Religion in Rock

Source: Q Magazine
Contributor: Ingrid Knetsch
Copyright: (c) Q magazine 1998

Religion in Rock – Shane MacGowan, Lapsed Catholic turned Judao-Taoist perma-swigger fingers the spiritual dilemma at the heart of his art.

“I am a Religious Writer,” says Shane Macgowan fervently. The subject engrosses him. Even his interest in the long Martini at his elbow will be on hold for the next hour as he sets out his personal Theology. “I believe the Holy Ghost – or God or the Tao or whatever- is in everything and we`re all part of it. Me, you, even the twats over there are God.”

Brought up a “Roman, no, an Irish Catholic” in Tipperary, then London, he imbibed religion via the “gentle indoctrination” of a family that rewarded his studies with bottles of stout.

However, when he was 14, he learned that the church had inflicted an appalling doctrinaire cruelty on his mother and his faith converted to the anger which still breaks through in “piss takes” like christening his band The Popes and leading off their first album with a song called “Church of the Holy Spook”.

“She explained that she had been denied the sacraments-communion &confession- because she had to use the pill. The doctor had told her, if she got pregnant again, her the baby would die. For 20 years, until the menopause came, the priest (in London) made her stand at the back during mass like a leper.

“Eventually she had a breakdown. Then I had a breakdown. But when I was 16 I got into acid and returned to my faith. The first time I took it this great warmth came all over me. Like, you`re not alone. I`m not encouraging anyone to take it, it`s just my experience.

“So now I believe in Jesus and I`m a bit of reincarnation man too. I want to go to the astral plane with all the people I love-and all the people I hate so I can kick their heads in -and play music and hang around in bars until eternity. No human body to feel pain, no anxieties and fears and broken hearts”.

How do your religious feelings relate to your music?

“They`re inseparable. Music makes you more God-like. Music is my God in a way. I go with the flow. I`m not preaching any kind of `answer`. I`ve had a fair amount of Heaven on Earth, a fair amount of Hell. If I can just minimise my suffering and maximise my joy… And other peoples. I want to stay close to God and close to everything I love- drugs and booze and casual violence and my girlfriend and my parents and Ireland the things that make being human worthwhile.”