Alabaster Deplume was born on the 27/01/1981 in Bury, Greater Manchester and today lives in Manchester, Greater Manchester. A regular on the performance poetry scene for many years Alabaster Deplume is known for his quirky, sincere, edgy and weirdly humorous and gentle performance poetry pieces. I am delighted to introduce performance poet and musician Alabaster Deplume in conversation with our very own Scott Devon. Below we have the neo:blog interview with Alabaster Deplume.
Alabaster dePlume delights in his own confusion. He embraces it. It makes him look a bit pretentious, sometimes, but in the end, it is deeply sincere. He seems to feel he ought to share certain things, just in case everyone else was just too afraid to mention it first. He’s been described as “Harrowingly funny”. He works with Debt Records in his hometown Manchester, and performs poetry and song around the UK, in festivals such as Shambala, bars and concert halls, such as Band on the Wall in Manchester. He works as accompanist for Liz Green, Honeyfeet, Jamie Harrison and others. In his own work he is accompanied by John Ellis, Paddy Steer, Hannah Miller (Moulettes) and others [sic].
“You know when you’re ugly.
You don’t always know you’re stupid” A.DP
S.D: Hello, Plume. Thank you for joining us on the neo: blog today.
A.DP: Hello, Scott. It’s lovely to be joining you, tonight.
S.D: You’re clearly a highly eclectic man, and I’ve heard you described as a musician, poet, jazz artist, sound artist, writer and a playwright. How would you describe yourself to a stranger?
A.DP: Well, none of us are really too comfortable talking about ourselves, and if pressed for an answer to “what are you,” I’d probably say something silly. I don’t feel fully qualified in any one of the fields you just mentioned, and like anyone else, I get up to alot of other stuff besides. But I suppose you might call me a performer, most nights.
S.D: I understand, and do you have a medium you feel more at home in? Are you a musician who also writes words, or a poet who then puts his pieces to music?
A.DP: Well those two are (evidently) quite separate for me. For great songwriters they grow off the same vine. But much of my own effort is spent inviting words over to supper with sounds/music, and vice-versa. It’s like cooking for a tyrannosaur and a vegan nut allergy-sufferer. I’m getting closer though, I’d say. Trying not to serve soya pancakes.
S.D: Well put, but if you were to put a piece of your work on the internet, what tags would you use to describe it to me? What boxes does Alabaster DePlume fit into?
A.DP: I listed the LP as ‘Childrens’ Music.’ I don’t really know what to call it.
S.D: You’ve just released an album through Debt Records, ‘Copernicus’, to widespread acclaim. Can you tell us a little about it?
A.DP: That’s the best thing I’ve ever made. It is so, because of the people involved in it. Because of what they do by, and with one-another. I started it two years ago, and I’m slightly different through making it. I could tell you loads about that record. It’s a silly thing, but the personalities behind it are quite real.
S.D: Wonderful. But I heard you say at the album’s launch night that ‘Copernicus’ was ten years in the making. Why so long?
A.DP: You misheard me. I mis-told you. One of us was drunk. Probably me. It was two years. And that long because, a) I work as an accompanist, and must take the paid work first (making your own record is NOT paid work). B) I’m an anal sod and devoted to some very specific aspects of making the thing, and c) the fine individuals involved in it are even more busy than I am.
S.D: Does the album launch make you nervous at all? I mean, now that you won’t be able to go back and edit, re-draft or re-write any of the tracks. Are you at a point with the album that you are happy to fix it in time?
A.DP: One of the things I do before a show, to prepare myself, is I consider how irrelevant all this is, when compared with, say, any of the truly mortifying or heart-stopping beautiful things that are going on, right now, in peoples’ lives, all over the world. The meaning of the work is where the value is, the subject, not the mere creation of the work itself. Do you know what I mean? I can’t get nervous about making this thing. What I mean to express in the piece – on THAT I have to keep my focus. I don’t think it matters at all if I get it ‘right’ or not. The best album in the whole world is only an album. I work hard on the thing because it is a wonderful thing to do. But if it is a good record, then that’s because of other, more universal things, ‘truths’ that no person need ever feel nervous about. It’s too late, for that. HAHA! Either that or I’m just brain-numb from thinking about the pesky thing. Basically, I wouldn’t call it nervous, but excited, charged and furiously driven.
S.D: I hear you. Plume, getting to where you are now in itself is a huge achievement. On the road to this album though, have you ever had a day or time when you’ve come close to quitting?
A.DP: Well, this will sound a little funny now. But there are many other sides to life, that I neglect, in doing this work. It wasn’t my ambition, Scott, to be in even the meager position I’m in now – that’s not why I started doing it. I feel more like, making this thing, IS ‘quitting,’ than the other way around. It’s certainly been much easier to make it, than it would’ve been, to keep quiet. I hope that makes some sense. So yes, I feel like quitting, every day, and I do quit, and I make the best ‘work’ I can make.
S.D: I want to talk about your influences for a moment. I know you are heavily influenced by Beckett, for example. Do you ever feel that you stray too close to your influences?
A.DP: O! Yes. Probably. Luckily for me the musicians in my audience are unlikely to have seen Waiting for Godot, and the poets are likewise unfamiliar with Mulatu Astatke, and I can neatly sidestep pastiche…
S.D: Very true. I think a lot of artists feel that way. But what is it that drives you to create? Is it a need to purge yourself of an influx of ideas, or is it more a form of therapy, harmony through creation? Why do you do it?
A.DP: It helps me in many ways, to write, to create, to perform, to organise, to facilitate, to publicise… All these help me in ways I won’t hope to begin to detail. But this is not why I do it. I do this work because I love it. We can’t have a reason to love. If anyone ever gives you a reason why they love you, then they don’t, do they. The best things in this world make no sense at all.
S.D: Indeed, I can relate to that. But you’re not just a solo artist of course. You’ve performed with, well many groups over the years. ‘This Product’, ‘Victorian Dad’ and most recently your own group ‘Honeyfeet’. If I asked you to describe Honeyfeet to me in one sentence what would you say?
A.DP: That’s barrelhouse pop.
S.D: Any plans for a Honeyfeet album?
A.DP: It’ll be called ‘It’s a Good Job I Love You.’ We’ve cut it, it needs mixing, and we need some video. You need loads of video, these days, for a good sound recording, it seems.
S.D: Excellent, and where are Honeyfeet appearing next?
A.DP: There’s a show tonight at some jazz bar… Honeyfeet work all the time. If you’re a festival type, catch them/us at Shambala, Boomtown, Kendal Calling, Beatherder…
I’ll also, of course, be ongoing accompanying the exceptional Liz Green, in festivals around Europe and the UK. She is an inspiration.
S.D: I said before that you are an eclectic man. Do you think there will ever be a Alabaster DePlume poetry collection, just words no music, or an acoustic album? Or are the two mediums too entwined inside yourself now?
A.DP: I’m working on a book of page poems. Once we’ve put the footage and live recording of the launch night about, after that I’ll tell you all about a little book.
S.D: How do you feel about other poets / performers on the circuit? Are there any that you truly rate or admire?
A.DP: Where I stand and make distractions and excuses with my long arms, loud voice and silly faces, poets on the circuit humble me with a true command of tone and a deep and genuine love of language. They are excellent. I won’t list them all. But I will say I miss hearing Malcolm speak. You’ll be unlikely, yet, to have heard of Sally Jenkinson, who’s just sorted herself a publication. She’s from Bristol. There’s so many, Scott. Wilf Merttens. I enjoyed David J Pugilist not so long ago… The one I’ve seen who has ‘duende’ is Kate Tempest, but doubtless you already know about her. Byron Vincent is magnificent… I know loads, though I know I’m very ignorant of the circuit – I spend most of the year playing around with musicians.
S.D: You’ve toured Europe and the UK fairly extensively for the past five years. Can you tell us what’s next for Alabaster DePlume?
A.DP: We’ll be preparing a live record of the best parts (from all performers) of that launch night, with a series of video pieces. That’ll happen after I produce Jamie Harrison’s next LP for Red Deer Club this coming fortnight. Then I’ve a couple more little schemes to occur between a fair number of festivals, and that book. I intend to take another spell alone in some remote place to work (I love doing that,) and then there’s tours, I’m told, in Autumn, accompanying. Among other things.
S.D: I look forward to it. And lastly, any advice for young performers / artists who are just starting out?
A.DP: This is the most ridiculous and untenable occupation I am able to recommend you spend a lifetime on enjoying beyond your imagining. Only you know how you will do it, but I can tell you, you are not free from the terrifying fact that it is possible – if you want it. (It’s really OK not to want it).
S.D: Very wise. Plume, thank you for speaking to neo: blog today.
A.DP: You’ve been most gracious!