Wednesday, January 12, 2011

It might just be a new golden age, Kalle Ryan and how good it is to be alive right now

As I said in a recent post I fucking hate the Brown Bread Mixtape. It's just too much fun for a man of my age. I also said I was giving up cursing and I fucking am. Anyway the Brown Bread Mixtape is a monthly session of kick-ass music, poetry, comedy and loads of deadliness for free in the Stags head here in spanky manky Dublin. Next one is 26th January so chalk it down as the Horse Pundits always say.

One of it's organisers is fellow poeteer Kalle Ryan. Over the past year or so I'm glad to say he's become a mate because we have so much in common. I'm Irish and he's Swedish (uncanny) he's got a goatee and I've a dog (freaky) and he works for the internet and I like porn.

At first, given our explosive chemistry, I thought we should play golf together and discuss a way of bailing out the country while destroying it, but then, seeing as that's already been done, Kalle came over to my house on his penny farthing and we shot the tumbleweed over a few lime cordials - which is my way of saying we chatted online.

At times we got a bit back patting and pally, 'cause we're mates getting excited about our involvement in Dublin's vibrant art scene so please forgive us that. Among other things we discuss the seminal show 'The Wire', the old performance versus page debate, Kalle's experience of the New York scene, and his recently passed father's creative legacy and continuing inspiration which I think is really good. It's a long one, even thought I cut loads out but hopefully you'll enjoy.







me: first things first welcome to my lair, abode, tiny section of tinternet. Tell me Kalle Ryan. I met you first through the splendiferous ball of niceness, bad hat choices and poetry shenanigans Stephen James Smith, after both of us read at his Glor Sesh. What do you think of him, the Glor and then, what the fuck possessed you to get involved in this mad scene that’s happening around us anyway.

Kalle: Thats right, Stephen James Smith is the gateway to the spoken word scene for so many of us here in Dublin.

me: Yep.

Kalle: Well, first up, Stephen is a true poet, out there working hard at his craft and providing an incredible platform for so many at The Glor Sessions. The first thing that struck me about the night was the really high calibre of talent at it, as it is an open mic night. As for me getting involved - I had been doing bits and pieces in New York, primarily performance poems in conjunction with a cool literary journal over there called Lilies & Cannonballs, at their launch nights, and really enjoyed the experience. I had also done some comedy there and in Utah and was eager to get back into things when I moved back to Ireland.

me: right. Utah - are them Salt Lakers crazy or what?

Kalle: Madsers the lot of them. Great people actually. Anyway...To cut a long story short, I got involved in the live scene when I met my friend Pearse McGloughlin (the singer) and he suggested I try some stuff at Glor and simultaneously my friend Enda Roche and I set up the brownbread mixtape.

me: and the rest is history!

Kalle: And the rest is the stuff of legend!

me: The Glor is one of the strongest poetry open mics I’ve been at. They can be awful. - would you care to tell us about some of your ropier open mic experiences?

Kalle: I have had pretty ropey experiences both at open mics and even at more established gigs.

me: like?

Kalle: it sometimes has nothing to do with you. For example, a few weeks ago I did an opening slot for in the Odessa Club, opening for Elder Roche

me: Right (for those who don’t know of Elder Roche there's a link to one of his tunes at the end). I was thinking more of actual bad events but self effacing anectdotage is fine too.

Kalle: I tried a comedy bit with my iPod that was always a bankable funny routine that worked in the brownbread mixtape.

but it fell flat

noone laughed

silence, tumbleweed

me: not good.

Kalle: I was able to breeze past it ultimately and won them back with the next poem, but sometimes it is better to have those moments. It reminds you that you need to really earn a crowd's attention. And also that not all audiences are the choir you normally preach to!

me: true that. What was your most memorable experience of the New York scene?

Kalle: I have many

me: like, what do you try to carry over into your own nights here.

Kalle: I think the best nights were the little launches for Lilies and Cannonballs that they did in a pub in Queens, that sense of having a pintglass-smashing good time - (as to what I carried over here, it would be to) bring the energy, maintain the energy, that would have been my biggest lesson from those times in the States. You have to be constantly fuelling the fun making sure that everyone is invested in the show and in having fun

me: thats one of the best things about your nights I have to say

Kalle: thanks, it is something I work hard at. It's exhausting but it is amazing when it clicks.

me: how, what do you do to maintain it? Apart from the magical applause sign obviously..

Kalle: Apart from my high-tech applause sign (which is possibly magic). I put a lot of thought into writing and rehearsing the sketches for every month's show, as well as often writing poems or little gags & bits to pepper into the proceedings as the evening zips along.

Then quite a lot of stuff just tumbles from the top of my head at shows, but a fair bit is written in advance and some of it never gets used. The great thing about a show like the Brownbread Mixtape is that it is a brilliant playground to test out ideas, poetic, comedic etc with amazing collaborators (like Sean, Gus and Eva who act in the sketches) as well as musical humour with Enda Roche my co-host.

me: so you think the mc has a big responsibility in that respect then?

Kalle: also I get to read new poems and gauge reactions to them

me: with a receptive audience

Kalle: Yeah I think the MC is pretty crucial in many ways, but I would never like to think that I am more important than all of the incredible acts we have each month. My job is to keep the show flowing and keeping people's energy up and invested in the show.
Our audience, as you say is extremely receptive, so it makes my job a lot easier. I can have real fun and banter with them and they are a huge part of the show as you know

me: you do it well - do you think it would be harder without Enda - he's always quiet but I think thats part of the charm of you too as a couple. Who look beautiful together may I add.

Kalle: Ha! Enda is a brilliant comic foil. He adds a huge element to the show in being so goofy plus he is a gifted musician.

me: very...and so technically competent too.

Kalle: he's like Rain Man with songs, a human jukebox. Just ask him a song and he will have it worked out on the guitar in minutes!

me: deadly!

Kalle: That techie side of the show that you mention is often overlooked, but his technical expertise is crucial. He makes the whole thing sound really good and mixing and recording all of the performances. It’s also cool to be able to give all of the performers top quality soundboard recordings of their show.

me: that's one of the best elements I think for the performers

Kalle: All artists are keen to analyse their work, be it in performance or otherwise , and its a nice way to offer the performers a payment of sorts for offering their time and artistic brilliance to the night. I still feel incredibly lucky to share the stage with them all.

me: yeah - that and that audience man, quite possibly the best in Ireland.

Kalle: yeah, the audience are unreal. But I think we have worked hard to get that audience and we earned every one of them. It feels like a proper word of mouth thing

me: speaking of performers, I was lucky enough to be asked to a special event for you, all the performers were your friends...how many of them were pals before the brownbread came along?

Kalle: yes, thanks again for being there. Funnily enough, only one of them was a friend before brownbread happened - Pearse. Otherwise it is amazing how the whole spoken word/poetry and music scene right now is such a friendly collaborative space and I have made real, seriously cool friendships out of it. Yourself included!





me: likewise.

Kalle: It feels very much like a collective of people working towards the same honest creative goals.

me: long may it continue. Ride the wave!

Kalle: absolutely.

me: the rising tides lifts all boats I said to a friend once, no it doesn't she said. What do you think of that old adage?

Kalle: I think it is absolutely true, and never truer than now.

me: darn tootin

Kalle: Of the many great nights going on in Dublin (and the best are Glor sessions and your own Nighthawks in my opinion) there is an amazing willingness to share ideas, give each other tips, offer gigs - just brilliant, sound, no bullshit stuff. And I don’t know how you measure success, or even what that is, but I am really happy with being a part of this group of creative people right now. So many great writers and performers that I really respect. I almost feel like a chancer who gets to sit in on meetings with the best artists in Ireland!

me: Yeah me too. Listen, is it okay to ask you about your father passing, your son being born, the genesis of the Brown Bread Mixtape and how they’re related? I think it's very pertinent.

Kalle: yeah of course, nothing is off limits

me: Right (takes probing sex life questions out of bin)

Kalle: Ha. Durty.

me: Around the time I met you your father passed away, an artist himself. Around then your son was also born. How do you think mortality, and in addition, fatherhood factor in to your creative life?

Kalle: To me all of those things are totally connected because all of these powerful moments were happening at once and they can never be undone, without wanting to sound ridiculous, it was almost like a wave that propelled me forward. To lose my father and three weeks later, to the day, to become a father was astonishing.

Also, because my own father informed my artistic sensibility so much, and with his passing I now had time to commit more time to my own creative pursuits (we spent many years caring for him as he was long term ill with Multiple System Atrophy) and then - with my son being born, it was like seeing the world anew. As you know, being a father makes you realise so much about yourself and what is important.

me: yep

Kalle: And also, it drove me to want to place the same kind of value on art and creativity in our household as my father had done in mine. So I just shot out there onto the performance poetry space with all metaphorical guns blazing and the critical factor was the incredible support I got from my wife Jessica. As you well know, if you have a supportive partner, you have all that time to pursue something you love. To answer your question more directly - Mortality is at the core of everything. It is who we are, whether we look at it head on or not and strangely enough, it was a huge theme in my fathers paintings.

me: it's hard to avoid for any artist

Kalle: he painted a lot of stuff after my mother passed away, and he even exhibited drawings of her dying, chronicling the final days, hours , minutes of her life- and he wrote something about death in an exhibition catalogue that stuck with me ever since

me: is it for passing on?

Kalle: Absolutely. "I used to think that if I looked long enough and hard enough at any subject matter, including death, that I would understand its nature. This was the attitude I brought to so many of my drawings. I now think that my attitude was ridiculous and arrogant. Death is simply a part of living, it is to be embraced and to be allowed to enrich our living with its own bittersweet quality."

And I took that as a message to use my own experience of caring for him and my mother through illness as the material and fuel that enriches my living. Sounds slightly pretentious, but its true for me. It has brought nothing but amazing experiences for the past year.

me: Sounds like those experiences really resonated with you, driving the wave you mentioned earlier.

Kalle: I have achieved artistic and personal goals I didn't think were possible. And the best part = it feels like things are only starting for me, for you, for all of these brilliant musicians and poets around the country. And yeah, the wave is still moving, we haven't reached the shore yet baby!

me: Regarding your son. Do you think your father will influence how you parent and if so how? In creative terms.

Kalle: I think the answer is yes. He was my only parent for half of my life, so he was hugely influential -- and creatively he was hugely inspiring. He quit his safe job at Irish Distillers at 32 and went to art school. He showed us that art is important. So in the same way I want my son and if we have more kids, to know that creativity is at the heart of everything. To put a value on art, literature, music, film, and also to question. I think that’s the other thing I would like to inspire. Being creative I think means to question authority, norms, ideas, "facts", and to play with those things. At the risk of sounding pretentious, good art is about asking questions of yourself and the audience.

me: so like, as the father, you’re in the position of power, you're the establishment who we can assume your son will one day 'rail' (not sure if that's the correct cliche) against. So....

Kalle: its inevitable that he will rail against me at same point.

me: do you think that it's important to be rigid or fluid, open to challenge, both as a parent and as a writer?

Kalle: you cant be cool to your kids really, even Brad Pitt's kids must think he is an uncool wanker

me: could you not have said Kerouac or something, Jesus we're supposed to be hip and cool like!

Kalle: I think rigidity is useless as a parent, writer, human being...

me: Yeah adaptability is what got us here!

Kalle: Fluidity and adaptability are necessary to write, perform, paint. I think writing is such a fluid thing Think about how many drafts some things go through, and others that just flow, and then others that change when you perform them.

me: impossible to predict too - what things will develop and from where.

Kalle: completely.

me: So as part of a group of gigs and events that have recently sprung up here in Dublin - where do you see the need for adaptability most, or areas that are in danger of being too rigid?

Kalle: I'm not sure I know how to answer that, I think we have to be careful to not become some kind of closed clique. Nothing worse than others looking in and thinking "bunch of wankers" "they are just a bunch mates who only give each other gigs" I think the door has to be continuously open to new ideas, new writers, performers.

me: yeah well I can't see you guys being thought of like that

Kalle: the minute its a closed shop its dead

me: true dat

Kalle: That spirit has to be maintained. Actively

me: the ol wire saying - listen just to divert, what did you think of the wire, great work of art right? But it brings me to a bigger question, whats the fucking point of all this art and comment anyway - should we not just all stay in and watch xfactor and whatever else is on offer from the comfort of our armchair? Like, the Wire, great as it was - simply educated people looking in about something already going on, and at the end of the day, just made a lot of pretty secure people richer and more secure, while the frays off society continued to collapse.

Kalle: absolutely, The Wire is the greatest tv drama I have ever seen. And I think it did more than you say.

me: go on

Kalle: To me it was a document of a place and its people, a really specific document. That became universal, and it had a novelistic structure.

me: True yeah - it had integrity first and foremost.

Kalle: thats why it appealed to me

me: same here

Kalle: it had real integrity, all the main writers had lived that life pretty directly. But to get to your other question

me: Lots of ex cops

Kalle: Why shouldn't we all be sitting in watching X-factor because, live art, live music, live theatre, live poetry. It is immediate and there is a magic about being in a room with a performance in front of you. And for me, live performance poetry or writing & performing sketches is about existing in the present. X-factor and banal tv shows are prescribed bullshit

me: yeah, there most definitely is a magic, and everyone needs to experience that, and realise that art is not only to be consumed but to be engaged with and created.

To change tack slightly - do you favour performing over writing for the page?

Kalle: I think writing, like many art forms, is a really solitary business and a lot of artists say they only do it for themselves, but I believe that all art (writing) in this case is nothing without an audience and I have always been drawn to performing

me: yep

Kalle: And I think that some of the most exciting, accessible and interesting poetry I know is the performance poetry I am witnessing around me in Dublin right now. It makes it easier for me to engage with. On a page, sometimes a poem is easy to dismiss, just like anything. But when it is live it clicks in a different way. I know you and Dave Lordan spoke about the idea of the shaman.

me: yep we did indeed

Kalle: and I really think that when you're up there performing you are some kind of shaman, channeling a voice, a spirit , a feeling and people often connect with the energy as much as the words. I dont think I am a great poet, but I know that I have the ability to perform adequately- so that is how I carry my message, by delivering it as powerfully and emotionally as I can. The same goes for the sketches I write. I love writing comedy sketches and I am not much of an actor, but I am lucky enough to have an incredible group of friends who are brilliant professional actors who can give life to those words and that is electric when it goes well

me: Keep going

Kalle: a live audience buzzing, interacting and connecting with words you wrote, amazing! So, at the end of it all, I just wanted to say that the performance poetry scene that i see growing, exploding and developing around me, is because there is so much wild, powerful energy there and people are finally getting exposed to it

me: and it's fucking great!

Kalle: It sure is! Again, nighthawks, glor and even brownbread are putting on events that expose people to poetry, when they might traditionally only go to a music gig or check out some stand up. By putting all of those art forms on a bill together it makes that circle bigger and brings new ears and eyes to the spoken word which is brilliant. There’s so many incredible performers out there right now

me: i think it also validates poetry - its far too often considered a seperate art from, and all the pretensions, and baggage it has, from school and wanky poets with cravats and pipes are best dismissed by putting it on a platform with more popular forms of entertainment.

Kalle: Agreed. I can quote lines from favourite poems by poets I have seen like you, or Dave Lordan or Stephen James Smith, the same way I can quote song lyrics. I cant relate to that stuffy "I think you'll find this interesting and analytically mesmerising" bullshit. I want to feel something. I love a poem where I am thinking, YES! all along. And to be able to shout and clap at the end and shout "Brilliant!!" or "Me too!" at the end.

me: Or I'm Brian!

Kalle:I'm Spartacus! Thats why I go for a lot of the call and response audience participation stuff with my poems. Because by engaging the audience you make that poem about them and us and there’s no divide. I am not a performer, we're just sharing this thing

me: it always reminds me of mass - lord hear us :)

Kalle: Amen brother! But a great gig is like church

me: hallelulah

Kalle: its spiritual, emotional, otherworldly

me: it is, only less boring.

Kalle: much less boring

me: Yes, ideally, and with less incense. And no money getting put in baskets, unless you're at the Glor!

Kalle: I dunno, for me writing is about creating something that I can share in a live setting. For others it is about crafting it on the page, but I want to engage in a different way. I know you have said that performing has brought different things out in you too. I also feel that a day not spent doing something creative, even something small, is a day wasted.

me: it has definitely but it can become too much about the external. Some things, more secret, complex or delicate things suit the page sometimes. There very different ways to engage with something. Sometimes though, a performance piece is wasted on the page and vice versa.

Kalle: no question. I wouldn't dispute that at all. But I think the performance, the moment, the human connection part is so incredible.

me: it is - at times it's electrifying

Kalle: both have their place. Anyway, that was a long answer to a question you didn't even really ask!

me: No hassle! Any ending words?

Kalle: There is so much exciting , interesting, challenging, artistic work going on in this country right now, organised by people who really care and believe in it. Go out there and immerse yourself in it. It might just be a new golden age and you could be sitting at home missing it because X factor is on. Real life is just down the road and it IS electrifying.

Me: And that's that. Here's some vids. Make sure to check out the next Brown Bread on the 26th - I'll be there and if you are too I'll do a cartwheel.

I can't hotlink the site for some reason so here it is - copy and paste ya lazy bum.

http://brownbreadmixtape.wordpress.com/about/


Here's Kalle's poem The Reformartists - another version on youtube has 350 or so views but this one is my favourite.



BBMT's resident Comedy Group The Brown Bread Players



Elder Roche



Pearse McLoughlin

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8 comments:

Titus said...

Didn't realise you were back!
Mind you, I'll have to come back later. Lot here to peruse or what?!

Liz said...

Great stuff. Love the rising wave and boats idea...good on yous.

Niamh B said...

Great interview, full of a lot of thought provoking stuff. Brown bread is a great night, and Kalle has achieved so much in such a short space of time.
Exciting times indeed!

Uiscebot said...

Thanks for reading folks!

eleventyfourmusic said...

Fantastic! Tingle-inducing ideas, it's a very exciting time to be alive.

Rachel Fox said...

Brad Pitt bit made me laugh. Plus the toddler levels of enthusiasm. Plus I too am Spartacus. It all sounds great.
x

Rachel Fenton said...

"Being creative I think means to question authority, norms, ideas, "facts", and to play with those things. At the risk of sounding pretentious, good art is about asking questions of yourself and the audience".

At the risk of being pretentious - I agree with this, and it was great to have someone else say it and to feel like I'm not being daft for thinking it.

Jules said...

Interesting post, and I have to say, I love the way you write. You've come out with a few crackers that have made me laugh out loud and now I'm being looked at funny....! Refreshing reading!