The Cricketer: “I spend my life saying it’s a simple game”

Benj Moorehead talks to Neil and Thomas about all things cricket and pop.

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The Duckworth Lewis Method – two Irish musicians with sharp minds and well-tuned ears – have just released their second cricketing album, Sticky Wickets. The duo of Neil Hannon and Thomas Walsh were only too pleased to talk with The Cricketer about their favourite subject – and Michael Jackson…

On beginnings…
Hannon: We like writing together but we couldn’t really find something that necessitated us to write together. Cricket was a really good excuse to make music. It has such a wealth of imagery to it. And we know just about enough about cricket to get away with it.

On singing about cricket…
Walsh: We’re not singing, ‘We all love cricket, it’s a wonderful game, and this is how it works…’ Clearly it’s not as simple as that. We just have silly stories and a few tenuous links to cricket. But people are happy that they can have something to relate to cricket.
Hannon: I spend my life saying it’s actually a much simpler game than you imagine. At the centre of it, it’s just somebody throwing a ball at a piece of wood and somebody else trying to stop it hitting that piece of wood with another bit of wood. And you can go outwards exponentially as far as you would like to go. There’s so much more you could know if you wanted to but you don’t really need to.

On the music…
Hannon: Really it can survive without any knowledge of cricket whatsoever. When people bought ‘Crushed by the Wheels of Industry’ by Heaven17 they didn’t have to know anything about macroeconomics. It seems illegal to write a song that is not about relationships or some problem that’s going on between people. Relationships are important. But there’s so much more to life. If you don’t write about relationships then you are talking about a comedy song, for some reason. I’ve never understood this closing-off of nine-tenths of human experience.

On the song that didn’t make the new album…
Walsh: It was a Jimmy Anderson song – ‘The King of Swing’.  In the middle of it we reversed the track for reverse swing. It was actually a very good idea. But it didn’t work in the end.

On the song Broad should listen to…

Hannon: It should be ‘Line and Length’ because Broad has to get that into his head. Line and length, line and length. That was who I was watching when I came up with that idea.

On messages…
Walsh: The message is to try and replenish the world with some decent original songs, which I call the depletion of the Boyzone layer. We never ring each other up and go, ‘I’ve got a lot of cricketing terms – let’s go and write some music.’ And it’s never a case of, ‘Let’s write songs to tell those people in high office to get your act together’… no, it’s not that’s.

Hannon: But now that we are here we can spout our opinions willy nilly.
Walsh: Willy Nilly … did he play for Somerset?

On Twenty20 v Tests…

Hannon: Test cricket can’t die, it just can’t because it is where you find every facet of the game. You simply don’t get some parts of cricket in Twenty20 or even one-dayers. There is as much artistry and skill in staying at the crease by blocking in a really sticky period against an unbelievable attack as there is in hitting the thing out of the ground. It would lose all its meaning if you lost the long form.
Walsh: I like Twenty20. I like the fact that it’s actually well organised. It’s great to watch. I can handle it. But Test match cricket … a while ago there were certain bands talking about only doing singles for the rest of their careers and not doing albums because people just pick stuff up off iTunes. Don’t let that dictate how you make records. Just keep making records, keep doing what you do. I think that’s what cricket is going through.

On Michael Jackson…
Hannon: We were at a dinner in the Long Room. Crazy array of people: Mike Atherton, CMJ, Sir Mervyn King from the Bank of England, Tim Rice, Frank Skinner. There was a moment when Graeme Swann was trying to show me where to put my fingers on the ball and then a Times journalist comes up and says, “Michael Jackson’s dead.” I thought, ‘This is the weirdest moment of my life.’
Walsh: We were 28 in the midweek charts. Top 30, we couldn’t believe it. Normally you go up a few or maybe down a couple. Jackson died and we went down to 40. Twelve albums of his went in in a day. Even in death he annoyed me.

On loving cricket…
Hannon: I’m not technologically very advanced but even I find myself sitting down and the first thing I do is take out the iPhone and start messing around with it. I used to be the king of staring into space as a 20-year-old. It’s good for you. It’s almost like a meditation. If you are able to lose yourself in time and let it swing past you. And nobody seems to give themselves that opportunity. And I think that’s what cricket does for you. Or, or ... Merv Hughes’ moustache.

On inspiration…
Walsh: On ‘Mason on the Boundary’ on the first album, there was a lyric we were trying to finish. I said to Neil, "I’m literally going to open Wisden and put my finger on a page and see what happens." My finger went to the word, ‘Panglossian’. Neil looked up in the dictionary.
Hannon: It was kind of, ‘away with the birds.’ It was exactly what we wanted and we managed to sneak it into the song.
Walsh: We could have made love straight after that, but we didn’t.
Hannon: Stick that in your Cricketer and smoke it!

The Cricketer - Benj Moorehead

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