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Rebel without a pause

Halfway through the interview, despite denying he has a life philosophy, Olaf Tyaransen reveals one. "I'm not a nasty person.

I see my role in life or in journalism as an encourager." Given the state we're in that could be a treasonous declaration from any interviewer. If Selected Recordings didn't redeem its author, even slightly, it would be a hanging offence. But Olaf Tyaransen might be due a pass.

A vodka tonic and a pint of Guinness are put in front of us. The waiter is still foreign in the Gibson Hotel, and Dublin, spread out below us, is busy. It could be any time in the past decade, before the fall. Not inappropriately, Tyaransen is promoting his book of interviews from the past 10 years in which only fleeting reference to the outside world of economics and the crushing present is made.

As the drinks are put down, he mutters something about never trusting a journalist who doesn't drink. Judging by his own stories of drinking he's mighty trustworthy. And according to the cover of his new book he's also a very important interviewer. Will Self, Bono and Howard Marks all testify to this.

Tyaransen's career in journalism has attracted opprobrium from the start so it's no wonder the cover looks to balance that up. And yet this is the second published collection of his interviews, nestling alongside his book about the global sex industry (in which he stars), a collection of poetry, not to mention his autobiography written while still in his 20s.

He tends not to antagonise his interviewees, which can be pointless when it's a rock star but can be reckless when it's politicians.

The rap sheet against Tyaransen is pretty long. Self-absorbed enough to write an autobiography at 29, professional drugs and travel bore, music snob and name-dropper extraordinaire, his generation's greatest rebel without a cause or clue, a character from a short story no-one wants to read, a man so vain no thought went unrecorded and unreported for public consumption. That's the sheet. Like all received wisdom it's mostly bull. Maybe, finally, as the world falls apart, Tyaransen and his career begins to make sense.

As an interview subject he's guarded. Each bold statement is always met with a qualifier. Why put already published interviews together in a book?

"I thought they were worth keeping. I don't want them to have just a two-week lifespan. I had a book in mind from the word go. Always, with all my interviews, I want to make it of a standard that's worthy of keeping. I don't want to just whack stuff out and forget about it" -- a worthy aspiration but quickly qualified with -- "which isn't to say I don't do a lot of stuff that I don't just whack out."

He answers the question about whether or not he considers himself an artist with an affirmative before predicting the reaction from an imagined audience chastising him for daring to think of himself so. Maybe it's wisdom, maybe it's wariness.

He tells the story of a review he got for his first collection of interviews, The Palace of Wisdom. "The opening line of the review was 'Is there anything Olaf Tyaransen can't do?' And the next line was 'on the basis of this collection, quite a lot. He certainly can't seem to get through an interview without mentioning drugs' and I'm going 'it's a book about drugs', so I wrote them a very short letter along the lines of 'Given the stated theme of my book, complaining that there's too much about drugs in Palace of Wisdom is like complaining there's too much soccer in the Roy Keane book'. They never printed it."

Not to be undone, Tyaransen took the first line from the review -- "Is there anything Olaf Tyaransen can't do?" and used that on the Christmas publicity posters.

He's aware, too, that people have written about taking drugs and living the attendant lifestyle before. His argument is that no one ever did it growing up in 1980s and 1990s Ireland.

He wrote about Gerry Ryan's use of drugs in this paper this week. "Gerry Ryan bought the ticket, took the ride . . . and died. So it goes. Realistically, the man didn't have a bad ride."

He saves his anger for journalists who write drug stories laced with hypocrisy. "They're cowards. How can you write these stories when you're taking coke, when you're smoking spliff, and you're writing about the people who do these things as scumbags?"

The anger still burns.

Selected Recordings 2000-2010, by Olaf Tyaransen (€14.99), is out now


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