Machina Magazine
Poland

BUILDING BRIDGES
Sinéad OíCONNOR

Interview by Grzegorz Brzozowicz
Translated from Polish by Emily
Edited and corrected by Deniz
 

Two pretty big crosses and an armful of necklaces single her out of a street crowd. Itís hard to believe that this girl didnít agree to perform after theyíd  played the USA national anthem, withdrew her four nominations for Grammy Awards, and tore a picture of the Pope two years later in a TV show called Saturday Nicght Live.
 

- How do you estimate the incident of tearing up the Popeís picture on American TV?

If it was necessary, Iíd do this today as well.

- After this event you performed at Bob Dylan anniversary concert. You were booed off stage. Was it one fo the hardest moments in your career?

No, absolutely not. People got used to think about this kind of moments as hard, but itís not like that. The truth is, almost half of the Madison Square Garden didnít know what it was all about. Itís definitely harder to give birth to a child.

- On most of your pictures that appear in press you are sad. Is it for real or is this an image that you consistently promote?

Once again I have to say: absolutely no. There was a moment I noticed that it is the press who wants to show me sad or mad all the time. As a rebellious person against the world. This is totally an untrue image of me. On the cover of my new album you can find a few photos showing me smiling.

- On the cover you thank Jim Fitzpatrick amongs others for ďhistory lessons of old religious Ireland...Ē

Heís the author of the front pictures on the cover. Heís well known because of the series of paintings showing Irish heroes and scenes from history legends. He knows the old Irish history better that anyone else. He told me wonderful stories about the old times, before Church came here and destroyed everything what was unique here. I learned from him about the Egyptian princess, Gosha, who was burried in Ireland, Galway, and one of the Quinns of Scotland took over her name. Other incredible thing for me was that the first Christians in Ireland were forefathers of present-day Rastafarians.

- You promote Ireland and Irish. But in your authobiographical song ďDaddy Iím. FineĒ you sing about not very nice memories from Dublin.

The song is about me when I was 14 -16. I felt completely different peron than I am now. I lived in a city, where the only perspective is marriage or secretary job. I was scared of this kind of future, cause I wanted to be someone cmpletely different. I wanted to be a rock star. Thatís why I ran away to London. I wanted to be in the limelight, to feel I look nice and have all this rockíníroll glare around me.

- What are your favourite places in your homecity?

I like the Garden Of Remembering the most. It was made to honour the insurgents of 1916. British attacked Ireland then, they wanted to make their own republic of it. Another historical place is building of Major Post Office, which was a seat of rebellions then. Now you can still see the holes after bullets on the walls, British ratings were shooting Irish merchants.

- In Poland they talk about similarities of our countries...

Sometimes I write for Irish newspaper ďThe Evening Herald,Ē and the editor-in-chief is really fucked up. Once he tortured me the whole day to write an article about Irish constant runaway to the past. But what was the strangest he wanted my article to remind an orgasm, which is supposed to come but itís not comming. Firs I didnít understand that this was a very good metaphor of nations like ours. We are obsessional attached to our past, we are just addicted to our history. But we have to get over the fact that there is always someone who dominates over us. We have to learn to live with it. Irish read more historical books than any other nation. But we have to go further, thatís what itís all about! After all my experiences of being a citizen of Ireland I understood that what we all want for real is some fucking national orgasm, gratification, after which - if it ever happen Ė weíll have to live somehow, and have some fun as well. Letís forget about smearing in shit of the past, why donít we let the present absorb us?

- How important is the current ecconomical success of the country for Irish?

Thereís nothing for free. It has prons and cons. Workers canít afford to buy a house in Dublin, and more people land on the street everyday. There is an epidemic of suicides. Since January 40 young people attempted suiside. They couldnít go on in a society which strives to material success only. There are some compensations, of course, but big money is a whole lot of shit, which hits the poor and sensitive people.

- Ireland is still divided. Is there a barier between Northern and Southern Ireland?

Obviously yes. There is a precipice between two parts of the same nation. Lack of understanding, sympathy on the part of Republic to Northern Ireland. Itís just like those people meant nothing to us, like they werenít part of the same nation. This is a tragedy, the more so as the citizens of North perceive us exactly the same way.

- One of the biggest rock artists - Van Morrison, comes from Belfast, capital of Northern Ireland...

Heís one of my favourite writers. I think that geniuses just like him have to be eccentrics. They are just different from all the others, thatís why the others say thay are too difficult. My favourit Van song is ďWho Was That Masked ManĒ from the album ďVeedon Fleece.Ē It tells about a lonelyness of a fighter, who never put down his gun, who canít trust anyone, but he just canít step out of the way he had chosen. This is the most beautiful song about Northern Ireland I know.

- People who doesnít necessarily need religion preached in churches are often lonely. Is lonelyness a price of spiritual freedom?

No, I wouldnít say that. Loneliness of Van Morrison is a result of his alcohol problems. Every addicted person aims to lonelyness, izolation. Of course in Vanís case you have to consider his life, problems of a boy growing up in Belfast. Many people from Belfast, his generation, is depressed. His suffering doesnít come from problems with spiritual freedom.

- Have your sense of national identity evolved through the last decade?

I always loved Irish, but sometimes they canít even love themselves. For instance, ďenlightedĒ  Irish treat Gypsys like shit. I, as a priest, love working with all these under-privileged people, with hikers, gays, people who despite of discrimination have to be happy. Hikers, just like Gypsys, have a great sense of God, magic, in a sense that isnít known to Catholicism. Mostly they carry a little figures with them, which looke like their good fairies or their protective ghosts. In churches the statues are so huge that when we look at them we feel worse, much less worth than them. Hikers know, that there is the same God in a little statue that in everyone of us.

- On the cover of The album you are surrounded by a halo of light. Is this a symbol f your internal purity?

Every element of the picture compose the massage and you canít really separate them. The front cover is a symbol of care, safety, which is given to us by a presence of a spirit and spirituality. There is a halo of light around everyone of us. Every being on the Earth has this kind of halo, every tree, you just have to want to see it. On the inlay there are symbols of three religions. They donít refer to any particular songs, although they are placed next to them. The Lion symbolizes Rastafarianism, Fire - paganism, and the Cross - Christianity.

- On the back of the cover we also find three crosses with a cresent...

That was an idea of the lady from the graphic section, who was responible for artistic side of the cover. Sheís an artist, so she wanted to add something from herself.

- In one of the songs you talk about yourself as a pagan.

Paganism is a kind of faith which contents no orders, prohibitions or laws. Pagans donít acknowledge the rules preached by any Church. They live in harmony with nature, like animals, conceiving the world instinctively. They are attached to dull circle of life, which symbolize the idea of death and renewed birth. I think itís beautiful.

- Whatís the role of ďKyrie Eleison,Ē a Christian litany put at the end of the album in the whole conception of the album? Behind the words of the hymn you can hear a whisper with very pro-Irish meaning.

Pro-rastafarian as well. Iím a rastafarian priest too. This connection shows my relationships with both religions. My aim, as a priest, is building a bridge between our Church and young people, between what is good in tradition and the new tendencies. As a Rastafarian I want to beat up the hate that Rastafarians feel to any other Church, because being Rasta means loving. In this particular song I wanted to show all the Rasta People that unification is better than envy, blood, fire and war. Then we could pray with double eagerness. Thatís why both the Rasta and the Catholic priests appear on this track. Itís about building bridges in a very gentle and magical way.

- You dedicate this album to Rastafari people mostly, for ďtheir graet faith, courage and above all, inspiration.Ē

For 13 years of my adult life I was living in London and thatís why I consider England as my home, too. Iíve met Rastafarians here and I felt in love with their culture, their sence of spirituality. I think of them as the most spiritual inspirating community, which can transfer their massage into music like no other in the world. For them God is only good. And it was them who sang 50, 60 and 100 years ago: ďBabylon fall down, Vatican fall down, Rome fall downĒ.They were the first who were brave enough to say that the real faith has nothing to do with institutions. I identify with Catholicism through the prism of my Irish character, but I feel Rasta in the same degree.

- We talk about importand religious problems, but I still donít know what is religion for you, and what is not.

I think that God and religion are two different things. I donít find religion necessary for us, those supply working religious structures. We need only some places where we could feel the spiritual world. People should be able to create their own principles to follow in their lives.

- Your album demands intellectual effort from potential listeners, especially when you compare it to other phonographic productions.

For me the most important thing in music is magic. Words carries destruction. Sometimes you need a bit of intellectuality to make people listen. The album atarts with three pop songs. Then you are taken on a ship which sails in a completely different direction. The magic is in my voice, in itís tone, not in the words. It is not the strenght of the words that make you want to drawn in the music.

- So is this album a kind of redemption? You thank to so many people on it...

Not exactly redemption, itís regeneration. I could say that this is my first album. I canít explain it, but thatís how it is. I feel like a new-born person. Itís just like I went through symbolic death and renewed birth.

- At first there was a lot of rebellion in your songs, now itís more like deep reflection.

I hope thatís not only you who look at this change this way. Young people should be rebellious. There is nothing wrong with it and you have to rebel when you are 20-22. The essence of rockíníroll were anger and courageous challenges. Now Iíve grown up enough to see that love is the way I want to fallow. But without shouting this fucking anger out you will never mature to love. The anger itself can be useful if it has a right aim. My anger never went the way that rappers guide it nowadays. They glorify violence and killing, and by doing that they donít give love any chance to show up.

- Major themes of your album is love, religion, Ireland...

... and sex. A few songs tell about sex and sexuality, that I want to be someoneís girlfriend or not. I think that the album is very sensual. I never wrote such sensual songs about love and making love before. When I worked on the album two tones accompanied me: reggae from the one side and and my own internal one from the other. Combination of them is my individuality. I donít like to be classified, I want my listeners to feel that Iím changing.

- You work for a new record company - Atlantic, which had a big role in American music history...

When I was walkink down the corridor of the company I felt like I was in the museum. Like I was walking down a very solid, oak ship. Before Atlantic Iíd been sold like a slave. First I signed a contract with Ensign, which soon became a part of Chrysalis Records. Chrysalis was bought by EMI, a company which didnít give a shit about my career. This bussiness s often ruled by mafiaís bosses, who love playing Black Jack. I met one of them at the negotiations, heíd paid 250 000$ for decorating his limousine!
 

That was the most enjoyable talk I had I my entire professional life. We were talking in a small hotel near Notting Hill. Considering the unique atmosphere itís Sineadís favourite place to stay whenever she is in London. We were talking in a cosy room, reminding old-fashionedly English appartments: soft couches, dozens of pillows, figures on a mentelpiece and shelves weighed down with books. The hosemaid brought us a pot of fresh made coffee, and Sinead poured it to faience cups. It was my first interview with a star of this format during which I didnít feel rushed by somebody, and the person in conversation with me answered willingly and exhaustively on my questions. The conversation lasted for half an hour, and then OíConnorís son Ė 11-year-old Jake appeared in the doorway. Heís as tall as his mother and he was wearing a tipical skate costume. I have never seen such a hearty greeting of mother and son in my life.

*Special thanks to Emily
   for translating the interview specially for Universal Mother.

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