This week I had the pleasure of interviewing Mike Phirman, a comedy musician. He recently released his record The Very Last Songs I Will Ever Record (Volume One) and I will have a review of this awesome record soon to come. Mike was also a part of the comedy duo Hard ‘n’ Phirm with G4 personality and funny man Chris Hardwick. I had the honor of talking to Mike on Skype and here is a transcript of our interview. Enjoy!
Me: It’s clear by listening to your new album that you have many musical influences. What artists have influenced your work the most?
Mike: I would say music wise definitely Stevie Wonder inspires me the most. If I could be like 70’s and early 80’s Stevie Wonder that’s the best to me especially his funk. The song Street Meat to me is my sound. But then I’ve always liked the Beaches Boys and I’ve always liked things with harmonies because I’ve always found harmonizing to be a lot of fun. Weird Al as well. Definitely my main three are Stevie Wonder, The Beach Boys and Weird Al.
Me: When writing what comes first the joke or the music?
Mike: Actually some of them are marriages of two totally random things. I think the easiest ones the joke comes first because that’s usually from listening to something and saying you know what, that would be funny to put something different in there like the song “Lollytown” which is this concert and Rage Against The Machine cancels and they just put in place this little goof ball band and the crowd goes nuts. That was one of those where nothing really funny in that happens and then the crowd goes bananas for this band that otherwise would probably get murdered. So from that point of view that’s one where the song doesn’t really matter. The ones that tend to be more difficult are the ones that start with an idea and the music like the song “Street Meat” and saying I think it would be a cool idea to do a song about street meat. Me and my wife were walking past a street meat vendor and started singing that hook and then I have to write lyric after lyric for a song about street meat.
Me: Were you always interested in doing comedy music or did you start out as only one over the other?
Mike: Well I guess it’s gone kind of back and forth really I mean I think I started doing comedy music whatever that is when you’re in high school, just doing goofy songs but not with full intent of this is it! It was just fun to do and I’ve always had a four track and I because ya know just hated girls and sex. Then I played in a little cover band for fun and I played bass for my church in high school. So there has always been an interest. I loved just putting on random music and just playing along with it seriously but I don’t think I’d be able to seriously record because I’d get to a point where I think it’s a decent song and then I would have to write a joke or I would shrivel.
Me: How did Hard ‘n’ Phirm come together?
Mike: That was at UCLA and we were both in a comedy club that got together once a week and just hashed out comedy stuff or in my case at that time I was just doing basic guitar comedy and Chris was doing stand up and we hung out for a little while. It turned out he had a great voice and we had half similar sensibilities and we started out doing these terrible acts like dueling Homer Simpsons and stuff like that or something like let’s do a Blind Melon song. At one point there was a contest on campus called Spring Sing so we decided to do a bunch of 80’s songs but in an unplugged style and we ended up winning that and it made us realize hey we got a thing here and it totally worked out because ya know Chris also hated girls and sex.
Me: In the Nerdist Podcast you talk about how you survey a town by how well Spiderman could survive there which gave me a good laugh. Are you a big comic book fan if so what are some of your favorite stories or characters?
Mike: I’m actually not a big comic book guy however I am a big superhero guy but I also tended to be more into movies and soundtracks. So I don’t know why but I’ve never really got into the reading aspect of it which I know I should. I have read some and I’ve been like damn this is great! I’ve always just been more of a superhero guy in movies and in theory. If they ever made a comic about a guy watching superhero movies I’m in! In fact the only thing I got into more than the movies was the games like Spiderman The Game. When we get to a point where we can just plug in and I can be Spiderman or I can be Superman then I probably wouldn’t care about the music, the movie or the comics. At that point I’m just going to go live in that world.
Mike: I would love to but I don’t have a plan to yet. On Tuesday I’m going to be doing a half hour show at the UCB Theater and that’s going to really be the first show aside from the Nerdist Podcast. Some of the stuff is hard to translate from the album on to the stage with one dude there because when I’m in the studio I can just add another track and then add another track and you know what I feel like having twenty dudes singing behind me or twenty girls singing behind me but then live it’s a guy and a guitar but in short I would very much hope yes I would like to do that.
Me: What was your favorite record growing up?
Mike: My favorite record would be the Soundtrack to Superman: The Movie. My favorite song is I Wish by Stevie Wonder. My favorite moment in music is there is a 12 or maybe 15 second turn around in the 1812 Overture that boggles my mind. Then there are things like when I was working on the cover art for the album I listen to the Star Trek 2 Soundtrack nonstop.
Me: I know recently you had a child and congratulations! Do you think being a father will influence your music and comedy?
Mike: Definitely! It already has. Well for one there is a song that is a take on the Wiggles. I like the idea of being family friendly. Of course I say that but then me and Chris have a song called Super Fucking High. I do thou prefer to be funny without cursing and when it comes to him being older I would like to do things that he can enjoy too but with that I don’t want to go the route of Jar Jar Binks. I mean I would still rather have a planet of Wookies than Ewoks even thou they’re cute and kids love them. All thou there are people who are asking me if I’m performing and I tell them no and yes. Not really performing outside these days but constantly performing and playing with my son and he gives me a ton of idea as well.
Me: How did you come up with “Chicken Monkey Duck”?
Mike: That is one of those ones that the idea and the music are two different things. The words, “the lyrics”, are just something I’ve always done as a little freestyle thing when I’m doing busy work I’ll do that in my head for over the last 20 years or so. I don’t know why I guess because of all the “K” sounds for like a little percussive freestyle. Then I had a little song going and I figured what the hell I’m going to lay a track of me freestyling over that and it sounded ok. After recording that I figure I should make a little video for that dropping picture of a duck when it says a duck and it’s nothing revolutionary but what the hell. So I did that and then I was like I should perform this live… Shit! Now I have to memorize the exact order I did on that one random night so that was the only part that was like AWWW Why?! After listening to it a couple of hundred times I finally got it memorized.