Dylan Moran Interview: On Music Loved & Loathed

Comedian Dylan Moran sits down with Luke Turner for a spot of wine and a chat about the music he loves... and hates. Poor old Oasis. And Metallica. And Muse...

For a comedian known for a sour, pinot noir-fuelled outlook on life, Dylan Moran’s new show, currently running at London’s Apollo Theatre, might represent something of a softening of approach. Now married with children, he might regularly raise a glass of wine to his lips during the course of the evening, but from the level of the red booze, none of it passes his lips. We might get hectored and interrogated and shouted at, but his material too increasingly reflects the onset of middle age. Yet Moran isn’t donning the slippers just yet – as soon as you suspect he’s slipping into a comfort zone, he unleashes a magnificent, dark twist. Earlier this year, The Quietus sat down at a table outside a Soho restaurant for a glass of rose with the Irish comic to talk about his love for music.

What music was on the young Dylan Moran’s stereo?

I was very into New Order. Joy Division, all of that when I was younger. I had a lot of bootlegs that I saved up my pocket money to buy.

Did you have the long trenchcoat, the whole look?

I did, and I had all the obscure early EPs. I did throw a lot of eggs into one basket, as you do in your teenage years – ‘I am buying THESE records, I am wearing THIS’. I did quite a bit of that. You have to do it, wear your stupid shoes, wear your stupid hair.

What was yours like? Like Mary Chain?

A bit more vertical than that. It was very big. I had red brothel creepers, multi-coloured scarves, cardigans down to my knees, old man’s coats, the Manchester look. It’s all back, isn’t it? But I’m really just interested in music. What I really like is amazing musicianship, I don’t care what they’re playing, but if they’re amazing musicians…

Does that come from your love of the blues?

I think so. There’s a track called ‘Help Me’ by Sonny Boy Williamson and it was covered by Jimmy Wells, among other people, which seems to sum up the spirit of all of that music; a man banging a stick on the floor, elemental, bone shaking.

Given you’re a man who works with words, does the narrative style to the blues appeal?

Yes it does. A lot of it is a cry of pain, or a cry of boredom. A lot of the lyrics are fantastic, I’m thinking of Leadbelly and stuff. ‘I went to bed last night, and started turning from side to side, the blues is walking around my bed, the blues is all in my bread’, it’s raw and simple, no irony or anything like that, it’s completely unaffected.

Does the narrative side of blues influence you at all?

Maybe a bit, because there were people who just grabbed you, because there’s a form rather than a lot of comics just have their one liner jokes. But really the thing about the blues was that it was about a person, or a character, you’d want to hear their story. They weren’t trying to strike a pose, or put things in inverted commas, or put a style on. It’s all they’ve got, but they’re letting you share all of it.

That’s something you miss when musicianship takes over…

Yes, not everybody of course, but I’ll take Nina Simone singing ‘I’m Feeling Good’ over Muse any day.

Is there any comparison between what you do and a musician?

Well being on the road and going from hotel to dressing room to trying to find something to eat that’s not a sandwich to not getting lost…

Is the comedic road a more restrained road?

It depends on your comic. There’s no set form. Comics die as well.

There’s not so many of the 27 dead brigade though is there?

That’s because it takes so much longer to get a paid gig in comedy. You’re hanging on for that. [a loud, genuine COUGH GOUGH]. Comics tend to fall off the tree in their 30s, so there’s time for me yet. I’ve got three years. Was there hellraising? What we’re talking about here is feeling ill. I have felt ill sometimes.

Were there waves of regrets?

Yes, complex, three part nausea. It’s not something anybody aims for, but it’s often what you end up with.

A ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ of unwell. Persistent.

Yes, persistent. Dwindling your inner resources. When a tide of sickness rises around you

You’ve done a routine against hip hop. Have you mollified your stance at all?

I think I was in a bad place at that particular show. I don’t think there’s a genre of music that I couldn’t enjoy on some level, except maybe things like thrash or death metal, which really make me want to lie down.

You need the melody?

Yes [blows nose] I go a bit funny if I don’t have melody. Though I did love Portishead, less so their last album.

The actor Nick Moran appears from across the street

NM: Hullo, I just want to say we’re not related

DM: I know who you are. Hi Nick.

NM: Which are your mob from?

DM: Mayo, I think originally.

NM: You go there and see our name everywhere. Particularly Dingle. Over the funeral parlours and the garages and the cake shop. And the Moran brothers are the guys who’ll will take you out to see Fungi, the Dingle dolphin.

DM: Ok yeah. Have you done that then?

NM: No. But I thought we should shake hands, otherwise bad things will happen to us.

Nick Moran disappears into the Soho sun

DM: Sorry, where were we?

Portishead and you not liking the new album

DM Sorry, I’m having some sort of, the systems are shutting down… She’s has such a unique voice, such a voice you have to be careful with. And I think they’ve got so many resources, they’re such clever musicians, and I can understand why they want to throw the paintbox away to limit themselves but it was too brutal. There wasn’t enough light and shade

It’s a relentless record

It hurts. I like Bjork, because she doesn’t do any of that, the great thing about her is that she does not give a shit. I love Kate Bush as well, she doesn’t give a shit and sings ‘Washing Machine’. And that’s what I get most excited about, is people who do whatever the fuck they want. People who say, ‘here we go’ and don’t look up to see if you’re still there.

You’ve done routine about how much you dislike Fatboy Slim’s ‘Rockafeller Skank’, and how music as noise can ruin an empty bar…

That’s not just age. You can be 15 and feel that that’s messed up your afternoon.

Do you often find music is a bit of a noise pollution?

Yes, and some music is only that.

Are there any particular things you find that with?

I don’t know what somebody gets from… I actually feel sick from talking about it, but things like Metallica, I really tried. Some musicians I know have said you should listen to this, there’s melody, there’s music in there, but I don’t have the equipment to find it. That sounds to me like being stuck in traffic. Why would you want to share it? Why would you want to share the fact that you’ve got toothache? What do we learn? Where do we go? Where is the story? What is our relationship if all you’re doing is screaming into my face about how you’re going to commit suicide and then do it again?

Well that’s a the rock star creation of a tortured persona.

When it works, everyone wants their person onstage to be a God. And when it works, and you have a person at the height of their powers, working with what they’ve got in their armoury, then it’s a very powerful thing. The Arctic Monkeys are very witty. It’s a banging tune with funny lyrics and they’re having a whale of a time. What more do you want? Why does it have to be an apocalypse?

The Arctic Monkeys have avoided the Oasis thing of shooting their mouths off and being gobby

Oasis were boring the first time around. It’s reconstituted from a fucking 60s compilation. It’s music for people whose idea of a good time is roaring your lungs, never remembering anything you did yesterday, and trying to pick out pieces of chicken tikka masala out of your pubes.

Is Bernard from Black Books a frustrated musician?

We had great fun dancing around to the ‘Ace of Spades’. Probably he is, I think Bernard is a psychopath, personally. A sociopath. He probably was one of those people who is bitter about not creating something.

Does comedy has a place in music?

I think most funny songs work when you have great musicians. Randy Newman, Cole Porter, The Smiths, Though I can’t listen to The Smiths now. Excuse me, I have to stand up…

Are you alright?


Do comedians work harder than musicians?

It’s a lot of road. What do I miss most? My family, my children, real life. It’s good for writing. It’s very groundhog day. The jackhammer comes into your face every day. Get up up! Put 250 miles behimd you. Get into the hotel you bastard, put your bags down. Go and do the show and then maybe the next day you’ve got an hour to wander around the town. It’s the height of luxury to have two gigs in a row. Three is just a holiday. I don’t know how many miles I’ve done. It must be thousands.

Is there less boozing on tour now?

Yes, because I have to. As Iggy Pop said, I am a deepfried French fry, there is nothing left. I have to behave, otherwise no show, everyone go home. And no-one has had to go home. But sometimes I’ve felt a bit achey. I was up last night, I was up early. It’s all wrong. You’ve got to turn up, you’re allowed to die onstage, but you will turn up…

Thanks for that Dylan, I’ll let you…


If he doesn’t pass on to join the great majority, Dylan Moran is playing at the Apollo Theatre until December 5th

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