- 21 Apr 20
To celebrate Glen Hansard's 50th birthday, we're revisiting classic interviews with the iconic Dublin musician – including this 1991 interview with Michael O'Hara, published in Hot Press following the success of The Frames' debut single, and before the release of Alan Parker's The Commitments.
An office in downtown Dublin. A band. A journalist. And a tape recorder. Yes, it s another extraordinary Hot Press interview. Starring: The Frames. Directed by: Mick O Hara. With: A cast of 200,000 readers.
You will no doubt recall my ecstatic live review of The Frames in these very pages not four months ago, featuring words like 'magical' and 'incredible' and 'diamonds' and 'silverfish'.
Well a lot has happened to the band since then. They've released their debut single on Island Records, had a video for it shown on the Beatbox, supported The Stunning in the National Stadium, appeared on The Late Late Show, played all over the country, secured slots on the bills of London's Fleadh and Tipperary's Feile festivals, received favourable attention in the British music press, and performed to an adoring London audience. Now they're back on home turf, chewing the fat with yours truly and generally treating me like goddamn royalty. I'm serious!
Glen says I am the king. Glen is the singer, the blonde-haired, wide eyed Rickenbacker-toting star of stage and screen, the mainframe. (Compute that, pop kids.) "You're the king, man," he says, more than once, and I am dead chuffed. He explains that I'm the king in the office where Una and Ronan look after the business end of things, make the phonecalls, book the gigs, organise the posters and tell lost-on-the-way-to-the-interview-rock-writers (that's me) how to find them in the first place.
The Frames office hides above an antiques shop on Dublin's Bachelor s Walk. That's where we are now, sitting on floors and sofas and windowsills, drinking coffee and having a natter. I am next to Noreen, raven haired, honey tonsilled Noreen and she is next to guitarist and Stan Collimore-lookalike Dave, the band comedian and doting dad, a man who speaks in whispers.
Paul Binzer Brennan is the official holder of the Michael O Hara award for hitting a drumkit better than anyone else in the entire world juts now. Colm plays the fiddle and is the only person I know who is quieter than me. Bassist John is late which leaves Glen who sits by the window, sun streaming through strands of his long blonde hair.
Those of you who are stuck a couple of paragraphs back, eyes staring blankly at the words and screen are obviously not aware of the fact that Glen plays the role of Outspan in Alan Parker's soon out film adaptation of Roddy Doyle's bleedin' rapid and fuckin' deadly novel The Commitments. Well he does. How'd it come about?
"I just went up and did the audition," he says. "A friend said 'Go on, you may as well', so I did. I think I got it because I wasn't trying at all. I just didn't give a fuck. I met Alan Parker which was really nice. I didn't know who he was but I met him and it was cool. I was called back a few times and then started to feel nervous. I began to really want it. I then got a phone call saying that it was between me and another guy. I spent the whole weekend after that feeling really shit but feeling really good as well because at least I'd made it to the top two.
"Then another phone call arrived to say I'd got it and from there on it was just really fast. We immediately started rehearsing. It was an experience that was a bit like joining the scouts or something. You get in and it's a whole different world for a while and then you're out again. And it's all organisation, it's all up really early, it's all food and timing. It's taking care of you and it ' just really brilliant and then it was over. And it's over now and I still haven't grasped the fact that I did it."
You must have a favourite line from it, what did you have to say that particularly tickled your fancy?
He thinks for a moment. "Where's me knob," he says. "I know I tucked it into me sock before I came out."
Stop it there.
From acting to music, the conversation moves to signatures on dotted lines and all that stuff. "Tell me about your Island contract," I say, "is it true that the deal belongs to Glen and Glen alone?"
"It was in the beginning but now it's all tightened up," says Glen. "Island wanted a band to be put together so I put a band together and it's the best band they could want. We're in the process now of negotiating deals for the whole lot of us. The idea that it was just me we quickly put to one side."
That is a feeling that's gained some currency though, isn't it? The idea that The Frames might just as well be Glen Hansard and The Frames – Glen Hansard, singer, songwriter, star and a bunch of sessions musicians. There is much vigorous head-nodding here, they've heard this one before.
"It's like saying Bono's the only one that's signed in U2," Glen says. "It might seem that way because he's the frontman, because he's the singer and it irritates the wound when you see I'm the lead singer too, it just irritates the whole idea and people do actually think 'Yeah, is he the only one that's signed up?'"
"Originally when we got together all the songs that we performed were Glen's," adds Dave, "because it was material that was readily available at the time. Since then any songs that have been written have come from the band rather than one particular individual."
For a group who played their first gigs in October of last year things have happened really quickly for The Frames. The idea of doing interviews, appearing on TV, signing autographs and meeting stars still staggers and delights them.
They should've seen it coming. Only the truly coldblooded can dismiss The Frames. Abandon your cynicism, forget the fact that they are not exactly pushing back the boundaries of nineties rock and let the music take your heart to places it's never been.
There is an element of raggle taggle in their music but only an element, taking the noise that term implies and injecting it with fire, with Pixies fire, the fire of AC/DC and of Megadeth. Glen, eyes shining, says AC/DC are the greatest rock and roll band in the world. He took Angus as his confirmation name.
The first time I saw The Frames I was completely blown away and my feet didn't touch the ground all the way home. They really burn, live.
"The most amazing thing of all is to see people singing along at gigs," Dave reflects. "That's brilliant, just to see them doing that."
Noreen: "Especially when it's people you don't know. You get a real buzz from it."
Glen: "There are two girls who've been at every gig apart from the very first one. They were even at the London gig."
Dave: "I was in the shop the other day and the single was on the radio and there were these two girls singing along. That was bizarre."
Noreen: "I'm dying to hear it in the back of a taxi on the way home some night."
Glen: "The thing that really freaked me out was an ad I saw in McCullough Piggotts from a backing vocalist who was looking for a band and said that we were one of her influences. Fucking hell!!"
The fanmail has started to arrive. They've kept them all but are particularly fond of their first, a lovely letter in a perfumed pink envelope from Niamh, Sinead and Maria, Beaumont's branch of Frameheads Incorporated who pledge to keep frugging til their Frame-friendly feet fall off . You should've seen Binzer when he read that to me. I thought he was going to cry!
Thankfully, he didn't.
Predicting the future for any band is a decidedly risky business all the talent and wonderful songs in the world are not always, as we all know, enough but I'm prepared to say, here and now, that The Frames are going to be massive. Theirs is a hugely commercial sound and they, along with Lord John White, are, in my opinion, the two bands who stand most chance of becoming . . . no, I won t say it.
By year's end, though, you'll be pitching tents in their front gardens and have binoculars trained on bedroom windows, hoping, praying for the briefest glimpse of them.
See this band next time they play and have your soul saved.