Interview with Julian Petley (Author of ‘Muslims in the Media – Pointing the Finger’)

November 20, 2011 at 11:55 PM (Interviews - Islam) (, , , , , , , , )

This interview was conducted as a part of my dissertation research earlier this year. My dissertation focused and explored the ways in which Muslims and the religion of Islam is presented within various forms of media; particularly the British newspapers.

The following questions were asked in the hopes of investigating the opinions held by prominent individuals who have dedicated many years to the study of this subject. Julian Petley is a professor and the Head of Research in Journalism at Brunel University, London. He has written for an assortment of newspapers including The Guardian. Furthermore; he keenly campaigns for a media which hopefully one day will be responsible and accountable for their publications.

Do the British media provide a neutral, fair and unbiased view of Muslims and Islam in Britain?
If you’re asking me about the majority of the newspapers and the national press I would say absolutely definitely not. I mean I think you might get a relatively balanced view from the Guardian and the Independent let’s say but they are minority readership papers, you only need to look at their readership figures to realise they are very low and they’re very untypical of the rest of the national British press which is far from liberal about anything and certainly I think do not give a neutral view of anything frankly and particularly not of Islam and Muslims. If you turn to radio and television which are the other media, I think the picture there is a bit better because after all radio and television is suppose to be impartial and neutral and balanced but in point of fact if you think back to one or two Panorama programmes recently; if you think back to one or two Dispatches programmes there are means of programmes there which have been pretty critical of Muslims and Islam. Not saying obviously Muslims and Islam should never be criticised, of course maybe there are things to be criticised just like with other views and faiths but it does seem to me that there has been quite a large number of programmes recently, one of which I analysed at great lengths in the book which is the Panorama programme by John Ware on the Muslim Council of Britain. I think that was a really atrocious piece of journalism and I think that it can’t square with the BBC’s commitment to editorial guidelines to impartiality and fairness and balance. In my view what you do get in that John Ware programme and in one or two other Panorama’s is the kind of replication of the agenda set elsewhere by the press.

Why do you think there is so much focus on Muslims in the media?
I think it all really came about because of 9/11, because the people who committed the 9/11 atrocity were Muslims, I think that was one of the reasons why the media focused on the Muslims. Rather than saying well you know as with all belief systems there are some people who are fanatics and fundamentalists, very quickly it seemed that everyone got tarred with the same brush and of course all this was given a further twist with the events that happened in London with the bombings. Muslim communities moved from being almost kind of rather invisible really to being increasingly demonised largely because of the association with terrorism. I also think that as the economic situation has got worse and also with all the international crises particularly focused on the Middle East, people look around for people to blame and scapegoat and alike and you know Muslims have come out top of the pile there.

Studies have shown that often Muslims are represented in the news media as extremists, against British values, a threat to Britain, backwards, barbaric, and women oppressors and so on and so forth. Are these genuine issues or are they in fact an exaggeration by the media?
I think these are exaggeration because if you look at most of the literature which has been written about media representations, if you think of the work of Elizabeth Poole or John Richardson who has done very good work on discourse analysis and the way in which Muslims and Islam are represented or Van Dyke for example; all of these individuals all shown that the representation of Muslims and Islam is overwhelmingly negative and for the most part extremely inaccurate. I think one of the best parts of our book is the chapter by the two journalists Hugh Muir and Laura Smith who take four stories mostly from the Daily Express and show them not just to be exaggerated or a bit factually incorrect but I mean totally factually incorrect and I mean one could have taken masses of stories and done that treatment and I’m absolutely confident that we could have found twenty, thirty, forty or fifty stories and revealed them to be a load of tosh.

The majority of coverage regarding Muslims exists within reductive frameworks, why do you think the media do not concentrate on alternative representations?
Well you could ask that question of almost anything the media represent, I mean you do have in this country a newspaper industry which you could say is biased towards the right or which has predominantly illiberal values and they’re all sorts of issues on which you know newspaper opinion is remarkably homogenous. Muslims and Islam would be one, immigration would certainly be another witness for what’s going on today for instance or you might turn it around and argue how many newspapers would actually really question fundamental values of the kind of deregulated finance capitalism that we have now through all these crises. How many newspapers for instance are saying let’s not cut our way out of this crisis lets suspend our way out of this crisis. I mean virtually none, I mean maybe the Financial Times occasionally maybe the Guardian now and again maybe the Independent but you know there is a remarkable homogeneity of views in our newspapers because they are ideal to be homogenous for the most part and you call them what you will; right-wing, illiberal, I mean conservative with a big C, small c – they are all of those things.

Do you think the way in which Islam and Muslims are represented has an impact on the perception of Islam and Muslims by non-Muslims?
I’m sure it does I mean I’d be amazed if it didn’t, I mean the more difficult question that you’re probably about to ask is does it cause the violence towards Muslims which to that the answer is I don’t really know. But it has to be the case surely, that you know newspapers provide us with a good deal of what we think about. I’m not saying that newspapers tell us what to think because we’re not complete dweebs and puppets here but nonetheless newspapers report unlike books for example to be telling you something about the real world and you’ve only got to think for one moment to realise that lots of people have views about things which they’ve got no personal experience with whatsoever. I mean I’m sure people have got views about President Gaddafi but have they met President Gaddafi? Have they been to Libya? No they haven’t. So these views must come from somewhere and I suspect that they do come from the media to a large extent. Of course the media would say in their defence that what they’re doing is simply reflecting the views of their readership but the answer to that is, so do you really think the purpose of journalism is to tell people what you think they know already, what about the idea of journalism as an enlightening and educative and demythologizing force? Well, that is not the British press.

Do you think the way in which Islam and Muslims are represented by the media has any impact on British Muslims themselves?
I think it does from what evidence I’ve gathered myself by looking at reliable public opinion surveys which are not very easy to come by, I think many Muslims feel resentful of the kind of coverage which they get and my argument and I’m sure I say this somewhere in the book is that it is a quite possible reason why some Muslims may turn to extremist forms of belief or direct forms of action because they do feel so alienated. One of the reasons they feel alienated in our society apart from being discriminated against in the jobs market and generally living at quite the rather poorer end of the economic scale is because they don’t like what they read about themselves in much of the British press.

How might British Muslims influence the coverage of Islam and Muslims in the media?
Well that is very difficult, I think there are lots of people who do not like the way in which they are represented in the media. Students for example have had a very rough time in the media recently. I think all you can really do in my view is to do your utmost to try to reveal that most of the stuff is bias, vicious, nasty and not true. I mean that’s where the Internet becomes very useful these days because there is no point in writing to newspapers whose mind is completely made up. Forget the Press Complaints Commission which is just a confidence trick but I think it is possible to get in touch with numerous websites which offer critiques of the press, there are numerous Islamic websites which offer specifically critiques from an Islamic point of view and there is although it is a bit sparse an Islamic press which you can get in touch with or the minority newspapers. I think what I’m trying to say is that you have to kind of mount a critique of the media probably from independent sources but I do think these make a difference even if you’re not going to influence the coverage for a very long time. Newspapers do not like to be told that they’re lying and that it is all crap; it does in a very slow drip drip drip way have an effect I think.

Sayeeda Warsi a few months ago stated that Islamophobia in Britain is becoming socially acceptable. How would you respond to this statement?
I think she’s absolutely right, there’s no question about it. I think that Muslims today are getting the same treatment as the Jews did in the first part of the 20th century, that the Irish did once the IRA campaign hit the mainland in the early 1970s. Now it’s Muslims because it seems to be perfectly acceptable to say unpleasant things about Muslims. I mean one of the things that I do occasionally when giving talks is to take something which is a very negative representation of Islam and Muslims and just change the words around and replace it with Jews and people look rather startled and shocked.

Who would you say speaks on behalf of British Muslims; is it individuals such as Warsi, Imams, academics, MP’s, Muslim celebrities like Omid Djalili or institutions such as the Muslim Council of Great Britain?
I think all of those; I think one of the things that I learnt very quickly is that there is no single Muslim community. There is a whole series of different Muslim communities and nobody speaks for all of them, and all individuals speak from different positions but the same would be true for example for let’s say the left in this country. There isn’t one left, there are all sorts of different left-wing viewpoints and I think the same is true of Muslims and Islam there are different viewpoints some of which the media like to label extreme, well some are extreme actually but they are very much a minority. And anyway extremism is not particular to Muslims, what about Christian extremism or Jewish extremists or neoliberal extremists?

Do you feel Muslims are offered fair opportunities to voice their opinions within the media?
No but not everyone else is very much, the mainstream media is a very one-way process in my view you can’t really count all that crap that people write on newspaper websites beneath articles, that’s not two-way. The broadcasters are a bit better and certainly in my view, I think it’s easier for the broadcasters to address than the press because you can always argue with the broadcasters that they are supposed to by law to be impartial and fair but again if you read my chapter on Panorama in the book you’ll see the Muslim Council of Britain’s objection to the Panorama programme was rejected because of the attitude that the BBC is never wrong.

Do you feel the media are able to comment on Muslims in such a way which they wouldn’t perhaps do regarding other minorities?
Yes I do, just try it with Jews. I think there is a long history of racism in the British press in particular I don’t think what’s happening to Muslims is by any means unique they just happen to be the target of the moment. I don’t believe that certain minorities particularly the Jews would be picked on like this, not least because they are quite powerful and they have members in the House of Lords and they have MPs and Jewish organisations that are well-respected and good for them you know I’m not criticising Jewish organisations for one minute. The fact that they fight back what they see as anti-Semitism and it sometimes is anti-Semitism is wholly admirable but it’s much more difficult for people such as Muslims to fight back because they’re not so powerful in that sense.

Do you think journalists are socially responsible in their representation of British Muslims and Islam; for example do journalists take into consideration the rich diversity of opinions held by Muslims, do journalists make enough effort to distinguish between Muslims and extremists?
I think the answer to that question depends on what journalists you are talking about… if it’s someone like Peter Oborne in the Telegraph yes he does, if it’s someone like Gary Younge or Madeleine Bunting in the Guardian, yes I think they do. I think they are responsible and I think they do make necessary distinctions but if you’re talking about people like Melanie Phillips in the Mail I don’t think they do for one moment. I think these people are idea lobes first and foremost and journalists second.

Do you think the media plays a role in the rising support for organisations such as the English Defence League and the British National Party?
Yes I think they do, I mean the interesting thing here is that they are always criticising the EDL and the BNP but in my view the kinds of views which are peddled by newspapers like the Sun, the Star, the Express and the Telegraph absolutely fuel bodies like the EDL and the BNP in the UK. It is extraordinary how these newspapers criticise these people yet they can’t really see that the views these people are expressing are very similar to the views newspapers are expressing. I suppose the reason for this apparent contradiction is that the newspapers are predominantly Tory newspapers and so they don’t want people supporting the Tory party to go vote for the BNP or whatever and it just shows how stupid they are in my view.

Do you think the general public have sufficient knowledge about Islam and enough contact with Muslims to be able to make an informed decision about media representations of Islam and Muslims?
Well that would depend on where you live I think, if you live somewhere like Slough or Leicester then yes compared to your mind being completely closed. If you have contact with people who are different from you on a daily basis you are much less likely to swallow the nonsense, hate filled rubbish you find in newspapers. It is very true where you go to parts of the country where there are no people of colour for example you often find incredibly negative attitudes towards difference and where do these people get their attitudes from, if not from newspapers?

For more of Julian Petley’s opinions please read his book entitled ‘Muslims in the Media – Pointing the Finger’.
Available in all good book stores.

Neelam Atique – November 2011

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Interview with Baba Ali

March 9, 2011 at 8:13 PM (Interviews - Islam) (, , , )

Many of you will recognise Baba Ali from his YouTube series; ‘Ummah Films’. After several years of sitting through khutbahs and noticing a tendency of recurring topics being discussed whilst countless issues remained non-existent, Ali decided to deal with the matters at hand. What started off as a few videos being uploaded and mailed to friends later escalated to nearly 10 million video views.

Since embracing Islam; have you noticed any changes within yourself?
I remember before Islam, I would be tossing and turning almost every night. Islam put me at peace and alhamdulillah I sleep like a baby. Literally, I fall asleep in the matter of seconds each night. Alhamdulillah…

Being a new Muslim, did you face any difficulties?
Yes. As a convert, I had a tough time trying to figure out what was culture and what was Islam. The division among the ummah also confused me since each sector claimed they were right and that everyone else was wrong. Also, I noticed there were a lot of people doing da’wah but not enough people doing nasiyah. Before you give your shahada everyone is so supportive but after embracing Islam there is a lack of support available to help you to learn the basics.

Why did you decide to create ‘Half Our Deen’?
Many years ago when I couldn’t find my other half locally, I decided to do the unthinkable by joining a matchmaking website. I really disliked the whole setup because the sites basically took the dating structure and applied it to Muslims. These websites would ask surface level questions such as, “What’s your hair colour?”, and “What’s your eye colour?” and so forth. These questions are the type of basic questions individuals want to know before dating someone but for marriage minded people these questions are not enough. If you want to spend the rest of your life with someone, you need to know more than what their favourite colour is. So whenever someone contacted me through one of these sites, I would send them my own series of questions. I made sure my questions did not have right or wrong answers to ensure that people answered them honestly. Of the 17 sisters who responded to my advert, only one of them answered the questions to my liking and that’s the one I married 9 years ago. I was inspired to help other Muslims with the marriage process and so I decided to make an alternative to the current matchmaking websites available. I made a list of all the things I disliked about the Muslim matchmaking sites and decided to do the exact opposite. I launched Half Our Deen.com on July 18th, 2010. The project ended up costing me over $40,000 to build but it was well worth it.

How does ‘Half Our Deen’ differ from other matrimonial websites on the Internet?
‘Half Our Deen’ is completely private so individuals don’t have worry about showing up in Google search results 🙂 We’re the only Muslim matchmaking website that is upfront about the price ($9 month to month or $5/month if you pay annually). We have developed a custom algorithm which calculates your compatibility with each member based upon various categories (i.e. Religious views, Character and Family values). We setup a “What’s New” page to inform people of the latest ‘Half Our Deen’ upgrades. This is something we have yet to see on any other matchmaking site.

Since the creation of ‘Half Our Deen’; how has the website progressed?
Currently we have about 1300 active members on our site. The exact number of marriages resulted from the website is unknown since members do not necessarily contact us to inform us that they’re getting married. Approximately 72 people have told us that they have found their other half via ‘Half Our Deen’; it’s always inspiring to hear that the website is fulfilling its purpose. The ‘Half Our Deen’ success stories are more rewarding than any pay check.

What advice would you give to someone who is experiencing difficulty in searching for a spouse?
I would advise them make du’a, pray istikhara and be patient. Often I come across people who try to look for their other half for a few days and say, “Oh forget it, I give up…there is no one for me out there. Please cancel my account”. I understand that it can be quite frustrating but giving up is not going to resolve your problem. Patience is the key. We made ‘Half Our Deen’ inexpensive because we understand that it may take months or even up to a year to find your other half. By having a profile online, if you’re ideal match signs up, at least they can find you. But if you disable your account, how would they know you exist?

What questions do you believe are vital to ask when meeting a potential spouse?
It is best to ask questions that don’t have right or wrong answers. For example, I would ask; “When you get mad, how do you communicate?” These types of questions help you learn more about the person on a deeper level. On ‘Half Our Deen’, members are given the opportunity to be able to filter out people who they would not be compatible with by posting questions on their profile that they want people to answer prior to contacting them. These can be the deal breaker questions such as; “Do you want to have kids?” or “Are you willing to move to the UK?” What’s the point of spending hours communicating with someone just to find out that you guys don’t match? One can easily get emotionally connected and it can be painful each time a possible marriage falls through the cracks so we hope members avoid this problem by providing them with the ability to filter.

What advice would you give to newlyweds regarding the formation of a solid marriage foundation?
The goal with my marriage project was not just to help people find their future spouse but more importantly for them to stay together. I have made a series of videos informing individuals of what to expect when you get married and how to resolve communication issues between you and your spouse.

What is ‘Half Our Deen Offline’ and how can people get involved in this innovative project?
‘HOD Offline’ (http://hodoffline.com) is a project to help Muslims who want to look for other single Muslims in their area. Personally, I do not like how ‘Singles Events’ have been setup by other organisations as they have taken the “speed dating” protocol and tried to make it for Muslims by calling it “halal speed dating”. This doesn’t work. Playing musical chairs with 30 people, and having only three minutes to speak to each person is not a realistic approach when trying to find the person you want to spend the rest of your life with. It’s called speed dating because it’s made for dating. Since Muslims are not allowed to date and are marriage minded, you can’t just copy and paste methods from dating and expect them to work for Muslims. So with ‘HOD Offline’ I wanted to take a completely new approach. Here are some of the differences:
No Missed Connections: Everyone that attends a ‘HOD Offline’ event can also be found on halfourdeen.com. With so many people and just a few hours, you may not always have the opportunity to speak to everyone. Sometimes you may speak to someone but you may not be comfortable asking them questions such as; “Are you divorced?”, or “Do you have a job?’’ and so forth but with ‘Half Our Deen’ you can easily look up that information on the person’s profile. By having all attendees registered online you can find out much more about the person and since halfourdeen.com shows your compatibility percentage you can see how you connect on a deeper level and not just face to face.
Filtering Process: Anyone interested in attending the event will have to fill out a survey on ‘HOD Offline’ which will tell us a little bit more about them and what they’re looking for. If we feel that we have enough candidates for that specific person, then we would invite them to that event. If not, we will hold their information and invite them to a future event. Thus, ‘HOD Offline’ is by invitation only because we don’t want to have members present at the event if we feel that we do not have enough potential matches for them. The idea is to seat similar individuals at the same table (rather than having people spend time with incompatible individuals). Also, the “by invitation only” process helps us balance the men/women ratio.
Unique Activities: I have come up with a list of cool activities, which will hopefully make the event a comfortable experience for all participants insha’Allah.
Privacy: The city, date and time of the event is advertised but the exact location of the event is only sent to those who are invited.
Baba Ali Hosting: I’ll be hosting the event myself insha’Allah so I can keep things light. I hope by having a younger person that many people are familiar with will ease the tension in the room. Plus having a little humour here and there won’t hurt 🙂

Follow Baba Ali on Twitter: http://twitter.com/ummahfilms
Find Ali on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/halfourdeen
Baba Ali’s Website: http://www.halfourdeen.com/

Neelam Atique – March ‘11

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Interview With James Brett Wilks (The Ultimate Fighter : Season 9 Winner)

July 28, 2010 at 3:43 PM (UFC Fighter Interviews) (, , , , , , )

Born and raised in Leicester, England; in 2000 James decided to take the next crucial move in further developing his MMA career by travelling and settling down in Orange Country, California. His first professional fight took place in October 2003; with his big break commencing a little later on the 20th of June 2009 when he beat his opponent DaMarques Johnson by means of Spike TV’s regular series, ‘The Ultimate Fighter’.

How has life changed for you since winning Season 9 of ‘The Ultimate Fighter’?
Winning the show allowed me to open up my own gym, Lightning MMA in Orange County which is great as I really enjoy passing my knowledge onto others.

How did your journey to MMA fighting begin?
My Dad, Gary, got me into Karate at the age of 8. From there I got into Taekwondo, Japanese Jujitsu, Kickboxing, Jeet Kune Do and finally into MMA. It was really just an evolution of seeking out the most realistic Martial Arts out there combined with my competitive nature.

It seems the gym is a fighter’s second home, what motivates you to get up in the morning and stick to such intense routines?
I really like improving both my mind and body. I want to become the best that I can be and the only way to do that is to be consistent.

Behind every fighter is a ring side team and coaches. To what extent do you feel these people aid in moulding a fighter?
These play a huge role. Day to day training, fight strategy and cornering are all big factors in a fight. I think having the right training partners is also key.

What aspect of being a fighter do you least enjoy?
I don’t like long lasting, persistent injuries. Some areas on my body have been hurting for years.

How does it feel to have your own character in the UFC 2010 game?
It is cool but every time I play against my wife, Alicia or her son, Joseph they beat me so I am constantly seeing myself getting knocked out. I am not sure if that is good for me mentally. Just kidding!

How competitive of a person are you?
I am very competitive. I think anyone who fights must be pretty competitive. Why else would they risk getting kicked in the head?

In your opinion, what is the difference between being a great fighter in comparison to being just a good one?
I think it is a combination of things; natural talent, body type, coaches, training partners, training regime, diet and a positive mental attitude.

Who are your favourite MMA fighters?
AJ Matthews, Johnny Cisneros and Mark Vorgeas. These are guys I train with that most people haven’t heard of yet but I know how good they are, they keep improving and I am confident that they have what it takes to be in the big shows.

If you could chose any two fighters regardless of their weight division to fight. Who would you love to see?
Bruce Lee versus Fedor, with groin shots and eye jabs allowed.

As a fighter, what do you feel are your biggest assets?
I think I am well rounded, have a good chin and a strong submission defence.

What advice would you give to aspiring fighters looking to get into the industry?
Find a good gym with pro fighters and be consistent with training. It seems that the people who train consistently beat those with natural talent.

Follow James on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/lightningwilks
James’ Gym Website: http://www.lightningmma.com

Neelam Atique – July ‘10

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Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien

July 19, 2010 at 11:31 PM (Song Of The Day) (, , )

I have a feeling many of you will be searching for this song after seeing Mr.Nolan’s Inception.

Here you go 🙂

Edith Piaf – Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien

Neelam Atique – July ’10

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Your Mind Is The Scene Of The Crime – Inception: Film Review

July 17, 2010 at 10:22 PM (Film Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

My Rating: 5/5
Cert: 12A
Runtime: 148 Minutes

From the man that brought you The Dark Knight, The Prestige and Memento; all of which turned out to be cinematic gifts. Christopher Nolan now rewards us with another fragment of his mind; that is the sci-fi action thriller Inception. Taking him more than eight years to write, this film is the most ambitious and innovative idea Hollywood has presented to film lovers since The Matrix.

Do you really want to train your brain? I suggest leaving your Nintendo at home and purchasing a ticket to see what can only be described as an intellectually stimulating masterpiece. Inception has been the most anticipated film of the year and quite rightly so. Accept the hype everyone, this film does not fall short of entertaining.

The backbone of this visually mesmerising motion picture consists of; Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Ken Watanabe, Marion Cotillard, Dileep Rao and Michael Caine. All of whom do not fail in authentically delivering and converting this dream script into a reality for the viewer.

This movie is parallel to the complexity of a nearly impossible to solve puzzle and yet all the pieces fit perfectly together. The narrative keeps you speculating till the very end and forces you to burgle Nolan’s mind whilst he transports us via a voyage full of twist and turns, emotion and drama. He tells the story of Dom Cobb (DiCaprio), a talented thief who specialises in the priceless extraction of ideas buried deep within the subconscious of the mind which are most exposed whilst a subject is dreaming. However, his ability comes with its own price tag; as we later learn Cobb is a fugitive who has lost everything and anything that was once meaningful to him.

Not to worry though as this outstanding facility presents Cobb with a final opportunity to extend a metaphorical road in his life which is presently trapped at a dead end. He is proposed by Saito (Ken Watanabe) to undertake one last job, inception. Saito desires to outrival his most threatening competitor by performing the reverse of stealing an idea; he wishes Cobb to do the outrageous, plant one. The target? Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy), a young man with an incredibly powerful business empire who in Saito’s opinion ought to be brought to a halt.

The assignment takes Cobb on a mind blowing journey which drowns in numerous successes as well as setbacks and risks for both him and his team. Does Cobb succeed? You will have to find out for yourself. One thing that is accomplished without a doubt is inception of the observer’s mind. You will be left with an idea that infiltrates deep into the cortex, encouraging you to question the sensation of reality.

I know one thing for sure; Nolan has extracted my mind and heart. In which case, what is in actuality the most resilient parasite? Christopher Nolan’s – Inception.

Neelam Atique – July ’10

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Interview With Egypt

September 16, 2009 at 3:17 PM (Music Artist Interviews) (, , , , , , )

Egypt

Egypt

Is Egypt your real name? If not then how did that persona develop?
[Laughs] I wouldn’t call it a persona; I would say that I think it’s about being an artist. When you are an artist and you believe in what you’re doing you need to have that cut off point like Madonna, like Elton John, like Robbie Williams. Everybody has you know a working life and then everyone has a home life if you see what I mean, with your friends and with your family and I think that you need to know the difference and I think that’s healthy.

The males in the funky scene have come together to make a remix (All Stars – Take It Higher) would you consider writing a tune together with Kyla and Meleka?
Definitely, it’s something that I would consider… I think they’re brilliant artists.

I read that you believe you’re destined to bring back old school music to the new. What do you believe was so special about music from back in the day that recent tunes are lacking?
I think its soul, I think the new music that’s been put out now is like a new age type of sound and I feel that it would be truly amazing if I could bring back the old soul which has a lot of passion in it and I feel that I have that in my voice. So hopefully people will feel like its old school soul music.

Coming from a family consisting of musicians and singers, did you ever picture yourself doing anything other than music?
Yes definitely, loads of things. I’m very creative so I design clothes and I have a collection coming out in January, so that’s very good. Yes loads of different things, I always thought I’d be a Lawyer, I had dreams of being a Lawyer [Laughs].

I heard that your musical inspirations come from your own life experiences and friends. Does that make it easier or difficult for you to song write because Im presuming its all quite personal stuff?
I think it’s easier, I think it makes it more passionate too when you can sing about something that’s actually true which is good.

What inspired your track ‘In the Morning’ then?
The inspiration behind ‘In the Morning’ was actually about God. I think the song people interpret it in the way that they wish too which is brilliant. Different people think it’s about their loved ones or their partner or they’re friends and that’s what I like to do. I like to make music that people like first and foremost and then after that you can just take it as you wish but for me it was about God, like in the morning when I wake up and pray and things like that so yes that’s really where it came from.

Would you say you’re quite a religious person then?

I’m a Christian.

I read that you enjoy exercising and keeping in shape, do you think females are more pressured into having a certain image than males in the industry?
No I don’t, I think that if you believe in what you’re doing then it doesn’t matter what you look like, it doesn’t, and it doesn’t. There’s big people, there’s small people, it really doesn’t matter and I think that if you let what other people think of you determine where you’re going to go in life, how far do you expect to get? You have to believe in yourself and if you want to go to the gym, that’s fine too… I like to go to the gym and do all of those things but you don’t have to, it’s not something that you have to do.

So you started a project at the Digital Arts Centre, what was that about and who was it aimed at?
Basically it was aimed at young children and children that wanted to do Music, and they basically gave facilities to children at that time to come use the production suite, use the microphones and they did sessions and stuff like that so that was a good way to get kids off the street. It was brilliant. I was a protégé for that project and they used me to put out a song called ‘You Know’ and it done quite well you know it got quite a lot of press coverage so that was a really good opportunity.

What other projects are you working on at the moment?
Im currently working on an album, Im working with many different producers and singers and artists as well so there’s going to be nice collaborations on there. Its going to be a mixture of music, you’re gonna have some RnB, some Soul, Dance, Pop, so you know it’s gonna be just a nice mixture of music so that everyone can listen to it and not just one set of people. Hopefully it should turn out really really well; I’ve been recording some amazing stuff.

Which sort of artists have you been working with?
Ooooo that’s the secret, have you seen the new War Child video by Young Soul Rebels? It’s called ‘I Got Soul’?
You know what; I actually haven’t checked that out yet…
If you’re like me and haven’t given the track a listen, here’s the link for the official video featuring the UKs biggest talents including Egypt herself, N-Dubz, Bashy, Pixie Lott, Frankmusik, Tinchy Stryder, Chipmunk and many more.

Will any of the artists in the video, be collaborating on your album then?
I am collaborating with some talented Artists; everybody’s coming together and supporting each other which is always good.
For sure, a lot of Funky artists are breaking through right now and getting signed so it could very well be the next big scene.
Exactly! That’s what it’s about; I think this type of music enables people to show their true talent. There are so many people that don’t get given the opportunity to show what they’re good at and this type of scene is bringing out a lot of stars. Majority of them are brilliant performers live, there are a lot of good MCs. I just can’t wait to see what happens it’s gonna be really really good. So, are you coming to UK Funky Live on the 27th of September at Wembley Arena?
I’m not unfortunately; it looks like a great line up though! If anyone’s interested in attending the event then check the official website for more info and tickets: http://www.ukfunkylive.co.uk/

Around what time will the album actually be out?
So the album will be late next year, and Im probably gonna drop two more singles from it and then yeah see how that goes.

Neelam Atique – September ’09

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Interview With Logan Sama

August 24, 2009 at 5:29 PM (Music Artist Interviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Logan Sama

Logan Sama

You currently have your own show on Kiss Radio, how did that come together for you?
Basically I was doing a show on Friday night on Rinse FM; I’ve been doing that for about two and a half years and I put together a free CD which I gave out. It was meant to go in a tape pack but the company never ended up using it so I just pushed it out myself. One of the people on Kiss heard that and really liked the music that was on there and had heard my show on Rinse a couple of times as well and I was asked to come in and record a demo show. Then they asked me to do a couple of cover shows for one of their DJs that had gone away for a couple of weeks and because the response was so good on the cover shows I did, they gave me a slot.

Do you believe there’s still a large audience for grime music?
Well just giving you an idea, in terms of listening figures for Kiss FM, when it comes to specialist radio shows, in the 11pm-1am slot which is when I’m on. There are obviously shows on everyday of the week; I’m only on one day of the week. In that time slot I have the most listened to show out of all the shows in that time slot. On the Kiss FM website, you know people coming and listening to the show on the player during the week, using the listen back feature, I am the fourth most listened to show on the entire station and that includes every show even including the day time shows. My listening figures are constantly over 100,000 people every time they do the radio figures so yeah.

Playing only Grime music, do you think that ever holds you back or limits your opportunities?
Well if I played any old pop music I’d have even more listeners. You can extrapolate that to the tenth degree and you’ll end up with everyone listening to you but yeah I am a DJ because I enjoy Grime music. I am a professional radio presenter because I enjoy Grime music, Kiss gave me a show to do a Grime show, they didn’t give me a show to do a Logan show, and they didn’t give me a show to do a UK Urban show or a British Black music show or anything like that. They got me on to do a Grime show, that’s what I do, no one else on legal radio does that and I think there’s too many DJs out there now that play anything and they don’t really stand for much musically and I think you know what I do is something different and it’s something important.

How do you go about selecting what music to play and what artists to invite onto your show?
Yeah Im on Kiss and Kiss is a very commercial mainstream station and Grime isn’t very commercial mainstream music. So my show is like a bridging point between underground music and a commercial audience. So unless you’re an artist that has done the work already, you’ve already got a fan base, people know who you are its unlikely you’ll be getting played on my show. When I started doing my show I thought it needs to be a tool so people who have come from the Grime scene are able to push on and go into the mainstream so that more names can come through because if you’ve got people like Wiley, Skepta, JME and Ghetto and those type of people who are big names in the Grime scene and they’re just staying very underground and not moving upwards then there’s not gonna be any space for new names to come through. And as you’ve seen Tinchy Stryder is doing really well, Skepta’s starting to be a bit more consistent for himself and Wiley’s had success and these artists are just starting to move through. There’s space being created for new names like P Money. We’re just seeing continuous upward movement; the artists are doing better and making more and more money. I think my show has done what I wanted it to do, which is become a platform for these artists to become more widely known and be more successful.

How important of a role do you believe DJs play in the music industry?
It’s strange these days because the music industry is going through a lot of changes. I think the DJ plays quite an important part but now with YouTube, Facebook, Mix tape and that sort of thing, you can have a tune that’s big and promote yourself. I think though you’ll always need a DJ cus the DJs the guy that gets your tune played on the radio and the clubs. So I think a DJs still important but it’s not like if you’re not getting a DJs support that you have to give up or that sort of thing, you can actually go out now and do your own thing and build yourself up so that the DJs end up supporting you as well.

In your opinion, which artist would you say is representing grime properly and to the fullest?
I can’t really say like only one person is representing Grime properly because there are many different aspects to Grime, so that’s not really something I could answer. Anyone that comes out and is making music and doing well is representing Grime.

Your predictions on who will be the next artist to get signed?
Well Chipmunks just got signed and I think it’s really obvious that he’s gonna get pushed and do well for himself. In terms of underground I think P Moneys got a lot of really good music, he’s making some good songs at the moment and also I wanna see what kind of work these young guys can do like Griminal, Dot Rotten and Ice Kid. When they really put their heads down and actually just start working hard. All three of them are very talented and have a lot of potential but they haven’t got as many releases out as some other people.

Some MCs decide to write about violence and so on in their lyrics. Would you say that’s one major factor why Grime isn’t as big as say Indie or Pop?
Well nope I wouldn’t say it’s one of the biggest factors. Indie or Pop is aimed at a certain demographic. I think its like 1.2% of the population in the country that is black or mixed so I think if you’re making music which is predominantly geared towards you know young black males and 98% of the country is not black then you know it’s not gonna be immediately accessible. Indie music’s made by you know middle class white people and listened to by middle class white people so you know it’s naturally gonna have a bigger volume.

What’s your explanation for why there’s so many more American MCs that are signed compared to the UK?
Hip-Hops been around for 25 years so you know that’s always gonna be an issue. You’re never gonna get as many British developed artists over here cus the music and the scene is so young, over here we’ve had Jungle, Garage, Grime you know then we also had British Hip-Hop, there’s not been a continual history of one thing so it’s broken up. It takes time for people to see results, you know no one was getting signed and now all of a sudden we’ve had four Number 1’s and we’re gonna have a fifth Number 1 from people coming through this scene in one year. Tinchy Stryder’s the biggest selling single’s artist in the country so far 2009. Dizzee Rascals the first black artist to have a Number 1 single on his label I think as well.

Having looked at your track listings the majority of the artists you play are London based, why is that?
The majority of the known artists are London based that’s how it is, you know if you go to any rave in the country they know who Skepta is, if you go to any rave in the country people know who Wiley is, they know who Tinchy is. You know these guys have been doing this thing for like 8 years, they just happen to be the most well known artists. I see London based artists doing bookings up and down across the UK; I don’t see guys from up and down across the UK doing bookings on the same level as that. That’s what it is, personally and I mean I’m on a London station but a lot of people might not even realise I’m not from London. I live in Essex so you know the thing of I’m only supporting London people is air to me. I just play the biggest artists and if everyone’s honest with themselves, the artists that I support on my show are generally the biggest artists. There’s a lot of talent across the country from various different artists and MCs but for whatever different reasons they’re not as well known, they’re not as well organised, as the infrastructure in their area is not there. They’re not putting out music or they’re not getting their music pushed out there as far as they can. Slowly it’s starting to happen because there’s networking going on, I mean you’ll see guys like Shifty and Wrigley working with Wiley. You have guys like Devilman and Vader coming down; it’s all about net working. But then you’ve got other artists that did a bit of networking and for whatever reason, you know life happens and they weren’t able to follow it up. I personally think that Wariko is a very talented MC but I never really heard a great deal out from him in the last two years. As I said before I do a commercial/mainstream show and majority of the known artists are from London you know that’s nothing to do with me or Westwood or anything like that. It’s just how it is; the biggest names are the biggest names.

How do you feel about Westwood playing grime music?
I think it’s brilliant, I think anyone playing Grime music is fucking brilliant. I mean if someone as famous and well known as Westwood gets behind Grime music and gives it a platform on his show, I think that’s great. 1Xtra is lovely and all that stuff but the real important thing for me is that Westwood is playing Grime music on his Radio 1 show and that gets out to loads of people. Radio 1 show has more listeners than mine so Westwood playing Grime is great because firstly when it comes to any type of Rap music in the UK, Tim Westwood is the biggest DJ. Whether that’s rapping on Grime, whether that’s rapping on Hip-Hop, Funky House or whatever. If you’re rapping Westwood is the biggest DJ. If he is really going in and endorsing Grime then that makes Grime look like a big deal and for me that’s a fucking good thing.

Neelam Atique – August ’09

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Interview With Ny

August 21, 2009 at 7:03 PM (Music Artist Interviews) (, , , , , , , , , )

Ny

Ny

How did you get into the music industry?
I started singing probably about 11/12 when I was in play centre, I use write songs, poems and I won a few talent shows singing my own stuff and also Mariah Carey covers. I’d go on pirate radio and get on mix tapes with MCs and Rappers that were in my area. I think the industry properly noticed me when I decided that I was gonna record a mix tape which was ‘Split Endz Volume 1’ and I was the only female at that time and all of a sudden I had a mix tape with people like Wiley, Professor Green, Sway, Pirelli and all these artists. Me and my best friend we literally were selling the CD on Oxford Street in Central London for five pounds. I then had a track called ‘Fire’ which I then took to some of the DJs, they first played my stuff on Logan Sama on Kiss FM and DJ Cameo who was on 1xtra at the time and they really started supporting and it was really from there where I thought okay I need somewhere for my fan base to listen to me so I set up a MySpace and a YouTube and that was kind of how I got into it.

Did you see being one of the few females in such a male dominated scene as a disadvantage or advantage?

Yeah I think it was both I mean the negatives were that you know you had a lot of people saying that this is grime it’s for spitters, you can’t sing on it. You always get that kinda stuff and you get people that are really like purist of any kind of music. They know how to keep it how it is and they don’t want any new stuff coming but at the end of the day the flip side of that was great because there were all these guys and I was the only girl which means automatically I stood out and I bought something new to it which maybe some of the guys couldn’t, so yeah I loved being the only girl.

Some people would say artists such as Wiley and Tinchy have forgotten about grime. What’s your view on Grime artists going on to make ‘commercial’ music?

As an artist you’re constantly evolving and I mean you have to remember that the word ‘Pop’ just means ‘Popular music’ and when music’s commercial all it means that people are buying it. So if commercial means selling out then I think well everyone should do it [Laughs]. I think in regards to people like Tinchy, I think he found a niche and that’s really helped him, and he’s got to number one, twice. With Wiley he’s somebody that jumped in and out of genres but he always represents Grime I mean the newest album has got a lot of Grime on it. Even with myself I’ve done all sorts of different music, I’ve supported people like Donell Jones doing more R&B stuff and then I’ve supported Richie Spice doing more Reggae based.

Is there any other career path you’d like to go down?
I love music with all my heart; I breathe music so I’d always do stuff to do with music. I really love drama and I wouldn’t mind doing a bit of acting and you know just some extra work and just have a bit of fun with it really. I don’t think its something Id go into as a serious career but I wouldn’t rule it out either. Also, on the side I actually teach music.

Who do you teach?
College kids and a lot of young people that haven’t been able to go to college for whatever reason, whether its bullying, crime or just problems at home. They have different courses that they put on in teaching all over really and it’s been really good.

That’s wicked. There are a few people that think music leads to violence, on this occasion though you’re teaching music to keep kids out of trouble. Where do you stand on this subject?

I think music is a form of expression and I mean I’ve just been watching a documentary on Pink and she said she likes singing about controversial things because it became her therapy. Sometimes music’s your therapy, sometimes it’s just your fun, and people need it for different things. It’s the same way people need to drink coffee in the morning you know what I mean. I think that everything and anything in the whole world is an influence. Yeah, to a degree a lot of the most popular music is maybe geared towards negativity because of the media not because of the actual artists because if you actual listen to all different kinds of music, you’ll see that there’s millions of artists that are good, some sing about love, some sing about sex, money, family, so I just think that it’s not that there’s a lot of negative music, but more so its the media because this country loves drama. It’s why we all watch Eastenders you know what I mean. [Laughs] There’s good and bad in everything, from TV, books to video games.

Which artists inspire you?
Growing up I’d say Mariah Carey was like a huge inspiration cus I never really got taught to sing properly and it was really listening to her albums that encouraged me because I thought okay she’s from mixed heritage, she can sing and so that was sort of my role model when I was younger. Also, both my parents were like really big vinyl collectors and played a lot of music growing up. So, I listened to like a lot of old soul and also a lot of reggae as well like Burning Spear, Peter Tosh, Bob Marley so all sorts of singers really but I’d say I love individual songs more than individual artists as a whole.

Okay then what would be your Top 3 favourite songs of all time?
Oh my gosh! That’s really hard, because when you’re happy you’ve got some songs, when you’re sad you’ve got some songs. Erm I love, ‘Beres Hammond – They’re Gonna Talk’ because I think it’s about me. [Laughs] I also love ‘Aaliyah – Missing You’ I think that’s a gorgeous song and I’d say I love ‘Bob Marley – Natural Mystic’

I heard you were selling puppies, are you a really big animal lover?
Ahh like my three loves in the world are music, animals and travelling so I completely love animals. All of them, the only thing Im scared of is wasps but everything else like snakes, spiders, I love all of them. Yeah the puppies, they all went to good homes and I’ve got a dog at the moment called Rain. Im actually going on a Safari in Tanzania in December, Im so excited about that.
Aww you’re so lucky, make sure you take loads of pictures!
Yeah Ill be video recording it, like ‘Oh my god there’s a lion!’ [Laughs] I actually wanted to be a vet when I was younger as well and everyone used to take the mick, like ‘Oh you can be a singing vet, and sing them back to hell.’ [Laughs]

You’re also a committed vegetarian, what led that decision on, was it anything to do with your love for animals?
Yeah, I’ve never eaten meat before, other than fish so technically Im a pescetarian cus otherwise people argue and say Im not a vegetarian. When we were younger my mum just chose not to give us meat cus she just thought that a lot of the meat we get isn’t very clean you know you get like battery farmed chickens and all that stuff so she just kept it really basic and healthy, fruit and veg you know pastas and we eat food from all around the world like we eat couscous and we eat Indian, Mediterranean, African and all kinds of food so we didn’t really miss eating meat at all and even now I’ve got to an age where it was up to me whether I wanted to eat meat or not and I just decided that I don’t want to eat anything that im not prepared to kill.

You’ve performed at many clubs and festivals which environment do you prefer and why?
Well last year I did Glastonbury which was amazing, and really last year was like one whole year of touring. We did some amazing tours we did Belgium, Pukkelpop Festival, also Roskilde in Denmark and then we also went to Canada for one day which was my favourite day of the whole tour, the club was just huge and extravagant and the crowd was completely mental so that was good. I love performing in general thought so it doesn’t really matter where it is.

Where was your favourite performance to date?
Probably Belgium, that was really cool and I’d say Nottingham as well one called ‘Gatecrasher’ and somewhere I’d love to perform cus I haven’t performed there since I was like 14 years old, is ‘The Forum’ in Kentish town, cus Im originally from North West London.

You recently released your single ‘Dangerous.’ What other projects have you been working on?
Like you said ‘Dangerous’ is out, it’s in all good online stores so make sure you get that. I’ve got a new track out called ‘Sea Sick’ which is produced by the great Davinche. Its a really nice song, its about being sick of love and just trying to get out of something but just still holding on and just knowing that you need to let go, so I think a lot of people can relate to that. I just finished working on a track with Saint he’s a new artist so watch out for him and I’ve done a tune with Ghettz.

Listen to a clip of ‘Ny – Sea Sick’ >

For more information on Ny, visit: http://www.myspace.com/nyofficial

Neelam Atique – August ’09

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Interview With Koop

August 20, 2009 at 1:17 PM (Music Artist Interviews) (, , , , , , , )

Koop

Koop

Your names being Oscar and Magnus, how did the name Koop come into the equation?
It’s a common word in Swedish. It stands for co-operation, which is significant for Swedish way of life. We like to do things together, instead of being individualistic.

How did Koop actually form, had you both previously known each other?
Oscar – We are both from Uppsala a bit north of Stockholm. We got to know each other through friends in music. We where drawn to each other in some kind of opposite attract. We both felt we could make something good together. It was about energy. We decided to make a song together using samples but we had no equipment. I had a friend who studied at music school and in their basement they had a small studio with a computer and a sampler. On Friday evenings when the teachers had left for the weekend our friend secretly let us in to the basement. We carefully covered the windows so that no one could see we where there.

Where do your influences come from?
Oscar – Cheap odd and strange vinyl records we find in bargain stores. We like all sorts of different music but I would not call it influences. Koop has been a struggle to be different, and trying to dig our own hole. These days we have forgotten how the unspoken rules, of how our music should be, came there in the first place.

What would you say makes your music so appealing to listeners?
Oscar – The melody, the lyrics and the voice. There is nothing stronger than these 3 things if you want to touch people.

Your image is very unique with the dresses and make up, what was the reasoning behind that?
Oscar – It’s fun. And we don’t like the usual band-poses-trying-to-look-good photos.

I heard that you sample old records to produce your music, why is that?
Oscar – We are only a duo. Instead of hiring an orchestra to perform our songs it’s much easier (and cheaper) to sample something we find in a bargain store. But most of all it’s about control. We like to be alone in the studio and craft as much as possible from our own hands.

Surely it would be much easier and less time consuming to start from scratch and produce original sounds? Would you ever consider doing that, or do you feel the samples are what make you different?
Oscar – Yes, no one has produced what we do using that amount of samples. People usually don’t believe its electronic music because it sounds alive. Sampled music used to be much more monotone, like hip-hop for example.

What’s the process that you both go through when it comes to deciding who to pick to vocal your songs or do you make instrumentals with particular artists in mind?
Oscar – We always make the song first. Then we decide if it’s for a female or a male. Then if it’s for a dark voice or a light voice. We seldom argue about this. When working on a song and lyrics for 6 months it’s very clear what kind of character it’s about.

Your music contains Blues and Jazz elements, some would say those genres of music aren’t as popular today as they use to be. Do you feel it’s our duty to keep the music genres of past generations alive?
I think music history is dissolving. Everything is available on the internet, and 15 year olds listen to 50 years old music not even knowing that it was once called jazz. This is very exciting and will change the rules for pop music. Music should make people come together, and Koop is very proud to have listeners in all ages and social contexts.

How would you describe your music?
It’s classic song writing, but instead of recording we try to build our songs with tiny samples and sounds from all sorts of records. This allows us to travel in time and space. We are also using different singers on each track, and all this makes us able to express different emotions. But the core of our music is the melodies and the lyrics. Everything else is there to support those. Since we pick our samples from mostly old jazz records a shallow description would be to call it jazz, but actually its pop songs made in a computer.

You won a Swedish Grammy Award in 2003, what was that like?
Getting this kind of achievement in our home country was a big honour. The same year we won a prize on the “Alternative Grammy” awards as well. This award was founded to revolt against the big major record companies who run the Grammy awards. So that year we had both the Grammy and the alternative Grammy. This reflects Koop I think. But I would rather have a prize for our latest album “Koop Island” because it’s better than our previous.

Do you feel that Swedish music has a different feel from American or British music?
Swedish music can be so different but if you mean internationally recognized Swedish music, is very often smart, edgy, pop music that upper middleclass educated people like to namedrop for a couple of months. Then they forget.
But I think Swedes are good at writing catchy melodies that are both happy and sad at the same time. And we are good at absorbing different styles from all parts of the world. Just like ABBA.

Your track ‘Koop Island Blues’ was recently used for ‘The Butt’ dance by Emmy Award winning choreographer Mia Michaels for the television programme ‘So You Think You Can Dance.’ What did you think of it?
Oscar – It’s not really reflecting the song. Koop Island Blues is about lost love, and the choreography seemed to be about sexual frustration more than anything else.
But it was a cool, and very well executed.

What projects have you got lined up?
Oscar – We have had only one project for the last 12 years, and that is to write Koop music. We are currently working on album number 4.

Neelam Atique – August ’09

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Interview With Andre Winner (The Ultimate Fighter : Season 9 Finalist)

August 14, 2009 at 9:30 PM (UFC Fighter Interviews) (, , , , , , , )

Andre Winner

Andre Winner

How did you get into MMA fighting?
I’ve always been into Martial Arts, Boxing and things like that but as far as like MMA I started in 2002 I think it was, I went to help a friend out at a self defence class at Leicester Shoot Grappling Club and when I was there I met Dan Hardy and Paul Daley who are now signed to the UFC as well and I saw them and they were fighting and they were doing well. They were the same type of age as me and I got along well with them and I thought to myself if they can do it then so can I.

Do you ever get nervous before fights, if so then how do you deal with the nerves?
I’m a pretty laid back person so I don’t get nervous as most other people do but for certain fights I have been a little bit nervous, erm what I normally try and do is think about it like sparring. I just say to myself that the fight will just be like a hard sparring match, many of the guys I train with are normally bigger guys than myself and they’re at the top of their game so if I can handle those guys then I can easily beat this guy I’m gonna fight. Also, you just gotta think about the rewards you get at the end of it, you gotta think to yourself it’s either him or myself at the end of the day. If someone’s gonna get the rewards then why not me, you know what I mean. I’ve worked hard for it, I got all the skills to do it so I should win this, you know why am I gonna give it to the next person. There’s only one of us in there, I’m not fighting the world, I’m just fighting this one guy and as long as I do what I’ve done in training then I’ll win that fight.

Being a MMA fighter do you watch what you eat carefully?
It all depends how far away I am from a fight, I’ve got a good metabolism naturally anyway so I don’t really get too fat or anything like that but I do eat a bit of junk food, I’ve been known to have a bit of cheese on toast late at night. [Laughs] When it comes to fights though, you have to start to cut down on the carbs and gradually tighten your diet up. I mean the thing is yeah, people think you have to be really strict to cut the weight but you just have to eat at the right times, the right portions and the right foods. You can still have a lot of nice food, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be eating broccoli all day.

What would be your choice for the perfect entrance song to a fight?
I dunno, I don’t really like to stick to one song you know I’m always on the internet downloading new songs, but erm if I had to pick one it has to be something hip hop-ish, it’s got to have a good beat to it, if I had to pick one it’d probably be ‘Pain’ by Tupac.

You tried out for Season 8 of The Ultimate Fighter but did not make it through. How did you go about getting ready for your Season 9 audition?
The thing was for the Season 8 Ultimate Fighter basically someone had said to me why don’t I try out and there was a few days left for it. What I did was I just did a short interview with my bredrin, you know just spoke to the camera so that they could know a little bit about me and I did a rough edit of a few of my fights which didn’t take very long so it wasn’t really a very good representation of myself and I just sent it off and the reply that I got back from the management team was that they weren’t looking for a lot of English fighters whereas for Season 9 what I did was I actually went down for the auditions and did it properly there you know like I went and did the pads in front of them, I met them face to face. I’ve always done the same type of training so there wasn’t a big difference in what I did to get into the show other than just signing up to the audition myself cus I do think that made a big difference. Also, the other main difference was they were looking for UK fighters.
That helps!
[Laughs] Yeah just a little bit.

Do you feel you would’ve been as successful as you were in Season 9, if you had gotten through the first time?
Most definitely, I think I would’ve been just as good then but obviously given the time would help you get a little bit more experience and improve yourself but I’m still the same fighter so I think I would’ve done just as well, I mean there were guys on this show that had been trying out since Season 2 like the guy I fought Santino DeFranco, I fought in the second fight. The second fight in the house is my first fight on the show and he was meant to be on Season 2 but what happened was he had a brain aneurysm and he wasn’t allowed to fight and obviously he had an operation and then he was cleared and so he was able to compete in this season.

The UK team gelled much better than the Americans did, do you think that was a major factor that contributed to the success of the British fighters?
I think by the American’s arguing it didn’t really help them get the best out of each other, I mean I dunno how they trained cus we couldn’t see. All I know is what we did, and I know that we all really wanted each other to win.

In the TUF final you had to fight against Ross Pearson. Was that harder for you as you two had become good friends on the show and were on the same team?
The thing is I knew Ross previously like a year before going onto the show. He’s from near Sunderland and I’m from Leicester and we both trained in Nottingham at the same gym. I mean me and him both had the same idea, cus before we got into the show we said if we had to fight each other in the final, we’d just go out there and do what we had to do and whoever wins, wins. You know somebody’s gotta win the show. You know if you’re in the final with your friend its better that then not to be in the final at all. So, it didn’t really bother either of us, it was just unfortunate from my situation because what a lot of people don’t know is that I was ill leading up to the fight. Like two days before the fight I had food poisoning so I wasn’t able to perform at my best. I’m not tryna take anything away from Ross or anything like that cus he’s a good fighter. I’m not complaining I mean I’ve still gotta contract with the UFC so I’ll be fighting again soon so I’ll be able to do what I need to do to shut people up or you know give people who support me something to cheer about.

How do you go about preparing and training for upcoming fights?
You’d normally that you got a fight around 8 weeks in advance, so you got like 2 months to get ready for your fight so you do all your training like your strength and conditioning, grappling, if you like to wrestle, if your a submission fighter, whether you’re a striker. You know me, I’m an all rounder so I do everything and you know just do your research on the guy you’re fighting as well, you look at his videos for his strengths and weaknesses and you build a game plan for it.

What was it like to be coached by Michael Bisping on the show?
I knew Mike before going into the show, I didn’t know him really well but I had met him a couple of times and we had a mutual friend and so I wasn’t really too nervous going into the show thinking ‘Oh it’s Michael Bisping’, you know I was just like ‘Hey you alright Mike?’ You know we get along well; he’s a really nice guy so it was good being around him.

What was your opinion on Dan Henderson throwing in a second punch when he had already knocked out Michael Bisping?
I think it was just a little bit of frustration, there wasn’t any need for the second punch but it is what it is you know what I mean. I mean Dan Henderson’s an awesome fighter and Mike’s a great fighter also but you know Dan did his thing on the day and unfortunately Mike lost. I don’t even think Mike felt the second punch to be fair but that’s how it goes sometimes.

What would you say to people who think UFC is too violent and not a ‘real’ sport?
I’d say they’re just being a little ignorant to what it is really. I think as far as like combat sport it’s the best sport around I mean I love Boxing, I love Thai Boxing and all the other sports but MMA is a sport which contains all those elements. UFC back in the day was like Karate Vs Boxing or Judo Vs Boxing and so on but now it’s mixed Martial Arts, it’s really come on a long way, you have rounds, gloves, and the thing is they’re all skilled fighters in there. People think it looks a lot worse than it actually is; a lot of people come up to you like ‘Oh you do that cage thing!’ They think the cage makes a difference, but it’s literally just a netted fence. People have this idea that it’s bare knuckles in there and that you can bite but there are a lot of rules to it.

Who is your ultimate MMA fighter?
It’s got to be Anderson Silva or BJ Penn for me.

You must’ve really enjoyed the last UFC event then?
Yeah!! I was shocked! Going into it I thought you know what Forrest Griffin is a tough guy and he’s really gonna make Anderson work but Anderson just absolutely annihilated him, I couldn’t believe what I was watching. My girlfriend was mad at me because I was ringing my brother at like 6oclock in the morning like, ‘Oh my god! Did you see it?’ and I woke her up and she was just like ‘Shut up or I’m gonna throw your phone out the window.’ [Laughs] But I had to you know, to see someone go down like that, I mean he knocked him out with a jab!

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