
had been reading John Fante. And two
three British or Irish people that I've spoken with, whether to interview
or just met and talked with, in the past year, are big into reading
HM: Yeah. The one that comes to my mind most readily is Johnathan
GH: Don't know him.
HM: He's got an amazing record out. Anyway
a lot of
things he had to say about Fante were very parallel to things that
I think that's kind of odd that musicians - I can't
comment on the general populace of Great Britain or Ireland - but
the musicians I talk to, there's something in his writing that kind
GH: Well, he's so lyrical
He's almost kind of like Mark
Twain in a way. He draws a line right out, and seems to do it
so naturally. It seems, whenever I picture John Fante writing, I see
him pounding a typewriter
I don't see a guy sitting there pondering.
I see a guy just burning, you know. And I see a typewriter just fucking
murdered. And his books read that way, they just come straight off
at you. And yet, there'll be a line that'll catch you in the way it's
written, it just flows so correctly that you just
stop. He's the only person that I put pencil lines under lines in
his book, because the line just comes off so clear. So, yeah, I'm
a huge fan of his.
HM: What else have you been reading?
GH: Reading a book right now about the Celtic underworld.
I've never really thought about Ireland in any kind of deep, mystical
way and recently I've felt this kind of hankering towards knowing
about it. Mysticism. So I'm reading a book right now called Meeting
The Other Crowd. And it's basically a book about people's encounters
with faeries. And it's an incredible read because it's written in
the vernacular of the local people, and it's just very powerful. Just
simple light stories about how in the everyday working life of a farmer,
there is this otherworldly magic that he absolutely accepts. Perhaps
there are certain bushes you don't touch, there are certain places
you don't go in the field
The way these really common, simple
people absolutely, without question, believe that there are certain
laws you must follow as a farmer living in this land that's million
of years old. You know, millions of years older than you know. And
basically, the belief is that Ireland's earliest people, the Tuatha
de Danaan, went into battle with another tribe, and instead of winning
or losing they just changed form. And that now they live in Ireland
as another energy; as the energy of the elements. For me it's fascinating
that in my country, and as a country becomes more modern it's kind
of hard to grasp it, but it's so
for me, I'm really happy that
I live in a country that accepts magic so readily
it at all. It's fascinating. That's a good book. What else am I reading?
I haven't read a book in a while. I actually almost bought On The
Road yesterday, which is really strange. I've got this real hankering
to read it again. I haven't read it in years and I remember it having
a big impact on me
I want to go back to it. I guess I wanted
to go back to it after reading the Dylan book, Chronicles
which is probably the most inspiring book I've read in recent times.
I mean, I didn't even read it
I just breathed it in. And Fante
and Dylan have a lot in common as well. The book didn't stop for a
second; there was no breath in it. That book absolutely knocked me
out. Because I'm such a Dylan fan, I didn't even care if it was true
or not. I just took it at its face, the same way I take Fante at his
face. I know there's truth in it, I don't need to know how much. Dylan's
a good man for not spoiling a good story with the truth. He just lets
HM: Yeah. That's a magical trait that too many forget.
GH: I also read Walter Yetnikoff's biography. He's
the guy who basically worked himself up from the bottom at Sony Records.
He was the guy who signed Michael Jackson
He was responsible
for Michael Jackson's career, you know, and Madonna. Oh no,
not Madonna, actually. I lie. But a bunch of amazing, like huge, artists
Springsteen and people like that. And it's basically his own
story and it's an absolutely stunning read because it talks about
how he just didn't care. And how he just let himself personally go
to pieces and how he just lived sort of by the seat of his pants for
so many years and was hugely successful. He was hugely successful,
but really unhappy. And how eventually he crashed and got himself
into rehab and got his head together, and now he doesn't work at Sony
anymore, he works at a homeless shelter. How, basically, he went from
being a corporate giant to working with homeless guys; and that's
where he is now. And he's just like, "that's where I found myself.
That's where I want to be." It's very interesting. And it talks
about phone calls with Michael Jackson during certain periods of his
life and, you know, if you're interested at all in the mindset of
the head of a record company as big as that, then you'll
it's a very human story.
HM: It sounds like the kind of story I can get behind
the story where success isn't found in the big stuff, but in the important
GH: Yeah, exactly. He was unhappy. You should get that, I
think you'd really like that. It's called Howling At The Moon.
HM: I'll check that out. Right now I'm dipping into this
it's not really a biography of The Who, but it's this book
about this thick, and it's called Before I Get Old. It's the
story of the early Who, and it's been a lot of fun to read. There's
the story down the middle about The Who, but there's also the stories
on either side; The political stuff going on, and the cultural stuff
going on in Britain - especially Britain, with the stuff I've read
GH: It's good to get a book that shows you a sort of slice
of the nation at the time.
HM: And I just finished a book called How The Scots Invented
The Modern World. It's really fascinating, you should read it.
Everyone should read it. It deals a lot with the philosophy
To me, it's very interesting because as an American it sheds light
on a lot of how their culture created so much of early America, and
GH: Interesting. I'd like to read that.
HM: It's an amazing book. How about music? Are you listening
GH: Ummm. Yeah, you know
my relationship with music
is kind of developing, like anyone's I suppose
I'm trying now
not to own any records that I don't need. I've got a lot of CDs at
home, I've got a lot of vinyl, and it came from a period a few years
ago where I suppose I was much more idealistic. I was collecting every
Magnetic Fields, every Will Oldham e.p. I could find
all the SMOG records. I was just basically gathering up objects
because whatever was going on in me, I felt the need to collect these
things. And somehow, for some reason, owning these objects would somehow
make me a better person or would somehow make me a cooler person
and would mean that I could dip into it at any time and be inspired.
Now, I'm like
I only need one SMOG record, I need Red Apple
Falls, and I don't need any of the rest. I need maybe three Will
Oldham records, I need all the Bob Dylan records
HM: Everyone does.
GH: Yeah. I need all the Leonard Cohen records; I need
all the Van Morrison records
That's the stuff I need.
I only need the medicine that's good for me. I only need the stuff
that's going to make me better. Self-prescribed music, if you like.
Joni Mitchell Blue, Fleetwood Mac Rumors
records that have had a huge part in my growing up and records that
I will always go back to. And they're the ones I want to own; they're
the ones I want to have in my life. Like Kind Of Blue by Miles
Davis or Gorecki
solo piano. All records that are
medicine. Only medicine is all I want, I don't want entertainment
anymore. I'm not interested in music that only makes me want to dance
I only want music that makes me feel fucking good. And because we
spend a lot of time as a band
and I don't mean to be whiney,
but we spend a lot of time touring, and I only ever need music that
makes me feel good. Music that salves me; Music that sort of takes
the place of your mother's arms or something
the rest of the
music is unnecessary. So, recent music that's sort of been medicinal
- I'm trying to think of stuff that's really hit me, stuff I really
want. The Arcade Fire record is a record I really want in my
life. It has it
whatever it is, it has that thing that I come
HM: I don't really get that band either. That's one band that
everyone is all gaga about and I don't quite get it.
GH: Yeah, I get it. I saw them live before I heard them on
record, and I was floored. The energy is
HM: I mean, they're obviously brilliant records, from my point
of view I can't argue that, but
GH: That's actually very interesting. We played Sasquatch
and they came and they gathered up around the stage just before we
went on and it was really sort of shocking because I'd seen their
set earlier in the day on the big stage
and the guy came up
to me and said "Are you Glen Hansard?" Yeah. "Dude,
I emailed your website, I fucking love your band." And it was
really amazing to have a band that - you know they're all like 21
or 22 years old, but to have a band that really blew me away, genuinely
blew me away, come to us and tell us that we blew them away, it was
amazing. It's a powerful feeling.
HM: You're a rock and roll statesman.
GH: It was weird. It's the first time that it's ever happened
to me where I was kind of shocked by something like that. I was like,
"Nice one. I'm really glad you've heard of us. That's really
cool." What's more, you like it.
But, yeah. They're really good. And I haven't had much of a chance
to get into the Sigur Ros record, the new one, but I'm looking
forward to sitting down with it.
HM: I haven't even opened my copy.
HM: Those guys, I have to sit down and listen to. And I have
not had the time to sit down and listen to, and fully digest, a record
in a long time.
GH: Yeah. The other thing I've been listening to a lot lately
is The Life Aquatic soundtrack. I bought it because I saw the
film and it really made me feel really good. So I bought it for the
HM: Yeah, yeah
doing all the David Bowie songs.
GH: Yeah. He just floored me. I've ordered all of his records
HM: He has a bunch of records?
GH: Well, I think he's got three maybe, and that soundtrack.
So, maybe when I get home they're waiting.
HM: To me, that was definitely one of the highlights of that
movie. But it was a very
GH: No script. No real story line, just sort of
HM: The fact that there was really no acting.
GH: Just Bill Murray being who he is. Owen Wilson
that guy. I can't think of his name, the Brazilian guy. He was in
City Of God, as well. Let's pretend we knew his name
Just those people, the way they are
the atmosphere of the film
just made me feel really, really warm. It's the kind of film I could
watch over and over
it wasn't about making sense of it, it was
just an atmosphere. Like The Royal Tannenbaums. Another film
I just absolutely adore, but have no idea why. It just makes me feel
good. He's a very talented guy, that director. The colors
an incredible moment in Royal Tannenbaums where Owen Wilson's
climbing out the window and Gene Hackman says - hey! I know
who you are. And Owen Wilson just looks up and goes
one of the best moments on film that I've ever seen. It just completely
compels you. And it's only a moment
it flashes past.
HM: Yeah, he's a great director, sure
and I think that
his films are fairly universal in their appeal. There's enough cinemagraphic
stuff to appeal to the art crowd, there's enough weirdness to appeal
to the off-center crowd, and somehow, also, there's stories that somehow
appeal to the mainstream crowd as well. I think that there's a lot
of stuff there. But I think that's good
it's that wordless feeling,
you know? That's a good thing. It's nice for me, having known you
for a while and having spoken with you over the years to kind of hear
you talking more about comfort.
GH: Yeah. Well, it's important, you know? I'm going to make
a fool of myself in January
I'm going to act again.
HM: Are you?
GH: Yeah. Me and a few friends, very small time, we're making
a film about a busker. And I'm going to play the busker. He's basically
a guy who is in his early thirties, he's kind of disillusioned, but
he's good, you know. He has something. He has some songs
his girlfriend's gone away
And myself and Damien Rice
are writing all the songs for it. And basically he meets this Eastern
European girl who's selling this magazine, and she somehow inspires
him to get off his ass and to get into the studio and make a record
and basically go see his girlfriend in London
to get her back
with these songs that he's been writing because she's been floored
by these tunes he's been writing. It's a very simple story
we're going to start shooting in January. The script is really good,
I'm really happy with it.
HM: So you and Damien Rice are friends? You're tight?
GH: Well, yeah. I mean I guess like anybody, we're the same
animal so we both love and hate each other. Well, don't love and hate
each other, but we like being in each other's company and at the same
time we're a little cautious of each other. It's kind of strange,
man. I like him a lot, though.
HM: The tour that you did with him last year, was that the
first time you'd met him?
GH: No, no. Geez, I've known him years. He toured with us,
he opened up for our shows when he left Juniper first
That's how he started. He first started touring with us, just him
and his guitar. So I've known him for a long time.
HM: I didn't realize that he had been in a band before.
GH: Yeah, he was in a band before.
HM: He's another one I don't quite get. Some of his songs
I really enjoy, but
GH: I know what you mean. He's kind of an acquired taste.
HM: I was hoping that seeing him live would help, that it
might make it all click
and it didn't. Maybe I just wasn't in
the right frame of mind
you know, so much of that kind of thing
is frame of mind.
GH: No, I know what you're saying. A lot of my friends do
not get him. I guess if I'm being really honest, I go to myself, his
music isn't the strongest element of my friendship with him
he just does what he does, and I do what I do, and somehow we end
up getting on in the middle of it. I don't think we ever really talk
about each other's music to each other. We just talk about cooking,
HM: So how is that going to go, writing these songs with him?
GH: So far, it's been really good. We've sat down and written
together, and basically taken the guitars out and
the scene where I'm playing this song for the first time on the street.
This girl walks by and she hears it. What kind of song is it? Where
are we? Okay, what have we got? One of us starts playing some chords
and we kind of take it from there
and it's been really organic,
really simple. You know, what he has to offer and what I have to offer
are two very different things, and when they combine they seem to
work really well
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