My latest article for Cool Hunting
Pop star Mika‘s visual world is notoriously imaginative and bright, poetic and surreal. Unsurprisingly, his forthcoming TV show, “Stasera CasaMika,” boasts a set that truly embodies this wild, joyful universe. For this, Mika teamed up with Belgian art and design studio Studio Job, to envision and produce the set and props. One day prior to the show’s premiere on Italian TV channel Rai2, we exclusively unveil the entire set, which marks a unique collaboration between music, television and design.
Mika’s stage is completely filled with absurdly big domestic objects—a clock that goes backwards, a fridge covered with white frosting, a colossal winged heart, a tall throne, a huge globe covered with colorful crystals and more. Everything is gigantic and off-scale, but the venue in the south of Milan feels cozy and warm. It’s the perfect setting for the beloved singer/songwriter to host his guests. After watching rehearsals and the recording of one of the four episodes of “Stasera CasaMika” (literally “Tonight Mika’s Home”), we spoke with Mika and Job Smeets (of Studio Job) about making this wild scene a reality.
Both Mika and Smeets are extremely satisfied with the final result, which was quite a long time in the making. “We met maybe four or five years ago,” Smeets says.”Immediately we said, ‘We should do something together once.’ We stayed in touch, things went forward and developed into different kind of projects. Basically, I help Mika with his brand identity and I like it because we’re friends.” Here, the work is a true collaboration. “Mika himself is also super creative and we’re always on the same page. It’s very simple to work together,” Smeets continues. Just a few months ago, the duo began working (with a larger team, of course) on the TV show. “We started talking about it while in London, discussing the whole layout and atmosphere. It was a constant dialogue,” Smeets says.
“You know my favorite thing about the whole show? In terms of the set of the whole show?” Mika asks us. “Apart from the giant book, the cake, the heart, the paradise caravan, the remarkable globe, the car? It’s the clock. And not even the clock as an object. The idea of the clock. Because the clock is backwards and the hands also go backwards, which means that everything is backwards, but everything is still correct. It’s really great. It’s very clever because everything is wrong but actually everything is right.” The giant clock sits behind the rainbow bed, and features a peace sign on one of the hands. “The clock is quite nice,” Smeets agrees. “We’ve already seen clocks that go backwards, but this one also has the dials in the wrong way, so five o’clock is still five o’clock.”
While everything in the room is eye-catching, to say the least, the sparkling globe—hanging in the center of the studio—captivates. “It is made of 500,000 Swarovski crystals—all added manually, crystal by crystal. It’s a huge disco ball,” Smeets says. The globe was actually made for one of Mika’s concerts (in Bercy, Paris in May 2016) and a few other props come from previous shows—his fans will be familiar with the throne, the Paradise caravan and the cake. Indeed, this set seems like a temporary exhibition of sorts. “We should do an exhibition of our props one day,” Smeets adds. “It would be cool, but maybe in a few years, when we really have a lot of them.”
Smeets says, of the design approach, the difference between pop music and culture in various countries/regions was a big deciding factor. “This is European pop. We have a huge history here in Europe so you can dig from a lot of different periods—from our heritage and iconography. American pop is fast foods, supermarkets, bananas, it’s very straight-forward, streamlined. Most of that comes from the 20th and 21st centuries. The thing about European pop is that you can go much deeper,” he says. Pointing at the throne, he continues, “Like that chair, that is based on a Louis XV chair that we have translated into something fun, something happy. The farm symbols [in the big book] are classic German iconography. The cake is the church of Sacré-Cœur, the face of the clock comes from the Big Ben. But obviously there are overlaps. Our fridge is a typical American thing, it’s a Coldspot. And we chose Miami deco colors—also very ’50s and rock’n’roll.”
Some of the objects have been produced in Italy, while others (such as the cake and the chair) were made in Smeets’ atelier in Belgium. They are handcrafted in papier-mâché and it’s beautiful to observe the precision of the craft and details. “These pieces have to be beautiful on their own. They’re not just stage pieces. You don’t want to throw them away, but you will bring them to the next show or to an exhibition,” Smeets explains. “Our goal is to create pieces that have a long life.”
“Stasera CasaMika” will air weekly beginning Tuesday 15 November at 9:10PM UTC+1 on Rai2.