Neil Hannon is the creator and ever present front man of pop band The Divine Comedy who are fast approaching their thirtieth birthday. During the late nineties the group had nine singles in the top 40 including the legendary “National Express”. For one night only on the 7th October Neil and the band will be performing on the Arts Centre stage and Huw caught up with him to discuss their current tour, their new album Neverland and the next thirty years!



So Neil, welcome to Aberystwyth! Is this your first time in this neck of the woods?
I thought it was but I was speaking to Julie at the Cambrian News earlier and she said that I’ve been here before! You can ask Julie to fill you in about what happened last time…


Well she’s a good friend of mine so I’ll definitely ask her - Aberystwyth can be a small place sometimes! Now I’ve seen you’ve got a busy schedule ahead of you. You start in Paris then come to Aberystwyth – if there’s a more natural progression than Paris to Aberystwyth then I’m not aware of it but how do you come up with the schedule and is there any particular reason you’re kicking things off here? I don’t come up with the schedule. I do comment on it and try and bend Charlie my agent to my will but at the end of the day it’s just a big old compromise between so many different concerns and probably the least of those concerns is the route and how sensible and logical it is!


Well Aberystwyth is about three hours from everywhere so perhaps it’s not a bad idea to get us out of the way?! Well it’s just a couple of hours’ boat ride for me from Dublin!


And on a nice day we can almost see you but you do have some Welsh connections, as I believe you once collaborated with Tom Jones? Well yeah we were asked to do a song with him on his Reload album in the late nineties so we did a Portishead song (obviously) and I think it’s probably the strangest thing on the record. I’m quite proud of it!


Well he’s still going and still looks as good as ever – something in the water down in South Wales, obviously. Now I’ve been fortunate enough to have had a sneak preview of the new album but for those who haven’t heard it what have you got in store for those people booking tickets for the 7th October? Basically we always do, I think, good live shows. I think half the reason I’m still here is that the live shows have always been a strong point… but they are a bit outrageous… and sometimes I kind of forget stuff… but that’s OK!


Well that’s what live music is all about! What I liked about it is that it starts off with a lot of orchestral music with a lot of strings in there then suddenly a donkey comes out of nowhere braying its hind legs off! I’ve now got this image of what and who is going to be on stage and I’m probably miles off but how many of you are actually on there? I think six this time. Every person is expensive so that’s the limit of what I can afford this time out! I did the last album entirely solo – just me and a piano – but I really wanted to get back with the band and make a lot of noise so I’m looking forward to it. I can’t really tell you what it will sound like – it will be almost as much of a surprise to us as it will be for everyone else!

Wonderful – that’s what we like to hear! Now I’ve had three questions sent in by one of our readers – Tom Kelly from Machynlleth. This first one is going back a few years but who was the inspiration for the line about the jolly hostess in National Express? Well the nice lady that served me tea on the National Express!

Now my second question from Tom – how did your involvement with Father Ted including writing the theme tune go down in your clergy home? Ummm fine! My parents are just scared of comedy really let alone Irish priest based comedy but I remember my father saying that the clergy types were quite recognisable to him even though we’re on the other side of the ecclesiastical coin. It was absolutely fine with them and a huge stroke of luck to be involved for me really.

Ok final question from Tom and he is of course referring here to the name of one of your other bands. Do you approve of the Duckworth Lewis Method in cricket? Ha ha! Oh the actual Duckworth Lewis Method?! Ha let me see. You know what? It’s not perfect but it’s the best we can get. It doesn’t work in 20/20 as it’s far too short to have a calculation. You just have to wait for the rain to stop and just play the thing!

Quite right! Just going back to the tour dates, I see you’re doing a lot of gigs in France including Lyon where I recently went out to watch Wales in the semi-finals of the Euros. Absolutely fabulous city. Brilliant! Sad for the result but there you go....

We got totally wrapped up in it in Wales. Did you get to watch many games and wasn’t it fab to see so many so called ‘minnows’ including Northern Ireland and ourselves excelling ourselves in the tournament? Yeah I loved it. Annoyingly my TV broke just before the tournament started so I had to watch a lot of it on my computer but I really enjoyed what I saw. I mean, Northern Ireland, it was wonderful how well we did. It wasn’t particularly wonderful watching us play but it was just fantastic that we were even there in the first place and we did kind of vastly better than anyone expected.

Ok final few questions. You’re fast approaching the thirtieth birthday of The Divine Comedy – what are your plans for the next thirty years? To stay alive. Just stay alive! I mean I find it a minor miracle that I’m still here at this age doing this job. I love it and I just don’t know what else to do. Please everybody – keep coming to the shows and buying the records just so I get to keep doing it and I love each and every one of you!

Well hopefully we can help you get a full house on the 7th October. Now I’ve looked at your schedule and it’s fairly intense. At the end of it, what do you do to unwind and how long do you do it for? I come home and say “I’m going to sleep for a week now” and then don’t get to because things come along and you have to take the kids to school and walk the dogs and feed the pigs and pay bills. Basically, ever since becoming a proper adult I’ve never had time to unwind. It would be lovely!

 To finish, how would you describe your stage show in three words… Uhhhhhhhh…ummmm…almost…kinda….legendary!

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