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Mike Barnes

Mike Barnes

Mike gave up music journalism in 1989 after two months of stressful and unpaid toil. A live review of Gaye Bykers On Acid published in the notorious fanzine Lime Lizard, had been altered so much to the negative by the enthusiastically hands-on editor that the group’s manager professed a desire to give the budding writer a "good kicking". In Mike’s first interview feature in the same issue – on The Chills – the editor had inserted abusive comments about the Queen that bordered on treason.

These extreme examples of the vagaries of editorship caused Mike to bow out of this particular area of creative endeavour. Ultimately, though, they stood him in good stead for the future, as he was coaxed out of retirement the following year. A friend suggested he write for the nascent Select and he got the gig, contributing to the magazine from the first issue until its demise in 2000.

Along the way Mike became established as one of the principal writers for The Wire and he has been a regular contributed to MOJO from 1995. Deciding that he needed to broaden his horizons, Mike embarked upon writing a critical biography of Captain Beefheart. Seriously underestimating the difficulties of researching the subject in those pre-internet days, he worked at it on and off from 1996 until late 1998. Dissatisfied with his efforts, he ripped it up and started again, cancelling all engagements and working on it every day, even refusing to cut his hair until it was finished. Ten months later, in September 1999, the mentally shattered author – who now looked like a low-budget Howard Hughes – handed in the manuscript. The book was published in 2000 to considerable critical acclaim.

Predating and paralleling Mike’s career as a writer have been his activities as a drummer, playing all points between straight ahead rock and free improvisation. His first group, The Walking Floors, were heckled by U2 at their debut London gig in 1980, an incident that prompted a lifetime’s antipathy towards Bono and chums. The Floors were marginally less successful, although their recordings have been recently re-released on the Messthetics post-punk series. Although most of his groups have been obscure enough to barely trouble the scorers, Mike’s last three gigs have been at the Victoria Arts Centre, Melbourne, with Towering Inferno; at the Bull & Gate, London, with Damo Suzuki’s Network; and as one of the ten fuzz organists of Pimmel at the Foundry Gallery, Lewes, in January 2009. It’s certainly been interesting.

List of articles in the library by artist

Kevin Ayers: Invisible Jukebox

Interview by Mike Barnes, Wire, The, December 2002

KEVIN AYERS was one of many curious teenagers who gravitated towards Wellington House at Lydden, near Canterbury, in the early '60s. The house was owned ...

Kevin Ayers, Soft Machine, The Wilde Flowers: Kevin Ayers: An Interview

Interview by Mike Barnes, unpublished, Fall 2008

2013 NOTE: The interview was ostensibly for the "Hello/Goodbye" feature in MOJO 184 (March 2009), on Ayers's time in Soft Machine, but was opened out ...

David Bedford: Albion's Astronaut

Interview by Mike Barnes, Wire, The, March 2011

Trained by the European avant garde, British composer David Bedford helped launch Mike Oldfield and Kevin Ayers's pastoral rock into orbit with his cosmically aligned ...

Bonnie Prince Billy, Matt Sweeney: Matt Sweeney & Bonnie "Prince" Billy: Superwolf

Review by Mike Barnes, Wire, The, February 2005

IT'S STILL DIFFICULT for me to listen to the music of Will Oldham – aka Bonnie "Prince" Billy – without thinking back to when I ...

Buck 65: Secret House Against the World

Review by Mike Barnes, Wire, The, August 2005

Though some deplore Buck 65's drift away from Anticon hiphop, Mike Barnes welcomes his blended but more mature songwriting direction. ...

Can, Damo Suzuki: Damo Suzuki: The Accidental Anarchist

Interview by Mike Barnes, Wire, The, July 2004

Damo Suzuki is the legendary vocalist with German group Can, but he has been perfecting his unique mode of 'instant composition' all his life. Having ...

Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band: Trout Mask Replica

Book Excerpt by Mike Barnes, 'Captain Beefheart: The Biography' (Quartet), 1999

"If there has been anything in the history of popular music which could be described as a work of art in a way that people ...

Shirley Collins: Spirit Of Eden: Shirley Collins

Retrospective and Interview by Mike Barnes, Wire, The, May 2002

"The main body of [folk music] is just based on myth and the Bible and plague and famine and all kinds of things like that ...

Brian Eno

Interview by Mike Barnes, MOJO, March 2009

He was Roxy Music's synth-basher and the architect of ambient. Now outside-the-box boffin Brian Eno is working with U2 and Coldplay. "Producing is the best paid form ...

Ron Geesin

Profile and Interview by Mike Barnes, Wire, The, September 2003

"Ron Geesin, composer for all media, live performer and one-man record company, works from his own studio both writing for musicians and working with complex ...

Ron Geesin, Hamilton Yarns: Friends Meeting House, Brighton

Live Review by Mike Barnes, Wire, The, February 2005

THIS RARE live appearance by multi-instrumentalist, composer and poet Ron Geesin — only his second in seven years or so — took place in the ...

Peter Hammill

Retrospective and Interview by Mike Barnes, Wire, The, March 2007

"I DIDN'T HAVE white tunnels, but I did have the feeling that if I got too tired, which at a certain point might have been ...

Bert Jansch: Invisible Jukebox

Interview by Mike Barnes, Wire, The, February 2007

Complete draft of the feature originally published in The Wire 276, Feb 2007 ...

Arthur Lee: Vindicator

Retrospective by Mike Barnes, MOJO, February 2003

"I THINK Jimi Hendrix was the best guitar player all round and one of the best musicians, creators and innovators I ever heard in my ...

Mercury Rev: "Let's try to corral this wild horse, fellas"

Interview by Mike Barnes, Guardian, The, September 2008

After years of chaos and in-fighting, Mercury Rev are back on track. They tell Mike Barnes how they reinvented their music — and themselves ...

Steve Reich: Musicians, Composers and Artists pay tribute

Interview by Mike Barnes, Guardian, The, May 2011

STEVE REICH is a major influence on today's musicians, artists and film-makers. As the Barbican pays tribute, we ask some of them why – and ...

This Heat and Cold Storage: Once upon a time in Brixton

Retrospective by Mike Barnes, Wire, The, August 2005

"A former meat storage room that became This Heat's rehearsal room then an 8-track studio then a 16-track studio then a 24-track studio then a ...

Brian Wilson: Brian Wilson Presents Smile (Nonesuch CD)

Review by Mike Barnes, Wire, The, October 2004

Three and a half decades after it was abandoned, leaving its creator in a state of nervous collapse, Brian Wilson's troubled masterpiece has finally been ...

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