ANDY: You’ve maintained quite a veil of secrecy around The Phoenix Experiment, can you enlighten us as to who, along with yourself or even what 'The Experiment' constitutes.
MIKE: Yeah…what’s involved, I like that Andy, I do like that actually…..I haven’t figured out quite “what” that is yet. Regarding the band, there’s myself and Craig……Craig Harman, we’re kind of the core members and then you’ve got members of The 66, our previous band, that act as our band if you will, which is what we’re trying to get together at the moment. It’s changed around a bit only in the last week….. we’ve got a new drummer in, somebody I’ve known for ages called Gaz…….. Gaz Bennett……so the band as it stands is me, Craig, Gaz and Paul, he used to play keys for The 66……..but it’s an experiment so we’re looking to see if anyone else kinda comes in, perhaps a percussionist.
ANDY: I assume with the name, Phoenix refers to a rebirth from The 66, but the fact you are using a word like Experiment suggests to me no boundaries…
ANDY: There’s no formula or preferred sound, it’s just a case of seeing where this thing goes?
MIKE: Yeah, definitely…..It’s kinda interesting………it was probably about ten months ago……..I remember as it was Tenerife when it all came into my head….. that’s where I’m off in a couple of weeks…….d’ you know what, it was probably about two or three weeks after The 66 had split……me and Rimmer had a big fall out and that was pretty much the end of that, so I was on holiday thinking….. where do we take it now. We were going to get a new singer in which was the obvious choice to do…… and then I woke up at five o’clock in the morning with the idea fully formed in my head…….The Phoenix Experiment it was there, everything coming together…… about five, couldn’t sleep, just woke up, instantly it was all there. Originally we were going to give ourselves Spanish names and proper go under cover and do it like that and then we thought, oh fuck that……. you know what I mean (Laughing) Miguel Sanchez Bee and I was like…. we’ll just leave that (Laughter) cos it sounds like we’re fuckin about. (More Laughter.) So yeah, the name came fully formed……and I suppose if you’re looking at the “what” side of it, with myself I had a massive experience about a year ago….should I say a kind of spiritual experience and not mixed in with the religious side of things like that……more solely a spiritual one that……a journey I started trying to find out about things, how the world works……..I’ve always been interested in lot’s of things, sound, wave…….all things like that, it’s always been something constant…….not until I had this experience……it’s very hard to put into words to be honest.
ANDY: When you say an experience, in what way?
MIKE: (Pause)…….. It was like…………your head all of a sudden explodes and you’ve got somebody telling you that things aren’t quite the way you imagined they are with the world, things are very different…..look into it….look into it……go on…..and it started on that kind of roll then, almost like a voice…….a voice you can’t hear, it sounds strange……..a knowing, probably that’s the best way of putting it. Obviously a lot of people at the time, especially in The 66, thought I was having some sort of mental breakdown…….I’ve never been that stable anyway…….but they kind of stuck with it and I started reading up on things and probably started veering off in a different direction really…….you know looking into the esoteric side of things……trying to put things together, so that’s how I started on that journey while we were still in The 66……so when The Phoenix Experiment idea came fully formed into my head, I didn’t see it as just being a band……I didn’t think we needed to have the band as of such. I think it’s a problem when you have bands…….we never thought The 66 would split up……we never thought that would happen, we thought destiny was calling you know…..we thought this is the one after all our various things we’ve done throughout our lives but it didn’t turn out that way, and you could be quite bitter about that really I think, cos we put in about three and half years work……but I kind of drifted away from the idea of having a band for the sake of trying to make it or trying to do something. I’ve never fully been like that anyway…..but this was more a projected vision of that……I wanted to get back into doing the art side of things as well, something I’ve always been interested in but never delved into fully…… so I see The Phoenix Experiment and the experiment being obviously the key word in it………I didn’t know why I picked it at the time, I only figured it out when I tracked back and I thought about it and things started happening……….I see that as a collection of everything creative really, whether it be art, whether it be music, videos, visuals……something that can’t possibly die……because I have to for it to happen if you know what I mean……more of a living document I think I’ve said to people before.
ANDY: Without the constraints of a band, this being your project and bringing people in as and when, you’re right it can’t die, you can basically take any road you want.
MIKE: Exactly, and I often kind of let the road take me, instead of trying to take the road if that makes any sense………letting it happen from the outside, not inside it. With The 66……. you start off and you do it with a purpose and our purpose was to smash it, let’s create the best band fuckin ever so we recruited people from around Warrington we thought could do that job…..and it turned out I believed they could…….but we still only did it for the sake of wanting to just be in the best band we possibly could be and soon after that things started to manifest……we had some kind of high manager in it after four months, of a big band who’s name I wouldn’t have shit to be honest (laughing)…….but he was sat in our room going, “Have you ever tried writing songs on acoustic guitars”………….I’m thinking, what the fuck do you think I wrote “Bordello” on……cos it sounds…….he was an absolute……..there was something wrong about him……there was evil emanating from him……..and things kind of went like that for The 66, we kept on getting involved with unscrupulous people unknowingly, draining the fuckin blood out of us……and I didn’t want any of that…..I don’t fuckin want any of that anymore……..I’m not interested in even joining that type of system……..I’m sure we’ll find a label, but we can just do it ourselves, I’m not desperately searching one, not at all, because you can just do it yourselves these days can’t you.
ANDY: That’s the big difference and you’re proving it yourselves with the demos you’re releasing. It’s much easier to put your own music out there and have the control, you do your own PR etc through the social networks.
MIKE: And we’ve only really done it via Facebook which is quite interesting, obviously The Lodge that you’re a part of….we don’t go out hunting for people to join….course we made that mistake with The 66 and I suppose a lot of this is trying to avoid mistakes that have been done before……you know trying to get away from that. We’ve got a Travelling Jaw site which is about three thousand fuckin people on it and it’s just a minefield, you can’t get through to the people that you want to……so the idea is to have like-minded people, or people that I respect….I like the stuff they’re doing….. and you can build more of a kind of community like that……so that’s the purpose of why that exists….so we’ve just got a very small group, could have had half of fuckin Warrington who knew about The 66, but I wanted to get people almost who didn’t know who we were……it’s always a bit scary when you put something new out, I’d not sung in a band for about three or four years……so it was kinda like, right go on… put it out…..so we put “Cut You Down” out……which was probably a reaction to the end of The 66, that’s probably what it’s about…….not necessarily directed at Danny, I’m going to cut you down….it’s kind of a bigger picture than that, everything……cut everything fuckin down….that’s probably where that came from really.
ANDY: “Cut You Down” is very bluesy and probably the most immediate track you’ve released, the others tend to seep into the brain more and I’d suggest you are into prog territory.
MIKE: Do you reckon? (Laughing)
ANDY: I think so and that’s not a dirty word anymore, at one time you could be stoned for admitting to liking prog. Especially something like “Rise of the Phet Dragon” it’s very otherworldly with the rhythms and the guitar hints towards Ravi Shankar and the Sitar for me.
MIKE: That’s interesting you’ve said that…..primarily I’m a blues guitarist…….after starting the initial thing with Hendrix blues……it’s interesting because I met a really good guy on guitar called Tony Thorpe who was actually part of a band called The Rubettes.
ANDY: Really - ”Sugar Baby Love”?
MIKE: Exactly…And Tony, I’ve not seen him for years…… but that’s one hell of a guy….that’s when I went to college years back and it started off with twenty of us and finished up with just me at the end of two years……and Tony was one of the best guitarists I’ve ever seen……fantastic……jazz / blues was his primary kind of thing so I picked up a lot of that….but not only off that, but the point of losing yourself…..losing yourself in the music. If you’re gonna play blues, it doesn’t mean fuckin anything if you’re not feeling it, so I’ve always tried to take that blues element and move it on into kind of other realms and I think naturally blues brings on Eastern influences……and a lot of the things I kind of study and look into…… I find they find their way into the music even without me doing it on purpose, more subconsciously…… so that’s probably where these rhythms come from….I’ve always loved African rhythms, Eastern sounds, things like that, which we used a bit of in The 66 but this is just a bigger projection of it really……..you never know what’s going to get created…..a lot of the songs I’ll record em in a day and go like ok, bang em out there. A far different way than just going to a studio, we’re going to market this, what colours the fuckin sleeve going to be. It’s freedom……it’s true freedom.
ANDY: That must be very liberating.
ANDY: Having no constraints.
MIKE: And I find that can be the most creative process ever…….If you’re not aiming for something. I think when we were in The 66, towards the end of it you’re going, that doesn’t sound so much like The 66 and you start thinking like that…..but I think at the end of the day when you just do it and find your own sound, it can just develop and that’s kind of what I see this experiment as….chucking music out there and seeing what people think of it….if they like it they’ll pass it round, if they don’t they won’t……but it’s not an issue either way, they don’t have to like it if you know what I mean (Laughing)
ANDY: Have you been surprised how far and wide the music has spread, as you are reaching people all over the world. Did you expect it to be more localised, the UK for instance.
MIKE: I did…..I didn’t think too much about it……I try not to think too much and just kind of go with it……..I’d say I was most surprised probably in the last couple of months actually…….I looked at the stats, just thought I’d see who’s checking out the mails and stuff we send out……you know the demographics and all that, just out of pure interest and I am quite surprised……..if we moved to California we’d be fuckin banging (Laughing)
ANDY: That might not be a bad move (Also laughing)
MIKE: Yeah, yeah……but I’m pleased with the people we’ve kind of got as our friends with it now, cos I respect a lot of them, and the stuff they do…..whether it be PR or whether it be music. I think that can influence you in itself……you know just by sharing things with people that are into the same things…. not always going to be into the same things, but as a general……it’s a consensus of mind to be honest….a lot of the people we’re friends with are into the same type of things I am…..you know cosmos, kind of spirituality, esotericism stuff like that……and they’ve been drawn to us, we’ve been drawn to them and that’s what I’m proud of.
ANDY: Phoenix Lodge does feel like a little society and in general due to the availability of musicians through the internet, fans can be directly in contact. Bands were much less accessible 30 years ago for instance.
MIKE: It’s a different world isn’t it, a completely different world…….it’s good and some of the people I’ve met through there are fantastic people, you know really, really interesting unique people that you end up speaking to and end up getting drawn to you because of mutual friends…….one example, I was speaking to someone yesterday and they said that, “I’ve shown my friends your music”….which is always nice because I never ask for it….I don’t know if you’ve noticed but I don’t start….. fuck this, do that (Laughing)……she said my friends had already heard “Cut You Down” and I said how’ve they heard “Cut You Down” and apparently it’s getting played on some Australian Independent radio show and they’d already heard it…..so it’s a bit weird that I’ve not actively promoted it….I don’t know where it ends up, you just give it away for free……..that’s fun in itself, seeing how the music takes on a life of it’s own without me trying to ram it down people throats…….I like it that way, I think it’s good.
ANDY: You released four demos last year, are you looking to release an album in 2012?
MIKE: I think so…….I think so.
ANDY: Do you have a title in mind for that album?
MIKE: I’ve got a few titles in mind but it’s not quite reached equilibrium yet…..it’s somewhere in the middle I keep on having flashes of inspiration for it…..I imagine it will probably come when making the album if anything. Sometimes if you pick a name for a song, an album, it ends up gearing itself towards that name as well so I think for the purposes of the experiment I won’t quite give it a title yet…….but we’re going to release more and more demos, get more out there…… doing some live shows which I’m excited about, because it’s been about half a year.
ANDY: You played Warrington Festival last year, was that the last gig?
MIKE: That was the last gig, I think it was June last year and it’s going to be a bit of a different line-up this time. We got in once, went through it, did Phet Dragon…….which was always one, like, how’s that going to sound live……..fuckin delighted, really, really powerful, same song but I don’t know, live it takes on a bit of a different life of it’s own……I think me, Craig and all the lads who are obviously in the band now were really quite buzzin after that, so I’m really looking forward to it.
ANDY : I saw you had a gig lined up in Norwich……..now I have to be careful here as someone castigated me on the Mudkiss Facebook page for suggesting Tunbridge Wells isn’t exactly the music capitol of the world, but Norwich doesn’t strike me as the most obvious place to start live dates either.
MIKE: I’ve only been once (Laughing)
ANDY: So why Norwich and is that going to be the first or will you do a couple of local dates first?
MIKE: We’ve got it listed down as the first one……there’s probably every possibility we’ll do a few warm up shows…..I’m sure there is. The reason we chose Norwich is our friend Mark Thorpe who’s this bloggist and writer for Battery in your leg and other things…….we’ve known Mark since The 66, he was always a massive supporter so we carried on speaking to Mark obviously when The 66 finished…… got this now Mark and threw it out. So he asked us to come and do it…..so we went…….right, ok, come on…….because it’s been half a year and this is the longest me and Craig have both gone without gigging since we started playing…….used to gig three times a night…..three times a night, three times a week (Laughing) done two gigs in one night once…..so we thought right….. good sometimes to set yourself targets so we’re looking forward to it. Don’t know whether you’ve seen the venue.
ANDY: Yeah, I saw you posted something on Facebook.
MIKE: A video on there……looks crackin…..yeah no motorway there but we’re looking forward to it….been to a wedding there once, that was it. Really looking forward to it, getting out doing some live gigs but not fuckin here there and everywhere……I don’t want to fall back into that.
ANDY: You’re going to be selective where you play?
MIKE: Very selective with the current set we’re combing electronic with raw so it’s not a case of “you’re on in five minutes”…..hold on a minute, we’ve got to connect fuckin Sky Net in! (Laughing)…….. no sound check, things like that…..which we’ll obviously fuckin end up doing in some places but we want to do it proper……we’ve not spent our time doing this just to jump straight back into the same pot we escaped from…….once again it’s not about that, we’re doing it because we want to do it. (Laughing)
ANDY: Have you given up on the idea music might turn into an alternative career option and settled for the fact it’s something you just do regardless?
MIKE: Well…….it’s an interesting question isn’t it…….I’ve thought about this quite a bit lately, not for the point of thinking about it as a career, it’s what I do, it’s what I’ve done since I was twelve……ask my missus, she’d be the first to suffer for it……it’s just what I’ve always done…….it’s what I’m gonna always carry on doing, I’m fuckin addicted to music……I can’t not pick up a guitar every fifteen minutes if it’s near me……. It’s like an OCD, although I’d say a very useful OCD. In terms of a career, I don’t try and perceive that I’m looking to get anything out of this apart from doing it…..but who knows what’s going to happen……..I don’t know….no one does…..I suppose if you want a career, that means somebody’s going to have to offer us a deal and enough money for enough of us to finish work….. and then you look at the amount of bands that get signed every year and never release anything……well you can bet your fuckin arse if someone comes up to me and offers me a record deal I’m going to make sure we’re not part of that 99% that doesn’t release it and that music gets tied up…..what was kinda free is now part of a corporation, so I’ll be very careful about it, once you’ve been burned you look at things very carefully.
ANDY: You’re coming from a position of experience and you’ve been releasing your own material, so what would be the point in signing up to something which could provide constraints on releasing your music, that would be disastrous.
MIKE: Exactly……it would have to be the right label and there must be fuckin one out there somewhere. (Laughing) So in terms of a career, I kind of almost see it as a double life, not in the way that I act any differently in the band than I do outside of it, but …… I’ll carry on doing it and if the opportunity comes along for us to do it full time……to be honest it is full time anyway, if you know what I mean…..I suppose when you talk about a career what you’re kinda saying is enough money to finish work and that would be absolutely amazing because I could just spend all the time doing it……but at the same time (sharp intake of breath) especially nowadays, there’s not too many people that do it is there.
ANDY: I don’t think there is, the majority have day jobs and if they tour, it’s in a week or a fortnight’s holiday.
MIKE: I know people who’ve sold millions of records and still have to work….still have to gig, so if they’ve sold millions of records and still have to gig who I am to say, yeah I’m going to fuckin do this and that………and to be honest I think this world is changing at such an advanced kind of quick pace…..I think this whole system that I could get myself into isn’t going to exist for much longer anyway…….so for me I would see it as, I know the fires there and I’m going to walk straight into it…….so I do have that kind of awareness of what would I be doing…..and that’s talking about major labels…..you’ve got a lot of independents in the middle, course you have, which I’d certainly talk to, but I think at the end of the day you have to stand by your morals when you’re looking at things like this……and I wouldn’t know until it happened, you can prophesise all you want about what you’re going to get and try and make things happen….but I think at the end of the day if it’s meant to happen and you’ve got the right frame of mind, the right thing will happen….that’s the way I see it and if it doesn’t, it will anyway cos I’ll just carry on doing it. (Laughing)
ANDY: And surely that’s the right attitude, being a musician and creating music is about wanting to play and if you can make a living at it, that’s almost a bonus. How many aging artists do you look at and think, why do you carry on, for many it can’t just be about the money it must be the urge to continue creating, even if many do produce some shit in later life? (Laughing)
MIKE: I’ve had that absolute need to create…….it’s almost a form of channelling something. When you talk about what’s behind The Phoenix Experiment, I don’t know where a lot of my songs come from….I don’t sit there like a mathematician, verse, bridge, chorus……they often come completely out of nowhere fully formed almost like The Phoenix Experiment idea…….some of them are better songs if they come out in that way. Firefly and nearly most of The Phoenix Stuff have been in a lot of ways fully formed……..Firefly being an eight or nine minute song took three and half minutes to write because it was just…….I came in at about five in the morning and turned on the tele and there was a story about Joseph Fritzel…….sat there, obviously had a few shandys all the way through the night and I looked at it and thought what a fuckin story that is…..and I imagined that girl, what it must have been like to come outside for the very first time into that world she didn’t know and before I knew it guitar’s in my hand and Firefly was there…. completely…….got up…recorded it. Situations, events like that, kind of emotions, interactions this type of thing I seem to get influenced by……..but fuck, I’ve never fully known where it comes from and that‘s what I kinda call the source if you will……it just comes, which is great. Often you find and I’m sure many musicians will say this, you can spend hours and hours and hours writing a song…….you write it, record your demo get your structure down, sit back…….you go ahhhhhh and then fuck, another one comes and you record it in three minutes and it’s a million times better than the one you spent hours on, so I think it’s grasping hold of the inspiration at the time……and what I like about The Phoenix Experiment is it’s relevant to me at the time so I can put it out when it’s relevant, I don’t have to wait months……I’ve picked up on something and chuck it straight out there, so that freedom aspect of it again.
ANDY: As part of the unveiling, you took part in a photo shoot last weekend with Mudkiss Editor Mel in an interesting location, which you seemed to find a touch freaky, why was that?
MIKE: It was freaky….. I didn’t feel threatened by it, I think you’ve got to have your cosmic good barrier up. (laughing) But to answer your question we were looking around the site in unnamed location…..old industrial site many different rooms on it, not sure if you’ve seen it yourself.
ANDY: Just Mel’s photos that’s all.
MIKE: It’s a big site……. massive site, loads of empty buildings, loads of graffiti, it’s quite something to look at, looked apocalyptic it really does……..and we were walking around and Mel mentioned there was a 66 sign and I said I’d noticed that on the original pictures she’d sent through when she did a kind of run through…… and we walked into this building and it instantly felt wrong and I picked up on this and Craig and Mel both did. So we looked at the 66 sign and it was an inverted cross with the sixes either side…..which to be fair any kid who’s into anything can draw an inverted cross and put two sixes either side of it…..but it felt wrong the energy in there and there was a lot of other kind of graffiti….Crack Fist?.......I got the idea it was some kind of satanic crack heaven…..so there were a few things that were a bit unnerving on the walls and one thing in particular….. we walked round the corner and there was a face, a satanic face on the wall and it was almost like it penetrated your vision and Craig and Mel went, it’s freaky that, that is really freaky……and what I noticed because I’ve studied symbols and things…..it wasn’t just some fuckin crack head or kid who’d drew a face, it was actually made up of quite relevant symbols to Satanism and stuff like that….so it was at that moment I knew it wasn’t just somebody fuckin about and what with the feeling, the energy in that room, it was very dark, so I put my force field up, looked at it……..Mel said, don’t you want to do the photos here, and I said no, we’ll fuck this room off.(Laughing)
ANDY: Are you religious?
MIKE: No, not in the slightest..
ANDY: I’m the same, not particularly religious but it’s strange how things like that can freak you out. On a subject like Devil worship, if you don’t believe in God, you don’t believe in the Devil, so why does it matter?
MIKE: Very good point…….why does it matter……I think there’s a very big kind of difference……for myself……I suppose for everybody……..I know Craig isn’t into the same things that I’m into…..but if you feel something that’s bad and we all felt it at the same time so it was obvious something wasn’t right in there. Now regarding Satanism and stuff like that, this is something I’ve studied…..not practised (Laughing) studied……so I’m aware of the concept of Satanism and I’m aware of the reasons for doing such things which is to create types of energy to manifest spirits etc, whatever’s kind of out there that you can’t see, so I don’t see it as being a religious thing. I did it personally due to my knowledge of these things, how it felt and what I saw in those symbols, I knew what they meant…..so for me it was like, I know what that means and it feels like fuckin shit in here, so I was aware of something that was going on. I think people can get caught up in religion,…..people are caught up in religion. I’ve never been religious but I have been to church when I was younger…..I always felt…..not unsettled, but like something wasn’t quite right. I used to sit in church and look around and go, I’m not buying this…….same with school….I’m not buying this, something not quite right there (Laughing)…..so I’ve tried to keep an open mind about many things, so for that particular experience it was more about the information I knew about it and I didn’t want to associate myself with what was coming out of that room really.
ANDY: I’ve also been to church and I like the idea of it, not as a religious experience as such, which probably sound stupid, but more from the community aspect and ultimately, whether there is a God or not, does that matter if people believe and it makes them a better more caring person?
MIKE: Good question…..and I think the way I see it, anybody can believe in what they want to believe and that’s the way it should be…..they should believe what they want to believe, and if they take comfort from that they should also continue to do it. Where I draw the line, if you believe it’s ok to perform sacrifices on people or cause pain upon other people, that’s not right in my book…..but you have good and evil and they both exist…….and I’ve always said this about the music, I’m always trying to look at a difference between light and dark, that’s something I’ve always focused on. I think we’re all in own little way trying to reach the light rather than the dark but you often get caught up in it sometimes…..different people that we meet, situations that happen as well…..so the community thing would be good, it’d be great if the whole world was a community, but one that actually had open eyes instead of reading the mainstream, being filled with ideas that aren’t their own, that’s the way I see it….. if you’ve been indoctrinated for a very long time…….so in a way, whoever’s indoctrinated us, we’ve got their mind, we’ve not got our own. We see what we see on television, we make decisions……I’ll give you an example with the cruise ship that’s gone down in Italy, to be honest because I don’t try and pay that much attention I didn’t see it until the Sunday when the missus turned on the tele and I went “what the fucks that,”……I’d heard about it but didn’t realise the size of the ship or anything and everybody was talking about the captain and he was judged before anyone knew the actual true story…..now that’s a very common thing these days…..you look at the Jo Yates story, the poor girl murdered in Bristol and the landlord immediately judged by the press….this something that is happening far more and more in the last couple of years than has ever done before and I do think there’s a massive danger in pre-judging people. Unfortunately when they do put these things out, I walk into work the next day and someone says “Oh that fuckin landlord, he’s an evil bastard isn’t he”…….and I’m kinda like…. he might be……but we don’t know for sure……and since we’ve heard that Captain…..I don’t know whether you’ve heard the coastguard to the Captain, “Get the fuck on board”….. and I thought that’s brilliant, you can see the real positive forces there, it’s that coastguard…… but I don’t know what fuckin happened, nobody knows what fully happened….I mean he’s kinda digging a hole for himself isn’t he…..”I fell and tripped into the lifeboat”……everybody must be laughing their arses off……at the same time it’s a very serious thing, people have died……that coastguard thing I found that interesting, that led me to think, he’s trying to weasel out of it…. but I still don’t know the truth.
ANDY: What I found most cynical about the situation, literally a day after it happened and before any investigation whatsoever, the cruise company are releasing a statement that it’s all the Captain’s fault and all that’s about is money.
MIKE: Course it is.
ANDY: They don’t want potential customers to think they’re unsafe and lose business, so quickly blame the Captain as it’s easier to put it all on an individual.
MIKE: I’ve had that very conversation with people and in general they can get that…they get it. Because that company will be thinking, shit, we’re going to go under…..it was the Captain…..and it doesn’t sound as though he’s done such a good job does it to be honest.
ANDY: He may be at fault as you say, but surely things need investigation before fully apportioning blame? That just can’t be right.
MIKE: You can’t……you can’t…. and I go by that in all walks of life……I’m as guilty as bloody everyone for jumping to conclusions.
ANDY: I suppose music and people’s appearances are a classic point, you can see a guitarist or whatever in a metal band, full of tattoos and think, fuckin hell, look at the state of him, wouldn’t want to meet him on a dark night in a back alley……but sit down and have a chat, he can be the nicest guy in the world.
MIKE: A bloke from my work, used to get a few Tai Kwando belts and into kick boxing and involved in stuff like that…… 6 foot 4, looks like an absolute beast…….one of the nicest blokes I’ve ever met in my life, wouldn’t harm a fly unless it was in the ring, fighting if you know what I mean…….so we’re all guilty of it and I think we’ve been conditioned to do that, so I suppose my personal battle, I’m always trying to pull back away from doing things that…..yeah, so it’s very interesting.
ANDY: I noticed a video suddenly appeared a couple of weeks back “End of the World Disco” by The Top Heavy Robots, who are also linked to The Phoenix Experiment. Is that just a one off aimed at the doom mongers claiming the world will end this year, or can we expect to see more?
MIKE: D’ya know what, I didn’t know what the hell is was when I started it, same as most things…..just sat at home one day and I didn’t have any of my equipment there, just had my midi keyboard….started playing about with it and once again these ideas just crop up so I just started making it and I think all in all I did the tune and the video and banged it out in about seven hours…..but then since it’s happened I’m kind of thinking, Mmmmm, maybe they’ll make a return, maybe when I’m in Tenerife they’ll contact me (Laughing) I’ll be sat on the beach with laptop……I can’t see that’ll be the last we’ll hear from the Top Heavy Robots, I think they’ll be returning for a few more important messages……..But I hope that’s done in a comical way trying to get a point across sometimes….it’s certainly not to be taken seriously……don’t tell them that though (Laughter.) I suppose to go back to the previous conversation, I create something and think, that doesn’t sound like I think The Phoenix Experiment sounds like…..alright……we’ll create a new thing and put it out there…..now it’s getting played on Virginia radio next week or something (More laughing) That’s just the way it’s happening.
ANDY: The strangest thing about that video is I’m sat watching it thinking, shit, those robots have got more rhythm than I have (Laughter)
MIKE : Probably won’t be the last random project to be honest, plenty more where that came from. (Laughing)
ANDY : So one thing we have discussed through the medium of social networking is the idea of you bringing back the gong into the live show in true Emerson, Lake and Palmer style. Is that on the cards?
MIKE: Yeah, yeah………I’ve promised you a gong haven’t I (laughing)…….I might be able to get a digital one…..but to be honest I don’t know if we’ll fit a real one in the back of the van…….I’ll make this statement now, I promise you Andy, at some point there will be a gong in some form of song. (Laughter)
ANDY: Norwich won’t know what’s hit em (Laughing)
MIKE: Exactly, that could be the moment couldn’t it….put that gong in and have Warner’s, Sony, EMI on the phone…….Gong off (Laughing)
ANDY: OK, that’s great thanks. I’m really looking forward to the live shows and hope you do something local, I’ll certainly be coming along if that’s the case.
MIKE: I’m sure we will….maybe….. maybe…….probably looking at doing one at The Ducie Bridge in Manchester…..we’ve got friends there, kind of said we’d go and do a gig…..been a long time since we’ve been there since The 66….so I reckon that might be on the cards, either before Norwich or definitely after.
ANDY: Brilliant, hopefully see you at Ducie Bridge soon.
Whether you appreciate the music of The Phoenix Experiment or not, the ethics and manner in which Mike and Craig are recording and releasing their music is to be applauded. Monitor their Facebook, Bandcamp and YouTube profiles very closely in 2012, a plethora of spontaneity still to surface from the deepest recesses of Phoenix Lodge. Don't be afraid, the dark will soon rise even further into the light.
Interview by Andy Barnes 19/01/12
Photos by Mel