067: Mickey Smith/Land of Wonder
“At a certain point, the creativity became so important I had to choose to give it my full energy”.
I’m back after a short new year hiatus, and am starting 2019 in style by finally snagging one of my most requested guests: the great Mickey Smith.
Mickey is an influential photographer, film-maker and all round creative force of nature who is equally acclaimed for his work as a musician, whether as part of Ben Howard’s band, or through his own A Blaze of Feather project.
A Cornish waterman who spent his formative years chasing heavy waves around the world, Mickey first came to wider prominence with the release of Dark Side of the Lens, which documented his life as part of the tight knit scene that spent the best part of a decade pioneering the slabs and reefs of the west coast of Ireland; and which has a claim to be the most influential surf film of the last decade.
The success of that film gave Mickey a huge platform and some great opportunities, but Mick being Mick he continued to follow his own path and, as he puts it so eloquently in our conversation, the creative threads that he’s followed since he was a kid and that continue to motivate him and catalyse his life of relentless creative exploration.
At the same time, his background as a musician saw him hook up with Ben Howard as Ben’s own career began to explode, and the subsequent years have seen the boys chase their collective muse on one endless, creatively honest and brave trip around the world.
Some big themes in this one, from a true artist at the height of his powers. For Mickey, life is about ‘following the threads of imagination and instinct’ and how doing so can lead to moments of true wonder. This is an episode dotted with beautiful images and inspiring ideas. Massive thanks as ever to my friend and collaborator Owen Tozer for the images that accompany this one.
- Looking back over 7 years of gigs at Brixton Academy.
- Working with a 3D PA for the Brixton gigs.
- The creative and logistical challenges this brings.
- The importance of pushing yourself to learn and evolve.
- Following the creative threads.
- How this belief was ingrained in Mick from a young age.
- “At a certain point, the creativity became so important I had to choose to give it my full energy”.
- Understanding what you enjoy, and choosing to live that way.
- The fragility of it all.
- An early life on the road – and a key role model.
- The prospects of West Cornwall.
- How your perspective of home and family change as you get older.
- Digesting grief.
- How Mickey’s sister Cherry backed him.
- The West Cornwall connection back then.
- “Wild surf rats”
- The importance of Litmus
- The hunt for heavy waves.
- Starting to experiment with filming and photography.
- Becoming an observer by being detached from any environment.
- Using photography as a memory aid.
- The importance of physical remembrances.
- The Western Australia apprenticeship.
- WA routine.
- Travelling in search of heavy waves.
- “A scene unto itself – they’re just amazing humans pushing the limits”.
- The purity of those early years in Ireland.
- “The isolation and excitement of those times…there was a big shift of movement and purpose”.
- Dark Side of the Lens as a document of those times.
- Learning to be present in the moment.
- Grappling with and dealing with creative self doubt.
- Using expansion of perspective to escape the self doubt.
- The idea of looking forward to those internal battles.
- Creativity as the pursuit of a feeling.
- The Fuel for the Fire folder.
- The latest creative avenue.
- How Mickey’s water time has evolved.
- The transformative power of salt water immersion.
- How the show changes every night.
- Musician versus performer.
- Fronting A Blaze of Feather.