Nights In

Interview: irish journo, george byrne talks about meeting morrissey

The streets of Dublin were filled with students who were going out for lunch before their next lecture as some of the lucky few travelled home as I headed for The Swan pub to meet the legendary George Byrne. 

As I stumbled into the pub I was shortly greeted by an average height man wearing a plaid shirt, a pair of jeans and a long black coat, his appearance bewildered me as he was certainly not the way I had pictured him, I was pleasantly surprised. 

He explained that one of his favourite moments was being sent to the European Football Championships in 1988, George said:

 “My best memory of working with Hot Press is probably a non musical one. I had a brilliant holiday, had a football trip, an unbelievable 3 weeks and came home with money.” 

George has interviewed many people throughout his years working at Hot Press but there were two individuals that he in his eyes stand out from the rest. 

While normally portrayed as a bit of a grump, George found Morrissey to be hilarious and an absolutely fantastic interviewee:

“Morrissey was a great interview, this was around the time before REM had kinda gone really big, interviewing him lying down in the grass backstage at Croke Park when they were supporting U2 and that was a fantastic interview.” 

George told me that he was the only one out of the whole Hot Press team to get an interview with both Morrissey and Johnny Marr which he still takes great pride in to this day. 

It was a big step in George’s career to interview Johnny Marr and Morrissey as the two were the driving force of the band and although the other members were important, Marr and Morrissey made The Smiths what they are today.   

His favourite moment of all time when working at Hot Press was when he interviewed Grant McLennan from The Go-Betweeners who were playing a gig for free in Trinity College and George said:

“McLennan said can you bring me on a pub crawl involving literary pubs that feature Irish Literature so I said great let’s go then and it was fantastic, that was my favourite day.” 

When speaking with George I asked him the reason behind why he left Hot Press, “Hot Press was the best schoolboy club in town, it was the home farm for Irish music journalists, it gave people breaks. It was a finishing school for people who never wanted to be finished.” H

ot Press was not only where George Byrne made a name for himself it was also where famous comedy writer and actor Arthur Matthews started his career alongside many others such as famous television comedy writer Graham Linehan. 

He knows, like many people that newspapers and print media in particular might not be around in years to come seeing as how we have access to whatever we want with the touch of a button as everything is online and the sad fact is that as a result of this people are starting to become unsocial. 

When speaking about the move from print to digital and how this is affecting journalism George said:

“In the last couple of years I’ve noticed that you would see three out of ten people reading the paper, now you’re lucky if you even see one it’s all just tap tap tap, it’s all online,” he explained.

“People tend to only log onto or engage in stuff that they know that they are already going to agree or disagree with, it’s instant reaction and instant reaction is a very dangerous thing. People just read what they want to read now that everything is online.” 

It has gotten to a point where people no longer appreciate the time and the effort that goes into the makings of a newspaper, that when someone would sell a single or an album they would receive a lot of money for it but now you’re lucky if you can even sell an album for 100 euro on ITunes. 

When the worlds of print and music went digital everything changed. 

All of you sudden you could download music some for free and some for a certain price, you could look up your favourite newspaper or magazine and read it online without having to go out buy it in the shop. 

When print and music went digital there was a downfall for music and video stores such as Extra Vision and Crowley’s Music Centre in Cork, once everything was online there was no longer a want or a need to buy CD’s and DVD’s. 

Having worked for both the Herald and Hot Press, which was better?

“I had a great time at Hot Press I basically learned my trade and then I moved onto the majors with The Independent and then The Herald.

“I did enjoy Hot Press enormously and it’s a different environment it’s like playing schoolboy football to playing in the Premier League I had a wonderful time in Hot Press and they gave me my break.” 

So although George may prefer The Herald to Hot Press he is truly grateful for everything they have done for him especially for giving him his break just like they did with many other people.