On the eve of the release of his latest album 'When We Were Animals' via Widemouth Records RGM caught up with Mishka Shubaly for another entry in the popular Baker's Dozen feature. The singer, songwriter, author and storyteller discussed his earliest musical memories, Mark Lanegan, Twisted Sister, his love of small venues with dodgy plumbing and much, much more. Mishka will kick off an extensive UK tour on June 9th in Derby that will see him playing throughout the UK with a London date at The Slaughtered Lamb on June 28th.
1. What is your earliest musical memory?
When I was maybe five or six, my parents brought us to see a local musician. He was in a wheelchair and he played guitar and sang and told jokes. People laughed and clapped and I remember thinking "this is what I will be." Around this time, I told my mom that when I grew up, I was going to be a "wandering minstrel." Guess I got it right.
2. Do you remember the name of your first band?
Oh God. I do, but I won't be telling you or anyone else. Some things are lost to the ages for a reason.
3. Which current artist do you hear and just go Wow?
Mark Lanegan. At an age when most artists are rehashing or repackaging the work they did in their 20s, he's incredibly prolific and evolving rapidly. His work of the last 15 years is mind-blowing.
4. Do you sit down to write songs or do you wait until your mojo comes to get you?
Both. I used to just wait for inspiration to strike (which, in my case, is crippling depression) but I'm realizing that I'm running out of time so I try to shake the muse's tree now.
5. Big venue or small venue - what's your favourite to play?
Small venue, absolutely. If I could play sold-out 100 capacity rooms for the rest of my career, I would just do that. I love playing the UK because there are all these divey little caves with slanted floors, plumbing that barely functions, weird smells. It's like "This place is how many hundreds of years old and you never wanted it make it half-decent? Okay, fuck it, I'm in."
6. Who is the one artist you wish you could share a stage with (past or present)?
Probably Richard Pryor. And I think he would hate me.
7. Bowie, Prince, Sinatra, Elvis which departed great means the most to you?
I'm going to go with Elvis. I don't think he's as talented as Bowie or Prince, but his music and his story has resonated with me since I was really young.
8. Is a saxophone solo ever ok?
Oh man. I hate it when someone says "you can't do that in rock 'n roll" because it's a bastard music form where you can do whatever you want but I'm hard pressed to think of a sax solo I'm wild about. Bowie and Lou Reed kinda get away with it in "Young Americans" and "Walk On The Wild Side" but those are masters and I don't listen to those songs for the solo. Roland Kirk can kill it, but that guy could kind do anything. Now I want to write a song with a baritone sax solo...
9. Should music be free?
Yes, absolutely. And if it is, everything musicians need in order to live and make music-- food, shelter, instruments, health insurance-- should be free to us. Around the entire world, through all of human history, there has never been a documented culture without music. From there, one can hypothesize that music is necessary to human life, like food/ water/ shelter, etc. It's work we do and it has value and we deserve to be paid fairly for our work.
10. Can you remember the first record you bought and what have you bought recently?
Oh Lord. The first record I bought was Stay Hungry by Twisted Sister and that decision has not aged well. The last records I bought were Vagabonds by The Creston Line and Little Patch of Sky by Driftmouth.
11. What was the last song that made you cry actual tears?
Trucker Speed by Fred Eaglesmith. Man, I have become that sad caricature of manhood.
12. Do you binge watch Netflix / Amazon / DVD box sets (any recommendations)? Do you have a guilty pleasure in Film or TV you’ll admit to watching and loving?
Nope! Though I'll occasionally indulge in it, I ain't going to encourage anyone else to do it. Go out instead: see a band, see some art, see a reading, run, walk, kick a soccer ball around. Even 9 years sober, I think pints at the pub with your friends is preferable to sequestering yourself away for hours on end.
13. What is the most important thing to you that you can see from where you are right now?
My coffee cup is empty and man, that just will not do.