Mick Ferry – Interview

Mick Ferry is renowned as a fine purveyor of lugubrious surrealism and has quickly established himself as one of the most sought after comics on the British and International comedy circuit. One of the finest comperes around, Mick Ferry performs regularly at The Comedy Store in London and Manchester as well as headlining at comedy venues nationwide. He is also a regular member of the prestigious topical Cutting Edge Team at the Comedy Store.

On our TV screens, Mick has recently starred in BBC One`s Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow as well as Comedy Blue and The Comedy Store for Comedy Central. He made his big screen debut in 2009 in Ken Loach’s Looking For Eric – a hit feature film at the Cannes film festival where it was nominated for the prestigious Palm D’Or. A prolific writer, Mick was a writer on John Bishop’s Britain for BBC One and has also previously written for BBC3`s Smalltime.

Mick made his debut at the Edinburgh Comedy Festival in 2009 performing The Comedy Final at the Gilded Balloon. He returned in 2010 with a brand new show The Missing Chippendale (Body Issues) to great critical acclaim.

With lockdown sort of having been and gone, and now with it being on the horizon again, how have you been coping? Have you started learning Mandarin or begun baking?
There was a plan like a lot people to learn another language. I download the app and did fuck all of with it. I kept myself busy, doing little sketches. Writing material. The usual things you are supposed to do. As for the mood during lockdown, I was like, everybody else, one day, you’re okay, and the day after you sort of glad you’ve not got access to a shotgun because not sure whether you’d use it on yourself, or actually strangers. So, those kinds of moods.


Have you done any of that type of writing before? Have you explored writing sketches et cetera?
Yeah. I’ve done that before – I’ve done that loads of times. I have written for other people. It was something to concentrate myself and basically, you know, stop myself going insane. My job, the industry I work in (stand-up), has gone. It just disappeared and looks like it’s disappearing again. So, I think just to remain creative was important.


It looked like you had the family involved too, were they all happily on board?
They are sort of used to my idiosyncrasies anyway. They know what I am like. They know that I’m a bit of a loon.


You mention that you have been writing material, is much of it COVID related or have you tried to put some distance between yourself and that?
Of course, you would be a loon not to mention COVID. You don’t want to talk about it too much, but I would be quite worried if I met someone in the street now and we had an hour’s conversation, and they did not mention once, the things that have gone on this year. I would worry about that. I would worry about their mental health. I would actually be quite jealous that they have forgotten about it that easily. You have got to mention it. You have got to mention the circumstances you are in, and create your unique perspective for all of us, all of mankind really. Let’s be honest. It is something we have never been through before. And it is something we have all suffered at the same time, and are suffering!


Because it is in our collective conscience…?
Yeah. Exactly. Of everybody you ask around the world, nobody has been sleeping properly, have they? Experiencing weird nightmares, and all that bullshit. I imagine that’s all anxiety driven.


Quite possibly. Just being out of routine and not being as active has hurt people. You are right to document it. Although, as much as much as you can write about it now, your opportunities to deliver that material are limited
Exactly!


Have you anything that you would explicitly want to say to Johnson and those handling the situation?
Yeah, but you know what? What is the point? The man is a tool. The people behind the government are tools. Look, they have spent £12 billion on a track and trace system that does not work. That tells you everything you need to know! They have an advisor who broke the rules that he explicitly helped to lay down – he drove to Barnard Castle. So, anything that Johnson has got to say, I have no interest in whatsoever. He is just a haunted landscape! An ex-Eton schoolboy. Somebody better than me pointed out that PM’s that go to Eton, don’t make good leaders. It has been proven time and time again. They have no grasp on reality. He has ignored every piece of advice he has been given. At the start of it he suggested herd mentality and he went around shaking everybody’s hands and he got the disease – the daft sod. So, I have nothing to say to them. He is not a man I would talk to personally. Johnson has history – he despises the working classes – we’re treated, as usual by the elite as cannon fodder. As Andy Burnham said, when it comes to economics, the North of England has always been used as an economic canary, we are always the ones that suffer first. So, there is a disconnect and I am hoping the only thing that comes out of this is that we end up with a North West assembly. The idea was piloted in the 1990s. Anthony H. Wilson – God rest his soul – was well behind the idea but it didn’t happen. But I have a feeling that when we come out of this, if somebody mentions the North West assembly again and a bit of autonomy for our own region. Then we will go for it.


It is an interesting concept. I mean, there is a lot of bad blood between certain places in the North West – Liverpool and Manchester notably. But this type of thing draws people together. As much as it pushes others away – that is to say, as much as you do not want to speak to Johnson or anybody down in London, you are willing, to openly embrace those closest to you and work with them.
Of course, it’s the only way. We’ve got to realise that we’re the potential to be an economic powerbase ourselves, driven by Manchester and Liverpool. People have got to understand that. We have got a good economy ourselves, but we are totally controlled by the South. Why? That should not be happening. Let’s put borders up! I seriously would, we need autonomy. We need to be looking after our own affairs up here now. Andy Burnham was describing that, and the Mayor of Liverpool, who seems a good lad as well. I think it will happen, and I don’t think we’ll be the only region.


My wife is Cornish and they have been speaking about independence down there for an awful long time.
I think the Welsh will go for full independence after Scotland too. I can see a breakup happening. It’s because of constant cases of the bumbling of our economic affairs. It gives you a bit of a complex, you wonder am I being correct here? But if you look at history, it’s the North that gets a kicking before anywhere else. After we come through this, I think there will be changes, massive changes!


If you were to retrain as suggested, what could you see yourself doing?
I used to be an upholsterer. But I couldn’t go back to that. I am not physically fit enough to do that now. I mean, I am 52. I would have to get myself in shape before I could do that again. Retrain? I don’t know if there is anything I could retrain as. I have been doing this for 20 years now – I don’t know what I’d do, or what I’d be capable of doing.


You have such a natural demeanour onstage; I am surprised to hear that you ever did anything else!
The trick is making it look like you are not doing it – making it look easy. I think that is a skill in any performance art; to make it look like it comes naturally. It takes time for you to be able to do that. I don’t know what I’d retrain as, because let’s be honest, what industry is going to be left after this?


I would like to go back to point about autonomy in the North, because prior to COVID, the creative industry was flourishing. So, there is certainly scope there, for cities like Liverpool and Manchester and beyond to create something for themselves.
Definitely. It is a big, creative area. I have met people from all over the world, who have moved to Manchester because they want to make it in the music business. You do not have to be in London anymore. You come to the North West if you want to make it in the music business. That is something that has changed. You have only got to look at the success of both cities when it comes to music.


Indeed, we have BIMM in Manchester and LIPA in Liverpool that are well-established now.
Exactly and there’s well-established comedy clubs and a well-established comedy scene which is actually full of new comics. There is an established open-mic circuit in the North West too. It’s all there, for everybody. Even the BBC is in Manchester for fuck’s sake. We should make the most of that. We’ll have autonomy and we’ll hijack BBC! Get them to make unbiased TV shows, that would be quite nice.


Why not? Changing direction, I am interested in the discourse of stand-up comedy. What people are allowed to say on stage and whether they feel restrained by themselves, by society, by what country they are performing in even? How might comics change their shows accordingly?
Yeah. You do. I mean, performing overseas or in certain countries there are certain rules when it comes to libel, slander, and things dictated by religion and so on. So, you would be a fool not to break them. You would lose your work; you would lose your income. You are not dumbing it down. You are not sacrificing your integrity doing that. People talk about freedom of speech. Freedom of speech is still there. When people say, ‘you can’t say anything anymore’ – you can. But you have got to be prepared for the consequences. That is something we have always been responsible for. If you want to say something, you should have a think, ‘will this really upset somebody?’ – like a marginalized section of a society, you have to ask yourself why you are saying it, even if you really want to say it. Do not be saying ‘I can’t say what I want to say.’ – you just said it and before are angry with what you said. So, you either own it and accept that, or you filter yourself.


Would you agree that stand-up is a pure art form?
Yes. Of course, it is.


I am glad you’ve said that. You have been doing this twenty years now, is that purity important to you, beyond it just being a job that pays the bills?
Listen, things can be said off the cuff and, in the moment, there is something unique about doing it live, that you cannot get when you see recordings back. Things can happen in a room that a live audience then gets. It could be a bit of teasing of somebody, and because of something that’s gone on before, everybody knows exactly why I have said what I have said. But that can be taken out of context then. Somebody could just record that moment and show it, ‘Look at this guy, he’s a right fucking dick!’ Live performance, that’s where the artform is. TV does not come across as an art form. We (us comics) know we’re still not officially recognized as artists, but let me tell you something… Say a theatre is beginning to struggle and needs to raise money fast, the first night they put on is a comedy night. Why? Because it always sells out. But they can fuck off, them wankers. You either recognise it as an art form, or you don’t! I quite like the idea of being an underground art movement. Why not? Let’s be part of that, let’s be part of something. Getting back to the question though, stand-up is a skill, it requires ability. You get found out quickly if you can’t do it! It takes time and it takes practice, like all art forms. It takes commitment to reach that sort of competent level, you know. Just like acting – just like singing. It is performance! It’s much more than repeating lines.


I am sort of loathed to ask you about this, but maybe folk will expect it? What is your best/worst gig experience?
Well, I have had plenty of good gigs. But I will tell you this, the adrenaline rush gets shorter and shorter. A good gig does not live that long, and you just need to get back onstage again. As bad gigs go… This sums up the new world we are living in. During lockdown, there has been a few gigs I’ve done online as streams to an audience. For some of these gigs, people pay extra to be front row, so you can see them on your screen. Anyway, this happened to me during one of these gigs. You know doing live stand-up, I have been sworn at; I’ve been threatened on stage; I’ve had a gang of men wait for me to finish once, wanting to fight me; I’ve had an ashtray thrown at me at a gig in Plymouth. I have had all sorts – everything you can contend with, but it’s water of a duck’s back now. But, nothing prepares you for doing a gig that’s being streamed when you’re in your own living room, and you can see your front row, for watching a woman, get up in the middle of your routine to go make herself a cup of tea, because she’s clearly not interested in what you’ve got to say. That was devastating!


That is some heckle! I wonder, what do you miss most about performance? Is it that adrenaline rush? You say they are getting shorter and shorter, or is it just the interaction and being out and about with people?
It’s the interaction! It is being out and about. It is a social thing, stand-up. You are with people, and you are also with other comics in the dressing room. There is a camaraderie. If you take that away – well… Sure, it can be lonely travelling around, but you have always got that group of people in front of you, your audience for however long you are onstage. They are your mates. That is who you are with. So, that is what you miss – that social aspect.


It is only reasonable that you would miss that when it has been taken away from you.
What do you do on a night off?
I watch a lot of stand-up! I am a fan of it, massively. You’ll often find me on a night off in a comedy club. That is what I do!
What is the purpose of that? Are you wanting to be entertained or are you wanting to improve your craft?
Yeah. It is the different styles that we all have. A lot of comics are very different to each other. I have several comedian mates that that have always made me laugh that I’ll always go along and watch when they’re in town and I’m not working, and of course there are new people that are breaking through all the time.


I read recently that you had been compared you to Les Dawson. Do you think that is fair?
I got described once as being lugubrious. It’s because of my grumpy looking face. I am nothing like Les Dawson. I am not as good as he was either. He was a fucking genius. I think that it was just a physical description, and nothing to do with material.


You don’t even play piano, Mick?
No, I don’t even play piano. It can be annoying with all forms of entertainment. When people want to say what a band sounds like, and people do it with stand-ups as well. I think.


I know that you are reticent to be labelled, but for people who may be unfamiliar with your work, who might YOU compare your style with? Are you more than an observational comic?
Oh man. I don’t know. I can’t really answer that question. Describe what I do? I think I’m funny. I know I am funny! I know it works. I know that sounds arrogant, but to be a stand-up there has to be a bit of arrogance there. It is not just observational stuff I do. There is all sorts going on in my shows. I will do one-liners, surreal stuff, observational stuff, family stuff, anything really. If I am emceeing, I probably won’t use any material, I will just be working with the audience or improvising. I’m not sure I’m comfortable answering that to be honest, the only thing I can say is come and see me!


My apologies. I suppose, really, it is for other people to draw their own conclusions.
The only thing I would say is that people should come and see me and form their own opinion. I get laziness from people who say, ‘You’re like Peter Kay.’ And it is just because of the accent because I’m nothing like Peter Kay. My act is nothing like his. You know what I mean? That is just what people do. So yeah. I don’t know how I would describe myself. Come and watch me!


What was the last book you read or record you bought?
The last record I bought was on vinyl, a Northern Soul collection. Musically, I think I have quite an eclectic taste. The last book I read? You know, I don’t remember. I go through spurts of reading, but it has been probably a couple of years since I last read a book. I know that sounds ridiculous. But then, next year I might read fucking hundreds. Oh, I did read this book about The Smiths. Yeah, a book about the meaning of all The Smiths’ songs or something. I think that was the last thing I read.


I think maybe we will end with something a bit silly… when I interviewed Paul Foot, I asked him where he bought his ties. So, in that vein, I would like to know, where do you buy your shoes?
There is an online company called Delicious Junction. The guy who owns that used to be the chief shoe designer for a shoe company called Icon.


I had Icon school shoes!
Yeah? He is making his own shoes, they’re really good! Or, if you have got a bit of cash to spare, Loakes, they may brilliant loafers and brogues. I buy too many shoes, or I did do! cannot afford them now!


Mick, what’s next for you?

I’m lucky enough to be a part of a new Radio4 series called, The Likely Dads, hosted by Tim Vincent. Myself and Russell Kane are the regular guests and each week we are joined by other dads to discuss ‘being a dad’. Quite a few celebrity dads make an appearance. The show is irreverent and informative at the same time. The first show went out at 23.00 on Thursday, 29th October. There are eight weekly episodes.

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Godefroy Dronsart – Interview

Godefroy Dronsart is a French poet and musician currently living in the Parisian suburbs and maintaining a sense of self-teaching British literature. His work has been published in various magazines such as the Belleville Park Pages, PostBLANK, Lunar Poetry, Paris Lit Up, and others. He is a former host and curator of the Poets Live reading series alongside Malik Crumpler. His first chapbook, The Manual, is available now from Sweat Drenched Press. Part of his musical work can be found on Bandcamp under the name Ozone Grass

Twitter: @OzoneGrass

Godefroy Dronsart, by Sabine DunDure

Godefroy, can you define poetry? What is it to you?

Hah, a banging question right off the start! I don’t think I can define poetry, but I can say what it means to me. I think poetry is the literary space in which langage can be as free as we want it to be. It’s the place where the text as space, the word as spell, the intimate voice and the formal experiment are all possible. I like the fact that in poetry you can shed any sense of expectation. You can do plot if you want, but you don’t have to, you can be lyrical, but you don’t have to. It’s very much a playground, a magic circle. Everytime a poet sits down to write they chart the outside of the little temenos of this moment. And the reader is invited to sit down within it and to stay as long as they want.

If I were describing your collection, The Manual, I might use words like challenging, innovative, and creative. To what extent do you agree or disagree with these?

They’re all good adjectives, so I would be a fool to disagree with them! I don’t know how challenging it is to the reader, but it certainly is for me. I found myself a bit silly when friends would ask me ‘Oh you’ve got a book out? Cool! What’s it about?’ and my answer would be ‘I don’t know.’ Or someone asked ‘Oh great your first chapbook! Is it poems?’, ‘I don’t know.’ It’s a challenging work to categorise because although for ease of use we can present it as a poetry chapbook, it’s very hybrid. I cannibalised bits and pieces from other poems and drafts but you can’t really take a piece out. It’s the same kind of book a manual is. In a way it’s not very creative – I took a manual I was reading through at the time for an electronic instrument and thought what if I wrote one of these – only the manual has no object? And then of course past the first pages and the well-known rhetoric of manual-writing I had to decide on what kind of text it would become and it ended up being this.

Poetry, or more broadly art, provides ample room for originality, such as yours – but I am interested to know how you see this piece of work. Where would you place this text in literary history?

Well it’s very much experimental and doesn’t try to follow any pre-existing artistic guideline. But I can’t escape the people who made my writing what it is. My spouse said she found it to be a very surrealist text. I’m in love with prety much all of modernism so she can’t be wrong about that. All I know is that I liked the idea enough to push through it in ten days before the submission deadline for the press I wanted to send it to closed! I remember Zak, the editor of Sweat Drenched Press, emphasised the comedy of the book. Other people called it part game part civil disobedience manifesto. I think it’s fascinating how it garners these different opinions.

Can you give the reader some background? What was the inspiration for this collection?

Well a friend of mine sent me the website of Sweat Drenched Press. They had a submission call closing in ten days for an experimental chapbook series. I had poems and ideas for chapbooks, but looking at SDP, I didn’t think it would fit their aesthetic. And I loved their strange aesthetic so I definitely wanted to submit something. I had just started to play around with a small drum synthesiser from Moog, which comes with a great user manual. So one sleepless night the idea came – write a manual, but it’s only about itself, but not really. I was also getting really interested in a subset of tabletop role-playing games called the OSR – Old School Revival, which used (among a lot of other things) a number of random tables to generate events, characters, plots, items. The last pages of The Manual come from this. I thought that as a reader, I often receive an aesthetic experience. But reading this synth manual, I wasn’t just passive or contemplative – the text talked to me directly. Do this, be warned about that. Try this. Now try this and study the difference. And I wondered how would an art book reproduce that. How do you shift the position of the reader. But this is not a new idea: gamebooks do it. If you’ve played a choose-your-own-adventure book, like Fighting Fantasy, you’ve engaged in an interactive narrative experience. I wanted to see if I could take lessons from these pop forms and use them in a very different artistic context.

I think that your work in The Manual has a definite self-awareness, is this intentional?

I would say so. The book presents itself as a book and does not want you to forget that you are holding a book. The artist for the cover, Reverse Brackets, said when he read it that it was a hypnosis spell. I liked that. I think part of the ambition I had was to write something that wouldn’t take you out of your surroundings, nothing escapist, but on the other hand which you slightly maybe change your view of the surrounding reality. Sounds like a load of pretentious bollocks said like this, but I’d be lying if I were to say that the book wasn’t influenced by magical procedures and occult culture.

What would you say to somebody who might dispute this being called poetry? Indeed, you go as far as to write, ‘The purpose of this book is purely educational and/ should not be mistaken for any artistic endeavour.’

Honestly, anyone who might dispute this being called poetry would have a great point. It’s more poetry than anything else, I think? But it’s not a book of poems. I don’t even know if it is a poem itself. Some parts are more recognisably poetic than others, some are not. It’s as close to poetry as an installation is to painting or sculpture, in a way. As for that quote, well, you probably should trust what the manual says. Why wouldn’t you? It’s a simple manual.

You have made brave language and form choices, but there are discernible, perhaps more traditional, poetic elements to be found with the text, I particularly like the lines, ‘The ghost of a voice’ and ‘With eyes opened or closed, mouth open or closed,/ stick your hands deep inside the carcass of a deer or a/ bull’. With this in mind, how would you encourage readers to approach this publication?

I don’t know how they should approach it, it would be grand if people were to approach my tiny and strange book at all! But you’re right, and that connects to the previous question. I had never written anything like this before, and I come from a background of writing poems. So I could not do without these moments. They’re much closer to traditional free verse, for sure. Prose is a cool way to connect the book to what it isn’t – a simple way of conveying information – but right now I can’t write without the inkling that language is at heart an incantation. And that can’t happen without verse in my opinion. As guidance though, I would offer the idea of treating the book like a book you found by accident. Can’t hurt to open it. It’s only a manual.

What was the last book/record you bought?

That’s a particularly well-timed question considering the shopping spree I just went on … The two new books I just received are Portable Darkness, an Aleister Crowley reader, and the Myth and Metamorphosis Anthology from Penteract Press. I’m becoming a massive fan of Penteract. They’re a small press with a vision and their vision nourishes me greatly. Last records I bought were the latest Ibibio Sound Machine album, Doko Mien, and a dungeon synth release from Gnoll, Mörk Borg. First one is a super-fun mixture of funk, disco, new wave and rock, while the second is an ominous electronic album. Got a massive wishlist on Bandcamp though …

Is there a correlation between your writing and your music?

Inevitably there is, but while in music I mainly deal with improvisation or semi-improvisation, I’m much more of a control freak in writing. I come from an academic background and that can often sabotage the view one has of one’s writing. But the original impulse is often very similar. Usually a first draft will happen with a line or two, and it’s these words that guide the rest of the poem, through sound and meaning. I’m starting to consider these drafts like sound design sessions : they’re not automatic writing, and I definitely edit as I write, but more and more I don’t sacralise the writing. Whatever came out can become a poem or maybe will help the growth of a second text later on. Maybe it’s just a bag of images I can draw from later.

What is next for Godefroy Dronsart?

A lot, I hope! I’ve got at least three more book ideas in the works. All of them are pretty conceptual, but since I dont write individual poems with a plan, I found that starting with a clear idea of the organisation of a manuscript helps to track progress and to have ideas boiling in the cerebral cauldron. I want to play more with the idea of gamebook poetry, to use the tools given by text treatment software to a broader extent, and just to read more, write more and submit more!

The Manual is available now.

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Robert Edge – Interview

Robert Edge is a Poet, photographer and creative writer currently working on a novel entitled ‘The fairly good Samaritan’. He is also embarking on a voyage of self-discovery as he writes his memoirs. (working title) ‘Inside the bottle’ His poetry is generally sardonic as it pokes fun at, amongst other things; the poetry fraternity. He has two as yet unpublished collections of his work: Tour Guide, an ekphrastic, intentionally ignorant view of art galleries and museums and, Breakfast at Wetherspoons, which plays with his dyslexia, using it to excuse whatever he can pass off as literature.

Twitter: @snaphappybob

You have a fairly unique poetic voice Rob – is this related to your dyslexia?

Definitely. I very much play on the fact that I’m dyslexic. It gives me an excuse to misunderstand when actually I really do understand. I can be a little disingenuous but for comic effect, it works. I think the bottom line is, that I’m really, really childish. I like to make a joke of whatever it is in front of me and see how far I can push it. That’s essentially where the poetic voice comes from. When I first started at uni, on the creative writing component of my English degree, I hadn’t even considered that I’d be writing poetry. Yet, I really hit the ground running with it. That was more to do with my personal life at the time, I’d been through some difficult times and this was my way of expressing it. By the end of my first year, I really started to create a voice.

I think poetry can at times be quite a sombre affair, and can take itself a little too seriously.

Very much so. I think the more poetry events you attend, the more you, not get tiresome of it, but, after the first three or four poems about suicide and depression, it all becomes weighty and crushing. I have been to numerous events that have gotten maudlin and you get to a point where you’re not really listening anymore. You clap when everybody else claps but you’re not really engaging with it. But I think, if you’re making people laugh, then they are engaged. I know of a few poets that are really great at engaging audiences in this way. But there are far too many poets, I find, that are very maudlin and that is not my type of poetry, if I am honest. I don’t think I’m a poet’s poet. I know what I like, and I know what I don’t like, and that goes beyond poetry. My voice then, is sort of anti-poetic, if there is such a thing.

That’s all very interesting Rob. Especially when I consider that you’ve been an active member in the local scene. Can you tell me more about your actual role and how that came about?

Yeah, so this happened as I was studying towards my degree, during my second year and bled into my MRes Creative Writing. To be completely clear, I decided to put on a poetry event in Ormskirk and so I approached a tiny, proper drinker’s pub and was able to put on an event called The Broken Mic, with the idea being due to the intimacy of the venue, there was no need for an actual mic. I had started doing some poetry events and met some other poets and invited them along to headline our nights. I got to know George Melling, and had him come in as a headliner. He’s a lovely old chap who didn’t start writing poetry until very recently. This was the first time he’d been a headliner, and he went on to headline at the Everyman in Liverpool. We had another lady, Joy French, who you may know from the Nationwide adverts. These people all have a voice. Not necessarily a voice that I am in tune with, but the whole point of the event was that it ought to be inclusive. It was a non-judgemental, broad church. I think that when you are studying creative writing, you can become a little embarrassed by your own work, especially if it is rhyme heavy, to the extent that your own voice is taught out of you. Eventually the event moved from that little pub, when the football season got going. Fortunately, Cathy Butterworth who manages the theatre at Edge Hill, gave us a space. ‘I’ then becomes ‘we’, as another student, Jess Tillings, a very talented poet in her own right, got on board with me and we rebranded as Reverb. There was then more visual art involved.

Am I correct in thinking that there was a publication that accompanied the Reverb events?

Yes, this was open to everybody to submit and was not limited to poetry as we also included some photography. I had become the convener of the event and Jess was doing lots of work in the background. We also had a chap named Bill Bullock, who is a graphic designer by trade and a poet too. He helped us put together the publication. Bill has done a lot of work with other poets, and was heavily involved in the Merseybeat poetry event at the Everyman the uni put on, to which Roger McGough turned up during my set, which was quite disconcerting.

The shift away from my early initial idea was fine, and while I loved being the compere, and introducing some amazing poets, like Tom Jenks and Gerry Potter, the whole thing had become a joint venture and was no longer my thing and so I bowed out. However, I’m proud of the crowds we drew and the work we put on.

You have mentioned your research degree there, can you give us some detail? You have stated that you only really became interested in writing poetry when studying your undergrad, so was it the being involved in this local scene that sort of opened up to you the possibility of a career as a writer, or was this more for personal development?

Well, my MRes was not focussed on poetry. I had always wanted to be a novelist or a writer. If I dial back to the nineties, I wrote a play entitled The Fairly Good Samaritan which was about suicide and suicide notes. This was secondary to a play I wrote entitled Art? which had a Faustian theme and was about a very poor artist who becomes massively successful and doesn’t understand the world he’s thrust into. This is linked to my need to make a joke of everything. It was tinged with ignorance and was a reflection on modern art and what people think art is. You will always have people suggesting that ‘You can’t call that art!’ and being a bit sniffy. So, originally, I had wanted to get into acting, then writing, then directing. The problem I have is that I am probably a little bit fragile and I struggled taking criticism at that time. Also, I did not know that I was dyslexic at that point. So, going to university allowed me to build up some resilience and get back into the habit of writing again. Now the MRes, is not a poetry piece, it was a novel but the poetics I had learned were still useful in the writing process. This is a project that is still ongoing. Although I have my MRes now. You know I’m level seven. But the experience of study was very different to the Undergraduate degree. I liked my tutor, he’s a very affable guy. Very supportive. However, I’m not sure that he really got my voice and I was beginning to question my own work, because I had respect for him as an individual. I think to some degree, that the creativeness was taught out of my writing.

So, what happened to that novel?

There’s about twenty-five thousand words written. It’s probably about a quarter of a novel. The opening five chapters or so and I have the plot and structure worked out. I continue to have epiphanies and new ideas and I have notebooks everywhere. It’s so annoying because, I really want to write it, but this Covid thing has given me a flatness and it has stopped me from doing what I really want to do. I need to find the time when it’s right to pick up the pen again. When lockdown originally happened, I began writing voraciously. Although, this was not the novel, I started writing a memoir and I found it so entertaining and cathartic to write, but I just hit a wall. Just recently, I started writing again. I’m a member of a writing group, who I have not really been engaging with, but we’ve had a few Zoom calls and I have read a couple of chapters out which have been well received. I know that they need work, and need to be expanded upon. But I have written about my own mental health and how it affects me and it’s essentially a shout out to say, ‘It’s ok to feel this way! Don’t judge yourself!’ I feel that right now, if I am inspired to write, I will go back to my memoir rather than my novel.

With this in mind, when was the last time you really wrote poetry? And what was it that inspired you to submit to The Broken Spine Artist Collective’s second issue?

I think that it was after I was invited to read at the launch night of the first issue. During my undergrad I had written enough poetry for two collections. I have real favourites, but they are not all poet’s poems. I have one piece which is about my mum, which is more of an everyman’s poem. I have written a love poem, which you’d be forgiven for not realising was a love poem at all. That is about a particular individual who I’ve never felt comfortable telling how I feel. But that’s what I love about poetry. Everything is hidden behind a veil of metaphor and simile. You use the language to create a barrier sometimes, other times to open things up but, I need to feel inspired when I’m writing poetry. I tried to write something last week. A political piece about the relationship between Cummings and Johnson, leading into Trump. Scathing and comic pieces, and although they remain unfinished, I will go back to them when inspiration strikes. I need to feel like I’m a part of something. Now, I think that perhaps because the MRes can be quite lonely. When you are studying your undergrad or a master’s degree, you are bouncing ideas off one another and I feel that I miss that smörgåsbord of inspiration.

Now, as well as being a writer, you’re also a photographer. Can you see correlations between the two outlets?

I don’t think that there is a stylistic link between my writing and photography. I think it’s just that I need to be creative. I grew up in a family where that was never really encouraged. Life was just about working and earning enough to live. I have just listened to two audiobooks, by Louis Theroux and Adam Buxton, and also Caitlin Moran’s How to Be a Woman and one by Isy Suttie. Now, the thing is, that I am practically the same age as both Theroux and Buxton, and so I get all of their pop culture references but, they are both from very privileged backgrounds. And obviously Suttie and Moran, highlight the gender divide. But, the impact of class on the men’s success is quite clear. Now, I have digressed here, but I knew that I needed to have an outlet, which is perhaps encouraged more in more privileged settings. When I was in English classes at school, I wanted to be drawing, and that may be linked to my dyslexia. But when I did write, I wanted to be able to use flowery language, but did not really have the vocabulary to do so. I loved the sound of words and would use them out of context. I was given my first camera at eight years old and used to take photos in the school yard of the kids messing about and I have enjoyed photography ever since, working in photo retailing and then becoming a photographer. I feel like that if I didn’t have an artistic bent, then I’d be a bit of a hollow shell. We all need something don’t we? I mean, you can say that you’re a poet, but you’re a father, or husband first. As much as we would like to think that our creativity defines who we are, they are actually our outlet and we can live without them but the world would be a much duller place. We have never needed art more than we do now. I was supposed to go and see a couple of exhibitions in London in April, one was a Titian exhibition. The second was Artemisia Gentileschi, who was a female painter, which was incredibly rare. And she has an amazing backstory which is to be seen in all her work. She was raped as a child by a student of her father’s. She took this case to court at that time, and actually won. You can see this strength of character in her work, this suffering.

We seem to have come full circle, to a natural end. But before we finish, I would like to know what it is you will be doing next. Are you intending to focus on your poetry, the novel, or your memoirs?

I’d love to do all of them. But most likely I will go back to writing my memoir. I have found it to be the most cathartic and gives me an excuse to be nostalgic and look back to before all this madness. I’m writing it as if somebody wants to read it, although I’m not sure that I’m interesting enough. It had the working title, How Not to Have Sex. It’s now called Inside the Bottle, the idea being that we cannot see how people view us. A marketing guru I knew used to say you can’t read the label when you’re inside the bottle. I think that it’s a really interesting concept and that we are all, to some degree, blind to who we are. We are who people perceive we are. We are all the centre of our own universe.

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Ian D. Hall – Interview

When I began to network with the poetry community in my local area, Ian was one of the first people I reached out to.

Image may contain: Ian D. Hall, smiling, beard and hat

When did you start writing and what do you think attracted you to poetry? 

Ian: I think poetry for me initially acted as an escape and memory. My Grandfather came over from Canada in 1937 and he became a fan of the Liverpool poets during the 60s, he saw in them something good about communication, and tried to install that into me. I didn’t write my serious first poem till I was about 14 and living in Bicester, it came on the back of listening to a lot of Progressive Rock, bits of Heavy Metal and a lot of 80s pop.

 I really enjoyed the Liverpool music and the way it used a more direct language than I had been used to growing up in rural Oxfordshire, in my later teens such as Pete Wylie, The Christians and The Icicle Works as I approached the end of the 80s, the sound they made, the anger and energy that flowed through their lyrics, but also a love that I was feeling in other music. But it was perhaps listening to Marillion, to Fish, Genesis, Pink Floyd and Rush that first caught my ear. I remember hearing Marillion’s Misplaced Childhood for the first time and thinking, in youthful arrogance perhaps, that I could do that, not the music, I already had figured out that I could not play a note on anything, but the words, the playfulness and the force of the statement.

There was a lot of teenage angst, a lot of poetry about girls, thankfully most of them liked it, so they told me. But I never performed them, looking at some them now, wow they are awful, but there is a nugget in each of them.

I think the attraction came from there, the willingness to surrender to the application, the emotions, the word play, the settling of a debt in a sentence. I have always thanked my Grandfather for the love of poetry, I also think having listened to Progressive Rock at a very young age also had a hand in it.

Can you tell me about your journey into publication? 

Long, extremally difficult, mainly by accident.

My first poem published was in a book called World In Crisis, (I am a couple of pages in front of the literary giant Quentin Crisp), that was a highlight for me. After that I continued writing but never publishing anything, never seeking to be published but dreaming of becoming a writer and poet throughout my 20s. Work got in the way, children came along, I was too exhausted to do anything creative, and when I did I found I was being ridiculed for it, poetry especially, there was always a hangover, people saying, (especially from school teachers) that it wasn’t really a form of expression that men should do.

The accident of publication started after I had major surgery on my spine in 2003. An old friend of mine, my next-door neighbour when I was a child, rang me up and asked how I was, that I hadn’t been seen for a few months. The surgery took a lot out of me, physically and mentally, my marriage was breaking down, I was in a lot of pain, harbouring a lot of anger at a system that had not believed me when I started feeling the pain in my spine at 17 and was quite happy to keep telling me it was my head.

He asked me if I wanted to go and see Fish at the Bilston Robin that night, just to have a good time. Andrew was the Arts Editor for the Birmingham Mail at the time, and as I sat at the computer after the show, I thought I could write a review for him, 180 words, I can do that. Wrote it, sent it across and he loved it, asked me to do more.

Whether you see that as accident or providence that is how it started. It has been a hell of long journey mind and it has taken a lot of mental bashing to get to the place I am now.

How do you think you’ve evolved as a writer over the years? 

I put together a pamphlet of poetry in late 2003, 20 or so poems that I had written in the previous year, Searching For An Answer it was called, I think about 30 people in the world have it. I don’t think evolving, for me anyway is a quick process. Poetry always came first, the anarchy of it, refusing to tie myself down to form, now I know it was a sub-conscious decision, that I was trying to be like a hero of mine, Jack Kerouac. Stream of conscious writing. I have tried to follow that path to the place I am now. A wonderful Liverpool lecturer once said to me that the more you write, the more you write. Unless I am exhausted through pain, I try to write every day, even then sometimes the pain bleeds into the writing.

Are there any parallels you can draw with some of your favourite artists, and the work you are producing? 

The trouble I guess with reading a lot of different genres, regardless of poetry or in prose you tend to be influenced by them all. I am a devotee of Jack Kerouac and of Dylan Thomas, of Amelia Lanyer, Ted Hughes, Simon Armitage, Allen Ginsberg, Carol Ann Duffy, Edgar Allen Poe and Roger McGough, however I have tried not to be in debt to these writers …but you cannot help succumbing. I am not sure about parallels with poetry, that I guess is up to other people to remark upon.

Can you describe your writing process? How important is the editing process, and is this a solo effort? 

Observe, think, write it down and move on.  I don’t believe in magic formulas; inspiration is everywhere you look. I have difficulty with editing, I rarely do it, in my prose writing I leave that to others, I think it comes down to the stream of conscious writing that I have always maintained. It was the same at University, for an essay I wrote what I thought and would leave it at that; and it seemed to work. I suffer from anxiety, the more I can keep that at bay the better it is.

It would appear that often you blur your voice, with that of the poet speaker, how intentional is this? Is it fair to describe some of your work as confessional? 

I think it is dreadfully important to be the voice of your own downfall or the conductor of the revolution in your head. A poem to me is truth, even if it a lie, the imagination is the one area of humanity to which nothing else can touch, its capability to invent and conceive a word to describe love has to celebrated, and if you cannot do it in your own voice then what is the point. Even when writing from different perspectives, from the position of a man or woman, trans, CIS or anything, you must observe something of yourself in what you write.

Have you ever performed your poetry at a recitation or spoken word event? If so, how does this change the dynamic of the work? 

I used to perform a lot. I got invited to a poetry seminar in Washington D.C. once, sat at the same table as the legendary actor Mickey Rooney which was a thrill. I have done a couple of my own nights and joined in with others. The problem I have had for the last couple of years is stamina and pain. I cannot perform sat down; the voice isn’t right. Bearing in mind that I have several discs missing in my spine and am on a lot of medication I cannot stand for too long either. My legs start to go. In some ways I find I cannot do it anymore. I would love to do more, to go and do what I what I wanted to do at 15, health though is a bug bear.

What makes for a good poem? Can you name your favourite writers and what draws you to them? 

Truth, imagination, personality, a capacity to embrace being the fallen human being. Sometimes it is the rhythm that gets me, Roger McGough, my favourite Liverpool poet, makes me laugh, and he always remembers my name for some reason. Dylan Thomas will make me weep with his fragility and bluster, Simon Armitage’s resonance is wonderfully self-effacing but so gentle, Kerouac sought truth, Ginsberg sought it all.

Have you ever studied creative writing? Are there any plans to study creative writing or literature more broadly? 

I haven’t, at least not since school, saying that I did a term at University. I wrote a 3,000-word short story based in part on my Great Uncle who was one of the first medics into Belsen during World War 2.

What are you working on at present? And what do you think is the major spur? 

At the moment I am working on my third novel, a horror, I hope, a departure from my usual way of thinking, My second novel comes in June next year, a sequel to 2018’s The Death of Poetry. I have a notebook by the side of me of 14 or so ideas for books, short stories, a couple of plays and one really large poem in the vein of Ginsberg’s Kaddish. I have decided to spend more time writing these than going to gigs.

Would you say that you have ever suffered for your art? 

 A loaded question, lol. How can you write poetry if you haven’t had your heart broken? In some ways writing has been a cathartic feature, but it also takes you places that you would rather not go. I found that in The Death of Poetry, a book that came out my Nan dying.  My Nan was my biggest supporter, and when we found out that the breast cancer had spread, we knew then she didn’t have long. My Dad told me to write the novel that I always said I was going to do; I think he was trying to take my mind of my Nan’s rapid deterioration. I wrote solidly for 24 days, almost completing it before she died. On the day she died there was terrible gale and I remember shouting outside of my front door, calling on whatever forces in the Universe had conspired to make her ill, to let her go. At that point I felt her go, it was a seamless horrible moment, but it gave me the strength to finish the book, I needed to finish it for her.

Are you involved in the poetry community? It appears to me as an active poet, that the chapbook and journal world is thriving right now, do you submit or would you consider submitting in this way? 

Unfortunately, I am not, mainly because for the last 15 years or so I have been immersed in writing about the art in Liverpool and that has always taken up so much of my time. 

How do you measure success? 

By finding out that I am still breathing when I open my eyes.

How do you feel about describing yourself as a poet? 

It feels kind of rebellious, I enjoy that. I find there is still some inverted snobbery in some people’s minds when it comes to poetry. I had a teacher once in my final year of school who sent me my report card for the year and on it she wrote that she liked reading my poetry, but I had to learn that I would not make a living out of it. I walked the two miles back to school, slammed it on her desk and told her that was not the point. It felt good to be angry at the suggestion.

Do you have any other ventures going aside from your creative writing? 

Unfortunately I am kind of boring, I read, I listen to music, I watch the occasional hour of television and I watch plays at the theatre…I used to go and watch Man City play, have been a supporter since 1976, but these day the journey is too much and the cold hurts. Other than that, I have nothing but what is in front of me, and that takes up a lot of time.

What was the last album you listened to? What was the last gig you went to? 

I listen to music every day, I find it a necessity, it is calming, it stirs the imagination. I try to review an album a day but sometimes I find the time gets away from me.  I recently had the pleasure of listening to Amy Studt’s new album, The Happiest Girl In The Universe, very cool, and the American Blues man Mike Zito pay tribute to Chuck Berry, incredible versions. The last gig I went to was last night, Midge Ure at the Philharmonic Hall. It was shrouded in a bit of sadness though as I knew after that I had only about 5 live gigs that I will be attending, after over 1300 gig reviews over the years I have decided to step back from that particular part of my reviewing, it is taking too long to recover after a gig, and as I near 50 I don’t want to be being sick for days just because I have gone out.

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Micayl – Interview

Originally posted on PlanetSlop.co.uk

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.

Versailles is out now.

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