For Folk’s Sake’s Mark Williamson caught up with Micah P Hinson before his Glasgow show this weekend to talk about his his album Red Empire Orchestra, shoddy journalism and his lack of balls.
For Folk’s Sake: The new album – The Red Empire Orchestra – has been a success with fans and critics alike. Are you happy with the way it turned out?
Micah P Hinson: If you take it from a sales perspective or whatever, this album has sold as many copies in 6 weeks as my first one did in 4 years. I don’t know how much that has to do with the record itself, or whether it’s down to the label and my booking agent who helped me expand into playing in different countries. I’m really happy with it man, as far as my personal feelings are concerned I guess it’s the kind of record I’ve been meaning to make. I’ve read a few articles which say it seems to be a tad less ambitious or busy than previous albums, but I guess that’s what I was trying to do with this album – trying to cut the fat a little bit – trying to get back to pretty straight up, formulaic pop music.
What were your main influences when writing the album?
Well I’d been listening to a lot of Patsy Cline and shit like that, and you can hear with songs like We Won’t Have to be Lonesome that it follows a very poppy line, when some of my older songs maybe wouldn’t have.
The REO seems a more contented, almost ‘upbeat’ record compared to your earlier output. Is this indicative of how you are feeling at the moment?
That’s an arguable thing- when I did the first interviews for this album back in Texas everyone was saying that it was a much happier album, but then you look back to songs like Jackeyed off the Opera Circuit album and it’s pretty god damn happy, y’know? With the new album, I guess the first track Come Home Quickly and a few others are pretty upbeat, but a lot of the songs are actually pretty miserable!
Well, with song titles like ‘Dyin’ Alone’ …
Yeah, I guess that ones not too chirpy! Even though some of the songs are straight forward love songs, with pretty positive lyrics about heartbeats and eye colour changing and all this kind of shit, the actual instrumentation within the songs are anything but positive sounding – I think it’s interesting to try to mix that kind of stuff up. I do feel better now though- I’ve learned a lot of important things. I’m married, I’m in love and when now I speak of things like love I can speak having a bit more knowledge about the subject. It’s interesting how people seem to connect my music and my personal life so much.
Do you ever get sick of answering questions about that sort of stuff? A lot of features about you seem to focus more on your history – the drug addiction, the homelessness – than on your music. That must get pretty annoying.
It’s not that I get annoyed about talking about my past, it’s just how the stories or the way my life is reported tend to be skewered that gets to me. I mean only about 40 percent of what you read about me is true. For example my Dad found on a website the other day that apparently my wife is pregnant and we’re having kids soon. No way man! I got neutered at a very young age (laughs). My parent’s didn’t want me procreating so they got my nuts cut off – put that in your thing! Micah p. Hinson….Nutless!
But no I don’t really get annoyed, I think if in the beginning I didn’t have all this hard times, Texas boy kind of stuff surrounding me… I think the music and the story kind of went hand in hand. It’s just a shame how things get contorted out of truth sometimes – I think if people need to talk about back stories and that kind of shit then the focus of it all should be on the fact that lessons are learned, that the traps didn’t keep me for too long and that there is always a sort of redemption to be found.
All of your albums have been released to much critical acclaim- do you feel this puts more pressure on you as an artist, or are you just pleased that people gain something from your music?
That’s a pretty far out thing- I can sit here right now and say I don’t worry about making albums or whether people like it, but when it really comes down to it, when I was making this album there was a lot of anxiety- are these songs good enough? Do they fit well together? With every album I feel I’ve gone down a slightly different road each time, and hopefully their popularity shows that people like me for me, and it doesn’t matter what it particularly sounds like. It’s pretty nerve-wracking though man, with each of the albums I’ve felt like I’m on the edge of failure. It’s probably a good way to feel- it’s bad to be too content with anything, even in normal life.
FFS recently saw you perform a take for the Black Cab Sessions- what do you think of the concept?
I thought it was a really cool concept yeah; it actually made ABC news in America- the Death Cab for Cutie session. To go on the website and see the My Morning Jacket’s, and the Death Cab’s of the world… to feel almost on a par with them, with us being approached to be on the same website is a great feeling. It’s nice to be involved in that kind of stuff. We were in a hotel the other day and these kids recorded us in an elevator, and there was a similar thing recently in Vienna where I guy asked to film us – to be involved in the original Black Cab Sessions, before the sort of copy cat ideas, is pretty awesome.
The Twilight Sad supported you on a recent tour – are there any other Scottish bands that you are in to? Or any artists you think we should look out for?
I like a load of Scottish bands man yeah – there’s Camera Obscura, Teenage Fanclub…I got the Bandwagonesque album when I was about 12- it’s amazing stuff that album. Mogwai obviously are another one, brilliant. The Twilight Sad though, I’m friends with a lot of them, particularly the singer James- he’s a stunning individual man, a truly great guy. We were hanging out with them at Latitude festival recently and his parents are actually coming down to the show tonight. I think that The Twilight Sad are what bands should be, something that comes out of nowhere and gives you a swift kick to the crotch. We’ve been trying to get them back on the road with us actually, but I think they’ve gotten too popular for us- I mean they’re out with Mogwai right now so fair enough. Mogwai are much bigger than anything I could possibly dream of right now.
FFS first saw you way back in 2004 at Nice n Sleazy’s in Glasgow- your live performances are pretty intense- do you prefer playing live to recording and writing music?
Well they’ve both got their plus points, but I enjoy playing live because I feel it allows us to take it to the next level. When I’m on stage I can cuss as much as I want, I can scream whenever I want to – it allows me to turn the songs into something quite different to what people might have heard on the record.
Interview: Mark Williamson