Who would live in a house like this? Gavin Friday takes us round his Killiney pad,
So says Gavin Friday of his often difficult relationship with his late father. That visceral honesty also pervades his new album, catholic, his first since 1995. A gregarious, frank Friday takes Tony Clayton-Lea in to his Killiney home
GAVIN Friday’s Killiney living room looks over a vista that is justifiably regarded as the Sorrento of Ireland, yet in my peripheral vision, just behind the singer, I notice a Francis Bacon lithograph of some warped, possibly cruel vision of humanity. How reassuring to know that little has changed in Friday’s world; beautiful, reclusive south Co Dublin is home to a man who has no problem describing himself as “an arty fucker”.
Friday is back in the game again with a new album, the serene, poised and elegant
catholic (the lower case is deliberate), his first full release since 1995’s in-your-groin
Shag Tobacco. In truth, he has never really been away – he shoehorned himself in to a dizzying array of artistic activities. Looking as fit as a fiddle (following a serious back problem that kept him grounded for several months), he is in smart, gregarious form, surrounded by art that ranges from work by his longtime friend (and former Virgin Prune band agitator) Guggi to pieces by Damien Hirst, Lou Reed and Andy Warhol. He is also surrounded by art-memoirs that display a touching regard for his origins and his creative touchstones: family portraits, images of rock and pop icons, and a Cedarwood Grove street sign (“rescued from a skip,” he says, which proves you can take the man out of Ballymun/Glasnevin but not vice versa).
“ Shag Tobacco was released when Britpop started, and I thought I was back in the early ’70s with Slade and Geordie. On the other hand, around that time were Tricky, Portishead, Björk, Nick Cave and Massive Attack, which I found to be more musically interesting. And then in America grunge was such a big thing.”
Friday has never bothered with being in kilter with most things (“I’ve always been like that”), but he was becoming bored with what was going on post-Shag. He could also sense the record companies changing. “I recall I walked in to the record company offices and the framed pictures of Tom Waits were being replaced by images of boy bands. And then in 1998, on the same day, Island Records dropped me, Waits, Tricky and Marianne Faithfull. At least I was in good company.”hip? Our first big cultural hugeness was
Riverdance; you couldn’t really have put U2 in to any bracket because by the mid ’90s they had been around for almost 20 years. And then after Riverdance came successful boy bands, girl bands.”
A creative self-defence mechanism kicked in, and Friday effectively went underground, scoring movies (including The Boxer, The Name of the Father, Get Rich
or Die Tryin’ – three ventures with director Jim Sheridan), throwing himself into theatre ( Peter and the Wolf, Shakespeare, one-man shows), radio ( Emerald Germs, a collaboration with Patrick McCabe) and acting ( Breakfast on Pluto).
Come 2006-2007, with his marriage in disarray and the knowledge that his father would not live long, he knew he had enough to throw himself back in to writing songs of substance. He also knew he wanted to play live again, sing his own songs again. “When you’re on a conveyer belt, which I was from ’88 to ’96, it was all about Gavin Friday, and what you’re writing about is not real life.”
He wanted, he says, to go back to basics, to “make a record like you had just signed to Rough Trade in 1979”. And because he’s known for collaborating with “names”, he wanted this to be a completely solo effort. The working relationship with his previous musical partner, Maurice Seezer, he says,
He could see the media changing, too. “So-called great magazines of the ’80s, early ’90s, suddenly became very tabloidfriendly, because they knew pictures of Patsy Kensit and Liam Gallagher could sell thousands of copies.
“Also around that time, Ireland was suddenly hip – but what sort of Ireland was
“I recall I walked in to the record company offices and the framed pictures of Tom Waits were being replaced by images of boy bands. And then in 1998, on the same day, Island Records dropped me, Waits, Tricky and Marianne Faithfull. At least I was in good company”