Neil Hannon: 'It took me a little while to get used to not having hits, but the pop stardom was a fun sideline'

The Divine Comedy frontman talks hits, touring, and Father Ted requests

'This is a special time for me,' says Neil Hannon, referring to the ongoing creative process for his 12th album, the follow-up to 2016's Foreverland, 'when I can bask in my own genius without anyone telling me any different.' It's been nearly three decades since the Derry-born singer instigated his band-come-solo guise The Divine Comedy, and we shouldn't let the fact that his big radio hits arrived during the '90s heyday of Britpop fool us into thinking his force is spent, as it is with many of his contemporaries.

'The fact that it (Foreverland) was our highest album chart placing ever was a bit of a surprise,' he says. 'But it's a funny business right now, and I'm not sure what that means. So I took it to mean I am a legend.' As ever, his studied and entirely non-serious egomania is as much part of the appeal as his wilting self-deprecation. Still playing concert halls, the 46-year-old describes his crowds as 'delightfully healthy. I appear to be interesting to other generations, I don't know why.' These new dates will feature 'lots of songs, possibly me dressed as Napoleon again, and someone up the back shouting for (Father Ted's Eurovision entry) 'My Lovely Horse' – and me saying no.'

Now, he looks back on those loosely Britpop-affiliated days as a means to an end. 'I was lucky, I didn't jump on that bandwagon,' he says. 'I fell into it, and it helped at the time. It took me a little while in the 2000s to get used to not having hits, but the pop stardom was a fun sideline. I kept releasing albums because it's all I knew how to do.' So what's the difference between then and now? 'The libido is a major motivation for creating art for anyone who's young,' he laughs, although he's being serious, 'but over time you strip away that veneer and what you're left with is art – and what is any art for but telling people what it's like to be you, or thinking about what it feels like to be someone else.'

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