So here is a translation of the Radio France International interview.
RADIO FRANCE INTERNATIONAL 22/10/2019 "VOUS M'EN DIREZ DES NOUVELLES"
We can hear "Tiny Love" song
Q: "Tiny Love" is the song that opens your new album with the words "my name is Michael Holbrook I was born in 1983". Where does this idea about confirming, reminding your identity come from?
Mika: It was rather a reminder after 12 years of career ... under the pressure exerted by the music industry, under the challenges posed by this business. The biggest danger is the loss of love for music. After 12 years I found myself in a situation where my opinion and feelings related to the music business poisoned my love for music. I had to divide. And to do that I had to start from myself. I had to reset who I was.
Q: Start everything from scratch? Forget about the past?
M: Not forget about the past, but get rid of a few suitcases.
Q: What was too heavy, Mika?
M: A bit of everything. When you start working in this profession, you write songs and everything is new. It helped me ... I think that everyone who creates music locks themselves in a kind of capsule. First you work at home, then with friends and suddenly something that seemed to belong only to us - I'm talking about all writers, composers and performers - all of this suddenly begins to be evaluated, it starts to have its consequences. These consequences may be commercially positive, but as well these people may be disappointed. Which is absurd. We create something very personal and it has commercial consequences. It's such a strange arrangement. Besides, I didn't start my career with the album "Live in Cartoon Motion". The idea of becoming Mica with K was born when I was 8 years old. It was when I started getting money for my work. I didn't go to school for half a year and I started singing professionally. And then the relationship between me and Mika began to form. I began to separate myself from the person who was on stage. And if I wanted to imagine my future now, when I am 36 years old and at the same time remain a transparent author, without complexes, I needed this rediscovery of myself. And also I had to get rid of the complexes so that I can remain credible in my works. Which does not mean that I am selling myself. Rather the opposite. Rather, I wanted to protect myself with my albums. Because if I did not remain honest in my songs, it would be a waste.
Q: Has this "reset", as you called it, been achieved by following footsteps of your father in the United States, in Georgia? Can you tell us about it?
M: I was trained by my mother. I was tamed by her like a war horse or like a sports horse. Of course, therefore, my mother occupied an important place in my life. Of course I am very grateful to her. There were many things happening around me at the time of this album. Five people very close to me died. I lost my grandmother ... they were also very present in my texts. And when I started thinking about my future, I had to imagine it without some people. I needed to understand who I was on both sides of my identity so that I could imagine myself writing songs at the age of 60. That's why I decided to discover the part of my life that I neglected a little.
My mother, with her Lebanese ancestry, took up a large part of my life compared to my dad, who is WASP, with a family from Savannah / Georgia and is a discreet person. It's such a weird mix, but it fits together. I decided to start with his identity to find out where I came from, to get to know the other 50% that I did not know at all. I went to Savannah / Georgia, where I visited Bonaventura Cemetery and I discovered a place dedicated to my father's family. I saw my official name engraved on the gravestones, which was partly blurred by time. And my reaction was not at all gruesome, but rather in Tim Burton's style. I really liked the fact that I came from a place I didn't know at all.
Q: And then the idea was born?
M: Oh yeah! It touched me a lot. I thought it was almost a perversion. You see your name on the tombstone. And I mean nothing here, and this here is so important. Such confusion. And it inspired me a lot. I told myself: my name is Michael Holbrook. I could never come to terms with it. Every time someone called me Michael, I had such a strange feeling in my stomach. As if it wasn't about me. And this mainly happens when you get a tax or fee to pay.
I decided to use my name as a nickname to recreate my relationship with my stage name.
Q: The song "Tiny Love" opens the album and closes it with a slightly different version. Let's listen to it.
Q: In this song we heard the voices of your mother Joannie and your sister Paloma. Did you want to record a family album?
M: No. It just happened. It was not planned. But I realized that if I talk about my identity, about the identity of a person who has developed over 12 years, then there should also be people who are close to me. I thought, why do I always tell stories and sing about these people? It would be a beautiful gesture if at the end of the album these real people told about themselves. And if it's just a small passage where we hear their voices that belong to other songs, it has never been like this before. Well, maybe it happened in the movies, but they were movie characters. And here it is the opposite: it's a bit of a movie effect, but they are real people who talk about their own life on an album in which someone else tells about their stories. I thought, why not? We live in the world of Spotify and Deezer. Which is great, because it gives us a lot of independence. Thanks to this, someone who will risk from a commercial point of view and present their songs ... I have never had a hit on the radio in the United States, and yet all tickets for my concert were sold out. And this is because I exist in the digital world. But there are also inconveniences. Even the fact that everything is divided into fragments. Our stories are now like small pills that last 3 and a half minutes. But the truth is people only listen to 45 seconds. And in this context of today I decided to go completely in the opposite direction. I wrote something that is a journey of 55 minutes. If you want to go in there, that's very good. If not, I think that the strength and theme of some of the songs are able to function separately in the modern world.
We listen to the song "Paloma".
Q: The whole album is very personal, but this song "Paloma" is probably the most personal. And the most touching. Can you tell us who Paloma is? It is your sister?
M: Paloma is my second sister. There are five of us in the family. Yasmine, Paloma, then me and ... Paloma survived the accident, which was related to her disability. Her left side is weaker since birth. And it's a big challenge for her. Simple things become very complicated. She had a lot of problems with it. This limited her independence. She is older than me but she had less freedom than me. There were a lot of negative feelings in her. She suffered in silence. We knew nothing about it. We didn't know what pain she had to deal with every day. Often, when she had enough of everything, she would hide and cry. We never saw her cry. We said she was the strongest of us. But that didn't help her. Quite the opposite - it was closing her up more and more. Finally, Paloma decided to move to an independent apartment. Of course, the family was against it. But my parents finally understood that they had no choice. Paloma found an apartment - you can say the attic - in a building in London. It was a party evening, Paloma lived with two friends. I went there and filled the whole apartment with bouquets of white flowers. There were really a lot of them. It was my gesture to celebrate the independence of this woman who is no longer a girl. It was a very nice evening. I came back to my place. I lived 250 meters from her new apartment. And at 4 in the morning an accident happened. Paloma was smoking a cigarette while standing in the window. The level of the window sill was below the knees. No one knew that she smoked cigarettes because she hid it. And the door to her room was closed. Paloma fell from the fourth floor onto the metal bars that surrounded the building. It woke up a neighbor living on the ground floor. Friends who lived with her ran for me. Barefoot, in my boxers only, I ran out into the street and I saw my sister nailed on the fence bars. She survived. But I had to tell my family about the accident. It was my father's sixtieth birthday. He was in Bahrain at the time, where he worked. When I woke him in the morning, he thought I was calling to tell him that we had arrived at the airport and he replied "I'll be right there." No, no, you have to come here. Let me tell you what happened. Be ready for anything. The situation is very complicated.
This is a story that I have hidden very deeply. It seems to us that it's easy to come to terms with it. But that's not true. And each of us has such stories.
And one morning I sit down at the piano and I write "Oh, Paloma, the sky has not been kind for you" and bam! Suddenly I realize that beauty can be found even in the worst moments of our lives.
Q: Yes, because this song is not dramatic at all. It is full of hope.
M: That's right. The whole album is not sad. My previous album "No Place in Heaven" was much more melancholic. This album invites you to dance. The two songs we heard today are maybe not very much for dancing, but all the rest invite you to dance.
Q: How do you perceive life? Like a cartoon movie? Or do you see everything in Technicolor?
M: I see the world in Technicolor, but not like cartoon. Because cartoon means trivializing things, simply displaying them in primary colors. Technicolor has a whole bunch of nuances and is psychedelic. It may not be about craziness , but Technicolor is not stupid. Psychedelia is just dark and joyful at the same time. And I think that is the way to face life. You have to experience and accept them.
Q: Is your mission, as an artist, to invent the world? Making people dream? Giving them hope?
M: I don't think about people. I'm just trying to survive. Me and my family. But I share it in a musical context. Because this album is very personal, it is very important for me to explain certain things. And I do now something I have never done before. I talk publicly about such stories for they would not be deformed or distorted in the media. Sometimes it is very important. But then you have to let the music speak. Otherwise you can overdo it.
We hear the song "San Remo"
Q: San Remo as we know is a small town near the French border. It is certainly a „hello” to this city. It is also a longing for "dolce vita". Is "Carpe diem" your motto?
M: No. I am not very "Carpe diem".
Q: No? And we can imagine Mika with a glass of Campari on the edge of the pool ...
M: So you didn't see the video! (laugh)
Q: No. So explain. We don't see the picture on the radio.
M: First of all, it has little to do with the city. I know the city of course. This is the first Italian city I visited. We used to go to Villeneuve-Loubet in France when we lived in London. We spent the holidays there in my aunt's house. As in every family, there were huge quarrels that broke out from time to time. In these moments we used to jump to our Toyota Previa and to go to Italy. There life there was easier for our big family, for our band: 5 children, parents, my grandmother ... People there were more tolerant about our troupe than on the boardwalk in the south of France. I remember well when I was 14 and I looked at these with delight. Young boys and girls who were so laid back, fashionably dressed ... I wore my GAP shorts and a white shirt put into my pants. I was not as thin as today ... It was hot and they were running in all directions, so beautiful ... and I was sweating, I was hot and my thighs burned rubbing against each other. I suffered ... and that's what I wanted to say in the song. But when you listen to it, you'll never imagine it. And this is the difference between the image that I have in my head and what is heard in the songs. It always comes from something else. As if from something that does not exist. It's such an impression as a holiday postcard, Pattie Page "Old Cape Cod" song .... For me songs are like ... in cafes they have these small sugar bags ... songs are like sugar bags for me.
Q: That's interesting. Does that mean you like sweets?
M: No, I prefer a bitter taste.
Q: bitterness and sugar go well together.
M: They blend in very well. That is why the bitter-sweet taste is perfect.
Q: There is no song in French on this new album. They were for example on "The Origin of Love" like for example "Elle Me Dit". Was it planned that way? Without a French song? Is it because it's a very personal album?
M: This is the first incarnation of this album. As you know, albums are not as unchanged as it once was. Perhaps another version will be released. I think nowadays albums should evolve for a year and a half, two years.
We hear the song "Ice Cream"
Q: And the temperature went up. Is this a song to seduce? Is this a song to make sex? Maybe both things a bit?
M: A bit like that. This is because at the beginning of the album writing I touched on quite difficult topics. And it gave me a sense of freedom. I could speak without complexes about more mundane, phisical, sensual topics. I did my homework, freed myself from many things and boom! Instead of dragging heavy suitcases with me, I abandoned them and finally felt more agile. And this agility includes sensuality. I realized the pleasure of putting desire and sexuality in pop songs. I write weird songs. The melodies are joyful, melodic, but when you read the lyrics you will find this contrast. I think you can now tell different stories in pop songs. Stories and messages are not just for postmen to be put in an envelope. We live in a time when pop music was censored, virtually devoid of sex. We have images (videos) that are extremely sexual, sensual, but not in the lyrircs and sound layer. There's more of this in R&B.
Q: How do you explain this?
M: I don't know. There has probably been a great change and it's easy to confuse pop culture and popularity. I am not afraid to touch both of these things. For several years I took part in a very popular television program. But I remained myself. I talked about different things, what I thought, but I never meant to please. I don't care about it. I think you can reconcile both (pop and popularity) in songs if you stay true to your roots. My roots are pop music from the 70's 80's, the early 90's. I mean pop in the "warholien style". It was pop culture. Not "popular". These are two different things. At the end of the 90's a change and commercialization of pop music was noticed. In 2000, it becomes so even more.
Q: And you reconciled these two things?
M: Yes And when I think about my beginnings, I didn't appreciate it as much as I do now. I was in London and I wrote pop songs looking for something that would be different. I didn't realize I was in a small club. I tried to present my songs at shows with Lily Alen, Amy Winehouse. Adele was there as well, she was opening the show. It was a small club of artists who were looking to create pop full of our own colors. I remember that we didn't care what people thought about us. Now I know that we were quite a special group.
Q: Listening to this album we think of artists such as George Michael, Prince, Freddie Mercury ... even Michael Jackson.
M: They had sharp colors; pop was romantic and at the time dangerous, sexy. It was very personal, and sometimes even happily "trash". If you want to talk about sex, then we will talk about sex. Do you want to play with sensuality? Then we go all the way! I think it's hard to find it in current pop music.
Q: So we have to go back to the past to find the source of creation?
M: At present, this idea about returning to the sources is very important. You should not be ashamed of your search, your inspiration by the past. It doesn't mean you have to go back ...
Q: Is this about nostalgia?
M: No, that's absolutely not the point. If you listen to my album, there is no nostalgia. Even "Ice Cream" is not nostalgic. It's not about sentiment for the times which are gone. The direction is the future. But I have to admit that when I listen to Joni Mitchell's poetry, when she talks about love, sadness ... when I listen to Prince who talks about desire ... when I listen to George Michael, when he talks about sex ... I'm sorry, but I can get lost for a few days listening to this music and looking for inspiration.
Q: Your work is pop music. And yet you have classic education. You studied at a prestigious London school. You learned piano and lyrical singing at the Royal College of Music. Is classical music useful when you write pop songs?
M: It is very important. If you ask me about the names of the most important music composers, I will mention Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez, Prince, Kurt Vile, Benjamin Britten, there is also Schubert, Brahms, Hindermith, Schtockhausen. It is anti-snobism to mention these names. Even such music can touch you very deeply. For example, Curt Vile's ballad about a drowned girl. If you want to understand what sadness is in music, listen to this song. If you want to understand what desire is ... you will find it everywhere. It is not by accident that Schtockhausen is on the photo collage on the cover of The Beatles 'Sergeant Pepper' album. He had a great influence on their music. The sound on this album and the sound of voices were modeled on Schtockhausen's works. For me it's all joy of creation. It's like a box of chocolates. It's not just Milka, but all the flavors of the world.
Q: Exactly: your voice. You practiced with it. What is your scale? Almost 4 octaves?
M: I haven't practiced with it. It was actually a coincidence. I started singing when I was 8 years old. I was a soprano. I learned to sing in the style of belcanto. When my voice broke, I had to learn the classical style again ... falset ... When I fool around with my friends who are classical pianists, I sing baroque songs from the seventeenth and eighteenth century in a countertenor voice. I won't do it here in the studio, but I do it sometimes for fun.
Q: Please sing at least a few notes.
M: No, no. But when I sing like that, the technique is quite different from the one I use singing my own songs. I play the piano very badly. I play in a very basic way. That's why I have to work more with my voice. Melody and vocal techniques. That's why I use different possibilities of my voice and play with it. Because to be honest I am an average pianist.
We hear the song "Tomorrow".
M: You wanted me to talk about a lyrical voice, a countertenor. I listened to the recordings of Philippe Jaroussky, who is a great countertenor.
Q: He also gives singing lessons. Did you take singing lessons?
M: Of course. I practice singing every day. I have two singing teachers and I learn on Skype every day. Or at Face Time. Depending on the Internet.
Q: And how do you work on your voice? Do you do vocalises? Vocal exercises?
M: Two things are very important to me: health and voice. The vocal cords are very small, but this is the most important muscle in our body. And the most amazing muscle is the tongue. It can do anything. It's like being from another planet. If you look at the isolated tongue, you'll notice that it's an amazing muscle. If one day we can construct a robot that can move like a tongue, then we can say that we have learned the secret of the physical life of artificial intelligence. But back to the subject of the vocal cords. The vocal cords and all those small muscles that surround them ... I take care of my vocal cords and vocal cord exercises. And if I mentioned Philippe Jaroussky, whose voice I love, then when he sings, his larynx is very open. All muscles are very relaxed and this allows him to sing very high notes. Usually when we sing high, we stress our muscles. The secret of people like Philippe Jaroussky is that we don't hear any tension. Diaphragm support, the whole body sweats, but there is no tension. Everything is fluent. When we hear Pavarotti's mythical voice, when he sings high, there is no tension in it. And everything is based on the fact that there is no tension when you sing. It is very difficult when you dance, move, shake your head in all directions ... And not to stress your throat muscles to sing clearly. Similarly, when we listen to Johnny Halliday. When he sang with his powerful, very resonating voice, even if there was emotional tension in the song and in the body, then vocally, there was no tension.
Q: So what are you doing to sing like this? Is it a matter of exercise?
M: I practice every day. All the time. I would like to have a fit body so much ... But I have to choose: either I have the athlete's body or I take care of my voice. For now, I prefer to take care of my voice. When I look at myself in the mirror, I say to myself: I would like to work more time on my body than on my voice.
Q: But is singing just as much physical effort as artistical effort?
M: This is a slightly different kind of sport. But it is a physical process. It's a kind of taming.
Q: This is the second time you use the word "taming". This word contains a dose of brutality.
M: Because it's a taming. How many books do you read per week?
Q: Weekly? Five or six.
M: Well, this is an intellectual taming.
Q: Do you think so?
M: And in the term "intellectual taming" there is also a lot of brutality. I came back from Mexico yesterday. And yesterday I watched a documentary - I know it was a bit of propaganda - about Bill Gates. He is crazy! He reads about 25-35 books a month. Very difficult books. He reads at a speed of 150-200 pages per hour. He reads and memorises what he reads. This is called taming, will you agree with me? Ah, I ride a horse. It's pretty recent. I always wanted to ride a horse. And I realized it was a bit like with dogs. When you want to have a good dog, you think you need to tame it. And this is not true. You need to tame yourself so that your dog is well trained. It is similar with horses. you don't tame horses. You need to tame yourself so that you can communicate with your horse.
Q: It's a matter of discipline.
M: Yes, it's a matter of discipline. But it makes me feel happy.
Q: What did you learn from your participation in The Voice? You taught others, but did you also learn something yourself?
M: I had fun.
Q: This is something.
M: It's important to have fun. Especially when you do this kind of job in which most of time you are annoyed. Only when you are on stage everything is clear. We are free on stage. But for the rest of the time you can get pissed off. Well, I had fun. I thought I'd be in The Voice for maybe a year, maybe for two. I stayed for six years. And I think it's because I don't live in France. I will explain to you what I mean. I was going to the studio straight from the airport. After the recordings, I went to the hotel. I slept. Next morning, around 8-9am, I was at the airport because I had a tour or I continued working. This allowed me to keep a distance from the program, which was divided into 18 episodes. So it lasted a long time. But I didn't feel it. I also didn't feel the consequences of what I said on the program. In the studio I talked, I talked, I talked, I had fun, and then I left. Thanks to that I could keep myself fresh and light. I didn't have any complexes. And it helped me a lot. I am also grateful that I could make myself known to the audience. Through music, through singing. And although the program is commercial, I didn't have to think about it in this way.
Q: And from the artistic point of view?
M: From the artistic pint of view? It was nice. ... for example by doing The Voice .... I will tell you something. I was on tour for my previous album "No Place in Heaven". I told to my fans: if there is no place in heaven for us, come on, we will create such a place for ourselves. And then I had this concert at Bercy. Earlier, I played several times in the Zenith hall in Paris. I thought a lot of people would come. It would be good to prepare a beautiful show. And of course I was aware that a lot of people saw me in The Voice. That's why I thought of doing something different. And I came up with a new show. Only for one night. It was a love letter to Paris after the Bataclan terrorist attack. I said "Paris je t'aime". I wanted to say in a different way that I loved Paris. It cost me more than I earned in The Voice for a year. Only one night. All tickets sold out. I also did a concert at Stade de France during the rugby finals. I spent not only the money I got for the show itself, but also a six-month pay in The Voice. For 20 minutes of performance at Stade de France. And what did it give me from an artistic point of view? It gave me artistic freedom to do something that was not possible before. I think that you have to look at it all globally. Not only that, it gave me access to a wide audience who came to my concerts. But that I could invest in these concerts in a way that was previously unattainable.
We hear the song "Stay High"
Q: Thank you very much, Mika. Concerts in France start on November 15 at Zenith Pau ....