MisterMurphy’s Music: The Sounds That Inspire Cillian Murphy
A short piece that accompanied the main cover feature in Clash’s second film issue. Photo by Christian Oita.
Before becoming an actor, Cillian Murphy was the vocalist and guitarist in The Sons of Mr. Greengenes, a band named after a song from Frank Zappa’s 1969 album Hot Rats. They turned down a recording deal with Acid Jazz Records and, shortly after, acting became his primary focus. “I still mess around a little bit with music, but not as much as I should,” he explains, sounding genuinely disappointed. He has, however, tried his hand at DJing. “That’s a real sign of a frustrated musician when you get up and force your music on other people. I’ve done it a few times and I’ve loved it. I don’t consider myself to be technically great but it’s a great buzz when people start dancing to your music. That you’re forcing on them!”
On the journey to this interview, Murphy listened to The War On Drugs’s album Slave Ambient and is also a fan of their debut album Wagonwheel Blues. Dance music is also prevalent, he explains, offering SBTRKT as an example. Other long-term favourites include The Beatles (“they’ve always been the foundation for me musically and I’ll never ever tire of listening to them”) and Radiohead (“they’re something else live”).
Tellingly, music is key in his mind when recalling his past film work. The most famous scene of 28 Days Later sees Murphy walking through a desolate London and across Westminster Bridge. “I remember Danny Boyle played that scene for me before we went and shot the rest of the movie with that Godspeed! You Black Emperor tune over it. You could tell then that it was something special.” He also adds that he played Elliott Smith’s Figure 8 album “over and over again” while filming Disco Pigs.
Recently seen in the video for I Break Horses’s Winter Beats, Murphy also starred in The Water, a mysteriously plotted short film directed by Broken Social Scene’s Kevin Drew to accompany Feist’s song of the same name. “Him and myself have a pretty good creative understanding and I think something might come from that in the future, who knows? He’s a brilliant man, not only as a songwriter and a musician but the whole philosophy behind Broken Social Scene. That community collaborative thing is something that I really admire.”
Professing to also being a fan of jazz and blues. Murphy has no hesitation in picking a genre that he can’t get into: opera. “I have a vision of myself when I’m fifty-three, drinking port and listening to Wagner going, ‘Ah, I appreciate this now.’ I need someone to educate me, I suppose, but I don’t have the patience for it yet. But I do think that happens as you get older.”
One other musical ambition Murphy has is to finally go to Glastonbury. “I’d love to go to it. Maybe I’ll try and get out there this summer. It’s a sign of middle-age when you start to watch festivals on the telly, isn’t it?” he beams with appreciation of his own joke. “Sky Plussing it, it’s terrible!”