“…people think it’s just repetitive gangster shit, but if you listen to what he’s doing musically it’s like jazz, in that way it’s very innovative.”
Once the lead singer of celebrated Irish band Republic of Loose, over the past few years Mik Pyro has been working on his solo material. While the influences on Loose were more hip hop and funk leaning, Mik’s new project retains those elements while wandering into the realm of blues and jazz.
Eric Davidson and Craig Connolly caught up with him for a chat before his show on Wednesday December 21 in Sugar Club.
He discusses the genius of the much-maligned world of modern hip hop, plus his role on in the future of Irish music.
Craig: So the first thing that struck us is you wrapped up a few years ago with Republic of Loose, so why now for the solo record?
To be honest I didn’t have any money to do it, and now I do. It’s kind of spontaneous. It’s definitely more mature.
It’s still the same influences, 80s, R&B, blues, gospel… Hopefully it’s just a little more sophisticated.
Eric: I saw you talking about a Danny Brown interview where he discusses Lil B and artists like that. You’re obviously a fan of contemporary hip hop?
Absolutely, I love those two guys. A lot of people slag them off, but they’re the punk rock element of rap. When people do something a bit weird they can find it annoying. Lil B especially, I think he’s a genius, but a lot of hip hop heads don’t like him because it’s not ‘technically refined’.
I love that stuff, it’s innovative. The same with Chief Keef, people think it’s just repetitive gangster shit, but if you listen to what he’s doing musically it’s like jazz, in that way it’s very innovative. That’s what I liked about that Danny Brown interview, because he’s respected by the ‘hipster intelligentsia’ but he’s citing these other guys.
E: Where do you weigh in on that bubblegum rap debate, artists like Lil Yachty…
Lil Yachty is fucking awesome. Also, Lil Uzi Vert and Young Thug, those guys are fantastic. I’ve listened to them a lot. Modern R&B too like Ty Dolla $ign.
Some of it can be cheesy, but the same as great house music from the 90s is cheesy.
C: The thing is it’s melodic and catchy, similar to Republic of Loose stuff? It’d have a pop sensibility to it too.
Usually when a new sound comes along it’s annoying to people. Like Kanye West, a lot of people are irriated by what he does, but that’s where innovation comes from.
E: Like punk in the 70s when it emerged…
Yeah exactly, all innovative music is weird and annoying at the time.
E: Even Young Thug putting forward femine ideals too…
Yeah that’s what punk was like too, hip hop is not rejecting that ultra-masculine, homophobic way and become a little more sophisticated.
E: I suppose that gives a glimpse of how you see the international music landscape, but I read a quote from you in an interview a few years back saying ‘there simply needs to be better bands in Ireland’. How do you see it now?
I don’t know what you guys think, but it’s massively improved in my eyes. In the last three years particularly it’s exponentially improved. It’s very exciting. When we started doing this R&B and hip hop thing in Ireland there weren’t really any bands doing it, but now there are loads and I think it’s great.
Bands are just ripping off whatever was fucking hip in Britain last year, then by the time you get your shit together the music is three years out of date anyway. Irish music now is about people finding their own voice.
C: You mention a voice of Irish music. We were speaking earlier about TXFM closing and people mourning it like the death of a family member. But hip hop artists like Huva, Hare Squead and Wastefellow weren’t being featured on that. Do you think it’s good to see that it’s not just middle class white bands, it’s a melting pot of cultures?
Big time. That was the problem. It was just indie, indie, indie. But not just that, but the lowest level of indie. I’m not dissing any of the bands back then, there were some great bands around, but it was over the top. We were more or less the same as any European country, but in other countries they were producing great hip hop.
Now the African, South American and more kids are coming into Ireland and upping the game of musicians who were already here. You see young white kids playing bass in the pentecostal church now, that’s the kind of shit that made Motown great, the intermingling of different paradigms of music.
E: On that as well, a lot of people are quick to criticise the internet, saying that it alienates people. But do you think the accessiblity has increased and that’s a plus?
I think it’s positive. These gatekeeper fuckers who used to hold the key to what’s good is now gone. Some prick who hasn’t got a clue, and his vision of what music is supposed to be is going to affect a band’s access to an audience, that stuff has been wiped away.
C: You speak very passionately about that, and a lot of people reading this might not know that you teach in BIMM, so you’re looking after the next generation of musicians in Ireland. Do you express that passion to them?
I don’t get too much into bitching about the music industry, because I want them to be optimistic (laughs)… The one thing is I hate when people say ‘music used to be good, it’s shit now’. That’s the fucking opposite of the case. I remember when it was Robbie Williams and some other muck, now even pop music is of a high calibre. People won’t accept bullshit any more. Whether it’s metal, country or rap, it’s a great time for music.
C: There’s a lot of consideration when you talk about music, so it’d be great to talk about your gig coming up in the Sugar Club. Are you a perfectionist when it comes to preparing for something like that?
As much as I can be within the limits of my talent. I don’t think I have been enough of a perfectionist in the past, but I’ve done my best (laughs). In terms of arrangement I’m definitely a perfectionist though. I want music to come across on a visceral level.
The guys I have on this new album are the crème de la crème of modern Irish jazz musicians who are influenced by modern music. A lot of other artists from around the globe too.
I know most of these people from being around music. A lot of the time I played blues gigs with them. Some of them I know from Loose too. There are a lot of amazing musicians around at the moment, it’s great to see.
Mik Pyro will perform his debut solo album for the first time with TooFools on December 21 in The Sugar Club. Click here for more information and tickets.
Photo Credit: Mark Nixon