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Mike Duce’s Final Interview PART TWO: “Music Has Always Been My Life”

Ryan Bird
Ryan Bird 9 May 2019 at 14.28

 As we enter the last week of Lower Than Atlantis, we're sharing the final interview with Mike Duce as their frontman.

Mike Duce was always outspoken, honest and real to his core. Fresh from a recent incident when he quite literally caught fire, this is Mike's last ever interview as the frontman of Lower Than Atlantis.

We published part one of this interview a couple of days ago, where Mike discussed the end of Lower Than Atlantis. Check out part one here.

Below is part two of three - pick up the latest issue of Rock Sound for the full final interview with Mike Duce. It's available right now, worldwide from HERE.

How old were you when the idea of music as a job hit you?
“It’s always been that way for as long as I can physically remember. Music has always been my life and there was never anything else as far as I was concerned. Pretty much my earliest memory is of my mum listening to the radio - ‘Message In A Bottle’ by The Police was playing - and in that moment, that was it. After that there was never anything else, it was only music. Then as I got older I got into blink-182, which was an eye-opener because they wrote songs about being shit and not knowing what they’re doing, and I was like, ‘Hang on... I’m shit and don’t know what I’m doing!’ Making music was all I ever wanted to do, so in that respect I wanted it to be my job, but I never expected to make any money from it. I made peace with the fact that I’d probably be broke for the rest of my life with music, but I was broke as fuck growing up anyway, so what was I going to lose?”

Was the guitar the first instrument you ever got?
“Yeah, and I found it in a skip near the Queens Road Music Shop in Watford, so how’s that for a find? Funny story about that, though, is that even though it was free I still managed to get ripped off. It was my birthday not long before I found this thing, so I had maybe £30 or £40 and that was all the money I had in the world. I didn’t know anything about guitars, and this thing only had two strings on it so as far as I was concerned it was fucked. I took it in to this guy called Stan – RIP Stan – and was like, ‘My guitar is broken but I’ve only got £40, can you fix it for me?’ He takes a look at this guitar and goes, ‘Hmmm... yeah I reckon I can fix it for that.’ Next thing I know he takes my £40, lobs a £5 pack of strings on it and sends me on my way, the bastard. It’s like I was saying earlier, bad shit is always happening to me, even back then. Honestly, man, taking all that money from an 11-year- old child... such a tosser.”

Was the radio the only source of music you had, seeing as you never had the money to buy music?
“I actually had a little bit of a scam going. I had a library card - back then you could borrow CDs as well as books - and I used to take them to my mate Chris because he had a PC that had a CD-writer. At the time that was really, really hot shit, basically nobody had CD burners when he had one. So I’d take it over to his house, copy the CD, then scan the album cover in and print it out so that I could make my own bootleg version of it. I’d do that constantly, going back and forth and checking them in and out of the library. I got all sorts that way, but what I really loved were the ‘Now That’s What I Call...’ compilations. I thought those were better than almost any album by just one band, because it was like you were getting the best songs from like 40 different artists. I always loved that variety.”

You were born and raised in Watford, which to most people is simply a commuter town just outside the M25. What’s it like to call home?
“Watford is a weird one, because it’s basically shit but also completely unique and unlike anywhere else. Everybody there plays music for some reason, and there’s a real, punk mentality that seems to come out of all the musicians around there. It’s very much ‘Fuck everyone’ in terms of the attitude that a lot of people there have. I was lucky enough to grow up in Watford when it had a really thriving hardcore scene. You could go to two, maybe three shows a week, every single week without fail. The older I’ve gotten the more I realise how lucky we were back then, because we had this amazing music scene right on our own doorstep, but if you want to go to a gig in London you can get a train that only takes 15 minutes.

"Speaking of London, I had a decent little scam going there as well. I used to bunk the train to London and then walk to the old Astoria and Mean Fiddler venues, and I’d go down the queues asking people if they’d give me £1 so I could get a ticket to the show. I’d usually get at least £100, sometimes closer to £200, and then I’d spend the money on booze and drugs and sit in a park at the end of the road with a bunch of strangers getting fucked up. I was a scraggly little grunger, so I didn’t look out of place outside these gigs. Sometimes people would even buy me a ticket outright because they felt so sorry for me, but even then I’d just sell it to get more booze.”

You were a horrible little bullshitter basically.
“Some people might say I was a bit of a bullshitter, or maybe even a proper c**t, but I always felt I was more of an entrepreneur. To be honest I’m kind of surprised that people didn’t cotton on to me at some point, ’cos I’ve lost count of how many times I pulled that stunt - you’d think people would’ve remembered me at some point and called me out in front of the whole queue.”

Maybe you were too forgettable.
“You say that, but in Watford every fucker seemed to know who I was, even as a teenager. A few months ago I was hanging out with my mate Chris, who I mentioned earlier - he thinks I’m famous now, even though I’m really not - and he was like, ‘It’s weird, because even before you were famous, you were famous’. I guess I was always the drunkest, the loudest, the mouthiest, the most mental... everybody around Watford knew me, even kids from different schools. Not the plebs outside the Astoria, though. They were never arsed, clearly.”

Going back to that first guitar. What did it represent to you? Was it just an instrument or did it represent a tool you could use to go somewhere else?
“I don’t know, really. I used to stand in front of the mirror pretending to play blink-182 songs, and every now and then I’d hit the right note. After about two years of doing that I’d learned how to play an entire album, and that was really as far as it went to start with. I always used to read interviews with people in magazines where they’d say bullshit stuff about how they used their guitar to get out of their hometown, but for me it wasn’t like that. I didn’t really care, to be honest. I was gonna get out anyway because it was a fucking shithole - I didn’t need a guitar to inspire that. I’m glad I’m not in Watford anymore because although I said it was always really punk-orientated, it’s also incredibly booze-orientated as well. Watford High Street is like some sort of weird strip you’d find in Magaluf, filled with dickheads getting fucked up all the time. That’s all anyone ever did when we were younger, just head up there and get wankered constantly. It’s got a lot of homelessness and a lot of alcoholics, and if you stay there long enough you might end up being at least one of those things.”

How has alcohol affected your life over the years?
“Any big problem I’ve ever had in my life can always be traced back to alcohol. Even when I was at my most fucked up, the drugs would never have been there if the booze hadn’t been there first. Some people can have a drink or two and be sensible so I guess it’s my own fault that I’ve abused it over the years, but that’s just how it’s always been. If it’s not one thing it’s another. Even when it comes to food, I’ll go through phases where I sit and do nothing but eat absolute shit, and then two weeks later I’m obsessed with the gym and exercising 24/7. I’m just an extreme person in many ways. If I fall in love I fall hard and become obsessed - nothing is ever in between with me. In a way I’d rather be like that than not, though. Who the fuck cares about being average and forgettable?”

Stay tuned for three - but if you can't wait, pick up a copy of the most recent issue of Rock Sound for the full interview now from SMARTURL.IT/ROCKSOUND252

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