Ahead of the Valentine's Day release of his deluxe new album, How to Get to Heaven from Scotland, I caught up with a very busy Aidan Moffat to compute about romance, sex, Batman, monogamy. You know, all the major life questions.
Out in deluxe box-set along with three vinyls, a board game and a Valentine's Day card signed by the man himself, this package is being touted as the ultimate gift for a loved one. Who would have thought Aidan Moffat could come over all romantic? I would, for one. To me his music has always been a celebration of all the things that make us human, the messy, complicated emotions that lead us astray and make us who we are.
Now three albums past Arab Strap, and a father to boot, Moffat has completed his first album of positive love songs. Knowing his penchant for writing around a subject, this probably does not mean thirteen tracks of 'I got you babe' (although the song is covered in the box set), but it does mean, in his word, "more sunshine and happy endings."
Well there you go. If the man responsible for the album Philophobia (that means, literally fear of love) and the song 'Double Justice' (that means, metaphorically, one in the moo and one in the poo) can come over all happy endings, then there's hope for all of us. Maybe this Valentines' Day it's time to throw the cynicism aside, and tell somebody you bloody love them. Or at the very least, buy them a box set, throw a couple of spoons in a pot noodle, and celebrate whatever it is that makes you human.
Aidan Moffat is another one of those great, great lyricists. His music is one of the loves of my life. This interview shows him to be just as funny and insightful as his music would suggest, and encyclopaedic about comics to boot. If he didn't already own it, I'd send him his album. The Deluxe boxset is out tomorrow, and How to Get to Heaven from Scotland by Aidan Moffat and the Best Of's is released in standard form on Monday.
You once had an Agony Uncle column for people's love and sex problems. Would you consider yourself an expert in this field? Maybe just a sympathetic fellow traveller?
A fellow traveller is right, although I'd be happy for anyone else to consider me a professional sexpert. It's actually quite easy advice to give: most of the time, the answer is simply, 'talk about it.'
This album was your attempt at writing more optimistic love songs. Has your attitude to love changed in the last few years?
No, I think the attitude to writing songs is what's changed. Writing maudlin, nasty songs about ex-girlfriends seemed to come more naturally to me and I never really felt confident trying to express positive feelings. It's a difficult thing to do without sounding clichéd and trite, so maybe I was just too lazy!
You've never really been a miserable person have you? I've always found your music very romantic.
No, I'm not particularly miserable, no. The thing with all those old Arab Strap songs is that they wouldn't have existed without the original romance and passion in a relationship; no smoke without fire, as it were. They were usually pretty dark but always written with love in mind.
Is Glasgow a great city for romance?
I can't say I've noticed, although every year around this time there's a story on the news about St. Valentine's remains being buried in Glasgow Cathedral or something like that. Not sure how true it is but they like to go on about it.
What is it about the minutiae of relationships that makes you want to write about them?
I think it all came from realising that very few people talked about those things in songs. Most people discuss the grubby aspects of love but I found it was odd that you didn't hear them in songs. Sometimes the grubby little details are perfect metaphors for the emotions that produced them.
You've just started a column for Viceland.com. For someone who's never feared a little bit of confession, what are your views on blogging, people who bare all on the internet?
I think we live in a scary culture when so many people want you to know about them and even more want to listen. I prefer a little mystery in life myself, I don't even read interviews with artists I like because most of the time I'd rather just not know anything about them other than what they present to us. Apparently I've got a MySpace and a Facebook page now, but I wouldn't know, I'm just not interested in that at all. I think my American publicist set them up. If I want to talk to a friend, I'll phone them – I don't really need to know what they're doing every minute of the day. All these people on Facebook – what do they have to talk about when they meet up?
This is your first album as Aidan Moffat and the Best-Ofs. Do you still feel the flutter of the first release or are you an old pro? How does it compare with the first Arab Strap release and your first solo release?
I think the excitement of release died a long time ago, pretty much after the first Arab Strap album when I realised that releasing a record means that other people will hear it and pass comment on it. I love a record when it's mine, when it's being mastered and I'm working on the artwork. But when it's released and it becomes public, I just want to immediately start work on the next one, which is exactly what I always do. The Best-Ofs album isn't mine anymore – anyone can own it now, so it's just not that special to me anymore. I'm proud of it and I'm happy with it, but there's no need for me to ever listen to it again, it's time to move on.
Is there any irony behind releasing it on Valentine's Day?
Yes and no. It was too good an opportunity to miss, but I can't say I'm a fan of Valentine's Day in any way at all. I suppose it's cute when you're young but the novelty wears off when you get older.
Do you think that human beings should be monogamous?
I don't see why not. There's plenty of opposing scientific theories out there on the subject but I think it's subjective: if monogamy's what you're after then go for it, but if you'd rather be a shagger then it's up to you. Better yet, try both!
Are there any plans to bring out a compilation of your lyrics, or publish anything else that you've written?
I've got myriad plans for such things but whether they will ever result in any physical form is the question. I've got at least three books in mind right now, including a children's book, believe it or not. It's about a bipolar Blackpool donkey with serious confidence issues – you heard it here first!
How does making music compare now from when you and your collaborators were first starting out?
I don't think there's any real difference in the way I work now. Obviously, with solo stuff you're your own boss, but Arab Strap was very much a partnership. But the way I approach it is still the same… although I'm not exactly sure how I do that.
What's your favourite comic book character?
I think you know, Emmy, that the answer to that is Batman. I've been obsessed with Batman from a very early age and he'll be with me to the very end. Unlike most other 'superheroes', Batman wasn't gifted powers and then decided to use them for good, he saw the worst the world had to offer and dedicated his life to fighting hatred and helping his fellow man. He's a true hero.
To keep in with the theme of Valentine's Day, what's your favourite comic book couple?
Swamp Thing and Abigail Arcane were great. She's a beautiful, silver haired young woman, he's an elemental god made of mud. Have you ever seen the sex scene that Alan Moore wrote? Swamp Thing grows a vegetable from his body and Abigail consumes it, and it takes her on this erotic, mental trip. It's amazing.
Do you have a favourite novel or writer?
Not really, but I've recently read a lot of B S Johnson's novels and I think he was amazing. If only he hadn't killed himself the year I was born – his best work may well have yet to come.
Do you have a favourite love story?
My own, of course! And my girlfriend and I really like that film, 50 First Dates. I've got a real soft spot for rom-coms, you know.
Do you believe that love conquers all?
It can certainly help.
This must be something that new parents get tired of answering, but how has your life view changed since becoming a father? And how does affect making music?
To be honest, I don't think it has yet. I'm a lot more emotional about things and obviously I worry about the boy's future, but I don't think I've that mellowing epiphany that some new parents talk about it – I hate just as many aspects of life as I always have! I don't think he's altered my life, but he's a very beautiful, joyous addition to it. Although come April I will effectively be a common-law house-husband so my attitude may reverse completely.
Are the Best Ofs going to be a band you continue to record with or will the next album be a new project again?
The next album will be a collaboration with Bill Wells, another musician from Falkirk. I have this idea that I won't ever make an album with the same band twice anymore and just keep moving on. I may well change my mind, but I do like the idea of constantly working with new people.
Do you remember your first love?
How To Get From Heaven From Scotland is released on 14th February in a a deluxe box set which includes the following...
- LP version of the album
- CD version of the album
- 7" with covers of Sonny and Cher's 'I Got You Babe' and Glen Campbell's 'Love Is Not A Game'
- 5 track CD EP featuring 4 alternate versions of album tracks and an additional, bonus track
- A "How To Get To Heaven From Scotland" board game (with dice and counters)
- A Valentine's Card personally signed and numbered by Aidan himself.
Also there's this online version of Aidan Moffat's boardgame. It's been voiced by Aidan himself and allows you to preview album tracks should misfortune befall you and you hit an arrow. Winners can get a free download of 'Big Blonde's radio edit. It's an amusing addition to the album package... chemikal.co.uk/howtogettoheaven
Lastly, his Agony Uncle column is here: thequietus.com