CATHAL COUGHLAN INTERVIEW- APRIL 2003
Exclusive Microdisney Fansite interview live from the streets of Cyberspace. I hope to get Sean to do one- now he knows the answers all he has to do is crib.
I always tend to deal in verbal distortions - this was an early one. Could never get away with it now - last time I looked, the .com in this name belonged to a certain Orange County fascist leisure combine.
What are your feelings these days towards the songs
lyrics are scrappy, the music well-realised but not possessed of too
much urge to sum anything up, by and large, but when they work they
really do work - my judgement is clouded by factual recollection, but
my overwhelming impression is one of confusion and indolence.
Not really - there are patches everywhere except on the first couple of records, which are just awkward, but it's obviously not something I go to pains to analyse. The Clock Comes Down The Stairs was the best-realised album, though. Even though it's not the kind of thing I tend to listen to...
work a lot harder. I only tolerate condescension if I'm getting paid
to be condescended to, and the topic comes from a certain list. In those
days, being passive-aggressive seemed like an existential obligation.
And I didn't exactly set the world ablaze with my work-rate. It's the
fact that I personally tried too little which sticks with me.
record company is a record company. You have to sign off in perpetuity,
and the big guy won't like it if you speak your mind out of turn, even
about food or horticulture. As for the cash side of it - we were not
making a living when we were on RT, but that was not the point of RT.
We built up debts all over the place, owing to one person (non-RT) who
stole from us, and we owed the government, due to not writing things
down. We had to get some money fast - hence Virgin.
We were at a crossroads, for what seemed like the umpteenth time (looking back, this seems like a stupid attitude, as it really hadn't been *that* long a struggle - but you are no more than what you know at a given time). It was clear that the only way forward was to agree a new consensus on the music, its style and function, and it was also clear that there was no way for that to happen. I generated the trauma of a final disastrous gig, and to this day I feel bad about that.
7. Was the band very much you and Sean or were the other members having much of a say in the songwriting and attitude/direction.
Everyone influenced the general atmosphere, in terms of the extremities of what was acceptable or achievable, and Jon and Tom, especially, put a lot of work into developing everything from 1984 onwards, but, yes, Sean and I totally kept the songwriting to ourselves, and exercised power of veto over most other things.
were always completely out of step with it, even when, as for the final
3 years or so, we were operating close to the heart of it. But things
were a lot different then to the way they are now - disorderliness and
dissent were not so easily nipped in the bud. And of course, to cap
it all off, we weren't even conventionally 'rebellious'...:-)
9. How do you think politics has changed since the things you were singing about in the Microdisney days and is there any more awareness of those issues?
version: that period marked the death of certain ideas, such as the
possibility that the UK could ever fully accept the kind of European-style
social-democratic principles which most of us imagined were embodied
in the post-WWII settlement. Instead, the UK has, as a result of a process
which ran at its speediest from 1984-90 and from 1997 to the present,
opted for a consumerist cross between the unabashedly callous and philistinic
spectacle-hunger of the mainstream US, and the deferential dullness
of its own pre-WWII history. The culture reflects this change. The issues
which mattered in 1983-87 are considered not worth addressing, and,
even to the likes of me, their manifestations from that time now appear
anachronistic. I still believe that people's lives are being made unbearable
for no reason- the mechanics and parameters are different now.
were observational, to a degree, but it must be added that I had trouble
either admitting or understanding what was going on in my personal life,
so it's natural, I think, that my pronouncements on that score were
choked-off and lacking in conclusion. The dominant themes were separation,
dislocation, promiscuity. Again, I think I was making something aggrieved-sounding
out of something which was not really as horrible or as traumatic as
I thought it was - later on, I knew better, that's partly why the later
work is better also.
Some sort of agglomeration of images to do with an erstwhile dictator living in a slum in a distant foreign land, pining for his erstwhile ignominy as being preferable to the anonymity which characterises his everyday life now. The laughable and pompous nature of youth culture is in there also - at least that's what I think: in 15 years, I think I've probably heard it once.
Many thanks to Cathal for this interview. I know Microdisney is not a subject that is much in his heart these days. Risking the grave offence of journalistic spin (getting in the last word), perhaps his views on Microdisney have a lot to do with wanting to look to the present rather than to the past. I think maybe also, the feelings and circumstances that led to those Microdisney songs are ones that have little relevance to him now. Knowing what emotions those songs came from maybe clouds the judgement of those songs. For me though those songs will always be special and as good as anything that anyone has produced.