If you like glam rock then you must have watched Velvet Goldmine (Todd Haynes, 1998) quite a few times and you probably thought that the mysterious and glittery Jack Fairy was the perfect incarnation of the style. Micko Westmoreland was the perfect person for this role but he is also a musician who has just released a new album called « ½ Dove – ½ Pigeon » with his band MICKO & THE MELLOTRONICS, a fine mix of British pop, glam and art punk wrapped in wry humour and retro aesthetic. Micko tells us about the album, the band as well as his acting experience…
Let’s start with Velvet Goldmine and your role as Jack Fairy. How did you get chosen for it?
My brother & his late partner Richard Glatzer were already good friend’s with director Todd Haynes. So I got an invite to meet with him in Soho in central London, one wet Thursday afternoon & we sat for a couple of hours & chatted. I was fresh out of film school & we hit upon Kenneth Anger; the devil incarnate & his fabulous collection of avant garde short movies. We got on very well so it felt that something positive was going to happen. It did, I tried out with Susie Figgis (casting director) for the role which fell to the brilliant David Hoyle as group stylist. Word filtered through I could audition for the mysterious Jack Fairy, so I did a performance on VHS video of lip synching to ‘All the young Dudes’, by Bowie, two versions were sent in. My brother told me I had got the part, so the work began in ernest. I had very little to no acting experience, so decided to read as much as I could about the era, bought/borrowed a ton of biographies and inadvertently started ‘method acting’ the part. I moved to staying out late and suspending all other aspects of modern life i.e. only music played from the glam era, and lots of other stuffs I picked up from the books. Not eating in front of others, certainly not in public or using the bathroom whilst in company. Subtle things that gave my new personal a slightly other worldly, alien quality.
Jack Fairy is a mysterious glam rock cult figure in the film. What were the references you had in mind for this character?
I felt the role was much more about emanating a presence. People have often asked who ‘Jack’, is based on, Eno/Bolan/Little Richard/Dietrich. Let’s leave the jury out hey.. Jack’s magic is his mysterious quality, he escapes with little to no egg on his face, a kind of patron saint of Glam Rock.
Bowie, Bolan, Eno, Jobriath and many others had something otherwordly in them. Do you think that mystery and magic are important things in glam rock?
Absolutely, the more elusive the more desirable. Todd worked hard on the relationship between fan & star in Velvet Goldmine, gets the hormones racing. Art school Glam was a movement which set about fictionalising itself, partly why Velvet Goldmine works, it’s not a bio pic. Bowie created Ziggy, so in a parallel universe there’s all the variants in-between, Maxwell Demon was after all the name of Eno’s art school band.
Were you allowed to keep « Oscar Wilde’s brooch » after playing in the movie?
Unfortunately not, a deal was done over the costumes so I wasn’t able to walk off the set with a few bits and pieces ala, ‘The Man Who Fell to Earth‘. I did however get the leather coat worn over the opening credits made, it was originally designed for Britt Ekland. I have it moth balled in the cupboard, my alter ego hermetically sealed. As the opening credit decree ‘Histories like ancient ruins, are the fictions of empires, while everything forgotten hangs in dark dreams of the past, ever threatening to return!’.
Were you already playing in bands at the time of the movie?
No, I was making Electronic music under the name The Bowling Green, I got signed to Trent Reznor’s nothing records along with a number of Warp records artists. The 90s was the era of the bedroom musician, I was one of those. The technology was improving so fast at that time, the possibilities seemed endless. I changed gear in the 2000s & got more interested in lyrics & returning to writing on guitar.
What have you released before The MELLOTRONICS?
A ton of stuff, http://www.landlinerecords.com is a good spot to find stuff. The band really came out as a result of the 2015 album ‘Yours etc. abc’, which sounded like a band but was in actual fact mainly just me. It made sense from that to build a group from that sound.
How did you get Jon Klein (SPECIMEN/SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES) to play with you?
We were playing on the same bill, Mellotronics were support. I lent Jon my amp for the show & gave him a record. I got a message from him the next day as I remember, asking how I’d put it together, he liked it. We eventually got together for a drink in Camden Town & it went from there.
I’d just finishing writing Noisy Neighbours & I sent it over to him & he gave it a the Klein dynamic work out treatment, I was amazed at the results.
Can you tell us about the recording of the album? Did you have all the songs ready and arranged before recording?
I provide words, chords & melody, they sometimes get truncated or extended as the track gets worked into full focus.
Jon Klein our guitarist (Specimen/Ex-Banshees) plays a huge part in the sound, he’s an amazing player & a great producer. We worked independently & together on the project. Nick MacKay (drums) & Vicky Carroll (bass) are a great rhythm section. Vicky is 100% dependable & is our newest recruit. Nick was in it from the start. Such a great passion for playing & a brilliant live performer..
Did you have any albums, bands, art or literature references in mind when making the album?
There’s a few obvious ones, a Barrettesque paisley envelope modulating Psychedelic Shirt, The Rutles’ own Neil Innes came to play on You Killed My Father which was inspired by him & there’s a few other miscellaneous musical references for afternoon trainspotting. All good clean fun.
There’s something very British in the Lyrics and the songwriting. I was watching Inside Number 9 a few days ago and thought that your music would have been perfect as a soundtrack for it. Do you have any plans to have your songs in TV shows or movies?
Music for TV & Film comes along sporadically & randomly. It’s more that someone has you in mind than the other way around.
Will you have the album line-up as a live band too?
Absolutely, as notated above.
How would you compare being an actor with being on stage with a rock band?
When I’m on stage I have a hell of a lot to do, I’m more concentrated on delivering the best I can. So here’s no great theatrics on stage, it’s more about poking out the details from the wall fo sound.
Do you think that being an actor helps for music videos?
Yes, I would say so. It’s a fine line between confidence which people love & over making the point which turns people off.
You always have to avoid too much sauce. Treat your audience as highly intelligent, they can see things you don’t.
It’s hard to plan anything these days, but do you have any future plans for The MELLOTRONICS or your acting career?
I don’t really have an acting career any more, that’s parked in the Jack Fairy museum where it should be. The band is as active as we can be at present in covid times. We have two videos to shoot in the new year & of course a second album, writing is underway.
I feel very lucky. I work with talented people & I’ve been no steps removed from the greats! I believe that everyone has the potential to be creative deep down, without wishing to sound preachy, don’t let the perceived judgement of others or for that matter your own, get you down & stop you. Good or bad it’ll all work out for the better that way..
Photo credits: Ashley Jones & Paul London