Cillian Murphy joined Steve Lamacq on BBC Radio 6 Music today to discuss his brand new 6 Music show, Cillian Murphy’s Limited Edition, which begins on 6 Music on Monday 19th October (midnight – 2am).
Read the full transcript of the interview below or if you’d like to hear it, check it out via BBC Sounds.
Steve Lamacq: […] Welcome to the show Cillian Murphy. That’s true isn’t it? You were in a band in your teens.
Cillian Murphy: Yes that is true. I played in bands in my teens and then when I was about eighteen or nineteen, we were offered a deal and it didn’t work out. So that was the end of the dream.
Steve Lamacq: I did find some old footage of the band, The Sons of Mr Green Genes. And it comes – the name’s from a Frank Zappa song?
Cillian Murphy: That’s correct yeah, good research! Yeah, we were obsessed with Zappa when we were kids and that’s a tune off Hot Rats.
Steve Lamacq: So from this clip – and it’s only a little clip – but it’s jazzy and free flowing, it’s rhythmic, it’s full of twists and turns, which suggested that really you must have been – even at that age – taking influences – and some not particularly popular at the time influences – from all over the place.
Cillian Murphy: Well, do you remember the sort of early/mid-90s when acid jazz was a big thing? That was a big influence on us and I think being in Cork in Ireland, we were probably a bit late to the party with that sound. But you remember bands like James Taylor Quartet and Corduroy and Galliano, we were kind of into those bands and combining that with Zappa and a lot of funk and soul and that kind of stuff. So that’s what we were listening to and that really influenced the sound. So there was a lot of instrumental music and a lot of excessively long guitar solos and stuff like that.
Steve Lamacq: You were frontman were you – frontman and guitarist?
Cillian: Rhythm guitar player.
Steve: Rhythm guitar, right. You say you were behind the times but actually when you listen to a lot of the music being made now, you could put up an argument you were 25 years ahead of your time.
Cillian: I’ll take that! I think it’s become very fashionable again now. I hear Eddie Piller from Acid Jazz on 6 Music occasionally playing tunes and of course he used to have a show on there didn’t he, in the old days. So I think that people are listening to it a lot more now and its fantastic music to dance to and to go to live especially. That was our thing, we were very good live but we weren’t great whenever we tried to put the sound down, you know.
Steve: I want to come back to your early musical days in a second but we should talk about that track which you chose from Rose City Band because I’ve never really followed Wooden Ships and Rose City Band is Ripley Johnson from Wooden Ships, amongst other things. I’m so pleased you played it because I would never have come to that record. I think it’s genius but why pick Rose City Band, Rivers of Mind?
Cillian: To be honest with you Steve it was a cruel and convenient way that music is distributed today it got thrown up by an algorithm. I had heard of Wooden Ships but I’d never heard of Rose City Band and then it just came up and I just thought it was fantastic so that’s the way we discover music now a lot of the time isn’t it.
Steve: I think what it says quite a lot about you that you’ll embrace – and one of the things, having listened to your shows on 6 Music is how you’ll embrace music from anywhere. There’s no restriction of cool or I’m into this – it’ll come from anywhere your record collection
Cillian: Yeah, I think it has a lot to do with where I grew up. Cork City has a great musical heritage and there was a great house music scene there back in the late 80s/early 90s. I grew up with a lot of traditional music being played by my parents – records. And I would go to traditional music sessions and then, like I said we were listening to a lot of older music when we were kids. I’ve always loved Radiohead, I’ve always loved 90s bands, Supergrass were a big band for me but there was always this older influence of music growing up and it’s a lot to do with Cork City and it has a very interesting mix of sounds going on there.
Steve: Did you have a particular mentor when you were young. I’m thinking usually it’s older or younger brothers or sisters or there’s a hip uncle in the family, or a best mate. Was there anyone who fed you music?
Cillian: Well I’m the oldest of four.
Steve: The responsibility’s all with you!
Cillian: That’s true but I have a younger brother – we’re very close in age and he’s a fantastic musician, he’s a jazzer, he plays jazz piano and we spent a lot of time sharing cassettes and each of our group of friends would share music with each other as well so there was that whole kind of eco-system of sharing stuff. Tapes effectively, it was tapes back then.
Steve: And did you go to gigs and where would you have gone, from Cork where do you go if you want to see a band
Cillian: We went to see local Cork bands mostly when we had the money […] but I don’t remember going to see big name bands. Every year there was a jazz festival in Cork and it has a very good reputation so there’ll be loads of free jazz gigs in the pubs for a weekend in October and we would often play in those pubs, or you’d see a lot of interesting music and jazz music but we never got to see big, big bands until I was in my 20s really.
Steve: And when was the moment you decided you wanted to be in a band was it you and your brother just playing records and saying why don’t we do this?
Cillian: Yeah – well he was so good and I just wanted to perform. I always had that impulse from an early age and its sort of mutated now into something else but for the first part of my life it was music. But really my passion for music has just changed to being a music fan now and a music supporter, that’s really what it’s changed into because it didn’t work out as a career. I’m not sad about that though.
Steve: So no regrets – looking back – you never ask the what if question?
Cillian: No – you know better than anyone it’s a treacherous industry isn’t it. All the lads that I was in the band with, we’re such good friends now and I don’t know it that would have actually stayed the case if we’d have been put through the jaws of the music industry as youngsters I don’t know if we’d have stayed friends. I know lots of lads that went through that and it was pretty traumatic for them if they didn’t make it so I am happy with my lot Steve, I can’t complain.
Steve: Cillian Murphy is our guest talking music once again – well he gets to choose a couple of tracks and then one from a list of three newish things which I’ve sent to him, this week all Irish musicians – New Dad from Galway, Sinead O’Brien and Dublin’s Odd Morris – I’m not sure if you liked any of them. I think you’re choosing Sinead O’Brien though.
Cillian: Yeah I loved all of them and fair play I’d only ever heard of Sinead O’Brien, I’d never heard of the two other bands and I really, really liked them, so it was very hard to pick one band but what I will do is I’ll play them all on the radio show when I get a chance, because I’m a sucker for supporting Irish music, but I loved Sinead O’Brien’s lyrics – they’re so strong and I was taken by her – you know that kind of spoken word delivery that she does so well and – it has a Patti Smith kind of vibe off it which I really, really liked.
Steve: Nice to be back on the radio or have you got those – or do you wake up in the middle of the night thinking “I haven’t sorted out that segue yet”.
Cillian: Listen I’m just an amateur, Steve you know that. I’m just a fairweather DJ, so it’s a total honour to be on 6 Music because I listen to it all the time and this is just a gift because I haven’t worked for a year! So it’s lovely to be able to play music and share music on a radio station that you love – so I’m thrilled.
Steve: Have you got radio ears yet? It’s when every bit of music you hear, in the back of your mind you’re thinking “oh that would fit – second song out of the news”, “oh this would make a good segue with something else”, “is that too long to be on the radio?” That’s radio ears – don’t get radio ears – it spoils it for you.
Cillian: No, I don’t have radio ears, Steve, I can tell you that for sure. The only thing that I’ve always loved doing and maybe this tranfers in some way is that I’ve always loved making mixtapes. I would make them for friends and then would think about what track would go where and I’ve tried to just apply that to the show because, like I said, I’m only an amateur but I do love thinking what song goes well into the next song and that just comes from making mixtapes really.
Steve: Have you kept any of your old tapes – either copies that you made for other people or things that people gave to you – I’ve got a few drawers which still have tapes that friends from university sent us.
Cillian: No I haven’t kept my tapes. I know friends of mine still have the tapes, so they are floating around out there but we’re still making mixtapes really now except it’s all moved to these streaming platforms really […] its similar – it’s not as much love in it I think that’s what you miss.
Steve: What would you have put then on these tapes that you were sharing with friends, did you have something that you, records that you always used? I used to have a sort of standard blueprint and there’d be certain bands always on tape did you have particular favourites or things that you were almost on a crusade, you wanted to get your friends into so you’d always push a cetain artist their way.
Cillian: Yeah for sure. I always loved the songs that I thought might make someone cry. I love an emotional song, if it takes you by surprise. I always thought you needed a big opener on a cassette.
Steve: Do certain records remind you of particular times in your life were there albums that you were obsessed by for a while that remind you of exactly where you were – or maybe parts you were playing or things you were filming at a particular time?
Cillian: Definitely – I was thinking about this the other day actually. I’m very anti-nostalgia when it comes to creativity because I think creativity has to be pure forward motion when you’re making something and you can never go backwards but I’m very pro-nostalgia when it comes to music and you know the way an album can just immediately bring you back into the emotions you were feeling at a time in your life – it’s probably the most powerful way of doing that so I do that all the time
Steve: You know some people, they’ve only got to smell a certain smell of industrially produced mashed potato and they immediately think of school dinners. I’ve got no sense of smell but I’ve only got to hear eight bars of a song and I’m immediately back in a place, in a room, I can almost feel it.
Cillian: Yep – you’re there. I have that and I do think it’s a universal thing – particularly so for those of us that are obsessed by music and I think you kind of chase that. Well I certainly do. And it seems to be most profound in your formative years or in your teenage years and into your twenties and I certainly feel like I chase that feeling when I’m searching for new music – to see if it can match it.
Steve: When you are filming, do actors mix much? Do you end up in the hotel bar at the end of the evening or is the work schedule too punishing when you’re filming. Do you ever end up back somewhere and the conversation turns to music and you tell them what you like – and they start backing away as you start mentioning obscure Radiohead B-sides?
Cillian: […] A lot of them bring guitars on set and I think a lot of them have had ambitions to be front men. It’s that performing gene that I talked about earlier you know and yeah I tend to be a bit of a hermit when I film now because I’m older but when I was younger definitely there was a huge amount of exchange of ideas about music and remember everybody read magazines and there was all of that stuff. It’s not there in the physical form any more but there’s still stuff that I exchange.
Steve: Did the success of the music in Peaky Blinders surprise you or did you always think that would work because the music now I think is accepted as being almost an integral part of the progamme and there’s a whole new level of expectation almost […]
Cillian: I have to be honest I thought it was a terrible idea when someone told me first that it would be contemporary music against a period story. I didn’t think it would work but then something happened where it just clicked and we always – you know the pople that made the show – we always talked about whether a tune is ‘Peaky’ or ‘not Peaky’. You just seemed to know whether it is and it’s really hard to define what that is but I think it seems to be an outlaw quality to the music […] so that’s always been the sort of artists that have worked on the sound track and the sort of artists that are attracted to it as well.
Steve: I just can’t wait this a new quiz on the programme ‘Peaky not Peaky’ […] If you had to name your absolute favourite artist, you mentioned Radiohead, but over the years I think people would be interested to know just down the years two or three artists who have had a real effect on you, that have touched you in some way.
Cillian: My dad introduced me to The Beatles when I started having memories really, so its four or five and those albums have stayed with me all the way and I think I would have to say The Beatles would be number one. Van Morrison would be a big artist as well and Stevie Wonder. Those certainly were the big ones growing up […].
Steve: Do you have records that you reach for in different moods, so, say you just wanted to listen to a record for pleasure do you have a “right I’ve got an hour, I’m going to put this on” or a record you could find solace in […]
Cillian: Yeah […] I have sort of active listening where I put on a piece of music and I actively listen to it, I sit down and I concentrate on it, or then I have the sort of background more passive experience where I’ll put on music because I’m doing something and it helps the activity. So there’s different records. I listen to a lot of instrumental, kind of ambient, a lot of piano music – that stuff would be for the more background music and then I’ll go straight for the heartstrings I guess if there’s something I want to feel emotional about.
Steve: I can’t let you go without asking – what is the most deliberately sad record that you would play in your collection of “I’m going to make someone cry, even if it’s me”
Cillian: […] Jeff Buckley’s Live at Sin-é – there’s a couple of tracks in there. He does a couple of Dylan covers and they would just sometimes absolutely break my heart. Put them on late at night – close your eyes. Nina Simone does it for me. Probably any Nina Simone record would do it. There’s the two off the top of my head.