Following a sold out headline show at Heaven and a stunning performance at this year’s Lovebox Festival, multi-platinum pop-star Mika has returned with the first single from forthcoming album. Here he takes IDOL through what went into making this record, from stalking unsigned musicians, to his sister’s tragic accident.
SO MIKA, YOU’RE BACK!
I’m back! Yes! (laughs)
IT FEELS LIKE IT HAS BEEN A LONG TIME COMING?
It has been a long time ****ing coming!
YOU HADN’T DISAPPEARED THOUGH, YOU WERE TOURING THE WORLD. HOW WAS THAT?
I was. I was touring incessantly. At first it wasn’t so good. I was dealing with promoting the second album and it started in small theatres and clubs. But luckily it kept on going and it built up a nice momentum. We then ended up getting into bigger theatres and arenas in a lot of places – arenas all over Asia – so by the end of it, which was an over a two year journey, it was amazing. But it was a hard slog getting there. What was strange was that for me, I can’t write on the road, so there were two years of intense performance work, but not a little bit of writing.
ARE YOU HAPPIER WRITING RATHER THAN PERFORMING?
I am, yeah. Writing is introspective; it’s you making your own universe. With touring nothing’s going in, everything’s going out. It’s weird to flit between the two, but I think I am more comfortable being a writer. I think that anyone who is too comfortable being a performer – you never feel like you’re watching something special – you’re just watching someone show off.
WHAT COUNTRY HAS THE MOST DIE-HARD FANS?
I get them a bit everywhere, because my music is kind of weird! I guess if you’re into my music, you make an effort to get into it. In terms of hard-core fans, I would say South America – South America was crazy. Standing in Sao Paolo doing a festival in front of 60,000 people singing my songs. I felt like I’d been punched in the stomach – I didn’t know if it was a good thing or a bad thing! What I create in my bedroom or my living room can do this. It’s really empowering.
WHAT DO YOU REALLY THINK OF YOUR FANS? DO YOU FEEL THEIR SUPPORT IN A POSITIVE AND TANGIBLE WAY?
The overwhelming majority, yes. Some have this kind of possession thing, about control and proximity. The overwhelming majority, however, are extremely creative and responsive. They are my biggest allies in what I do.
YOU GREW UP IN THREE DIFFERENT COUNTRIES – WHAT NATIONALITY DO YOU CONSIDER YOURSELF TO BE?
I think I’m the result of a family that didn’t really know where it came from. When you walk into my household it feels like a Lebanese household, an Arab household, but at the same time we have heavy French and English influences. I’m from nowhere. I come from a family of five children and all of us are in the arts. The only justification I can have for that is that we all feel slightly placeless, which gives us an inclination to create something. If we create something it makes us feel like it’s ok to be placeless.
YOU PUT EVERYTHING TOGETHER ON THE RECORD YOURSELF – WAS THIS A REACTION TO YOUR EXPERIENCES MAKING YOUR PREVIOUS RECORDS?
I’ve always had a lot of control. But it was a reaction in some way – to making the second record. The first album was really collaborative and open and it was a product of my journey in trying to get signed. The second one was a reaction to that, and that was isolation. I felt like I needed to be isolated for seven months in front of a piano, and I made the record with one person. This third one is the antithesis of that again – it’s completely open. I took more of a curation standpoint. I had no ego on this record. I made the record purely because I wanted to make pop music.
SO WHAT KIND OF SOUND CAN OUR READERS EXPECT FROM THE ALBUM?
It’s definitely evolved. It’s really joyful. The influences were mainly Beck, Fleetwood Mac, The Bee Gees and The Eels.
DID YOUR SISTER PALOMA’S ACCIDENT INFLUENCE ANY OF YOUR WRITING? ARE THERE SONGS DEDICATED TO HER?
My sister’s accident certainly played a big part. I don’t think I would have made (the album) as sincerely happy, which is ironic because a lot of it was made when we weren’t sure what her outcome would be, and I guess that idea of life as you know it within a space of a few minutes can be changed forever gave me this reckless attitude. I threw caution to the wind and put my heart on my sleeve, making a record that is sincere.
And when I say sincere I don’t mean navel-gazing nonsense. I ran away from my sister’s accident. I made it very clear. I said, “Now that I know you’re going to make it, I’m going to go. This is what I need to do. I’m not going to sit around by your bedside when it will make me miserable, and what I need to do is make music.”
WHAT DOES SHE THINK OF THE RECORD?
She adores half of it and the other half she’s like “It’s really good” but I can see it’s a lie! I think a lot of my fans have the same attitude as my siblings – unfortunately they tell me the truth!
WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO WORK WITH UNSIGNED MUSICIANS THAT YOU FOUND ONLINE? HOW DID YOU FIND THEM?
I’m an internet stalker! I wanted people who had never made big record company records before, who would throw themselves into it. When I put myself into a project I really go for it. I do it everyday, all day, all night, because it’s what I really love. It doesn’t feel like work. Unfortunately in the music industry it doesn’t always work like that. I found people who were young, new to the whole game.
DO YOU THINK YOUR CLASSICAL TRAINING MADE YOU MORE INCLINED TO SEARCH FOR REAL MUSICIANS?
That’s actually a really, really good point. I come from classical music – I started working in it when I was 11. I was listening to electronica from Japan and rock music from Sweden and jazz club recordings and reggae when I was 8. I never had a poster on my wall, I never looked the part, I never dressed the part, I didn’t even know what part I was supposed to play. I didn’t know that music was a lifestyle – to me it was just melody and lyrics.
I think nowadays there’s a lot of really good pop music, but there’s not enough artistry in pop, with men at least. There are not a lot of males making bold pop music. I don’t know why, but if it’s not folky it’s not happening, and I think that’s bull****. Why is it all soulful women making beautiful music?
YOU WERE ONE OF THE FIRST ARTISTS TO CHAMPION KATY PERRY – ARE YOU GUYS STILL IN TOUCH?
Yeah. She was opening for me in America. We were making records together. She’d just gotten dropped from a second deal and I was trying to get my first record made. She’s got a really good attitude and approach to pop music. There’s always a concept.
WOULD YOU EVER COLLABORATE? IT WOULD BE A COLOURFUL VIDEO!
I would love to write with her, for someone else. That would be really interesting. Then it wouldn’t be about singing or marketing, but creating something together.
WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE NEXT FEW MONTHS?
I’m touring shows all around Europe before I start my proper promo run and touring in the autumn. I’m literally drawing right now with a lot of charcoal to use in the backdrop for my shows. It’s all based on propaganda posters from Europe enlarged massively.
AND FINALLY, WHO ARE YOUR IDOLS?
Destroy your idols! Destroy your idols in every way before they destroy you!
‘CELEBRATE’ IS OUT ON 30TH SEPTEMBER
Interview: Holly Rubenstein