Harry Baker: “I’m Not Hardcore Nerdy”

Fresh from a summer at the Edinburgh Festival, The Tab talks to the world champion of slam poetry , Bristol maths student and all-round phenomenon Harry Baker.

Fresh from a summer at the Edinburgh Festival, The Tab talks to the world champion of slam poetry , Bristol maths student and all-round phenomenon that is Harry Baker.

The Tab: So how did this all start from you?

Harry Baker: Well I always liked rhyming and wanted to be in a band, but as I couldn’t sing or play guitar that was difficult. About 3 years ago I wrote one poem and went to the Edinburgh Festival with my family; I got up on stage at an open mic, loved it and carried on from there. I love the freedom of being on stage and sense that it’s you and the words. I took a gap year and spent it writing and travelling. I got to go the US which was really cool and I met lots of interesting people from around the world.

TT: It’s really spiralled on from there, how does it feel to be World, European, British and London champion for slam poetry?

HB: I find the whole idea of being a poetry champion a bit weird, as poetry is in a sense subjective; making it a competition seems a bit weird. I guess it is nice to win though and slam poetry incorporates the audience. The World Cup was a fantastic experience as 19 poets from 19 countries took part and meeting international poets was an eye opener.

TT: You have had a totally jam packed summer, including 12 festivals, what were they like?

HB: Performing to new people at all the festivals was better as you got a real sense of winning them over when on stage. There was also a sense of discovery for them as they find something new and want to tell people about it. It was also great as I got free tickets to each festival so didn’t really need to get a job this summer to fund trips like that.

TT: You had a show at the Edinburgh festival this year, how was it compared to your performances there last year?

HB: Well last year I did 8 shows at The Fringe, my first proper shows as such, which were all of my material and that really helped me to polish it more. It was good to go back after the experiences of last year and do a full run. This show had things written just for it and was more rewarding as you have to get the crowd to come to you; it’s totally down to you.

TT: You were featured on Radio 1, how did that affect things?

HB: It was great; the guy raved about and said it was ‘the best thing I’ve ever seen’. Something like that, on a national radio station, does a lot more than just flyering in terms of attracting people but again it is just one person’s opinion .

TT: You also did a Don’t Flop rap battle against Double L, what was that like as an experience?

HB: It was awesome, since the first time I saw 8 Mile I’ve wanted to do something like this. It was totally different to my other shows, I was totally bricking it backstage; shaking and downing bottles of Lucozade. You only get one show so there’s more pressure. The rappers were all so friendly backstage and Double L has a really good attitude. I didn’t want to come in and look down upon the scene but tried not to lose my integrity by being overly offensive, homophobic or sexist.

TT: How do you find doing Maths at uni has affected your poetry?

HB: Well I was originally going to do Medicine, but after my gap year of poetry I switched to Maths. I didn’t want to switch to English because I didn’t want to kill the spoken word side by studying it into the ground. The first proper gig I ever did was a prime number themed night which I wrote ‘59’ for. I’m not hardcore nerdy yet but I like that it brings maths people into poetry and vice versa.

TT: What was the worst gig you’ve ever had to do?

HB: Well I once had to follow a heavy metal band which totally scared off any poetry lovers. It attracted a certain demographic . A drunk guy then unplugged the sound system after which I started to get heckled. In songs when I was being self-deprecating it felt like people were actually laughing at me. Normally it’s a nice community though.

TT: So what’s next for you?

HB: Well the Don’t Flop video has just come onto Youtube and I’m performing at Badock Freshers’ week. Longer term I’d like to do poetry full time, or tour America, or write a play, or a book. At the moment I’m still taking it in, the World Cup still sounds crazy to me. To be doing gigs with your heroes is amazing.