Something to talk about
Badly Drawn Boy on his upcoming appearance at Stendhal Festival of Art, festivals in general and borrowing George Best’s Private Plane.
Damon Gough, aka Badly Drawn Boy has a lot to talk about. He is a Mercury Prize Winner, has an NME award to his name and his seminal albums ‘The Hour of the Bewilderbeast’ and ‘About a boy’ catapulted him to major success and popularity at the turn of the millennium.
He has taken to the stage at major UK festivals like Glastonbury and V Festival and has a multitude of charting singles and albums.
With such a successful career, he could be forgiven should he choose to approach interviews in a promotional fashion, but in line with his work, he conveys an air of humility and honesty, which is as refreshing as his music.
What resonated most was the sense that after all he has accomplished, he is seemingly more grateful for the little extras that come with the territory of being an internationally renowned musician. The people he has met, the places he has seen, these are the things that make Badly Drawn Boy tick.
At the start of another busy festival season, he says that the recent cultural shift which has witnessed an upswing in the number of smaller festivals, such as Stendhal Festival of Art which he is headlining in August, has made him enjoy his summer gigs in recent times much more.
“The smaller festivals tend to have a notoriously good atmosphere,” he mused. “This summer I’ve already played Vantastival in Ireland and Lunar in Birmingham and they were both fantastic experiences.
“I’m aware that Stendhal is of a similar vibe and that it has won awards, so yeah, the rise of the smaller festival from what I can see has opened the door for artists to reconnect with their fan base and also get heard by other people. Particularly young families as the smaller events tend to be much more catered towards being more inclusive for everyone and all ages.
“From a performance standpoint they are also much less stressful than playing at the likes of Glastonbury for example. I remember playing the Pyramid stage there and the distance from the stage to the crowd was bigger than some venues. It was terrifying to be honest.
“At smaller festivals you really can connect with the crowd, make the whole experience a lot more personal, so they always tend to be hugely enjoyable experiences.”
Having such a huge amount of experience playing massive summer shows, picking a favourite moment from his festival career is no easy task and when asked just that, Damon didn’t mention a show that went really well or a reception from a crowd that blew him away, and he could have, just YouTube his 2002 Glastonbury show, instead he spoke about the fundamentals of festivals, spending time with people and seeing other bands.
“My favourite memory of any festival was meeting and getting to spend some time with Joel Strummer.
“Other than that I don’t really remember specifics of my shows, more the atmosphere of the festivals as a whole or a great set from another band. I saw Mercury Rev at Lunar a couple of weeks back and for me that was the best part of it.
“At festivals you have time to not only see other bands but catch up with them, meet them for the first time and just enjoy hanging out with peers throughout various stages of their careers. I love that.”
Damon’s headline slot at Stendhal Festival of Art on August 13 will be the first time he has played in Northern Ireland outside of a venue in Belfast despite being a regular visitor here over the years.
“I really love playing Belfast,” he said, “so I’m looking forward to seeing a bit more of Northern Ireland when I come over for Stendhal.
“I have played Belfast a number of times and the city really appeals to me, I remember drinking in the Crown Bar with the saloon doors, playing with Primal Scream there and of course the Limelight is a fantastic venue there too.”
His favourite memory of Northern Ireland though involves the countries most celebrated icon, one George Best.
“I was over appearing on a TV show called Patrick Kielty almost live and I was fortunate enough to be booked to appear alongside George Best,” he recalled.
“For me this was amazing. Now I’m not a Man United fan, but being from the Manchester area you have a respect for what George Best was and how he played the game. For me he was up there with Maradona and Gazza as being king of the maverick footballers, so to get to meet him and spend time with him was brilliant.
“The night we taped the show, I was due to fly back to London afterwards but it was a terrible winter night, snow was falling and flights were cancelled. So I was stuck.
“George overhears a conversation I had on the topic in the greenroom after the show and comes across and tells me, don’t worry, I have a private plane, you can borrow that and you’ll be home tonight.
“So just like that I found myself borrowing George Best’s private plane to fly from Belfast to London. I was a bit surreal but you couldn’t really get any more George Best than that, “here you go son, take the plane,” brilliant. It was real pleasure to meet him and I’ll always be grateful to him for that experience.”
Looking forward to his set at Stendhal Damon added that he will be bringing out all his big hits so that people can sing along and get into the festival spirit that he loves, but also teased that he might unveil at least one new song at Ballymully Cottage Farm.
“It’s been six years since I’ve released a proper album,” he said, “I did a bit for a Robert De Niro film called ‘Being Flynn’ but it didn’t really get a massive release or anything, so yeah it might be about time I get back to the studio.
“I really do feel that I should be unleashing some new music as soon as possible so I will be working away on that in the background this summer and then into the autumn, so maybe if I can I might try something new at Stendhal. That being said, the majority of the set will be based on the back catalogue, hopefully plenty of people will be happy with that.”
Badly Drawn Boy headlines Stendhal Festival of Art alongside Therapy? DJ Yoda, Lynched and Hayseed Dixie on August 12/13 at Ballymully Cottage Farm, Limavady. For tickets see www.stendhalfestival.com