THERE comes a point during our interview with Michael Winslow that we start to wonder if, like his infamous character Sgt Larvelle Jones from the many and much-loved Police Academy movies, he isn’t completely taking the piss out of City Life by throwing his voice.
You remember the scene; megaphone in hand, ‘Motor Mouth’ Winslow pretends that the batteries are on the blink, driving the irked Captain Harris to distraction.
On the phone from London to talk about his upcoming stand-up show, Winslow is coming over either as entirely uninterested in the interview, the phone line really is that bad or he is vocalising some amusing interference. This is why we hate phoners, but it’s too late to complain now.
For whatever reason, the man of 1.000 voices is staying remarkably silent. No barking dogs, squishing soggy sneakers or even spine tingling blackboard scratches. Winslow ain’t playing ball.
He is happy to chat and answer questions, but we were expecting a full onslaught of his best mimicry and vocal gymnastics - Hendrix’s Purple Haze or even the roaring of jet engines - two sounds that have played a major role in shaping the course of his life and career.
As a kid Winslow grew up on an air force base, the youngest of six brothers. According to lore, his mother says he began copying jet engines when he was just a kid.
“Eh I guess. She did say that. It was more than that though, I didn’t have a lot of friends growing up, so I just had to pretty much make it up myself - entertain myself,” he says slowly.
“I wasn’t destined for a regular career, the normal nine to five doesn’t work for me. I think it was more about not wanting to do what everybody else was doing. I wanted to try this and see if it worked out and I haven’t looked back, not yet at least,” he adds.
Appearing on stage for the first time in a Colorado bar that had played host to Jimi Hendrix, Winslow elected, seemingly at random, to perform Purple Haze, props and all to complement his amazing vocal gymnastics. The audience’s response sealed his wish to stay in the entertainment industry.
“I owe Hendrix a fan’s debt because he helped me move in the direction I wanted to go in,” says Michael. “I never saw him perform live - my older brothers did - I only saw his movies, but for me it was an illuminating direction to go. I didn’t want to do standard stand-up. I am still not sure what I want to be when I grow up. I am still trying to figure out what it is I am doing,” he laughs.
A chance performance in Long Beach saw the writers of Police Academy construct a role for a man of his considerable talents, and a star was born.
“I wasn’t in the original script, they adapted it and put me in there, so it was a welcome gift,” he explains. “Before making the first one I was living in my car, so everything was up from there. I am very grateful for the movies and the direction they sent me,” he adds, noting that a new Police Academy will start shooting later this year, of which he is delighted to be a part.
“I don’t have any problem with it, because it has opened a lot of doors, which continue to open, and it was a great opportunity.”
See Michael Winslow in Dolan’s Warehouse on Friday, July 20. www.michaelwinslow.net.