Tell us a bit about you and what you get up to.
I hail from the East End where my devout Catholic parents still live and are convinced, amongst other things, that the 'Fat Singh' they live next door to is getting foxes to make love in front of the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes they have at the bottom of their garden. My Mum told me at an early age that 'although you can think outside the box, you still have to live in it', a philosophy I promptly plagiarised for my first poem, aged four.
How did Vintage Poison get started and what would you say is the general ethos with it?
Vintage Poison was the idea of Lucy Leagrave - she's pretty much the Chrissie Hynde of VP. Frustrated by a poetry scene which was fast descending into oligarchy, rather than pandering to it, Lucy decided to approach like-minded talented people who shared this frustration. So VP was started with myself, Gareth Lewis, Robert Yates and Toby Davies, who, working with his commitment issues, took affiliate membership, just to be on the safe side of disappointment. Following the French Revolution, we created The Committee of Public Safety comprising of Maximilien Robespierre (myself), Georges Danton (Lawyer Lewis), Jean-Paul Marat (HRH Lucy Leagrave) and Camille Desmoulins (Toby Davies). Robert Yates retired from Vintage Poison to take up his residency in the Bastille as the Marquis de Sade. Our ethos is very much an inclusive one: poetry is for anybody who wants to do it and not the reserve of an anointed few. Which is at odds with what we're seeing in the main.
What would you say makes for a good gig and a bad gig? What have been your best/worst?
A good gig is where everybody enjoys themselves. Only the performers enjoy themselves when it's bad gig and the audience can tell. My best gigs have been the nights I've hosted that have felt like a party. As a performer, the best night out I had was a couple of months ago when I read in South London. It involved a poem being read out about another feature's mistress, then said mistress turning up after the poem and going berserk at reader of poem before she went on to do her feature and drunkenly trying to bring another poet on stage who wasn't billed to read or doing a floorspot. The host was having none of it and brought it all to a halt. I'm not sure if it was this which was the last straw; if not, then it probably was said mistress feature announcing to the audience: "You see those three sitting together over there? [Poet she was mistress to, Poet she tried to get on stage, another feature] I've fucked them all." It was all very Kiki and Herb.
As for bad nights? They're always the ones I go out to thinking that 'maybe it'll be OK, the line up looks reasonable' and they're invariably interminable and seem to last forever and were at some point 'a good idea'.
What could you stand to see more of/less of in poetry?
I'm less interested in the Emperor's next big thing and the self-congratulation that goes with it. I'd like to see more characters, and poetry being as widespread as karaoke.
Your events are usually interactive, be it the poem-swapping at Touch Me I'm Sick or the bingo/karaoke/poetry mix of Bingo Master's Breakout. What do you enjoy most about this format and which is your favourite?
I like both because the poetry scene can be so self-obsessed and incestuous. So I like the poem swapping because it could be anybody in the room who reads your poem; you've no idea about how it's going to be read out or interpreted. A good exercise in how not to be precious. Poetry and Karaoke, it's my cause. The karaoke song you choose may not be your song, but it is your poem.
Who or what is exciting you at the moment?
Brian Clough is exciting me at the moment. He's the kind of Robespierre I'd like to be. Rob Auton is definitely one of the most exciting young bingo callers in London at the moment and I'm also quite looking forward to getting my hair cut soon. I'm also excited about any act that can 'go either way'.
Who have been your own influences, both in poetry and in general?
Everybody and everything influences me. I pick up a lot of phrases from people. For instance, I have work colleague who seems to be an endless source of material: 'We don't charge like a wounded bull for our product'; 'ABC' ('Anything but Chardonnay'); our ex-cricket club Captain commenting on the state of our wicket that 'nobody wants to come and play us, we're like Oldham on the plastic'; my Nan's favourite description of being drunk ('I felt like the world was not my own'). Everything Pop influences me (I like Pop because it's what you make it), as does my Mum, who taught me how to stick two fingers up at the world after extensive training on Margaret Thatcher. Half Man Half Biscuit were influential in showing me how you could create a world of your own, Dusty Springfield is my Saint, Scott Walker that influential cool careers advisor from my secondary school. In regards to traditional poetry influences, Martin Stannard was a very early and abiding influence on how I wanted to write and, like Mickey Rourke at the end of Angel Heart, I must concede, whether I like it or not, that I am heavily aligned with the beats.
What's coming up in the future, in terms of publishing and performing?
Vintage Poison may be organising a one day festival and there may be a Bingo Master's Breakout by the sea. In terms of publishing, I'm editing Toby Davies' first collection, Letters to the Sultan, as well as starting on my own collection (Project Birdworld), now that I have a printer and am becoming adept at MS Publisher.
What do you fear?
Mark Chapman getting parole.
Finally, if you were to go on a real-life Celebrity Euthenasia spree with an arsenal of weaponry, which slebs would you take out first and in what manner?
I guess it should be those counter-revolutionary oligarchs of the poetry scene, who incessantly bleat on about how they may be on BBC3 for 2 mins next Monday at 1:30am, or the types who post links on Facebook saying, "I'm in the London Paper Pg 37", only for you to click on the link to a scanned image of the horoscope for Scorpio circled. I'd gas them with indifference - that, or shut down their Twitter accounts. I'd draw the line at making them sit through a reading of their own poetry.
For more things Reinhardt-shaped, check out Vintage Poison and keep an eye peeled for more Bingo events via Facebook. Scan the horizon too for his upcoming collection, Birdworld, due May 2011.