Sheffield native Richard Hawley recently performed a one-off show with the BBC Philharmonic in his home town. Antoine de Caunes is best known in the UK as the host of late night staple Eurotrash, yet in his native France he is highly regarded for his involvement in film and music.
On the surface, Richard Hawley and Antoine de Caunes couldn’t be further apart. Yet it seems that, once again, surface impressions can be misleading. The pair are close friends, following a chance meeting in Paris after de Caunes attended one of Hawley’s shows. The pair sit down together for Clash, and chat about songwriting, the Olympics and Henderson’s Relish.
Richard: I’ve not seen you since the concert in Paris…things were slightly weird then because I’d broken my leg.
Antoine: I remember perfectly well, are you feeling any better?
Richard: Yeah, the cast is off now so things are getting better.
Antoine: You should keep the wheelchair for concerts!
Richard: My friend Guy from Elbow said, ‘Oh, you should keep that, it’s a brilliant prop!’ We played at the Latitude festival and Guy actually wheeled me on. I don’t know if you’re familiar with this but we did look very similar to two guys from Little Britain.
Antoine: Can you tell me about any new good comedy series in England?
Richard: At the moment I’m writing a lot and I kind of go into an enforced media blackout. I don’t watch TV, listen to radio, or read newspapers or anything. All I do is just walk the dog and it works like a dream. So I’ve not watched TV for quite a while.
Antoine: So ‘walking the dog’ is like an expression...?
Richard: I actually walk my dog to write songs. It frees up the creative side of your head, let’s just say that.
Antoine: By the way, what are you working on at the moment?
Richard: Just writing songs! I’ve been asked to do quite a few films and TV, which is actually something I wanted to ask you about because you did quite a few things for Manga cartoons.
Antoine: Oh yeah, a long time ago.
Richard: I just wanted to know, did you find it difficult to write for cartoons?
Antoine: It was a title song, so it was like working for a regular song, but actually I had a lot of fun doing it because I worked with musicians that were special I think, in these kind of exercise. It was very funny because, well, you know what writing songs is about, but when you write for cartoons it has to be understood by kids. So you have to go back to the very basics and try not to be stupid. But I don’t have a lot of experience. I’ve been doing some dubbing for voiceovers, which is a great thing to act because you have to over-act from the very start to the very end.
Richard: Well, that’s really good advice because I’ve been asked to do some voiceovers.
Antoine: Why not just give it a try?
Richard: Well, the older I get the less I say no, in terms of things that you can and can’t do. I think, ‘Well, just fuck it, just see if it works’, you know? Doing voice overs for cartoons might be quite a laugh.
Antoine: Did you have a look a the Olympics ceremony?
Richard: It’s an odd thing because I want to be really cynical but I couldn’t help being moved by it. I’m sure that it was very surreal for a lot of people from other countries but the fact [Danny Boyle] chose to celebrate the eccentrics of British life was great. He didn’t tow the government line and he pissed the Tories off which will always make me happy - I’m always happy if they’re unhappy because I seriously don’t like their ideals. What did you think of it?
Antoine: I loved it, it had everything I loved about Britain - it was eccentric. At the same time, I’m not a big Olympics watcher and I don’t care much about sport in general. But it’s great you can do such a big ceremony without being pompous.
Richard: Yeah, that’s what I liked about it, the fact that it was more about the colloquial. The fact that in there, there were a lot of soldiers from the First World War: a great sadness that all nations in Europe experienced. And also you had Mr Bean, using comedy - which is something that Britain is really good at. A lot of the things that he chose to highlight were actually things that this government is withdrawing funds from or even trying to destroy. I thought it was great, I’ve gotta say. I’m glad you liked it too.
Antoine: I loved it, everyone loved it around me. Could I ask you for a favour?
Richard: What’s that?
Antoine: You know there’s this thing called Henderson’s Relish?
Richard: (Laughs) Yeah, it’s fantastic stuff, it puts hairs on your chest.
Antoine: It’s supposed to be but I’ve never tried it. If you come around here will you bring a bottle for me?
Richard: Oh yeah, certainly!
But wait - that’s not all. As a special bonus to Clash readers, Richard Hawley is allowing one of you to win a prized guitar. Fancy your chances? Simply head to www.clashmusic.com/win-richard-hawleys-guitar
Interview: Robin Murray