Once an anonymous figure, Man Power is the production alias of Geoff Kirkwood. Originally from the North East of England, Kirkwood now spends his time fluttering between Mexico and Berlin, running a label called Me Me Me Records and touring his eclectic style. Previously released on Optimo Trax, Hivern Discs, STAMP and Correspondant, Man Power’s latest release sees him debut on DGTL Records with ‘Apologue’ EP. We caught up with Man Power to discuss the reasoning for releasing anonymously at the beginning, his nomadic lifestyle and how his relationship with DGTL Records begun.
Hey Geoff, thanks for taking the time speak to us. You originally decided to release under Man Power anonymously, creating speculation that you might have been John Talabot, Michael Mayer or Tim Sweeney. Why did you decide to produce elusively and in turn then reveal your identity around the release of your debut album
I was at uni at the time, studying to be a school teacher and I’d been reading a lot about reader response theory so I wanted to make a project that played with peoples perceptions of personality, and to do so meant I would have to remove mine from being attached. So, I needed a new name for the new music I was doing and I’ve always been a grafter (a term for ‘hard worker’ in my beloved North East of England) so manpower came to mind. It fitted quite nicely originally as I’ve always been a fan of Patrick Cowley’s Menergy stuff and my early stuff had that arp baseline vibe, so it’s a nod to that too.
You’ve become a sort of nomad over the years, moving from the UK to Berlin and now Mexico. What do you enjoy the most about living in different countries and what inspired the move to Mexico?
I moved to Mexico because I fell in love and eventually got married. That means I can’t move to a new city as easily now (I’m also a stepfather), but in general, I think that moving from place to place is one of the best things a person can do.
There’s an interview with Alejandro Jodorowsky that I love, where he explains that he believes that people in your hometown (or any place where you’ve become familiar) eventually create a box for you with the perceptions of who you are as a person, and eventually you just grow to fit that box completely, but no further, and you won’t push yourself past the way you’re already perceived. Moving to see new places and new people takes you out of that box and allows you to see how much further you can stretch yourself as a person.
Berlin and Mexico are quite different. How did you find the transition from the industrial city life of Berlin to what I would imagine the exotic, warm environment of Mexico?
By the time I moved here I was moving around regularly, so my home was, and is still, just my living space. When I step out the door it’s in Mexico when I’m home, but in any given week I can be stepping out to the arctic cold of Finland, the cosmopolitan sprawl of New York, some kind of alpine festival town, or anywhere else you can think of that listens to electronic music (which is basically anywhere now). Constant travel means I don’t really feel a transition. It does mean when I’m home I don’t really want to leave the house, but I try to bring my family to new places as often as I can too, so they get the best of me, rather than just some tired shell sitting on his computer all day when he’s home.
What’s the nightlife scene like in Mexico? Where are your favourite places to party?
Mexico is huge, so that’s quite an expansive question, but like everywhere in the world, the effect of the internet means that the offering in the major cities here is pretty identical to other major cities. The crowds are perhaps a little bit more expressive here I think (which is a real pleasure when you’re playing), and perhaps there’s a little less of a sense of agency regarding the music here. In Europe sometimes you feel like you’re playing to a crowd full of judgemental experts (which I’m totally into), but here you sometimes have the freedom to say whatever you want musically, without considering the context that the audience will place on your selections (which I also love).
Moving onto your EP ‘Apologue’ is filled with very eclectic sounds from house, Balearic pop to EBM influences. Would you say it’s a true reflection of the music you are currently into?
I think once you get past a technical hurdle, (which is reducing more and more with modern technology) making music is merely just a set of choices, and the choices you make can’t help but be defined by your own tastes, so in that sense, everything I make is completely a reflection of where my tastes are. I can’t make music I don’t enjoy, so it’s impossible for me to make something to satisfy different tastes to mine, as I wouldn’t know the right choices to make to get there.
What’s the story behind the EP?
Given what I said above, I think the story behind most of my music is basically just the story of where I am at the time when I make it (both physically and Mentally). 2 of the tracks on the EP were made at home during a brief break last May. I think there’s a sense of optimism tinged with sadness in both, which kind of fits with me being happy about being with my family, tempered with me knowing I was touring for the summer very soon. Put Your Hands on the Car was actually written entirely on a flight from Mexico City to London. I’m not sure what that says about it.
‘Apologue’ is being released on DGTL festival’s label, how did that relationship occur?
I think we’d just been admiring each other for a while, and doing a bit of musical flirting. It resulted in a date at their Festival in Barcelona last year, and now we seem to be going steady with this EP and my appearance for them in Amsterdam in a couple of months.
Were there any challenges along the way of producing this EP? Would you say you learned anything new whilst making it?
Making music for me is nothing but a series of challenges. Past describing it as a series of choices, it’s also a sequence of problem-solving exercises.
How important is DJing and producing to you as a form of self-expression?
DJing is such a post-modern concept innit? Could you imagine an author being praised for how many books he owned by other people, and how well he read them out loud? I read the other day that I’m a “xenial” (between gen x and millennial). I don’t really subscribe to these things, but the idea that I’m from a micro group that was grown before technology went crazy, but can still use it, rings somewhat true and applies to the DJing thing too. I come from a time of playing and collecting music physically, so that element of being a “DJ” is one that has an intrinsic value beyond success in performing in front of other people and I’d do it even if it wasn’t how I paid the bills. However I still have adopted it as a form of mass communication for me, and it’s something that now feels wrapped up in who I am, so I don’t have any problem in admitting that I get the same kind of performance buzz as I did when I used to be in bands or act on stage in my youth, It’s not something I could give up overnight, as it really has a (probably unhealthy) grasp on my feelings of self-worth as a creative person.
What’s your way favourite way to wind down and relax after a busy day in the studio or perhaps just returned home from an intense string of tour dates?
Name 5 tracks you love that people wouldn’t expect you to listen to?
Michael Sembello – Maniac
Soy Luna – Eres (it’s from a Latin American Disney series, and my Stepdaughter has this embedded in my skull now)
Ray Charles – I Can’t Stop Loving You.
Total feat Notorious BIG – Can’ You See
Anything by Sting
Buy ‘Apologue’ EP by Man Power here