Following on from his debut single, Micayl returns with Versailles – I took the time to learn more about this new mysterious artist.
The uber smooth Micayl is back with the follow up to his debut Monochrome. On the back of the success of that first single, I was more than excited to hear Versailles and it does not disappoint.
This new track is an evocative blend of laid back lo -fi, jazz and soulful hip-hop and this cocktail serves to solidify him as an artist with a distinct sound.
I described his debut as being both retro and contemporary and am struggling to find a better phrase for this more recent effort. What Versailles confirms is that Micayl understands how to draw from and mix up sounds from his medley of influences to bring us something unique. From John Coltrane to FKJ and everything in-between, it’s all there.
Some influences are perhaps more discernible than others, but the joy is to be found in listening out for them n the myriad layers of Micayl’s work.
Versailles is for this writer at least, more than a song, or a series of unrelated nods to it’s forebearers, it is an atmosphere.
I was fortunate enough to get the chance to catch up with Micayl to speak about his passion for the industry, what attracted him to Liverpool and what’s in the pipeline.
Planet Slop: Obviously, you have a European identity, but what was it that drew you to Liverpool, and/or keeps you in the city?
Micayl: Well, my initial plan was to drop out of High School and move to London to play the pub-circuit down there for a while. It was my dad that suggested to go and see what London’s like before I move there straight away, which, in retrospect, turned out to be a much better plan. On that trip I bought my first guitar on Denmark Street in London and the guy who sold me the guitar turned out to be one of the first graduates of LIPA – which I had never heard of up until that point. So, after he had introduced me to Liverpool and the University, I kind of just decided to go for it and moved up here instead. Liverpool feels a little bit like a compressed version of London, I had never been to a place so full and rich of musical identity before. It’s an incredibly welcoming city with a supportive environment and community.
PS: What is it you enjoy most about being a musician? And is there anything about it you would change?
M: Music has always been a major part of my life. Often in different shapes and ways but I always felt like, whenever I encountered a rough or difficult point in my life, music was always the first and safest thing to turn to. So, I’d say music just makes me feel secure and confident and offers me to speak openly about struggles that are sometimes difficult to verbalise. I consider it as a great luxury and gift to be able to do it every single day, so; no, I wouldn’t change it for the world. I’m very grateful to be in a position in which I can surround myself with music every day.
PS: Can you describe your creative process?
M: Yes and no. I often feel like [it…] kind of overcomes me in a way that I can’t understand or comprehend. But at the same time, I think being surrounded by creative people and any form of art in general helps to keep some sort of “creative spark” alive. I used to find it hard to start with a project, often being overwhelmed by other talent or the amount of possibilities. But I realised that it helps a lot to write something every day, even if it’s just one line or a chord progression, since I found that this keeps the creative output flowing and makes it easier to overcome the barrier of having to start something new.
PS: What is the biggest problem you’ve had to overcome so far?
M: Musically, I have struggled hard to put my finger on what is “me” and a sound I can truly identify with. I realised that myself and my identity were changing quite rapidly over the past few years, which often made it difficult to relate to something I had made a year prior. But in the end, it’s just down to your ability of accepting your current skill level and possibilities and making the best out of it.
PS: Have you ever dealt with performance anxiety?
M: In some ways yes. I was lucky to be introduced to the stage quite early on in my life which offered me a few extra years of practice. But in being quite hard on myself in general I sometimes doubt myself a lot, which can make it hard to show what I can do. But in the end, it’s the same like everything, it becomes much easier the more you do it.
PS: Do you have any advice for those looking to break into the industry?
M: Don’t be afraid to do it and to be yourself. I’d much rather watch someone who isn’t technically world-class but has strong authenticity to him or her than someone who is incredible skilled but can’t deliver his or her uniqueness. It’s the most fun and does amazing things to you if you’re willing to dive into it.
PS: Can you tell me about your favourite venues to watch and perform music?
M: I really enjoy performing at the Jacaranda Phase One and 81 Renshaw. They are both quite intimate venues and always have great artists on. I can only recommend the O2 Academy and 24 Kitchen Street, I’ve been to a bunch of great shows there as well this year.
PS: I’m excited to hear what else you have, so what’s next on the agenda?
M: Thanks a lot. I’ve been working on a project with my brother called Hypnagogic Project which is coming out this month. Then I’m releasing a double-side single in September and I’m also working on a collaborative concept mixtape featuring six different artists from six different countries which will be complemented by a short movie as well and is set to be released early 2020.
Following an incredibly productive year – I got the chance to catch up with Paul once again. He was as open and inciteful as ever.
Paul, you have something of the troubadour about you if you don’t mind my saying so. Where are you at right now?
Well I’ll take that as a
compliment! I guess the idea of the troubadour has always appealed, especially
since many of my heroes and influences could be considered as such. People like
Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Charles Bukowski, Lee Harwood, Joni Mitchell. Of
course the meaning has changed over time. Troubadour nowadays has that
free-spirited, hippyish, dedication-to-your-art connotation attached, which I
Right now I’m at a
crossroads in my life. I’ve been living between Spain and the U.K for most of
this year, and pursuing a career change that will take me away from lecturing.
I feel like I’ve achieved everything I can achieve in education now; the job
has changed to the extent that a lot of the pleasure has been taken out of it.
I still love working with people closely, and helping to inspire and encourage,
so my next move will still involve that close contact with people, but not in a
As far as the writing is
concerned, I’ve had a very promising year. I decided it was time to really
target literary magazines with my work at the beginning of 2019, and so far
I’ve had over fifty different publications take my work in seven months. I
think it is really important to spend the time submitting so you can broaden
your readership. It is also very rewarding and encouraging to see your work
alongside other emerging voices in a wide range of diverse and edgy
we last spoke, your third collection 35 has been published, do you want
to discuss the concept and how it differs from your first two collections?
My third collection, 35, is conceptual in the sense that it
features 35 poems, 35 images (mainly photographs taken around the world), and I
was 35 years old when I released it. It just felt like a bit of a benchmark.
It’s hard to explain. I liked the idea of doing something a little different.
My first two collections were traditional in the sense that they were poems
without a particular central theme. I think a poet has free reign to do
whatever they want, which is the beauty of the form.
have heard you say that your initial collection curse this blue raincoat was
a response to the work of Leonard Cohen and that Testimony was something
akin to saying what needed to be said, however honest and gnarled. What is the
major spur for you now?
I don’t have any
particular motivations in my poetry other than the need to write. It is a
thrill for me to stare down at a blank sheet of paper, or a blank word
document, and then realise hours later that I’ve crafted and created something
out of nothing. I guess I’m really digging into the depths of my own psyche
these days; I’ve had three published collections and hundreds of poems
published in literary magazines, so I’m much more comfortable in my own skin as
a poet now. The subject matter is rawer, darker, at times brutally honest. My
work is not as safe anymore as it once was. I’ve had people write to me and
tell me that my work has made them weep, or shocked them, or really unnerved
them. They are the best reactions I think because it shows that your work is
you say that you have ever suffered for your art?
This is really a
double-edged question because art, in the most part, is born out of suffering
of some sort. I’ve got a pretty good grip of myself at this stage in my life;
I’m not overawed by much, and any depressive tendencies I may have had in my
twenties are under control. Writing is an excellent form of therapy for me
because it helps me get to grip with everything going on around me in a
positive way. Everyone needs therapy of some sort in my opinion, whether you
suffer from mental illness or not. Some ride a bike, others paint, other walk
the dog or do yoga. I write poems. Have I suffered for that? Definitely. Would
I change it? Definitely not.
important is the editing process and is that a solo effort?
This is the one thing
that I have really improved over the years. A good poet has to also be a good
editor, because learning to slice away the excess to get down to the flesh is
so important in terms of quality. I can write a poem now, then come back to it
the next day and shave 50% of it off. Then I can come back the next day and do
the same again until I’m left with the essential lines. It takes courage to be
a good editor. I also have occasion where others are involved too. My great
friend Kate Evans sometimes takes a critical look at my poems in progress. I’m
also in the process of working with Matthew C Smith, the editor of Black Bough
Poems, to shape my next collection. More than one set of eyes can be a
brilliant reminder that your work can be better with sound advice.
interested to know has there been a shift of focus for you – from full-length
manuscript submission to journals far and wide? Is this an effort to reach a
wide readership and keep your finger on the pulse?
I released three
collections in the space of two years. That was the monster inside desperate to
get out. Once that trilogy was out it became more important for me to think
about a readership, and also explore the literary magazine / journal world. I
also find it very exciting to submit my work all over the world. You find out
so much about your work, but also your own temperament as a writer. Rejections
are never easy to stomach, especially if you have had to wait six months for a
reply without any sort of feedback, but acceptances are extremely uplifting.
That email landing that says “congratulations, we would love to take your
poem(s)…” is a feeling that I really enjoy. I’ve been accepted in some dream
magazines so far this year: Ghost City Press, Barren Magazine, The Bees Are
Dead, Burning House Press and Heron Clan to name but a few. If your name is
cropping up in these types of journals then you are probably being noticed to
some degree, which is not the be-all-and-end-all, but nice. Justification of
your commitment to your art, I guess.
excites you about the poetry scene right now?
The poetry scene is
thriving right now. In the same way that vinyl records have made a comeback, it
seems that poetry has been revived. If something has class, and authority, and
the power to move it will never go away. There are some great poets emerging
with distinct voices. I also like the indie scene that I keep up with on
Twitter too. I think many are opting to avoid the traditional publication
routes these days and do it for themselves. I have mixed feelings about this
because it inevitably means some folk have free license to publish any old crap,
but on the other side of the coin it has given some brilliant voices a chance
to emerge who wouldn’t have had the time or inclination to pursue a publisher.
Traditional publishing can be such a long, drawn out, weary process, with lots
of wounding realisations and disappointments. The inner circle is still very
much who you know I’m afraid.
There are some really
exciting new magazines out there today. I really like Black Bough Poetry, which
is causing a stir and heading towards its third issue. I also like American
magazine, Cleaning Up Glitter. Selcouth Station is another magazine that I
really rate, and Streetcake magazine too. I’m happy to have featured in all of
them. A few magazines that have alluded me so far that I love are Okay Donkey,
Butcher’s Dog and Nightingale & Sparrow. It would be a dream to feature in
Ambit, or The New Yorker, or Under The Radar – all long established classic
do you measure success now?
Success to me is
happiness in what I’m doing. I’m extremely happy at the minute creating,
submitting, editing, and slowly working towards my next collection. If I get
positive responses to my work, which I regularly do (especially on Twitter,
which has been a great tool for interacting with similar minds) then that is
success in my eyes. Of course it would be great to find a reputable UK
publisher to show interest in my work, but I’m not quite ready to pursue that
with everything else going on.
do you feel about describing yourself as a poet?
I don’t generally. It has
obvious stigmas. I don’t advertise the fact that I write unless I’m in the
company of people who may be interested or appreciate it. I’m certainly not
ashamed of it – quite the opposite. I write poems and therefore I am a poet,
but I don’t feel the need to broadcast it. More and more people tend to ask me
about it these days, which is positive.
you open up on your route into publication?
I was lucky. That’s the
truth of it. I was working at a University in a relatively unheard city in
China, called Nanning, when Kate Evans, a distinguished American writer, turned
up to lecture poetry. We became friends, spent afternoons together discussing
our passions for writing and poetry, and she was enthralled with my stuff. She
put me in touch with her editor who also liked my work and offered me the
opportunity to submit a collection. That’s how curse this blue raincoat was born, and Kate Evans helped me to both
edit and order it, and she also wrote the forward. I was in the right place at
the right time.
do you reflect on your decision to leave teaching?
It was time to leave. As
I mentioned before, teaching has become a business where there is too much
focus on unrealistic attainment instead of the individual. Teachers have become
powerless scapegoats today, and quite frankly I got fed up with working eighty
hour weeks, doing everything I possibly could to be the best teacher I could,
and getting told that too much was never enough. It is no coincidence that ALL
my former teaching colleagues are either in different careers or working abroad
now. The government have a lot to do to battle this problem because the
profession has lost some incredible people to teach, influence and encourage
have spoken about your desire to release a novel – do you have an update for
your ever-growing fan base who are eager for more work?
I’ve definitely got a
novel in me, but it just hasn’t happened yet. At the moment I’m almost entirely
focused on poetry, but I’d like to think I could write one before I’m 40. I’ve
completed two, but they were both shit. I think I want to try and get a few
more poetry collections out there first before I focus on sitting down to pen the novel. I’ve had some short stories
and flash fiction pieces published lately in various magazines (most notably
The Fiction Pool and Iceberg Tales), but the longer form is much more
you tell us about your favourite novels – what is it about them that draws you back
to them? What are you reading at the moment?
Wow, how long have you
got! I’d have to try and narrow them down. I loved Journey To The End Of The Night by Louis Ferdinand Céline. It is
such a dark but funny novel. I thought Women
and Ham On Rye were two great
novels by Charles Bukowski. He had a remarkable way of tapping into raw
emotion. I think Gabriel García Márquez’s One
Hundred Years Of Solitude is just about as poetic as prose can be. He was a
There are a few more
contemporary novels that I’ve enjoyed very much: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, Never
Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, and The
God Of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. I love Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, and found myself engrossed in its
1500 pages for months. In Cold Blood by
Truman Capote is mesmerising. Things Fall
Apart by Chinua Achebe is essential reading. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov is disturbingly gripping. I like the
early novels of H.G Wells and Stephen King – both writers who bring back fond
memories of my teen reading. Dickens is consistently brilliant, and the
greatest creator of memorable characters. I’ll end there because I could go on
forever. At the moment I am tackling Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, and thoroughly enjoying it.
who follows you will know that you’re an accomplished musician and lover of all
sorts of different musical genres. But what was the last album you listened to
and what was the last gig you got to?
I have been having a real
Joni Mitchell phase of late. I think it is my appreciation of her poetic lyrics
that draws me back to her again and again. Court
& Spark is the album I really love, although her debut album, Song To A Seagull, is incredible too. It
really says something that the likes of David Crosby, Graham Nash, and Stephen
Stills regard her the greatest songwriter of all time, even ahead of Bob Dylan
and Leonard Cohen. Joni is very inspiring.
I watched the Beach Boys
a few weeks back in Marbella, Spain, and loved every second of it. I’ve spent
the last twenty years watching live music, and I can honestly saw it was one of
my favourite gigs ever. What a body of work. Mike Love is the only original
member left, but the musicianship was spectacular. It was in an amazing venue in
the mountains too.
you concerned about the passage of time?
Of course. Especially
when you see people that you know die, and the reality of mortality dawns on
you. I guess I’m about half way through now if I’m lucky enough to live a
normal lifespan, which feels crazy. I still feel like I’m eighteen. The passage
of time is a major theme or point of consideration for most artists I think. We
are all battling against the years and what we can achieve or fit in before we
die. I love the fact that many of the old musicians like McCartney, Dylan, CSNY
and The Stones are all still out there touring and making music, essentially
defying age. They are all heading towards eighty, so times have changed;
artists are continuing to be artists for longer, and evidently until death.
experience/authenticity important to you? Are you comfortable with the idea of
travel writing when written from the perspective of the privileged white man –
and if not, how do you combat this?
I think you have to take
your privilege and use it for good. I know how fortunate I am to be where I’m
from. I’ve been all over Asia, and into some of the poorest and most deprived
places on earth. I had four years living in China, which is desperately poor in
places. I’ve been to North Korea, Myanmar, Laos, Philippines, Sri Lanka,
Cambodia, Vietnam and India. I’ve seen heart stopping poverty. I don’t think
you can hide away from your privilege. You just have to be humble about it, and
grateful. Whenever I write about these places, whether it be in my poetry or
otherwise, I try to tell it how it is, but also attempt to be positive in some
way. I’ve seen some really disturbing stuff, but it only opens your mind
further to what is possible artistically. And, by the way, some of the greatest
people I’ve ever met have been from these places where they have nothing. We
can learn so much.
you overly concerned by the nuts and bolts of language/stylistics? Or do you
have broader concerns about bigger themes?
I am definitely a fan of
minimalism. I like the shorter poem, and even the micro-poem. I think they can
both be as powerful as the longer form. Anyone that knows my work will also
know that I favour the narrative form. I don’t hold back with language. If the
poem needs expletives then it gets them. It totally depends on that specific
poem and the feelings you are trying to convey.
As far as themes are
concerned, I rarely tackle the major themes these days. I think if you want to
write about Trump, or Brexit, or climate change, or human rights abuses, or
#metoo, you’ve got to get it inch perfect or you can look preachy or insincere.
Half of these things I mention I’m not qualified to comment on, so I generally
don’t. It doesn’t mean I don’t care about such issues. With my writing,
especially my poetry, I tend to write about my own experiences and emotions, as
well as the things I observe in my daily existence. If you watch the news for
too long with the intention of writing about it you’ll go crazy pretty quickly.
what would you say makes a quality poem? Is it tied to the idea of
The answer to that
question is different for every reader. I personally don’t relate to anything
too lofty or contrived. I like to read about things I understand, or can relate
to. I like it when a writer is prepared to spill their guts. I like bravery.
I’ve read some really raw poetry of late that has made me stop in my tracks. I
think the perfect poem uses every single word as a sucker punch. A great poem has
impact, and doesn’t waste words or lines that aren’t needed. To answer your
question, for me, great poetry is accessible, yes; but not for everyone.
I will keep writing whilst I’m on a roll, continue submitting whilst I’m having success, and continue enjoying homing my craft. At some point towards the end of this year I may be getting involved in editing a start-up journal, which will be exciting. I have my fourth collection in the mix at the moment, with enough solid work for a fifth soon after. The future looks promising as long as I stay disciplined.
The Last Night of Our Lives (poem – originally published in Anti-Heroin Chic)
The Old Man (poem – originally published in Dodging the Rain)
Hemmingway (poem – orginally published in Crepe & Penn)
With the release of Paul Robert Mullen’s new book, Alan Parry has a chat with the poet about his creative process and musical influences.
In February of this year, Paul Robert Mullen left his English Studies Lecturer position at Guangxi University in Nanning, China after four ‘very rewarding’ years to pursue other ventures. Of all the opportunities open to him, he was keen to see where his poetry would take him.
At this point, he’s back home in Southport, but you can be sure he’ll be on the go again sometime soon, ‘I’ve always been a traveller’ he tells us. And his work has been heavily informed by his journeys, perhaps most evident in his poem call it wonder, ‘I am enchanted/by/the aluminium/white dove/that/takes me to places/I never/thought/I’d see’.
Mullen and I go back as far as high school, and it feels like a lifetime ago since we tried to make music together. It goes without saying that neither of us are the same person we were back then.
Today, I’m a hardworking family man on the cusp of graduation, with a keen interest in literature and popular culture, and while I have lived away for much of the last decade, I’m now resettled in my hometown.
Although Paul shares my love for the written word, his path to this juncture has been largely different to mine. He went away to study towards an English Language, Literature and Creative Writing degree in 2001 at Sheffield Hallam, and while we wrote to each other, and met up on occasion, it was at this point we started to drift apart.
I’m pleased then, to have this opportunity to ask him several questions about his two poetry collections, curse this blue raincoat and other poems and the more recent testimony, touching on influences and the writing process.
I tried to pin Paul down, to get an understanding of how he sees himself in the world, but he was reluctant to be pigeon holed. He’s not necessarily a teacher/lecturer, or writer first he tells me. Rather, he asserts that these are merely ‘strings to my bow, and definite passions in my life… I only want to be known, or defined, as a good person’.
His work has a modernity about it. It feels fresh and relevant, and the imagery is at times nothing short of arresting, ‘she has eyes/like/troubled dreams’.
Indeed, there are discernible echoes of people like John Ashbury, and other New York School writers and this is no bad thing. Mullen is still after all a young writer, and perhaps one can see the direction his work is moving in.
But knowing Paul, he is apt to shock us. It should be noted though, that despite his relative youthfulness the texts themselves are mature, and maybe not always an easy read.
Henceforth it is worth remembering that some hold that poetry should be challenging, and confrontational. Certainly, Mullen’s work can claim to be both. But it’s also confessional, and reflective. It’s been a pleasure to read, to bare witness to how the man I have known for over two decades now has grown into an exciting, local poet.
What follows now is a short interview with the man himself. Both of the aforementioned collections are available on amazon and at good local bookstores.
Planet Slop: Paul, I wanted to say that I have very much enjoyed your work in these two most recent collections. It seems to me that you have now found your voice and have really begun to hone your style to a fine art. I have followed your work from its embryonic stages, when you released your first collection while studying at Sheffield Hallam and can see that there is a distinct shift in how you write and present your work now, what would you say is the catalyst for that change?
Paul Robert Mullen: Thanks for your compliments – I’m glad you enjoyed reading my work. I honestly believe the catalyst for change has been reading. I read very widely, which inevitably leads to soaking up all sorts of different influences that eventually help you shape your own voice.
PS: Clearly, music is a major part on your life, and it informs your work heavily. Are there any parallels you can draw with some of your favourite artists, and the work you are producing now?
PRM: I wouldn’t say that music influences my style, but certainly some themes and content. The first book, curse this blue raincoat, is very much a nod to Leonard Cohen. I’ve spent years marvelling over his words. He was such a deep, thoughtful, perceptive soul. I also like to listen to Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon, Terry Reid, Roger Waters – all wordsmiths in their own way.
PS: Further to my last question, which poets or texts do you find yourself going back to repeatedly? I’m a huge admirer both of Dr John Cooper Clarke and Langston Hughes, and for me their work never gets old. When I have written myself however, I found myself distancing my work from that which I like to read as a point of principle. Is this the same for you?
PRM: I think my work is influenced by the poets that I love to read – Lee Harwood, John Ashbury, Charles Bukowski. I like a lot of the new stuff that is knocking around too, particularly on the Bloodaxe press, and the Andrews McMeel press. I don’t deliberately distance myself from the stuff I like, but I’m conscious not to copy it too.
PS: Can you describe your writing process? I must say, there is some genuinely striking imagery to be found within your work, made prominent by provocative turns of phrase. I wonder how this comes to you. Does a voice, or situation come fully formed, or like me, do you carry a pocketbook containing short snippets which you intend to use at some point in the future? Or is it something entirely different from either of these two approaches?
PRM: Most of the time I carry a notebook – and I know it’s cliché, but I like to write in coffee shops or pubs – places where there is life; where there is something going on. I also write when I travel . . . I’ve spent a long time on planes in recent years, and I find that all the stuff I have stored up in my mind whilst travelling spills out as I’m flying. It’s a very productive way to spend the time. I have to wait though . . . I never force my writing, and sometimes I go through months where it’s a dry spell.
PS: One of the earliest things I was taught when I embarked upon my English Literature degree, was that one should never confuse the voice/perspective of poet themselves with that of the poet speaker. However, knowing you on a personal level, it appears you have blurred this line. I was wondering if this was intentional, introspective writing, or if you simply set out to write about the people, and the world you were seeing daily.
PRM: I don’t ever think about the speaker, or the physical voice when I write. My subject matter is often real and situational; I don’t delve heavily into metaphor or multiple layers of meaning. I like to keep the process simple and tangible.
PS: Have you, or do you intend for your work to be performed? There has clearly been a lot of effort gone into how the texts themselves will be presented on the page, would that be lost in recital, or is it something you are confident would translate?
PRM: I’m confident that I can perform these poems, particularly the longer, more narrative ones. They are, essentially designed for the page, but I believe there is life in the words when performed. I have already performed them in various guises, and I’m pleased to say they have gone down well.
PS: For the first time in several years you are back in your home town following years of living abroad and travelling extensively, what’s next for you?
PRM: I only strive to be happy. If that means heading back out into the world again, then that’s what I’ll do!
Paul’s books curse this blue raincoat and testimony are available to order now from Amazon and good book stores.
Alan Parry quizzes comedian Paul Foot on his wacky inspiration, ties, politics, piglets and more.
Paul Foot brings his extraordinary brand of comedy to Liverpool on Thursday 9th November.
The show, ‘Tis a Pity She’s a Piglet had moderate success at last year’s Edinburgh Festival, but a prolonged worldwide tour has provided Foot with the opportunity to hone the material and this year’s reception was far kinder. In this interview, I ask about Paul’s inspiration for his brand of surreal and consider how he positions himself within his contemporaries.
Comedy of this nature is certainly going to divide opinion, but Foot has a loyal following whom he refers to not as fans, but as connoisseurs. An audience who have paid to see him fully understands that his material is not intended to be cutting edge, or breaking down any boundaries; its simply engineered to make you laugh.
Foot could be said to find the funny where many wouldn’t dare to even look, but it would be unfair to describe him as nothing more than an eccentric. His rigorous touring and commitment to reworking and writing new material proves there is much more to him than his renowned wild movements and unique hair style.
PS: Who, or what was it that drew you to comedy in the first place? And which comedians, past or present, do you admire?
PF: I was drawn to comedy by accident. I was at university and there was a student comedy night coming up, some friends of mine said that I was funny and should sign up to do it, and I agreed. However, I had never seen stand-up comedy before ever, so I didn’t really know what it was. I didn’t know, for example, that comedians tend to prepare their performance/write material beforehand. So when the moment came I just went up and made up a load of stuff about fruit, asking about audience members’ favourite fruit and improvising from there. It went pretty well, and I knew from that moment that I would do comedy for the rest of my life.
In response to the second part of your question, my favourite comedian is Brian Gittins. He is excellent, and also present. I love his comedy.
PS: Similarly, are there any up and coming comedians, new to the circuit who you would advise us to keep an eye on?
PF: I very much enjoy the comedian Malcolm Head. He does comedy poems which are top quality. He sometimes is my support act for my shows when I tour; in fact, ye will see him perform if ye come to my upcoming shows.
PS: Have you always made people laugh?
PF: I have, and not always when I want them to laugh. Sometimes I try to be a very serious businessman, and people just laugh. Filing my tax return with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs is a friggin’ nightmare; they just won’t stop laughing. Maybe it is my fault for keeping all my receipts filed meticulously inside a to-scale replica of the Mary Rose, and arriving in full Henry VIII regalia, including authentic 16th Century obesity jacket.
PS: What do you wish you knew when you started out in comedy?
PF: I wish I’d known that, one day, I would be successful. Nowadays, weird and surreal comedy is quite popular, but when I started out I was one of the only weird ones, and no one wanted the weird comedy. I was spectacularly unsuccessful for about 14.3 years, earning no money and getting booed off stages. And it was very difficult, but I stuck to my instincts, and one day, after 14.3 years I became an overnight success. It would have been nice to know in those long years that it would all be OK one day.
PS: You have something of a cult following, have you made efforts to whittle down your audience in a similar way to Daniel Kitson, or is this perhaps more closely related to your style? That is to say, do you think your comedy translates easily for the more casual comedy fan?
PF: I have made no efforts to whittle down my audience, nor to manipulate their make-up in any other way. I just create the comedy that comes naturally to me, and that seems to have gained an audience who appreciate it. And that has been expanding for the past 9.37 years. I do think my comedy translates to the more casual comedy fan, especially this latest show, which even contains tropical humour about the tropical subjects of the day, like what would happen if Spiderman was a right bigot, and terrorism et cetera. There’s loads of stuff to interest the casual comedy consumer.
PS: From the outside, it very much feels like the comedy we are shown has been through a process of sanitization and as a result many of the familiar faces are a product of this. How do you feel about the live comedy which is regularly broadcast to the masses on prime time television?
PF: I actually tend not to watch comedy on television, so I don’t really know what is being broadcast to the masses. The only things I watch on television are murder mystery shows, horse racing and Dragon’s Den, which is HILARIOUS. I especially love it when someone has come up with an utterly useless invention, and then it becomes clear that they have poured hundreds of thousands of pounds of their own money into it; they’ve remortgaged their house, spent their aged parents’ pensions, absolutely obliterated their childrens’ chances of going to university, and the dragons beg them to pack it in. But they never do! They always say, “Those dragons will regret it when I’m earning billions and every household in Britain loves my special plastic lid for the ends of half-eaten cucumbers!”
One of the things I have noticed, though, is that the comedy you get on television tends to be the sort of comedy that couldn’t possibly offend anyone, which is often not the most exciting comedy. Frankie Boyle, for example, who is a brilliant comedian, was sent away from television for ages because he made a joke about the private parts of our queen, Elizabeth Regina.
PS: You have an extraordinary ability to create hugely funny sets based on topics many may never consider an area for comedy. How do you come up with these ideas?
PF: What? People don’t think the dwindling numbers of Shire horses is an area for comedy? I thought everyone laughed at stuff like that. I guess the ideas just come from seeing a Shire Horse, or ordering a Chinese takeaway, or taking a walk by a pond. All sorts of ways.
PS: Your loyal connoisseurs are clearly prepared to seek you out, and consequently know, to an extent what they are going to get from you. That is, a very funny, although somewhat surreal evening. Bearing this in mind, do you find yourself testing their limits? Are they prepared for you to push them a little further?
PF: I do not mindfully ‘test the limits’ of any audience. It is not a case of pushing them as far as they can go, rather I just do the comedy I find funny, that I love to create, and I guess that tends to push the limits of comedy. But to me, comedy is not about pushing limits or always searching for new ways to make people laugh. It is simply about being very, very funny, and about communicating with people, and about saying something that resounds with people. Having said that, my audience do always seem willing for a right stretching.
PS: How do you try out your new material?
PF: I often try out my new material at my Secret Shows first. So the top Connoisseurs of my comedy see it first. And then I try out the comedy at various shows I do around the country. I eventually premier the new completed show at the Edinburgh Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland, Sturgeon.
PS: How much does the political landscape influence your act?
PF: It is difficult to say. I am not quite sure myself whether it is quite a lot or not at all. Political subjects seem to manifest themselves in my act, such as homophobia, misogyny, racism, religion, farming et cetera, because the people within those subjects are hilarious and I think it’s important to laugh at them. But I’m not particularly interested in the party political landscape, in relation to my act that is. I love laughing about all the losers in Parliament in my spare thyme. Poor old Nicky Clegg, and Terrorisa May, and Timothy Farron, who had to step down because he found being leader of a political party incompatible with being secretly homophobic. Absolutely top quality!
PS: Do you notice any differences in audiences around the country?
PF: Not really. I find that, wherever I do a show, the people that come to see me are very plugged in and sophisticated. They know what to expect and they come to see the surreal humour. The shows are always wonderful and filled with top quality people.
PS: To what extent do you improvise in your performances?
PF: It depends which performances. My tour shows are very carefully planned and executed, even if they don’t look that way. But when I do my Secret Shows for my Connoisseurs, I sometimes improvise the whole show, for 2.4 hours.
PS: Where do you buy your ties?
PF: Duchamp in London. They have excellent ties.
PS: How did you settle on the name ‘Tis A Pity She’s A Piglet’ for this tour?
PF: I saw a piglet, and I thought it was a pity she were a piglet and not a person. People have slightly better lives than piglets do. All that mud. I can’t bear to think of it.
PS: What can audiences expect from it?
PF: I don’t know. I don’t even know what to expect from it. It’s half surreal, half silly, and half hard-hitting satire…and one third trout.
PS: Has writing begun on your next show, and what do you have planned post tour?
Writing has begun on my next show. It started last year in the month of Novella on a trip to Madeira, and now it is in full flow. And I am going away again, after this tour finishes in the month of Decadence, to Australia to complete the writing, and the show will premier in the Edinburgh Festival next Augustus. Watch this space baybayyyy! I have never understood that phrase. What space? The final friggin’ frontier? It’s such an Americanism. I despise myself for writing it.
PS: How would you describe your sense of humour?
PF: I mainly laugh at wedding cakes falling over, or newsreaders messing up. I love it when weddings go wrong though. That’s the funniest thing in the whole universe.