When I left school I worked for a bottling company in Cork. I was a filler operator, putting lemonade into bottles. It was soul destroying: no heating in the factory, raw concrete, you'd go in there at 6.00am on a winter's morning and freeze to death. From there I went on to do the same thing in Canada Dry, which was only a minor improvement. I stood in front of this machine that had 180 filling heads on it, the one in the other place had eight. I went to the interview and I said, "I'm a filler operator" and they said, "how much experience do you have? Oh, I've been doing it for two years. Right, you've got the job." I didn't lie in the interview but I was out of my depth there.
I was nearly shot one morning when the police were looking for Dessie O'Hare. I cycled through this checkpoint and they stopped me and questioned me. When I went into the factory I discovered I'd forgotten my keys to get in so I was waiting for the next guy to arrive and I got into a lorry and went to sleep. The next thing the door opened and there were all these army guys standing around me with machine guns, wanting to know what I was doing hiding in a lorry!
I was banging my head off a brick wall with my band and I was going out with a French girl who told me that the grass was greener in France so I packed my bags and moved. I sent my CV from Ireland and I had a job in an English school in Toulouse the day I arrived. It must have looked kind of strange, my CV going to an English school with 'operator of a filling machine' on it. When I went to France I couldn't even say the word 'merci'!
It was a huge language centre but the job was teaching adults so I was doing all this technical English stuff and making it up as I went along more or less. It was 99% bluff and I taught the same English lesson for the six years! Nobody used French - they all thought I was absolutely brilliant at French but if they knew...
I taught fascinating people. Toulouse is like the hi-tech capital of France so you've got the space and aircraft industries and I was teaching all those people. One of my proudest possessions is a photograph of Cork taken by the Spot 2 satellite. I taught the team which was involved in the building of Spot 2. I was with the team all the way through the whole process so they basically said that if the satellite fell into the sea it was going to be my fault for not teaching them the right numbers!
I went in at the bottom as a pleb teacher and I worked myself up until I was sort of head teacher. Then I went away and set up my own school. But I remained an 'Indian' – I was no good being a manager. I just had the ideas so I just used to go around, put all the ideas together and get other people to do it. I was actually the owner of the school but I worked teaching English all along. Cork was a big part any lesson: "where is the centre of the world?" "The centre of the world is Cork". "Paddy Whiskey is the best whiskey in the world." I'm probably half responsible for the Celtic Tiger!
I had some incredible experiences. One time I went in and taught this group and I had a dreadful cold. I was wrecked but I taught them numbers, went home and spent the weekend in bed. A couple of days later I had the same group again and I said, "right, I'm going to go back and revise everything we did last week. Who wants to start?" And this guy stood up and goes, "wub, choo, tweeb", They had all mimicked exactly the way I was speaking with a cold!
I taught another guy and there was a warning sent in with him saying, "this guy is a jinx". In he came and the whole building crumbled around him. Everywhere he went, everything he touched, fell to pieces. He made a cup of coffee and managed to bust the coffee machine, he went to class and knocked all the books out a 15th floor window. When we asked why he had been sent to us we found out that he was actually responsible for the department that did vibration tests on satellites! This multi-billion pound satellite had been brought in and his job was to set the numbers: 22.8 vibrates per millisecond or whatever. He set it all wrong and put in 200 instead of 20 or something like that and he nearly vibrated the satellite into cinders so they sent him into us to learn English to get rid of him!
All through my life up until then I had been sending out demo tapes of music and getting hundreds photocopied replies from record companies. Then I spent a weekend recording with Aida and sent the tape out. The day after the tape arrived in London and the next day companies were on the phone to me. That was the first time anybody had ever phoned me about my music. That was it: I walked into teachers' room and said, "this is it, this is my last day." Sold the house, sold the car, moved back to Ireland. I'm still shocked when I think about it.
Skully was in conversation with Harry Guerin.'My Fault', the lastest single from Métisse, is out now on Lunar Records.