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Back on tracks

There are times when Gavin Friday grows tired of talking about Gavin Friday. "It's the same f**kin' questions," says the 52-year-old musician. "It's mad. You never realise that when somebody writes a press release, you live with it for f**kin' nine months, do you know what I mean?"

I do. Then again, Friday has been out of the loop for quite some time -- 16 years, to be precise. But it's not like the man has been in hiding. Following the release of his third solo effort, Shag Tobacco, the former Virgin Prunes frontman got a little side-tracked. The ambitious Dubliner began to swap a career in rock'n'roll for film scores (The Boxer, Get Rich or Die Tryin'), orchestras, and even acting. Indeed, various other ventures arrived on the man's doorstep. And he was more than happy to try them out.


In 2009, however, having celebrated his 50th birthday in New York City's Carnegie Hall alongside Lou Reed, Courtney Love,and childhood friends U2, the penny finally dropped, and Friday knew it was time to get back to the old day job.

"I can't do anything else", he says, of his desire to write and perform music. "If it's not music, it's something to do with music. It's just me; it's my way of life."

Friday jokes about how he wouldn't have made a good salesman or carpenter. But he might have been a decent actor. His debut screen performance was as a rock singer in Neil Jordan's critically acclaimed Breakfast on Pluto, starring Cillian Murphy in 2005. Why haven't we seen him in a role since?

"I'm picky," he answers. "Most of the roles I got offered were very dark, terrorist-type villains," he laughs. "They didn't hit me -- I didn't relate to them. When Neil Jordan gave me the script for Breakfast on Pluto, I thought he was asking me to do the score, and he says: 'I want you to act.' Then I read the script and I could relate to that era -- it was an era I grew up in. So, I think I have to believe in the film"

Indeed, Catholic isn't so much Friday's comeback album as a continuation of his expansive repertoire. And, for Friday, recording it was an unexpectedly religious experience.

"The songs weren't religious," he explains, "but they had this religiousness to the music. A lot of the songs felt very like prayers -- but they weren't prayers to a god.

"When I was listening back to the album I said 'there's a religiousness to this, but it's not God, or Christian, or Catholic, well maybe it is catholic -- the true essence of Catholic'."

Talk turns to the cover of the album -- a shot inspired by Irish painter John Lavery's portrait of Michael Collins lying in state.

"I found that people were going, 'you can't be dead on your album cover'," he smiles, "and I said, 'why not?' If f**kin' Morrissey did it, they'd call him a genius! I don't think it's cynical at all. It's actually me being proud to be Irish. I think me da, if he was alive, would have loved it."


Friday's relationship with Bono stretches back to a time before U2 and the Virgin Prunes. These days, Friday is credited with being a "creative consultant" to the band.

"It started probably in the late '70s," says Friday. "They'd have a song, and even before they went into a recording studio, they'd go 'what do you think of this?' And I'd go, 'it's great, but I think you need another hook in the chorus'. And that's what mates do -- they just basically support each other. They know I shoot from the hip and speak what I think".

Catholic is out now. Live at the Olympia Theatre, Tuesday, November 29