‘Rocketman’ through the star shaped lense of a musician: Pete O’Hanlon interview.

With the fast approaching release of the Elton John biopic Rocketman looming, you may be surprised to hear of who is playing some of the supporting roles. Following on from The Strypes’ split in November last year, bassist Pete O’Hanlon, along with drummer Evan Walsh have taken on roles as members of Elton John’s original blues band, Bluesology. I had a chat with Pete about the upcoming film, his future plans and his mastering of the Cockney accent.

The Strypes were together for thirteen years before their break-up in 2018, which is hard to believe considering the lads are still only in their early twenties. While the split came as a shock to fans, there is no bad blood between the band members. “We’re all still from Cavan, we all still see each other around. It had kind of just run its course, we’d achieved everything we wanted to achieve. Thirteen years is a long time to be in a band.” They got their break on The Late Late Toy Show, which Pete describes as a “cultural phenomenon.” Even after playing The David Letterman Show in America, supporting the Arctic Monkeys on tour and playing Glastonbury, it is the Toy Show he remembers as being the biggest deal. “Growing up, I didn’t watch Letterman, but I did watch the Toy Show. I remember we did a gig in the Market Square in Cavan the day after it and it was sort of billed as like ‘They’ve just got back from filming the Toy Show!’ and we ran from the vans with our guitars in hand, it was mad craic.”

While he is currently using this new found free time to give acting a bash, O’Hanlon still considers himself a musician. When asked about what he misses most about being in the band, the answer might surprise you. “When we were talking about breaking up, I thought I’d miss doing the gigs, but I actually don’t as much as I thought I would. Funnily enough I miss not knowing what day it is. For like ten years we’d get up at one, do a soundcheck and play the gig. We averaged 200 gigs a year, so I never knew what day of the week it was. I sort of miss being in this weird miasmic haze of cluelessness.”

So how long is he actually on screen in Rocketman? “I haven’t seen the final cut of Rocketman yet. We filmed for around three weeks, and we filmed a verse and a chorus of a song, along with, like, two other scenes. All in all, maybe a few minutes, but it could still all get cut, we don’t know.” The newly released trailer features a brief shot of the lads in the back of a van, so hopefully the three weeks of work will make it into the final cut. Elton John and The Strypes have been connected for years, with the lads having been signed to his Rocket Management company in 2012. When producers were looking for young blues musicians to play members of the band, it was a no brainer for Elton, who called to get, as Pete calls them, “the f**cking boys in.” We can also look forward to some dodgy English accents, as himself and Evan channelled their inner Cockney Only Fools and Horses impressions. “Ev’s a shrewder Cockney than I am, he was probably a bit more Del Boy while I was Rodney.”

Speaking of English accents, O’Hanlon is currently residing in London, where he has absolutely gone to solve Brexit (“I’ve sorted it lads, it’s not going to happen.”). When discussing Issue 6’s ‘Fatal Fourway’ topic of terrible Irish accents in film, Helena Bonham Carter’s tragic turn in ‘Ocean’s 8’ comes up; “I was at the Brexit march and I was marching next to her!”
If you wanted to know if he prefers Coronation Street or Emmerdale, it’s neither. “Soaps are gack. That’s the pull quote, “Pete O’Hanlon does not like Coronation Street or Emmerdale.” As usual with OTwo music interviews, we have to discuss the cauldron question; which five items would I have to burn in a cauldron to summon your spirit? “I would have to say a yo-yo, a 2mm plec, a disposable camera, a tub of prawn cocktail Pringles (apparently Pringles are a cake? Let’s not open that Pandora’s box.) and my final item would be a Nimbus 2001 I bought outright in a Harry Potter shop in Belgium, and it was an absolute pain in the hole getting home. If you burned that, I’d be there in a shot.”