Neil Hannon – 'I should be dead by now, because everything I've ever loved is burnt'
- Fiona Shepherd
- 7 June 2017
Divine Comedy frontman talks black toast, Top of the Pops blues and shaking his epaulettes
Is it too soon to hail the man who sang 'National Express' as a national treasure? It's a term loaded with affection but also hints that the artist's best work is behind them. Neil Hannon, however, is only getting started. In recent years, he has composed for prestigious opera and theatre companies and worked with a donkey called Wayne who can be heard braying on current Divine Comedy album, Foreverland. Perhaps renaissance man is a more accurate description.
His first opera commission, Sevastopol, was an adaptation of a Tolstoy story: 'it was a bit like when sixth formers decide to do Brecht. I just think I bit off a little more than I could chew.' Hannon was happier with 'To Our Fathers in Distress', an organ piece inspired by 'the Hannon family average Sunday in the 1970s which generally involved eating fried bread. Now they've started telling us that any hint of blackening of the toast is terribly carcinogenic; I should be dead by now, because everything I've ever loved is burnt.'
Hannon himself has helpfully dubbed this present period in Divine Comedy history as the 'imperial phase, when everyone just accepts my domination,' he deadpans. 'After the hits and the Top of the Pops era died away, I took it hard for a few years, but the audience stayed with me. It's like a big cult. Not like the Scientologists, more like the Moonies.'
That fanbase will be out in force when the Divine Comedy bring their sunny wit – and period costume – to Kelvingrove Bandstand. Taking his style cue from Foreverland's opening track 'Napoleon Complex', Hannon will be attired as the diminutive emperor. 'Really it's just a great excuse to hire the costume and prance around on stage shaking my epaulettes.' Suitably imperial behaviour.
The Divine Comedy played at Kelvingrove Bandstand, Glasgow on Fri 2 Jun