BLINDBOY BOATCLUB is a man of many talents: podcaster, author, TV presenter and one half of The Rubber Bandits.
Speaking with the Irish Post ahead of his live podcast UK tour, he proved once again to be a voice that needs to be heard in Ireland. After initially interrupting his recording process for this week’s podcast, which is about the absurdity of podcasts, we spoke about his upcoming UK tour, Irish emigration, the general election and his artistic creative licence.
Irish Post: Was it always in the back of your mind to turn it into this sort of Bill Burr format? Just you and microphone ranting away?
Blindboy: Yeah absolutely. I've been creating since I was about fifteen. My main experience is in television, I worked for Channel 4, ITV and MTV. One of the things about working in TV, as an artist, is your initial creative vision is always diluted by the time you get to the end result. It's the same with yourself as a journalist, you have to run things by an editor. Stuff has to get taken out, and by the end, the final thing that goes out is always some type of compromise. That used to always frustrate me because I would hate seeing a piece of television after a year's work and think 'this isn't really what I wanted to do'. It's a version of what I wanted to do, but it's not really what I wanted. With podcasting, every week I get to put out exactly what I want and it feels fucking great. Also, my other format, writing books. Like, if my short stories weren't existing on paper and ended up existing as a TV show, it wouldn't work. If I set the story in a hospital, a producer would come in and say "we can't get a hospital to fill it in but we can get a university!" All of a sudden the story is in a university. As a writer, there's no one telling me I can't set it on mars if I want to set it on mars. So, I think the book got me into podcasting more than anything. It's also done wonders for my confidence as well because I know have an end result when I look at the books and I think 'I would read this if it wasn't by me'. And the same goes for the podcast. I'm kind of spoiled. Like you said, its the Bill Burr thing, I'm making what I want to make and I'm really fucking happy.
Irish Post: How it's been taking the podcast overseas? You just finished a tour in Australia and NZ and have shows lined up for Catalonia and Madrid later this year.
Blindboy: It was fantastic. I've done Australia before with The Rubberbandits, but what was so unique about this time with the podcast was when I would gig there with the whole audience was 100% Irish. This time, with the podcast, it was 50/50, half Irish ex-pats and half Australian and New Zealand people. It's nice to know your reaching beyond the Irish audience.
Irish Post: Who was your favourite guest on the tour?
My favourite guest of the whole tour is being released soon. I spoke to a dude called Hemmy Kelly in Auckland NZ. Hemmy is an indigenous New Zealand Māori and an academic who is hugely involved in revitalising the Māori language. He goes to the Gaeltacht in Ireland and is studying the Irish language and Irish culture as a way of revitalising the Māori language. We had a beautiful two-hour conversation about the similarities between Māori history and culture and Irish history and culture. The similarities are phenomenal.
Irish Post: Yeah, I've since passed it on to plenty of English friends in London who appreciate it. It isn't just an Irish thing.
Blindboy: Exactly! Although, part of me feels like I'm carrying on the Seanchaí tradition. I think being Irish lends you an ability to tell stories because of the way that we speak English. We speak Hiberno English, it's like English but sometimes it follows the grammatical structure of Gaeilge. Irish people are very flexible and fluid with our metaphors, and humour, and how we speak English. We're very open to new words coming and going and things changing. I think this, coupled with the fact we have an ancient oral culture, lends us to be natural storytellers.
Irish Post: What are your favourite types of podcasts to make?
Blindboy: One where I'm exploring the history of music or something that I deeply really love. But being able to do it in such a way that, even if it's quite a niche subject, I'm able to make someone who isn't interested in it, interested.
With the mental health ones, I try not to think about the impact it has. I get a lot of messages from people saying particular podcasts I've done has stopped them committing suicide and stuff like that. What I try and do is speak about my mental health and what my tools have done for me. If someone else gets something from it, that's fantastic!
I studied a little bit as a psychotherapist but I'm not fully qualified, so I would be very cautious about telling other people what to do. I try to just speak about my experiences and what I use. If I do that in an honest way, some people get help from it.
I also love doing the outdoor podcasts because it feels almost like I'm doing a little play. I go to an area, I have my microphone with me, and because I'm outside I can't edit it. The key to a podcast is you need to have a setup, conflict and then a resolution.
So, when I put myself in the Botanical gardens in Sydney with a microphone, the setup is I'm there, the conflict is whatever could happen like Lizards, or it started raining. How I respond to that conflict, naturally creates this story. It's like using the improvisational rules of jazz but to a live storytelling play.
Irish Post: Who will be joining him for the live podcasts in the UK tour?
Blindboy: With London, it is about 90% confirmed it's going to be Roisin Murphy from Moloko. I'm excited to speak to her because she's just such a legend, she's got like twenty years’ experience as an international pop star.
People adore her, and she comes from a tradition of disco. And she's Irish! For Birmingham and Liverpool, I have a professor in the phycology of scepticism - the psychology of paranormal things like ghosts – and I have a professor in quantum physics.
I always want someone who can teach me something in the moment. It's not just me interviewing someone. When I set up the lighting for the live show, I use theatre lighting and
I light it as if it’s a play. I'm really interested in Samuel Beckett and how Samuel Beckett used to light spaces in plays
Irish Post: You just did a documentary series with the BBC called Blindboy Uncovered. Do you have more plans to make more television?
Blindboy: I am always willing to make TV if it's something I really care about. I don't really need the TV now because the books and the podcast are doing well.
One of the downfalls of podcasting is, sometimes some of my facts are wrong. I get things wrong quite a bit per episode because you have a medium that you have full control over.
With the BBC stuff, I have a team of like 60 people and 16 journalists. So, when I have an idea, I'm handing it over to these incredibly rigorous professionals, who do this for a living.
You end up with a serious piece of investigative journalism. We did a documentary on housing and exposed corruption in the housing industry. We showed how criminal money is being used to fund a certain property in London. We looked at how the internet creates anxiety. What I'd really love to do is get my book of short stories and turn them into a Black Mirror type programme.
I'm sure Netflix would pick something like that up. If RTE or the BBC didn't want it. Although, I can't imagine how you would adapt Arse Bandits onto the screen?
That would be my dream though, if some company came to me and wanted to turn my short stories into film or a Black Mirror thing. As for turning Arse Bandits into TV, I'd fucking love it!
Irish Post: We are the Irish Post, so we cater to Irish people living abroad. What are opinions on so many young Irish people leaving Ireland and what do you think can be done to keep young Irish people in Ireland?
Blindboy: Half of my friends from school are gone. They aren't in Ireland anymore. What hurts me isn't the fact that people emigrate, it's the fact they don't return. People of 21 years old, going to see the world and working in Brisbane or London, I think that's healthy. As someone in my thirties looking back, I think 'what a great way to spend your twenties, go and see the world'! But it's when that person is in their thirties, and they can't see a possibility of returning, that's when it's sad.
Just look at the recession in the '80s when a load of people left, but they came back in the 90s and were a huge driver to the Celtic Tiger because they brought cash with them and they purchased property. We are not seeing that this time. The economy in Ireland is now quite strong, but I don't know people that are coming back from Australia. Even people who are 31 or 32, who have kids, are staying in Australia and staying in Canada. There's many reasons, not only rent, car insurance in Ireland is insane. Ultimately, it comes down to the government.
Irish Post: The recent General Election Ireland, what are your thoughts on the results?
Blindboy: I honestly couldn't tell you who's going to be in government in a month. But what does encourage me is enough people in the country, of all age groups, came together and wanted some change. People voted for something that was compassionate.
When you vote for healthcare and housing, it means you’re using to vote to help other people, not protect what you have. To see that on a large scale was refreshing. Worst case scenario would be if Fine Gael and Fine Fall go into a coalition. That would be disgraceful.
There is real evil going on in Ireland and it's not spoken about. The government has tried to turn an issue such as homelessness, into something that's profitable.
There's no solution in Ireland for homelessness, but what they have a system called emergency accommodation. What happens there is if a family are homeless and they need somewhere to stay, they aren't given access to affordable housing. Instead, they are given a hotel room. You can stay in a hotel room, but you can't live in a hotel room. We have all these families that live in hotel rooms, they don't have the ability to wash their own clothes, they don't have the ability to cook. The reason this is happening is because hotels are profiting massively from the homelessness crisis, so our current government doesn't want to solve homelessness.
Instead, it wants to take public money and turn this into profit for private interests and take the misery and milk it as a product. They are also doing the same with direct provision, with the refugees and asylum seekers in Ireland. Instead of finding solutions for these people, they are essentially kept in a prison. These prisons are run by private corporations who are making a load of money off an endless supply of money, which is our taxes! That's a broken and evil system that I'd like to see eradicated. They don't even sell council houses anymore! People complain about others getting free houses, council houses aren't free! You are just getting rent at an affordable rate. They aren't building them anymore; we need council houses and affordable housing.
Irish Post: Did you even consider leaving Limerick?
Blindboy: I lived in Dublin for a bit. I considered London but it was too expensive. The reason I stay in Limerick is not necessarily just because it's my home and I love it. I'm lucky in that I'm an artist, so it doesn't really matter where I work.
If I stayed in Dublin or London, I'd be reliant on RTE to pay the rent. So, I built for myself a completely self-sufficient model of self-employment within entertainment, whereby I can live in Limerick. The thing with Limerick is, it is the most economically disadvantaged city in the country, which is a bad thing, but it also makes it hugely affordable.
Limerick allows me to be a risk-taking, creative artist, who can do weird shit and if people don't buy this it doesn't matter it's allowed to fail. You have to have failure as part of your creative process.
Irish Post: Would you encourage more young Irish artists to follow suit and avoid moving to Dublin or Galway?
Blindboy: Yeah. The world is changing. My mother is in her eighties, very old-school, Irish. She opened the local newspaper, and it said one of the adult night colleges in Limerick was advertising a podcasting course. She rang me up saying "why are you not applying for a job teaching this podcasting course?". For me, I was going, ‘maybe she's right?'.
That's the thing with old-school Irish people, they think that if you're a teacher or civil servant you get security and can't be fired. That's not the case anymore. Even if I did take that job teaching podcasts, that just means six weeks employment. The idea that teachers still have security, that's all gone, no one has security anymore! Ideally what you want are things like Unions returning, where you have rights for your workers protected. In the meantime, you need to be as flexible as humanly possible and for it to not matter where you live, or where you work, and to be a jack of all trades in what you're doing to find multiple income sources. That's what I fucking done. I'm a television writer, I write books, I make music and direct videos. I've got about six different strings to my bow, that I've had to develop over the years because just being a music artist doesn't pay the fucking bills.
Irish Post: Have you got any plans to write another book?
Blindboy: Right now, I'm on a little bit of a break but when it feels right, I'm going to get back into writing. It will probably be short stories again.
If I'm doing a short story it's just a little self-contained thing. When you're doing a novel, you have to really live in that world inhabited by several different characters. A novel has to be that piece of work and nothing else. With short stories, you can dip in and out of them.
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