Mick Flannery singing one of his latest tracks

Mick Flannery was looking for a job at the tender age of fifteen and under the council of his father opted to pursue the art of stonemasonry in lieu of working in a bar.
A successful music career ensued and has since evolved and sees him releasing his fifth studio album I Own You on October 14. After a recent chat with the Blarney native, I discovered his ritual of drinking two pints before going on stage and what first sparked his interest in music was family and elaborating that it was genetics.
“I suppose, my mother and her family were singers. The ability to sing helps. My mother’s family informed me of a lot of American music, a lot of Johnny Cash and Joni Mitchell and then I got more into Bob Dylan and Tom Waits after that.”
When asked about the animal reference in the song and indeed the album cover, Flannery explained: “The animal reference is about the rage. It’s a primal feeling, I suppose. It would be the bucking against the control down to the actual control of the physical self, down to you losing your agency. The song is the mixture of the social inequality.
“The idea of I own you is the master/ slave scenario of capitalist society and the song attempts to reverse the role. The slave takes back his agency through violence.”
There is further references to animal imagery in the album. There is a song that tries to understand the psychopath, the 1% man. The man that rationalises and compartmentalises his own feelings, because he maintains that we are just animals and nothing matters; why should there be the top gorilla?
Further observation that there is a lot of rage in the song and inquiring that if an event in April 2015[The murder of Freddie Gray and The Baltimore riots] was a big inspiration for the song and the album.
Of which, he explained: “It would have fed into the song. There are people in the world powerless and undignified and disadvantaged. A good example of that would be a black person in America. The rage of someone exercising an assumed right over you. For me, I don’t like being touched, being grabbed; it naturally makes me want to buck against that.
“An exaggerated example of that is the existing reality is what is happening between the police and black people in America. Someone can be without reason, without charge and taken from the street and murdered.
“And there be no charge after that. If that had happened to someone in my family, I can’t imagine the extent of the rage I would feel. It would by far amplify the rage I feel just by being touched.”
This subsequently prompted the question whether he had particular interest in US politics having spent time there and in particular his thoughts regarding the upcoming run for presidency.
“Well, it’s hard not to be interested. In smaller capitalist societies like ours, their companies come in and hold us to ransom, their airplanes come in and land on the way to wars.
“It’s hard not to be interested because you would think that should they change their ways for the better, surely it would be of huge benefit to the world.”
Regarding the upcoming elections, Flannery expressed, it’s like a real cartoon, like a computer game. It’s a bad experiment. It’s hard not to think that politicians aren’t the ones running the show and they are involved in such entertainment; name-calling and horseshit, it’s hard to believe they actually mean anything.”
The video and the concept behind the song and title track of the album I Own You was the next topic of conversation and he said he wanted to basically portray the man himself, the slave kind of making his way into the rich man’s house and in the end the video portrays the house, the idea that one man eats the same meal as fifty people, in a reflection of the capitalist society.
Asked if he feels he is evolving and becoming more aware with age and therefore impacting his writing and his work, he explained: “Yes it is as much as the world impacts me, as much as information is available to me. It seems to me that people are, generally speaking, very much self-involved in their twenties.
“They are young and beautiful, looking for maybe relationships and worrying about themselves and how they are perceived, and not comfortable in themselves, perhaps. So, once you overcome that, you maybe become less anxious about how you are perceived.
“Maybe it’s because you are coming more into the stage of life where you are beginning to think about starting a family, settling down and worry about what life will be like and your children’s lives will be like.
“ And, when you get older again you begin to care about everything less again and become happy with your lot.”
As you are about to embark on a tour home and in Europe do you find differences in audiences and do you enjoy the travelling aspect of your job, I asked, with the response There is a Difference in a home crowd in Cork. Different nationalities have different attitudes, I suppose. German and Danish audiences have a very resolved way of appreciating something, some of them even coordinate their clapping and it comes into unison after about ten claps and then it stops and at the end of the gig is when they will allow themselves to show appreciation. Irish audiences are a little bit more dramatic.”
Alluding to his inspirations and creative triggers and asking if he was a big reader, Mick explained: “I’m not as big a reader as I would like to be. Lately I have been a bit lazy and prefer to watch lectures on YouTube.
“I try to educate myself as best I can and there is a need in me that tries not to influence myself too much, in order that I can have originality when I speak.
“There is a man called Alain de Botton and he runs a nice website called The School of Life. It can present things in quite a compact way and little anecdotes can be portrayed in energies as opposed to hunkering overtext.
“Humans are not good at accepting a lot of knowledge and with regards technology, we don’t know how it works and just accept it. A lot of us are becoming completely incapable of knowing which way is North, South, East or West.
“We don’t listen to our elders, we want to see it for ourselves in a kind of selfish my life is my life way and how dare you minister to me, like I have my own unique experience.
“The voice we hear for our phones is not the voice of a caring elder. In my experience, I find hangovers very useful creatively, as you are in a very sensitive state…..often I just sit at a bar on my own and spy and eavesdrop and observe. I don’t like to sit in a room on my own for too long.”
Finally, posing the question about how he would like 2017 to transpire, both personally and socially, he said: “Somehow religion becomes obsolete and Bernie Sanders becomes American president. Clinton and Trump commit suicide.
“A lot of people when you ask them what age you would like to have been born in a lot of artists say the 60s and revolution and all that, but I would say two or three hundred years or however long it takes for when religion has no impact on human thinking anymore, God willing, because I can see no use for it. It poisons everything.
“Like the quote says, it’s like a leftover from the infancy of our intelligence and has to be replaced with rationality and reason. It’s similar to racism in a way, if we shut the f**k up about it, it will disappear but unfortunately we can’t do it, it’s not that simple.
“I like to think that I would be messing around with creativity because it keeps me company, but I know my gestation period seems to be about two year stretches, It kind of goes from one song to the next. One thing I need to do is not have my phone on me so much, I go through a lot of philosophy posts on Facebook. It’s just a distraction, like, all the news repeats itself.

1 COMMENT

  1. I think this interview has been extremely well constructed. It also highlights Mick’s intelligence as he navigates the world around him with a high level of awareness. As a Social Science student myself, I could not agree more with Mick’s views on our current capitalist unequal society. This level of intelligence resonates through his music. I love all of his albums and I can’t wait to hear the fifth album next week and hopefully to hear him live too.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here