You’re known for avoiding the Hollywood spotlight in favor of the peace and quiet of your home in Dublin. Was that attitude instilled in you, or did you just not like the way celebrity felt when you first experienced it?
The concept of Hollywood has always been strange to me. I’ve never lived in Los Angeles. It’s always been, you go to work, and then you come home, and home life is just this normality. And when I’m not working I have very little to do with “the industry.” They’re two separate entities for me. It’s always been that way.
You went to law school before you got into acting. What inspired that choice, and what drove you away?
I’m the eldest of four kids, and we come from a long line of pedagogues, so the academic route was strongly encouraged. At the time, I thought it could be interesting. There were hardly any lectures, so you could go away and do a lot of work by yourself. But I realized very quickly that it’s not a creative world at all. Law is all about precedent, so you’re always looking backward, regurgitating cases. It was just the wrong choice for me, but making a misstep like that can actually be more revelatory than anything, because you very quickly realize what you don’t like.
Is it true that as a teenager you played in a Frank Zappa–inspired band, the Sons of Mr. Green Genes?
Yeah. My brothers and I really liked him. We saw some concert he did on the BBC late at night; we had never heard of him before. The process of discovery was very slow in the pre-internet days, but you felt as though you were unearthing gold when you discovered those records. So yeah, he appealed to us in many ways: his sense of humor, how cynical he was about everything. Compared with hardcore aficionados I’m probably very fair-weather. He made something like 150 albums, and some of them I find unnecessarily dense, but there are 10 or 12 that, at that time, blew our minds.
Do you still get together with your brothers and jam?
No one really has time for that, but at weddings or family gatherings or boys’ weekends, the instruments come out. There will always be some drunken jams.
Your show Peaky Blinders is returning to Netflix, and several more big-name musicians have done covers of the theme song, “Red Right Hand,” including Iggy Pop and Laura Marling. If you could pick any artist, living or dead, to cover the song, who would it be?
I’m a huge music nerd, so it still really tickles me that somewhere in the world these musicians have actually had to sit down and watch the show. It’s humbling. But it would be pretty extraordinary to hear Jeff Buckley do a version of the song. No one has had a voice like his since or before, so that would be kind of magical.