Random Facts With… Aidan Moffat
Fuck going home, give me chip shop scuffles and screaming sirens and romance among the rats!
Aidan Moffat has a new album out, and if you've ever loved an Aidan Moffat record, we're willing to bet you'll love this one too. Titled The Most Important Place in the World, the record is the former Arab Strap man's second collaboration with musician Bill Wells. Between the two of them they've come up with a homage to the grubby, seductive heart of the city, awash with stumbling jazz, gospel inflections and Moffat's own unique delivery, often spoken, sometimes snarled, sometimes sung like a sailor on shore leave.
But that's enough on the album: we're here for some !RANDOM FACTS!
Hold tight as we grill Moffat on his supposed collection of vintage porn, hear how he got paid bugger all by a major corporation who used his music, and marvel at the blood curdling tale of the Glaswegian children VS the Necropolis vampire with iron teeth…
So, I hear you’re in a film?
Well, I did a tour for the Commonwealth Games last year. I took a load of old folk songs and re-wrote them and I tried to personalise them and modernise them and then I did a tour and we filmed the whole thing. The film was about the way Scotland does things very traditionally vs what I was doing, which was to try and make them my own and engage new people with them.
I had to set things up at the beginning of the film and it meant I had to trawl through loads of old boxes of magazines and old reviews, which I was actually looking at last night. There was a live review I found in NME, where they did that thing that you don’t really get with journalism these days because they’re all so desperate to sell magazines; they send someone that definitely hates a band to review a gig.
That caustic observation is definitely missing now. It's part of why you used to buy NME because you almost knew that there would be someone slagging something off to high heaven in it.
Yeah. I mean, you do still get bad reviews these days but the power of the printed press has completely gone. They know that they can’t really do anything now. In the past they could ruin you if they wanted too, and so could Melody Maker. I think it’s very rare now to get that sort of attitude where people write bad reviews all the time.
I won’t say her name, but the journalist they sent to review this gig, I think it was in 1999 – I don’t actually give a fuck, I just thought it was funny – but she clearly hated the band before she got there. It was just hilarious to read it! You just don’t really get that now, as a lot of journalism these days is online and that’s because people are enthusiastic and they want to see bands – so they go in with a positive attitude. I’m not really sure if it’s a good or a bad thing to be honest with you.
I’m not sure whether it is or not either. I guess it’s breaking down the barriers and creating more in-roads into it. It used to have its own natural gatekeeping in a sense. There was that rumour last week of NME possibly going free. The fact that they only have a circulation of 16,000 is mental.
It’s quite sad to hear these things, but it just generally seems to be the natural order of things at the moment. Unfortunately there’s not really much you can do about the death of the printed magazine since the evolution of the Internet. I don’t read them; I don’t personally see the point. Occasionally I’ll buy Mojo, but that’s the only one that I bother with. Even then I just go straight to the re-issues page. I’ve reached that stage in life where my favourite bit is the re-issues.
Haha! If you need that instant gratification you can just go online anyway can’t you.
Yeah. Things change and everything has to evolve. When I was at school NME, Melody Maker and Sounds were the best. Sounds was my favourite as it was the edgiest out of all of them
I’d buy it religiously every week but nowadays I find people aren’t paid to be cunts anymore! That’s how it used to be back then. Now though, nobody is really getting paid at all! People can’t really afford to be a professional cunt anymore.
The demise of the professional cunt.
Thanks, that's our leader there.
OK so onto some random facts; I was looking up The Most Important Places in the World (the new album title) and it’s actually pretty boring because it just comes up with London, Paris blah blah blah. There needs to be an alternative most important place in the world. Where’s the album title related too?
Well, it actually comes from the side of an Ikea truck. Ikea did a campaign and that was the slogan. They might still be using it, I don’t know. When you went to Ikea it would just be painted in massive letters across the wall, and it would say ‘Home, the most important place in the world.’ The idea just came from that, and it’s in the first song and I saw it as we overtook this truck. I didn’t actually want to say Ikea but that’s where it’s from.
There’s a track by RM Hubbert that you sang on from years ago and I think the lyrics are something like, "So let's go home" which I thought the album was in reference to that.
To be perfectly honest with you, anything that I’ve written past about 3 years ago I tend to forget! Haha!
Hah. Okay, cool. John (Aidan's PR) said that you’ve got quite an impressive collection of vintage pornography.
I used to. Pornography is a bit of a loaded term. The pictures were just nice. I went through a stage, I don’t do it anymore, where there was a very famous market in Glasgow called the Barrowland Market, which is also where the famous venue is.
I've been there yeah…
Right, so there used to be this guy there in the corner at the back of the market who sold second hand Penthouse magazines from the 70’s.
Yeah, it was as grubby as it sounded but I just thought they were beautiful. This was a time when the photography was really beautiful and the makeup, hair and clothes were just fantastic. They were very tame pictures, but it was amazing how something deemed so dangerous and corrupt at some point in history is actually quite innocent and sweet now.
This one’s a bit more random now. In 2001 hackers in a Dresden supermarket streamed a sex channel on a big screen that was meant for daily specials, by accident.
Hahah! By accident? I don’t believe that! That’s impossible surely.
Who knows? Did you know that the average Japanese household watches 10 hours of television a day?
I didn’t realise it would be so high. I would have thought that the average Japanese household didn’t have time to watch 10 hours of TV a day!
I’m quite surprised.
I was too!
My brother used to work there as a teacher and the kids are at school all the time. They’re there all day and all through the summer. Their summer holidays are just a later version of school. I don’t know where anyone gets the time to watch TV!
There was an article a couple of days ago saying that they were bringing in laws so that it was less taboo to leave the office at 6 so they don’t have to work until 9 o’clock at night or whatever it is at the moment.
It’s such a fascinating culture. I love Japan. When my brother lived there, my 40th birthday present was the permission to spend money to go to Japan from my family. We had a great time! I don’t know if you’ve been sent the album, but I wanted to have a picture of a city inside the artwork. There’s a picture of a city and it’s a picture I took of Hiroshima. It’s got all these nice lights in it, but I took all these pictures when I was completely pissed so everything is completely blurred. It turned out quite well in the end as its come out with some nice effects! It was a brilliant trip though. I had an amazing time.
I’ve only got the two pictures of you and Bill on this copy.
Oh, lucky you!
Where were they taken?
Uhh, we just went for a walk around Glasgow one night. I think one was in Merchant City and I think the other one was just by a bridge.
But yeah, it’s an amazing country, very interesting. 10 hours of television is quite surprising.
Yeah that is a great surprise. They also eat out all the time as well.
Maybe there are TVs on everywhere. In fact, there are TVs on everywhere.
I suppose so, yeah. Are they actually watching though, or is it just background noise?
Probably just background noise. I think I knew this next one, but anyway; Dartboards are made out of horsehair.
I thought they had cork in them. Or is that just the cheap ones you get for your homes. Is this professional ones maybe?
Yeah, it’s the professional ones. This is a great fact; it is believed that Leonardo De Vinci invented the scissors.
Really? No? Really?! Surely they would have been invented before that.
I don’t know! I’m going to look this up. Yep, apparently he invented the scissors!
I did not know that. What a very talented man he was. Well there you go! This is becoming a bit like QI.
Hah! The next one's on a similar level as well. There is no solid proof of who built the Taj Mahal.
Oh really? Why is that? Is there some sort of record disparity or something?
I think I need to back that one up.
You could be telling me anything!
Dibble means to drink like a duck.
Dibble? Like Officer Dibble from Top Cat?
Really? Wow. I’ll remember that one next time I’m in the park, it could be quite useful. ‘Aye, I see you’re a bit of a dibbler.’
Haha! You’re doing the Twitter party for the album aren’t you? Maybe you could get dibble into there somewhere.
Maybe! I’m not sure we’re going to do it on Twitter anymore though. I think we might just be doing one of those live YouTube streams.
A live dibble stream.
How does a duck drink? Does it just stick its beak in?
I imagine so yeah. Kind of similar to how we do when we get further and further into a night. Looking here, apparently they have to lift up their head after each sip.
Ah right I see, so it goes down its gullet. It’s always good to learn a new word!
A group of toads is called a Knot.
Now you see, I didn’t know that either. This is really interesting! I love learning knew words that you can then use in everyday language. Not that I could foresee myself using a Knot of toads and dibbling too much but you know… I’ll find somewhere for them!
Cool. Nutmeg is extremely poisonous if injected intravenously.
I think I knew that.
I didn’t know that. That’s interesting.
I knew it had some sort of danger to it.
They say you can smoke it, I think there’s some old wives tale about that.
Ah yeah, yeah! I’m sure kids still try that at school. I remember that there was certainly a danger or an edge to nutmeg that I was quite surprised about.
So I was going to move on to facts about Arab Strap. On Wikipedia someone has called you a grumpy old bugger! That’s not a fact, it's an allegation! And potentially a bit unfair having spoken to you.
Do you know what, it is and it isn’t! I’m certainly pretty grumpy, but that review we were talking about earlier was funny because it also talked about how miserable I am and how unbearably fucking depressing it was. I think a lot of people missed the point of Arab Strap, but then a lot of people got it right away. There was a sense of humour there too though. If I was genuinely that sad and depressed all the time I’d have probably fucking ended it by now! But it’s a way of getting it out of your system too. But day-to-day, I’m a pretty happy and chirpy guy.
It’s just the cathartic process of it I think.
I get called a miserable old sod, but there’s definitely the caustic wit to Arab Strap that I think is what has always chimed with me.
I think that always gets overlooked too. They were disco songs really; they were pretty loud. There was a lot more to it, but I guess people just latch on. Actually, these days, people just seem to latch on to First Big Weekend, which would have annoyed me 15 years ago, but now, I kind of enjoy it. I’m quite happy with that one.
Yeah, it’s a timeless record I think. It’s one of those records that keeps getting unearthed again and again – I think that’s a sign of a pretty massive record. I’ve got some Guinness facts as it was used in the advert… How did you feel about that?
Well, I wouldn’t say it was a mistake, but we were quite naïve at the time. Actually, I remember reading NME or it could have been Melody Maker, that we got paid £50,000 for it – which was fucking nonsense. I don’t think we even got £5,000 to be honest with you.
I think they knew they would get it quite cheap because an indie band on a small label. We just needed money at the time, and I don’t regret doing it, it was quite good fun, but the whole music and advertising thing is something I very much doubt I’d do again. Ironically, I’m saying that it wasn’t very lucrative, but at the time people were getting paid shit loads to do that stuff. These days, you get paid much less and it’s just considered as part of the every day way that the industry works. It’s just like doing a radio broadcast these days. People just don’t think twice about lending their music for ad campaigns.
It’s difficult isn’t it, because there is a lack of money in the music industry now, so you become reliant on things l
ike name removed for legal reasons for instance. It becomes a very difficult tightrope to tread.
I do despair when I hear about those deals with companies like that. Maybe it’s just the way that the world works nowadays but it offends absolutely everything in me to think that people are signing away, not just a song, but their whole existence, just to be continually promoting a product. It’s fucking vile.
I totally agree with you.
I wouldn’t trust them at all. I’m not 100% sure who does these deals but whoever it is, they’re probably making shit music.
I’m going to find out tomorrow that some of my friends have got a
name removed for legal reasons deal now or something! Haha!
I’ll draw a line under Guinness right there then. I’ll sidestep; Ketchup was sold in the 1830’s as medicine.
Really? Why? What for? Just because it was natural? Must have just been something to do with tomatoes… They’re certainly good for you!
I’ve just looked it up and it’s come up with ‘From poison, to medicine, to junk food.’ That’s quite a trajectory isn’t it!
There’s obviously a lot of sugar in ketchup now, but you can’t beat a bit of ketchup! My son puts it on absolutely everything!
The initial thing was an extract and now because it’s been sweetened so much with corn syrup it’s classed as a junk food.
I’m more of a brown sauce sort of guy though really. HP is on the way out I think. It would be a great metaphor for everything that we’ve talked about. HP – the dinosaur of sauces.
Champion the HP! You should get them to sponsor your tour or something. The first thing bought and sold on the Internet was Marijuana.
That’s no surprise! I’m sure the first thing anyone just looked for was probably porn. Wasn’t one of the first pictures by Daguerre actually a naked picture of his wife? That could be nonsense but I guess if you’d just invented something that could take a photo, you’d take one of somebody naked, surely? It’s just human nature!
Yeah true, very true. I think the amount of searches per day is something ridiculous for porn. I can’t remember the actual figure now though.
Apparently it’s not actually as much as you think. Isn’t it something like 80% of traffic is just advertising and spam?
Yeah. Everybody thinks the Internet is just porn, but it’s actually mostly just advertising.
It’s just this glut of advertising basically. The first bomb that the allies dropped on Berlin in WWII killed the only elephant in Berlin Zoo.
That’s very sad.
India has a bill of rights for cows. That one I knew.
Oh really? Well, I guess cows are sacred there aren’t they?
For Hindus yeah.
Woodpecker scalps, porpoise teeth and giraffe tails have all been used as money.
Hahaha! That is slightly ridiculous! I wonder what the value is in a woodpeckers scalp. Was it rare? Was it like a £50 note or something?
I can’t imagine you’d get very many of them to the pound.
I wouldn’t expect so, no. It’s quite grim to actually think about to be honest with you. What’s a woodpecker done to you to deserve being used as fucking coinage.
It’s attributed to the Karok people in the Klamas river region in Northern California. They were American Indians.
I see, okay.
It is estimated that about a million trees are planted by forgetful squirrels. That’s a nice one.
That sounds like a one liner joke that! That’s actually really funny. I like that. I’ve actually got something I’d like to tell you. So, the album has the theme of cities and I’ve got a story I’d like to tell you about Glasgow, one that I’ve always loved.
Have you heard about the vampire story?
This was in the mid-50’s. A policeman was called to the Southern Necropolis, which is a graveyard on a hill. It’s Scooby Doo kind of stuff. So it’s called the Necropolis, which basically means the City of the Dead and it’s actually quite spectacular.
Where is it?
It’s near where you’d be if you got the train in from Edinburgh. It’s just in the East. I used to go there as a teenager and take moody black and white pictures as you get quite a good view of the city. Anyway!
So the police get this phone call in the 50’s saying that there is a bit of commotion going on in the Necropolis. So they go up expecting some sort of gang fight or something and there were literally hundreds of kids there, from maybe 4 – 5 years old up to about 13 or 14, who were all armed with steaks and sticks and knives. So the policeman asked what was happening and they said they were all coming up to kill the vampire with iron teeth.
No one really knows where this story came from, but a couple of kids went missing in the area and they think this is what happened. For some reason, these kids had got it into their head that the vampire with iron teeth had taken these two kids. And they all thought that the vampire lived in the Necropolis and they’d all gone up there to kill it. I mean, it sounds like the most amazing thing! That’s something I think everyone wanted to be part of as a kid. Like, a hundred strong gang that was out to kill monsters.
But what they think it was, that I think is even more interesting, at the time in Glasgow there was a lot of ships coming in. There would be a lot of guys working on these ships and they’d be coming back from America and bringing comics back over with them.
This was at a time when horror comics were really controversial and that guy Frederic Wertham, who wrote the book Seduction of the Innocent and was all about how comics were corrupting our youth. He was also the guy that said that unhealthy homosexual relationship between Batman and Robin was corrupting our youth as well!
They think that this was in some way connected to the horror comics as they were pretty much banned as they brought in the Comics Code as these comics were really terrifying the children so they couldn’t print certain things. So yeah, they think this story is connected to the horror comics of the time, but yet no-one can actually find one about a vampire with iron teeth.
It might have just been a story that’s spiralled, but I just think it’s brilliant. This was also at a time when there was lots of gangs too, so I like the idea that rival gangs in Glasgow all teamed up to fight the one enemy.
Everyone gets together! I had no idea about that comic law either.
Oh yeah. Well Wertham’s book is what started it. They don’t have it anymore, but on DC and Marvel comics they used to have a wee stamp that said it was approved by the Comics Code Authority. Everything had to be approved by that, so then you get these, as DC were doing horror comics in the 60’s as well, and there is almost nothing grizzly or gruesome in them at all. However, the ones that you find from before the code are absolutely fucking nuts. Anything goes kind of stuff. Another big one was crime. There were a lot of comics about crime too. They were pretty much outlawed by the Comic Code. They really cleaned up the comic scene of the time.
Ian and Ciaran from the office are both massive comic fans will probably know all about this. I’m totally ignorant though! That is interesting though. So is there an album to be written about that maybe?
I’m not quite sure I could find that within me. You never know! I think funnily enough though, someone is now actually working on a comic about the vampire with the iron teeth story.
I think it might be on Kickstarter actually. It’s obviously the natural format to tell that story in I guess. I hope it happens.
Brilliant. So, is there anything else random you’d like to bring up whilst we’re here?
I think we’ve had enough random stuff at the moment to be honest with you! I think right now I need something that is very, very organised.