Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Wake up! Interview with the Miserable Man

On a cloudy English day that makes you feel a bit sad, you might finally decide to walk randomly through the street of Norwich city centre. If you are lucky you might be captured with a joyful and energetic reggae that makes your feet move without control. The Miserable Man is busking in the street: trumpets and drums come from his mouth while he beats the time with the guitar and the tambour beneath his foot. His voice warms up the air and his music moves the clouds away.

Filippo Masè, or Miserable Man, believes in the power of dreams but, as he explains, what really matters is “to wake up” and start to act in order to turn dreams into reality. He is Italian and plays in the street for happy and sad people, for children, for rich and for poor, from city to city, from Europe to Asia. He lives his life with joy just doing what he really loves: playing and travelling.

Sometimes dreams are only few steps away from you, but you need a bit of courage to move forward, maybe just some words, some music or someone else’s example.

AL: What did you dream about when you were a kid?  

MM: When I was a very young boy I used to live with my grandmother most of the time. She was helping missionaries in Africa and South America so we used to receive their publication magazines. At that time I had two dreams: I wanted to breed dogs and I wanted to be a missionary. I had the idea of myself in villages with lots of kids (I love kids). Moreover, as my grandfather was sailing in the 50s in Africa and Asia, I had images of Java, Singapore, Hong Kong, and India so I grew up with these memories in my mind and, maybe without being very conscious, I started to work to make my dreams come true. Nowadays I think that in a way I am a missionary with my guitar and I am in the process of the realization of my dream.

AL: Was playing around the world the dream you wanted to realize? 

MM: In the past I used to do lots of boring jobs and I never really had dreams. I wanted to play music and I always played. Maybe if I had a dream it was to be able to have a band, maybe a typical job in a café in order to go on a six months tour later, in a very American style. In Italy you can’t do that. If you leave a job when you are around 30 or something you are going to be “in the box”. When I started busking three years ago, it was because I had nothing left. I lost my job and my friend Richie, who was in Norwich, told me to come here.  I remember I sent him an email saying that I had no money, I had lost my job, the Police got my Vespa and I was left with little money. Winter was coming and I was a gardener so there was no work. At that time I actually thought about my grandfather and more in general about all the people that emigrated to Russia, Germany, America. I remember thinking: “This is the perfect moment. You can turn this bad luck into an opportunity”. I think you get power when you don’t have anything to lose and so I came here in Norwich. 

AL: Could you tell me anything about your first step toward the realization of your dream? 

MM: For ten years I used to work, save money and travel. One year before I came here I was in Indonesia, and I remember I was having a really good time playing ukulele on the beach. I was thinking: “There must be a way to do this for living, being in a nice place where people want to have fun, enjoy the nature and be involved in the environment”. Sometimes you have to visualize things because this is the way things come true. So I had a very clear picture of me playing and now I play in Bali, Malaysia, Thailand, Italy, and I think I play a kind of music which is perfect  for the places I want to be in: beaches,  holiday and tropical places. 

AL: Did anything happen or did you meet anyone who gave you hope to realize your dream? 

MM: My ex-girlfriend has been very important because she believed in me and pushed me towards the realization of my dreams. Also my friend Richie has been a very important piece of the puzzle. I met him while travelling in India and he has been the person who technically made this possible because he encouraged me by saying: “Come to Norwich, I will give you a place to stay, free of charge.” I would say that nowadays everybody helps me: all the people who follow me on Facebook, the people who buy my cd, those ones who give me work… People who support me in any way are the people who contribute to keep my dream alive.  

AL: When did you first play in the street? 

The first time I played guitar in the street I was very young and it was 1996, during a holiday in Greece. I was playing guitar for beer money. I never thought I could do it. When I came here I remember spending one week locked in Richie’s house, completely terrified, I was like: “No, I can’t do it”.  I remember Richie showing me the habitat and saying: “You know, if you want to make some money, that’s the place!” And I remember feeling like my legs were shaking, but there was a voice in my head saying: “Man, you are going to go on, you carry on. Go through!” So a week after I was busking with Jade (a local singer and writer) for the first time. We made 18 pounds and I gave her all the money because she needed to buy new socks. And there was my first real busking day. And I remember in Italy, before leaving, telling to myself: “You are scared but the first time someone will throw a pound coin in your case, it will help your confidence.”  And so it was! I remember a woman throwing 2 pound coins in my case. I was playing Wish you were here in an original reggae version and she said: “Very interesting version!” And I was really happy because she not only enjoyed the song but she also recognized that was a Pink Floyd song.  

AL: Why did you choose the name Miserable Man? 

MM: I don’t know technically how it came to my mind, but in Italian “Miserabile” is more like pitiful, something that has to do with God, living life, being humble. That was my idea at the beginning. And maybe it reflects in my life style: I still wear the 70s old school shoes, and I follow my grandmother’s advice. Then I also had hard times in my life, so probably Miserable Man was a name to say: “Why do I have to hide the pain, why pretending to always be happy?” I’m not always happy. I’m happy when I play. When I play music, I make people happy and this makes me feel happy.

AL: What kind of music are you inspired by?

MM: A lot of different stuff: African, Jamaican, Latin, Cuban, Indian and Arabian, lot of world music. Then I love pop. I like to be able to write songs that are easy to catch for people.  I was also influenced by people such as Tracy Chapman for the acoustic guitar, and the Police because they made good melodies and basically for the way white people were playing in a very black way. They were able to play black people music for a wide audience and this is what I am doing. I take Reggae, Ska, Calypso, Soul, Funk, Jazz and Blues and I filtered it to my way. I’ve also been inspired by grunge and alternative rock of the 90s maybe. 

AL: How can a dreamer become the Miserable Man? 

MM: When people tell me: “Ah your life is like a dream” I always tell them: “Well, it is a dream if you still sleep; but I’m awake now, so it’s not a dream anymore! I don’t need to dream now. I was dreaming when I was working in factories or doing gardening and hard jobs. Maybe I was more miserable then than now. I keep doing what I like and I work hard and I don’t really have the time to dream. Of course I have ideas but I try to be very practical. I think the key is stop being afraid, have confidence in yourself and in the universe and follow what you like because this is the only way you can be yourself. I think the only secret of my success is doing what comes naturally to me. I can play at weddings, in the street, in a bar. For me it is the same. So dreaming is a very functional thing. 

AL: What are you dreaming about in this period of your life? 

MM: Sometimes I dream about not having to play gigs and just busking all the time in order to not have responsibility. The dream of being a Miserable Man Is a dream of a world where I can go and play everywhere simply setting up my amplifier and I don’t get crazy because an airline wants to charge me 200 dollars for my guitar on board. So the reality makes me dream about a world where I can just do music, playing for people, getting some money day by day, but the reality is planning a little bit for the future and invest some money for the business side of my work. My dream is playing in the street, making some money and seeing that people are happy with my music and children are smiling. I would do it every day of my life. 

AL: What are your future plans? 

MM: To be able to stay independent and reach a big audience. I‘d be happy if I could play in all the beautiful places where I want to go to. I’d be happy if I could have the time to organize myself in a way that I can be free, independent, efficient and organized. This is possible but it takes a lot of work. My plans are to keep working with the connections I have so far in Italy, England, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand to reach a wider audience and going where I can go. I also would love to have a band. 

AL: Do you think are we able to realize all our dreams as humans?

MM: Potentially we can do everything. The problem is that we sleep, we believe what all the news reports say, we watch TV, we eat crap food, we give too much importance to money, business position, what family and friends say. The reality is that no one really gives a shit about your life, apart from you. So definitely we can realize our dreams but it is all about trust, faith and hope. I know it sounds very hippie but it really works. Moreover it’s about a very fine balance between understanding what type of energy you can develop and how you can reach the world. Each one of us has different ways: you can be a musician, a painter, a writer, a cook, a sailor. The first thing you can do is to understand what you can do for yourself and for the world and then find a way to do it. At that point I think half of the job is done. 

AL: Would you like to give any advice to all those people who have dreams?

MM: Stop dreaming, wake up! If you dream too much this means you are sleeping too much. It’s all right if you are dreaming, but if you are awake dreams are worth much more. You should be very honest with yourself and focus on what your fears are because fear is the main obstacle in people’s realization so get rid of cultural conditioning: what your family thinks, what your friends think, what your culture thinks. This is you and this is your life to experience and you will die. This life is short and you have to understand it and if you are not afraid of living, then you are not afraid of dying and then you can start living your dreams. But if you don‘t get to this stage you will keep dreaming while sleeping.