Interview with Michael Dean Odinn Pollock
Viking Hillbilly Musician Poet Michael Dean Odinn Pollock has lived in Iceland for the past 28 years. That's where his Mother is from. He performs solo, with his brother Danny, as The Pollock Brothers, and with Iceland's greatest living poet Megas. Michael is the author of the chapbooks Bohemian in Babylon and The Martial Art of Pagan Diaries, both published in Iceland, and a new book, No Shortcut to Paradise, published in the USA by Wasteland Press. Michael Dean says "the best place to hide is in the open" and true to form he is boyishly wide open about everything, which is part of his charm. He goes on to say "I am a several thousand year old child. This carnation?
A lesbian trapped in a man's body. I am more about emotion, touch, passion, intuition, intimacy rather than cocksman, gunman, rocketman. As an artist, shaman, unholy/holy scribe I naturally gravitate to the feminine aspect and respect it while, all the while keeping my yin firmly placed in my yang!"
Michael Dean began writing poetry at age ten but soon after, when his teacher gave him a copy of Silver Pennies, the same book that inspired Patti Smith, as a young girl, to write, his love affair with poetry took off. He reached another epiphany when he saw a picture of Rimbaud. He was taken in and swept away by Arthur Rimbaud's poetry. Not feeling accepted by his high school peers he attributes Rimbaud's influence for making him feel more at ease with himself. Discovering Rimbaud changed his life forever and he says "Bob Dylan's 'Blonde on Blonde' was inspired by Rimbaud and Baudelaire who were, metaphorically, one person strapped on to Dylan's electric guitar." Michael preferred to listen to poetry rather than read it.
Michael Pollock was born in California on an Air Force base and was influenced musically by his Father's side of the family. They were from Kentucky. Michael heard a lot of hillbilly music, what he calls "the white man's blues," before he heard Elvis. He says "seeing Elvis perform, for the first time, was comparable to having a religious experience" and that impact moved him into the direction of music.
After seeing the film A Hard Day's Night "at least 24 times" John Lennon became Michael's next big influence. Captivated by Lennon's intelligence and cynicism he picked up the guitar and taught himself to play. He says "music and poetry saved my life" and that "I learned lessons the hard way. By going over my limits I learned my limits."
The next turning point was in 1989 when Michael went to study at The Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at The Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado. He studied with Alice Notley, Anne Waldman, Allen Ginsberg, and William S. Burroughs. It was at Naropa that Michael had a sense that the torch was being passed to him. And that it was his obligation to light other torches as well. He believes "artists should inspire each other, and others, to create." He was inspired by Burroughs who commented to him "no such thing as a genius, but some people open themselves up to genius."
In 1998 Michael met Ron Whitehead at The Allen Ginsberg Central Park New York City Tribute. Like two long lost brothers finding each other, even sharing the same birthday, they became steadfast friends. They've been working together ever since. They recently collaborated on their first CD, From Iceland to Kentucky and Beyond." Whitehead says "Icelandic poet and musician Michael Pollock's electric words and songs leap off the stage of the page and kick start the heart of the listener. He is passionate compassionate punk saint of the global literary renaissance."
Michael Dean played with and recorded with Utangardsmenn, Outsiders, for 18 months but soon decided he was not interested in the Rock n Roll business. This in spite of the fact that Utangardsmenn, Outsiders, were recently named "Best Icelandic Rock Band of The 20th Century." Michael chose the bands name from British writer Colin Wilson's book The Outsiders.
But he had enough. He continues to write and play music on his own, with The Pollock Brothers, Megas, and to preserve the oral traditions of Kentucky and Iceland. He sees himself as a creative warrior and has a benevolent need to infiltrate the soulless airwaves with soul. He ends our interview by saying "everything is a gift, one breath, one step at a time."
by Michael Dean Odinn Pollock
Out on the desert
I been here for days
I've lost my compass
I'm in a daze
I feel like I'm in
the twilight Zone
can't even remember
if i have a Home
Have I lost my senses.......out Here?
Can I trust my senses.......out Here?
Only the strong survive
when the river runs dry
I dig in the sand
bone in hand
I see an ocean
on the Horizon
Is it me
or just a mirage?
Have i lost my senses.......out Here?
Can i trust my senses.......out Here?
YouTube Video @ LIPS 2001 Afterparty
Interview with M. Pollock
A punk rock guitarist grows up
Grapevine Magazine, June 2004 www.grapevine.is
The week after another great American punk guitarist, journeyman and soloist, Robert Quine, dies of heroin, I am told that Iceland’s great punk guitarist is in town. Michael Pollock’s vague reputation as… as a man who’s done a lot of drugs preceded him. In fact, Icelanders warned me that he may not be able to form coherent sentences.
They would have been surprised that I found Michael Pollock, guitarist for Utangarðsmenn and returning solo artist, at the city library. We talked briefly and agreed to conduct an interview at the Dubliner over a beer. One beer.
Punk rock pro´s don´t drink
“It’s great to speak in English. Icelandic really isn’t my native tongue,” Pollock tells me as soon as I sit down.
He doesn’t have the Ozzy Osbourne stutter I was expecting. He doesn’t smell of booze, or lack attention span. He is clean cut to a degree only a fifty year old man can get away with - hair impossibly short and gelled at the same time. He speaks English with a slight suburban California grate to his accent.
I can’t help myself. I ask him how comfortable he is with the bar, with an afternoon beer. You expect a fifty year old punk rocker to drink a lot or be 12-step.
“I drink a glass of wine a day. My profession doesn’t allow heavy drinking.”
But a good punk rocker has to have a history, right? I haven’t even heard stories about this man, people just shake their heads. I ask him how he got his reputation.
“One of Icelander’s favorite hobbies is gossiping. If they can’t find anything, they’ll make it up.”
He gives a brief laugh. “I did go out when I was younger. But you grow up.”
Pollock stands to take a break from the interview. He goes to the bar, orders a pack of cigarettes and asks to borrow the 700 krónur from me.
The greatest troubadour in Iceland
Pollock has a tendency to launch into exhaustive speeches instead of straightforward responses. He does not throw up at the table, shout obscenities, disappear to the john and return with dilated pupils. He is the great anomaly, a punk rock guitarist who has grown up.
We talk briefly about Megas, “the greatest troubadour in Iceland,” Pollock states. Pollock hopes to introduce Megas’ works to the rest of the world in English translations.
Then we get to the duty of the interview, to talk about his new CD's.
“I always enjoyed just being an accompanist, never a solo artist. But last year I was turning fifty. A friend started pushing me… and I decided to make a CD that touched base with every kind of music that has influenced me as I’ve gone through life.”
He goes on. Not to describe chords or influences, but to describe life in the way healthy fifty year old men tend to do in Irish pubs. “There are only two kinds of music: good and bad,” he states. I nod.
“Good music is honest as it is straight from the heart, passionate.”
Fifteen minutes later he’s still talking about honest music. He by now has mentioned that art “got divorced from the tribal community.”
He looks down at my notebook over his cigarette to make sure I jot this down correctly.
“Anybody can be clever.”
Another speech follows about great music and the Garden of Eden. More about being real and being honest. An attack on the publishing industry. An attack on the music industry. A slight to Britney Spears.
“Nothing is to be taken for granted. I could go in a minute. Heart attack on the table,” he says.
No, that is not possible. Michael Pollock won’t be going in a minute. He has been speaking for an hour, and he is every bit as full of energy as he was the second I came in. He could go on for hours.
He gives his manifesto: “Too many writers are too clever. Anybody can be clever, very few people dare to be real.”
Whatever complaints might be made against Pollock, he lives by this credo. Every word he speaks he believes. In his music and in his live performances, unguarded honesty can make up for a lot.