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Aloud.com : Mika - King of Pop 2007 (Part 1)


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Part 1.


Where have you been? This isn't some ridiculous trend you've fallen asleep and half-missed, this is MIKA, the most ebullient bundle of pop tunes you're going to hear all year! Mika, a former opera singer who used to end up being entertained by his own voice when queuing on the British Airways ticketing hotline, has featured on almost every tipster's list for 2007, and is releasing his debut album Life In Cartoon Motion at the beginning of February. Born in Lebanon, raised in Paris and London and now unleashing his cartoon pop stories on the world, believe us when we say that this isn't even hype - this is the real thing, done brilliantly.



You’re getting quite popular now which requires stringent decision making. So, are you going to be a nice grounded popstar or a hysterical diva?

I don't have any particular kind of hook ups about attitudes or that kind of thing, that drives me just crazy. At the end of the day you've gotta sit down and write another song and there's nothing more humanizing than that because you have to be in the same place. It's kind of like going to the toilet, it’s like everyone has to do it, it's part of the job. If you have too many quabbles about the way you're treated and stuff it's a bit ridiculous but at the same time I'm extremely controlling and fussy about the way that I work. Everything's gotta be done the right way, because I’m the only one who loses out it’s my life. It's funny, some people think I'm totally great and some people think I'm the biggest pain in the ass, the worst thing that's ever walked into their office.


What's the worst thing you've ever done to somebody?

Scrap websites six times, or remix my album. I went through eleven mixes of one song... not remixes, actual mixes. I remastered the album four times


Did you ever make anybody cry?

Yes. On my press kit, one of the last lines is "I've made people cry making this album and I'll probably continue doing that till I stop making records" but that's part of the job. I'm a solo artist so I fight my battles with everyone I work with as opposed to internally with my band.


People either love you or hate you, there's no real middle ground.

The whole Marmite thing? Yeah, I'm quite proud of it actually.


What is it that polarizes people so much?

It's very uncompromising, it's a very singular vision. Anything that smells of an artist that much is clearly going to be a smell that you like, or one you just don't like, there's nothing in-between. I think it’s a very good thing.


Does the diva aspect come from starting off in opera?

Not really, I just did that for a bit. When I moved over from France as a kid I ended up going to a French state school in South Kensington, I had a really hard time and I ended up leaving, so I didn't go to school for about six months. I didn't have anything to do, my mum was like "I need to get this kid back on his feet again, he's a bit of a mess, what am I going to do?" so she got me this very tough singing teacher. I was always into music but by then it was two hours a day it just kind of took over my life, I had nothing else to do and I got really good really quickly.


How old were you?

Eleven. My first ever gig was at the Royal Opera House doing the chorus for a Strauss opera and it kind of led from there. It was really fast, because when you're trained, taken out of school through circumstance, you get really serious about it. I never made any money, so to me it was really hard work for nothing, it was all just experience.


It's not really that sexy either is it, opera at 11...

Yeah, it doesn’t really make you cool, does it? It was cool to me! There’s no other building in the world that’s cooler than the Royal Opera House. It was a fake world that was great, great to make a living doing that.


What followed on from that?

I did session work. I was so cheap because my mother had no idea what we were supposed to be charging, so I got £45 for an Orbit chewing gum commercial. I got lots of jobs and I was really fast, I did everything from Royal Opera House to jingles to contemporary music in Warsaw. Then I went to the Royal College of Music, studying the classical scene, but I was always writing pop songs from a young age. Because I could never read music, I was writing my own stuff. I dropped out just over a year ago now and I'm making this record.


That's ridiculous, it's so quick...

Well, it's been quick but it hasn't. I've had my break about 48 times but it never really worked out. Now it seems to be pulling through so I'm happy.


Your songs tread some line between Elton John, Freddie Mercury and Scissor Sisters, so is it old pop or new pop for you?

Elton. The early Elton. But then again the Scissor Sisters did stuff on their first album that I hadn’t really heard before, that reworking of that Pink Floyd song is genius. I just have this thing about reclaiming pop, about making "artist" records, because there's not a lot of solo artists making records that sound "big". There was a trend that came in towards the end of the ‘90s that if you're a solo artist then you make singer-songwriter records that are anchored at an instrument, mostly a guitar or a piano.


Unless you're in a band, you can't make big records. I was like "Wow, I'm a singer-songwriter, I'm not going to be anchored at the piano, there's no hope in hell of keeping me there for more than a couple of songs". I write at the piano, but I wanna make huge-sounding pop records. That's really my thing, and to get inspiration for that you go back to the ‘70s and the ‘80s, because that's the only time people were really doing that, it's disappeared apart from someone like Beck, I can't really think of many others. Hardly anyone actually.


And pop's only just starting to rescue itself from that whole bland controlling boy group/girl group thing as well.

And also you can say pop! I was reading an article yesterday about Alex Kapranos, and he's written an article about food. They referred to him as a pop star, and I was like "That's exactly what he is". I was having an argument with a friend of mine a few nights ago about how there are no rock stars any more. Is Pete Doherty a rock star? Over my dead body! Well, over his more likely. He's not a rock star, he's a pop star, he's in Grazia. There’s no such thing as rock star anymore, and that’s kind of reflected in pop music. What is rock music now? It could be death metal, but pop is stretched out so much, Bjork makes pop music, she says it herself, and it's getting very cool again.


You would have worked so well on Top of the Pops, all that glitz and cartoonishness. Damn BBC1.

I know. I did T4 last night, I had to sing live. There were bits that weren't live because they can't handle it. Gwen Stefani was on before and after me and she does all this stuff that no-one knows. It seems like she does all the singles in one go so when they release the next one she doesn’t have to come all the way back to record the performance.


Why Grace Kelly? Why not Bette Davis or somebody else?

Because Grace Kelly is more interesting than Bette Davis in terms of snapshot life, wasn’t she? She was this normal girl from England, then she became one of the biggest movie stars in the world, then became royalty, and then died. And the way she died, it's like "C'mon!", a soap opera on ecstasy.


Interview continues in Part 2


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