I have to admit when I got the request that he wanted an interview with me specifically I was not only curious but also a bit confused seeing as it is well documented that my genre of mas most written about on the blog is Bikini and Beads, as Mark Lyndersay once said I write mainly about playing mas in a pretty mas band! So, to get a request to interview Brian Mc Farlane, who is the lone crusader amid a sea of feathers and sequins for artistic mas, it was a chance I was not going to pass up as I wanted to hear what he had to say. The problem was that I, however, had no idea where to begin on what I wanted to ask! So, I decided to get questions from you readers and I must say the questions were brilliant and Brian Mc Farlane did enjoy answering them all.
What or Whom is your greatest inspiration and what are your views on originality, what makes someone original?
I would have to say my greatest first and foremost would have to be Carlisle Chang, and I say that because there were many people that came after; there is Wayne Berkley, Peter Minshall, George Bailey. But I think Carlisle because from that age before Minhsall, before Berkley came along I had already felt in my heart and in my soul what the mas was through his eyes, through his vision, through his art, the concept of design and the concept of theater it was already there. Minshall just came along and boosted that in a more graphic, bold way whereas Berkley did it in a very refined and pretty way with all the beading.
When I first started off many people were saying that my work looks a bit like Minshall and Berkley and I would have to say yes, because when I was 18 or 19 I had sent some pieces of watercolour art that I did to Miami Dade College of Design and I was accepted but my parents could not afford to send me so I couldn't go but that did not keep me back, I was involved with Raoul Garib and was applying myself where ever I could. So that my teachers were people that I looked here (Trinidad) for inspiration. Of course technology was not what it was like now then, so I learned from what was around me. George Bailey, Saldenah, Wayne (Berkeley) and Peter (Minshall) were very much alive around me and that is what I absorbed, but I believe now that I have become my own person out of that.
What makes someone original I consider a difficult question, and I say that because I have experiences from my very self where sometimes I think I have done something that is original but after it is done I see elements of it appearing. But my philosophy is none of these things we actually create ourselves, I think that these things are all there floating in the Universe, everything is there already, but it is us reaching to be able to absorb and pull from this and what makes that even more different for me is that my designs do not come in a conscious state on a daily basis. Most of the time it is between 3:00 and 4:30AM and I keep a sketch pad and pencils by my bed , and I feel as if I am in a deep sleep and I am going to wake up but I am not, I am asleep where I start visually seeing things . The first King that I won in North, which was Medusa for Raoul Garib's band, I remember clearly seeing that whole costume, and when I saw that I didn't even know the story yet, but I saw the whole thing on the Savannah stage, the colours, the movement., the face, the brass work and the armor and I sketched that all out , then I went to the mas camp and starting building and it was exactly what I saw from this vision. If I don't do that (sketching) sometimes I will wake up and not have the full visual so I need to put it down on paper, and I try to wake myself up to do it. And strange enough I have spoken to other people , artists in the field and many of them say the same thing , so I think it is an altered state in plane where we are able to reach and grab these things and connect them. So originality, sometimes I feel as if I did something original but I don't know how original it is, the concept may have been there in the Universe that somebody has done before. We like to think that it is original but I don't know if it is all original for each of us.
Would you ever consider doing a portrayal with all natural costume materials seeing as the trend is to "go green"?
Yes definitely and we did that in a big way with Earth. There were no toxic dyes used , we got fabric and dyed it with clays, mud, different colour soils, tea, we recycled newspaper plates, crown corks were used to make jewelry and emblems, crocus and next year part of my band we are recycling again. Every costume has newsprint because the story line is that the band is black and white , our life stories are told constantly in black and white.Our births are printed in the press, our schooling, our education, our socializing, our achievements, our accidents, our marriages and even our obituaries are in the press, everything is printed in black and white in the press so everything, all the costumes have newspaper.
It is so apparent to everyone that extreme thought and effort is put into your one of a kind band launch and your unique costumes, what else are you hoping to give each year to masqueraders that's new.. aside from the costume and experience?
That develops as I move on in my journey, just as the band for 2011 is about Humanity, Circle of Life which deals with from birth to death of man so too am I on my own individual journey and that is an odd question to answer here, now, but it evolves as I evolve. At this point now, to this point I know Humanity next year is going to be my best presentation thus far, and there will probably be better ones to come beyond that as well, but I know thus far this is going to be the most incredible band that I am going to be doing. So I am taking people and raising them to another level each year through my work, which puts more pressure on me because I have to deliver a higher standard each time; it raises the bar. Alot of my inspiration for Carnival 2011 comes from Khalil Gibran and his book The Prophet, but every time I try to make it unique and relate our humanity and existence and I always try to open people's vision to things that are happening around them or things that may have passed or things that are in the future.
How does it feel to see your completed costumes and masqueraders translating your concepts on the streets of Port of Spain on Carnival Monday and Tuesday?
That is a very good question I visualize this band from inception, so you feel you know it all, you feel you have seen it all but I never do until I walk out there on Carnival Tuesday morning, Monday is beautiful too, but the actual day of the costuming, Tuesday and I purposely now go out and meet the band after they have just left and walk from the back to the front. And when I see it, every year it happens; Earth was phenomenal, I cried from when I met them (the band) at Powergen, I cried when I met them,from the end to the beginning . But the goosebumps and the emotions that I have , I am a very spiritual person, I constantly walk with God and in my mind I am saying I praise you God, I thank you God for this gift you have given me. But it is always phenomenal, I never get tired of it, you figure you experience all these emotions one year, it comes back the next year, and it may even be stronger than the year before. I know this year coming it will be Powerful!
Have you ever felt cheated, like your mas and portrayal was totally misunderstood?Not really, no. I mean one or two people and not in recent years, like in The Washing for example, when I first started would have said I am not quite getting it and I tried to explain the whole concept and then they say "oh, I didn't see that". But usually it is well received, well appreciated.
What is the main issue do you have with the Wee Wee trucks? *(I apologise for audio quality and the voice off camera is that of Mc Farlane associate/assitant Maurice Chevalier)