Sinead interviewed by Lucy O'Brien (1997)
Sinead interviewed by Lucy O'Brien, April 10th, 1997
Q: I JUST WANT TO ASK ABOUT THE EP. WHY IS IT CALLED 'GOSPEL OAK'?
I guess it's called gospel oak becouse the songs are hymns, really, hymns/ lullabies wich i dedicated to the idea of God wich existed before 'religion', in inverted commas, came along. It was basically the idea of God being a feminine principal, God the mother, wich was symbolised by the oak becouse it's such an ancient, ancient, tradition. Also the worship of God the mother used to take place in what they would call sacred oak groves - so that's basically why.
SO TELL ME ABOUT THE FIRST SONG, THIS IS TO MOTHER YOU. I WAS INTRIGUED BY THE LINE ' I WILL DO WHAT YOUR OWN MOTHER DIDN'T DO, WICH IS TO MOTHER YOU'. WERE YOU SINGING TO YOURSELF?
Yeahh, i guess. i mean all the songs are written to myself in the first place. I'd say definitely every song i've ever written has been to myself, so I guess the simplest answer is 'yes'.
IT'S BEEN TWO YEARS, THREE YEARS SINCE 'UNIVERSAL MOTHER'... Two years yeahh, not quite two years. A year and nine months probably.
WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN DOING SINCE?
Well I was pregnant for nine months and then i had a baby who was one year old yesterday, so i was pregnant and feeding my baby.
WHAT'S HER NAME?
Roisin, well her name is Bridgeteen Roisin Waters, but we call her Roisin. The Bridgeteen is more of a title, again its a pagan thing. Bridgeteen is named after our Goddess in Ireland who's called Bridget. So she's Bridgeteen Roisin Waters...becouse I said a prayer basically to have a little girl and if I did i'd call het that.
ARE YOU BRINGING UP BOTH TWO ON YOUR OWN AT THE MOMENT?
Both their fathers are extremely involved in their lives, I would not want to mislead anybody and it would not be fair to them either, but yeah, I live with the children and i basically bring them up. But my son's fater (Reynolds) lives only down the road from us and is in and out all the time and my daughters father is in Dublin but he comes over every ten days or so, they're both very involved and we're all great friends
THE NEW ALBUM THAT YOU ARE WORKING OIN NOW; WHAT ARE THE PLANS FOR THAT?
Well the truth is that i'm not really working on a new album now, this EP I see as an mini album. I've got two children so i don't know when I'm going to put another album out because i want to put my children first and by the time I write enough songs for an album it could be two years from now really, in reality. I could have waited and not put this EP stuff out and wait untill i have an album but that would have been then next year or so. I'm putting this out really so that I can work in the summer wich is the only time I can work becouse I've got children. So it's a raelly situiation of creating so that I can work in the summer, but honest I couldn't tell you when i'm going to have an album out.
LOOKING BACK OVER YOUR ALBUMS IS THERE ANYTHING THAT YOU'VE RECORDED THAT YOU DON'T LIKE OR YOU FEEL A BIT EMBARRASSED BY?
Yeah, loads, especially on my first album becouse some of the songs I wrote when I was 15. Drink before the war - I think is especially embarrassing. Some people really like it for some reason but I hate it basically.
Because it's like when you read your diary, when you're 15 you think you are being really deep and meaningful and actually you're just talking a lot of bulloks. It's just embarrassing.
ABOUT DONT CRY FOR ME ARGENTINA. SHOULD YOU HAVE BEEN IN THE FILM?
Oh, not at all. I'm not an actor. I mean i've done some litttle bits of acting and I still do tiny bits but I would never want to cary the whole movie. I would hate to be in that business, it's an horible job. I love that song but I haven't heard any of the other songs in it. No not at all I have the disre to be a movie star.
No. HAVE YOU SEEN 'EVITA'?.
No, but that song i just always loved anyway and in fact that song is really how I started to make my living. I used to go round Dublin singing that song and would make money out of talent competitions. If you sang that song you couldn't lose because all the women loved it, there'd be all the ladies in this thing. I owe my living to it, really.,
WHAT OTHER SONGS WENT DOWN REALLY WELL?
Really that one. That was my part piece at home and anywere I went that was really the one. There was one other, in Ireland they really like the soppy awful songs like Anie song. Things like that. American pie and blowing in the wind and that kind of shit. Embarrasing stuff.
WHO ARE YOU LISTENING TO NOW; ANY PARTICULAIR ARTISTS YOU LIKE?
Well again, my personal kind of thing is that floats my boat is roots, that's all I like, I like Bob Marley obviously especially and I like a guy called Little Roy and there's another guy called Sizzler whose got a great song out at the moment called 'Look who's lauging' and camelot and Buju Banton I like a lot
ANYONE ELSE YOU'VE BEEEN LISTENING TO?
I don't really kisten to a lot of new music other than roots stuff if it comes out so I'm in to all the things that I've always ever been into Ella Fitzgerald I'm into Noreen Irene, I'm into Courtney love and Van Morrison I'm into obviously.
PETIT POULET, THIS SONG SOUNDDS LIKE A FRENCH NURSERY RHYME.
No, it's not. This song is a couple of things really, mixed up in the song but mainly it started off as my response to the Rwandan situation, what I saw happening in Rwanda a couple of years ago. They speak Fench there, so you know I guess I wanted to in some way write something wich would be comforiting to the children that went through the evil that happened there. I don't speak much French, so I guess I said as much as I could say in that language and then continued on and what it means, it hust says, Little chicken. In Ireland you calll babies 'Chicken' you kniow, so it sayd little chicken, everything is ok now, that kind of thing. Its just trying to do something I guess to provide some kind of shooting again. But then, this song goes on again- like I said, they're all hyms - and it goes on and talk about how you know there is no answer to the question nobody has an explanation for why these things happen or why we are on earth and anyone who says they do have an explanation is a liar really. And then the song goes on to say that this does not mean that God doesn't exist, or that there isn't a God, but that there is a God wich responds to the human voice so that if really we wanted to stop all these terrible things that we see on te+evision and going on around us, we could, simply by using our voices. Wich religion kind encourages us not to do. So I guess that's what this song is about really.
I SUPPOSE IN GOSPEL MUSIC THOUGH THEY USE THERE VOICE REALLY STRONGLY...
Yeah...yeah..but I mean just ordinary human beings walking around the planet, if we really did want to stop the kind of horror that we do live in really - as well as all the good things- if we really did want to fix the things that needed fixing we could fix them overnight simply by asking. There is somebody out there which responds to the human voice, I know that. I don't know what it is and i don't believe it's a man, or a woman necessarily. I don't believe it has a bdy, but i do believe there is a God, in inverted commas, wich responds to the human voice. Ans I think religion, actually takes people away from God, becouse it tells them God is outside them, as such, and not responsive, you know.
DO YOU FEEL - IT'S ABIT DIFFICULT TO KNOW HOW TO PHRASE THIS BECAUSE OF ALL THE CONNOTATIONS OF RELIGION-, BUT DO YOU FEEL IN A WAY THAT YOU ARE LIKE A MODERN NUN IN A SENSE. DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU'VE GOT A VOCATION?
Yeah, yeah. I was thinking about it, definitely yeah. I would be a nun except I would not want to give up sex! I would say in the old days I would have been a priestess, because of the Goddess worship,and the worship of the mother was a very seually, expressive religion, so I think I would have fitted in there definitely. I guess that is very much how I see myself and how I want to be, definitelty, but with the sex...When I was a kid I used to pray to God to never make me want to be a nun, because I was afraid I would wake up one morning with this mad desire to incarnate myself in some building and never have sex again, you know.
AND GO FOR MEN WHO LOOK LIKE JESUS?
Yeah, well I do anyway obviously, Bob Marley, you know.? Yeah that's exactly how I would try to classify myself, that's what I would be aiming for. Priestess I prefer.
Not a high one, just a priestess. I don't have to be the queen, you kniow, but just to be the servant.
'FOR MY LOVE'. WHAT INSPIRED THAT SONG
I guess it's a love song really, so I suppose it was inspired by love and then it goes on to talk about Ireland. I see this also as very much as an Irish record and I see it as a little album or cd really. I see it very much as an Irish album and I guess this song would be the kind of classificationof that. In the first place it's a love song but it also is a love song about Ireland and talks about the notion of the Irish having the right to govern their own country, being valid in that, but it's not worth necessarily killing anyone for, especially when doing so is going to stop the truth from actually being allowed to take place. I guess it's a....I don't know what the right word is...republican...would be the wrong word becouse it's misunderstood so commonly but I guess it's a rebublican song really...a non violent republican song.
DO YOU THINK IRELAND HAS OPENED UP A LOT MORE IN TERMS OF THE TABOO SOCIAL ISSUES LIKE CHILD ABUSE, DIVORCE AND ABORTION?
Yes and no. I think it's only the very beginning, so it opened up definitely but there is an awful lot more to come out and I think it will be some years before it's quite healed. But yes, it's definitely opened. Absolutely, to talk about taboo issues. I mean if you look at what's going on in the church there it's been pretty phenomenal. I don't know if there is any other gouverment in the world wich has actually collapsed over the isue of child abuse, so that's a thing to be quite proud of really.
DO YOU FEEL YOU HAVE HELPED IN A WAY TOWARDS THAT PROCESS?
Yeah, I do. I do feel that I was part of staring off the discussions, absolutely. I think in many ways i may have been the one who publicly opend the discussions a couple of years before the rest came out.
DO YOU FEEL YOU WERE PUNISHED FOR THAT IN SOME WAY?
I don't know if punish is the right word. No i guess i don't feel punished. I expected not to be understood for a while. I knew it was a long term thing. I knew things would be difficult. I don't think I was punished. I think i was, whatever the word is - reviled - in certain places and applauded in other places but i would not say punish was the right word. I don't know what the right word is. I guess i went through the mill a bit but that's just part of it. Anybody that introduces any kind of new idea or emotion can only expect to go through a certain amount of being called a liar. I guess that was the worst thing. It was not a punishment as such but that was the worst thing to be told that you were lying and crazy. I kind of went through that, people treating me as if i was a nutcase. 'how could you say that priests would abuse children'?, that kind of thing. But in the end, no I wouldn't say 'punish' because eventually it came out I wasn't talking shit, as it happens.
GOING BACK TO ROUNF THE EARLY '90TIES. IT WAS QUITE A DIFFICULT PERIOD FOR YOU, WASN'T IT, WHAT WITH THE PICTURE OF THE POPE THAT YOU TORE UP AND THEN ALL THE CONTROVERSY ABOUT THE STAR SPANGLED BANNER.
No, that was before the pope.
AND THEN THE DUBLIN PEACE TOGETHER CONCERT AND PULLING OUT OF THAT AND THEN YOUR POEM IN THE IRISH TIMES. IS THERE ANY OF THAT PERIOD THAT YOU REGRET?
No, not at all. It was all very relevant for the moment and I have to me and i'm very glad that I was. I couldn't be someone else.
IT WAS INTRESTING AT THE TIME I NOTICED SUZANNE MOORE SAYING NAME ME ANOTHER WOMAN WHO CAN GENERATE THIS KIND OF PUBLICITY WITHOUT TAKING HER CLOTHES OFF .
Yeah, I'm quite proud of that actually, that's one thing that's always stuck in my head. I'm (as i said) quite proud of that - but you never know i might take them off one day anyway.
IT WAS NICE ACTUALLY TO SEE HOW MUCH SUPPORT YOU DID GET AT THAT TIME, LIKE ANNIE LENNNOX WRITING TO THE INDEPENDENT.
Yeah, and I actualy got a lot of support in Ireland as well and funnily enough I got an awful lot of suport from priests and nuns, especially over the poem incident, that whole piece together. Really, i got such a lot of letters from priests and nuns and old people and stuff like that. Ir was amazing but it doesn't bear out what the papers would say about stuff as usual..