Just before his Polish shows and releasing The Judas Table I had a chance to talk to Antimatter’s brain – Mick Moss
Thanks for your time Mick. Let’s get straight to it, since you’re probably busy putting the next Antimatter album together. When I was surfing briefly through the internet before this interview, to see what you’ve been up to lately I only found three shows on this acoustic songbook tour. Is that all, and if so does it by any chance have something to do with those before mentioned works?
I’m loving getting away and playing my ‘Songbook’ shows at the moment, but yeah I’m just doing it in fits and bursts right now as the most important thing in my musical life is the next album, which is incredibly pertinent! The whole plan for the first half of 2015 was album, album, album… but I havent been able to resist booking just a few soloshows in the meantime.
Like I said, from what I’ve read the new Antimatter album is on it’s way. What can we expect form that material, and when can we expect it?
Im working to a very strict deadline at the moment, probably for the first time in my life, and I can say with certainty that ‘The Judas Table’ will be released by our October 2015 tour, if not a little earlier in September. ‘Judas…’ is an album I have carried around in my head for a very, very long time. As a songwriter approaching 40 and with 20 years writing history, my head is full of songs that I have categorised into albums in my brain. At one point, while starting work on the last Antimatter album (Fear Of A Unique Identity) and composing the vocal parts and lyrics for Sleeping Pulse, I had five albums in my head, driving me nuts. ‘Fear …’ came out first, followed by Sleeping Pulse, and now ‘The Judas Table’, leaving two remaining, which I hope to get out within the next two years. I desperately need a clean slate. The two remaining works are an acoustic album plus a very special album of the songs I wrote before the formation of Antimatter, specifically my work from the years 1995-98, called ‘If I Only Had Wings’. ‘Wings…’ is something I’m very much looking forward to recording and releasing, to kind of make sense of those wilderness years, and to alchemise the memory of that time into something positive, as they were a very bad time for me. Anyway, back to ‘The Judas Table’. I have the demos for most of the album on my harddrive. It all sounds like a natural progression to me, some nods to the past, some eyes to the future. A nice mixture of music. As a body of work it is much less frenetic and aggressive than ‘Fear..’ and dare I say it feels a bit more positive.
I’m sorry to say that, but I’ve never had the chance to see you live and therefore I wanted to know one thing. There are, you might say, to schools of acoustic shows. There’s the one whit a band of musicians playing actual acoustic instruments, and there’s the one with the lonely singer and his instrument, in most cases a guitar, alone facing the crowd with his music. Which of those faces will you show us on that upcoming tour?
The lonely guy. This is for me the most challenging experience and at my age I am very much enjoying stretching myself like this. It is the true test of a singer songwiter. That is not to say I don’t also play acoustic shows sometimes with members of the band. The live stuff (and the studio work) I do is with a revolving door of session musicians anyway. But yeah, these ‘Songbook’ shows are just one voice, one guitar. Everything else is the energy I, hopefully, manage to create there and then. I make the whole evening a bit more informal, making sure I drink with the audience and keeping the alcohol flowing on stage whilst I sing and play. It is nice, it reminds me of the family parties I used to go to as a kid where the older ones would get drunk and sing away. It’s a very communal thing. I’m ok with getting drunk during these gigs, in direct contract to my new strictly sober rule of playing live with the band.
The promo materials said that you will be performing songs from Antimatter, as well as Sleeping Pulse. Two things that I wanted to know when I read that – can we expect to hear any of the new material, and is there a chance for some cover surprises, or do you have enough of material not to use other musicians works?
There will be many, many covers on the ‘Songbook’ shows, and that is actually the whole crux of these gigs, that I get to perform the songs that I loved while growing up, as well as songs from my own career in Sleeping Pulse, The Beautified Project and of course Antimatter. But the ‘Songbook’ title is derived from just that, this is a journey through a musical library for me, both external and internal. The music that inspired me and also the music that came from my own inspiration. I have always loved playing covers as for me that is where the real enjoyment is, other peoples works. Other peoples treasures that I can reach out and touch. Sounds a bit rude that doesn’t it?
From what I’ve read at some point you weren’t very keen on playing live shows with a band, and preferred acoustic shows. I was surprised to read that, as I always thought that acoustic shows, beiing in my opinion more intimate, sounded for me as more stressful. Or maybe at the point that you’re at there’s no such thing as stage fright? And have your views on touring in general changed?
Yeah my views do tend to change over the years. Im a lot more mature over the subject of touring nowadays, and I hardly ever get stagefright anymore. In the early days I was terrible for it, terrible. For the first Antimatter tours I used to sit on stage with a bottle of tequila just to have the balls to be able to sing in front of an audience, which was a stupid fucking practice and the tequila totally went against what it was there for which was to get me to a point where I could give a good performance, as I used to go right beyond that and get wasted on stage. So that stopped around 2003 and I do apologise from the bottom of my heart to audiences that came to see us as I’m well aware that in 2002-03 I was accidentally sabotaging the gigs, but all from the most positive of intentions. From 2006 onwards I would take one glass of red wine before a gig and that is all. Now I play sober. I don’t prefer acoustic or full band gigs, they both have their own merits unique to that medium. For example, acoustically the voice is at the centre and I can do far more with my voice when I can hear it fully, although the weight of the drums rhythm and power from guitars are not there. Full band gigs have the aforementioned power but can lose definition of the individual instruments and, of course, the voice.
If you had the chance to limit your musical career to simply writing, recording and releasing music, without the need to tour and have to play it live, would that be something that you would miss?
Yes I would miss it desperately. Writing and recording is such a lonely, stressful, concentrated experience for me, whilst touring and playing is of course still stressful but also has a great freedom on stage, something I don’t think I could live without at this point in my life. Also I get to meet people from different cultures and walks of life, something I’m very lucky to be able to do.
As a person who’ve been to some gigs over the years I noticed that people nowadays have more problems with staying focused on the actual experience of participating in a live show, and are often to busy talking during the gigs, or recording them with their phones instead of really participating in the experience. How does that look from your perspective as a performer?
I don’t pay attention to the crowd too much whilst I’m performing as I’m usually in myself, in that kind of semi-conscious state where I go when I’m singing or playing. Sometimes though I can hear conversations, which is offputting and also threatens to pull me out of the place I need to be in order to give a thorough performance, which in turn gives the rest of the crowd who are there to listen to the music a more awkward live experience, not least because the also have to listen to these people talking loudly about how awesome their breakfast was that day. Some people are just less socially mature than others, and concert crowds have a cross section of all ranges of psyches. It is a fact of life, one that I gleefully drown out when playing with the live band. As for mobile phones, that doesn’t bother me. People can do what they want if it is not hurting somebody else. If they want to waste their own experience so that they can have a badly-filmed digital memory of it instead, that is their choice.
Let’s talk about the Sleeping Pulse for a moment. Congratulations on “Under The Same Sky”, it’s a great piece of music. How do you see that album now, a few months after it saw the light of day?
I love it, one of the best things Ive ever been involved in. Bravo to Luis and myself for creating a really strong debut album. I didn’t expect that!
You were only responsible for the vocals and lyrics, but I somehow find it hard to believe that you, as a musician didn’t have any suggestions for the music that Luiz wrote, and didn’t want anything changed, or at least a bit modified. Or am I wrong, and the material was perfect?
Well, the finished album is the result of Luis’ instrumental music going through a songwriting process by myself, so I would sometimes ask for a new piece of music here, or a change there in order to take the song in the direction I could hear it going. But for the most part Luis’ parts remained intact. Im not used to composing with anyone, and I was worried that we would clash, so early on I said ‘Luis, you are in charge of the musical backbone, the guitars, bass, keyboards, drums, that’s your domain. I’m in charge of the vocal melodies, lyrics, and the concept of the album. Don’t get involved in my world and I wont get involved in yours’ and that seemed to work fine. It gave us each a dominion over something, a playground that the other one couldn’t come into uninvited. Gave each person a sense of absolute control over something. So then came the subject of the songs arrangements… I had the idea that nothing should happen that any person was unhappy with, but obviously as I was sculpting songs to run with a particular melody or concept, so I got to be the one who suggested the arrangements, and if Luis didn’t like it I would find an alternative. So I’d be shortening things here, lengthening them there, changing the time signature, rearranging the parts, suggesting it go heavy here, quiet there. But like I said, Luis gave me complete music to work with. For the most part Luis liked everything I did, and vice versa. It worked incredibly well. He is a good, solid worker and comes up with great material for me to muse over. We both like what each other does, how could it not work?
I know that you are currently working on Antimatter, but are there any chances of some new music from Sleeping Pulse anytime soon?
I don’t think it will be soon, no. I have a tonne of albums to squeeze out of my head whilst Luis takes care of his own band too. I would imagine that the next Sleeping Pulse album would be a minimum of four years from now.
Are you planning to change anything in the writing process, or is it going to be you writing doing what vocalists mainly do and Luiz doing what musicians do?
I will react vocally, melodically and lyrically to whatever music Luis sends me, so its not so much a plan from my side when the music that I react to comes from somebody else.
You might say, that when it comes to creating music so far in Antimatter and Sleeping Pulse you worked in duos. Do you think, that when it comes to writing music three is a crowd?
Its all down the the individual I suppose. I personally couldn’t imagine working that way, but then look at the bands who make their work a collaborative experience, they produce good stuff.
Is there maybe a chance, that we could see Antimatter and Sleeping Pulse at one show?
Yes absolutely, but maybe more as an amalgamation, so it would be one full-band show collecting Antimatter and Sleeping Pulse works into one presentation. I was only talking about this a few days ago as an idea I wanted to put forward for a special, one-off show in 2016. Maybe in the future I will tour as Mick Moss, collecting the best works of all the projects I have been in/am to be in, into one show. That would be a nice setlist. But yes, maybe also next year Antimatter will play in Portugal, in which case support will be by Sleeping Pulse.
From what I understand you’re a fan of sociology, and the way the humans “work” on psychological level. I believe that much of how they “tick” can be reflected by culture, and from what I see around me in the mass media I’m not to optimistic. All those “reality shows” on MTV being the best example. I recall from my school days, that my teacher said, that the history of the human culture can be presented as a sinusoid, and I don’t believe that we’re at it’s top at the moment. What are your views on that matter and if you by any chance share mine, how long do you think it will take us to start going up again, or we hit rock bottom so hard, that there’s no going back.
I just think there are so many factors in modern life that fuck peoples operating system up before they’ve even reached adulthoood, it breeds machines with a ‘me vs the world’ ideology. We need to stop hurting each other. It can only happen in the individual. But in a profit-based, dog-eat-dog society, empathetic behaviour is at the least of peoples priorities, which has a knock-on effect, like an infection.
I’m not a gossip journalist, so excuse my curiosity, how much of the gloomy and nostalgic Mick Moss that we know from your music is there in “everyday you”?
Of course I’m gloomy and very nostalgic at times, but yin/yang. We all have a dark side and a light one too. I celebrate my dark side in my lyrics, whilst celebrating my light side in everyday life as much as I can.
Before we finish I’d like to ask you for two more things. First, I’d like you to share with us your favorite joke. Just please bear in mind, that I will be translating this into Polish, so the fewer language humor, the better.
You know, Im not going to answer that one or I would undoubtedly get myself into trouble… unless I can think of a mild joke. A mild joke …., mild, … searching, searching…. Nope. Cant find one.
And as for my final question, the traditional – if you’d you like to share something with your fans in Poland, the floor is yours.
Absolutley. I would like to say thank you for your continued and unwavering support over the years, even in the dark times. Polish audiences will always have a place in my heart!