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Real life stories


Keep in good health when you’re young and you can have a long career in music

At the age of 57, Mike has finally proved to his sceptical parents (father a doctor, mother a teacher) that it is possible to have a long and varied career as a musician.

Michael came from a family of versatile amateur musicians. ‘It is a way of life for Irish families. I started off accompanying my father on the maracas, and progressed to the piano, guitar and accordion in no time at all. We played all sorts of repertoire: classical, jazz, Latin American … you name it ...’

His formal music training was short-lived. ‘I had my knuckles rapped by the piano teacher and it put me off – I found another way’. He started working professionally at 16 and left school at 19, to the dismay of his parents who wanted him to study for a ‘proper’ job. ‘Throughout my 20s I was making a living playing guitar and as a DJ, seven nights a week and five lunchtimes at the height of it.’

Mike made his first professional recording at 31, striking lucky with a hit record that sold 40,000 copies. This earned him a contract with a mainstream publisher. His interests evolved into producing rather than composing, and he put his name about as someone who was available – and flexible enough, at a time when computers were just coming in – to ensure that he soon became known as an expert in this field.

Of course, the other thing he had to learn about was copyright – to add to his expanding portfolio of business skills. He worked for EMI and other big companies in the 1980s. He didn’t mind that they were more interested in my organisational skills than in his compositions; it was a great opportunity to learn on the job about synthesisers and sequencers. He was then taken on by Yamaha as a music technologist, studied at IRCAM and worked with the likes of George Martin and Courtney Pine.

‘Obviously there is no template for a career in music. I didn’t have a career plan, except that I wanted to have a happy, creative life.

‘In 1998, it was time to take stock again. I realised I hadn’t played the guitar for years, except at parties. I also realised I didn’t like the sound of drum machines any more. I wanted to go back to my roots with live musicians. I met two great jazz musicians and took up an array of new acoustic instruments: the mandolin, the harp, the banjo and so on’.

Though his musical life and career has had a new lease of life, Mike is paying the price for a lifetime bent over computers, without paying attention to his posture. He had been to BAPAM in 1989 and the doctor recommended Alexander Technique. ‘It didn’t seem much of a priority at the time. Only now do I realise the importance of getting your computer and your desk set up properly, using a headset for telephone work – not to mention eating properly and taking breaks when you’re doing long sessions in the studio.’

Mike is now determined to take proper care of his health so he can keep on playing and evolving as a musician. ‘My advice to anyone starting out now is to keep reinventing yourself so you never get jaded. But look after your posture and your joints, for when you get to my age!’

 

BAPAM clinics and practitioners can provide a whole range of advice on how to look after yourself and ensure longevity as an artist. It’s about food, rest, thinking about the long term as far as your health is concerned, and not getting into a rut as far as your career is concerned.

October 2007

 

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