Wednesday, 10 December 2008
Chris De Burgh
A few years ago I discovered that Chris De Burgh has an ‘Ask Chris’ section on his website. This was too good to resist, and I accordingly bombarded him with questions, a lot of which he answered. He has a curious mind and an inimitable way of expressing himself, so I thought I’d share his responses to my questions with you.
But first, here’s a query of someone else’s that he responded to yesterday. There’s a lot to recommend with this one. He is at his absolute smuggest first and foremost. Plus he actually admits to committing an act of vandalism – in good handwriting mind:
Dear Chris, if you would buy a painting, what kind of painting would you prefer? Abstract or not? Which colours do you like? If you like concrete paintings, what kind? I am happy to see your concert in Schwetzingen, it is my birthday. Greetings from Ute
Chris de Burgh:
The kinds of paintings that I like are realistic paintings. I have often found that a lot of modern art leaves me absolutely cold. And to be perfectly honest, I have no idea why people pay such outrageous prices for what appears to be a large splotch of paint. Many years ago when I was staying in a hotel, I can’t say where it was, but I was staying in a hotel, and up on the wall was a very, very large painting, completely white and lots of lumps on it. And at the bottom there were two red splotches. It was untitled. And I actually wrote with a permanent marker in good handwriting “Les fraises d’hiver”, which means “winter strawberries”. And I am sure every time anybody looked at it subsequently, they went “oh yeah, I see winter strawberries”. For years I have had this dream of having an exhibition in an art gallery of weird modern paintings that tend to be colours and splotches, and general stuff that a monkey could have done. And every week or every day change the titles, so people could look at them and say “I understand what the artist was getting at here. Ah yes, this is sunset in Madagascar.” And the next morning you could change the title to “the attack of the tomato ketchup people” or whatever it happens to be. Because I think a lot of modern art is, in my opinion, complete nonsense. Therefore I much prefer realistic art. That said I do love the French impressionists, who are artists who are putting across an impression. In particular Vincent van Gogh. I am sure in his time, when his paintings were around, people looked at them in horror, thinking what is this man doing? But it is a matter of complete amazement to me that even the more realistic of his pictures like the apple blossom tree, why this was not appreciated for what it was! It was a stunning piece of painting. So I hope that answers your question. And I hope you enjoyed the concert in Schwetzingen on your birthday.
The man is an accidental genius no?
Now, on to my questions:
Hi Chris. I know that you are quite a spiritual, religious person. Accordingly I was wondering what one question you would like to ask God?
Chris de Burgh:
Well, Christina, this is a very interesting question. And I am sure I could think of dozens and dozens of questions, all beginning with the word why. But the question I think, if I had the chance to ask God, assuming incidentally that this is one God, a God of the world, that I personally refer to in a song of mine called “Up Here In Heaven”, which refers to old soldiers who have been killed and their spirits have gone up to heaven and they discover that in fact they have all been mislead; that the God that they have been killing and dying for doesn’t exist and in fact there is only one God. This is something that clearly came from my imagination, because this doesn’t actually happen of course. But sadly, the route of an enormous amount of pain and terror and death down the centuries has been put firmly at the door of religious differences. So I would ask God: “How come there are so many Gods in the world that many people follow, many people believe in and would die for? How come you are allowing this to happen? Because you surely would be the one being that would be able to intervene and stop the bloodshed and bring peace to the world by trying to help everybody to understand and have respect for any person’s beliefs, but it doesn’t have to go so far as murder and bloodshed and terror and war.” And I would be very interested in his response as to why he hasn’t come down and said to everybody: “Listen, believe what you want, but don’t kill somebody for that belief!”
A very long question for God there...
This next one appealed to his ego:
Chris, I think you would make a marvellous friend. You have a lot of tales to tell and a lot of wisdom. But what qualities do you look for in a friend? Is it hard to find true friends when you are famous?
Chris de Burgh:
Thank you for saying that I might make a marvellous friend. The qualities I would look for in a friend are loyalty, support and strength, when there are difficult times in everybody’s lives. And I would also suggest that most people only have about three or four really really close friends, with whom they can feel absolutely comfortable. And then of course a wide circle of acquaintances and other people, who you enjoy their company, but not necessarily a three week hike through the Himalayas. I think friends are people with whom you don’t have to be anybody but yourself. Quite often when we go out in public we are trying to put on a face that is not exactly who we are, but it’s the person we would like people to think we are, which is completely different. But with friends you can absolutely relax. You can get silly, you can get drunk, you can have fun, you can tell jokes, you can have a lot of crazy times with. And most of my friends, if not all of my close friends, are people that I have known for certainly since I was in University, if not before. And the question about is it hard to make friends, if you are famous? Well, if you don’t have friends prior to becoming famous, I would say it is difficult, yeah. Because you are not quite sure why people want to know you. I have always been very guarded about my private life in any case. And as a solo performer, who runs a business from London to here in Ireland, I don’t have a network of business associates and contacts that I can rely on as normal business people do. Nevertheless I am very happy where I am, and I am very happy with the people around me.
This next one contains my favourite quote, “across the fields there are sheep which thankfully don’t belong to me”
Chris. What is your favourite day? You don't have a "9 to 5" working week like the rest of us, so do you enjoy the weekend as much as say someone who works in an office?
Chris de Burgh:
I don’t have a 9 to 5 working life, although in many regards I do have a structure to my life, particularly during school time. Because we get up early on school days every morning, five mornings a week. Actually six mornings a week, because there are frequently things on a Saturday morning early. I take my two sons to school. My daughter Rosanna now drives herself to University College in Dublin. And just on that particular point, she had an extraordinary year as Miss World and we were all thoroughly relieved that when she handed over the crown to the new Miss World in December last year, that at least she could now put some further structure back into her life, and concentrate on her studies plus other projects that she wanted to do. And she managed to get through her Christmas exams with great results, although she had missed most of the course and worked extremely hard. And then we just recently heard that her end of year results, bearing in mind that she probably missed about 70% of the course and she had to really really catch up missed seminars, missed lectures, missed important essays that had to go in. She got a 2.1 grade in sociology and history of art, which is a tremendous achievement for somebody who wasn’t there most of the time. So we are absolutely chuffed and thrilled about that. Now she is working, as I am sure a lot of people know, with the team who put Holiday On Ice together. And she is the European face of the Holiday On Ice group, so you are going to be seeing her on television a lot, and the newspapers a lot, and on big giant billboards. And she’s got a year coming up of interesting places to go and travel to. And these people treat her with a respect and a kindness and an understanding, and giving her breaks, not crazy travel plans. For her this is a complete change from what she had to put up with during the year she was Miss World. But back to the question: My favourite day? Well, I don’t really have a favourite day. I must admit, it’s fantastic when the school holidays come round, so we can just relax. We don’t have to go through the thing of leaving the house at 8 o’clock in the morning or having to pick the boys up at 4 o’clock or 5:30 in the evening. And late study for my elder boy, actually all three of them have got big exams coming up towards the end of 2005/2006. So today for example, as I speak to you, Christina, it’s an absolutely gorgeous Sunday. And friends have been dropping round, we have been sitting out on our terrace. It’s been extremely hot. We’ve got beautiful views of the countryside, of the hills, across the fields there are sheep which thankfully don’t belong to me, but we can still enjoy their company. And you can feel the grateful earth as a response not only to rain, but also to sun. So I would say Sunday is a nice day, because there is nobody else around us, there is nobody working in the house for example, it’s just a very personal, private day. And I think like everybody else we love the weekends.
Another one that flattered him into answering:
Chris, I think you should be knighted for your contribution to music. What honour would make you proudest?
Chris de Burgh:
Well, I personally don’t think I should be, but what a nice idea. “Sir Chris de Burgh”! Mmmh, has a certain ring to it, doesn’t it? You know, I work abroad a lot, I travel a lot and I am fortunate to have a successful international career. And any honour from a foreign country, which means a lot to them in that country, to bestow upon somebody like me who comes from Ireland, would be a tremendous thing for me to receive. I was honoured by the Red Cross in Portugal some years ago for my contribution to the Red Cross and the things I have done for them in the past. And I was very proud of that. Similarly, I think I would be very proud to receive such an honour from a country in which I didn’t necessarily live. Ireland does not have an honour system, which in some way is a good thing, in some way is a bad thing, because it really depends on who gives out these honours. That adds to the credibility.
I upped the ante with this one, but his ego still prevented him from thinking it might be a joke. You have to love him:
Chris, without your music my life would be pretty empty. What one thing could you not do without?
Chris de Burgh:
That’s a tough question! Music is important to me, but I think at the end of the day, the one thing that would keep my heart beating would be surrounded by my family. Music is a beautiful extra, but I think if I was for any reasons separated from my family, this would cause me direct and constant pain.
This next one is arguably his most boring answer. I thought he was going to compare himself favourably to a literary figure, like Jesus off of The Bible, but instead he just rambled about a pirate book:
Hi Chris, I hope you are well! I was wondering, you see I often feel like Yossarian in Catch 22. You know - the only sane one! Which literary figure do you identify with?
Chris de Burgh:
I know that character in Catch 22, Yossarian, who feels as if he is straight into a madhouse and he is the only sane one. And here is a question I think everybody should ask themselves from time to time. It’s how will you know if you are going mad? I think this is the problem Yossarian had. Seeing all this bizarre stuff going on, which is an extraordinary movie, if anybody has never seen it, go and watch Catch 22. And I’ve actually just got the book back in my home and I intend to read it again. Many people have heard me talking in the past about one of my very favourite books of all time, which was a book about smugglers in Cornwall, about two or three hundred years ago. And I wrote a song called “Heart Of Darkness” which was loosely based on a part of this particular book, which is called “Moonfleet” written by J. Mead Falkner. The character in this book is a young boy in his, I suppose early teens, and his name is John Trenchard. He was 15 in fact, when the story began. I am just holding it in my hands now, it immediately takes me back to the incredible mystery and imagination of reading this book and where it took me as a boy when I read it. In fact I’ve read it several times since. And I can’t wait to start it again to be honest. I think maybe I’ll read this one before Catch 22. It takes place in the year 1757, I just noticed. The adventures that he had affected me enormously, when I was growing up reading this book, as of course many other things did. But he in particular made my imagination go absolutely wild. And I could see everything that happened, as if it was in a film. And that of course is my intention as a song writer and in particular during the last album, The Storyman.
And finally I asked this one under a false name. I did email asking to meet up for that pint. He didn’t reply:
Chris. I don't have much success with the ladies. The ladies seem to love you. What is your secret?
Chris de Burgh:
If I didn’t know any better, I would be smiling to Ian and saying I wonder, if this is a bit of a set up question? But if it’s genuine, I will respond to it. But if it’s a set up, I will also respond to it in a slightly different way. However, there is no secret. Nobody in the history of the world can actually point how you have success with the ladies. I think everybody is different, every woman is looking for something slightly different in a man. Sometimes they are looking for that big, physical, tough, burly, strong, hairy-chested, hairy-under-the-arm-pits kind of a guy. Other women like a more sensitive, gentle, yet sort of inner strength kind of a man. It’s almost impossible to say, Ian. However, maybe the best thing is, if you and I sit down and have a pint of beer together. I could give you a few tips and pointers. But I certainly don’t go out of my way to try and attract the ladies. I suppose, it is part of being a famous person that you get a lot of attention. And I have to say I do enjoy it, there is no question about it. But as far as your own situation is concerned, I wish you the best of luck and don’t forget for every lonely man there is always a lonely lady out there too. So I am sure there are many people who would love to meet you some day.
I’m still sending them in. If he answers any more I’ll post them here.
Ah, hours of fun...