Rónán Hession is an Irish writer based in Dublin. His debut novel Leonard and Hungry Paul is being published by Bluemoose Books in March 2019 and has been selected for the BBC Radio 2 Book Club. As Mumblin’ Deaf Ro, he has released three albums of storytelling songs. His third album Dictionary Crimes was nominated for the Choice Music Prize for Irish album of the year.
The Momus Questionnaire was created by musician Nick Currie, and is designed to identify the aspects of the subject’s personality which give them a positive self-image, or ‘subcultural capital’.
Have you rebelled against someone else’s dreary expectations of your life, and
become something more unexpected?
I have had a creative life for 25 years, first in music and now in writing. I also have a pretty responsible day job. People from those two separate worlds are consistently surprised to discover that I have a life in the other. It’s not in my nature to rebel against other people’s perceptions. Aside from the fact that it’s outside my control, I think it’s important as an artist to get comfortable with your inalienable right to disappoint people.
What in your life can you point to and say, like Frankie, ‘I Did It My Way’?
I think that there are two types of artist: those who enter you world, and those that insist that you enter theirs. I identify with the latter camp and, in the nicest way possible, I insist that the relationship with my readers is on my terms. Part of that is winning readers’ trust that you will make the right choices.
What creative achievements are you most proud of?
My third album Dictionary Crimes was nominated for the Choice Music Prize for Irish album of the year (the Irish equivalent of the Mercury Music Prize). It had taken me almost twenty years to get that level of recognition and I feel very proud of it.
If there was one event in your life which really shaped you, made you the person you are today, what would it be?
My father died when I was seven, which left my mother as a widow in her mid-forties with eight children between the ages of five and nineteen. She had been a housewife and had to go out to work nights as a hospital cleaner to support the family. It shaped my life for thirty years afterwards, but a few years ago I let all that go and BOOM my perspective on life opened right up.
If you had to make a song or rap boasting about your irresistible charm and sexiness, how would you describe yourself?
I have two kids so I think that speaks for itself.
Have you ever made material sacrifices because of your integrity?
Integrity is unconditional, so it has to be there all the time. I have a wise friend and she
always says you don’t get bonus points for doing the right thing: you’re supposed to do the right thing. In that sense whatever you give up is not a sacrifice.
Describe a public personality who exemplifies everything you’d like to be yourself,
then another public personality who incarnates everything you’d least like to be.
Former Watford manager Graham Taylor personified values and traits that I admire: hard work, constancy, loyalty, generosity and a human patience with others. At most I can pull off maybe two of those at any given time.
I don’t have much time for public personalities who focus on how others should change.
If you were an Egyptian Pharaoh and had to be buried with a few key objects to take to the next world, what would they be?
I have quite modest tastes so I would just bring the entire internet.
Do you have a favourite joke, quotation or proverb?
There’s an old Zen saying that if you want to control sheep, put them in a big field. I understand that to mean that the best way to avoid conflict is to allow some latitude in your relationships.
What’s your favourite portrait (it can be a song, a painting, a film, anything)?
I think the Mary Cassatt portraits of mothers with their children are especially beautiful.