I’m at home listening to Mik Artistik’s Ego-Trip, specifically, their new album, SUPREME. I’m on the second to last track when a parcel lands on my door mat. Inside is a slice of bread, with a note attached, ‘Sorry for the delay, you seemed in need.’ Who is it from I wonder? Should I eat it? Should I feed it to the chickens? What would Mik do? He’d write a song about it, that’s what Mik would do. It would have disco, funk and soul influences, but filtered through a punk aesthetic. He would sing in a Leeds accent, or an Irish accent, or a Jamaican accent, or a Texan accent. It would be gentle and fierce, normal and weird, with surreal imagery and it would be, in the words of another reviewer, ‘a bit druggy’.
I get to the end of the album, and still unsure what to do with the bread, I play the album again. I hold the slice of bread in my hand. It’s a slice of brown bread. I never eat brown bread. I don’t like brown bread. Perhaps that’s the point – a challenge to my indifference, even antipathy, towards brown bread?
I listen to the album again. Liked it the first time, I’m liking it even better the second time around. It makes me laugh. It makes me dance around my kitchen. It makes me worry about my domestic wiring. I’m thinking now about Mik Artistik. What makes him tick? Perhaps Mik sent me the slice of bread? That’s just the sort of thing he would do. He once sold me a calendar that didn’t have any dates on it, and when I complained, he said I was getting a bargain: because it would never go out of date. With this question and others on my mind, I fire off an email to the great man himself. First off, the album is called Supreme, what makes it supreme?
MIK: The title is another in the great tradition of Ego Trip productions. See ‘SHOCK AND AWE’, ‘PULVERISER’, ‘HANG ON… I’M GREAT’. It felt a bit more melancholy than usual… Maybe they’re all like that.
My favourite track on the album is called ‘Stars’. It’s about a little boy of seven trying to reach the stars with the light from his torch. Is that boy you?
MIK: It’s all me in ‘Stars’. ‘Stars’ began as a little Christmasy phrase on the piano that sounded a bit like Brian Wilson ( I love the album ‘Surf’s Up’ and his piano playing) and it has a meditative quality and is a kind of love song to the planet. It’s not funny, and is awkward to play (I’m limited as a pianist) and makes occasional appearances at gigs.
My favourite Mik Artistik’s Ego-Trip track of all time is ‘Castaway’, which is the first track on the ‘LISSENN’ album. You were kind enough to let the BBC use the track for a play I wrote for them. The lyrics go, ‘still a fan of The Smiths’, ‘still growing a beard’, ‘all your friends are fat and bald, except for Carl, who’s selling cars for Renault’. You really draw a character through the use of minute particulars. Is it based on anyone you know?
MIK: ‘Castaway’ isn’t based on anyone. I just wanted to play with the idea of someone missing out on some cultural changes (he’s on a compulsory sabbatical). Mobile phones, hip-hop, Leeds in the nether regions of the league, and then trying to catch up.
That’s disappointing. I envisaged a sad little man somewhere, fuming at the ill treatment meted out by your satirical approach. But you do reference real people, often people in the media eye, in your lyrics. Have you ever written something about someone that you regret?
MIK: I do reference people and I do occasionally regret it… but not much. I wrote a song called ‘Hair’ that referenced ‘Tony Blair’. He’s gone so the potency of the song went. We haven’t played ‘Jimmy Savile’ for ages. I can’t be arsed to write a third version of the song. Two’s enough.
Well, Jimmy sort of ruined that song for you didn’t he? You also say that Jenny Murray is smug and Jo Wiley is smiley. Isn’t that a bit mean?
MIK: Slagging off Jennie Murray and Jo Whiley is stupid and puerile. But there is a place for that in a wordy genteel sad little number like ‘My Friend The Radio’. A lot of my songs are little dramas with some savoury and unsavoury people, some of whom I examine, or play. I love combining sweet and sour elements in a song.
What depresses you about the music scene?
MIK: Teeth.. and people doing ‘tormented’ shapes in pumps.
Are you referring to the whitening of teeth, or some other teeth based travesty?
Do you like poetry? If so, who?
MIK: Poetry? I have a go, probably read two a year. There’s a poem called ‘Millionaires’ by Bukowski I like. A Robert Frost poem about snow…
I see. What music do you listen to?
MIK: I listen to lots of dirty funky music. Just discovered Lionel Hampton and Arab Strap… and enjoying Television Personalities.
How would you describe the band to an alien from planet Zob?
MIK: Describing it to promoters and venues on this planet is bad enough. I don’t really know what it is. I’ve tried ‘rock and roll stand-up’ but that’s inadequate really. There’s three of us on stage. Two crack musicians who can turn on a six /five pence and someone who seems to be suffering from Tourette’s at times. A song can last 90 seconds one night and 45 minutes a week later. People laugh, some people look confused. It’s a bit like free jazz. Children, security guards, get dragged on stage. Sweets and drinks are stolen by the singer.
Mik Artistik’s Ego Trip’s new album is called SUPREME, and can be bought direct from http://www.mikartistik.com/mik-the-merch/
I forget to ask him about the bread. I feed it to the chickens. They don’t like it.