WOW Talks had the pleasure of hosting Dougie Hastings for the WOW Talks held at The Wilderness Festival this August. A spoken word poet, writer, performer and man of courage, he shared his thoughts on life, creativity and inspiration.
WOW Talks: What inspires you, and how did you get into poetry?
Dougie: It’s quite a lonely thing to do, but I like mucking about with words and seeing if I can get across a story about what I’m thinking at the time… then hope people like it.
I’ve always liked listening to stories, not so much reading them. I’d listen to music constantly as a kid, particularly musicians like Eminem or Paul Simon who actually put something behind what they’re saying. They obviously still have cheesy moments but it doesn’t matter due to the quality of their story telling. So I wanted to do something like that, but I sing like I’m deaf and the only instrument I play is air guitar, so I chose poetry.
WOW Talks: Who are the writers/poets/performers that get your juices flowing, and why?
Dougie: In terms of favourite performers, I’d have to say the two mentioned previously; Eminem and Paul Simon, as well as other poets like Polarbear, Kate Tempest, Scroobius Pip and then comics like Louis CK, Billy Connolly and Stewart Lee. They all have different ways of telling great stories without being pretentious and keep the audience glued.
WOW Talks: How do you get over any stage fright?
Dougie: I’m such a pansy before I get on stage. Can’t hack it. Total bag of nerves. And rightfully no one cares because I’m an arse the rest of the time. When I did a run at Edinburgh a couple of years ago, I’d be a wee bit ill before most of my solo shows and even now I just think, ‘out of all the career choices I could have made, I’ve gone with getting on a stage and rhyming at people. Why the hell did I choose this?’ The only way I get over it is by getting up there.
WOW Talks: Why spoken word and not just written word, what do you get out of it?
Dougie: The written word just doesn’t grab me as much. I get told it’s a bad thing that I don’t read more but I get bored easily and my mind wanders. I reckon, if I wouldn’t read it, why would anyone else? So I perform it instead.
WOW Talks: If you feel it’s appropriate, I’d like to put a few lines of your poetry in the article.
Dougie: I write my stuff like an essay so I’m not sure where each line stops, but here’s a couple of verses.
“Sometimes I feel like I represent that fall from grace, a kick across the face and a slow crawl to the bottom of the first rung, but I represent a scream with a force that’ll shatter each lung. See I know what its like to let people down; poor choices mean despite my posh voice and my middle class background, right now I can barely afford that bus across town. But I represent back to basics, a simple dream but I face it and chase it. A simple dream of telling a story. Forget fame, forget names, I don’t need critics to adore me. If you don’t like me, ignore me.”
WOW Talks: Where do you perform, what’s the circuit like, and what are your dreams as a spoken word poet?
Dougie: I gig spoken word and stand up across town with Comedy Heat, with whom I also run a stand up night called Vagabonds, as well as Onetaste, Come Rhyme With Me, Rum Punch, etc. The spoken word circuit is pretty small but growing rapidly. It feels like more and more people are getting behind it and trying it out.
There seems to be a concerted effort to get away from the stigma that is often unfortunately associated with poetry nights, where they’re seen as dull and boring. Attitudes are changing and it’s nice.
My main aim is to continue to push spoken word out there and attract a wider audience to it.
WOW Talks: What is your background, did you study poetry/performance and who are your mentors?
Dougie: I went to drama school to study acting and to be honest, it’s still my main passion, and it feeds into my spoken word and stand up.
There are definitely artists who have influenced me but to be honest, I can’t say that I’ve really been mentored by anyone with spoken word. On the stand up side, there’s a chap called Tyrone Atkins who runs Comedy Heat, who’ll claim to have played a mentor role to me when I do a good gig, and have nothing to do with me if it goes wrong. In fact, his mentoring just consists of him telling me I’m not funny, so not sure if that counts…