The Last Romantic? Aidan Moffat Interviewed
, February 18th, 2009 09:00
The Quietus settles down with Aidan Moffat for a post-Valentines Day and How To Get To Heaven From Scotland debrief
On Saturday night this February 14th, The Quietus bumped into a chef who'd taken the night off from kitchen of the Islington organic restaurant in which he works. He said there were 38 covers, all couples, and he couldn't face the prospect of pan frying for a room full of people either cooing like horny pigeons across the pancetta, or desperately trying to remember what it is they had in common when they last had a conversation some time in the early years of the century. Those dinners are digested now, and across the land flowers wilt in vases full of water that's slowly turning yellow. Yet in some happier homes, there sit Valentine's-bought copies of the new album by the Quietus' very own sexpert Aidan Moffat and his auxiliary musicians The Best Ofs.
As Emma Johnston pointed out in her Quietus review of the album Moffat writes and sings about love with an honesty rarely seen in this age of meaningless schmaltz and a sexually saturated culture. The Quietus sent Aidan an email scented with roses and our musk to ask him some questions about How To Get To Heaven...
Who are the Best-Ofs, and where did you find them?
The Best-Ofs were found lurking around the likes of Arab Strap, Mogwai and the Delgados, with a few new faces thrown in too. Stevie Jones played on most of the songs; Alun Woodward, Alan Barr, Stewart Henderson and Stuart Braithwaite on a couple each. And James Swinburne did a fantastic bit of sax on one song. There's also N. Bradley, who's always hanging around.
Had you started to get lonely on the road with just that record player to keep you company?
I don't think you really get lonely on the road, you just have to alter your lifestyle for a few weeks and enjoy yourself or it would drive you mad. I'm not even sure I'd do that again, I think my days of six-week tours are behind me; I'd prefer to do more special, one-off shows.
Why How To Get To Heaven From Scotland?
It was the title of a leaflet that the Glasgow Baptist Church put through my door at exactly the point where I was wondering what to call it. It seemed to sum it all up perfectly.
You recorded this at the same time as I Can Hear Your Heart. How did you keep the two releases separate? Or was there actually cross-pollination?
I've always got one or two records on the go at once, it's just the way I seem to work. I like being able to work on one when I get fed up with another and then come back to it with a fresh set of ears. There was no cross-over, no, they were always very separate things with much different purposes.
Was that hard to do?
It's the only way I know how to work, so it doesn't seem difficult, no.
You said this one "needed more time on the hob" than I Can Hear Your Heart, why was that?
I just wasn't happy with some of the songs – I had to spend more time on some of the lyrics especially. I could've gone further too, cleaned it up a bit and gave it a shiny pop façade, but I really liked the ramshackle sound of it, it seemed to suit the mood of the album. I've never been into big production values anyway, I prefer my records to be a bit more flawed and human, you know?
Did you do the beatboxing yourself Aidan?
Yes. I find myself doing it around the house now and again so I thought I'd give it a try. I did the bass and top-end stuff separately though for mixing purposes so I'm not quite at a professional level yet.
Can you explain a little bit of the thinking behind the high end packaging?
I think that now is the time when consumers really appreciate something more special in musical formats. In today's download culture, the music itself has lost its value to a degree, and CDs can be easily copied. There's a real market out there for good quality, high-end packaging; people will always be happy to pay for music if you make it worth their while and use some imagination. The board game was an idea that sprung from the album title and I just took it from there. I designed every inch of that box myself and I'm very proud of it, and even the standard CD is in a pretty snazzy packet and comes with three videos. If you want to sell records and CDs these days, you have to make them desirable.
Aidan Moffat has always been a romantic - he has just been cruelly misunderstood. Discuss:
Well, I've always said that those old Arab Strap songs wouldn't have existed without love in the first place so yes, I think people have certainly misinterpreted the songs over the years. But plenty of people understand the sentiments perfectly and continue to pay my wages, so I can't complain.
"Lift up your skirt and I'll fill you with babies". Did you ever say that to the missus?
Wouldn't you like to know?
Can you tell us a little about the song to your grandfather? Was that new lyrical territory for you?
Almost. There was a very simple little Arab Strap song called ‘Haunt Me' on The Red Thread that was about the same sort of thing, but I kept that fairly vague. ‘Atheist's Lament' is certainly the first time I've explicitly talked about it, but there was no new approach to – it's still a love song, just a different kind of love.
I felt that ‘Lullaby For Unborn Child' is a particularly lovely song that explores a subject where it's hard not be trite. How did you negotiate this potential minefield?
Being trite was a problem on all of the songs and it's incredibly difficult to write a lyric that can be both personal to you and hopefully have some universal truth too. Whether or not I've been successful isn't really for me to judge, but I was very happy with that song. I just try not to think about it and hope that I'll know when it starts to sound a bit shit!
What record do you put on when you're in the mood for romance?
I don't, really. I prefer the sounds of love.
Has being the Quietus' sex columnist affected the way you see people's relationships?
No, not at all. The answer to most problems will always be ‘talk about it'. It's the details I find interesting…
You said you're not going to do the a record under the same name twice. So no more L. Pierre? What are your future plans?
Well, I may change my mind about that but the next album is a collaboration with Bill Wells which I'm really looking forward to - he gave me all these beautiful tunes to write lyrics for. We're recording it in the Autumn sometime if it all goes to plan. And I'll continue to do stuff with Stuart Braithwaite in Aloha Hawaii too, we're going to record our second single sometime soon when Mogwai have got some time off. There be might be more L. Pierre but there's nothing planned right now. I want to concentrate on writing soon and I've got a couple of books on the go too, and I might be writing lyrics for a musical based on a classic Scottish film with someone you've probably heard of… but that's a secret. It might never happen, anyway – I'm full of ideas but finding the time to realise them is another thing entirely.
What did you do for Valentine's Day?
Released an album.
And finally, did the lady appreciate your efforts?
I should fucking hope so!
To find our more about How To Get To Heaven From Scotland or any of his other projects, please visit Aidan's website. To have your strifes in sex and love sorted by our bearded pal, email email@example.com