- 09 Feb 05
It's almost two years since Sinead O'Connor announced her retirement from music. However, it was always on the cards that she would find her voice again. The good news is that she has. She explains all in an exclusive interview with Niall Stokes...
HOTPRESS can exclusively reveal that on April 3rd the Dublin-born singer will appear with the McPeakes family, at a special gig in Belfast. The gig takes place just over two years since Sinéad originally announced her decision to call it a day, in April of 2003. The McPeakes – cited by Bob Dylan as personal favourites in a rare HOTPRESS interview in 1984 – have themselves been in retirement for close to 30 years.
However, this gig is just the first step in the return of O’Connor, who is set to sign a management and record deal with Sanctuary Records, based in New York, where she will be managed, HOTPRESS has been informed, by Danny Heaps. She is said to be working on three records concurrently, though no details have yet been decided regarding the sequencing of the projects.
“My thing, musically, is to try to avoid, as such, the mainstream rock and pop thing,” Sinéad told HOTPRESS. “I want to at least aim my records at a more spiritualised market. Not religious records strictly speaking, but in the spirit of roots/gospel/chant. It’s hard to describe. But I ain’t going back in the Meteor Awards/showbiz/lying bullshit devil business arena.”
O’Connor is known in the industry as an artist who has always placed more importance on raising her children than on her career and it was, she says, primarily for reasons of wanting to take care of her children that she had decided to retire, two years ago.
Sources close to the singer have confirmed to HOTPRESS that she was also, at the time of her retirement, suffering from a debilitating and painful fatigue illness called fibromyalgia, which contributed to putting her out of action. She is also known to suffer from manic depression, which creates a painful sensitivity in sufferers – and which itself required some time to manage, away from the stresses of being “Sinéad O’Connor”.
Asked by HOTPRESS, the singer explained that she had been ill, and that she had wanted to take care of her children (Jake 17, Roisin 9 and Shane 1).
“Fibromyalgia is not curable. But it’s manageable,” Sinéad told HOTPRESS. “I have a high pain threshold, so that helps – it’s the tiredness part that I have difficulty with. You get to know your patterns and limits, though, so you can work and plan around it. It is made worse, obviously, by stress. So you have to try to keep life quiet and peaceful. And you have to re-assess what you do – and maybe find another less stressful job, or re-habilitate your fuckin’ same job! Which is kind of what I am trying to do, given that I love singing and that it’s calming. So I want to do that, but to stay out of the parts of it that cause me undue stress.”
It is estimated that between 3% and 6% of the US population suffer from Fybromyalgia.
She had become disillusioned, Sinéad added, with the business of music describing it as “for the most part spiritually bereft, with all the sincerity of a whore’s kiss.”
She also said that being a sensitive person, which is what she believes makes her a good artist, can be a great drawback when one is dealing with the effects of what she called “celebrity and media fuckery.”
She had been very hurt by a lot of the media’s treatment of her, particularly the Irish media, and needed “to take time to build defences against the side-effects of being an unusual woman in Ireland.” In true O’Connor style, she added that she became tired of being “the media’s little fucktoy.”
“It got to the stage,” she told HOTPRESS, “where if I rescued your drowning child from a river, they would write it in such a way as to make me out to be a total cunt. I didn’t have the defences to deal with the abuse, which is the result of being an artist in Ireland. Nothing has changed. Irish artists have always been driven into exile, of one kind or another and, sadly, a lot of media men are still of the mentality which placed thousands of females in Magdalen Laundries.
“It’s abuse. And that’s all it is. And it broke my spirit for a while, to the point where I couldn’t work any more, even if I tried.”
Asked about the new music she was planning, her renewed passion and enthusiasm shone through in a note penned specially for HOTPRESS.
“Religious songs with bad words, that’s the best way I could describe it!” she explained. “Been thinkin’ for years the religious area of music has a huge gap in it. Needs a bit of punky filling. I kind o’ had the feeling for years, that God must be pretty sick listening to a lot of the awful shite religious stuff there is out there. Reckon he or she’d like somethin a bit more thuggin. For thuggin big G.
“Like, if I was God, I’d be using a lot o’ bad words. Given all the shit people be carryin’ out in God’s name like. So that where I coming from on God and music. Musically speaking, to rescue God from religion. That’s what I like. That’s why I strictly roots.”
Sinéad went on to explain that she had been listening to two key records over the past two years:
“Israel Vibration (my fave band of ALL ALL ALL time), record called The Same Song (fave record of all time) and The Monks Of Glenstal, a record they made for RTE. I just had my third baby last March. And I a big believer in playin’ records while they in your belly. So all time I was pregnant, I just played him those two, so that he would sleep then when he heard them.
“With the monks, which he must have heard fifty thousand times, he goes off by track three. But with Israel Vibration, he goes on the very first drum lick. The fucking drummer is SOOOOOO un-be-fucking-lievable. And I am obsessed literally, with that whole album and everything about it. Obviously, I listen to a lot of roots, though. On the side. So those would be the records I am in love with. The two sides: Rasta and his so-called enemy.”
Through taking time out, Sinéad had developed a more philosophical stance on the business, coming “to accept that one can never change a beast. And that one should never let hurtful people kill one’s spirit.” She says her friends and family, particularly her father, have all encouraged her to get back to work having done full-time mothering for a lengthy period.
As to how her music will develop, she explained:
“I like the idea of building musical bridges. So that’s what I am up to. There are three records, which are in very embryonic stages. First is a roots album, which I been dying to make for years as I was with Sean Nos Nua. Second is Psalms and the Song of Songs. And the third is chants from different esoteric traditions.
“With the second one, I am weaving my own songs into the Psalms and Song of Songs. I been into all that for years. Love the Song of Songs bad, bad. Hey, and no one owns the publishing!” Current indications are that recording will begin in April, with the legendary Sly and Robbie of The Wailers as rhythm section, and Buju Banton and Sizzla among the featured guest vocalists. “Am beside self,” says Sinéad. “Am also talking through parties, with Lee Perry, but that is a different record now. He wanted me to do some shows last year but I couldn’t as was up the pole. So, it’s very early stages but am hoping it can work out for us to get together. Been dealing with Steve Cooney on the Song of Songs. I like his gentleness. And where his head is at. He is very special. And spiritually speaking, he gets it.”
She is complimentary about her prospective new record company.
“I like Sanctuary. They are into nurturing the ol’ creative process. They have great plans for chants record, inviting various other women so that there would be three powerful goddesses, chanting down ol Jah (ain’t gonna be roots or rasta tho…)”
In conclusion, Sinéad joked that her children in particular want her to get back to work as her cooking is so “shite”. Now, with the music building inside, she feels ready.
Here’s to it.