Multi-dimensional Renaissance man Mikey Georgeson is a writer, illustrator, singer, performer, painter, college lecturer, and movie maker. He writes prose, song lyrics, and comic strips. He sings and performs as “Vessel” for the indie rock band David Devant and His Spirit Wife, as well as a musical side project called Mr. Solo. One of Mikey’s paintings, “Dopamine – Molecule of Intuition,” bubbled brightly in a recent John Moore Exhibit at Liverpool’s prestigious Walker Art Gallery. Georgeson attended the Worthing College of Art, the Chelsea School of Art, and received a postgraduate degree in illustration at Brighton University. He now shares his knowledge and experience with students at the University of East London, where he is a Senior Lecturer. As I wrapped up this interview, I learned that Mr. Solo’s song Kiss It Better has entered the final round in the YouBloom Music Awards competition. The judges include Bob Geldof, Conor McNicholas, Sarah Lewitinn, Rupert Hine, and Nigel Grainge. I hardly know what question to ask first.
Bill: I mentioned to you in my first email that I was intrigued by the name of your band, David Devant and His Spirit Wife. As you may know, I’m a fan of mysticism.
Mikey: And I’m a fan of Charles Fort, who is mentioned in one of the blurbs on your book, Tamper. The late, great David Devant was a turn-of-the-century stage magician. One of his illusions was to make a girl appear onstage, ghostlike, which he called his “spirit wife.” My discovery of him was almost casual (but then, this is the feeling that accompanies much significant creativity). I was rapidly drawn into the notion that fate had brought us together. Coincidence and synchronicity abounded. Then as now, I had a strong disposition towards finding totemic significance in the world around me. Life and magic coalescing. Our drummer, Professor Rimschott, and myself would spend days in the theatre museum that used to be in Covent Garden, accessing papers and pamphlets that might contain clues to this prestigious prestidigitator. We lived it. Revelling in all the coincidences. His nickname was monkey face and so was mine. He was one of the first operators on the London to Brighton telephone line and I had just moved to London leaving the Professor in Brighton. We staged a concert in Egypt and so did Devant.
My relationship with Devant is odd in that he is not a character I would intuitively gravitate towards. I mean, he was the Anti-Fort, going out of his way to how spiritualism was phony. We (members of the band) found wonderful contemporary press cutting illustrated with spectral photographs of the court battle in which Devant’s partner, Maskelyne, was sued for libel having challenged a spiritualist to make a ghost appear. He demonstrated how this could be done by material means but I think he still lost the case. I guess, ultimately, Devant’s catch phrase of “All Done By Kindness” draws our band together. I’ve recently been interested in George Price and his doomed quest to find the source of kindness.
Bill: Ginger is one of those songs I can listen to over and over and still get a high-powered rush every time. I don’t understand why it’s not big here in the States.
Mikey: For one thing, we suffered from the curse of Brit Pop in that the label didn’t release it in America believing we should crack the UK first.
Bill: Are you making any headway in Europe?
Mikey: People said that Ginger could take us to the top. On the Friday before its release, Radio 1 reported they were putting Ginger on the B playlist, which after a week as ‘breakfast song of the week’ would have taken it top 40. By the Monday someone upstairs allegedly said “over my dead body” and it was removed altogether from the playlist. This is something we laughed off at the time but it’s hard to square. There were people who were convinced it was a faddy tune for Chris Evans and I even had a letter comparing us to the Nazi party.
Bill: That’s odd. It seems to be about people who don’t fit in because they are different.
Mikey: Thanks, it’s good to see the message still occasionally seeps through though. Ginger is clearly about outsiders.
Bill: The New Musical Express accused David Devant and His Spirit Wife of hiding behind theatrics. But I would put you in the category of performers whose talent shines through and past the theatrics, like early David Bowie or Marilyn Manson, as opposed to hacks like Screaming Lord Sutch. Having said that, I was wondering if you ever performed a Lord Sutch number just for the fun of it.
Mikey: No we’ve never covered Screaming Lord Sutch, but as a child I had an album of Monster Hits and Sutch’s Jack the Ripper was on that. That album has stayed with me. Much as I admire worthy songwriters, I am drawn back and back to the mystery of the sound beneath the vinyl of novelty alien music.
Bill: Tell me about writing you’ve done other than music and songs.
Mikey: I,ve been writing quite a lot recently, so here’s a link to my blog. I love it when writing reveals something you had sensed was there all along but couldn’t define. Steve Aylett mentioned how you include real life in your book, Tamper, mixed with the fiction, and this is the area that’s brought me the most satisfaction in my work. I sometimes think of it as glistening globules – those times when life and metaphor overlap. I also recently wrote a children’s story, which I hoped was somehow primordial, beyond the life coaching tone for tots I find in my sons’ books. Something with no message but feeling like a half remembered dream. I put it on kindle. It’s called Kimey Peckpo by Mikey Georgeson.
Bill: I recently watched Martin Scorsese’s documentary, George Harrison: Living in the Material World. Have you seen it?
Mikey: I managed to watch half of it when my son came downstairs and put a cartoon on. I came in on the part where Astrid and Klaus were talking about Hamburg. I just read that she refutes the idea that she styled their hair, saying that it was a popular haircut with arty types they knew then. Interestingly, Pete Best had very curly hair, which wouldn’t go into the classic mop-top (conspiracy theory!).
I thought it was interesting when George talked about seeing yourself on TV as if it was a different person. They showed great strength of character to be able to ride that particular vortex and survive as themselves. Now days, artists have an idea of what being a celebrity in the media storm means and seem to play to it but the Beatles were as baffled as anyone else.
Marshall Mcluhan spoke about them as an example of Participation Mystique, which is where the tribal whole becomes as one. I tried to explain to some students that the Beatles captured a zeitgeist, but could think of no frame of reference that would help them grasp this. McLuhan’s talk of tribal man fascinates me. He was bold enough to grapple with an indeterminate idea. I mean tribalism is both bad and good. In short he seemed to say that centuries of literacy had rewired our brains and distanced us from the ‘all at once-ness’ of life. The Beatles inhabited a three hundred and sixty degree horizonless space. We all merged into this. Unfortunately this morphed into celebrity as we know it now, which is much more about them and us. Like gods from Olympus. More Classical than Eastern, which is why I think George never saw himself as a godhead. When I was becoming socially aware (say seven years old) there was still a sense of awe surrounding the Beatles. They were indeed mythical. Ringo the mischievous monkey god, George the enlightened Brahman, Paul the inspired Apollo, and John the Kali-like destroyer of worlds (conventions). Apparently The Brahman is the essential essence of material phenomena. Quite apt for George, then.
I was impressed by George talking about the need to experience belief rather than just have blind faith. I find myself surrounded by creative people who are outwardly cynical of all matters ineffable. There is a vein of irony that runs through British humor and whilst I frequently laugh, I often find myself thinking that it’s a pissing contest to see who can be the most detached and intelligent (Did you know that the IQ test was developed to help identify children to who traditional education techniques might prove detrimental? Amazing how it turned into the exact opposite – a means of reinforcing traditional ideas of intelligence). Intelligence is increasingly seen as an end itself like a beautiful complexion. I really believe that art and music are a direct manifestation of the creative process but the drive towards specialization means that art can be about how good you are at drawing horses or submitting proposals to funding bodies. Because I have experienced having thought stuff up through consensually approved methods of intelligence and then at other times wondered where my songs or paintings have come from I find it hard to be anything other than pantheist. Admittedly this can irritate me especially when I’m down – in a depressed state it’s hard then to feel connected to something beyond the surface of consensus reality. What I’m skirting around is that the idea of “feeling” something is a quality that resonates with me. This makes being a tutor a challenge because I want students to “feel” their work rather than just apply accrued skills. I am careful not to get too passionate lest I feel too much like a Robert Pirsig creation.
Today I found out that the German word bild, meaning picture, is the same word for painting is the same word for metaphor. This excites me. Metaphor is beyond the determinate realm of either or. In other words how can you access spirituality in terms of rationality? This is unfortunately what organized religion does in order to validate themselves in an age of reason. Living metaphor is what keeps me sane. It frees us from that Aristotelian ring fencing. I’ve tried a purely rational approach and I feel less than half a person that way. In another life, maybe.
This answer was a bit cosmic, I know. All from “what do you think of George Harrison.”
Bill: I want to end the interview by asking everyone to vote for your Mr. Solo song, Kiss It Better. Rumor has it that Bob Geldof himself is a fan of the song, but that guarantees nothing. It’s up to the voters! Everyone, click here to show Mikey Georgeson your support. Please. Thank you.