An Interview with Karl Whiting
“Problem started on a good night catching up
Laughing joking next round who’s buying, going round the bend. An
argument ascends reaching a climax of no service no service Bouncers
drag their asses out the pub
In the right place after a long shift the wrong time to relax
Unwinding before going journey home
Observations the pack of drunken wolves lounge throw abuse at those
enjoying their night
Starting a prowl looking for victims to claim winner in the glorious bouts
of strengths physically to mentally.”
(excerpt from Blood n Guts by Karl Whiting)
I first saw Karl Whiting performing with the band BRATAN under the name ‘the genius of germs’. This was on a superb night called Free Frame of Reference organised by Manchester poet John G Hall. The germs performed a loud and uncompromising set of thrash guitar and drums, as Karl screamed out his poetry. I enjoyed that mix of noise and shouted spoken word, but it wasn’t until later on when Karl and I had swapped chapbooks that I saw the quality of his writing – I hadn’t heard the words during the set. The slim volumes of poetry that Karl handed to me that night revealed an original writer and thinker.
As a result of that encounter I booked Karl and his musical allies to play Words V Music. I think it was a tough gig for Karl because he’d put so much hard work into it and in the end the set was cut short because people were walking out. But that’s the thing about Words V Music – we search out original performance and present it in an everyday space, it’s not always going to be to everyone’s taste. In short we aim to take a few risks and that’s what keeps things interesting.
I wanted to find out more about Karl and what drives him to write and perform difficult pieces in a culture that is besotted with more shallow things. The transcript below is in Karl’s own words and has not been edited.
When did you start writing poetry?
i started writing poetry at 16, through ill health as i couldn’t find it in myself to draw, i started writing as my coping mechanism, as counselling etc was no good to me, it was a way of dealing with grief from an early age, funerals became a hobby so to speak, of lots of deaths from an early age
Do you think that all art comes from problems and troubles?
art comes from within depending on what you want to say, art is also affected by society and the changes that are going on around us, somewhere everything becomes interconnected.
whether you connect with some body or not through your art is a different matter, some people respond positively where as others through negative suggestion upon you
life is always throwing challenges at us, never in dribs and drabs, and how we overcome these challenges is a challenge in itself.
How have you developed your abilities as a writer and poet?
i have never studied english other then gcse level, i have only learnt from my life experiences and those authors i brought myself up on, i studied art at ocn level and I am self taught with pretty much everything
Which authors/poets inspired you?
tough question musically leonard cohen, glen hanstard from the frames, ian curtis, robert smith, linton kwesi johnson, patrick jones to name a few
authors and poets, well there’s charles buckowski, george orwell, franz kafka, andy t, john cooper clarke, apprently jg allen comes across in my work but I also love william golding
You said you’d just played a solo gig, where was that and how did it go?
well i went back to my roots when i started performing it was just me, when i was 16 playing to old people and people unsure how to react to my performances, the gig went really well, it was a house party in leeds where i played last year, people were uncomfortable as there was nothing else to support me, it was very intense, but the feedback was great, another poem that had not been performed before, i try to never do the same thing twice so people are interested in what you’re doing next
i have the confidence to perform solo but sometimes its more interesting with music and performing with bands to add another element, i know im not here to make friends through my work ,one thing is the unpredictability of it all
people are too scared if they hear or something they cant catagorise but labelling is down to society and the media as it makes things easier for people to digest
What about the future Karl, what have you got planned for your performance art?
i am unemployed now i lost my job to my mental health, im taking time away for a bit to recuperate, i never plan a performance everything is spontaneous, always keeping an element of surprise, people can become very bored very quickly, there’s something in the future coming with some solo performance pop up events in graveyards, im looking at unconventional spaces to play, but who knows, the future is uncertain, nor is anything guaranteed
Thanks Karl, and all of us at Words V Music look forward to seeing you again some time soon.