10 Questions With… A series that delves into fresh new releases from some of our favourite artists. With a focus on our Melodic Distraction hosts and wider community, this lil natter gives us an insight into their musical escapades when they’re in their studio, not ours.
We caught up with our pals Machine to chat about their White Label project, a limited edition vinyl run featuring tracks from unsigned local producers. The campaign, in collaboration with meraki and ourselves, is an opportunity to shift tunes from your desktop to a place of discovery, spurred on by the lack of opportunities for artists in lockdown. Opening and closing the record are two beautiful spoken word pieces – one by Hidden Poets host and Bido Lito! columnist Olive, and another by Hippo Soop creator and After Words radio host, Aiden Brady. We sit in conversation with the Liverpool-based pair to find out about their influences, their processes and more…
Feature Image: ‘Escaping Elvis in the Multiverse’ collage by Aiden Brady
Image 1: Olive
Hey Olive and Aiden – thanks for sitting down with us! Can you tell us a bit about the individual pieces you’ve each written for Machine’s upcoming White Label release?
Olive: Thanks for having us! So, my piece is titled ‘Aphrodite’s Interlude’ and it appears as the very last track on the record. I wanted to capture the essence of nightlife, in particular clubbing. It’s a bit of a mystical take on how it feels to dance, lose yourself and wind up in the smoking area making friends with strangers. I wanted to balance Aiden’s gorgeous morning piece with something that leads you into the realm of the night.
Aiden: ‘Insert Coins Below’ is a poem where Human Traffic, Psychic TV and my mixed bag of experiences meet. A morning cage rattle and tummy rub in one.
How did you both first get into poetry/spoken word?
Olive: I sort of fell into it to be honest! I used to write myself stories as a child (I still have them in my mum and dad’s house, they’re hilarious) and as I got older I started to explore other ways to write. Poetry became almost like therapy for me, I used to keep my poems in my journal and never showed anyone for a really long time. But then someone close to me read a few and encouraged me to share them (shout out to Hector Lee), so I signed up to be a part of Give Poetry a Chance’s open mic about two years ago and it all just snowballed from there.
Aiden: Probably writing sonnets in school. One year I spent the entire months of summer walking around, writing weird poems and being an insecure teenager. My mum had given me her old word processor from when she was a trainee admin and I used to muck about on that. One morning I went into work and the receipt printer had spewed its innards out everywhere. Rather than let the unravelled till roll go to waste, I brought it home, whacked it into the word processor and forced myself to write in verse format.
What was it like writing something for a record – were there different factors than usual to consider? Any challenges?
Olive: To be honest I loved the whole experience. Aiden’s amazing to work with and we just bounced so many ideas about to begin with.
A lot of my work is inspired by music anyway so I felt I could really run away with the imagery and themes within this piece. I put a lot more emphasis on rhythm and the sounds of words to keep the lyrical element. Once I had my idea solid in my head and knew where Aiden was at too, it just flowed out of me. I actually wrote the bulk of the poem on post it notes whilst making flat whites at work haha.
Aiden: I didn’t know that about the flat white post-its, that’s sick. The whole experience was definitely smooth as Olive says. Challenge wise I guess I didn’t consider the instrumentation aspect til we got in the room really, so that presented an issue when we mistakenly thought it was quitting time at around 1am. Diplomatic friends could call me a perfectionist, most would call me anal, so it naturally took about ten takes until I was happy with what I had.
What inspires you to put pen to paper? Are there any people you look up to in particular?
Olive: This is probably so cheesy to say… but it’s literally everything. Especially the mystical in the everyday. The tail end of a conversation I catch on the bus, an object that seems out of place, I just love anything a bit strange. Also, anyone who knows me will tell you I’m such a highly sensitive person so all of my poetry is threaded with whatever emotion I’m feeling at that time.
Aiden: I’m with that, it’s everything for me too. The last poem I wrote was an appraisal of the ulster-scots word for hoover (fleursucker) after a particularly good session of hoovering. Humour is vital in life for me and my poetry has to have some humour or play by extension. Equally in moments of pain or sheer joy for example, writing can help to regulate those emotions or clear the decks when figuring out how to navigate something.
Aiden, originally hailing from Ireland and Olive with firm roots in Liverpool, do your surroundings have much of an impact on your creations?
Olive: Yeah I think they have a massive impact, even subconsciously. I grew up by the sea and woods, so the natural world is entangled in literally everything I do. It’s such an important, grounding part of who I am. But the city also influences me. Coming from a massive scouse family (who I love so much) I feel right at home mixed up in the thick of it surrounded by big personalities and people. I adore the chaos of people, how we’re all just so bizarre and brilliant and loving and lost. That inspires me a lot.
Aiden: For sure. I think if I didn’t grow up in a semi-rural pastoral setting (Newry) my view on things would be completely different. I see a lot of the same things in Liverpool too, I’ve been coming here since I was a young buck to visit family long before I started living here. Aside from the broader, obvious cultural affinity between Ireland and Liverpool, I can see a lot of similarities between the village mentality of here and the rural setting I grew up in. Plus, although my family would undoubtedly be stretching it to consider themselves working class anymore, I grew up in a household with working class stories woven into its craic. I don’t think I’m exaggerating in saying Liverpool has been a second home since coming here.
Image 2: Aiden Brady
Do you also perform live and if so, how do you find sharing your pieces? Where would be your dream space to perform in?
Olive: I love to perform for people, it’s where my Leo moon gets to thrive haha. I think there’s a misconception that poetry and spoken word nights are all just pretentious fluff but it couldn’t be more opposite. It’s stripping it all back. It’s literally standing up and saying “here’s me.” The intimacy of sharing raw emotion so openly is so liberating. I don’t have a dream space as such, but I’ve always wanted to take my poetry to festivals and spend a summer exploring the country that way.
Aiden: Very occasional DJ gigs aside, I haven’t yet! I would love to. I’ve read a wee poem at one of Olive’s wonderfully intimate Hidden Poets do’s which was wonderful but aside from that no. Poetry promoters…
Are you involved in any other projects and if so, what are they?
Olive: I run my own poetry and music event called Hidden Poets and it’s so full of love, it’s a really special project for me. I hold them once a month and in various ‘hidden’ spaces across Liverpool. Our last one was a bonfire on the beach at sunset and it was gorgeous. I’m planning the next one now so watch this space to see what’s coming in November…
I also write for Bido Lito, so if you want to see a different style of my work you can pick up a copy now to read my new column all about LGBT wellbeing and the arts.
Aiden: I co-run a very sporadic zine called ‘Hippo Soop’ which keeps me out of trouble if nothing else. Once a month I jump on Melodic Distraction for my arts-led After Words show and I spend the rest of my time these days writing poems, playing with collage or watching old episodes of Heartbeat. I plan to start selling prints of my artwork pretty soon.
With an emphasis on the importance of mental health throughout your work, what do you both do to make yourself feel better on a bad day?
Olive: I think the biggest lesson I’ve learnt with taking care of my mental health is to just listen to myself, and then do what my body needs me to do. Regardless of what plans I may have made, I know I need to stay present and in tune with myself. If I can feel myself burning out I’ll just stop everything and take however much time I need to recharge. My health is my priority over all my creative work and I refuse to exhaust myself for anything.
Aiden: Now that’s what I call mental health hygiene: Meditation, exercise and good food (as in not tasty tasty fried chicken all the time). Some people really don’t dig meditation so anything that brings a sense of peace does the trick. Remembering it’s okay not to feel up to snuff is important, we all deserve rest for rest’s sake rather than rest in order to do X, Y and Z more efficiently later on. I second what Olive’s said there too, we’re not machines, our minds and bodies might sometimes require rest when it isn’t actually convenient and we should listen to that.
Keeping it simple and gentle is a big one too. Not everything needs to be a meta-narrative, sometimes we’re not equipped to interrogate the big questions and need to just sit off with cupán tae staring at the wall (or watching daft soap operas for me). Let’s not punish ourselves or be unrealistic about what we should or could be doing.
What was the last album you listened/are listening to? Book you read/are reading?
Olive: I am obsessed with Little Simz new album ‘Sometimes I Might Be Introvert’, I can’t stop playing it. It’s a work of art! Also Lex Amour’s ‘Government Tropicana’ is a big one for me at the moment. Book wise… to be completely honest I’m in a bit of a lull, so any recommendations fire them my way. I’ve been reading a collection of Murakami’s short stories but I’m still making up my mind if I’m into it…
Aiden: Underwent some rudimentary 90s education and listened to Bran Van 3000 – ‘Glee’. Book-wise, I had been juggling and have since finished Mairead Carew’s ‘Tara and The Ark of the Covenant’ and Rob Doyle’s ‘Threshold’.
What’s coming up next for you? How can we get involved?
Olive: There’s a few things peaking over the horizon which I’m excited about, all to be revealed very soon. You can follow me on social media @mary.olive.writing to see what’s going on! Also the next Hidden Poets will be coming up in November and I’m always looking for new people to get involved. I’ve got a few special ones planned for the winter season so keep your eye out…
Aiden: Finishing next zine, selling art, continuing to read poems to the fruit flies in my flat. If anyone reading this wants artwork making, poems reading or words writing, get on me. @aiden_brady. Buy the Machine North record too, show it to your mates and play it on your radio shows.