An Interview with Mark McG

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THE MUMBLE :  Hi Mark, thanks for coming, so where are you from & how did you end up in Glasgow?

MARK : Originally from Ayrshire but moved out to Glasgow as soon as I was old enough to flee the nest. Spent some time abroad too but Glasgow has been my home for the most part ever since. There is always so much going on here without every seeming as hectic as other places I`ve visited. I think there is the right balance of madness and relaxation in this city and everywhere is usually walking distance from anywhere else. The music scene is the strongest I’ve ever seen it and the poetry and comedy scenes are exceptional too.

***

THE MUMBLE :  What first got you into poetry

MARK : I stumbled into the spoken word scene by mistake. Years ago, I was in a band who were plagued by technical difficulties, rubbish equipment and a fondness for free booze. As a result, it was very common for me to have to fill in the awkward silences or musical blanks by ‘saying hings’ as different levels of `tuning` and `tweaking` occurred between songs. Later on, I started hosting a night I put on called Jamfest which was a rigged open mic night and collaborative jam. Filling in the spaces then was a lot easier and I would do it with some fairly pish off the cuff banter or by reciting song lyrics accapella. We started the FIRST Alternative Burns Supper (there is loads of them now but we were the only show in town back then) with Sammy B and that lead to me crossing paths with a lot more poets from the scene.

One of them was Jim Monaghan who, if memory serves me correctly, gave me my first gig outside my own venue bubble. I really enjoyed it and started doing more and more of them. It was a lot more fun doing it without the pressures of being a host. I loved the freedom that spoken word gave me as a performer and was grateful to the support everyone seemed to give. I have peeked round the door on just about every scene in Glasgow at some point and there is always a hardcore cliquey element to each of them. I genuinely expected the poetry scene to be stuck up or patronising but the opposite was true. In my experience everyone has been helpful and nice. I`m sure there is a nastier side to it that I`m not aware of. There is probably exclusive , secret poetry nights in castles where they bitch and cackle about the fact people like myself find it necessary to rhyme words with such regularity but I have yet to stumble upon any of that . It made sense for me to gravitate towards poetry and spoken word as all I’ve ever really been good at is writing words down on paper . I try and write everyday and am determined to try and go through the boxes of lyrics and try and turn it into a whole batch of new material after some extensive editing. Before, I have always felt it was ‘cheating’ by throwing in stuff I wrote in the past but I have recently had the realisation that they are my words and no-one has ever heard them so it might be okay to use them rather than let them gather dust. I hope to get a few pamphlets on the go this year and maybe get a brand new spoken word live show ready for a short stint at the Edinburgh Fringe.

*****

Countdown to Tinnitus

People talk about One self Two much
at any given Second
in the Third person
go Forth and drink a Fifth of gin
Ive got a Sixth sense for the Seventh deadly sin
I should ve Eight something
before the Nine bar subcrawl
playing Tennis with tinnitus
in a tunnel feeling awful

clock ticking on my ears innocence
Bus stop apocalypse
countdown to tinnitus

Five
Four
Three
Two
One

I broke through the Ten commandments
Like a cat with Nine lives
I lost my head like all of Henry the 8th`s wives
I slept through the Seventies
awoke the Sixth of June with a sick sense of humour
Let`s bet our landlords Five hundred monthly rent based purely on a taxi driver rumour
I ate forbidden fruit with the Three wise men
Went Two church in fancy dress once never again

clock ticking on my ears innocence
Bus stop apocalypse
countdown to tinnitus

Five
Four
Three
Two
One

The silence keeps me awake at night
its the feedback
the white noise
the wind chimes
it goes through me

**********

THE MUMBLE :  Your lyrical singing style is quite hip-hoppy, is there a difference between spoken word & hip-hop apart from the obvious musical backdrop

MARK : I have written lyrics from a very young age and it was always good rap music that mostly got me into the head space of wanting to write often and more importantly, wanting to write better. I`ve been in bands that were described as punk rock but if you looked at the words written down or you applied the verses to a Hip Hop beat you would be able to tell where the inspiration comes from . Many `songwriters` get away in the Indie/ Rock/ Punk/ Pop scenes with some very lame and unoriginal lyrics and even become heralded as `the next big thing` because of them. I doubt you would get away with such laziness in any decent minded poetry or Hip Hop circle.

In my opinion, a good Hip Hop M.C can deliver some of the finest poetry around. Many would disagree with that but I`d be happy to prove them wrong by showing them a range of rappers who can connect with an audience without a beat or texts that can take the reader on a journey. On the other hand, some good poetry could be made into good hip hop but that`s far less likely. All of this is at the listener and reader`s discretion about what is good poetry is and what their definition of real Hip Hop is . I enjoy wordplay, double meanings and a message behind it all. I could give a long list examples of Hip Hop M.Cs that have made effortless transitions to poetry when it suits them . Both Akala and B Dolan spring to mind off the top of my head. I also think more locally people like Dave Hook from Stanley Odd and Loki are brilliant at stripping down their performances to a spoken word crowd. Going the other way? I would say people like Kate Tempest, Mike Skinner and Scroobius Pip are fantastic poets that sound excellent with a phat beat behind them . There is also a load of brilliant M.Cs that would sound terrible stripped back without the beats behind them. It all boils down to the style and delivery of each artist . Hip Hop gets a bad rep in poetry circles because they tend to only have mainstream acts to compare it to . Like most genres of music , the most exciting things are happening off the beaten track and the best of these rarely make it to the prime time so the majority miss out on true gems as a result. This is something that the internet is more than capable of fixing if people shared more of their favourite underground artists. These small steps can make all the difference. I know I have always done my best to `spike` the poetry crowd with Hip Hop and vice versa. People tend to be surprised about how much they like the thing they didn`t expect and I try to make a habit of it with nights like Jamfest, Ned Poets Society, Friction Burns and more recently the `Overheard… ` night

***

Planet Fort Knox

(from Who Took Utopia : Track 7)

to my credit I was drinking slowly
and to my detriment … I wasn`t really
it`s all swings and roundabouts
hocus pocus smoke and mirrors
post- `man ` on high alert whenever he delivers
and if I ever look confused?
Don`t worry mate I`m getting ya
just correlating data dat may one day unsettle ya
people want the truth but don`t care for facts
they want a black`n`white soundbite as a green light to react

I`m not angry
to say I was suggests am somehow surprised
and I`m not shocked
not one jot
it`s all so very predicable
also very avoidable
crobarred mental block mind-warped brainwashed bubble
I have my own theories- I`m the king of this rubble

my wall is a towering inferno
until I bash in a keypad with my pin-code
motion captured lasers for good measure
vandal grease? nah! retina sensors
full of beans.. in the bunker for the Alex Jones end time
refined tonic wines and a beware of the dug sign
I patrol my yard solo in a tin foil jeep
and vet the wildlife for bugs cuz slugs can be discreet

I`m not lonely
better to have not loved than be lost forever
and I`m not bitter not one bit
ah researched the text of all the ancient scrolls
visitors not welcome round here no more
no time for fools I`ve disowned them all
down the shutters go forever I`m invisible

intruders get electrocuted trespassers prosecuted
by my law , my land, my rules, my gun
I shoot onsite with a remote control (bang)
my fence is spiked with barbed wire for defence
get out my head this is my patch
get off my land keep off the grass
move along there`s nothing for you here to see
planet fort knox with a paltry population of just me

I`m not crazy
to say that I am says more about you
and I`m not wasted
I just say shit
I`ll stay on the real while you live your cartoon
a glutton for punishment judgement day soon
my rifle and my bible just me and the moon
I`de rather that than blindly consume
sheep follow sheep ba ba to the abattoir
gabbing blah blah from your armour of an avatar
sheep follow sheep ba ba to the abattoir
gabbing blah blah from your armour of an avatar

***********

THE MUMBLE : As your love of poetry has developed, what parts of the artform have you incorporated, both classical & contemporary

MARK : I`m not sure how best to answer this question. If I`m honest , I have no actual poetry or literature background and just always wrote words down off my own accord. I write far for more than I read which is something I`m not necessarily proud of but just a fact of the matter . No matter how busy my life is or where I am , I usually have a pen handy and can jot down some ideas. I`ve been known to write everywhere from bus stops to nightclubs. The latter would have embarassed me up untl fairly recently but now if I have an idea , I want to scribble it down no matter where I am. I naturally found writing words down therapeutic for years before I started performing them at any level. I`m not from the kind of place where you could just say `I`m gonna be a poet now.` I`ve still got good friends who don`t even know that I ever even joined a band. I would describe the majority of what I`ve done up until now as mainly satirical observations done in an original contemporary style but perhaps an expert would disagree. I have definitely hid behind a cloak of comedic value at times for a couple of reasons. One, I enjoy making people laugh and I find that for me it is the best way to get people`s attention to a serious topic without coming across as preachy. The other reason is that I`m only just starting to feel confident enough to perform out loud darker or more abstract material . I did the same thing with my band too, Hide behind comedy because if it turns out shite then you can say that you were only joking. But eventually , once you have an audience you can deviate into new and interesting directions. Sometimes, I do poetry shows and don`t even do a poem. I certainly wouldn`t advise any of this stuff by the way , it`s just how it all has unfolded for me.

Since I was a child, I`ve always studied closely song lyrics and these days I always do my best to pay full attention to any work my contemporary`s come out with . I feel you should always give an artist the benefit of the doubt and pay close attention to the message they are trying convey. A lot of stuff goes over all our heads everyday so I make an extra effort for any artist who has made me take notice. I hope to one day get a further academic understanding of the written word but until then I will keep working as hard as any other writer in creating new material and performing it as much as I can. I am getting quite good at just being me and as a promoter I personally prefer artists who are good at being themselves. That is the biggest skill I look for when watching a band, a poet or a comedian. If you can harness your own way of doing something then everything else should fall int place with a lot of hard work and a bit of luck.

***

THE MUMBLE :  You have just finished Jackal Trades, can you tell us about the project

MARK : It`s been a fairly long time in the making but finally glad to say that the `Need the Character (s)` album just dropped recently and we`ve reworked the songs as a 3 piece for live shows. Jackal Trades started as myself and the infamous and brilliant Gordy Duncan JR . We laid down about 5 tracks in the space of a couple of days then nothing happened for quite a long time, so I started collaborating with some of my favourite producers. Most of the songs have never seen the light of day as I was quite ruthless in scrapping ideas that I thought weren`t good enough and then penning fresh concepts. It got to the point where I finally decided that the songs I was now scrapping were actually of a decent level and it was best to just complete the debut album by a set deadline and then work on new things afterwards. I need to thank the likes of Gordy, Soundthief, Andy Martin and David Montgomery who all played big parts in getting me over the finish line. It was also a pleasure to work with legends like Mistah Bohze, Scatabrainz, Yoko Pwno and DJ Sonny for the first time as well as working with some familiar faces such as Sun Dogs and Mackenzie. I think this album lays somewhere between rap and poetry to follow up on your earlier question. I have never felt very comfortable with the term `poet` or `rapper` . This is just me saying hings that rhyme and hopefully there is enough ideas and melodies to give it repeated listens . I had very little expectations with this project apart from testing myself to make something fresh sounding. I think we achieved that but I know I can do better and hope to have the follow up out over the summer where we look set for a busy festival season alongside some shows in Inverness, Manchester and Newcastle. I have genuinely been blown away by the response of the album and the live shows so far. The latter is all down to the joint genius that is Dr. Jaslan and MJ Windebank. The album itself is sideways look at society today hidden behind the vale of numerous characters. The reviews have been great to read, even the slight criticisms as they seemed rooted in the fact that someone offered an opinion of their own after listening to it properly. You can download / stream the album on bandcamp, where I think a few CDs and T shirts should also be available.

the-girobabies-l-skeikbTHE MUMBLE :  What are the driving forces behind your words

MARK : Anger, Boredom, Humour, Inequality, Nerves, Compulsion, Money, Dreams, Love, Hate , Joy, Revenge, War . I don’t think any subject should be off limits and more and more find that the mundane can be made exciting. It feels like I have a constant soundtrack in my head of rhythms and beats so just one turn of phrase, a joke , a thought, a bad pun or two words that rhyme well together can be enough to make me jot down a couple of pages of stuff. 99% of which lays in boxes in various locations though because when I start to work on something or collaborate with someone , I (possibly wrongly) feel the need to create something fresh that I haven’t even heard before.

***

THE MUMBLE :  Can you tell us about the Glasgow Spoken Word groups you are involved in

MARK : Ned Poets Society has been dormant for a while but we should maybe bring it back? aye maybe we should. The Overheard nights? Overheard in the Westend takes place usually on a monthly basis at Siempre Cafe in Kelvinhall and the same goes for Overheard in the Southside at the Rum Shack. Poets and musicians interested in either should email traffic.cone.records@gmail.com . Hopefully, we start Overheard in the East End in 2017 too.

***


The Afterlife of Fred Phelps (Part 2)

Hello Fred Phelps , I am God – It’s yourself?
I’m confused and concerned by the life that you lead
the advice that you gave and the scriptures you ‘learned’
you must have misheard in life so listen up now you’re dead
pay attention Phelpsie , I’m a very busy man
I lost an aeroplane in transit they may try blame on Iran
I guess I plain- crashed out and now the full moon’s out
aliens are skyping me, scared their secrets out
I’m like ‘whatcha taaalkin bout?’ nobody truly knows
just plant more triangle sandwiches in those pop videos
back to you AYE , Aye I do hate fags
not the American slang , I just quit smoking TABS
way back in the day when that Mary Magdeline slag
broke my sons heart and stole his jet pack
the old testament rags were misquoting me as vengeful
exaggerated claims came before they even figured out pencils
the truth is humanity’s not even on my level
they still haven’t figured out the actual holy land is hidden out in Methil (FIFE!)
I shuffle off dishevelled to the multiverse of infinity
I’m omnipotent physically and fill my day with wizardry
my resume stretches the entire planet’s history
what consenting adults do never hinders me nor limits me
to think to picket funerals would even interest me is a mystery
and that religion that you preached was DEAD WRONG from it’s infancy
I hope you revelled in the infamy but sorry it did nothing for me
cause for the last few decades Ive been constantly on that scientology
why?
why?
why?
coz I like science fiction and that should count for something
they CRUISE with Travolta the Westboro Celeb count equalled nothing
life’s too short for hatred , I’m afraid Fred you truly lost it
so ILL SEE YOU IN HELL, well at least till you come out the closet
away and repent your bawbaggery but until then
I’m away for a pint with Joe Strummer and Tony Benn

***

14940218_1840334006245308_7034486256425409720_o.jpgTHE MUMBLE :  How do you see the Scottish poetry scene as a whole

MARK : I think the Scottish scene is very healthy just now . Glasgow can boast Inn Deep, Sonnet Youth, The High Flight, Spangled Cabaret, Extra Second, Last Monday at Rio plus `Overheard in the ….` to name just a few regular events for spoken word. I don`t get through to Edinburgh as much as I would like but The Fringe is always bursting with talent and obviously Loud Poets continue to make big moves at home and abroad. Also met some great talent down at Dumfries at The Stove where plenty good stuff is happening and most of the music festivals are known to give poets a platform. I would highly reccomend all the wee Scottish festivals to anyone . Places like Audio Soup, Kelburn, Deoch an Dorus, Knockengorroch and Doune the Rabbit Hole make for outstanding weekends and the poetry stages add to the experience. I think it`s encouraging to see how poetry has such a broad age range which definitely makes things interesting. The slams are always great to watch and I enjoy finishing Second in them whenever I can. I would say to poetry in Scotland: well done poetry in Scotland, you are doing just great. Keep up the good work. To someone interested: then please do come along , everyone is really nice . To someone not interested: give it a try, it is surprisingly not as shite as it sounds.

***

THE MUMBLE :  What is the poetical future of the ever mercurial Mark McGhee

MARK : I would like to spend my year apologising to the poetry community for not doing many poems. I was in guru mode. Telling people about the year of `No More Rage` . There was a point to it all that never truly materialised but I hope to remedy that by saying hings that sometimes rhyme once again. I tried to fix them but now realise they don`t want to be fixed and the truth is there flaws make for great poems and anecdotes. This is a new year and a new me and a new them so let`s take it back to basics and become the old us where we didn`t judge so much. Girobabies are on hiatus , Jackal Trades is confusing so there has never been a better time to actually say poems instead of talking about how your gonna say a poem and then never doing it. My first lyric book just came out – http://jackaltrades.bandcamp.com but that`s more like a lyric book so I intend on releasing actual poetry and performing it properly . Aiming for late April . Probably at Overheard in the Southside. Would like to do some festivals out-with Scotland too . That is the only goal I really would like to make happen for sure. Everything else is bonus. If you`de like to book me or say hings at one of the shows I do then you can get me traffic.cone.records@gmail.com

****

Escape! Routine!

day 23 the truth is there is now daze now
the minutes seem minute compared to the months and hours
I row solo on this empty vessel
Pacing up and down looking for a clue
or a footprint, validation, something
I don`t know… anything
I think I see a monster of the sea
that local fork law says is near to me
ha! fear is no match for this hunger eating up inside of me
yesterday, I made a fishing rod
out a bamboo shoot an a piece of string
and I launched my mythical dream catcher into the ocean
it made a thudding noise then vanished
there has been no `man eating fish`
not on my watch
sun-clocks in the snow
the sand has long passed
and every so often I hear this buzzing noise that loops
that leaves me shook and propels me to jump through hoops
and stoop to new depths and look
can you hear that?

there`s a helicopter overhead
escape! routine!
helicopter overhead
I know what`s real

Dayeightyeight
things are getting silly now
a seagull serenaded me with a sea shanty
it whit?
I am what… !
must`ve been they zoo-keepers peaking through the cage
to protect us from ourselves and prepare us for the stage
the waiting game perpetuates the elusive magic flare
but I`m pleased!
I dream I can fly every night!
did you see that?
see that flash?

there`s a helicopter overhead
escape! routine!
helicopter overhead
I know what`s real

Day 1 the snakes became butterfly`s
the pain became nothing but mere sleep in our weary eyes
it starts with a shooting star and parts with a sunrise
dazed by the beauty in everything – I felt good!
words are but a memory – I speak in colours now
I wanna spend another hunner summers with no count
fear was the temporary illusion of ego
we shed our last shred of sanity we don`t need it now where we go
who took utopia?
well there`s no place like the present
there`s no passport for a state of mind
whether superstar or peasant
you took utopia!
and you are only me
and I was born yesterday so it was never really me
and aye I have sinned aye but it was never truly me
I quantum leaped into this instant and rose up from the sea
you have been trapped but you can break free
coz I think I spy a torch-light that will never bother me

We all take the same way out
out!
out!

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