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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

MIKA Opines On 'The Origin Of Love'

Taylor A. Johnson, Ashley Riegle |
March 22, 2013 | 10:42 p.m. PDT

UK electropop star MIKA—of beloved hits like "Relax, Take it Easy," "Grace Kelly" and "Love Today"—is bringing his North American tour to Los Angeles, where he will play a sold out concert at the El Rey theater on March 27.

 Girlie Media)
Girlie Media)

Neon Tommy reporters Ashley Riegle and Taylor Johnson had the chance to speak with singer-songwriter, MIKA, by phone this week while the artist was in Vancouver kicking off his North American tour.

MIKA opened up about his current tour and album, “The Origin of Love", discussing everything from the meaning of the album to the stresses of making music videos to his dream collaboration.

NT: Beginning with your current album, "The Origin of Love," you’ve mentioned that the last two albums were more about characters and that this one was kind of more about you, does that make this album more meaningful to you?

MIKA: No, I mean it’s as meaningful as the other ones ‘cause even if I’m writing about characters, the whole [album] before was kind of like a mad man makes a comic book and creates all these monsters, heroes and villains, but truth is he is the villain, he is the monsters, and he is the hero. He is all those characters. He’s exercising them into something that he’s making. So that’s kind of how I approach my music. You know, I am all these creatures. I am like Lollipop Girl. I am Billy Brown. I am Grace Kelly. And so that’s how I approached it.

On this new record, there were a couple things: First, I was in a position in my life where I wanted to take this feeling and put it in a bottle, like a kind of perfume, and I’m 27/28, I’m in a pretty big moment in my life and I’ll never feel like this again.

Why not write? I love the concept of writing this kind of big, tall, mystical title, “The Origin of Love,” it sound almost biblical, you know? Why not take something like that and actually rip it to shreds? Make songs about alcohol and you know, I love how you fuck me, and all these pathetic little things that actually make up the most important things of life. And so, I just felt like writing a concept album about all these love songs. The songs I would do when I’m 35 will sound completely different so I want to capitalize on it, just bottle it. The result is still just as meaningful, just in another way.

NT: You mentioned this a little bit, that "The Origin of Love" is the title of the album. "Origin of Love" is also one of my favorite songs on the album, what is the meaning behind the title?

MIKA: It’s about somebody who turns around and says “I come from nowhere, I’ve made work-kind of music since I was 11, I am happy, and I’m looking at my life and deciding to be a man.” And in that process, I’m looking at everything. A big part of the thing is church and I started off in a Roman Catholic family. I still go to church from time to time. I still consider myself a Roman Catholic, but obviously I’m at odds with[,] I have this great strained relationship with religion.

On the one hand, it’s important to my values so much and I respect it; I have a deep respect for it. On the other hand, I’m completely at odds with so many of the conservative and destructive beliefs and political beliefs of the Roman Catholic Church. In all honesty, of most religions. So the song’s about that, conflicting opinions. It’s a crazy-ass love song that basically says “I will rewrite history for you. I’ll rip up the Bible and rewrite it for you, even if it takes me to Hell. I will make a long song that sounds like Jagger that sounds like The Kinks that sounds like church music just because I like you so much.” And it has this kind of insanity about it. That’s what the song’s about.

It berates church and it berates concepts of religion and politics of religion, so that in the end, that after all this, I sit there and I thank God that you found me. It’s clearly conflicting, but that’s life.

British electropop star MIKA will play the El Rey theater on 3/27 (Photo Courtesy: Girlie Media)
British electropop star MIKA will play the El Rey theater on 3/27 (Photo Courtesy: Girlie Media)

NT: I love the Adam and Eve reference in the song.

MIKA: Well and you know, when you read the lyrics, it’s so funny because they just make sense. No matter who you are, just read the lyrics. You’ll agree with it. No matter who you are, what you are, how old you are, whatever. Girl or guy, it doesn’t matter, gay or straight. It all comes back to common sense. So much of what matters is common sense.

NT: Your music videos are always really creative. How do you come up with the ideas?

MIKA: I hate making music videos. It’s one of the worst things. I love coming up with ideas—but making them, I can’t explain it. I cant describe it; it’s such a fucking pain in the ass. It’s not like a movie where they actually prepare and build it. It’s all done so quickly. There are so many people involved. The record company drives you completely insane, inevitably. The biggest problem with music video directors is so often they jump from job to job. But sometimes it works. Sometimes it really works. For example, I did a video for the song called “Underwater,” which I think is really beautiful. And for this song called “Happy Ending,” which was really beautiful. Sometimes it just works. At the same time I did a video for this song “Big Girl” and I thought, ‘I cannot believe I did that.’

At the same time, I make everything. Have you seen a show of mine? [Ed. note: Neon Tommy will be attending his show next week.] When you see one of my shows, you’ll get it. I work in a collective. I build a team of artists: I have graphic designers, illustrators, animators, puppet-makers. We all go into a room and there’s nothing, we have no show, and then we build, let the show evolve out of the chaos and all of these people making the show illustrating the universe of whatever record that I’m touring. I make videos in the same way. After a few of hours, we’ll start with nothing [but] we’ll end up with stories and a vision and a record mood board and everything.

Working in a collective is amazing. I think it’s because I come from a family of five kids, and we’ve always worked with each other.

NT: If you could collaborate with anyone, anywhere throughout history—who would it be?

MIKA: Oh man. Well firstly, it wouldn’t be any of my musical icons because I would be terrified that they would destroy my vision of them. Certain people, if you like them enough, stay the fuck away from them, because you’re going to fucking hate ‘em when you see ‘em up close.

Walt Disney. Working with old school animation and building a world around that and writing songs in that old fashioned style of animation. That would be an incredible thing to be able to do. That golden age of animation that happened in the 1950s. We’re talking about movies that had a certain kind of naïveté but also with that naïveté, a real depth and completely not at all about video game culture.

I think that’s what’s destroying so many whimsical and magical films. You sit there and you feel like you’re watching an advert for the video game. Challenge one, challenge two, step three, step four. So when you see something like “Wall-E,” for example, and it’s so poetic and it’s so un-videogame-like; it has power and it’s moving and it’s emotional. And there’s a reason why the last few “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies are borderline boring because you feel like you’re watching a video game.

So going back to that golden age, it was something quite pure.

NT: What are you looking forward to specifically about the upcoming North American tour dates?

MIKA: I like playing in America so much, I can’t tell you. I don’t like the airports. I think American airports suck ass. It’s like the worst airports, the worst planes, and the worst airlines. So the traveling part of it sucks, when you compare it to the world, it’s so weird. But the cities are just amazing and the people are unbelievable and the history of the venues and all of that—it’s the people really. I love playing in front of people in America. There is this appetite for music!

I’ll never forget, I was at Ryan Adams—I’m a big Ryan Adams fan—he was playing at the Royal Albert Hall in London and I got called out for tapping my foot. And people just started screaming at each other in the audience. Actually, one guy was screaming at another who was hollering, and it was so fucked up. It was kind of weird and really quite negative and destructive.

The only way I can describe it is that playing a show in America is 150% not that. Americans have this ultra-melody, which is quite amazing.

America is so huge and diverse, which makes it so adaptable. It’s hard to imagine that. Things like Regina Spektor, we don’t have Regina Spektor in the UK. She doesn’t really have a presence there as much as she does here [in North America]. That whole kind of melodic pop music that you’re allowed to experience in America, and a lot of other places, but it’s not like that in the UK. It’s not the same.

All of this stuff, it’s so melodic. Just because it has melody doesn’t mean it’s dirty or fabricated and fake. It’s not. Actually it’s sometimes more sincere than the kind of pose-y rock. There’s amazing rock. I’m obsessed with rock. Actually one of my icons growing up as a performer and as a writer was Marilyn Manson. I was completely obsessed with what he was doing.

But anyway, there is a good culture of melodic pop in the States, which I love.

NT: Is there anything you want to tell your fans in the US or fans coming to your L.A. show?

MIKA: If you’re coming to the show, bring your personality with you. And if you know how to sing, then fucking sing really loud. It’s kind of this gig where I’ll even bring someone up from the crowd and people can request songs. It’s gonna be pretty cool. So expect that if you’re coming.

If you haven’t been to one of the shows and you’re kind of curious, I would start with listening to some records that hit you over the head the first time you hear them, but then you get it after awhile. Such as my last record.

I feel very lucky to have the opportunity to play. So I feel very grateful.



Download MIKA's album on iTunes here.

To learn more about MIKA's North American tour click here.

Read more of NT's interviews here.

Reach staff reporter Taylor Johnson by email. Follow her on Twitter here.

Reach staff reporter Ashley Riegle by email. Follow her on Twitter here.



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