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    My Mika interview

    19-01-07

      21:00:54, by S p r k .   , 1432 words  
    Categories: Categorie-loos

    My Mika interview

    This is the interview I did with Mika in January of 2007, when his single Grace Kelly had just gone to #1 in the UK, on downloads alone. Feel free to link to this URL if you want to link to the interview. Do not copy the text onto other sites etc. Thanks and enjoy.

    Each year the BBC lists the most promising acts of the following year. This time they claim British singer/songwriter MIKA (born Mica Penniman) is the most promising artist of 2007. MIKA?s story begins 23 years ago in Beirut. He is the son of an American father and a Lebanese mother. Because of the war in Lebanon, they fled to Paris and eventually settled in London. He gets teased in school to such an extent that his mother decides to start homeschooling him for 6 months. She also hires a Russian vocal coach who helps him develop a vocal range of five octaves. He teaches himself how to play the piano and starts doing jingles to make money. Meanwhile he studies at the Royal College of Music, a prestigious school based in Kensington. Trying to make his own pop music, he gets rejected everywhere for being ?too different?. Since then, MIKA has had a number 1 single in Britain and his name is spreading throughout the music industry. Time to have a heart to heart about his music, the fantasy world he has created for the characters he sings about and those nasty rumors about his alleged homosexuality.

    How did you get by, going to music school without being able to read music?
    I had a really hard time, simply because the technical side of things was just impossible. But I knew that I wanted to do music, and my ear compensated a lot.

    When you were trying to do pop music you got turned down quite a lot. Did you ever try to let other people mold you into something you weren?t?
    Well, musically I was never really able to. I tried to put down a vocal on something I thought was terrible, and it didn?t work. When I used to present myself, I would always be slightly apologetic about who I was and the kind of music that I made. It took me a while to realize that was the one thing that made me remotely special. So I decided to accentuate it, put a spotlight on it, and that?s when things started to work. But it took a long time to find the confidence to get through that.

    And now everybody wants you!
    At one point absolutely no-one wanted to touch me. Then a year later, I presented everyone with a demo with four songs that I had done with friends, who had helped for free. And I had the privilege that everyone wanted to sign me. So I turned the tables a little bit and decided to go for the best deal. I wasn?t interested in people taking me out to dinner, or offering me trips. And I didn?t necessarily want a ridiculous amount of money, but I wanted full control. I?m very thankful that I was able to get a deal where I had complete freedom, yet the right amount of dough to make the record. Normally, when someone gives you money, you lose control.

    You don?t want to be a prostitute, basically.
    No, exactly. Because I knew it would fail. Like so many others before me. They go, and they try and make their first record, and it fails. Because the record they?ve made is nothing like the record they had in mind.

    They don?t have longevity at all.
    Yeah, but it?s not their fault. It?s the way the music industry works.

    Did any of the people that turned you down in the past ever say they were sorry?
    No, never. I haven?t heard from them. But I?m sure I will, at some point. Maybe they?re so aloof that maybe they don?t even realize that the song Grace Kelly was written to them. Maybe they didn?t even open the demo when I sent it to them. And if they don?t know, I?m certainly not going to tell them, because then it would give them credit.

    Why did you change your name from Mica to Mika?
    Because everyone was calling me ?Maika?, or ?Mischa?. So I was saying ?noooo, my name?s fucking Mika!?.

    Isn?t it scary to live up to the hype of being on that BBC list?
    I would be a fool not to stand on it and take advantage of the attention that I?m getting. At the same time, I know very well the dangers of hype.

    Don?t you think your music requires hype? I sent some of your tracks to 20 of my friends. 18 of them completely loved it, and two of them really hated it.
    Hated it? That?s great! I love that! It?s a Marmite record. You know that English disgusting spread thing, you either love it or you hate it? I think it?s revolting.

    My colleague eats it all the time.
    And it stinks. But yeah, that?s the kind of record I wanted to make. You know what, you?re right, actually, it DOES require hype. But hype has got to come from the right place. You can?t pay for hype. I?m very lucky, because a lot of the buzz that I?ve got is organic, and it has come as a result of the music. I?m not the son of someone famous, I?m not going out with Lily Allen, there?s none of that. There?s no tabloid hype to build on. It just started to spread, quietly but quickly. Now, on the strength of downloads alone in the UK, we went straight into the charts at #3. The week after we were number one.

    You design all your artwork together with your sister Yasmine. Have you got any multimedia plans?
    About a year before I started recording the album I came up with these characters, and I was showing it to the record company. And they said ?You?re out of your mind, you haven?t even chosen a producer yet!? When we were recording the album I brought Yasmine over to LA and we set up a painting studio in the lounge of my recording studio. So she was painting as we were recording stuff. I had this idea to set up a visual fantasy world with characters and with their own land that they live in. The album is almost a soundtrack to this world that I?ve created. Which I don?t think has really been done before. I really want to take this whole world and go as far as I possibly can within the next year and a half. I?m working on a little podcast soap opera, based on all the different characters. Different things happen; people have affairs, there?s like a breakdown, and it?s all audio.

    There are a lot of rumors about your sexuality going around, and you never really seem to acknowledge or deny anything?
    I don?t think it?s relevant, at least not at this stage. I think it all depends on the kind of music that you?re making. If you?re making music that is really driven by sexuality, it becomes very important. I think it?s really helpful to separate the ?person? from the ?artist?. Whether that means closing off different parts of your life, it?s something that everyone has a choice to do. I listen to music and I never really associate it with the person who creates it. Maybe other people do, but I never did. So I find that hard to understand.

    Well, you?ve written a song about a married man having a gay affair, The Wizard of Oz is your favorite movie and you do have quite a large fascination with Dolly Parton though.
    She?s one of the fiercest pop song writers in America. I?m a big fan of her songwriting. She?s just ridiculous and over the top. But you can?t mock her, because she writes absolutely good pop songs.

    Have you ever been to Dollywood, the Dolly Parton theme park?
    No, never.

    You should go!
    I know that her whole family works in it. Every member of her extended family works at some part of Dolly?s empire. I really want to go there someday.

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