by: Bob Guccione Jr.
Interview Sinéad O’Connor on Child Abuse, September 1991
Interview by Bob Guccione Jr. Translated from Dutch from the Belgian magazine Humo, September 1991
A few days before the award ceremony of the Grammies last February, in the middle of the bombing of Bagdad, Sinéad O’Connor dropped a few bombs by herself: she boycotted the Grammies out of protest against the Gulf War and she would quit making music. The ridiculous idea that someone would care about that, is exactly what these statements made so important. The conviction of Sinéad that this was an important reaction to the war and the apathy of the music industry, MADE her important. They were reported all over the world – and discussed.
Sinéad is not just important for the sales of her records; the raw, spontaneous honesty of her rebellion makes her important. She’s a mouthpiece because she speaks.
Last year in August, Sinéad caused a huge incident by refusing the American anthem to play before her concert would start. The massive press jumped up ready to lynch her. In all that anger, she argued that they hadn’t understood her well and she gave a careful stated press release to try explaining her points of view. In reality not a single statement had made a difference with the war-mongering crowd. Finally America could give itself amnesty for Vietnam and no bald Irish woman of 23 could come in between.
Sinéad didn’t show remorse and retreated in London, where she lives and where she attended acting school. She says she will play Jeanne D’Arc in an upcoming movie. In July 1991 she released My Special Child, a single with 4 songs, and she donated the proceeds to the Red Cross help program for the Kurds.
We talked with her in the office of her manager in West London, in a terribly warm and stuffy meeting room, of which the windows had to stay closed because otherwise too much noise from traffic would come in. She expected the interview to last exactly 3 cigarettes and which she neatly had lined up, like pencils, on the table. Afterwards it turned out to last 9 cigarettes.
When we were done, I played a little with her 4-year-old son Jake, while she was going make a few phone calls to people. He was kicking me constantly – he enjoyed that. So I grabbed his ankles and held him over my shoulders upside down -I enjoyed that. ‘Yuck, you smell dirty!’, he yelled. ‘You have quite some guts, for someone hanging upside down in the air’, I told him. And then I realized that it’s an excellent description of Sinéad.
Why did you want to make the song My Special Child?
Sinéad O’Connor: I wrote the song from my own experience. I wanted to release it and use the profit to make people aware about child abuse. Then the situation came with those Kurds and that seemed really urgent, so I thought I had to do that first. The song itself is about my experiences, when I had an abortion last year, how I felt and how I handled it.
Why did you want an abortion?
SINÉAD: Actually I didn’t want an abortion. I had become happily pregnant and was crazy about the father of the baby. But it didn’t go well between us. We argued a lot. I was on tour and was constantly nauseous. I didn’t know what to do and he wasn’t really interested in the baby. So I had to decide myself if I would keep the baby or not, because I understood that the father wouldn’t be present a lot. I decided it would be better to not have the child, that I rather have a child later when there’s a father who would feel committed. I had the feeling I couldn’t handle it alone.
Was that hard for you?
SINÉAD: Yes, because I was very happy with my pregnancy. Before that I had received a miscarriage three times and I was really worried if it would go right this time. Well, it looked like it was going to be all right. That’s why I was so desperate. It wasn’t a decision I had made light-heartedly – no one does. Only after a year I was over it, but it was the right decision. I’m convinced that if a child is supposed to be born, it needs to be born; it doesn’t matter if you had a miscarriage or an abortion. I’m pro-choice. I don’t want to demonstrate for or against abortion, but I would like to take thorough action for the right of women to decide themselves what’s happening with and inside their bodies. No one has the right to tell another what he has to think or believe. Especially not the Catholic Church, if you look at the number of murders and plundering it has committed.
Has the fact that you were raised Catholic influenced you a lot?
SINÉAD: That’s never been very important in my life. I believed in God and the Holy Virgin Maria and the Immaculate Conception and I love all those things. So I kept from the Catholic faith what I liked, the image of Maria and all those kind of stories. But I didn’t feel hyped by it, I didn’t take it that serious. What I liked and what appealed to me, I picked up.
Do you believe in Heaven and Hell?
SINÉAD: No, I don’t believe in a heaven or hell. I really don’t believe one should burn. I don’t believe it’s good to teach children that God is someone who punishes them when they don’t behave well, that God isn’t someone who understands everything. That’s child abuse.
Do you believe in Heaven?
SINÉAD: I believe in different stages of a spiritual consciousness and Christ is someone who has reached the highest level. The highest level of spiritual consciousness is closest to heaven. But I don’t believe in heaven and hell as they are portrayed.
When you grew up there was a lot of pain around you. Did you believe God had abandoned you?
SINÉAD: No, I believed very strongly in God. I didn’t believe I was being punished or that God had abandoned me. I kept believing and prayed a lot and took a lot of comfort from God’s mother.
Were you lonely as a child?
SINÉAD: Yes, I believe so, but I don’t think I was aware of that. I found it very difficult to talk with people. I was sitting like this (she bends forward) in the classroom; that’s why I have such a bad posture. I talked with no one and didn’t hang out with anyone. I didn’t know how to. Even a year ago I couldn’t watch anyone in the eyes when I talked with him or her.
Why were you so shy? And how did you overcome it?
SINÉAD: I forced myself to get over it, but I haven’t completely yet. But I forced myself because I didn’t function well and I couldn’t continue like that. Why I have become like that is because of the abuses and the constant lack of help and understanding. No one from outside my home family helped me.
How old were you then, about 8 years?
SINÉAD: Even smaller. When a child is abused, there are several ways to react to that. I retreated myself. I couldn’t communicate with anyone, I couldn’t learn. I could read and write but it didn’t interest me. I couldn’t get myself out of it.
Were you physically scared?
SINÉAD: Yes, I was always scared to death, constantly. I’m one of those millions of people who grew up in such circumstances, who were always scared to death.
What did you think about? Did you have fantasies, which you later verbalized into songs?
SINÉAD: Yes, I lived in an imaginary world. That’s how I survived.
My parents were divorced but no one got beaten, thank god. The family had very close ties. But at the age of 15, it was actually me who had to run it all.
SINÉAD: That’s abuse as well.
Yes, but a very mild form
SINÉAD: When a child cannot be himself, if a child cannot be a child, then that’s child abuse.
Don’t you think that happens in the real world anyway?
SINÉAD: It shouldn’t happen.
In a perfect world it wouldn’t happen.
SINÉAD: The world can become perfect. All problems in the world are according to me caused by child abuse. That is a lack of understanding for children, for whom they are and for the fact that they should be themselves, to form their own opinions and taking their own decisions. From the moment a child is born, especially in the USA, but I think everywhere but just that it is the most obvious in the USA, it gets conditioned. Everything that the child sees on TV, or learns at school, or hears on the radio, or reads in magazines or whatever it comes in contact with, is based on the fact that the child needs to be formed into a specific kind of person, someone who can’t think for himself, someone who don’t have an own opinion, someone who doesn’t have an own mind. From the moment a child goes to school it’s done with, he can’t be himself anymore. You are not allowed to ask questions, you are not allowed to have an own opinion. You just learn what’s in the history books, all lies, and you have to believe that.
Do you think the media are programming the people?
SINÉAD: I think they very cleverly use it to condition the people. The USA is by far the most obvious example, but it’s the same all over the world. I think television all together should be abolished. It’s totally destructive. There’s nothing positive of it, absolutely nothing.
And what about MTV?
SINÉAD: Should be abolished.
Why do you say that?
SINÉAD: Because TV has killed free thinking. And not just that, also art, poetry, theatre, all those things. TV conditions people; they sit in front of them all day and they believe everything that comes on. And just from a scientific point alone, it’s when an image changes constantly – and MTV is the worst example of that – the brain doesn’t learn to concentrate because you’re getting so used to it seeing things for a second, that what you see is not really getting through. It’s bad for people who want to study or learn something. The people have lost their spirituality. We don’t have contact anymore with who we are and what the meaning of life is and we don’t have contact anymore with God. The reason is that we have started invading countries and exterminated whole races and cultures, just to gain in a material way. Because we have lost our spirituality, we feel empty. There’s an enormous hole inside of us, I don’t think anyone can say that he doesn’t feel emptiness in his life, and that they try to fill it materialistically, because that’s the only thing they see on TV or in the paper. They see that if you make it materialistically far, you’re happy, so in order to fill that void, they try to reach that. They reach for drugs, alcohol, sex, cigarettes, all just to fill that void. They never see anything that tells them to fill that void another way. That when you are at peace with yourself, you also attract peaceful things. You learn from an early age that you have to work for a living. You have to do shit work, even though you hate it so much, just so you earn enough money to buy food and therefore you never discover who you are and what you are able of. The biggest problem is child abuse.
That’s an unbelievable radical statement
SINÉAD: If you look at the whole history, you’ll see that all serial killers are abused or misused as a kid. All of them, without one exception. All alcoholics are abused as a child. All drug addicts. All rapists. All sex offenders are abused as a child. Hitler was an abused child; Saddam Hussein as well.
How did you get over it? You’re enormously strong and brave.
SINÉAD: Courage means: the fear to continue. I’m still not completely over it. I’m still working on it, but I got over it. It was an endless cycle – it’s a cycle of abuse. A child gets abused, it never expressed itself because it doesn’t get encouraged to express himself. It gets encouraged to shut up. I realized it just went on. I also realized that I was quite much messed up and that I had to work hard on myself and that I had to seek help.
Did you have a therapist?
SINÉAD: No, I believe the most in the so-called 12-step groups, may that be Alcoholics Anonymous or Anonymous Addicts. There’s a group called Adult Children of Alcoholic/ Dysfunctional Families, and I went to that.
Did that help?
SINÉAD: Yes, absolutely. It helps you to learn that it’s not your fault that you’re so confused and that everything else isn’t your fault either. I’m always thinking of those people who are in college, who are the same age as I or younger, and I imagine there are many who have experienced abuse of whatever kind. And I know there will be a stage that you think you’re nothing more than a piece of shit – that’s the result; that you think you’re worthless, a piece of shit. Every time you look into the mirror, you see an ugly ape.
Do you also feel like that?
SINÉAD: Yes, I do.
But you’re incredibly beautiful
SINÉAD: I don’t see that myself.
But why not? I’m surely not the first man who’s saying that.
SINÉAD: It doesn’t matter what someone says. I could be standing on stage 7 nights a week and 5000 people can cheer me and tell me how wonderful I am, but for me that doesn’t make any difference, because I don’t love myself. I do now, but until that time I didn’t love myself. It doesn’t matter who tells you that you’re wonderful, if you don’t think that yourself and if your father and mother didn’t think so. You will never think that of yourself unless you work on yourself and learning that you’re worth while.
What do you advice people who have been abused?
SINÉAD: The first thing I would tell those people is that I have felt exactly like them as they are feeling now. In the first place you have to admit to yourself that it has affected you and that it is your full right to say that you have been abused and that it is unfair and bad. Many times I had the feeling, when I was talking about the abuse, that I was exaggerating tremendously, but that’s of course nonsense. You think you don’t have the right to such feelings, because they have told you that your whole life. So therefore you try to build another personality, so that everyone will love you. I would tell them: go to the 12-step groups or read the books by John Bradshaw and Alice Miller. They defend the child-adult syndrome, which means literally this: when a child experiences something very shocking or traumatic, it doesn’t allow itself to experience it consciously, it secludes itself from it. The brain turns itself off because it’s too shocking, so those kids only experience it in their subconscious. They don’t feel. The child can be afraid of it, but it doesn’t understand what it feels. And those feelings are piling up, more and more, the older you get. You have been standing still literally in your development from that point on. You’re 3 years old, but you walk around in a body of 55. The world is lead by adult children. It’s literally so that you live here (pointing at her chest) and that you’re so small (points out with her hands approximately 60 cm) and you are inside an adult body. When I was 21, I had temper fits, I behaved like a 3-year-old child. I had no idea of what I was doing. I looked at myself then and said: ‘What in god’s name are you doing?’, even at the moment when I had such outburst. Screaming and being confused and not being able to leave your bed, crying the entire day, just being so damned angry and being an ass to people. Then I couldn’t control myself. You are being controlled by the child inside of you. That is pulling all the ropes. And you have to make contact with it, to help it develop. It’s scared to death.
What were your individual experiences?
SINÉAD: I’ve experienced abuse of every kind you can image. My mother was very unhappy and used a lot of violence. She couldn’t handle life, of course because of her own experiences of her childhood. I’ve been beaten with all things with which you can beat a child. I didn’t get food, I was locked up for days in my room, without food and without clothes. I had to sleep in the garden at night. An entire summer I slept in my home’s garden.
How old were you then?
SINÉAD: Then I was about 12. But before that I already had to sleep in the garden with my brothers and my little sister and didn’t get food. I was also abused psychologically, because I was always told that I wasn’t all right, that I was a piece of shit, that it was my fault that my parents had separated. That I was filthy, that I was dirty, that I was crazy. I was mostly a piece of shit because I was a girl and because I never did anything right.
Were you the oldest?
SINÉAD: No, my brother was the oldest. I was beaten every day and so were the others. Very, very badly. My whole life I was always terrified. Just the sound of my mother’s footsteps on the stairs was enough to let us tremble of fear. We were neglected, we were beaten and we were psychologically and emotionally abused.
When did it stop?
SINÉAD: I was 13 when I left my mother. I do want to say that I have discussed this with my family and we have overcome it. And I love my father and mother very much. I’m not saying now: ‘Assholes’ or ‘poor me’ or something like that and I think it’s important to make that clear for my family. But also to other people – that such a thing is possible. I was always encouraged to steal and one of the ways to not be beaten was coming home with money or something, so my sister and I committed theft. We never went to bed before 2 am, we never made our homework. That’s why I don’t have any diplomas. We were always sick; we were always completely confused. So by the time I left, I didn’t know who the hell I was or what I did. I always had problems with the police because of the stealing. So when I started to live with my dad, I suddenly had all that freedom and I couldn’t handle that. So I was skipping school and started to steal again. Then I was sent to one of those institutions for girls with behavioural problems. You were re-educated there. But I was never re-educated and neither were the other girls. They were nice people, but no one ever took the time to talk with me and to prepare me for society. I was mainly being punished because of who I am and I was rejected for who I am. Because my parents had made me so and because society had made my parents so. It’s not enough that you take a child away from its parents. The parents themselves also need help. It’s not enough to take the children away or to lock them away. The laws need to be changed, so that children can really be helped. Many times the police visited our house because the neighbours heard us scream and then the police came in and they asked: ‘Is everything all right?’ and then we were shitting our pants, because we couldn’t say that everything was not okay, because what could they do? They would return and then we would be beaten into a pulp if we had told them that everything wasn’t all right, so we said: ‘Yes, everything is fine’. And then they left. The police cannot do anything. There should be more help from the government for women with children. Women lose themselves when they get children. Women shouldn’t get to hear that they need to stay home 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, because that’s just not good. A woman should be able to be herself and lead her own life. So the governments can help with that. When I grew up, I was always told how ugly I was, that I should be ashamed for my body and if you liked your body, you were a tramp, a piece of shit. It was never told to me that sex was something natural between two people who love and understood each other. The media taught me that sex was something you could have with anyone and that it was completely acceptable. That was also made clear by Rock and Roll.
Did that bother you when you heard that in Rock and Roll?
SINÉAD: It seemed as if sex was the only situation in which people could feel love. Only there, they can be intimate, so therefore they do it with everyone around them. But that doesn’t work. That’s just not the solution. We see that, so we try it, but if we see something else, we may try that.
Did the Church confuse you about sex?
SINÉAD: In my opinion the Church should just shut their mouth about sex for the following reasons. At first they never have sex themselves, or at least, they’re not supposed to have sex. The second reason is, that they do have sex. During the referendum on abortion, priests in Ireland were regularly fucking young girls and making them pregnant. I know many examples of that. I know a woman who has a relationship for 20 years with a priest. He always stayed priest, also after the referendum on abortion and the referendum on divorce, and so on. What would he have done if she got pregnant? I know another case of a priest who impregnated a young girl, sent her to London for an abortion, picked her up from the boat and was looking at his watch so he wouldn’t be too late for the mass at home. And this was during the referendum on abortion. They should keep their goddamn mouths shut, because they’re all screwing around. They may start a lawsuit against me, but it’s the damn truth. They should just shut their mouths.
What do you think of the way sex is being talked about in rap?
SINÉAD: That’s of course sexism, but if you start on black music, you also have to mention white music. There are examples everywhere of disgusting videos of abused women. What do you think of that ‘Cherrie Pie’ record with that video where that girl is being hosed down with a garden hose? What do they want to say with that? And what do you think of ‘Love in an Elevator’? What is that about? Do people have to understand from it that you can just have sex with a girl that you accidentally meet in an elevator?
It’s all about fantasy, black or white. Rock and Roll tries to be an entertaining fantasy.
SINÉAD: I don’t believe Rock and Roll is about entertainment.
Neither do I, but it is entertainment.
SINÉAD: It has become entirely entertainment.
It’s been always that way, right?
SINÉAD: No, that’s not true. Look at the 1960s. There was entertainment and there were other people, who had to say something, and everyone’s record was being played. Then people started to realize that those people were getting too much power and then the records by people who had to say something, weren’t played anymore. The people who provided entertainment, were shoved forward, but those are people who have nothing to say, about anything, but they write very nice tunes, that everyone likes. But the others are pushed aside. Our records are not being played anymore, we don’t win Grammies. We don’t win awards because we are good atâ€¦
Your records are being played.
SINÉAD: No, that’s not true. ‘Nothing Compared 2 U’ was played. But before that they had never played a record by me and from now one they most probably wouldn’t play a record by me.
I think so
SINÉAD: I don’t think so. It has nothing to do with the audience. Because the audience only knows what it gets to hear and if there’s something they don’t hear, they can of course not have an opinion about it.
Isn’t this more like ‘what came first, the chicken or the egg’? What’s being played on the radio and what’s shown on MTV is what the audience wants.
SINÉAD: It wants what it’s used to.
Do you think English and American society is apathetic and complacent?
SINÉAD: We are made that way. It’s been done so we don’t want anything anymore, we’re becoming a race that never asks questions anymore. They don’t have a clue of the evil that’s around, of what’s been manipulated and regulated. They don’t know that what they see, has to form them into a kind of person that don’t asks questions, one that will fight for America and then thinks that it’s damn good.
What’s your opinion on the Gulf War
SINÉAD: I found it despicable, because so many lies were being told. But about that war, the truth will surface one day. Do you really think America gives a damn what is happening to the people in Kurdistan? What about then with Panama?
Let’s stay a while with Kuwait. Actually the US has encouraged Iraq to invade Kuwait, that we know for a fact. But what I find disgusting is that we didn’t celebrate that we had liberated a people, no, we had celebrated that we had beaten someone.
SINÉAD: We are made that way. We don’t even mind when our sons die for those reasons. We think it’s a good deal. We don’t doubt it. We don’t say: ‘Why is my son in Kuwait?’ We say: ‘My son is in Kuwait, isn’t that great?’ That’s child abuse. The fact that they sell stickers of the Gulf War to young kids, to put in their albums, is disgusting. Very disgusting. If all money that’s being spent on weapons, would be spent on something constructive, if we would invest that in the earth, then there’s no reason why not everyone, to the last person on this planet, would have enough to eat. Every day 40,000 children die because of hunger. Of hunger. Imagine, that your child would die of hunger.. That’s happening to 40,000 women now. And it’s really not necessary.
When you refused to allow the American anthem before your concert, very few people have defended your point of view.
SINÉAD: Nobody stood up for me with that Grammy incident, and I’ll remember that. No one. Not a single asshole stood up for me, they are all shitty cowards. And I’m talking about the artists then.
I thought it was interesting that people like DJs, who usually are left-liberal, and are playing songs like ‘Ohio’ and ‘Give Peace a Chance’ on the anniversary of the Kent State Murders, were attacking you.
SINÉAD: That’s just ‘in’. South-Africa is ‘in’. Neil Young is ‘in’. That’s safe.
Why do you think that people wanted to throw you out of the country?
SINÉAD: For starters because I’m a girl. If I was a man, they would have never been so insulted. A woman with a shaved head, wearing Doc Martens shoes, who doesn’t do what is expected from women, who hasn’t finished her school, and didn’t become what they wanted her to become, and then has the guts to complain about the American anthem. They’ll tell everyone that I’m evil all the way.
When you look back to that incident, would you handle it differently?
SINÉAD: No, absolutely not. I’m proud of it. Until the day I die I’ll be proud of that and that Grammy stuff. Something like, put on your seatbelts, because I’m not done yet.
You rarely meet a person like that nowadays, Sinéad, someone who speaks out so clearly.
SINÉAD: We don’t have any spirituality anymore, that’s it. We don’t have the slightest idea why we are here. We have not a clue of – Jesus came to Earth to show that the truth is important enough to die for. Jesus chose to be crucified, a horrible death. He shit his pants. No one should tell me he wasn’t scared. He sweated blood. But he rather did that, then saying that what he was telling wasn’t true. And I believe that. I kept that from religion, that Jesus came here to show me that the truth is important enough to die for.
What will happen when your next album comes out and your record company say: Sinead, you have to apologize for that stuff with the anthem, because otherwise no one will play it.
SINÉAD: I couldn’t care less, if they will play my records on the radio or not, because what I do, I do for myself and my record company doesn’t understand that. They would throw in their own windows, so you wouldn’t think they will say something like that? They are not that stupid by the way. They surely know I’m not that unique. I just express what millions of people feel. I can bring those ideas forward. I do that for all abused children, for all women and for all people who are completely oppressed.
Is society really afraid for woman?
SINÉAD: Yes, and therefore they kept women under the thumb. The women who are being admired, are women with blond hair and fat lips, wearing red lipstick and short skirts, because that’s an accepted image of a woman.
SINÉAD: Because it’s safe. It’s not threatening, intimidating. I’m threatening and intimidating because I don’t conform to such things and I just say things what I think. Madonna is probably the biggest example for women in the USA. That’s a woman where people look up to, who they see as someone who puts an effort into the rights of women. A woman who has insulted me, who has said that I looked as if I was hit by a lawnmower and that I was just as sexy as a rolling-shutter. So that’s the woman to which America is looking up to, who supports the rights of women, someone who puts another woman down because she’s not sexy.
What’s the solution for women? I mean, I assume you’re not taking one of those radical-feminist viewsâ€¦
SINÉAD: No, I’m not a feminist or whatever. I’m just a humanist. I believe in people and I believe in God. And so I live my life. That’s all. I have an idea why I’m here on Earth and what will happen next.
What drives you? What motivates you?
SINÉAD: My belief in God.
Do you have the feeling that God manifests itself in Jake?
SINÉAD: Yes, I have that feeling.
When I met you for the first time, you seemed very shy. Today you certainly don’t come across as shy. Do you have the feeling, that you can change the setbacks in life, into energy?
SINÉAD: I don’t hold myself back by setbacks. And I know what’s true; I’ve seen examples of the truth and because of the fact that God exists. You can find examples everywhere. I know the truth is important enough to fight and die for. It’s worth it all. What Keith Richards said about his problems with the authorities and drugs, that’s the truth: ‘I don’t live by your petty little rules.’ That’s not necessary. And if there’s something that I want to show people, it is that they don’t have to either.
Do you find yourself ethical?
SINÉAD: Yes, I’m extremely ethical.
Do you find yourself a good person?
SINÉAD: Yes, I try to be a good person. I’m not a bad person. I do my best to be as good as possible. Or rather, I do my best to live according to God’s word. I think organized religion is like a crutch. It regulates everything. They tell you what to think, what to believe and who you have to be. I don’t believe in one Catholic Church. I believe in every church. I believe in Buddhism. I believe in Hinduism. I believe in every religion. I believe you can get something out of every religion. There’s however only one God. It’s just different interpretations and many different things you have to learn. You can’t exclude any religion. I used to lie scared to death under my bed, because I believed I was going to hell and burn there. It’s outrageous to tell a child that God sees everything and knows what you think and that you will burn in hell. That’s child abuse. It’s bad to teach children that God isn’t present in them. That God is larger than them. That God is outside of them. That’s a lie. That’s why children are so empty.
Which artists are, according to you, occupied with something else than their own success?
SINÉAD: I think the Hip hop movement cares about a number of things. It also has some negative aspects thoughâ€¦
Niggers With Attitude couldn’t care less
SINÉAD: N.W.A. are important because they come out for the truth. They speak about how life is for certain people. If you don’t like what N.W.A. is saying, then you have to find out why they are saying that. How come that adult men have that attitude towards women? Child abuse.
What do you think of Public Enemy?
SINÉAD: In my opinion Public Enemy has done a lot of good. That professor Griff is completely crazy of course. He’s completely mad. But other than that I think they’ve done a lot of good. In my opinion the Hip hop and reggae has done a lot of good. More than I’ve ever experienced.
I find that very interesting that you say that, because the rappers are constantly getting their asses kicked for being sexist.
SINÉAD: So why not Heavy Metal then?
Because they are predominately white, I think
SINÉAD: Exactly. White men are allowed to be sexy, but black men aren’t. As soon as us white women felt attractive towards black men, the problems started. As soon as we started to think: ‘Oh, what a nice people’, the problems started. They don’t want that we get children from black men. They don’t want us to understand the black man and the black race.
Isn’t it difficult to not get stuck in your own problems? How do you do that?
SINÉAD: I’m constantly asking myself questions. And I have my spiritual convictions. I believe it helps, when you don’t think yourself as being so great. Because God knows when I’m a dammed fool.
How do you handle your fame?
SINÉAD: You get used to that. I didn’t like it at all and there are sides to it I still don’t like, but it’s my destiny nevertheless.
Do you think the fact that you’re famous, isolates you?
SINÉAD: Do you mean that because of that I don’t know how it is for other people?
I mean, that you’re not being treated as ordinary people.
SINÉAD: But I am an ordinary person and I’m being treated the same way. I experience a lot of prejudice because of my appearance, by who I am, what I am and what I stand for. Just like everyone else.
That’s because people are afraid of you. You intimidate them.
SINÉAD: I don’t do that on purpose. They are afraid of me because I don’t conform to what they expect of me, because I have a shaved head, because I say what I think. But if they feel intimidated by that, then it’s not my problem. I’ve to fight against that, may I can’t lose myself in the struggle. That’s one thing fame has done for me, I have the possibility to really mean something. And I’m planning that.
Do you feel alone?
SINÉAD: No, no, not that. I felt isolated, I did. Because people know beforehand what kind of person you are.
Are you working with new music now?
Are you soon planning to?
SINÉAD: Not soon no.
When then? In a year?
SINÉAD: I’ve no idea. But right now I have nothing to say through music.
I think that people, at a certain level, enjoy your opposition.
SINÉAD: More than the media let you believe. Because I’ve never received an insulting letter from anyone. I receive hundreds, really hundreds of letters of people and they all support me.
How do you convince the other artists, that they will take such a powerful stand like you have?
SINÉAD: You can’t. You can only manage that with yourself. I’ve given up convincing other artists.
So you did try?
SINÉAD: I expected that people would put their money where their mouths were when that controversy at the Grammies took place. Bu now I’ve really given up. I just do what I want and they can all go to hell. Either they stand behind me or they don’t; but I don’t care anyway. If you look at the Hip hop scene, I think they are the only people who have fought for the truth one way or the other and been yelled at for it the most. It’s easy to yell at them because they are black.
They are also threatening and scary.
SINÉAD: Because they are black
Who are your heroes now?
SINÉAD: The black people are my heroes. Bob Marley is a big hero for me. I think that the African culture and the people who have fought for the preservation of African culture, are my heroes and my example. Also the Buddhists are an example for me.
Do you fall easily in love? Can you easily love someone?
SINÉAD: Oh yes. But it’s not easy for me to show my love. I also don’t feel very comfortable when someone verbally or physically expresses his love for me because I – of course uh, I don’t know, I’m very insecure and have little self-confidence.
Which part of child abuse is intentional according to you?
SINÉAD: It’s all unintentional. They’re all just adult children with their own children. It was all not intended.
Have you ever talked about this with your mother?
SINÉAD: No. Before I could talk about it with my mother, she had passed away for a long time, but I know that she knows how I think about it. I did talk a lot about it with my father. It was all not intended.
Did he know what had happened?
SINÉAD: Yes, he knew it. He really tried his best, he did what he could do, what was in his power. It was all not intended.
Have you never hoped, deep in your heart, that he would drop by and take you all with him?
SINÉAD: He did that, he had done that. But we also couldn’t live without mother.
You rather wanted to go back?
SINÉAD: Yes, look, instead of letting kids go from one parent to the other, you have to help the parent. It’s him or her who needs help. You know, it doesn’t happen all on purpose, that’s the sad thing about it all. They are wasted lives, very sad.
Would you wish you could talk with your mother now? Do you wish she was right here?
SINÉAD: No, because it’s better for her and for me that she’s dead. Now that she’s dead, I have a better relationship with her than when she was still alive. I remember that I talked about it before she passed away and I said: ‘Why did you hit us?’ And she said: ‘I’ve never done you anything.’ She believed that she had done nothing, because it was too shocking for her to deal with it. Now I’m very sure that she was very sad when she had hit us, because my father has told me that afterwards she was always completely upset. I think that she – and my father thinks the same by the way – was destined to be unhappy. She had in her life all possibilities to be happy, all circumstances were there for her. Just like with me. But she couldn’t be happy. She couldn’t express herself, she couldn’t give love. She had to be abused as a child, one way or another. She really couldn’t show love. She just couldn’t handle it. I love my mother. I’ve always loved my mother. I’ve always understood that she didn’t mean it that way, even when she hit me. I’ve never hated her; I’ve never had a grudge against her. I’ve always understood that she suffered herself and that she didn’t know what she was doing.
Do you notice the fact that you’re famous causes a problem for your family?
SINÉAD: Absolutely. It has been one big source of misery. Because there was so much crap in our family, it was easy to blame me for all that crap, because I was famous and really, my family couldn’t handle that. Because they saw me more often in papers than in real life, they thought I only worried about myself and that I couldn’t care less about the rest. In the beginning of this year I just had a nervous breakdown, because I had the feeling I was behind a wall from which I could look outside but no one could look inside: nobody saw me and around me were all those people who said I didn’t care about anyone else. Nobody talks with you about the weather or the price of eggs, dammit. I wanted to kill myself, because there was such a big gap between me and the family. Numerous times I’ve seriously considered committing suicide. Because I just didn’t see a solution. But now everything is all right and we’ve talked it through, because we love each other and love always conquers. Fortunately.
Why would someone say that you only care about yourself?
SINÉAD: Because I managed to escape. I’ve escaped, that’s all. I’ve taken care that my dreams have come true. Mine have come true, but those from the others not at all. I remind the people constantly that they are suffering. And when I talk in public about these matters, they don’t like that. Because they rather want to wipe these things under the rug.
Which of your dreams haven’t come true?
SINÉAD: None of my dreams have come true: it’s an ongoing process.
And your dreams about men?
SINÉAD: I’m not dreaming about a man. I dream about the things of which I learned to dream as a child. That’s all bullshit. That’s child abuse as well. You are raised with the idea that a woman isn’t complete if she hasn’t found a man, and so on, and so on, and not having any kids. That’s bullshit.
Don’t you agree with that? I’m not feeling complete without a woman
SINÉAD: No, I want to be complete myself. Also with a man you can be incomplete. I strive to be a complete person. If that means that a man belongs to me, fine, but I’m not complete because he belongs to me. Of course I desire after a man who falls desperately in love with me. If that happens, it happens and I cannot do anything about that. In the mean time I’m dreaming that I discover myself. Because I’m bald, people assume I’m angry. And because I express myself rather direct and have a face of which you cannot always read what I feel or think or what I say – I just always look angry, real angry. But I’m not. I’m Irish. I invite anyone from the USA to come to Ireland and study Irish women. I’m a typical Irish woman, especially a typical Irish woman from Dublin. We are tough women. At the same time we are soft, but we are tough and don’t mess around. And we curse a lot.
Suppose you will meet a man and you would fall in love with him and he with you and he would say: ‘I love you and I’m crazy about you, but I saw a picture of you with a wig and you looked fantastic. Don’t you want to let it grow?
SINÉAD: Then I would realize that he doesn’t love me at all.
But maybe he would really love you. It’s not a trick question; I don’t try to trick you.
SINÉAD: Oh, no, no. I just would think: ‘Get the hell out of here.’ Look, if I want to grow my hair – which I want – then that’s something I want and not because someone else would like that.
Is that kind of intimidation something you have thought out yourself?
Are you sure?
SINÉAD: Absolutely. I haven’t consciously made up such thoughts. That’s because of…
You’ve thought it subconsciously?
SINÉAD: No! It’s because I enjoy wearing certain clothes. It’s because I like to have my hair a certain way and that I feel the same as all other people. Everyone judges a book by its cover. The have always scolded me about my appearance.
Is that the reason why you shaved your head?
SINÉAD: No. I just refuse to become someone else because of that.
Do you want to wake up every morning with the feeling you have to defend your views in life?
SINÉAD: I have to do that every day, yes. In certain situations.
Don’t you ever want to get away for a long weekend, and to leave behind all those things Sinead O’Connor has to deal with every day, just to not care about it for a while?
SINÉAD: What I’m dealing with, is what God instructs me. And I gladly do that.
You are really sincerely convinced by that, right?
SINÉAD: Yes, I believe that God doesn’t load someone with more than he can handle.
Is the fact that you keep shaving your head – clearly a conscious choice – is that, perhaps even subconsciously, because you’re a victim as well? Was a victim.
SINÉAD: First, the fact that I had shaved my head was never conscious. I mean, I didn’t try to say anything with that. I just got bored once, and I wanted to shave my head, that’s all. It was already shaved at the sides and I didn’t want to go further then. That stuff with hair is in my opinion a huge subconscious standpoint, yes. Yes, I suppose that’s it’s a subconscious rejection of conforming oneself, and from family and everything that you can understand in that word ‘family’. I’m letting it grow at the moment.
Do you have the feeling that you’re a victim?
SINÉAD: Yes, me and millions of other people with me, we are the victim of a society that strives after material success to fill the void in them. And the result is, that people are immensely suffering and that leads to child abuse. And I’m a victim of that, yes. I’m a victim of a society that doesn’t believe in self-expression or fights for the truth.
What’s the future of Rock And Roll, you think?
SINÉAD: That’s very difficult. At first, you can’t see music separately from politics, because music has always been the voice of the people. If you like it or not, it’s always been that way. (Sighs) God, I believe that the music industry nowadays is a micro cosmos of the world in its whole. And you can see that the most important goals in the music industry are materialistic and the most important goals of the artists are: fame, being famous, money. That’s what it’s about and they stuff their videos full of it and tell everyone else. I wish that would change.
Hip hop is doing that more than anything else
SINÉAD: I don’t believe they’re doing it more than the others. They’re doing it as much as the videos of Heavy Metal.
In Hip hop they are more aware of status symbols
SINÉAD: Yes, because the black people are the poorest people in the USA. And they don’t want to live in poverty and they are convinced it’s about material success, that it’s about that. And that is just not true. And it’s outrageous when artists keep promoting that conviction.
Do you believe Rock and Roll will continue to exist in the future?
SINÉAD: It’s in decline. You turn on the radio, to any station in the world, and the only thing you hear is crap. You never hear a record. You hear entertainment and a part of that is very good; but you’ll never hear conscious music. You’ll never hear something that inspires you, by which you start to think, by which you start to fantasize. You’ll never hear that. It’s in decline.
One last question: What’s the best Irish joke you ever heard?
SINÉAD: Why are Irish jokes so stupid?
I don’t know, why?
SINÉAD: Because the English are supposed to understand them.
Bob Guccione Jr.