I first met Mr Mike Scott (he of The Waterboys) at the Abbey Theatre, at the launch of their 2009/10 season. The striking poster above caught my eye immediately and I turned to David, the Abbey’s Press Officer to express my surprise and delight at the inclusion in the programme when he gestured towards the man himself, deep in conversation with someone.
I was awestruck.
I try to control my fanboy-ness, it being most unbecoming for a “professional”, don’t ya know. All around actors, playwrights and media people swanned, greeting each other as equals where-as I’m looking at Mike Scott – MIKE SCOTT!! – and thinking “Wow, it’s you, in the same room as me. WOW!”
See, I’m a big fan of Mike Scott’s lyrical writing and of the Waterboys music. It’s one of the first “Celtic” groups I remember listening to and understanding as a teenager. A cousin had given me their 1983 album “The Waterboys” and I listened to it over and over, songs like “I will not follow”, “It should have been you” and “Savage Earth Heart” becoming more than songs, but my first understanding that this really could be poetry set to music.
I want to be a witness or a victim to your spell
crafted in lightning, dressed in shadows, clear as a bell
I want to be there when the savage comes
I want to be there when the savage comes
When your savage earth heart cuts through
I didn’t follow the Waterboys though or try to emulate them in the same way my peers were doing with U2 or Michael Jackson or whoever was big at the time. I had books to read, new lands to discover, illness to contend with and computer games to play. I was bought “Fisherman’s Blues” when it came out and overplayed that but it wasn’t until I bought an album of theirs called “This is the Sea” that I understood just how good a lyricist Mike Scott was.
I must have played “Whole of the Moon” at least 40 times a day.
It then became yet another CD on the shelf and my musical taste moved from the sublime to the ridiculous to the classical and back, but “Whole of the Moon” is one of those songs I always had on my iPod, that I always loved singing along to and that I always wondered about.
And here was the writer, in the same room as me. Mike is doing “An Appointment with Mr Yeats” at the Abbey Theatre for five nights in March 2010 – “a show fusing the poetic power of W.B. Yeats and the visceral music of The Waterboys.”
Since setting The Stolen Child to music on their classic Fisherman’s Blues album, Waterboys’ singer Mike Scott has been quietly crafting a rich collection of songs utilising Yeats’ poems as lyrics.
A few were performed solo by Scott during the Yeats International Festival at the Abbey in the 1990s, but most have remained unheard, waiting for the moment when, in Scott’s words, ‘I had enough songs to create a full programme and present it in a potent, radical fashion, worthy off the Abbey Theatre which Yeats himself founded.’
I went to Mike, we arranged to meet at the Odessa Club and we did so on Thursday 16 July. Yes indeed, it’s that long ago. I sat with this man and asked questions and listened.
Photos by Darren Byrne
But, I had a big problem.
See, I’m in awe of hugely creative people. I know how much work it goes into indulging your brain power, the sacrifices it takes to come out and listening to someone extremely creative like Mike fuses my brain, stills my tongue and sets my mind to a “Wow” mode.
Even in my research for Mike, I grew to learn about him being far more than just “the guy from the Waterboys”. He’s a poet, philosopher, dreamer, writer, composer, musician, activist and blogger. A read of his blog was enough to only deepen my respect and awe for the man.
And so, with the help of Darren, I attempted an interview. I fumbled, stuttered and stammered my way through it, all the time realising how inadequate my research was, how stupid my questions seemed and how Mike Scott deserved to be talking to a professional here, not some gombeen reading from printed Wikipedia pages and getting simple facts wrong.
It didn’t help that the Odessa Club was noisy at the time either, something I wasn’t aware of until I played back the video, shot by Darren.
This isn’t false modesty or hero worship either, something Mike would reject immediately, modest and unassuming as he is. I know he’s only a person, same as everyone. This is my embarrassment at not being able to convey through this interview just how inspiring Mike Scott is, how interesting he was to talk to, how impressed I was by him in person and how much I’d advise anyone who gets the chance to sit down with him and have a chat to do so.
Throughout the interview Mike was a gentleman, indulging my pauses, responding to my questions with grace and professional style, no doubt wondering at times if I actually knew who he was. For that I shall be eternally grateful.
I didn’t want to publish this interview seeing how bad I was in it and I’ve been playing around with it for over a month to try and get it right, and it’s still not there. I hope it does some sort of justice to the man, and I apologise for the delay in publishing and for my amateur attempt. However, it was, and remains in my mind, one of the most inspirational and fun chats I’ve ever done. I’d advise listening at the very least.
We spoke about The Waterboys, about his love of Yeats, his background, his taste in literature and about why Yeats inspires him and his love of other poets. We spoke about wings, he just flew, I wondered, I guessed and I tried, he just knew Whole of the Moon and his relationship to the song.
We spoke about his directing of his music, of his website and about “Let the Earth Bear Witness”, his response to the protests in Iran. I asked about what he’d point to as his own favourite works. I asked questions from the people on Twitter, about his feelings about people covering his songs and about his poetry.
Here’s the interview. Apologies for the poor sound.
Here also is Mike reading his poem “My Love For Her Is Fire“.
Here he is at a Gigs for Gaza Concert in Vicar Street performing “Whole of the Moon” with Steve Wickham.
And finally, in all its glory, the video for Let the Earth Bear Witness.
The cover video I played part of is by Scottish Diva Terry Neason and can be seen here.
Mr Scott, thank you and your lovely wife for your time, and I’m sorry it has taken so long. I am grateful, believe me. Mr Byrne, thank you for the photos and the video and above all, thank you for reading and watching.