Category Archive: Literature
  1. Mr Gee: “Some people desire fame or acceptance, but such things are fleeting unless they are rooted in something real.”

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    Mr Gee (Greg Sekweyama) has been a veteran on the UK’s spoken word scene for over two decades. Well known as the “Poet Laureate” on Russell Brand’s SONY award-winning Radio show, he has toured the world with Brand many times in the more recent past, all done without controversy on the part of the man some of us affectionately know as Rusty Rockets. He has also delivered two Tedx talks and his work has been featured in the Times, The Guardian & the New Statesman. He’s worked on and presented several radio shows and ongoing series, including “Bespoken Word”, “Rhyme & Reason” and “Poetic Justice” for BBC Radio 4, the latter of which focused on the extensive rehabilitation work that Gee has done in prisons.

    As a die-hard listener of his time working with Russell Brand and Matt Morgan (another friend of the site), I reached out to Mr Gee to talk further about his experience on that podcast as poet laureate, how he came to be involved in the show and play such an iconic role. We also spoke in depth about his work as a poet, poetry’s direct relationship with music (hip hop in particular), ‘Sachsgate’, and his experiences of growing up in a Britain rife with racism, lack of multi-cultural acceptance and how that has shaped his character.

    Disclaimer: Mr. Gee and I also spoke about a whole lot more so do find a quiet reading space for this one. It is worth every sentence.

     

    Mr. Gee, how long have you been known as Mr. Gee and why?

     

    My nickname has been “G” since… forever. I started DJ’ing in the 90s and back then it was fitting to give yourself a DJ name. I chose “Mr. Gee” simply because I was a fan of Mr. T from the “A Team”.  When I started doing poetry, I carried the name over but people assumed that “Gee” was my surname. I didn’t care enough to correct them. Personally, having an alias works for me, it allows me to switch on and switch off from the world. Mr. Gee sits and writes his simple poetry while Greg [Sekweyama] lives his complicated life.

     

    How did you get started and get into performance and poetry?

    Do you come from a family involved in these areas?

     

    It was more of an accident really, I don’t come from a performing family: I originally started off in a team of DJs mainly playing out at bars and clubs around Brixton and South London in the 90s. I was never really comfortable on the mic and preferred to hide behind the turntables. We would usually book a singer or an MC to do a live slot and entertain the crowd. But then on one of our Valentine’s nights, we decided to do something different and showcase some live poetry. This encouraged me to put pen to paper and try reading a poem on stage. The crowd enjoyed it so much that we started getting requests to have more poets perform at our nightclub and so it became a regular fixture.  At that time (the early 2000s) I didn’t know of any poets who performed, so I then had to figure out a way to keep delivering new poems that would work each night. I started practicing and performing at tiny open-mic nights all over London and Mr. Gee the poet was born.

     

    Musically, some types of Hip Hop (MF Doom, RZA, GZA, King Geedorah, etc.) seem to me to be directly linked to the power of spoken word poetry, which of course I adore.  Can you talk about this relationship and its attraction? 

     

    I grew up on Hip Hop and Reggae which are intensely lyrical art forms. Your average singer will only ever use about 200 words in a song which are largely melody-driven. But an average rap could easily contain double or triple that number of words. So, the listener is getting an avalanche of expression that in comparison feels highly vocal and urgent. In my opinion, this is the reason why rap doesn’t naturally lean into subtle suggestion; it competes with other musical forms by its implicit directness and attention-grabbing nature (there are other reasons for this which I’ll explain later). So people shouldn’t really compare the art of MC’ing with the art of singing because they come from different places and serve different functions. They’ll have a better understanding of Rap’s role in entertainment if they see it as operating on the same frequency as a sports commentator’s spiel, a preacher’s sermon, or a circus ringmaster’s pitch. It can be funny, serious, insightful, stupid, provocative, explicit, emotional, or crass. But because of the volume of words exhaled, it’s all done in a very bombastic fashion. It was this range of amplified emotions that initially attracted me.

     

    How about your own personal experience with rap and hip hop in that sense – and ‘Fuck Tha Police’ by NWA? 

     

    I was a die-hard Ice Cube fan from the first time that I heard him with NWA. It’s hard for someone nowadays to fathom how shocking a song “Fuck Tha Police” truly was. It scared people and I remember it being blasted out of every car that passed by at the time. It tapped into years of silenced rage that most black kids felt growing up (myself included). Police harassment was an everyday occurrence, everyone I knew had experienced a traumatic interaction with the police. Yet finally here was a song that expressed a real situation in the most explicit way possible, it became a universal anthem for us. Only 80’s Hip Hop could credibly make such a beautifully blunt statement while the rest of the world was dancing to Kylie Minogue. It was tunes such as these that made me realise how powerful spoken words could be and why there will always be a need for art to question society, even [if it’s] in the crudest way possible. Volcanic voices forged within the heated lava pit are born to erupt into the midday sky. Think about this: as I’m writing this now; Queen Elizabeth has just died and the country is in a state of official mourning. Simultaneously there are people gathering in Central London to protest against the killing of Chris Kaba, an unarmed black man who was shot dead by the police in South London. Two different states of mourning which will require two different anthems to be played.

     

    Have you ever considered delving into written poetry or maybe an album of your own spoken poetry?

     

    Yes, I’ve recently been trying to pitch my poetry to publishers in the hope of getting a collection printed. The world of printed poetry is very different to that of the live scene, the energy is dialed down, so the approach has to be different. I contributed a poem and a short story for an anthology called “The Other Windrush” (Pluto Press) and I had another poem called “The Butterfly Effect” which was published in an anthology called “Humane Justice” (Khullisa). Over the years I’ve dipped in and out of experimenting with music and poetry, it’s been a bit like firing a rubber band into a thunderstorm and never hearing it land. But I’ve enjoyed the process of trying out different poetic and musical ideas.  The last serious music project that I completed was called “Rhythms and Thoughts” it was released on my Soundcloud site back in 2017. It actually received a little buzz in the Middle East and I was invited to perform in Lebanon off the back of it, but unfortunately, due to work commitments, I was unable to travel and promote it better.

    https://soundcloud.com/mr-gee-poet/sets/metaphysical-musings

    I’m actually quite proud of it as an artistic project. It conveyed a lot of stuff that I was thinking about at the time.

     

     

    How did you first get involved with the Russell Brand show and become the poet laureate?

     

    I first met Russell around 2001, he came down to perform at an open-mic night that I attended in Brixton. We chatted afterward and hit it off. Back then, he’d only done a few bits on MTV and Xfm. I first saw him as just another aspiring artist trying to make their dream come true. He was also pretty heavily into drugs which had a strong hold on his life, so I had to be mindful that a drug addict’s first love is their next hit. But despite his addiction, he always had an intensely strong drive to perform and was always thinking of comedic ideas that he could try out on stage. He’s a natural-born comedian and comes alive when the spotlight hits him. When I first met him, I was beginning to tire of DJing and wanted to explore more the performing side of poetry. But I knew nothing about being comfortable on stage. So by watching Russell do his stand-up, I got a first-hand insight into seeing how vague nonsensical ideas could be transformed into an interesting, compelling monologue.  It was through Russell that I met Matt [Morgan], and the three of us would often sit around after one of Russell’s gigs in a tiny pub and talk shit together. It was mainly Russell and Matt throwing endless one-liners at each other and me laughing. Comedy comes as naturally to them as breathing, so they were fun to be around. We were always very comfortable in each other’s presence and this is what formed the blueprint for what eventually became the Radio show.

    In the late 90’s/early 200s I was doing little bits on pirate radio in Brixton to promote my DJ nights and I would often include poetry within my sets and record it. This led me to being picked up by BBC Radio 4 for a show that I eventually hosted called “Bespoken Word”. “Bespoken Word” was meant to shine a light on the burgeoning UK Spoken Word poetry scene that was starting to find its feet in the 2000s. It seemed that everywhere you looked, there were tiny little poetry nights emerging all over the UK, but it was all completely underground and below the radar of mainstream media.

    This was around 2004, YouTube and social media weren’t really a thing, so poets performing in different parts of the UK didn’t really know each other. We’d all developed our own styles; London poets were completely different from Manchester poets who were completely different from Plymouth poets. Nowadays, a poet can share their poetry online and start to build an online presence and be known nationally without having to leave their bedroom. But poets from my era had to do a zillion live performances, sharing countless stages with comedians, folk singers, grime MCs, beatboxers, and dancers in the vain hope of making a little name for ourselves. And even then, you would only ever be known within the vicinity of a few postcodes.

    The show “Bespoken Word” had a much more cabaret-type feel, because it was trying to unite the various voices of the UK Spoken Word poetry scene together. We had a multitude of guests: Kae Tempest, Benjamin Zephaniah, Selena Godden, Pete Doherty, Scroobius Pip, John Agard, Raymond Antrobus and loads more. It was a lot of fun and it was great to see live poetry finally being respected as an art form. By the time Russell invited me to be on his Radio Show alongside Matt Morgan and Trevor Lock, I already had quite a bit of Radio experience. But nothing that I did on Radio 4 prepared me for the shows that I did on Radio 2. Having to compose a brand-new poem, on-the-spot, in the moment, and then delivering it just before the show ended was 1000% pure pressure!

     

    I asked Matt Morgan about this when we spoke a while ago. You, like him, come across as very laid-back (from hearing you both) and I wondered how you dealt with Russell’s behavior, which though listening to the show, told me he can be very high maintenance, erratic and unpredictable (and also hilarious).  

     

    Haha, that’s funny because I’ve never known Russell to be “Low Maintenance”. I think that you have to comprehend that the Radio show felt much different to me (as a participant) than it did for the listening audience. I was tasked to write a poem, so during each broadcast, my mind was always racing to think of themes that I could link ideas to, and the poem was forever changing throughout the show. I, therefore, welcomed any new drama as a wonderful addition of chaos and confusion which I could now reference, what you heard at the end was the final draft. So, if Russell was acting overly erratic or going off on a tangent, that was all a part of what made the magic work. At any given moment he could bring it all together, just as easily as he could break it all apart. Once you accept this reality, nothing that he did on-air can really piss you off. His humor wasn’t malicious it was manic, the car-crash factor of his personality made everything entertaining. Nobody steps into a Rocketship for a slow and uneventful ride: you listen for the countdown, hold your nuts while it blasts off and say goodbye to planet earth.

    You also have to bear in mind that I was in a quite privileged position of being an inside-outside observer. I wasn’t on the front line in the listener’s minds, I was more of a quiet presence within the studio. Matt’s job was to try to delay the car crash for as long as possible and hold off the dragons. But the flux capacitator that truly powered the show was the love-hate relationship between Russell and Matt, their arguments and bickering was truly hilarious (even when it crossed the line). My job was to absorb whatever occurred, to try and extract a metaphor from it all and get that blasted poem written and read on time.

     

    And as you’ve said, this was your first proper introduction to the world of media and show business. What kind of things did you learn or see ‘through’?

     

    I was able to glimpse behind the smoke and mirrors of it all and got to meet many famous people on that show. After a while, I came to the conclusion that all celebrities (regardless of genre) crave the drug of attention in order to survive. They all use whatever tools are available to them to get that next hit, this is what makes them “High Maintenance”. The burning desire to express themselves is only mirrored by the public’s burning desire to be entertained. But all desires burn out eventually and the ocean’s floor is littered with both the strongest and the weakest of ships.  It’s this volatile relationship that makes the showbiz machine function. You can become a star and a nobody in the space of a week. It’s only once you’re inside the belly of the beast that you can see what causes all of the hiccups.

     

     

    There were instances where I got the feeling that some people were ready to ‘walk away’ from the show. Was that ever true for you?

     

    I actually did “walk away” from the Radio show in 2017 but that was only because I was working for a charity to help local kids in the aftermath of the Grenfell fire. That tragedy had ignited such strong tensions up and down the country (around the issues of public housing and the treatment of immigrant communities). I wanted to do something but I didn’t want to get caught up in the performance of strong passions that were exploding all over the internet. I wanted to be of practical help.  I decided to volunteer for an after-school drop-in centre for kids in the North Kensington area (some of whom were now homeless). Unfortunately for me, the recording time for the Radio Show was then moved and it conflicted with this after-school project and I couldn’t do both. I told Russell, and he understood completely and was cool with it. Luckily the door was left open for me to come back. And I did return for the final show.

     

    On that final show – the Sachs gate incident. How did you react to it all – did you think the outpouring of outrage was a bit over the top (as I did)?

     

    Again, I’ll be brutally honest. I didn’t think that the Sachsgate incident was that bad. You can hear me laughing in the background when Jonathan Ross uttered the “Granddaughter” comment. But the press had a field day with it. The UK press are funny, this was October 2008: the banks had collapsed and the financial world was in ruins, Barack Obama was set to become the first black president and yet they decided to run Sachsgate as being the biggest story that month. I don’t think that anyone who was involved with the Russell Brand radio show at that time will ever forget Sachsgate. One minute we were celebrated SONY Gold Award-winning Radio royalty, the next minute our name was mud, and being discussed in Parliament as “destroying Britain’s morals”  – it was all absolutely bonkers. The media frenzy was unreal, I used to secretly meet up with the producer and the other Radio 2 staff in a tiny cafe just to process it all and check in to see if they were alright. We had all become intensely paranoid about being followed and the press were hoping that we would be a weak link to get to Russell and Jonathan. Newspapers were offering me £25K+ for an expose and even sent reporters to a school where I was performing at a morning assembly.

     

    That’s pretty fascinating. 

     

    In hindsight, the canceling of the Radio 2 show gave us all a much-needed breather. Russell was trying to break into the movies, Matt was living in LA and I had been performing in the West End for a whole year doing 8 shows a week. So as dramatic as it was, the end of the show allowed us all to have a healthy amount of space that every relationship needs. Life was moving too fast and we were all already going in different directions. Funnily enough, the reason why Andrew Sachs didn’t answer his phone was that he was doing a pre-record for another show on Radio 4 and it had overrun. I actually knew the producer of that show and in the weeks that followed she rang me up and said “I think that I owe you an apology”. I told her not to worry, the show was probably destined to go off the rails from the first moment that it aired. That is why the people loved it so much.

     

    Russell once blurted out on air that you used to be in the Nation of Islam and you replied: “..a little bit”. Can you tell me about being connected to that particular group and what drew you to it? 

     

    I think that in order to answer your question properly, first, you have to understand that I grew up in the 1970s & 1980s London. That timeframe is very important because London wasn’t considered multicultural back then, it was very tribal and extremely racist, I grew up hearing the N-word on a daily basis, spoken by teachers, police officers, and kids at school. Enoch Powell’s “rivers of blood” speech had taken hold on people’s minds and the National Front were a genuine political force to be reckoned with (people were still throwing bananas and making monkey chants at black football players on the terraces). As numbers of Black and Brown immigrants started to increase in London’s inner cities, “White Flight” became a real thing.

    Secondly, you have to keep in mind that my upbringing and socialisation was very different from both Russell’s and Matt’s. I grew up as a child of immigrants in a time before “political correctness”, before “tolerance and diversity” and before “woke-ism”. There was no social media back then, so the day-to-day racism that occurred largely went unnoticed. I’m half Indo-Guyanese and half black Ugandan a mixture of India & Africa. The majority of my family does not live in the UK, so the feeling of isolation was very real.

     

    What other types of things did you experience and what does that do to you, mentally and in outlook? 

     

    As a child, I remember having to run off the streets with my Indian mum because a gang of skinheads were marching;  greeting us with “Seig Heils” and waving at us with “Nazi salutes”. As soon as we got inside, we had to move a cabinet to block the front door in case anyone tried breaking in. So while the rest of the UK was at home comfortably watching “Only Fools and Horses”, “Allo, Allo” and “Fawlty Towers”, I knew of families who were having shit put through their letterboxes. I wasn’t angry as a kid, I just thought that this was how England was. This rejection became internalised and I started to view myself as being “other than”. In the ’80s my mother used to take me to Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park, where we would see an Indo-Guyanese speaker called Roy Sawh. He was a legend amongst West Indians, he spoke so viscerally about the two-faced hypocrisy inbuilt within British society that hundreds of people used to clamour to see him. He provided another voice.

    As I grew up, I was no longer a kid and had long stopped running. But the final trigger for me was the murder of Stephen Lawrence in 1993 and the racism within the police force in how they handled his death. Stephen was around my age but his murder wasn’t a singular event, it was one of many. Me and my friends grew up hearing lots of other names; Rolan Adams, Rohit Duggal, Colin Roach, black and brown teenagers who had either been killed by gangs of white youths or died in police custody. My mum was always telling me to “be careful” every time that I stepped out of our flat. I started to view racism as something that white people did naturally without thinking and I knew that I had to find coping strategies to deal with their world. [I saw] a world that seemed to eternally view people who looked like me as a problem. I needed to look for black groups to see how they dealt with the bullshit that I saw before me. I’d listen to the Nation of Islam, Rastafarians, Pan Africanists, the Black Panthers, Socialists, Anti-Racist league….anybody.

     

    What did you get from groups like these?

     

    I found things that I agreed with as well as things that I disagreed with. I didn’t care much for divisive theology but neither was I interested in white people only being nice to me out of some patronising guilt. I came to understand that black people have been carefully and effectively erased from history which has distorted the world’s perception of us and our perception of ourselves (there’s a reason why you know the name Julius Caeser but not Septimius Severus). I also believe that black people need to relearn how to love each other again. We’ve been nursed on a diet of hatred for so long, that it becomes difficult for us to see value within ourselves. This engenders a precarious position where only our extreme behaviour gets noticed and celebrated (every other facet of our expressions gets side-lined or ignored). Think about it; black people are the only people who entertain the whole world with music detailing their own self-destructive behaviour, and the whole world dances. So I understand the need for such black groups to emerge and promote another narrative, whether it’s Black Lives Matter or a Gospel Church on Sunday.

    Obviously, it would have been ludicrous to even try to lay out such a nuanced explanation within the confines of a light-entertainment show on Radio 2. So my answer of “a little bit” was my way of saying that “I’m still on a complicated journey and I’m not going to perform my ‘blackness’ on a Radio show when I’m still trying to figure things out for myself.”

     

     

    What effect did covid and lockdown have on you mentally – obviously career wise it would have been difficult as you mainly work in theatre and on stages in front of an audience and with other people?

     

    I absolutely hated Covid and all of the ramifications of it. It totally killed the live-performing scene. I’ve never been a big-name performer I’m still a drifting unknown, so live shows are my bread and butter. I like bouncing from venue to venue and seeing what’s going on. It’s my way of socialising, working through new material, gaining inspiration, listening to new music, etc. Covid created a hand-sanitised blob of devastation. I remember going to a party in March 2020 and three people who attended ended up dying from the coronavirus later that year. That was an almighty wake-up call. I’ve had a few close deaths in my own family and had to watch the funerals online, it brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it.

    I caught Covid myself in 2021 and it wiped me out for a few months. I was getting that brain-fog and finding it hard to take in information and memorize stuff. It slowly subsided but shook my self-confidence as a performer. As a result, I became quite reclusive, put on weight, and became very insular. Russell invited me to go on tour last year but I told him that I wasn’t really ready or comfortable being around crowds. This year I’ve started stepping out more and doing a few more shows. The live performing scene is starting to rebuild itself and I’m starting to get my old weight back. But I can’t overstate how crushing Covid was to the live performance circuit, to the plethora of talented people who made their living on stage, not social media. I know loads of comedians, poets, singers, dancers and musicians that have quit their dreams because they couldn’t sustain themselves. Luckily, I was able to offer a lot of online teaching workshops and write for big data tech companies which kept me afloat.

     

    What advice do you generally give to young people you work with who may not have any idea how to enter these industries? Particularly when some may come from underprivileged backgrounds.

     

    People entertained poetry in a different way than they do comedy or music, but they are entertained nonetheless. So by deciding to be a poet, I had to follow a different path than a comedian or a musician. I knew that I wasn’t going to be a comedian or musician, so I had to find a tribe that would value me and my passion. My main advice would be to throw yourself into your passion and not get fixated with money. The minute that you enter the entertainment industry, you’re entering a workplace of extreme financial insecurity. So you have to ask yourself “What is it that you are trying to achieve?”. Some people desire fame or acceptance, but such things are fleeting unless they are rooted in something real.

    It’s your passion for your art that will create the opportunities, that will in turn bring you rewards. But the number of hours that you will end up investing into your artistic passion will be phenomenal. I know musicians who are constantly rehearsing, actors who are constantly learning lines, painters who are constantly experimenting on canvas. When I first met Russell, he was an encyclopedia of comedy routines and was always trying stuff out on stage. I’m constantly writing poems, it’s somewhat of an obsession for me, it’s a way of me trying to relate to a world that confuses me.

    My advice is to hone in on your craft (whatever it may be) and work at it constantly. Then you have to start connecting with other artists and share ideas. Iron sharpens iron, so just being around creative people helps to encourage your own creativity. If you spend too much time in the company of people who doubt your ability or fail to see the point of your dream, then their doubts will become internalised by you.

    Another thing that young people have to be aware of when they enter the world of entertainment is how grueling and unforgiving it is. You need to have a strong sense of who you are and what you are capable of delivering, otherwise, your passion can turn into a nightmare.  If you are solely driven by a need to be seen, to be loved, to be appreciated, you can find yourself twisting and turning yourself inside out, just to be noticed. And if your livelihood depends on attention, it creates an unstable existence.

     

     

    Do you still go into prisons and do workshops – quite a brave thing to do in my opinion, have you ever felt intimidated to go in there?

     

    Working in prisons is the most challenging aspect of my work. I decided to start working inside back in 2008, ironically it was just before Sachsgate and I was feeling directionless. On paper, I was doing well: I was appearing on a West End stage every night, I was a part of a hugely successful Radio 2 show and I had my own series on Radio 4. Life was good and being “Mr. Gee” was now my full-time job. But the world of media and entertainment can be quite one-dimensional and it’s easy for your whole existence to be reduced to an aggregation of rhyming punchlines. I wanted to have a deeper and more meaningful purpose for what it was that I was doing.

    I volunteered to run some workshops at Brixton prison and when I went in there, I saw a lot of people who I knew. Older black men like myself who had been chewed up by the system: poor education, limited job opportunities, no money all resting within a cauldron which saw them as worthless to begin with. I was lucky because I had the outlet of poetry to express myself, but their outlet of expression had been limited to criminal activity and destructive violence towards each other. I saw a lot of self-hatred being manifested by these men and I understood some of the root causes. I read out several poems that would never work on Radio 2 or Radio 4 but here in Brixton prison, they worked because we spoke the same language. We recognised the same arrangements of syllables.

     

    And what about any trepidation? 

     

    In terms of “feeling intimidated”, yes of course you always feel a heightened sense of danger. I’ve seen a fight break out in the blink of an eye and blood splattered everywhere. But that was between already warring gang factions, within my classes, I try to set ground rules of common respect. If we all agree to appreciate each other’s humanity, we can build a foundation from there.

     

    What are you most proud of in your career thus far and where/ which areas or paths do you see yourself going down next?

     

    I think that the best live show that I ever did was supporting Russell at the Sydney Opera House. It was such a great time and a great show, everything came together and we all had a lot of fun, Andrew Garfield came backstage (he was filming ‘Hacksaw Ridge’) and said “hi”, I kept forgetting his name calling him “Peter”.

    Another great moment for me was the poem that I wrote called “Three Rivers” which was included in the book “The Other Windrush” (published in 2021). It deals with the violence that occurred in Guyana in the 1950s and 1960s. Before, during, and after independence, Guyana went through a lot of troubled times. In the 1950s Winston Churchill sent British troops in to shut down and arrest the country’s first democratically elected Government and everything spun out of control after that. I wrote the poem because I’m half-Guyanese and I wanted to understand the political events that had directly affected my family and caused them to leave and be scattered around the world.

    Another great highlight has been the work that I’ve most recently been doing within the Data tech industry. I’ve coined the phrase “Data poetry” to describe what I do. Much like the poems on Russell’s Radio 2 show, for the past few years, I’ve been invited to Data System conventions and commissioned to write poems. This resulted in me working for the Open Data Institute which was founded by Sir Tim Berners-Lee (inventor of the internet). I developed a digital-art piece called “Bring Me My Fire Truck” which incorporates Google Translate, William Blake’s poetry, and an airport arrivals board to explore the “spirit of Brexit”, it was first showcased at the Tate Britain museum as a part of their “Blake Now” exhibition. That was a very proud moment for me.

     

    What projects are you currently working on – where can admirers like I go check out what you’re up to?

     

    Currently, I’m the lead artist at my local Arts Centre Rich Mix. I’m helping to run a youth project called “New Creatives” where we offer practical expertise and advice to young people on honing in on their artistic talent. I’ve been working as a poet for over 20 years now and I feel that I have a more realistic approach to my craft.

    I feel that I have a better understanding of what I’m doing now than I did when I was insanely scribbling little poetical quips every Saturday night. For me, being a poet is a lifestyle, it allows me the opportunity to enter and leave different worlds and hopefully learn a little along the way. Not everyone can be as charismatically brilliant as a Russell Brand or a Matt Morgan, but the possibilities in this world for someone with an artistic mind are huge. Once you expand beyond the limited thinking of your environment, you can venture into several different arenas. I’ve stood on huge stages in front of thousands of people, sat in jail cells, and read poetry to convicted murderers, I’ve even conversed with the top Data scientists on the planet about the future of work. But deep down it’s all poetry to me.

     

    Greg, Mr. Gee, it’s been a real pleasure, thank you for your time. 

     

    Mr. Gee doesn’t have an official website however please follow his regularly updated Instagram page

    Check out more of his work on Soundcloud 

  2. Fiona Dodwell: “Inexplicable events have probably planted little seeds of inspiration.”

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    Writer and journalist Fiona Dodwell talks about her ongoing career as a working writer, mother and wife, what draws her to horror as a genre, and her (metaphoric) love affair with Morrissey.

    Do you have an optimistic view of the world?

     

    It’s a difficult question to answer, because I’d say that my outlook can change often, depending on my frame of mind, and what’s going on in the world at any specific time. There are certainly moments, in recent years, where I feel deflated when I contemplate the state of our world, and I can’t see much going on to improve that in the near future.

     

    How long have you been writing?

     

    I have loved creative writing for as long as I can remember. I used to write poetry and short stories when I was a teenager and would often bring in my latest creations to my favourite English teacher – who would in turn give me feedback. In terms of when I began taking the pursuit more seriously/professionally, I’d say it was around 10 years ago when I wrote my first full-length novel.

     

    What are your main motivations to write? 

     

    There is more than one answer to this. I write both fiction and also write freelance articles/features for various websites and magazines – and there are different motivations for both. For my fiction, it is purely a love of being creative and exploring the art of storytelling. I get a lot from that – to me it’s the nearest thing we have to magic, alongside music. I love getting lost in a new world, and letting my imagination take me to new places. In terms of the articles I write, and the interview features I put together, it’s simply my attempt to put forward open-minded, frank and interesting content that often the mainstream media won’t do. I wanted to work independently, so that I could create something I could be proud of. I wanted to get people thinking a different way and I try to use my articles and interview features to achieve this.

     

    I think the last part of that answer basically summed up the reasons for Felten Ink. 

    How did your early surroundings and your upbringing influence you as a writer?

     

    I grew up in Milton Keynes, which is about an hour’s drive from central London. I haven’t lived there for many years now, but I still have good memories of my upbringing there. I don’t feel my surroundings had any impact on my writing, because to be quite honest with you, I was always a bit of a loner. Whilst friends were hanging out and socialising, I was always opting to stay at home, with my nose in a book, or a pen in my hand. I could have literally been doing that anywhere in the world – I actually loved being a private and solitary person… that probably helped sharpen my imagination and love of reading far more than my physical surroundings.

     

    What kind of more normal jobs have you had to do besides the not-so one of writing?

     

    I’ve had jobs in the past that didn’t feel right for me. Many years ago I studied Psychology and worked in an acute mental health practise – that was a fascinating career path, and I learned a lot, but it wasn’t something I wanted to remain in long-term. I found it hard to separate myself from what was going on around me and hard to “switch off” when it was time to go home. 

     

    Your books tend to come under the horror genre – what is it that draws you there?

     

    Horror is my favourite genre. It has been since I was a child – when I started reading R.L Stine’s Point Horror books – and it remains to be so now. It’s hard to put into words but I just enjoy exploring the dark, mysterious and creepy side of life. I love getting lost in a scary story, it just gives me a buzz. The same goes for horror films, too. I don’t have any interest in literary romance or thrillers or feel-good tales… give me the dark, gritty stuff any day of the week and I’ll be happy.

     

    On horror movies, which of your own works would you most like to see given a visual on screen treatment… 

     

    One of my books has been optioned for film in the past, but unfortunately it never came to be. Perhaps it will happen one day – I have had interest from a producer/director that I very much admire so you never know. If I had to pick, I’d say Nails, Juniper’s Shadow or The Given.

     

    Are your books or writing based on your own experiences and how much do you take from real-life and place? 

     

    None of my fictional writing is based on true-life. As most of my stories tend to be strange tales of ghosts, demons and all sorts of mythical beings, it all comes from my imagination. Having said that, I have had weird experiences in life – inexplicable events – that have probably planted little seeds of inspiration. As for my articles and freelance work, that’s rarely about me, I often explore subjects (and people) I admire or want to learn more about and go from there.

     

    How does being a mother and a wife impact the ability to sit down and be alone with your ideas you want to write?

     

    My husband is greatly supportive of my writing and to be honest, he gave me the initial momentum for my writing by inspiring me and encouraging me to carve out time to do it. It might be because he is a creative soul himself – he plays piano and guitar and is in love with music. He said he saw potential and told me to go for it – so I did. As for being a mother, of course it definitely has an impact on my time (and energy levels) however I’ve still managed to maintain a healthy dose of independent time to be creative. If something is important, you’ll always find a way.

     

    I have to ask you about Morrissey, after all, you drew my attention with your interviews and I’ve been following you on social media ever since. What do you think that’s so divisive about him among people?

     

    I think Morrissey is seen by some as a “divisive” figure because there simply is no one else out there like him, being so truthful, so open, so willing to discuss things that others won’t. He doesn’t pander to the press, he doesn’t bind himself to the apparent “boundaries” that other artists apply themselves to (out of fear of being controversial or opinionated). He is a rarity, a non-conformist, and because of that, people are sometimes shocked. Wow – a singer with an opinion? Aren’t they just supposed to stand there and inoffensively nod along? No, Morrissey has never been like that and it’s one of the reasons I admire him. There are few like him out there, we should treasure the braver souls amongst us.

     

    What was the initial attraction for you?

     

    First and foremost it’s about the music. That’s the main thing. He is an absolutely outstanding artist, entirely in a league of his own. I know I have spent many years with his music as the “backdrop” to my daily life and so his lyrics, his albums, are very special to me. Then, as we discussed above, there is his confidence and willingness to be bold and strong in the face of some really bad treatment from the mainstream media. That’s something I admire, more than I can express. I get bored of people who try to blend in, or who baulk at the idea of standing-out. It excites me when I see somebody who is willing to go against the grain, and let’s face it, Morrissey does this often. Alongside all of this, I’ve always admired his stance on animal rights.

     

    Why do you think certain elements of the press now take such an unfavourable stance towards him?

     

    I think it’s a combination of lazy journalism, lazy thinking and the hunger to be seen as “politically correct” in a climate where being offended is the fashion. Rarely does the mainstream press actually stop and examine why Morrissey says what he says, they just seem to take a line or two and then run away with their own story.

     

    I find myself agreeing with him more than anything else, but I’d be appalled to be labelled ‘far right’…

    It’s the names and labels that do the most damage. If you call somebody “far right” or “racist” then you have blocked the debate at hand, and stopped people examining the specific issues that are being discussed. Plenty of times, Morrissey has made valid points or issues that are relevant, yet what he says isn’t dissected, it’s people’s opinions about what he says that are instead dissected. Why are the mainstream so afraid of actually discussing what he says with level-headedness? Why does everything have to come down to name-calling, immature headlines and mud-slinging? Nobody needs to agree with what another says to at least respectfully hear them out.

     

    Back to your own work…What’s going on for you right now?

    I finished a book called The Risen last year (you guessed it – another horror) and Arcanum Press have signed a publishing deal with me for that title. It will be published in a few months… probably September 2020, if all goes to plan. I will continue writing my articles and putting together interesting interviews/features. My work will often pop up on Made in Shoreditch Magazine, Tremr, Music-News, Kendall Reviews, and various others. I also run my own blog, but this has been neglected lately. My fiction writing has taken a back-seat in the last couple of years. I think this is because I have really become passionate about writing my articles and topical features for the websites I contribute to. I think the internet has put a stop to the mainstream press being the only voice out there – people can now carve out their own voice/style/message and communicate it to an audience. At last there is competition to the stale narrative of the mainstream press. I haven’t given up on my fictional writing, though. After The Risen is out there, I hope to write another full-length story, and will probably be publishing some short stories too.

    Fiona Dodwell can be found on Twitter @Angel_Devil982 or Facebook

    And Fiona’s books are available to purchase on Amazon