Bird Radio is the alter ego of musician, composer and performer Mikey Kirkpatrick. His debut album "The Boy and the Audience" is out now on SFE/Cherry Red. Available in record stores or order your copy online (Read the review in Bearded Magazine).
Musicmuso bumped into Mikey whilst queuing for an ice cream from one of those retro style vans that drive about playing their sickly annoying tune (my old man used to tell me that they only played the tune when they had run out of ice cream...) anyway, I digress, we opted for a 'Mr Whippy' with raspberry sauce and twin flakes, found a nice bench and shot the shit, here's how we got on....
Please introduce yourself and your music in one sentence...
I am Bird Radio, I perform songs and tell stories using my voice, flutes, loops, effects and a suitcase bass drum.
You’re called Bird Radio how did you come about choosing this name?
Bird because I use flutes, pipes and whistles. Radio because I feel like a transceiver of sorts, as well as using loops and effects as part of my performance. The name came because I wanted freedom to be the person I envisioned on stage, which is essentially an exaggeration of myself.
How has social media aided your music?
Social media is a means place to let people know what I’m doing, but it hasn’t made any difference to my music.
Who designed the artwork The Boy in the audience your debut album?
My girlfriend Chiara Ambrosio who I collaborate with on music videos, films and most recently our illustrated book of short stories “The Girl with the Sea for a Dress”. TBATA artwork is a collage and the original was on display with other work at her “Works on Paper” exhibition at the Book Art Bookshop, 17 Pitfield Street, near Old Street.
Where did you record your debut album and what made you choose that studio?
The studio at City University. I believe it was refurbished not long before we began recording in 2012 with my friend and producer Rick Campion who works there. We used downtime in the studio here and there over the course of a year, a chance to experiment with lots of different mics, setups and different rooms. We used amps and mics for feedback, put a subwoofer in a separate room for added bass and even asked my friend and assistant engineer Winther Robinson to wear binaural mics while I sang ‘at’ her. We discovered a secret weapon mic that allowed us to mix the track just by positioning my layered performances physically in the live room, then converting it to the stereo mix. Jon Astley mastered the album at Pete Townshend’s old studio. That was a fascinating experience, but the art of mastering is still shrouded in mystery to me. Rick did an incredible job producing the album, as I think you’ll agree.
You use a variety of instruments, which would you call your old faithful?
My flute and I go back a long way.
How was the experience of being at the one man band festival in Montreal?
Amazing. Fifty one-wo/man bands in one city over one weekend. I wish I could have seen and heard more. Two things: it’s fascinating to see what one person can achieve on a stage and it makes you feel less of a loner to be around lots of loners. Thomas Truax was brilliant, he’s often performing in the UK too – a mad (but genius) musical professor at work.
How and when did you decide that you wanted to be a performer?
I always had a buzz seeing live music and theatre, and a feeling of wanting to live in the world of that show. I always felt sad when I had to leave the venue and the universe I had just entered into. The prospect of getting on stage when I was young terrified me, but I was lucky to have some good role models at my local theatre who got me involved in shows. My first theatre show was out in the woods in Herefordshire with horses, a fire lit grand piano recital, a giant Queen Elizabeth I and a woman cooking in a bath over a bonfire. Andrew Morris, Manu Song, Jeremy Creighton Herbert and Rob Strawson have been a big part of my musical education, and my parents who always supported my music and love of busking in the streets from a young age. I listened to a wide range of classical, rock, folk and experimental music. My dad and I frequented Sidmouth Folk Festival where we busked for our supper of noodles and tea, and we even played a gig together at Glastonbury festival. My mum taught me to play the recorder and read music.
What does music mean to you?
At its best, a catalyst for transformation and journey, a beautiful shared experience, an illuminated reflection of an aspect (or aspects) of ourselves, a place to project ourselves into and become, time travel, a doorway into ourselves, a lantern deep down in our collective memories and subconscious, and something that overwhelms us with hard and beautiful truth and a lot of fun, too.
In your opinion, what is the BEST album/record ever released?
That I can’t answer. But I think my most listened-to album is Glitter and Doom Live by Tom Waits.
Being a musician how hard is it to get noticed and how has social media helped you?
It takes time, commitment and perseverance. Social media is a means for those people who have seen you perform get additional information about releases, gigs or crowdfunding campaigns - like a mailing list – so it’s useful. But this facebook thing of having to pay to let all your followers see your posts is really appalling. I am also using tumblr to keep an online diary for my new album project “Oh, Happy England” http://ohhappyengland.tumblr.com
Do you own a record that you wouldn’t like to admit you have?
There’s a few I used to listen to and don’t like so much now.
What classic song would you have liked to have recorded and why?
Time – Aladdin Sane – Bowie. “Time flexes like a whore, falls wanking to the floor”. Who wouldn’t want to have written that line?
First gig you ever went to?
A band playing South American music called Incantation.
Last book you read?
Sixth Sense by Konrad Bayer, Atlas Press.
Name three people (alive, dead or fictional) that you would like as dinner party guests?
Athanasias Kircher, Russell Hoban, David Bowie.
There are many good bands and musicians out there, who would you ask the readers of musicmuso to look out for?
Where do I start? You may or may not have heard of:
James Hesford, Cos Chapman, Miss Roberts and The Rude Mechanicals, The Dead Rat Orchestra, Othon and Tomasini, John Bently, U’mau, Tobion, Laura Moody, Sexton Ming, to name just a few…
Best way to make a cup of Tea?
Strong, no milk
If you could describe your music in the form of a fictional character, who would it be?
Steve Chandra Savale from Asian Dub Foundation said… “Bird Radio is future medieval, as if J.G. Ballard had written The Wicker Man”.
Do you think we can ever live in a world where a chicken can cross the road without having its motives questioned?
That reminds me about some terrible joke about bubblegum…
What are your plans for the remainder of 2014?
Record my new album Oh, Happy England, save the Horse Hospital and Tin Pan Alley from being sold, have a big 30th birthday party, see lots of friends and visit New York again.
Mikey had finished his ice cream pretty quickly and was hinting that he wanted a refill, prior to him running off in search of the ice cream seller, we threw him a bunch of quick fire questions....
Coffee or Tea? Coffee
Coke or Pepsi? Neither
Drum machine or the real deal? Both
Mac or PC? Mac
Fry up or Sunday roast? Both
Lemmy (Motorhead) or Ozzy (Black Sabbath)? Ozzy
CD or Vinyl? Vinyl
Car or Motorbike? Car
Acoustic or electric? Acoustic
Shower or Bath? Bath
Tattoos or Piercings? I wear a silver lion in my left ear
Robert De Niro or Al Pacino? Al
God or Google? God
We'd like to thank Mikey for sparing his time to answer our questions, we wish him every success in the future and look forward to posting more news from him as and when received.
Interview by Mark Wincott