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Oh I read this great interview yesterday, it's nice to see the pics, (I like the bit o fluff peeking out the top of his rather fetching spotty shirt), :biggrin2: it's funny cos he is in a spotty shirt but a bit o fluff makes him look more masculine and rather sexy.:naughty:


wish I had known about this I would have bought the magazine of paper or whatever pfft too late now. It's a really really good interview though.

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I can't see two of the scans for some reason, but here's the interview.



(it's really long)

From The TimesDecember 29, 2007


Adventures in Mikaworld

From Lebanon to London, and bullied outsider to Europe’s favourite pop star, Mika’s trajectory is extraordinary. We catch up with an oddball success story


Johnny Davis

This morning, Mika was woken up by an organ grinder and his monkey. The tour bus ferrying him and his young band on their wildly popular tour of Europe had left Luxembourg a little after midnight, with everyone climbing into their bunks around 2am. By 5am they’d arrived in Brussels, where Mika transferred to a hotel bed. His sleep interrupted, he didn’t manage to drop off again until gone 8am. Two hours later, the organ grinder struck up.


“I thought I was hallucinating,” Mika says. On another occasion, the elaborate oompah-pah-ing of the half-man, half-monkey busking outfit five floors below his balcony might have appealed to the theatrically inclined pop star. But standing there in his boxer shorts after a disrupted night’s sleep? “I wanted to throw something out of the window,” he says in his indeterminate accent. “I wanted to strangle that monkey.”


For better or for worse, animals, along with cartoons, childhood and – of course – music, have proved to be something of a constant in Mika’s life. The memory of the morning’s alarm call is already receding when he makes his way to La Boutique Tintin, the official Tintin shop, to buy “all the really expensive toys I could never afford before”, including figurines of Snowy the dog, Tintin astride his elephant from Tintin in the Congo and two enormous illustrated Chinese vases, the latter at £570 a pop.


At the start of 2007, hardly anyone had heard of Mika. He finishes the year as Europe’s biggest pop star, his album Life in Cartoon Motion selling four million copies in a nippy ten months, topping the charts in ten countries, propelled in part by indelible No 1 Grace Kelly, which spent six months on the UK charts alone. Plus, there was that singular back story: 24-year-old former Michael Penniman is surely the only operatically trained, Lebanese-French-American-English pop singer with a childhood characterised both by a breakdown that rendered him temporarily mute and a spell warbling adverts for Orbit chewing gum and British Airways.


Blessed with Adam Ant-by-way-of-Amadeus good looks and an elastic falsetto-to-baritone voice, his brand of vampy, campy show tunes proved both reassuringly familiar – slotting into a lineage of cheerily OTT British pop that includes David Bowie, Elton John and Queen – and thrillingly fresh. None of those acts ever had a song quite like Billy Brown, the tale of a man living his ordinary life (“Two kids, a dog and a cautionary wife”), who absconds to the Mexican coast after taking up with a male lover. Perhaps with Robbie Williams AWOL and Justin Timberlake off touring the globe, the stage was cleared for a high-drama pop showman. At next February’s Brits, his Best British Male Artist gong seems inevitable.


2007 also represents a vindication. The perpetual outsider, Mika’s self-generated fantasy world of nursery-rhyme songs, comic-book artwork, neon videos, Day-Glo wardrobe and circus stage show – Mikaworld, you might say – was accepted in the most conclusive way imaginable. “Hasn’t that always been the job of an entertainer?” he asked. “Taking something that works against you and making it work for you?” Being smarter – or at least, better educated – than the average pop person, it’s a home-made reality he’s likened to Gesamtkunstwerk, Wagner’s theory of “total, inclusive art”. It offered an alternative to boys in big hair and small jeans, anyway. “I feel far more anarchic than any band in Camden,” he told me at the start of the year. “That may sound pompous, but pop is pompous!”


“This year, I’m proudest of having given value,” is how he sees things now, “and gaining attention for the things in my life that people always thought were worthless, like the doodles in my sketchbook. It’s amazing that you can marry all those different aspects of life that you were told to hide when you were a child. It proves I was right, even though everyone made fun of me at school. Was I crying out for love and affection?” he asks. “Aren’t we all?”


In a Brussels hotel suite, Mika is being interviewed by a reporter from De Rode Loper, a daily showbiz show on Belgian TV. Their conversation takes place in French, Mika explaining that he “enjoys looking at ordinary things in a special way, like Amélie”.


“Are you a bit like a child?” asks the reporter.


“Children are very honest and because of that they can be cruel and nasty,” Mika says. “I hated school, but I wanted to keep this sense of childhood. A childish sense of creating a world.”


“This is Peter Pan syndrome,” the interviewer proposes.


“No, no,” corrects Mika. “It’s not a Peter Pan thing.”

“I read an article in France that said Mika ought to be available on the National Health Service. That your music is that good for people’s wellbeing and happiness.”


“I don’t have the arrogance to say I do something for others’ wellbeing. I write songs for myself, because it helps me.”


Next, De Rode Loper asks about Lebanon, where Mika was born. “What’s your opinion of this country that has suffered so much? Would you do something to help? Have you considered singing in Eurovision, for example?”


“Oh no,” Mika says. “Before, Eurovision was quite interesting. But in the past few years it’s been completely horrible.” He struggles on, elaborating as best he can (“I want nothing to do with politics… the only attention Lebanon gets is for its problems… many amazing things come out of there…”), then retreats to the lifts.


“That was terrible,” he says. “They should have a rule: when you’re tired, don’t even bother trying to answer political questions.”


Mika might wear bright trousers and make fun music, but he also has a single-mindedness that would make Alan Sugar blush. “I do feel very lucky, but it is not a happy accident,” he says. “I got here by my own rules.” The middle of five children, Mika’s upbringing was characterised by sunny privilege, having been born in Beirut to an American banker father and a Lebanese mother whose line of designer children’s clothes was sold in Saks Fifth Avenue. “We had everything,” he says. “It was great to feel very rich.” Then the Gulf War happened. After being “dumped” in Cyprus in the mass exodus, and before Mika’s father was held captive in Beirut’s US embassy, mum and kids headed for Paris, where Mika was removed from school, suffering “a complete breakdown”, having been “completely tortured” and “bullied to death”. This was partly for being the new foreign boy and partly for turning up for lessons in bright pink shorts, matching bow tie and white plimsolls. “I just stopped talking,” he says. “It went on for quite a few months.”


Moving to Kensington didn’t stop the bullying: Mika’s new playground companions berated him with chants of “choirboy poof” and “child-bearing hips”. “They’d pick things up off the street and throw them at me,” he recalls. He found solace in hours of singing lessons from an “extremely tough” Russian soprano, Alla Ablaberdyeva. “I got to the point where no other UK child could compete with me,” Mika beams. “I sounded like a little opera singer.”


“I remember him as eight years old,” Ablaberdyeva says down the phone from Moscow. “He was actually my first pupil; my first advert in a South Kensington music shop. His mother, Joanie, asked me to come to their house. What a big place. The whole set-up was designed for Mika to do whatever he wanted. He was a beautiful, lively young boy. I could see he was different from the others; the voice, the clarity of tone, was angelic. Immediately, I fell in love with the voice.” Aged 11, Mika’s first gig was at the Royal Opera House, in the choir for Strauss’s Die Frau ohne Schatten. The Royal College of Music followed.


“I sang because I realised I was good at it,” he says. “There’s something empowering about writing a song and singing it, and no one’s going to get involved in what you can and can’t say. Also because I make nice noises. And it’s easier than speaking because no one sings back at you.” He thinks about this. “But I don’t only sing. It’s just the loudest thing I do.”


“My memory of growing up is being kept up until 4am,” says Mika’s sister Yasmine, who, with him, creates all the artwork for his releases. “He’d be at the piano downstairs, banging away on some idea which would keep him from sleeping if he didn’t complete it.” Later, the pair would confront bemused record execs with fold-out, hand-illustrated CD booklets they’d made; how Mika’s album would look once they’d handed him his inevitable deal. “They didn’t realise how far he’d thought it out,” Yasmine says. “I’d show up to meetings and they’d be, like, ‘You’ve brought your sister with you?’”

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When Mika eventually did get signed – despite one label apparently attempting to mould him into “the new Craig David” and Simon Cowell telling him he “may as well not bother” – he did so in style: his US boss is Tommy Mottola, Mariah Carey’s ex-husband and one of music’s most revered characters. Here, finally, was the budget to realise his dreams: Life in Cartoon Motion became the sort of big-sounding record last heard in the Seventies, featuring an ensemble cast that included Miles Davis’s strings arranger, Thriller’s horn player, the gospel choir from O Brother, Where Art Thou?, even the Spoon Orchestra of Chiswick. “It cost a f***-load of money,” Mika admits. Meanwhile, you get the impression of an enigmatic attitude towards his sexuality – what he calls his “unisex, one-size fits all” name came as much from studying pop’s form and noting what endured as it did from personal convenience.


“I was unbelievably impressed when I first saw him,” says Tommy Mottola. “His songwriting is up there with some of the greats. He will be around for years to come.” Still, not everyone was on board. Life in Cartoon Motion proved too fruity a concoction for some, with one reviewer suggesting that listening to it was “like being held at gunpoint by Bonnie Langford”, while another described Mika’s live get-up as looking “like Owen Hargreaves dressed as a gay Bavarian goatherd”. Even Mika took to describing himself as “musical Marmite”. And, as the year rolled on, he discovered that not all his struggles were behind him. His delightfully over-the-top shows, featuring glitter cannons, fake snowstorms and drum solos performed on dustbins, have barely broken even – hardly the point of touring. “Of course the record company would rather I did it cheaper,” he says, “but then I wouldn’t have a career. Well, I would have a career, but not the career I wanted.”


Backstage at Brussels’ Vorst Nationaal enormodrome, there’s a snag. All day, radio stations NRJ, Radio Donna and Studio Brussel have run a competition to find “big girls, women of a certain stature, who, in exchange for Mika tickets, will dress up as Alice from Alice in Wonderland and dance onstage during the song Big Girl (You Are Beautiful)”. It’s a scheme that usually finds the stage door besieged, but perhaps Belgian Mika fans are particularly shy – or svelte – for tonight only one girl shows up. As does, curiously, a boy. Mika’s mum, Joanie, helping out with wardrobe, ushers them into a changing room. “Would you rather be a Big Girl,” she asks, “or a Lollipop Girl?” When the girl emerges in full Alice ensemble, her boyfriend is waiting. He looks terrified. “He is not a Mika fan. He is just my boyfriend,” the girl explains. “I’m here because I wrote a poem to the radio station to say why I love Mika.” Then the boy emerges. Dressed as a gorilla. It’s testament to Mika’s flamboyance that neither of them particularly stands out on stage: the performance also features a 10ft puppet skeleton, a West Indian-style carnival dancer and, silhouetted behind a scrim, Mika and band performing a skit dressed as a lion, a monkey, a duck, a rabbit and a crocodile. Whenever Mika talks to the audience in Flemish, they go potty.


By the time the tour comes to London in December, Mika has a throat infection. Two out of three shows have been cancelled. We meet for a drink. He’s on antibiotics and carrying a red umbrella. “Free from the Abbey National,” he explains. “I’ve got four.” We're in Kensington, round the corner from his flat, which is beneath his parents’ house and being done up. “It’s a building site,” he says. His plan to blag a free kitchen in exchange for posing in the promotional brochure has gone south. “I ended up paying full price,” he sighs. “The kitchen guys think I’m insane.” He says it’s a common problem. “I think it’s down to being an idiot when it comes to communicating,” he says, cheerfully. The campaign for Life in Cartoon Motion is drawing to an end. There are some dates in America in January and talk of a trip to Moscow, then it’s the Brits, at which Mika will perform. Tradition suggests a duet – Justin Timberlake and Kylie in 2003; Katie Melua and Jamie Cullum in 2004. So naturally, he’s got something else planned. Then it's on with the next album, one song for which, How Much Do You Love Me?, has already passed the live road test with flying colours. It’s so catchy, audiences have been belting out the hook before it’s barely halfway through.


“You know, look at this from a bit of a distance,” he says, “and it’s starting to look like the beginnings of a career.”


Mika’s single, Relax (Take It Easy), is available to download now, and is available on CD from December 31

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