Charlie Thorpe/Varsity

Where do you get your inspiration from?

I would say that most of my inspiration comes from friends, fans, family and all that they can mean to me, really. Especially my friends. I like to write about my friends a lot, because there’s so many wonderful people.

Explain your stage name ’shakes

Ooh, there’s many reasons. One is because I used to appear on stage holding milkshakes and sort of sipping them whilst chucking disses at rappers. Another is one because I get profusely shaky before I go on stage. So it was sort of about owning my demons and getting up to do it anyway.

Shakes says the drunk notes on your phone might prove you're a writerCharlie Thorpe/Varsity

What was your worst performance?

Apart from scary technical hiccups, I don’t think there’s ever been a bad performance. I remember once I was performing where the microphone, amp and PA were all powered by cyclists. I was dissing these rappers... then they would just run out of steam and cut off my mic. I was like, ‘you pedal faster! This diss needs to work!’

So that was pretty rough, but I’d say the biggest challenge comes from what size you’re performing to. I’ve had to perform in youth centres before to a very small group of kids with a lot of emotional, social and behavioural problems. Keeping them engaged and actually making it relevant to them is a lot more challenging than, say, performing to gigs of seven hundred people – which is nerve wracking, just because it’s a large event and there’s a lot of pressure – but it’s very different. Sometimes smaller can be more subtle than big… But I’m happy to perform to any size, really.

What is your advice for writing and performing?

Well, I would usually say that most people are already quite into writing. Jumping up to performing is a whole other thing. But I come across people all the time who claim that they’ve never written anything. I have this one friend, who the other night said, ‘yeah, whenever I get drunk I write these notes on my phone!’ They ranged from like, ‘I need to stop ordering Tinga at Nanna Mexico and get the chicken instead’, which is just hilarious, to: ‘I need to learn to live without a girlfriend’. These notes that they see as just offshoot things are actually quite deep.

Even the way people talk. To one of my friends earlier, I said, ‘how are you?’ and they said, ‘I’m alrighty!’ I thought, ‘what a fabulous piece of word play, already’.  As with performing, there’s a big scene out there. It’s open to people from all backgrounds. You get people from all walks of life doing spoken word.

So I guess just stand up and do it

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