published: 29 /
With photographs from Amanda J, Window, Shirley Procter talks to poet Mike Garry about his success and working with Philip Glass and New Order.
I interviewed Mike Garry after his recent gig in Altrincham when he had finished signing autographs and books and chatting to everyone who wanted to talk to him. He seems such a genuinely friendly person, who’s really interested in other people.
PB: Looking back over the whole of your career, what’s been your proudest moment so far?
MIKE GARRY: It’s not a career, I’m just playing, I’m just wandering through, and I happen to play. It’s not a career, I never see it as a career, but you do have proud moments. My latest proud moment was this afternoon, when I worked with a group of kids and they were called the Nurture Group and that means summat, but I’m not really sure what it means, but they were the brainiest kids in the school, the smartest kids and the most sound. So, my proudest moment was this afternoon.
PB: Fantastic. Working with kids is awesome. It really is.
MG: It is. It’s an honour.
PB: What do you think your biggest success is?
MG: My biggest successes are connecting with young people; making music; creating audiences like tonight’s audience, whereby 200 people sit there in total silence and just listen because it’s a very rare thing. It doesn’t happen a lot. You don’t get 200 people, and beer involved and things like that where people sit and listen. I’m so honoured to have the audience that I have coming to my gigs. They are as important as we are, because they contribute to the experience, and it’s all about the experience, and they are in the experience with me and with us, and that’s what’s most important.
PB: Thank you. I’ve been looking at your collaboration history, and you’ve worked with some amazing people. Who have you enjoyed working with the most?
MG: I really enjoyed working with Philip Glass. He is a man who instills you with the confidence that you never imagined you could have. He’s talented, more than talented, He invents new things, and whenever I work with him I just think, “How come, what am I doing here? How’s he chosen me?”. I loved working with New Order It was a wonderful experience because they treated me so well and they were so lovely. I loved working with Joe Odell, a wonderful composer, a wonderful artist. I’m really honoured to be able work with all these people. To separate them is quite hard really, because I love working with you, now, this minute, while we’re talking, while Mandi is walking round taking (photographs); it’s just an honour, innit?
PB: Yes, I think that what I do is an absolute privilege. It’s amazing. Who else would you like to collaborate with?.
MG: Do you know what, I’ve never gone to anyone, me. I’ve never had an Arts Council grant. I’ve never gone to someone, because I’ve never had the confidence to think that someone would want to work with me. So what I do is I just sit there and wait, until some really kind people come up to me. So, you know what, I really don’t want to work with anyone, because the people who want to work with me will come and work with me, will just phone me up and that, I haven’t got a desire to simply work with anyone, I just want it to be a natural, fluid thing and if it happens it happens.
PB: Having sat here tonight, watching you and the Cassia String Quartet playing, how on earth don’t you have the confidence, because you were amazing?
MG: Well, I’m fortunate to be able to stand up on a stage, and create a new persona that touches on elements of myself, and I try to be as much of myself as possible. It’s not always hard, because egos get in the way, know what I mean? I try to keep mine out of the way as best as I can, I think that’s why I like performing on a low level. I like performing without stages, and I like performing on the level of the audience, because I’m no different. I’m no more talented - there’s more talent in the people in the audience than I have.
PB Well, I think I’d probably disagree with that! Three more questions: What matters the most to you?
MG: Family, man, family matters the most. I’m not going to say it’s your blood, because I don’t believe blood’s thicker, because I’ve got step-kids, and I love them as much as I love my kids. There’s no difference. What matters the most to me is family, being together and making opportunities to be together because it’s your roots.
PB: Yes, and it’s so precious. How’s lockdown impacted you?
MG: It’s been great, to be honest. Yeah, I’ve really liked it. I haven’t liked people dying, but I’ve really liked the creative space that it’s given me, to spend time with my teenage kids and my older kids that I would never have had. That’s an honour. I’ve had time to do things that I’ve said I always wanted to do, but not had time to do, like write plays and write loads of poems and do all the little projects you’ve always thought about. So yeah, lockdown’s been sound. I’m sorry if anyone’s died .I’m lucky to have not lost anyone, really lucky to not have lost anyone, not being selfish or owt, but I’ve been quite lucky through lockdown. But you know what, it’ll sound really bad, this, but that’s because I’ve got money and I can live a life that allows me to go away from people, to eat nice food and stuff like that. But the real twatishness that’s gone on through lockdown is the poor. It’s the poor that’s suffered. I don’t want to talk about that, I’ll get sad.
PB: I get angry, but, yes, I’m with you on that. My next to last question; what are your future plans?
MG: I’ve got a Travelodge round the corner, I’ll probably walk there. At the moment, that’s my future plans. You can’t really make plans now, can you? What we do is very natural and very fluid. I don’t want a marketing campaign, I don’t particularly want to be famous, and I don’t particularly want to make lots of money. All l want to do is play experiences for people like we’ve had tonight, because they don’t happen a lot. What we’ve done tonight is beautiful and special, and what’s most important about that is, and that people have got to grasp is that every person in the audience was part of that performance as what we were, because everyone contributed, everyone, I
PB: You did the poem about relationship counselling, At around this time of night, me and my husband met 44 years ago tonight! And as you were saying that part, I thought, “That is just brilliant, because I’m sat next to the most awesome man…”
MG: (Interrupts) Yeah, because that’s when he had the twisted face on, and was like “You fucking bastard. Look at you, you fucking twat, telling that”!
PB: : (Howls laughing!) My one disappointment is that you didn’t do 'What Me Mam Told Me”'
MG: You know what, I’ve never put a tune to that, because I’ve never thought it right. I think it stands on its own as a poem, and there are certain things that sometimes you don’t have to put music to, sometimes the naked voice brings out the beauty and the warmth.
PB:: Hearing and seeing you perform that, I wanted to keep adding to the list!
MG: It was dead easy, innit? People phone me up all the time and go “I’ve read your poem but I’ve done my own”! Great, go on, mate!
PB: I’ve loved tonight, thank you.
MG: Thank you so much for coming.
Photos by Amanda J Window
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