Mike Badger – Reformation Man

Tin Planet - Mike Badger

Story and Photographs by Minako Jackson (for Scousehouse.net)

Mike Badger is well known by music enthusiasts as a founder member of The La’s.
After leaving The La’s, he formed the band Onset and is currently concentrating on his solo work as well as a collaboration project with musicians from Nashville. Alongside his own musical career, Mike has been running an indie record label called Viper Label, releasing music of his own and other musicians/bands from Liverpool such as Tramp Attack and Edgar Jones. The label also releases compilation albums of cult classics and hidden masterpieces by Liverpool bands as well as American bands and guitarists from 1920’s to 50’s.
Viper Label: http://www.the-viper-label.co.uk/

But Mike is also well known in the art world, he has exhibited his amazing metal sculptures for many years and runs workshops in schools and galleries.

We visited Mike’s home and studio situated in a lovely suburb of Liverpool.
We had met previously at the private view of “Junk Shop Revoloution” at the Bluecoat Display Centre. This group exhibition features artwork by using recycled material and Mike was there as he was one of the artists in the show and we had a chance to speak with him.

I said to him “I am a big fan of the Space’s ‘Tin Planet’ album cover which you designed. I have a limited edition tin package one but it’s a shame that I left it at my parents’ place in Japan.”

Mike replied “Are you from Japan? I had an interview with a Japanese music magazine recently. Have you heard of “Cookie Scene”? It was a 4 page long interview and the magazine was sent over but I have no idea what it says. Can you translate it for me?”

I did the translation, he was pleased and he invited us to his studio once he had finished his tour.

When you enter the art studio/recording studio, first thing you notice is a collage of “TIN PLANET” installed on the ceiling, it was made with tin, of course. I was very excited to see this and Mike explained to me that when Tommy Scott, the leader of Space came to the studio at the time he was trying to come up with a name for the band’s second album but once he saw it he decided to name the album “Tin Planet”.

Mike produced not only the tin model kit (instead of the plastic model kit) on the album cover but also his tin cars and angel are playing a major role in the single “Avenging Angel” promotion video!
Space ‘Avenging Angel’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NaxipnPS96M

The whole decoration in his studio is a work of art and very exciting. The material for his sculptures is mostly found objects (waste; items picked up on the street or in everyday life). Lucky rubbish and neglected material picked up by Mike will come to life again with his magic hands full of affection and playfulness.

Mike's first ever robot. A broken valve is used for the head.
Mike’s first ever robot. A broken valve is used for the head.
"Yellow Submarine" made of mustard powder tin cases, loaded with the music box of the same song.
“Yellow Submarine” made of mustard powder tin cases, loaded with the music box of the same song.

There’s a bright red double-decker bus, originally a tin of biscuits. When he was making this, he was absorbed in the colours and the patterns, he only realised later that there were pictures of the tourist attractions in London such as Trafalgar Square and Westminster on the roof of the bus. He enjoys finding coincidences as a result from something he picked up instinctively.

In addition to the sculptures, there are countless paintings and drawings, flyers and posters come out from the drawers one after another. Many of his artworks bear the dates and it was as if we were looking at his diary from the 80’s to the present time.

From his self-portraits, sketches of people around him, repeatedly appearing Sci Fi, giraffes, American Indians, Africa to the handmade board game he drew when he was on tour etc, etc.

Mike is often asked if his main occupation is a musician or artist. He does not really recognise himself as just one of them. For him, it is simply a matter of how his creativity takes shape – sometimes it comes out as music and sometimes it becomes art.

He loathes excessive manipulation and his belief to let his flowing sensitivity and creativity come out naturally with the rawest possible energy to produce something that reflects his art work as well as his music and way of life.

It might be an anti-establishment attitude but it must have been a natual course of action that he set up his own record label to give him freedom to create music as he wishes and release what he wants to release without fawning upon the major record companies which would lead to his passion being restricted or distorted. Perhaps he may even feel uncomfortable about the idea of dividing the genre classification between music and art.

In that sense, it seems to me that his studio is a perfect space for him to let his creativity swim across music and art freely.

Mike Badger: http://www.mikebadger.co.uk/

PS: After our visit, Mike sent us an image of his collage piece “Re-cycled Liverpool”!

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Re-cycled Liverpool c. Mike Badger
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