Neil McCormick: Jet Lag, Knickers and Missing Fingers

Written by: Violet Myers

He’s interviewed some of the biggest names in rock music, had a hit film adapted from his memoirs and even wrestled Sinead O’Connor to the floor in the name of journalism (we may have let our imaginations run away with us, but we see it a bit like that scene from the The Revenant – Sinead being the bear). Now Neil McCormick is using his interviewing powers for good and will be getting Up Close and Personal with 80’s heartthrob, silver foxed, shouldn’t-but-still-would Gary Kemp to raise money for the Arts and Media School Islington.

We interviewed the famous interviewer (creating a strange interview inception) to talk guilty pleasures, knicker throwing antics and that infamous Irish wrestling match.

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Hey Neil, how are you doing?

“I’m fine, I’ve got a few deadlines coming up. I’m interviewing Tony Young and Paul Banks later today so I’m a bit stressed.”

Sounds busy…

“…And tomorrow I’m on an early morning flight to Miami to interview The Monkees.”

Amazing, life of a rock journalist sounds fun.

“Yeah, I’ll let you know on Monday morning when I’m jet lagged and bedraggled.”

Are you excited about your interview with Gary Kemp?

“I like Gary a lot, and he was the first person I thought of asking when I put this idea together to make some money for the school, which has struggled to raise money in the past.”

Why did you think of Gary, were you a big Spandau Ballet fan?

“I read his autobiography and of all the musical autobiographies I’ve read, for some reason it really hit me, it’s incredibly moving. In fact, I’m not even the biggest fan in the world of Spandau Ballet, New Romance wasn’t really my thing in the 80s, but the Gary that I met through that book really moved me. He grew up in Islington on Essex Road, so the working class struggles are something he understands deeply. He gets the role of a good school, good education and what culture, arts and media can play in shaping a young person and lifting them out of what’s expected of them.”

We see you met up with Sinead O’Connor again in the last few years, how was that?
(Neil famously had a disastrous meeting with Sinead during the 80’s, so bad, in fact, that the two engaged in a tussle over the tape recorder.)

“I always used to say she was the worst interview, but you know it was interesting. I went in to see her and she was so obnoxious, it was quite phenomenal, she kept yelling “you’re going to make a fool out of me!” and I’m like, “I think you’ve done that job yourself.” But it was strange to come back and meet her in later life and realise that she was a lovely, vulnerable, insecure person and at that time I was the arrogant male in the room.”

Who has been the worst, did anyone ever top Sinead?

“Sinead was the most difficult person I’ve ever encountered! I’ve had some bad interviews, but now I look back and realise it was more me than them, I don’t have bad interviews anymore. There’s a couple of people who I met that I found boring, but that’s very rare. The worst kind of interview for me are the over-rehearsed ones, or even sadder when you realise they don’t really care anymore and they’re just promoting themselves, but that’s very rare.”

We’re personally planning to throw our knickers (and any other delicates we have lying around) at Mr Gary Kemp, but which musician would be on the receiving end of your knicker throwing line?

“Well, it would be quite difficult! I’d have to take my trousers off first, maybe if I’d have gone in a kilt it would easier! So I think my knickers would stay on, but there are musicians who make me weak at the knees… what would I give to interview Bob Dylan? Perhaps one of my fingers! Leonard Cohen was one of the most fantastic people I’ve ever interviewed. But you’re always thrilled to meet the people who really penetrated your psyche at a particular time in your life.”

Do you have any musical guilty pleasures?

“Oh god yes! But they’re not guilty anymore, I’ve gotten over that. When I was young you couldn’t like this or that, I was a punk so we hated disco, but now Saturday Night Fever will get me boogieing around the kitchen. All 70’s funk now gets me twitching, where I would have been burning crosses in my madder days. I used to hate ABBA, but now when it comes on you just can’t help yourself, you’re in there like a dancing queen!”

Don’t miss Neil’s interview with the one and only Gary Kemp live this Thursday 26th of May at the Barton Theatre.

Up Close And Personal With Gary Kemp
Thursday May 26th, 7.30pm
Taking place in the intimate Barton Theatre
(Arts & Media School Islington, Turle Road, Finsbury Park, London)

Tickets available here

North Four are chuffed to be the media partners of Up Close and Personal and are proud supporters of the Arts and Media School Islington. Now go buy some tickets!

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