10 questions for The Cranberries' Noel Hogan

He’s the guitarist with Irish songsters The Cranberries, but how will Noel Hogan handle the 10 fruity questions we ask everyone?

1 What was your first guitar and when did you get it?

“My first guitar was a Fender Telecaster, around 1990 or ’91, maybe. Before that, it was an array of various borrowed guitars, and I had a very dodgy acoustic that didn’t even have a name on it - that’s what I learned on. I started playing when I was 18, and I remember the first song I ever learned was House Of The Rising Sun, because it was only about three chords. I think a lot of guitarists probably learned that as their first song!”

2 Suppose the building’s burning down; what one guitar from your collection would you save?

I still have my first Telecaster, and it’s not that I use it the most, it just has the most sentimental value to me

“It would probably be that Telecaster. I still have it, and it’s not that I use it the most, it just has the most sentimental value to me. I played that guitar on the first two albums that The Cranberries released, and I wrote a lot of those songs on that guitar.”

3 What plectrums do you use?

“Jim Dunlop .73mm. I’ve been using those for a good 20 years. I sometimes play a bit of fingerstyle; I go between both during shows - it depends on the song.”

4 When did you last practise and what did you play?

“I practised about a week ago and it was probably one of The Cranberries’ songs, because of the new album. We’ve reworked the tracks into an acoustic, unplugged kind of thing with string arrangements in them. I’ve had to go back and relearn some of the structures and chord arrangements because that’s what we’re touring in the next few weeks.”

5 When was the last time you changed your own strings?

“Embarrassingly, probably a few years ago, I can’t remember! It sounds awful, but I would reckon six or seven years ago. I have a Gibson J-200 Montana - it was an anniversary edition - that I bought in Charing Cross Road when my daughter was born.

“I was based in London at the time, and I had no guitars with me, saw this in the shop window and basically fell in love with it. It’s been my main acoustic for the last 18 years. I use 0.10s on it - very light.”

6 If you could change one thing about a recording you’ve been on, what would it be and why?

“When I listen back to some of the earlier Cranberries stuff, we play the stuff a lot harder and heavier-sounding live, and I’ve got used to that in the last 20 years since we recorded it - especially the first two albums. I think sometimes that I should have played that heavier. 

Even though you think you’re practising enough, I don’t think you ever can

“There’s one song called Ridiculous Thoughts that we play live, and it’s really heavy. When I listen to the recording, it’s kind of twee, almost. But I think it’s just the case that my ears have adjusted over the years to this way of playing it.”

7 What are you doing five minutes before you go on stage and five minutes afterwards?

“Usually, I find a corner on my own and just kind of stand there and get into the right headspace. I still get quite nervous before a show, so I’m not great for talking to people. Five minutes afterwards, usually we’re all in the dressing room swapping stories about the show, and just discussing what went right and what went wrong - but generally on a high because of it.”

8 What’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to you on stage?

“We have a song called Empty that we used to use as the first song for an encore. We’d walk on and there’d be one spotlight on me and I’d start the first 16 bars on my own. One night, I completely forgot the chords - just blank. So I’m standing on stage, in front of I don’t know how many thousand people, just looking at the guitar! This is a good 10 or 15 years ago, but you start to panic and sweat and think, ‘Oh God, I’ve forgotten this!’ I still remember it so clearly and it was probably one of the worst moments ever.”

9 What song would you choose to play on acoustic guitar around a campfire?

“There’s a Smiths song called There Is A Light That Never Goes Out. If anyone ever asks me to play something, that’s the one I usually end up playing. It’s one I learned a long time ago - and it’s one of my favourite songs ever.”

10 What advice would you give your younger self about the guitar if you had the chance?

“Even though you think you’re practising enough, I don’t think you ever can. I kinda rushed my way through learning guitar, worrying more about chords and what sounded nice in a progression together, so it would have been nice to spend a bit more time just practising.”

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