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Black Sky Thinking

Adrian From The Moonlandingz On His Love For The Glorious North
The Quietus , December 1st, 2017 11:28

Next week, The Quietus hosts a panel at Hull City Of Culture about the perils of trying to survive as a musician in London, and music scenes that are thriving across the UK. Here, international music man and Sheffield stalwart Adrian Flanagan of The Moonlandingz tells us a thing or two about the North-South divide, snazzy donuts and the importance of bickering.

Violet Carson, queen of all she surveys

I was in Notting Hill walking around on a post-gig comedown the other day. It was a lovely sunny morning and, for a fleeting moment, a guilty bullshit rockstar fantasy came over me: I thought, I could very easily live in one of them sexy townhouses. Then you walk down Ladbroke Grove and it’s wall-to-wall fancy pies, microbreweries and yoga for babies. It was at that point I caught sight of myself and remembered that I genuinely need the seven spiteful hills of Sheffield, if only to stop me from becoming the thinking woman’s Billy Bunter. If I lived in Notting Hill I’d be eating posh pies and snazzy donuts all the time and spending all my money in Honest Jon’s. I’d be sleeping under the Westway within a month. If I could afford a big house in Notting Hill, I’d buy a few smaller properties in other countries instead. Maybe a big house in Sheffield, an apartment in Berlin and a small island in Scotland - and I’d still have change for a Greggs. London’s purely for visiting. When I arrive in London at dear old St Panty-kiss, I almost immediately stop taking life seriously. When I leave, I start taking life seriously again. The North gives me focus.

I do always enjoy my time in London though and I thank it often for giving us Ray Davies - a man who, for me, painted London perfectly with words. Through Ray I saw ‘old London’ before I’d even been to London - a London that understood the importance of community and bickering. It would be terribly sad if community became nothing but an arcane memory. London’s had it good for a very long time and somewhere, beyond that increasingly bulging central London border that is pushing everyone closer and closer to the last stop on the tube, there are good people longing for community - and a break.

I was born and raised in Salford, Lancashire, but I’ve almost lived in Sheffield, South Yorkshire for as long as I lived in Salford - half a lifetime in each city. I remember when I first moved to Sheffield, there was fuck all going on, it was pretty grim on the whole. I couldn’t wait to get in a rehearsal room in the steel city and make some heavy synth shit. I distinctly remember, though, when I was in one rehearsal room doing some deranged experimental kraut shit with some wayward Yorkshire synth mates and in the room next door was a band doing ‘I Am The Resurrection’ and in another room some kids were singing ‘Wonderwall’. Young Sheffield kids at the time couldn’t give a flying fuck about avant garde synth pop music, they were all bang into the very shower of shite that I was trying to escape in Manchester. It was a very lonely and depressing time. After near on 20 years of being here, I’ve become part of the furniture. I’ve always been around, doing my thing, and I have a pretty good relationship with a cross-generation of artists and musicians here, from the old school of the Cabs, the League, Pulp, etc, right through to all the new up-and-coming groups. Surely I’m due a statue erecting of me in Sheffield soon.

The North-South divide use to be Lancashire, Yorkshire, North Wales and Scotland all laughing in unison at the cupcake-eating, shandy-drinking ponces of London Town. Sadly, more recently, I think the Real North, aka Scotland, is laughing at us all. The whole of England has become some kind of artisan bread-worshipping, Tarquin-raising, vegan-yoga twat camp. I don’t actually really think there’s anything wrong with better quality places to live, nice snooty gaffs to eat and drink in and for there to be more independent businesses popping up everywhere. I like an iced vanilla latte as much as the next man! There should however be affordable housing or accommodation for everyone who needs it, people shouldn’t be shipped out of their homes without their personal safety and without alternative accommodation being worked out beforehand. Sadly, we live in the age of the greedy landlords and the greedy politicians - not all of them, but many. In 2017 there shouldn’t be anyone having to sleep in the streets and I really wish that those who can make a difference cared a bit more about it and saw it as the national crisis that it really is. There also needs to be a rent cap put on landlords, keep it affordable and keep the properties regulated because, let’s face it, some landlords are literally getting away with murder.

It’s been getting this way for a long time. There was always a sense of middle-class entitlement with London squat culture that wasn’t as apparent in squats in the North, even pre-gentrification. A lot of the so-called artists who lived in London squats came from good homes and well-to-do parents and they could just go home or get bailed out if they fucked up or were on their arses. That whole London punk scene of the 70s was the same middle-class fuckers living rent-free in big empty Georgian town houses across the city, while actual homeless and very sick people were and are out cold on the streets! It’s the sense of entitlement that annoys me - kids whose mate went to law school, whose grandad hung out in Greece with bloody Plato in 350BC, who just can’t be arsed applying themselves to being useful to anyone but themselves. Anarchists are worse than hippies in my book. They turn squats into party central, trash the place, then move on. Ultimately they make life worse for those who truly need the space.

Sheffield has served me well and in return I have served her well. It’s great being here - it's on the right side of affordable, you can go three miles in any direction and you’re in the countryside, you can work on your art without industry types interfering or people just popping in willy-nilly for a nosy. It’s always better to hit London, or any city that isn't yer own, as a fully developed package - it’s easier to wow them industry pricks if you appear to have come from nowhere. Living up North you can get all your mistakes and shoddy experimentations out of the way without the glare of the chatty gobshites of the Old Blue Last - then when you’re ready, you hit em right in the bollocks with a lump hammer!

I’ve always militantly worked against the grain of whatever was fashionable, I've always at least attempted to plough my own path but it's weird that I’m now making music with my mates that is I guess pretty popular with people of all ages and I’m slightly ashamed about it, ashamed that we’ve almost become, dare I say it, trendy. It’s awful. I think the less of a shit I gave about what anyone else was doing and the more I went out my way to have a laugh with what I was doing and what we were doing collectively - right from the presentation of the project, to the subject matter of the songs - the more doors opened, the more ears pricked up. It would be wrong of me to say that everyone can do it, but feel free to believe you can and you’re already halfway there.

If you’ve got a tiny bit of talent it’s very easy to make waves in Sheffield, everyone knows everyone, everyone is in everyone else’s band, everyone’s sleeping with each other's sisters. It’s a city that’s easy to get around, there’s a real community spirit and a strong DIY ethic here. People really support each other. I’ve seen many talented musicians and artists go to London and disappear into nothingness. If you don’t move in the right circles, at the right time, London will eat you alive. If you can’t afford it, go where your money can give you at least something that resembles an existence and where people are friendly.

Chart-topping pop titans The Moonlandingz play a Christmas show at the Leadmill in Sheffield on Saturday 16 December - details and tickets here. Adrian and Dean present a live hour of ‘Practical Electronics In Unpopular Music’ for our Day Of Radio on Friday 8 December, details to come here.

The Quietus host a panel at Hull City Of Culture on Thursday 7 December, where music industry gooduns will discuss the pros and cons of our capital city, survival strategies, licensing laws, DIY record labels, building communities, going national, going international, and how to have fun and make music - details and tickets here.