‘ True free­dom would be hor­ri­ble’

Ai­dan Moffat is no mis­er­abilist – his work is about per­sonal free­dom, writes Siob­hán Kane

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Music -

AI­DAN MOFFAT is pos­si­bly best known for his work, with Mal­com Mid­dle­ton, in Arab Strap, the sem­i­nal, sin­gu­lar band that helped shape the Glas­gow mu­sic scene from the mid-1990s for a decade. It cleared a new space in al­ter­na­tive rock, the kind that con­tained tales of melan­choly, ex­cess, heartbreak and iso­la­tion, all dis­tin­guished by Moffat’s Falkirk-in­flected vo­cal.

The rec­on­cil­ing of dis­parate emo­tions is not only some­thing he crafts into songs, but dif­fer­ent projects, which ex­plains why records can take years to evolve, for ex­am­ple his col­lab­o­ra­tion with Bill Wells [last year’s Ev­ery­thing’s Get­ting Older], which took eight years to com­plete.

“I’ve al­ways got at least two al­bums on the go. I like to keep busy, oth­er­wise I get bored and mis­er­able.the record with Bill took a while be­cause I re­ally love and re­spect what he does. But we al­ways had other things to do too. I think I re­leased about five al­bums in that space of time, but nei­ther of us wanted to rush it.”

Moffat’s sense of care is mar­ried to a black hu­mour, the kind that speck­les his of­ten deeply painful sub­jects, and his life, to the point where he can write a wrench­ing song like The Sad­ness in Your Life Will Slowly Fade and en­joy a sur­real stint as agony un­cle with his I’m No Ex­pert col­umn at the mu­sic and cul­ture web­site the­qui­etus.com.

“That was fun, aye, but some folk weren’t re­ally tak­ing it in the spirit it was in­tended. There were a few emails from peo­ple with very se­ri­ous prob­lems that I’m not re­motely qual­i­fied to an­swer, so that’s when we de­cided to end it.”

Those who didn’t “get” it in­cluded some fu­ri­ous Adele fans who wrote against his de­con­struct­ing of her song Some­one Like You, which, Moffat con­cluded, was “psy­cho­log­i­cally trou­bling and emo­tion­ally stunted”.

“Some of her fans thought I was gravely se­ri­ous. I es­pe­cially liked the ones who called me a misog­y­nist, they were fuck­ing hi­lar­i­ous.”

Moffat has al­ways been some­thing of a con­trar­ian, so it makes sense that he con­stantly ex­plores the no­tion of per­sonal free­dom in his work. Per­haps this is why he likes su­per­heroes – par­tic­u­larly Bat­man. “I cer­tainly still find him a very in­ter­est­ing char­ac­ter. My son’s mid­dle name is Bat­man too. Se­ri­ously.”

Ideas of free­dom per­me­ate his record with Wells, with Cages as a com­pan­ion piece to The Sad­ness in Your Life Will Slowly Fade, with its lyric, “Are we ever truly free?”

“Aye, ex­actly. Sad­ness is about be­ing with a friend of mine and try­ing to es­cape from a cy­cle of sad­ness by us­ing drink and drugs, but it never works. It’s an ex­ten­sion of the idea in Cages about free­dom and rou­tines. We’re all crea­tures of habit, and I think we need rou­tine to sur­vive. We all need a place to fit, some­times that means set­tling down, some­times it means go­ing out ev­ery night of the week. You just swap one set of re­stric­tions for an­other. I think true free­dom – a lack of struc­ture and pur­pose– would be hor­ri­ble.”

Per­haps his creative work is more like struc­tured chaos – flit­ting from the spo­ken word of I Can Hear Your Heart (2007) (which fea­tured a Bruce Spring­steen cover, and Dorothy Parker poem), to his re­cent art project with in­ven­tive Ed­in­burgh col­lec­tive Found. The project, part of the Glas­gow In­ter­na­tional Fes­ti­val of Vis­ual Art, is “a re­ac­tive sound in­stal­la­tion through which the au­di­ence will at­tempt to un­ravel the truth about the nar­ra­tor’s life by play­ing records from his col­lec­tion”, and which re­quired Moffat to write 10 orig­i­nal short sto­ries with many vari­a­tions. Writ­ing, in all its forms (he likes Tomwaits, BS John­son and JM Bar­rie), is key to his creativ­ity, and some­thing he feels he is get­ting bet­ter at.

“I’d like to think I’m the same guy I’ve al­ways been, but a lit­tle more thought­ful and ar­tic­u­late, with a much longer fuse. The lyrics I’m most proud of are prob­a­bly the words on Ev­ery­thing’s Get­ting Older –I seem to be get­ting bet­ter with time.

“Ste­vie [Jones], who plays bass with me and Bill, came to see a small Arab Strap re­union that we did in Nice ’n’ Sleazy’s in Glas­gow last year, to cel­e­brate their 20th birth­day. Af­ter­wards he told me some of the old lyrics were a bit shit com­pared to the new ones, which would have of­fended me if it wasn’t true.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.