There are many hidden creative gems working amongst the Leeds Art Scene. ‘Artist in the Spotlight’ is TSOTA’s attempt to shine a light on some of them. You may or may not have come across them directly, but here at TSOTA we hope to gather them together and give you their lives in 100 or so words. You can then decide if you want to know more…
This week’s Artist in the Spotlight is: Jack Dean
In a nutshell? A man creating “Campfire tales for the Gameboy Generation”. Jack is a critically acclaimed writer, performer and rap storyteller. Fresh from The Edinburgh Fringe, he brings his show to Leeds.
Likely to be found: Playing Scrabble at home. “I love Scrabble (only if I win though)…I am such a homebody it’s quite embarrassing. But I do try and pick up some vitamin D and get out to parks, libraries, etc during the day. Being a freelance artist obviously doesn’t afford you a lot of expensive nights out, so I do a lot of baking and big country walks.”
Likely not to be found: Waiting in line. “I can’t stand queueing.”
TSOTA: In one of your songs ‘Only Mc’, there are the lyrics ‘scribble my way out of this bland suburban life’. What is it in your life that has led you to what you’re doing now. Did you expect this to be your path when you were younger?
JD: I think the teenager I wrote about in that song never thought I’d ever have a degree / girlfriend / job at all, so he’d be blown away by Modern Jack. But really, what drove me to my current work is the quite simple process of not being good at anything else.
TSOTA: What makes you want to express yourself and what is it that drives you to do what you do?
JD: I’ve always felt compelled to shout at strangers and have been lucky enough to find a medium where that’s considered art and not a public nuisance. I think people will always love to tell each other stories, and I just want to be a part of that as much as I can.
TSOTA: What do you think you express through your work?
JD: Anger, Socialism, whimsy, loneliness, love and video games.
TSOTA: What are your influences in poetry and what do you think of Carol Ann Duffy?
JD: I draw a lot of inspiration from the American slam movement: people like Saul Williams, Anis Mojgani and George Watsky. As for the second part (what a brilliantly weird question), I think she sucks. Real bad. The whole Poet Laureate thing is really a load of patronising nonsense: no job paid in sherry is worth taking seriously.
TSOTA: How do you decide whether you want to create music, a piece of theatre or written poetry from an idea?
JD: Probably logistical things, boring as that is. If I have a gig coming up I will work my ideas into that. Although I don’t personally think a lot of genre boundaries, particularly the arbitrary spoken word / theatre one, since it’s all just words being said out loud.
TSOTA: What made you decide to present some of your poetry in the form of rap music?
JD: Hip hop is my first love and has always been an influence on all my work: even if that’s not directly through writing verses and making beats, it’s using the same creative ethos of taking disparate elements, chopping them up and making something fresh and new. Theatrical sampling, if you will.
TSOTA: Do you think you have any quirks to your character, or is there maybe something about you that people wouldn’t expect?
JD: I’m quite a jealous person, I swear religiously and I beatbox instead of humming.
TSOTA: You’ve already witnessed success and have received awards, but what’s your goal for the future, what more do you want to achieve in your career?
JD: I want to make live poetry sell out Wembley Arena, tour North America and bring about revolution. But a little more money for cheese on toast would be a great start.
Threnody For The Sky Children: watch the trailer…
TSOTA: Wings, growing up, attics, lost things and strange memories combined with Metamorphoses and ‘a hint of zombie apocalypse’ sounds an interesting mix. What’s led you to create this show and what, would you say, makes it a piece of theatre worth seeing?
JD: It’s a show about the mythology of modern man. We don’t literally believe in a giant dung beetle pushing the sun around anymore, but we are no less bound to narratives that build our own understanding. The zombie apocalypse meme that permeates pop culture, for example, is all about our fear of contagion, as well as of being alone. It’s about the bedtime stories we tell ourselves as grown-ups, the triumphal and the anxious ones. It’s also got puppets and romance and dick jokes, so I reckon I’m ticking pretty much every demographic box there is.