Thursday 13 December 2018

Brand: Of course I'm egotistical. I'm a big show off!

In his only Irish interview, the ever quotable Russell Brand exclusively talks to Eamon Sweeney about sex, drugs and of course, revolution

Russell Brand
Russell Brand
Eamon Sweeney

Eamon Sweeney

Piers Morgan considers Russell Brand to be a "bogus revolutionary". John Lydon, the former firebrand singer of the Sex Pistols, thinks he is a "bum hole".

The motor-mouth comedian spent a good chunk of his youth in Grays, Essex, devouring the works of Oscar Wilde, so as Russell surely knows all too well, the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about at all.

"The youth of today have every possibility of being as smart or as stupid as the youth of the past, so long as you remove Russell Brand from the agenda," fumes Lydon. "I think he's absolutely clarified himself as arsehole number one."

Whoah! What has Russell done to deserve all this? He has always provoked a strong reaction, hitting the headlines for a litany of salacious and sordid reasons: marrying and divorcing Katy Perry; dressing up as Osama bin Laden the day after 9/11; bragging about having sex with Andrew Sachs' granddaughter on radio with Jonathan Ross; calling President George W Bush a "retarded cowboy" at the MTV Awards. The list goes on and on.

A little closer to home, the former sex addict once boasted of enjoying nine separate orgasms in the space of a single evening in Dublin's fair city.

"Last time I was in Dublin, I met Bono and I only had half as many orgasms," Brand cackles mischievously. "I was surprised Bono even had one. That was a good night man, but hopefully I've progressed from then."

Brand's demons have been well documented, especially in his absorbing best-selling memoirs My Booky Wook and Booky Wook 2: This Time It's Personal. Now, he has another very different book to promote, entitled Revolution. His newest addiction is to changing the world while trying to make politics, protest and activism sexy in the process.

"Before I got into the glitz and sequin-encrusted craziness of Hollywood, I was a righteous little prick," Brand says. "I believed in revolution. I took a lot of acid when I was a teenager.

"I always justified my rampant ambition by saying I was going to do something worthwhile. All this was created by the complete lack of nutrition I've had. Not that I'm ungrateful for being in film, or having the opportunities that I've had, but there is a maximum of half a century left until I'm dead in the cold earth, so it's time to do something interesting."

The 39 year-old still talks a million miles a minute, but there is a more measured tone to his voice. He is remarkably prolific, uploading new video to his YouTube channel almost every day in a self-styled news commentary series called The Trews. His online soapbox has received over 47 million views and features theme music composed and performed by Limerick's favourite anarchic comedy duo The Rubberbandits.

"I fucking love The Rubberbandits," Brand enthuses. "I asked them to do a theme tune and they sent it to me the next day. They're amazing. They once talked me through the theory of how all of reality is a construction. They gave me a book on the subject with the inscription, 'To Russell, Don't smoke hash or join the IRA. Love, The Rubberbandits'."

Revolution might be Utopian, but it is a funny, passionate and entertaining read. "The film-maker Adam Curtis, who did The Century of the Self and The Power of Nightmares, told me: 'You've done politics from the inside out'," Russell reveals. "I'm very proud of that compliment. We want people to feel better. It is not about the glacial thrust of edificial ideology. We want something that connects with people and is warm and inspiring, not tub thumping or fist pumping."

"The only reason not to change the world is that you are happy with the way it is," Brand continues. "No one is. They've been so successful in their pursuit of inequality that now it is us and them. All we need to do is organise and oppose and that's it. We're off."

Brand is well aware that people will accuse him of spouting nonsense simply because of who he is. "People can say that I was married to Katy Perry, or I am famous for having ridiculous hair, but I think, 'Yes, furthermore, soon I'm going to be dead regardless'," he reflects.

"Either people will read this and think they knew all this anyway, or they will think I'm talking complete rubbish and I've still got stupid hair. It doesn't matter. What matters is the part of me which is the same as you and everyone else. Of course I'm egotistical. I'm a big show off, but that's not me at my deepest level."

Brand has lofty ambitions for Revolution. "My hope it that it actively encourages people to be disobedient and uncooperative in confronting authority and realising that this sense of alienation and loss that we have, that we don't need to have," he says. "Everyone is feeling that. I'm almost happy to be alive at this time where inequality is crystallising so clearly that it is apparent that there is a small group that we could target and it would really make a difference.

"I no longer believe in the theory of a great individual, I believe in movements and the tide of time. History creates people. People don't create history. This is a time of galling inequality. This is a time of the end of empire and necessary ecological responsibility. Who is exacerbating this situation? What role can each of us play?"

Brand memorably wrote in 2013: "Drugs and alcohol are not my problem, reality is my problem, drugs and alcohol are my solution." Is the former addict happy in 2014?

"It changes over the course of a day," he answers. "I'm very lucky at the moment. I've good friends around me and I'm involved in stuff that really excites me. Writing this book made me happy."

Jeremy Paxman, Nicky Wire and the aforementioned John Lydon are just some of the public figures who have criticised Brand for not voting.

"I say give us something worth voting for," Brand responds. "Why are they demonstrating for democracy in Hong Kong? Why do we want democracy? Because we like the sound of the word? Or is because we want to be connected to our governance, our own lives and our own community and be connected to one another? That promise is not being delivered, so like the people who fought for democracy did, we have to fight again. It's not about giving us something worth voting for, we're fucking taking it."

Russell is on a roll. "I've been spending some time with women from the Carpenters estate in London who are occupying a council house," he reveals. "They are either being made homeless, made move miles away, or else their rent is being astronomically increased. I see people experiencing similar situations and I see more opportunities to confront power, which is our common enemy."

Brand received a tidy six-figure advance for Revolution, but insists he is not interested in making money and plans to buy a property in East London for recovering addicts to run their own juice bar and coffee shop as a co-operative.

"We are all looking for community and purpose," he laments. "We are being robbed of it. This is not a dry economic argument. People are robbed of community and purpose so that a small group of people can exploit them with impunity. I'd like to help to stop that from happening while having fun."

Revolution is available from bookshops nationwide.

Irish Independent

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