Way back in June Burning Eye had the pleasure of releasing the brand new, jam-packed, crying-laughing-from-beginning-to-end collection from Elvis McGonagall. After some months of tracking, hunting and finally capturing him for a brief chat, Elvis finally replied to our emails and sent us some answers we’ve been waiting for!
Hi Elvis! Firstly, I have to ask, are the rumours true? Are you really the son of Elvis Presley and Minvera McGonagall (of Harry Potter fame)?
These rumours are a bit post-truth. The facts are: On the 3rd of March 1960, Elvis Presley spent two hours at Prestwick Airport, Scotland en route home from national service in Germany. Big Agnes McGonagall, a starstruck baggage handler, was left with the memory of a lifetime. Nine months later, on 22nd December, 1960, Elvis McGonagall was born on Carousel B in the North Terminal. Coincidence? Not according to Big Aggie. Stuffing wee Elvis into a duffle bag, she set off in hot pursuit of Mr Presley and her American Dream. The rest is histrionics.
Is it also true that you are the grumpiest barman?
It’s true that on occasion my naturally sunny disposition has been tested by the behaviour of certain customers who expect a pub to be a gastro-creche. However, I am only the second grumpiest barman around. I can’t reveal the grumpiest.
Now that that’s cleared up. You’ve got a lot of radio experience under your belt, in terms of your poetry related work is there a big outreach? Do you get a lot of responses from listeners?
The occasional email or text finds its way to the Graceland Caravan Park. However, I’m not troubled by autograph hunters or requests to appear on “Celebrity Bake-Off”.
Any upcoming radio plans?
I live in hope. We’ve pitched for a third series of the sitcom “Elvis McGonagall Takes A Look On The Bright Side”. There is currently a deafening silence from the hallowed portals of BBC Radio 4.
As a stand up poet, you’ve performed at a variety of different events. How is performing poetry different to stand up comedy? Do you have different ways to prepare?
I don’t really prepare any differently – it’s never productive trying to second guess an audience. Poetry gigs tend to be less of a bearpit than comedy ones – you’re not constrained by the tyranny of provoking laughter every minute and if tumbleweed is drifting through the auditorium you can tell yourself the audience are just concentrating or sitting in stunned silence, moved by the incredible profundity of your words. Ha, ha. There’s generally more scope in a poetry gig to switch tone and throw in entirely serious material.
Slam poetry was a big part of your early poetry career. I had a conversation recently with someone about how slams can be intimidating for first timers, especially on the judging aspect, what’s your opinion on slams now? Do you think there are ways to improve their accessibility?
You could argue that slams are sometimes too accessible and that certain types of poems tend to win them but if they’re hosted properly then they should be inclusive and an entertaining evening. There’s probably no way round nerves/feeling a bit intimidated for first time performers but the secret is not to take it all too seriously – particularly the scoring. Just get up there and enjoy having an audience listen to your words.
What are your plans now that the book is out? Will you be touring?
Plans are to try and blag a few gigs (touring implies a sense of organisation and planning that sadly seem absent at the Graceland Caravan Park) and flog some books at said gigs eventually retiring to an exclusive Caribbean island to drink endless rum cocktails on the inevitable profits.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Despite its mystifying absence from the broadsheets’ annual lists of essential summer beach reads I would urge the legions of fine folk reading this to buy a copy of “Viva Loch Lomond!”. I need to buy food for two geriatric cats.