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The O-Zone: Our man gets away from the sex-starved writer and the chirpy dominatrix just in time to dive into a chat about 'artistic bubbles'

- Monday Mon dieu! OZone thought he had seen it all, but . . . a sneering Frenchman!

I speak, of course, of Michel Houellebecq. Back in 2002, I had the dubious pleasure of interviewing the controversial novelist and misanthrope.

The literary enfant terrible had just won the €100,000 Impac Literary Award, so he was in reasonably good form and a lot less difficult than I'd been told to anticipate. Only half-drunk, he answered at least two-thirds of my questions.

He's apparently had a serious pop at Ireland in his forthcoming novel, The Map and the Territory (among lesser complaints, Irish cuisine is "basic and insipid"). Could this be the reason why he recently left his Co Clare home and relocated to Andalucia?

Possibly not. He told an interviewer: "In Spain, there was a motive: the people are very interested in sex. In Ireland it's not that -- the only thing that interests them is money."

Pretty rich coming from a guy who moved here to avail of the tax break for artists -- but, sadly, also probably true. Still, it deserves a shot back.

Writer Will Self put it best when asked about Houellebecq: "He's just a little guy who can't get enough sex. That's it, isn't it?"

- Tuesday Morning train to Dublin. Iarnrod Eireann have these new electronic reservation screens above every seat. Ridiculously, the notice only seems to appear when the train pulls into the station where the reserving passenger boards. Meaning you can be bumped from your seat without warning. Which I am, in Athlone. Bah!

I'm interviewing an American dominatrix named Mistress Darcy, who's on a three-day trip to Dublin to administer discipline to some of her Irish slaves. We meet in her Temple Bar hotel room and have a fascinating conversation about BDSM. A pretty brunette in her mid-20s, Darcy has been in the lifestyle for three years. "I could never go back to vanilla sex now," she tells me.

Later in the International Bar, I bump into RTE presenter Baz Ashmawy, who's looking tanned and healthy after a fortnight's sun holiday with his partner and new baby.

When I tell him I've just interviewed a dominatrix, he recounts how he actually went for a session with one for his show Baz's Extreme Worlds.

"She beat the living s**t out of me, but then afterwards she was so nice and gentle," he says. "I'd never do it again, but you could see the attraction. Anyway, why don't you sit down?"

"Thanks . . . but I'd rather stand."

Incidentally, the two free pints I received from proprietor John O'Donohoe oblige me to mention the first annual International Theatre Festival. Executive-produced by writer Paddy Kelly, there'll be 10 plays running -- both matinees and evening shows -- in the Wicklow Street bar until October 3.

Full details on www.international-bar.com.

- Wednesday OZone rarely has a good word to say about Brian Cowen. Indeed, our beleaguered Taoiseach has often been the butt of my jokes. But following his controversial illegal fag break in Croke Park last weekend, I'm not going to stub him in the front. Or accuse him of conduct unbecoming a member of Fianna Fail . . .

- Thursday To Kelly's Bar to judge one of the regional finals of the Guinness-sponsored Our Thursdays band competition. It's a big enough deal for the bands competing -- tonight's winner will play at an overall final, the winner of which will support Snow Patrol on Arthur's Day (September 23). Other big name acts performing around the country on Arthur's Day include David Gray, Paolo Nutini and The Maccabees.

Only one of the bands playing is actually from Galway, so Kelly's isn't as packed as it could've been.

Dave Peyton won overall, but there were fine sets from Birdwhistle, Hogan, People On Streets, Big Box and The Jordans.

- Friday Browsing in Charlie Byrne's Bookshop, I bump into acclaimed Galway poetess Rita Ann Higgins. Her new book, Hurting God, will be published by Salmon at the end of September.

She explains that it's a memoir of sorts ("part essay, part rhyme") -- a series of impressionistic vignettes of reminiscence with a poem at the conclusion of each. Rita's engineer brother, Tony, was shot dead by al-Qa'ida in Saudi Arabia six years ago.

I ask if the title is a reference to his murder. It isn't, she assures me, though there is a mention of that tragic incident in the book.

- Saturday Morning telephone interview with Daniel Kessler, guitarist with mega-successful New York-based band Interpol. He's on holidays in Sicily following a short American tour, chilling out before Interpol launch their self-titled fourth album and support U2 on some forthcoming European dates. Daniel admits to "living in a bubble" when he's recording an album -- avoiding radio, TV, newspapers and other bands.

"There's different levels of bubble. Like during the writing and recording of an album, I won't even listen to my friends' bands for fear of subconscious infiltration of influence. But then the spring arrives and I'm like a bear coming out of hibernation. I'm finally able to catch up to things and that's always a good feeling."

The guitarist also informs me that he won't be reading my interview when it's published: "I live in a permanent bubble in terms of things we do artistically. Once they're done, they're done.

"Like, I haven't read an interview in about seven years. I haven't read any reviews either since around that time. I try not to see any TV footage of us if I can help it either. I think it's better not to stop and analyse or see things that we've done. I just want to keep going forward. Once it's out of your hands, it's out of your hands."

- Sunday Finally, an uncharacteristic advertisement for myself. All going according to plan, OZone will be reading on The Word Stage at Electric Picnic at 5pm next Sunday. Depending on my mood, I might even be talking as well.