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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Paul Robert Mullen Interview: “I’ve spent years marvelling over Leonard Cohen’s words”

Originally posted on Planet Slop

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.

PSCan 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.

Image source: Twitter @mushyprm35

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Paul Foot Interview: “What if Spiderman was a right bigot?”

Originally posted on Planet Slop

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.

PSWho, 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.

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