Music Editor Darren Hassan had the opportunity to speak with charming Norwegian singer/musician Mikhael Paskalev about his upcoming WOMAD tour and new album ‘What’s Life Without Losers’, both happening in March.
Calling from Oslo Norway on a grey chilly morning, Paskalev has had his morning coffee and is full of energy to talk about his upcoming trip downunder. Having never been to Australia, the singer behind the catchy hit I Spy says he is hugely excited about visiting Australia in March. I Spy was Number 75 on the Triple J Hottest 100 2013 and has had over 1.6 million hits on YouTube and Vimeo among others.
“This will be my first trip to Australia, and I’m not sure what to expect-I’m sure it’s a very beautiful place, but it’s so distant from Norway I can’t really imagine how life is there. I was in Texas a year ago and somehow I link the two, maybe it’s the sand- I don’t know (laughs). I’m a fan of the outdoors and I hear your beaches are great so I really want to see that”, quips Paskalev.
Playing his first real gig with his musician father aged 14 in front of a biker gang, Norwegian born Paskalev is also of Bulgarian stock with a history of musicians in his family. His father, whilst being incredibly supportive, has also taught him the harsh realities of the music business. “I started music quite young as did my dad & granddad so they’ve always been quite realistic as to whether I’d do OK or not, I’d have to be enjoying it (to make it a career).I had an early goal to hear at least one of my songs on the radio, now all of a sudden I’m getting loads of airtime especially in Australia, more than other places (except Norway). I’m very happy how Australia has given me this opportunity and chance. I’ve been recognized in Norway for a while now and have some recognition throughout Europe and he US, which is really great but Australia has worked out really well for me. Although I’m yet to visit, this is all the more reason to be excited about it”.
When asked what the motivation for I Spy was, Paskalev explains that he remembers very clearly sitting in his bedroom with his acoustic guitar, trying to come up with songs. ”My music tended to be soppy and ‘self indulgent singer/songwriter’ stuff, wanting to make people cry etc but I got sick of it. I thought it’d be better to write music that gives people a boost and uplifts the mood, which I myself enjoy, instead of the romantic, dramatic stuff. I Spy came out of boredom and frustration in someway. It was a turning point for me and my songwriting- I realized I’m allowed to write upbeat, happy, almost pop/rock stuff”!
The video for I Spy shows Paskalev imitating Tom Cruise’s famous underwear dance scene from the film Risky Business, and when asked where this idea came from he laughingly admits it was he himself who came up with it.
“Embarrassingly it was me (laughs). I had the idea to have just myself in the video imitating Tom Cruise dancing, the director asked if I could dance and I thought ‘why not. The Director added his idea to shoot it in black & white as well as the slow motion/sped up mix though. “Trashing the set was great- I had to time it right though, to make it look non-contrived, natural, and full of angst. It was fun, especially as I did it a few times”.
His song Susie has a clear Paul Simon inflection to it, who he says is his greatest influence along with the Everly Brothers and the Mamas And The Papas. These artists were an early discovery for Paskalev who describes the music from that era as genuine, no nonsense, and full of depth.
“Those artists came from a different era so its largely nostalgic. I don’t want to sound retro-sexual but I like to write songs in the traditional sense- the source of the song is in the songwriting. There were many brilliant songwriters, performers, and arrangers working to make music work back then” says Paskalev.
He emphasizes however, that although these artists and more influence him, he does not try to sound like them.
“I also listen to and like a lot of music from nowadays too, but when I write I like to write in those kind of mind frames of the 60’s and 70’s”.
What’s Life Without Losers was approximately 4 years in the making, with one year taken to record the album. The quirky album cover features a hung-over looking Paskalev, complete with smeared eye makeup, hugging a naked girl- it’s typical rock star stuff!
“I’m not actually trying to be cool on the album cover, ok, kind of, (laughs) but actually we wanted to pull off a comical and sinister feel. It was a long day of recording and we’d had a few drinks that day so we were exhausted- so we got a friend in who was happy to take her clothes off for the cover and there you have it. I think it has this retro kind of feel to it”.
He’s looking forward to visiting some of our beaches when he arrives in March for WOMADelaide and his other shows, and also confesses to being a Silverchair fan since he was a kid. He asks jokingly “If you see them, can you tell them to reform and play in March when I’m there?” I advise him that I’d see what I cold do, but in the meantime he’d have to settle for some good Australian Beer and of course a Pie – Floater.
“Wow, that sounds great, I’d love that… I think,” he says with a laugh.
I explained that the combination only has a true effect after 2.am and a few drinks.
His reply– “Even better, and I’ll teach you how to chug a beer Norwegian style!”
I like this guy already!
Mikhael Paskalev will be appearing at WOMADelaide March 8, also Perth Festival, and headline shows in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
The Debut album ‘What’s Life Without Losers?’ will be released on March 8
Details of his Australian tour including tickets here: http://secret-sounds.com.au/current-tours-reader/items/mikhael-paskalev.html