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.

Neil McCormick: Jet Lag, Knickers and Missing Fingers, Music Journalism, Bono, U2, North Four, Magazine, North London

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!

North Four, North London magazine, green rooms hotel, arts, culture, review, interiors, design, photography, wood green
Eat & Drink Lifestyle

My First Night at Green Rooms Hotel

Staying in a hotel one mile from where you actually live feels strange enough, but doing it on your own is even stranger. These photos are a visual record of me wandering the lonely corridors of a new boutique hotel between the hours of 10-12pm. I would describe the decor as handmade but not cheap, minimal but not clinical. It has the feeling that money has been spent on the things that matter.

North Four, North London magazine, cheese, fromage, cheese festival, n1, islington, market, festival, food, gouda, edam, brie, camembert, wheel of cheese
Eat & Drink

You Feta Brie-lieve it: Cheese Festival Comes to North London

The rumours are true: a cheese festival exists and it’s coming to North London. This Sunday. Be there or be … cheese-less I suppose. But you’ve gouda get there early:  If you’re as keen as brie and one of the first fifty fromage fondlers to show, you’re in the running for a free bottle of Black Cow’s pure milk vodka. Traders will be setting up stalls along Islington’s Chapel Market: from the Raclette Brothers and Mac to the Future to La Fromagerie and The Cheese Truck.

North Four, North London magazine, dream phone, dream talk, sound art, collaboration, musician, artist, london, phone boxes
Culture Lifestyle

Dream Talk: Sound Art for Your Commute

Dream Talk. It’s like Dream Phone, but not at all. Artist Emma Alonze and musician Andy Becker have joined forces to collaborate on a (possibly prophetic) new sound art project. Londoners are invited to take a moment out of their daily commute, routine or journey and immerse themselves in a narrated collection of dreams. Taking three years worth of forty winks, Alonze has gathered and narrated a chosen few to be set to an ambient soundtrack by Becker.


Between the Sheets at the Underbelly Festival

Holy smoke, her nipples are on fire! Somebody pass the woman an extinguisher. Wait, why is she climbing into that giant margarita glass - does she not know it's highly flammable? She's going to need to be doused with a sizable portion of aloe vera gel at this rate, the poor lamb. 

North Four, North London magazine, events, to do, 100, keeping it 100, hackney arts
Culture Events List

Top Four "Keeping it 💯" Workshops

If there's anything the new moon today has told us, it's that it's time to be our true selves. That's what my horoscope told me today anyway. But what does that mean exactly? It means that if you want to eat honey loops for lunch, you 100% can. It means if you feel like learning how to make a bouquet instead of working on your tax forms, you 100% can. It also means if you want to learn how the deep throat (singing technique) you don't have to explain yourself. You're keeping it .

North Four, North London magazine, eroc, skateboarding, skater dog, french bulldog, frenchie, skateboard, halfpipe, interview, internet sensation, instagram star, tony hawk, fanbase

Who is Behind Eroc the Skateboarding Dog?

Our exclusive meeting with Eroc: the Beyonce of the skateboarding dog world. Eroc the french bulldog is making waves. With fans like Tony Hawk, BBC Radio and over 30k followers on Instagram (and counting), Eroc has also become something of an online sensation. His viral status comes and goes, randomly popping up on online social media channels every now and again to generate hundreds of thousands of views and clicks via the likes of Buzzfeed, Time Out and rogue iPhone filmers.

North Four, North London magazine, protest, opinion piece, lifestyle, trump, women's march, brexit, riots, uprising, human rights, march, rally

Protest is Dead! Long Live Protest!

We all have our own ways of dealing with life when things get shitty. Having a big cry and getting it all out can be incredibly therapeutic, and even more so when we find ourselves repeating the same line over and over through the tears. “He’s a dick!” or “I’m not a bad person!” These little lines of reinforcement help us push through the crappy feeling. Sometimes we might even revert to a hearty little stamp on the floor / kick of some unsuspecting object. It feels surprisingly satisfying when the rage sets in and we feel helpless.

North Four, North London magazine, trio da kali, musicians, live music, gig, stoke newington, the old church, tickets, events

Contemporary Malian Sounds in Stokey

This Friday sees the release of Malian master musicians, Trio Da Kali’s new album Ladilikan. Fusing rich, expressive vocals with traditional instruments like the balafon and bass ngoni, this is a beautiful mix of ancient Mande culture and contemporary Malian sounds. Luckily for us North Londoners, we have the opportunity to see the trio play live in the rather fitting ethereal surrounds of Stoke Newington Church next month. 

North Four, North London magazine, sylvanian familes, store, monsell road, finsbury park, toys, toyshop, collectibles, rare, dolls

On your Doorstep: Inside Sylvanian World

Walking along Monsell Road in Finsbury Park, we spy the charming exterior of a shop looking like something out of a children’s book circa 1932. Beneath a green and white striped awning, a whimsical new world of mini animals awaits. Once inside we stumble about the store in hushed awe, reaching over a book of minuscule carpet samples/ family of miniature otters to tap a tiny bell.

North Four, north London magazine, outdoor cinema, pizza, sodo pizzeria, snug, events, refreshments, foodie, picnic

Kids and Big Kids: Pizza, Curry and Open Air Cinema

Whether you’re looking for something to entertain your kids, your friends’ kids or that particularly large man child in your life, you might just have lucked out. Snug are hosting an open air screening of The Incredibles next Saturday evening. There will be tasty sourdough pizzas from Sodo Pizza (Upper Clapton) and ultimate authentic curries from Rice n Spice, Northwold Road.

North Four, North London magazine, vegetarian restaurant, ceremony, veggie, cuisine, risotto, dish
Eat & Drink

Ceremony: A New Take On Veggie Cuisine

Coming soon to a Tufnell Park near you is a whole new vegetable patch of delights / wheat field to run vicariously through. It’s time to get excited for Ceremony: a brand new bar/restaurant serving modern British veggie cuisine. Although the website remains tantalisingly mysterious, you can glean more info from their well stocked insta.

Spring Kind, Pit Party, North Four Magazine, Music, North London, London
Culture Eat & Drink Events List

Top 4 Weird Things to do This September

Sound baths, pit parties, fake cheese and nipples, these are a few of our favourite things, said no one ever. Bored of drinking down the pub every evening? Unlikely, but bare with me. Sometimes you just want to let down your hair, shake it off and do something down right odd of an evening... followed by a pint at the pub.

North Four, North London magazine, texlationship, online dating, illustration, iphones, texting, tinder, julia potocnik

Dating North London: IRL vs Textlationship

It’s been a few months since the last instalment of Online vs Offline. I deleted Bumble, Happn and Tinder, flirted with the idea of, went to a friend’s wedding, heard the vicar call my name instead of the Bride’s and reflected briefly on the crushing inevitability of my own spinsterhood before realising everyone was laughing in the pews and I should probably join them.

north four magazine, north london, stroud green, cheese
Eat & Drink Events

Stroud Green Market Opens This Sunday!

Gluten-free cake consumers, vegan cheese enthusiasts, craft beer connoisseurs, lovers of pies and drinkers of tea; your time is now. Buy food of a quality & variety you can’t easily find in the shops, from organic meat to vegan cheese, fish caught that morning to pickles which have been fermenting for months, at Stroud Green market.

North Four, North London magazine, the finsbury, finsbury park, n4, music venue, gigs, folk

Free Cake and Gin Soaked Folk Pop

Who’s up for free entry, free cake and free folk (except for a jaunty little hat that is passed around for donations)? Get down to The Finsbury this Wednesday eve for a little mid week hootenanny and celebrate some of the best in new live music from the ‘acoustic, singer-songwriter & indie-folk scene’. Host with the most, Zoe Konez (“Ridiculously talented, Konez handles her guitar like she was born with it” - For Folk's Sake) will be deftly introducing each act from gin soaked folk popster herself, Penniless Cove to German indie band, Kalon.


Lamps, Records, Frenchies: The Big London Flea

What if you could mix the joys of your local Sunday car boot and all it’s dog perving potential with your favourite vintage clothes shops and high end antique markets? Within the sparkling depths of Dalson’s former ABC cinema, you’ll find The Big London Flea: London’s largest indoor vintage market.