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The High Priest : Chapter and Perverse (part 1 of 3)

Paul Hawkins - at last - comes home to outsideleft with a book length, feature film length interview with the high priest of the alternative comedy circuit, The High Priest

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by Paul Hawkins, for outsideleft.com
originally published: September, 2011
Personally I do think politics and pornography are perfect bedfellows. They are both, in their own way grotesque and vile as they are interesting and beautiful.
by Paul Hawkins, for outsideleft.com
originally published: September, 2011
Personally I do think politics and pornography are perfect bedfellows. They are both, in their own way grotesque and vile as they are interesting and beautiful.

The High Priest Kai Motta has just released his new album Chapter and Perverse and there is no better time like here and now to listen in to his confrontational, conflicting and provocative mesh of comedy that gets right to the G spot of what is going on in this world. Politics, consumerism, personal responsibility, pornography, war, immigration, media bullshit, racism and religion all feature heavily. How can a line like invade your labia like it was Libya (from A Little Something for the Ladies on Chapter and Perverse) not make you curious or pull you in? Nowadays taking his cue`s from Bill Hicks and Noam Chomsky, Kai has been releasing albums since 2001 and Chapter and Perverse is his latest stripped down stand-up. Following the comedy frequencies that he is tuning into far more now, The High Priest wants to touch you deep inside with this thought bomb of an album. It made me laugh and think hard. I hear some very serious issues being raised. It's taking me out of my comfort zone and it's engaging, defying and certainly confrontational; stamping from a very great height on taboos and pushing boundaries. That is healthy. Describing it as tongue in cheek wouldn't even hit the spot.

The bastard son of Bob Dylan, Bill Hicks and Eminem Mojo Magazine 

This man knows no fear Steve Lamacq BBC Radio

It's the message that matters. Using comedy as a vehicle for bringing the current world order under the microscope, Chapter and Perverse is his most accessible album yet. It is challenging and very very funny, but more than anything his open, brutally honest and scathing critique of society by all means necessary spiels a sermon into the head that blows open the deceit and lies of the current state of world corporatist, political and cultural play. 

I had the opportunity to chat with The High Priest Kai Motta about Chapter and Perverse, his past, the present and the future.

Kai how was your last gig?
I played this song from my first album that uses Martin Niemoller`s poem;

First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out - because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the communists
and I did not speak out - because I was not a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out - because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me -
and by then there was no one left to speak out for me.

By the German anti-Nazi activist Pastor Martin Niemoller. 

I read it in a Book. It was perfect for a chorus. I just went simply Here's one for all you fascists in the crowd, obviously the fascists got the hump and they didn't realise I was being satirical.

That poem does set the tone. Does that kind of thing happen a lot?
Constantly. All the time. I'm banned from one in two clubs that I play.

I can tell you are very uncompromising.
It's a lot to do with language, not so much to do with the political content, its more to do with the swearing I think and the vile pornographic imagery. Personally I do think politics and pornography are perfect bedfellows. They are both, in their own way grotesque and vile as they are interesting and beautiful. The joke I've been doing lately is;

Have you ever noticed now when politicians are trying to be convincing about their love for the public it's like watching a blonde skank in a porn film taking it up the arse and pretending that she loves it, you know this woman really loves it. Vote for me next year, we wont be charging for University fee's, my name is Nick Clegg

When I was listening to Chapter and Perverse I found the way you use pornography challenging and it made me think about why that was. It's important to me to be challenged.
I like the shock of it. I like to shock people. I've been playing clubs, music clubs and comedy clubs for years. I'm a big fan of this guy called Doug Stanhope, have you heard of him?

Only very recently. 
I saw him the other night, he did a lot of very good political jokes, but the minute he said, you know, and then a woman stuck two cocks in her mouth the crowd went whhaaaay, and you kind of understood the level possibly of his audience. I find by having quite a few political points and chunks of porn at the same time you grab `em and then you sink something in, you grab `em and then you sink something in. Some people say it gets in the way, but I disagree, I don't think they'd listen to someone just ranting relentlessly about politics and social issues without a bit of porn. It's like a sweetener.

A sort of Trojan horse? I like the idea. 
To be honest I've held back on Chapter and Perverse. There's much more on my other albums. I wanted more comedy and more social issues on this one. I'm already halfway through writing the next one and it's full of social issues, I don't know how any songwriter or comedian can't come up with new material. Every day I try to post a joke-esque statement on facebook and for a lot of the new album I just downloaded my statements from the past year from facebook and put them all through the songs. Why not use them, you know?

Yeah, why not.
And also I don't see that many other people doing it on such an intense level. 

So Kai, how did it all start for you? I know you released a solo album a good few years ago, but when did the comedy start?
The comedy came at a later stage. I began playing, well I was sort of rapping in my late teens and doing hip hop in a band that became Morcheeba. They went off to do Morcheeba. Then I was kind of sat around on my own. I was just living in a small town called Hythe in Kent, in my late teens, quite bored with going down the pub and I was a baker at the time. I walked out of that job and decided to educate myself. I got a guitar and I got into Bob Dylan. I went through my parent's records and just studied him back to front. I was obsessed with him.

That's a massive body of work. 
I didn't learn them all back to front, I just listened to everything, listened to every word. I had a book that had all his songs from 1964 to 1989 or something and I could get anyone to open the book anywhere and I could tell them what verse, what song, what album it was from. He is without a shadow of a doubt one of the greatest songwriters of our generation, of the last century. I learn t the guitar and read everything I could physically get my hands on from Henry Miller to Kerouac, Chomsky to Bukowski, Orwell, you know, all the things you should read basically. I started to delve into stuff that was a bit more obscure. And I just thought fuck it and one day I jumped on a train and traveled up to London to play. I moved up there and met this guy who introduced me to the Head of A & R at Warner Brothers, who introduced me to a manager. I was just a bit of a Dylan clone if I'm perfectly honest and then I started digging back into my rap history and started playing the guitar but rapping over the top.

Ok.....
That was quite new at the time. I put a band together and we suddenly got this manager, Stevo Pearce, who managed Soft Cell and various other huge bands. We went through the whole fucking nightmare music industry thing trying to get a record deal. We got reviewed by every major music media outlet. I think I was quite non-compromising and I didn't help any situation at all because I knew just what I wanted to do. Eventually he put the album Picture This out himself on Some Bizarre in 2001 which wasn't such a bad thing because that label has got such a credible history.

Yeah, it has; bands like The The, Soft Cell, Cabaret Voltaire, Test Department, Einstürzende Neubauten….
It's like a good bedrock for what I do now. It got released through Pinnacle and it did really well. Stevo had other artists and you know, I just thought I'll go on my own. I went through a series of 6 or 7 other managers, agents and stuff. Eventually I just went back to playing on my own for a while and I thought how am I going to differentiate myself from everyone else? Looking at all my influences, I saw that Lenny Bruce used to dress as a priest years ages ago. He got busted for it! And I though fuck it, I preach on stage, why not just take the piss a bit and it won't be so harsh. So I started dressing up as a priest. I went and bought a shirt from Westminster Cathedral and I started doing it. 

Is that when the idea for comedy started?
At that time I was really into Bill Hicks. While I was onstage I started talking to the crowd and it just changed the whole dynamic from going to clubs where hundreds of musicians just get on stage and say I wrote this on the train on the way here and it's just another Dylan-esque nightmare boring song and they're wearing jeans and a t-shirt. The minute I started doing that, which was a good 6 or 7 years ago at least, things just changed. I'd walk into a club and I'd got the crowd before I'd even stepped on the stage. 

Ok, so that's the journey to the High Priest persona and the beginnings of your comedy act you have today? 
Yeah. I had kids about 5 years ago so I took a much needed break from pretty much everything. I spent a couple of years bringing up kids and I became a web designer to make a living. In the last couple of years we moved back to Kent from London as I didn't want my kids growing up in London, which is where I grew up.

How did you find living back there?
It's a shithole. I was up there Friday and after an hour I was ready to riot, you know? I'd just had enough. So I've started doing loads of gigs over the last couple of years. I've got reams and reams of comedy and I've been doing it quite heavily live. A week ago I played this bar in Hastings, it was an hour show. I did about 8 songs and loads of comedy ranging from things like; 

If you're a Christian you should be sinning everyday because Jesus died on the cross for your sins, because if I was nailed to the cross I'd want to see 6 year old's spitting out abortions on the corner, there is a logical point of being nailed to a cross, you know? I ain't going to get nailed to a cross because you looked at your neighbors' wife, I want to get on the cross because of the genocide on the corner of my street, make it worth my while. 

What else do you include in your act?
Things like abortion, pedophilia, terrorism, all that nice easy-listening stuff. All those comedy chestnuts. I don't see the point of getting onstage without being fully confrontational. All my heroes are all confrontational. 

And who would they be? You mentioned Lenny Bruce and Bill Hicks.
People like Woody Allen, who I think is extremely confrontational in his own way. In literary circles Henry Miller and Charles Bukowski to Bill Hicks, Doug Stanhope, Lenny Bruce and Richard Pryor. I think confrontation is the only way to do things. I'm not totalitarian with it, I'm not saying all other people have to do it but for me if I go and see an act, whatever the genre, it's got to make me think. It doesn't have to be intellectual, but I want something out of it. I don't want it to be just another bland, seamless fucking experience or I can just turn on the TV or buy the latest best seller.

Visit the High Priest online here

(Go to parts Two & Three)

see more stories from outsideleft's Culture archive »»

Paul Hawkins

Paul Hawkins has been interested in popular culture and music, protest and survival for as long as we can remember. He began writing about things, making music and other noise at an early age. Paul has interviewed musicians, writers, poets, protestors and artists.

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