Conversations with Jasper: Spoken Word Artist Billy Pilgrim

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[Sudden Denouement is interested in all forms of poetic expression. Spoken word is one area in which we are trying to do outreach. I had an opportunity to do an interview with Billy Pilgrim who has a very distinct style of spoken work.

Jasper: I enjoyed your style of spoken work a great deal. I was very engaged by, not only the content, but also your production value. Give us some context about who you are and the evolution of your project.

Billy: Well, asking somebody who they are is a pretty deep question. So let’s start with the basics, we are a Norwich, UK, based duo. One spoken word poet, and one digital music producer. Interestingly we are second cousins, and we spent a lot of time listening to music and sharing ideas growing up. More recently as THK finished his degree in digital music, he was tasked with a collaboration project, this is really when Billy Pilgrim got involved. What started out as university project, spanned into something bigger. Now we produce music together, as well as gathering work from other spoken word poets and creating beat tapes which showcase other styles of poetry too. Really our aim is to put poetry back in the atmosphere and get people talking about it.

Jasper: I have always been a huge fan of spoken word, having worked the scene in Houston in the early-nineties. When I hear your style, I think of Sage Francis, who evolved his spoken work into quasi-rap. What are your influences in terms of spoken word?

Billy: It’s a strange one really, because as far as spoken word goes, I’ve listened to a lot more in since I’ve been writing it than I ever did before. I mean, of course I admire the work of Sage Francis, Kate Tempest and Scroobius Pip as much as anybody else, But thinking about it, my influences come from all over. You know when you put a ‘further reading’ section at the end of an essay, because you don’t have any direct quotes to put in, but those books had an impact on your ideas. Well, my further reading section would be, Johnny Cash, Mike Skinner, The Notorious B.I.G, Kano and so much more, but I guess the link between those musicians is their narrative style. I like to listen to stories, and I like to tell them too.

Jasper: The music seems to be an essential part of your performance. It is amazing. How important is the music to your project, and do you feel that opens your music up beyond a poetry audience?
Billy: The music extends our reach, people who would never give poetry a chance can perhaps have their interest peaked by the music, that’s when the poetry might get them. THK works hard to create a balance with the poetry. It is important that it doesn’t overshadow it, but it can’t go unnoticed either. There is a symbiosis between the forms (we think!) that makes it something brand new.

Jasper:  I do a lot of interviews, and I always ask about to whom you own a debt in terms of writing, for me it was the Beat Generation. What writer’s inspired you early on and helped guide you in your journey?
Billy: Well the first person worth mentioning would be Kurt Vonnegut. I owe him for my name, Billy Pilgrim is the main character in his novel Slaughterhouse Five. In fact, that novel is what got me back into literature, and ultimately into writing and performing poetry. If he wasn’t dead, I would send him an email saying thank you for opening my peepers again. I really enjoy the abstract nature of his work. As for poetry, I like to read the works of Jack Underwood (another East Anglian poet) his poems give a fresh insight into the modern world. THK says his favourite novel is “Less Than Zero” by Brett Easton Ellis, he likes the dark undertones of it all. He gets inspired by themes when he makes music, novels like that effect his mind state, and help create a mood that develops into music.

Jasper: Give us a brief overview of your latest project, where we can find your spoken word, and what plans you have in the near future?

Billy: We recently released a demo, consisting of three tracks. We imaginatively titled it “Three”. The first song “I’m Afraid” (which also has a video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WXM7kxi0t8Q) explores heartbreak and control within relationships, but more than that it explores the impact these feelings have on life in the modern world. The second track “Ajar” is heavily allegorical, it follows a journey of discovery and development, the narrative features in this poem attempt to determine what sadness is and where it comes from. And finally, “love Affair” is a response to addiction, a breakup letter to alcohol which doesn’t hold back. Funnily enough when we perform this live, people think it’s about a woman and tell us they feel the same way about their ex-girlfriends, I always think jeez, that must have been one toxic relationship, ha. You can listen to the demo here (https://soundcloud.com/bpthk/sets/three) and download it for free. You can also follow our facebook, twitter, and word press.
https://www.facebook.com/BillyPilgrimwithTheHeartseaseKid/
https://twitter.com/bpwthk
https://bpthkspokenword.wordpress.com

If there are any poets out there who want to get involved in something exciting, we are working on a collaborative project called “words with friends” (https://bpthkspokenword.wordpress.com/2017/09/12/spoken-word-poetry-what-is-words-w-friends/) which is still collecting submissions.
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Author: Sudden Denouement

A Literary Collective

4 thoughts on “Conversations with Jasper: Spoken Word Artist Billy Pilgrim”

  1. Love this, Jasper. Obviously, paper is being left beyond. BURN THE BOOKS! It is all about live performance, esp. I notice in the UK. Poetry sites now offer performance and drama lessons….great beginnings.

    Like

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