Art-rock maverick Mik Artistik on unlikely adventures in Longford, being friends with leatherclad legend Zodiac Mindwarp, and acting as guest frontman for pioneering Krautrockers Faust.
Veteran Leeds art-rocker Mik Artistic has had quite the life. Born to Irish parents – his father was a one-time member of a Leitrim ceilidh band – the man also known as Michael Gallagher had his creative passion ignited after seeing a Sex Pistols gig whilst a student at Bradford Art College. After drifting for a few years, he eventually became a celebrated local caricaturist in – wait for it – Longford, before returning to the UK.
In more recent years, Mik performed as a stand-up comic – even coming second to Peter Kay in the So You’re Think You’re Funny competition at Edinburgh – before turning to music. In that capacity, he has fronted Mik Artistik’s Ego Trip, whose surreal and often very funny compositions have won approval from the likes of Jarvis Cocker and Clash legend Mick Jones.
One of the many notable elements of the Artistik story is that while an art student, Mik was a good friend of one Mark Manning, later to find fame fronting ironic hard-rock act Zodiac Mindwarp.
“We were both completely infatuated with punk,” recalls Mik. “Mark turned me on to people like Iggy Pop. Actually when I heard Iggy for the first time, I thought he was crap! But later on when I discovered Metallic KO, I thought it was incredible – his lyrics were just outrageous, it was amazing.
“But yeah, me and Mark looked out for each other, and I ended up sleeping on his floor for a few years in the ‘80s. Around that time, I felt very lost, but then I discovered I could do portraits of people in biro. I went to visit my mother in Drumshanbo, and a little while before that, I’d started drawing these portraits. Then I was in a bread shop in Longford, looking at the paper bags, and I found myself wondering – if I drew pictures of people on their bags and they were personalised, could I make money from it?
“So I started to draw people on paper bags and I ended up in the Longford Leader and that kind of thing. But then I ended up back in London and I stayed on Zodiac Mindwarp’s couch for a bit.”
The unique style of Mik Artistik’s Ego Trip is perfectly showcased on their recent compilation, Alive!, which features such skewed art-funk gems as ‘Condoleezza Rice’, ‘Plastic Fox’ and ‘Retired Corr’, the latter of which – particularly admired by Jarvis Cocker – was written about a woman outside Drumshanbo Shopping Centre who looked like Andrea Corr. Unsurprisingly, the Ego Trip’s idiosyncratic approach has more than a few fans among the art-rock aristocracy, including krautrock legends Faust.
“We supported them,” recalls Mik. “We showed up and the stage was full of all these oil drums, chains and bits of hammers... I was thinking, ‘Get this fucking shit off stage, it’s not a scrap-yard!” And of course, that was Faust’s gear. But during our gig, we were doing a song called ‘Jimmy Savile’s Got My Album’, and I was going, ‘Come on Faust – sing along!’ And they really got into it.
“After the gig, Jean-Herve Peron from Faust came up to me and said, ‘That was really beautiful. Can I buy your album?’ About a year later he gave me a gig – and I ended up with Faust backing me for a couple of songs. It was really ridiculous, cos they were one of those bands that I’d grown up listening to.
“Then when Faust came on for their set, Jean-Herve said, ‘We’re going to do an hour of improvised music.’ He brought an ironing board on and asked for somebody’s t-shirt. So he ironed the t-shirt and gave it back to the guy. But about ten minutes into the set, he stopped the music and said, ‘I have to say, the band before me were brave, beautiful and amazing.’ Then they started the song again. So yeah, we’ve had lots of interesting people following us!”
Mik Artistik’s Ego Trip play the Grand Social, Dublin on January 20.