Hot Press magazine: Friday, I’m in love

May 12, 2008

Gavin Friday talks about Disney songs, Shakespeare sonnets, Ferrara films, liking art and reading books.

“Well, Suzanne Vega did a really sexy slow orchestral version of Cruella de Ville,” says Gavin Friday as he tries to remember the night before.

“Lou Reed did ‘Zippidy Doo Da’. Steve Buscemi sang ‘High Ho, High Ho It’s Off To Work We Go’. David Byrne did a version of ‘When You Wish Upon A Star’ and Eric Mingus, who’s Charlie Mingus’s son, said: ‘I’m going to do the most racist song ever written,’ and sang ‘Ooh Ooh Ooh I Wanna Be Like You.’ Garth Hudson and his wife Maud… now I don’t want to be heavy but she’s twenty-something stone and in a wheelchair. She couldn’t get on stage so she sang from the audience while people were coming in. They did a 25-minute version of ‘Feed The Birds’. I sang ‘Chim-Chiminey’, the Dick Van Dyke song from Mary Poppins and the Siamese Cat song from Lady And The Tramp.”

Sure you did, Gavin. I shake my head as if chastising a child. You crazy pop stars and your drugs.

What? It’s real?! Yes, Gavin Friday has just taken part in Hal Willner’s Stay Awake show in New York. In 1988, Willner brought out a much celebrated album of tributes to Disney classics and this year the great, the good and the kind-of-leftfield are celebrating the anniversary in concerts spread across the year. This particular show was a benefit for St. Anne’s Warehouse – a much celebrated New York art centre.

“You know what’s so weird about the shows is that in their subconscious everybody knows these songs,” he proffers. “And you love them because they’re from your childhood. In those days Disney was all about great songwriters. It was before they got people like Elton John to perform songs. The only thing that was weird was that because it was a benefit, and because it cost about ten grand a table, there were a lot of corporate types there who didn’t know what hit them.”

Gavin Friday is not someone who would be hugely well-known to the corporate types. He’s had an idiosyncratic career. From frontman with Ireland’s post-punk avant-gardists the Virgin Prunes, to solo artist and soundtrack composer, Friday has never stayed on the straight and narrow. Over the past year, he’s teamed up with the composer Gavin Bryars and the Royal Shakespeare Society to tour new interpretations of Shakespeare’s Sonnets (as part of the 2007 Complete Works Festival), and his next performance will be in collaboration with Irish composer Ian Wilson at the Brighton Arts Festival on May 19. The day after speaking to Hot Press, he shuffled off to the set of Abel Ferrara’s Chelsea On The Rocks to possibly make an appearance in that movie.

“He just said to show up and see what happens,” says Friday. “In America, if things go badly, they extradite you or mug you in the street. And if they go well you get asked to come down to an Abel Ferrara film shoot.”

Friday also has a new album in the works, but his oeuvre isn’t exactly that of the straight-forward indie rocker. Not that he’d have it any other way.

“For the last twenty years you’ve had to like football and Oasis,” he sighs before asking the question lots of people asked during those dismal days of laddish conformity: “What the fuck is wrong with liking art and reading a book?”

Good question Gavin. Thank flip it’s Friday, I say.