INTERVIEW: Mike Skinner (The Streets / The D.O.T)

Mike Skinner (from THE STREETS) and Rob Harvey (from THE MUSIC) are the duo that make up a new project called THE D.O.T. Ahead of the Australian release of their debut album ‘And That’, we were extremely lucky to be able to have a chat with Mike.

First of all Mike, can you tell us how you met Rob Harvey and how the idea of THE D.O.T. came about?

Well, I’ve known him for about 12 years because we share the same management and we know a lot of the same people basically. Obviously his thing was ending and I was drawing the line at what I was doing. I was just sort of messing around in a different studio. He came down and we started writing a couple of these really good songs. It was quite natural really.

Taking into consideration that this project is completely different to anything you’ve ever done before, do you feel as though you have surprised yourself in this new direction?

The biggest surprise for me actually is playing the keyboard. I was alright at playing the keyboard before but in the last six months when we’ve had to go out on the road, I’ve had to play it a lot. I’ve also had to play pretty well you know, or at least as good as you have to when you’re playing live. I always wanted to get piano lessons but I’ve never really had the motivation. When you’ve got a gig to do it really focuses you.

Are there any artists you would say have influenced the sound of THE D.O.T?

No, I think we’re both at an age where we’ve been around long enough to see a lot of trends come and go. There is so much music that we’ve listened to. It just comes from a really wide area, you know. I’d say Rob is definitely more into traditional songs and I’m probably more into sounds and production a lot of the time. If there’s an influence, I guess that’s the influence of THE D.O.T.

During the recording process of ‘And That’, you were filmed by Red Bull for a series called ‘The Producers’ which is a behind the scenes look at what goes on in the studio. I noticed that although you were both professional when it came to the music, you and Rob were both joking around with each other regularly. Do you think that this sort of relaxed atmosphere in the studio helped with the recording of the record?

I think the seriousness comes from putting a lot of time into it and spending a lot of time doing it. We’ve done 50 songs or something like that. I think it is really important to keep everything quite light hearted and to make it never feel heavy. You’re trying to create so you need it to come easily. Everything sort of ends up with a joke and it works I think if you approach it like that.

There’s a skit on YouTube called ‘Unholy Monster’ involving you telling off a guy named Bob in an industrial type workplace. Can you please explain what this is all about?

Yeah, that’s a scene from Robocop. A lot of those videos that we did we copied themes from films. Unholy Monster is acting out a theme from Robocop and if you look at the comments you can see some people have noticed. Also, the one before that was a theme from Casablanca. The ‘sometimes it’s hard to be a man’, that’s the opening scene from Casablanca. They’re all themes from films that we’ve copied.

This wasn’t the first time you have been involved with acting was it? In 2010, you also played a cameo in the Doctor Who episode ‘Time Of Angels’. Do you have any plans for more acting in the future?

I go to Cannes every year, the film festival. I’d love to be in a film. I’m well up for that. It’s just a case of the right one coming along really. I think if it happened it would just happen and be quite quick. The Doctor Who thing happened because the guy who directed it is my mate and he has directed quite a few of my music videos. He just called me up one day and asked if I wanted to be in one of the episodes.

That must have been a great experience. What was it like doing that?

Yeah, I mean it’s the biggest TV show in the UK. It’s obviously not Boardwalk Empire or anything but yeah, it was a really interesting experience. They do it out in Wales right in the sticks. You had to drive for miles and they have this big studio out there and that’s where they do it all.

Last year, nine new songs you composed appeared on The Inbetweeners Movie soundtrack. How were you approached to be involved in this and what was it like?

It was great. It’s a really big thing when you do stuff in film. There are so many people involved compared to the music industry where there’s just a few people putting things together. They approached me and asked me to do a few bits. I had my own studio so I could just throw a lot of things around and they ended up using a lot of the stuff that I sent them.

Did you get to meet any of the cast of the movie?

Yeah, well there was a premiere that we went to. There were a lot of practice sessions before they flew out to shoot. I should have gone but I didn’t go to that stuff. I did speak to them at the film premiere.

You’ve recently toured the UK in support of THE D.O.T.’s debut album ‘And That’. Can you give us a description on what the live show consists of?

It’s just me and Rob. I’m playing keyboards and controlling all of the drum machines and Rob is playing guitar and singing. It’s really up close you know. It’s almost like a comedy gig because it’s so close up. It works really well actually. It’s quite different to a lot of people because it’s a bit like a DJ set but crossed with a standup comedy.

What has the response been like for the shows you’ve done so far?

Yeah, it’s been great. A lot of the marketing for the tour didn’t really play on us. It was quite low key and almost secret. We didn’t necessarily want people that were just fans of what we had been doing before because it is so different. We didn’t want to disappoint anyone. We thought we’d try to keep it as small as possible. The people that are really into it, it was those people that came down.

Is there a particular track from the album that you and Rob love performing live? 

Yeah, probably Right Side Of Madness is the best song live. It’s not necessarily the best song on the album but it’s for some reason the best song in the show. It really comes together live.

Do you have any plans to tour Australia in the near future?

Yeah, we’re trying to put that together now. Obviously we’re working on the Australian release. There’s also a lot of other stuff happening in the new year. We’re going to come to Australia!

Words by Tony Kingston

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During the week Tony works in a busy retail corporate office. Once day becomes night, there’s a good chance you’ll see him at a gig or DJing at a house party.