Shane MacGowan wants a lot more life

While promoting his 2020 documentary “Crock of Gold: A Few Rounds With Shane MacGowan,” British director Julien Temple frequently referred to the many difficulties his subject presented during filming, as MacGowan – the famous elder Anglo leader, drinker and irascible. -Irish folk-punk group The Pogues – struck up a conversation with, among others, actor Johnny Depp and former Sinn Fein chairman Gerry Adams.

During the making of the film, which is now streaming on Hulu and on-demand video, MacGowan sometimes didn’t show up where he was supposed to, and when he did, it could take hours to get a few minutes of material. usable of the uncooperative musician. “He pretended you were setting up cameras on the Siberian night,” Temple recalls in a recent interview, “and hoping that after a few months the snow leopard could trigger the camera.”

In early December, this big metaphorical cat found himself in front of a laptop webcam, chatting with a fast-paced reporter. It was the first time MacGowan had used video conferencing software. “I’m very old-fashioned in a lot of ways,” said the singer, who was born in England to Irish parents and turned 64 on Christmas Day. It was streaming from the Dublin apartment he shares with his wife, Irish writer and artist Victoria Mary Clarke.

MacGowan tolerated this cutting edge technology to discuss his upcoming book of unpublished artwork, handwritten lyrics, and school essays, titled “The Eternal Buzz and the Crock of Gold.” MacGowan and Clarke, 55, are releasing this important collection in partnership with Infinitum Nihil, the production company of their longtime friend Depp. (The couple are staunch supporters of the actor, who in 2020 lost a libel case to British tabloid The Sun over allegations he assaulted ex-wife Amber Heard. Depp has denied the allegations.)

MacGowan said he made the drawings included in the book “for fun”, describing them as “cartoons”. He was sitting in a green armchair, with a big black pillow in front of him, which he used to support a small pile of his work that Clarke had gathered. His wife positioned herself over his left shoulder, smiling at MacGowan’s jokes and helping to facilitate the conversation.

During the hour-long video call, MacGowan’s speech and movements were slowed down and his signature throaty laughter was cut off. Since falling and breaking his pelvis in 2015, MacGowan has been using a wheelchair to get around. He was in and out of the hospital to treat a variety of medical conditions, including a broken knee, the result of another fall in February. (He is undergoing physical therapy.) “You find your bones are turned to dust,” MacGowan said, employing profanity.

It would seem that a hard life to live led to the singer’s physical decline. “When I first met him he was really a hell of a fool, who drank everything in front of him, took whatever drugs you could think of and always walked out in front of cars,” Clarke , who started an on-and-off relationship with MacGowan again when she was 20, said in a separate interview. “I think he just thought he was indestructible,” she added. “This is the first time he has faced the possibility that he is not superhuman.”

Questions about MacGowan’s time on this land dragged him through much of his adult life. “Not long after I met him, someone said to me, ‘You realize he only has six months to live,'” Clarke recalls. Most recently, Sinead O’Connor – a longtime friend and former musical collaborator of MacGowan – expressed doubts about his willingness to continue in a new licensed biography, “A Furious Devotion: The Life of Shane MacGowan” by British journalist Richard Balls, citing what she alleged to be MacGowan’s continued drug addiction.

MacGowan, who said he hasn’t read the book (“I don’t read much anymore, and I’m definitely not going to read about myself”), took issue with O’Connor’s assessment. “Well, she’s dead wrong,” he said. “If there’s anyone who wants a lot more out of life, it’s me.”

WHEN IT COMES In MacGowan’s life, it is sometimes difficult to separate the legend from the truth. By all accounts a bright kid, he started drinking stout bottles around the age of 5 and spent time in a psychiatric ward as a teenager. MacGowan became a London punk scene, achieving his first flush of fame in 1976, when UK music journal NME published a photo of him bleeding from his ear under the headline “Cannibalism at Clash Gig”. (A companion had apparently bitten him.)

In 1982 he co-founded Pogue Mahone, later abbreviated as Pogues, a group that fuses traditional Irish folk music with British punk rock. He has recorded five studio albums with the band, including 1985’s “Rum Sodomy & the Lash”, produced by Elvis Costello, and 1988’s “If I Should Fall From Grace With God”, which features the band’s best-known song, “New York fairy tale.

Although admirers hailed MacGowan as a punk poet and the voice of the Irish diaspora, his considerable talents and keen intelligence were often overshadowed by his tough parties and erratic demeanor. During a tour of Japan in 1991, the Pogues – no longer wanting to support the singer – fired MacGowan. The band disbanded in 1996, then reformed with MacGowan as frontman in 2001. The Pogues continued to tour until 2014, when the band broke up again.

MacGowan has taken steps to improve in recent years. In 2015, he underwent surgery to get a new dentition (the last of his originals fell in 2008), a process documented in a UK TV show called “Shane MacGowan: A Wreck Reborn”. He still drinks – during the interview, he took a few sips from a tall glass of gin and tonic – but not the way he used to do. “It must have been a few years since I saw him drunk,” Clarke said. MacGowan no longer smokes cigarettes, but has said he uses cannabis.

At one point in the interview, the singer held up his drawing of a cyan one-eyed monster with horns, a snake’s tongue and an exposed penis. “This is how you end up – too many drugs,” he said, pointing to the photo. When asked if he was related to the picture, he replied, “No, I don’t.”

MacGowan has been drawing since he was a child, when he received a new set of Faber-Castell colored pencils every Christmas, said his sister, Siobhan, a journalist turned novelist. Siobhan, 58, recalled the family car trips from England to Tipperary, Ireland, where they spent summers and school vacations. “We were both huddled under the same blanket, writing and drawing,” she said, “stepping into our own little cocoon.”

The book’s punky designs – scribbled on everything from hotel stationery to vomit bags – date from the 1980s; most of them were collected about two years ago in a black garbage bag stored in Clarke’s mother’s attic. The 504-page hardcover, limited to 1,000 copies, is available for pre-order now and is slated for release in April. The cheapest version costs around $ 1,300.

The book isn’t the only place fans will be able to see MacGowan’s drawings. Recently, Los Angeles luxury boutique Maxfield began selling cashmere items from Swiss brand Frenckenberger that feature MacGowan’s work. (A blanket featuring MacGowan’s drawing of a pair of elves – creatures MacGowan claims to have seen in his youth – sells for $ 14,145.) And Dublin-based design studio Algorithm is hosting an immersive Shane MacGowan art experience. , similar to those dedicated to the work of Vincent van Gogh, with the hope that he will begin an international tour next year.

In an interview, Waldemar Januszczak, the Sunday Times London art critic who wrote the introduction to “The Eternal Buzz,” praised the “insane, savage, fascinating and scabrous kind of energy” of the work. . He said he admired MacGowan’s Catholic and sexual imagery the most, noting the “constant fellatio” described in the pages of the book. “Shane’s stuff doesn’t hold back at all,” Januszczak said. “It’s right there, full of her cravings.”

THE WORK THAT MacGowan’s most vivid memory was his drawing of the New York City skyline. He recounted an incident that took place at Manhattan nightclub Limelight in the mid-1980s in which actor Matt Dillon (“a great guy,” he said) punched the bassist of the Pogues Cait O’Riordan: “She was a big girl, and she ended up kicking him down the stairs.

Clarke pointed out that there was a punchline to the story. “Did he say something really stupid like, ‘Is that a definite’ no ‘? “? MacGowan replied.

Dillon then played a police officer in the music video for The Pogues’ “Fairy Tale New York”, a duet between MacGowan and British singer-songwriter Kirsty MacColl, who died in a boating accident in 2000. The song is considered a Christmas classic in the UK, but it is not without controversy. In 2020, BBC1 Radio announced that it would play an edited version of the track which removed one gay insult and one derogatory one.

MacGowan, when asked about the perennial hubbub surrounding the song, called it “trash.” He has argued in the past that the insult, sung by MacColl, was an authentic portrayal of what his character might say.

MacGowan hasn’t released a full studio album since “The Crock of Gold” in 1997, which he recorded with the group The Popes. However, the singer has been working on an LP on and off since 2015 with Irish indie band Cronin. “Once he’s in the studio, he goes wild,” said band drummer Mick Cronin, who added that MacGowan last recorded with the band in May.

Mick Cronin and his brother Johnny, the band’s singer, guitarist and keyboardist, said in a joint interview that they’ve completed 20 tracks with MacGowan, including covers of everything from Doris Day to vintage punk rock. Seven of the songs are originals, with old and unused lyrics by MacGowan.

“It’s still punk, and it’s still Irish, and it still goes to the heart,” Johnny said of their collaborations. And what does the new music look like, according to MacGowan? “Kind of like old music,” the singer said.

We didn’t know when the comeback album could be released. MacGowan has expressed a desire to return to the studio to record more material. “But I can’t focus on that stuff,” he said, “when I can’t even cross the room. “

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