Here the translation into English of this very interesting interview with Pascal Negre - as Mika is mentioning - th guy who made Mika popular in France.
Pascal Negre: Today my guest is Mika. Hello.
Mika: Good morning.
Q: Well, here we are, the new album has just been released. It took you some time.
M: (laughs) It's interesting that you ask about it, because I usually brought you the CD and presented it to you.
Q: However, it's been a long time.
M: That's true. It took me four years ... even a little bit more.
Q: But that's good. I will be honest. This is a great album. Listening to the previous two I did not fall into hysterical admiration, but this is the great, great Mika. And I say it straight. Once again, we discover your talent. Melodies, arrangements, voice! Well, let's turn the question machine on.
Machine: How do you define your latest album: crazy pop-funk sound with an amazing voice or very personal with quite dark lyrics?
M: Well, that's both of these things. This is the contrast: lyrics are very touching, personal and music is very joyful. But there is one difference and you, Pascal will understand it. You've always listened to my CDs before they were released. It's about the need of creation. Creating, communicating, sharing. And this can be seen in melodic lines, colors, arrangement intensity ... in energy, which is very gentle on the one hand and also very firm. You can feel that when I wrote these songs everything was boiling in me. And in all this I didn't care what others thought about it. At first I wondered maybe it was too melodic, too colorful. Are there too many images in this? I told myself: no, you have to give in to emotions and it is emotions that will guide me. And I don't care if anyone thinks the song is too melodic or too colorful. Because that's the only way I could find my insolence. The insolence that one has when writing the first album. And then life falls on you, the music industry falls on you ... And even if there are good people in this industry, the industry itself becomes a monster that surrounds you. And you have to free yourself from it. And this is not easy.
Q: Yes, indeed, Mika's latest album is very successful. Let's listen to "Dear Jealousy".
Machine: Michael Holbrook or Mika?
Q: The album title is "My Name Is Michael Holbrook".
M: Yes My full name is Michael Holbrook Penniman Junior. Did you know that? No?
Q: (laughing) You shortened it a lot.
M: This is my dad's name. And if I have a son, I will call him Michael Holbrook Penniman the Third. And this is not aristocratic accretion at all. It comes from immigrants who came to America and adopted this Anglo-Saxon custom. So, first, second, third ... to show where they came from.
Q: So you have your dad's names?
M: Yes. And to make it funnier, I didn't know where I came from at all. That's why I walked in the footsteps of my dad's family to discover myself, to reset myself. And I started with this declaration, "my name is Michael Holbrook, I was born in 1983". That is why the album begins with the song "Tiny Love". Now I know that my name is Michael Holbrook Penniman Junior, but I am Mika, son of Michael and Joannie. And this is the most important thing.
Machine: France, Italy, United States, Great Britain or Lebanon?
M: How should I choose?
Q: That's a lot of places! Okay France - you have no choice. You lived here.
M: Yes, I lived here when I was a child. Now my home is primarily in the United States. This is where I built the recording studio where the last album was made.
Q: Are you American? Your father is American.
M: Yes. And I have an American passport. Which is strange, because at the same time I feel very European. And the proof is that I don't have a passport of any European country, and yet I feel European. And this is the main idea of the universality philosophy of Europe.
Q: But Mika, where did you live? In France. In England?
M: Yes, I lived in England for a long time.
Q: All your childhood and youth is Europe, not the United States.
M: Yes, it was Europe. And then, when my siblings scattered around the world, I stayed alone at home. I thought I should create something new. The United States seemed like a good idea because all my co-workers were there. All my albums were made there. My mother's family lives there. And even if I've never really lived there ... I speak English, my family is there ... and when I'm in Miami ... I bought a house where I have a recording studio ... Miami is a bit strange to me ...
Q: Miami has its European side. It's also very Latin.
M: It's very Latin and I like it very much. I don't like the European side too much, because it's primarily Europeans who come to have fun there. I am not like that. There is another thing ... my home is from the 1920s and is rather in Arabic style. It is built around the yard and is divided into a "design" part - we have a design studio, a residential part and a part where I create music. So it's a kind of miniature village. And there I am happy. I have never been very popular in the States …
Q: And you have peace?
M: I have peace, but when I give concerts, like during my recent tour, tickets even sell out for several performances in the same city. There's a lot going on there now. Even if you are a niche musician in the United States, you can have great success in Europe. And it's crazy.
Machine: Text or music?
M: Both things at once.
Q: Do you write while composing music? It is interesting.
M: Absolutely. I always do that. Always. The melody inspires the text. The lyrics inspire a melody.
Q: So total synchronization? It's quite rare. Often people start with a melody. Or from a melody and a few words. Or they write the text first. For example, when Bashung (a French singer died in 2009) wrote all the lyrics, he thought the album was ready. Although not a single note of music has yet existed. And for you it happens simultaneously.
M: Yes, it happens at the same time. It's like digging in the ground. I sit at the piano and start playing. I repeat the same words and repeat and repeat ... The words form sentences ... and the verse arises ... and I start looking for a chorus ... I have to enter into a sort of trance ... and suddenly ... I already know that I have a chorus. Then the temperature of my body changes ... .. Literally it does. My body temperature is changing. I feel hot and suddenly I have a feeling of self-esteem increasing. This is an explosion of endorphins and dopamine. And bam! I have a chorus! So the song is already here. And I'm playing over and over again looking for it with my fingers and my voice. I dig a song with my fingers. I carve it looking for the right sounds.
Machine: George Michael, Prince or Michael Jackson?
Q: There are different references on the disc.
M: Yes There are references to all three. I will ask you something. Normally you ask questions ... we know each other for years and I respect you very much ... You are the person who really promoted me here i(n France)... I know that and that's why I say it. Even if you speak little about it ... because for a very open person, you are very humble. And people don't know that. So, we are abusing your modesty and I want you to answer me, why nowadays pop music does not tell stories and is less sensual than in the 80's or in the early 90's? For example, sensuality, love stories that we hear in the dance songs of George Michael or Prince ... Suddenly something changed. "Backstreet Boys" arrived and... KLAM! BOOM! Sensuality has disappeared ... especially in male performance. Why?
Q: Maybe it will sound strange. I think that this turbulent sexuality of both artists meant that their music contained this confusion.
M: Hmmm. That this turbulence affected their music?
Q: I think so.
M: I understand. But I also think that pop music has become popular music. And this is a very big difference between pop and popular.
Q: And to close this chapter I will add that I think that pop has shrunk. The space for pop music has shrunk. This is not urban music anymore. It's completely different.
M: Exactly. Pop music should return to telling stories, to evoking emotions, which also entails the risk of being more sensual. More sexual, more like "enfant terrible." Because this space has shrunk, we notice the difference even more. And for me this is a very big advantage. And I really wanted to go in this direction, so that the colors and spirit of my album were even more pronounced.
Q: What will we listen to now? Michael Jackson, Prince or George Michael?
M: George Michael.
Machine: The Voice - stop or contine?
Q: Because you don't have time?
M: I don't have time. But also because ... thanks to The Voice I became very open. Before The Voice - you can confirm it - I wasn't very talkative. I wasn't so open. I paid more attention to how I was perceived. And now, after six years of The Voice, I released an album on which I open up much more. Even in interviews I am ... I got rid of this unnecessary modesty in the way I speak.
Q: So The Voice was a great adventure?
M: A great adventure. I had a great time.
Q: Now your agenda is full, you will have a tour. It would be difficult for you to do everything at the same time. But I wonder if you also wanted to have time to breathe and stay fresh.
M: Also. But where does the basis of inspiration come from? From my main work, that is songwriting and performance. To continue participating in projects such as The Voice, you must remain credible. When the source of inspiration dries, it will not work.
Machine: Twitter or Instagram?
Q: You are active in social media.
M: I resisted for a while. But I understood that there is also some independence behind it. That you can do something without asking anyone for permission. And others are following you. I thought this might be a good idea. Of course, this has its good and bad sides in both applications. I think it's very easy to manipulate a photo. And it is said that one picture is worth a thousand words.
Q: You can misinterpret the photo.
M: Contrary to appearances, Instagram is more commercial and Twitter is more information. And I have to admit to you that when something important happens, I don't open news pages, I go on Twitter. The only important thing is that you need to have some discipline to distinguish what is real from what is false. We waste a lot of time reading what is false and do not even realize that we are being manipulated. We live in a time of a new way of education that did not exist in the past. There used to be books, we had teachers, everything was rather institutionalized.
Q: We got news from the press. And we knew that this newspaper was more on the right, the one on the left, another more communist ...
M: Yes, and now nobody knows what's going on. Everything is similar to each other. And this may not be anything new, but the problem with Twitter is that we are attracted by those who make the most noise. And they are usually not the right people to speak on a subjet. And we fall into the trap.
Machine: Recording studio or stage?
M: Ha. There are two different people. Maybe Michael Holbrook is more like the one in the studio. Now. Especially with this album. And Mika is on stage. It wasn't like that before. But with an album that tells all those true stories ... it allows me to revisit my older songs again. But the show is quite different. I think when you come to my show at Bercy or somewhere else, you'll notice the difference. Bercy is December 22. I remember because I had to cancel my Christmas holiday.
Q: Just a reminder that the concerts will be in all Zenith halls in France
M: We start in Pau.
Q: This is a really big tour.
M: Yes It started in the United States, then it was Mexico. Now Europe.
Q: The first date (in France) is November 15 and it is actually Zenith in Pau.
M: And I designed a scene that resembles a sunbeame. And different colors of light "sends" me to the audience. All musicians will be quite far behind. I removed the dancers. I removed the LED screens. There will of course be screens so that I can be seen from afar. But there will be no screens behind me. I didn't want a program where people eat pop-corn, drink beer, go to the toilet. I wanted to do a show where during one and a half hours, one hours and 45 minutes people would not want to lose even a second. I was inspired by George Michael's one-man show, where the orchestra was behind the curtain. Jacques Brel was also able to give a performance using a curtain.
Q: And only one spotlight.
M: And this is it. You can make a performance that resembles many others. You can spend 14 million on the sceography, and yet it will be the same aesthetics, the same perception we've seen before. And I wanted to avoid it. Me it's me. Are screens everywhere? I say goodbye to them. And I prefer to have a set that I designed in my kitchen.
Machine: Your dad, your sisters or mother?
M: And what is this question? I hope that in the future artificial intelligence will not be as unpleasant and firm as your machine. To quarrel a family by a robot is not a good future.
Q: Family is very important to you?
M: Even very, very important.
Q: To the point that there are songs on the new record about certain members of your family. Almost all!
M: About everyone. We are a clan. A clan that supports itself. Every time a challenge meets us in life, we are able to gather ourselves thanks to the strength of the clan.
It's the energy of every clan member. This is collective energy.
Q: The challenge, it may be to leave the country because of the war. Your father who was detained for a long time because he was in the wrong place and a wrong time in Kuwait. It could be a disease.
M: It could be a disease. Bankruptcy. Loss of home - which happened to us several times when I was a child. It could be illness or death. During the period when I wrote new songs, I lost several people. People who appeared in my videos, people who inspired me. They were close people living in the shadows. Or, for example, my mother's illness.
Q: How is she now?
M: It's complicated. She is happy that ...
Q: She is a warrior. An amazing woman!
M: Yes, she is a warrior. but it's complicated. It's a complicated disease ... but it can touch everyone. I think there are similar cases in every family. And I thought, why not pay tribute to a person who has always lived in the shadows; the person who shaped me. There are many people who dedicated their works to their mother or father or to a person who changed their lives and they did it too late. My mother is a warrior and she will fight with all her strength. And when you are in such a situation of uncertainty about illness or awareness of the fragility of life, it is good to talk about it, respect it, and shed some light on that person. Why not?
Q: You are right. It is good to tell people that we admire them while they are still with us.
M: Yes But you know that my relationship with my mother is quite strange. You have seen how it looks. We are very attached to each other, but we can have hard time.
Q: She can be tough. She is very protective of you, but she can be very sharp as well.
M: People are often shocked when they see us working together. What? This is mother and son ?! And at the same time, she trained me three hours a day when I was seven. And I didn't want to do it at all. Absolutely. I thought: she is crazy and she is very bad.
Machine: Child, teenager or adult?
Q: You answered without hesitation.
M: Yes I don't want to be a child or teenager again. A teenager? Oh no!!!!!! Please !!!! I'll tell you something. Hell ... I went to a Roman Catholic school ... There is no fire in hell. The fire is for barbecue, in heaven. There is no red color in hell. I like red. Red is not a hellish color. Do you want to know what's in hell? There are first kisses in hell. Again and again. The first kiss is something worst. In hell there is a moment when we felt embarrassed for the first time. But really very embarrassed. There are memories of the first days at school, at the university. There is a moment when we have failed most. There are all those things that happened to us when we were teenagers. All these exams are there. Even the ones we didn't even know existed! All these experiences are repeated again and again ... daily. And this is hell. If you go to hell, you will experience your teenage time all the time.
Machine: The right to be different or the right to be indifferent?
M: Aaaaa ... I think tolerance of differences is the most important thing. Not only the right to be different, but also tolerance. Indifference and tolerance must not be mistaken. These two things are absolutely not the same. One is born of love and the other of selfishness or egocentrism. Tolerance comes from provocation, which can be difficult or even brutal. Tolerance is something that you have to defend, you have to fight for it. And when you have it, you also need to protect it.
Q: Yes. I agree with you. This is not always obvious.
M: This is not obvious. And the reasons can be different. It can be sexual orientation, race ... religion. And indifference is associated with ignorance. And ignorance is much easier to manipulate towards intolerance. That is why we must be careful and not be fooled by people who pretend to defend our interests. They are very smart and know well how to manipulate us for their own benefit. And here we return to our conversation about Twitter: when anger arises and a lot of noise is made to have as many followers as possible. And this is very unhealthy.
Machine: Strong or weak?
M: Strong or weak? .... Take, for example, a diamond. What is this? Have you ever worn a diamond? You never worn a diamond? Even so tiny? Even an earring?
Q: I don't wear earrings. With my ears?
M: But what is the structure of a diamond?
Q: This is carbon.
M: And everyone thinks it's hard. But when you take the hammer, you can break it in two seconds. And it turns into dust. I like the idea that you can be very strong and at the same time remain fragile.
Q: We can find it on your album. This duality. There are moments of weakness and there are moments when you are strong.
M: That's true. I can tell you ... what's your robot's name?
Q: Just „Machine”.
M: Machine? You are horrible! I'm sorry, Machine, he is not nice to you. I think your artificial intelligence doesn't understand the paradox. She doesn't see contrasts. Every time she asks a question, both answers are correct. Strong or weak? Both. How can be both? (Mika changes his voice) How can be both? And because you can live with a certain amount of duality. (Mika changes his voice again) Duality is not possible. Choose a different answer.
Q: It's just a machine. It is not always sensitive enough.
Machine: To love or to be loved?
M: She doesn't really have a machine voice. You couldn't make her voice more .... more ... I don't know ... her voice resembles that of a barmaid in a cafe. She is 67 years old. She smoked too many cigarettes. She plays Bingo every Saturday. And she has many lovers. It's a bit like Marge Simpson.
Q: Answer the question.
Machine: To love or to be loved?
M: (changes voice) To love or to be loved? This machine is so old! Artificial intelligence should not resemble your great-grandmother! When you call SNCF (French railway company) or Air France because your luggage is lost, you hear that voice. They are all the same age. "Welcome to Air France." "Welcome to SNCF". "And your machine squawks: „To love or to be loved?" My answer is: to love .... To love and to be loved!!! There is no good answer. This question is stupid! You can't have one without the other. You'll agree with me?
Q: But the main question is: what do you need more?
M: Oh! ... To love.
Q: Interesting. Because most artists would answer "to be loved". They are looking for love. And for you it's opposite. To love means to give. And not to receive Of course, we give and receive in love. And giving is more important to you. This is surprising. People prefer to receive.
M: But to love is more interesting. Because you are in ... when it's not platonic love, you have to convince the other person. You have to work on it. This is something that makes you feel alive. Yes, to love. And if at some point you also become loved ... this is your bonus.
Q: But is this a battle? Sometimes people don't repay with love. They give a s**t. It already happened to you.
M: You can love people who give a s**t - they are fools ... or just "not a man to be". I think you can love people who like you... It's OK. .... And we never love in the same way. I believe that our love for someone is constantly changing. And it's okay that sometimes there is more of love and sometimes a lot less. But love is always present.
Q: (joking) Yes. You can say so when you have less of love. You can say that soon there will be more of love again.
M: All right. Let's get back to your machine. But really, who is this woman? I hope this is not your friend. Because if this is a secretary from downstairs, then certainly she will not let me in next time.
Machine: Devil or God?
M: Ufffffff ... There is a song on the album that says there's a bit of God in everything.
Q: Apparently the machine was listening to your new CD!
M: This is the song "I Went to Hell Last Night". It's a song about addiction. It talks about someone I know, whom I like. This is someone who has returned to addiction. And when you know it, it is very difficult to look at such a person. It is…….
Q: Addiction, it can be alcohol, drugs ...
M: Yes It is very difficult to come to terms with it. Because on the one hand you start to hate this person; you blame him/her. And at the same time you know that it is not the person's fault, but something else, that it is a disease. And I wanted to describe these experiences in the words of the song.
Q: Do you ... believe in God?
M: I believe in God. I went to schools where there was a lot of teaching catechism. I also sang in church choirs. I can quote you various passages in the mass. For example in Latin. I can do it even now. If we went to mass, I would be the only person who would know all the passages and answers. But on the other hand, I don't like religious policy. I think many things do not match with my inner current faith. This is a big problem because I know I am not alone in this. Although I like spirituality, I think the stories we were taught from the Old and New Testaments are not THE TRUTH. And that by studying these texts you can get ... you can learn the wisdom hidden there. I accept the concept of God and find it very useful. Was the Earth created in one week? Was the universe created in one week? Was there an apple and a snake? Is my sexual orientation a sin and will I go to hell? No.
Machine: Intimate or universal?
M: Universality does not exclude intimacy. Universality is the most important idea. This idea has been defended by people for hundreds of years. Since the Renaissance, Enlightenment. Victor Hugo often said that universality connects with humanity. Only by deep acceptance of universality can we save humanity. Give it happiness and peace. When we see this young activist Greta Thunberg, who has a lot of courage in her ... I think that this girl doesn't expresses herself in the way children her age do. There is a lot of emotion in what she says, but when we listen to what she says, we will hear this message about universality. And I think that intimacy can also lead to universality.
Q: That's right. On your album you talk about very intimate things, which suddenly turn out to be very universal, because they can affect each of us. When we dare to tell our personal stories - someone may consider it to be a story about your life - but it's absolutely not. Because you are really talking about things that affect everyone.
M: We all experience the same. It all depends on how you tell about your experiences.
Q: Because in my opinion, your latest album is the most personal album in your career. Just after the first album. Well, just like the first album.
M: On the first album I used the characters I created: Billy Brown, Lollipop Girl, Big Girl ... cartoon characters.
Q: And on this record, not a single character.
M: Yes, because I understood that the people around me are more funny, interesting and more colorful than the characters I puton the first album.
Q: And it's over. We spent an hour together. I hope that we encouraged listeners to buy and listen to the new Mika's album. Because this is a really great record. And above all, go to Mika's concert. Because if you didn't see him on stage, you lost a lot. The concert tour in France begins on November 15, 2019 in all Zenith halls. Of course, Zenith in Paris is too small, so the concert will take place ... in Bercy. And this will be when?
M: December 22.
Q: Just before Christmas.
M: Will you come? Are you here in Paris during Christmas?
Q: If you invite me, I will definitely come.
M: I invite you then. And then we'll have a party.