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Last Exit from Abstercot

The Wonderful and Frightening World of Moff Skellington

"Good evening, father, and thank you. I very much enjoyed your homily (a four square bopping scansion which betrays the celt standing in your socks) and am heartened to discover another, I suspect, afficionardo of Nana Milkbottle's writing. In fact, I wondered wether I might alert you to the pleasures of an earlier work of hers entitled "Trampoline Springs of the Low Countries". I myself have only inspected the vellum bound copy preserved in the vaults of the British Library. The experience however was frustratingly numb and secondary as, owing to the bawdy nature of the woodcut illuminations I had to wear boxing gloves while reading unchaperoned."


 Released in Invisiblegirl records earlier this year "Gravy on a plate of food" is Moff Skellington's latest in a long run albums. In an exclusive virtual "innerview" between Eccles and Otley....Moff explains what he is all about.

 

Q1

Bob: What are your influences musically?    

Moff: I can probably trace the desire to do music back to a handful of records I heard in the late Seventies. The first time I ever heard music and poetry combined to startling effect was on a Hawkwind album featuring Michael Moorcock. The Wizard Blew his Horn was a very powerful piece for a sensitive adolescent like myself, taking my much loved world of sword and sorcery into a kind of apocalyptical night.

Death Disco (Swan Lake) by P.I.L. was my second life changing musical experience. It came at that period of my adolescence when I paddled gleefully in a kind of pantomime angst, and in which I developed a love for the painter Soutine. This record seemed the aural equivalent of that painter’s images and in fact, seemed closer to a painting than a song. That definitely got me thinking about new possibilities.

Then came a third revelation: Pere Ubu. It was a track John Peel played from their New Picnic Time album entitled Small was Fast. I was spellbound by every element of that song which seemed to me quite dreamlike. Not so much about a dream as a recreation of one.

Then in late ’79, early ’80 came two records which galvanized me into action. Does it Matter, Irene? demonstrated a third element that could and should be used to wonderful effect in music. As P.I.L. showed me how music could be visual, Pere Ubu how it could be dreamlike, so the Mothmen showed me how it could be regional. That record was like a little Kafka story, only set around here!

The fifth and most powerful road to Damascus experience came on hearing Bat Chain Puller (Captain Beefheart). The hypnotic rhythm, its vivid language and the rawness of the voice combined to create something close to a hallucination. I think Moff Skellington was born as soon as that record finished.

Another vital influence I think are certain tunes I heard in childhood which have remained with me ever since. These included TV music like the theme to Rhubarb, The Clangers and Q. And not forgetting Laurie Anderson.

Since then of course, influences have been constant. Being from Sheffield I loved Cabaret Voltaire, up to 1983 when they went a bit sterile. I discovered The Fall that year (1980?) with the John Peel session that featured New Face In Hell, and shortly afterward became obsessed with Irish traditional music which led to a love of trad music from just about anywhere.   

Q2

Bob: What are your influences lyrically?    

Moff: I’ve often wondered about that myself. Since my teens I’ve been an admirer of Dylan Thomas. I think he and Captain Beefheart were important models for me. Also, my Dad used to read to us from the Goon Show scripts at bedtime, recreating the voices and repeating lines he or my brother and I found particularly good. The first poem I ever wrote was for my English homework when I was 15. I’d recently read a translation of Salvador Dali’s The Great Masturbator and tried to imitate the poems tone and imagery and, I’m afraid, I even stole complete phrases from it. The strange disjuncture in Blues and Folk songs has always fascinated me. I love it when huge portions of the story are left to the imagination.

All I can say is that I really believe in surrealism as a creative device. That is surrealism in its proper sense, the uniting of the conscious and unconscious mind to reveal a more complete reality. I suppose that has been my greatest influence. 

  
 

Q3

Bob: Gravy is the latest of a long line of albums – can you list them and tell us where to get them?    

Moff: There are a series of album covers viewable in the discography picture album on the myspace page. Some albums from the full list below (those in bold) can be obtained by emailing uteruscottage@hotmail.co.uk and sending an ironed £5 note (plus p&p) per album to the secret address we tell you. Heart of Coal and Moff will then lovingly create you a copy of the discs you require.

UC01 - Edoddi

UC02 – Zabaranda (Silt Fish) – originally released by Public Eye Sore

UC03 – Ambushed by a Vacuum (Moff with Demmy James)

UC04 - Main Road Threatening Invasion (Rail Dogs)

UC05 – In Front of Our House (Silt Fish)

UC06 – The Corrosive Norm (possible future release Invisiblegirl)

UC07 – Sperm Jingle Harvest (possible future release Invisiblegirl)

UC08 – From the Chucky Egg Nest (Silt fish)

UC09 – Advice on Dating a Psychopath (not for sale)

UC10 – Blue House & Titty Bottle (possible future release Invisiblegirl)

UC11 – Gravy on a Plate of Food (only via iTunes & Invisiblegirl)

UC12 – A Book of Fretful Chums (future release– via iTunes & Invisiblegirl)

UC13 – Gliding Through Stone (Work in progress)

You may still be able to get some of those early works (UC01-08) with covers from a shop in Sheffield called Rare & Racy as a small selection was deposited there in June 2008.

The Rail Dogs and Silt Fish albums are collaborations with Andy Kirkham and Jez Quayle. A Silt Fish track was also included on a compilation album dedicated to the Bonzo Dog Doodah band Music for an Artificial Limb. You can also find Moff on the final track of The Martin Green Machine debut album First Sighting.

Moffs photo Gallery:

http://viewmorepics.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewPicture&friendID=258510697&albumId=1047806   

Q4

Bob: How did you get in touch with Julia Adamson (or vice versa) – what attracted you to Invisiblegirl as an organisation?    

Moff: I read about Julia and her label in Mick Middles book on The Fall and instinctively felt she would be sympathetic to Edoddi, especially when considering her work on Levitate. Up to then I’d approached a number of experimental and alternative folk labels, all of whom seemed prejudiced towards a house style. Not Julia. I sent her a demo and my intuition proved founded.   

Q5

Bob: You use a vocoder type effect a lot on the album, is there a reason for this?    

Moff: The high voice belongs to Gordon Fletcher, a sailor glove puppet who is acting as my conscience and nemesis until I get proper ones. The low voice is that of ‘other people’.   

Q6

Bob: Animals are a common theme in your lyrics…. Care to expand on that?    

Moff: In the proper Celtic tradition, I like to confuse the word with the object. If I write ‘cow’ then suddenly there is a big, dozy, loveable lump among the other flotsam that comprises the poem.

As an admirer of Taoist philosophy, I’m well aware how difficult it is for modern humans to live by it’s principles. However, animals are a different kettle of fish – natural Taoists all, unconcerned with pretence, embellishment or shame. They are each a-piece un-carved blocks and I salute them for it. And dogs chase you in your dreams, often in slow motion.   

Q7

Bob: Explain Edoddi to our readers….    

Moff: If you combine a person’s lyrical reflections on their fetishes, phobias, dreams and everyday reality with the wild natural jingles that escape them while washing up or showering, you have Edoddi. It is folk music for an age of anomy and alienation, concerned with the individual rather than the group.

On the ceilidh and folk club circuit I met a lot of middle class people who desperately craved the fictional mystique and pseudo historical context that folk music conferred. Why should folk music, ie: music by ordinary people inspired by the realities of life, be rooted in a half imagined past? These poor rootless bourgeois types could be heir to a very special tradition: that of their own lives. I mean, look at me my music is authentic even though my Dad’s a physicist and I wasn’t allowed to watch ITV when I was little.

Also, with Edoddi you don’t have to have any musical training. The painter Jean Dubuffet once commented: There is only one way to paint well, but a thousand ways to paint badly. I believe this is true of all the arts.   

Q8

Bob: Can people see you live? Where do you play? How can you reproduce the wonderful sounds of the albums?    

Moff: To date, my live appearances have, to paraphrase M.E.S. been just enough for one hand. However, you never know what the future has in store. Reproducing the recorded stuff is a huge problem – I think a live set will feature brand new arrangements.   

Q9

Bob: Aside from yourself, who plays on the album?    

Moff: It’s all me, I prefer to work alone on the Moff albums, building them up as one would a painting. 

  
 

Q10

Bob: The new album ‘Book of Fretful Chums’ seems to have a bovine theme…is there a reason for this?

Moff: As an intermittent agoraphobia sufferer, I never leave the house for weeks on most days. However, last time I had to make myself go for a walk I met a small congregation of cows by a fence. We chatted for nearly an hour. On my return I discovered my musical glands to be turgid with fresh bovine tunes and lyrical suggestions were incorporated too, like sweetcorn.

In times of stress cows are a tonic. The painter Jean Debuffet befriended some cows on his trips to and from a hospital that looked after his poorly wife. The paintings that came were very fond and moving. I’d recommend them all.   

Q11

Bob: How long have you been making music?    

Moff: For about thirty years: I’ve been messing around with tape recorders since I was sixteen when my lifelong friend Andy Kirkham and I decided to make a cassette album. Andy K played the one remaining string on his grandad’s banjo, and I said or sang things over the top. We’ve done something similar ever since in the form of Silt Fish, though Andy K has become a very fine guitarist. My solo projects have run concurrently with Silt Fish, jobs and trying to be a painter.   

Q12

Bob: Your artwork is stunningly good – can this be accessed / acquired or viewed anywhere?    

Moff: Thanks. I paint under the name Andy Quayle. Galleries give me the willies. You can view canvases in progress and some finished works on my wife’s flickr.com site. We have an Etsy.com shop as well, but at the moment the store is empty. I am also working on illustrated lyric books to accompany Gravy and Chums but they are someway off completion. ‘Andy Quayle’ website is a work in progress but will offer in the future original prints and postcards of the images shown.   

Andy Quayle website:

http://www.abeldesign.com/andyquayle/

ACQuayle – Completed and works in progress

http://www.flickr.com/photos/meeshy_meesh/sets/72157618462851042/

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