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click opera
February 2010
Thu, Apr. 26th, 2007 12:00 am
Who am I and what do I do?


Thu, Apr. 26th, 2007 12:13 am (UTC)

1) if youre Scottish, why do you speak in Received Pronounciation? I'm making a guess it's because you moved to London at an early age but I could be wrong.

I wouldn't quite call it RP. But it's close to Standard English. I'd say it's down to a combination of things. I had a more regional accent when I was a kid, but lost it as my parents lost theirs -- a combination of teaching English as a foreign language (my dad's job), education at a private school in a notoriously Anglo Scottish town (Edinburgh Academy, the same kind of school Tony Blair was educated in -- he also doesn't sound very Scottish). And, of course, the fact that I haven't lived in Scotland since 1984, and that I live mostly amongst non-native English speakers.

The weird thing is that I had a London accent in Edinburgh when I was about 10. I just sort of affected it to sound cosmopolitan, I think. But I was at a boarding school at the time, and everyone's parents were living in Nigeria, working for Shell or something. So accents blurred and blended. It's just... globalisation, really. I think our family got globalized about 20 years ahead of schedule. Even as a child, my life was jets, and nothing seemed more natural than for my dad to be taking jobs all over the world. Diplomatic or academic ostings in Athens or Montreal or wherever.

2) You say music is dying; why do you feel like this? What was different before?

Cos basically I can remember a time when music carried into the mainstream the values of a counterculture that was really going to change the world. I remember the 60s and 70s. Music was a popular artform that got on mainstream TV but seemed to come from somewhere else entirely. Planet Sex, or Planet Freakout, or whatever. It was like a liberal secular religion, something worth giving your life to, dying for (even if that was just becoming Dionysus and choking on your own vomit). But music has lost that mission -- or, rather, succeeded too well -- and fragmented and tribalized, and become incapable of changing anything. Dionysus now works for Virgin Airlines. All that desublimation turned out to be super-repressive. What might change the world is robots, the internet, genetic engineering, and time-based media. Well, all except time-based media, actually.

3) Why do you feel no real connection to Britain?

Because it became clear to me that, with my values, I could only survive in Britain as a "sacrificial dandy", an aesthete you kicked, an embittered satirist or a super-marginal eccentric. My values are at odds with the values of Britain, especially post-Thatcherite Britain. You just have to look at TV or the big-selling UK newspapers or magazines to see what those values are.

I do retain some Britishness, though. I listen to Sherlock Holmes stories every day on Radio 7.

4) (bit of a novelty question) Seeing as you discuss the idea of identity... if you had to pick one of your songs to represent who you are (I'm talking Momus theme tune here) which one would you choose?

Any one song would be a lie, a freak statistic. Put them all together and you get something more 3D. A sum of lies which, together, tell some kind of truth. It's a join-the-dots drawing with about 300 points. But you have to remember, too, that most songs are dialogues with an invisible partner. Maybe it's "Britain", maybe "the Lover", maybe a writer like Yukio Mishima or a songwriter like Serge Gainsbourg. So together they're a bunch of relationships with mentors, significant others, alive and dead. And of course with "God" and the audience.

ReplyThread Parent
Thu, Apr. 26th, 2007 12:27 am (UTC)

From 2009 the school (Edinburgh Academy) will be co-educational for all ages.
I also turned up a reference to Rational Records who were based quite close to the school. I was browsing nostalgically for references to The Delmontes who are on LTM (fka Le Temps Modernes) label with Ludus.

When I descended upon Hamilton Row in 1978 with my saved up paper round money to meet some girls and go to a Punishment of Luxury gig I noticed what can only be described as a "Stockbridge Accent."

The "Islington of the North" indeed.

ReplyThread Parent
Thu, Apr. 26th, 2007 12:42 am (UTC)

It was just going co-ed when I was there. I think we had 6 girls and 600 boys, which no doubt influenced my opinion that women are rare fabulous legendary creatures, not quite real. Like unicorns.

Rational was Alan Campbell's label, no? He lived on Howe Street, and may do still.

I think you mean Henderson Row, not Hamilton!

Stockbridge (which I used to think was called Stopbridge) was the backdrop to my childhood, but it all happened behind the fence that separated our bit (Lord Moray's Pleasure Gardens) from theirs (and "they" were thugs on drugs who'd spray your tits silver on the way to the brothel on Danube Street).

That scary stuff all happened beyond the Grecian temple on the Water of Leith -- the temple to St Cecilia, which actually plays a part in the Josef K Chance Meeting video. You can imagine how exciting it was to get outside that fence and actually be in a band with -- gasp! -- working class people! (Though of course Malcolm's dad was the dean of New College up on the Mound. Not exactly Niddrie-edgy!)

ReplyThread Parent Expand

Thu, Apr. 26th, 2007 01:08 am (UTC)
I am not a musician

<< But music has lost that mission -- or, rather, succeeded too well -- and fragmented and tribalized, and become incapable of changing anything >>

Right. I think the influence of music is in submission, but that it will come back, after a lull. Maybe ten years from now(?) someone will do something weird and wacky, and we'll all start hearing the message in the music again

<< What might change the world is robots, the internet, genetic engineering, and time-based media. Well, all except time-based media, actually >>

Time-based media being music and video? Anything that depends on sequential consumption? Is a series of images, presented on one page, time-based?

I like speed. I like consuming with my eyes because it's faster than consuming with my ears. But I think we'll get sick of consuming art fast, and then flip back to more meditative consumption. It's all cyclical, and right now we're on the visual, fast part of the cycle, but we will learn the limitations of speed and then want the slow stuff again

ReplyThread Parent
jordan fish
Thu, Apr. 26th, 2007 02:06 am (UTC)

What might change the world is robots, the internet, genetic engineering, and time-based media. Well, all except time-based media, actually.

Ha! That revision-y sentence bit is one sure-interesting way to talk about the state of video right now!

Also I wanted to say that I really liked this video, your thoughts and the editing. It's very classy with the continuous sound edits but fade-in fade-out video edits--a surprisingly weird effect. I'd be interested to see the raw footage, especially the part where you start talking about how there's an aggressive side to your art that is perhaps very American. It kinda felt like that thought gets cut off.

ReplyThread Parent

Thu, Apr. 26th, 2007 02:33 am (UTC)

Dear Momus:

Just watched your interview - great stuff while watching I wondered

do you pay taxes? and if so where?

The reason I ask is that i'm a global person too and much like you my parents were business folk who traveled around world - jets were my home - and having grownup from Chile to Mexico to Japan to Brasil to America to Spain to Japan etc and now I'm back in South American a citizen of Bermuda (my father is bermudian - and like you have no attachment at all to the island other than my passport)

And i just filed taxes and paid money to the US Government, to the Chilean Government where I live sometimes.

My point is do you pay taxes? As a global person taxes seem so old world, part of un-globalized world? Maybe as an artist you don't make enough? Surely Wired must pay you something? Do you pay to German Government? What about the US?

What do you think?

ReplyThread Parent

Thu, Apr. 26th, 2007 09:36 am (UTC)

Just curious, how do you feel about Scottish independence?

ReplyThread Parent
Thu, Apr. 26th, 2007 09:51 am (UTC)

I don't think I have anything insightful to say about either of these questions -- except, perhaps, that the subjects of regional government and taxation are (like death and dentistry) quite useful for ponder-withering any embarrassing erections you might get at the swimming pool.

All further enquiries should be directed to my accountant, and Alasdair Gray (not the same person).

ReplyThread Parent

(no subject) - (Anonymous)
Thu, Apr. 26th, 2007 01:04 pm (UTC)

On the accents thing, I notice that in the UK there's basically just been a switch. BBC announcers now speak with provincial accents, but black and Asian Britons often adopt quite a posh accent. It's all part of a rush to eradicate the anxiety of difference, a rush to the middle. If you're poor, you try to sound posh and pronounce your Ps properly, if you're posh (hello Damon Albarn!) you do glottal stops. And actually, of those two categories, my parents are more like the black/Asian immigrant groups than Damon Albarn. They deliberately lost their local accents, so I lost mine. Unlike Damon (or my cousin Justin), I never affected a mannered pseudo-prole accent, partly because I married into exactly the sort of upwardly mobile black British culture I'm describing, or dated foreigners who needed clear English. So I never slummed it. That definitely hurt my music career in Britain. My press file is full of references to my accent being too posh, but I actually liked to counterbalance that with filthy lyrics -- it generated a nice tension.

While I do believe the children of the 60's and 70's helped create the liberal climate we enjoy today, I believe a hell of lot of it was all a lot of posing and talk about politics, when all they were really interested in was doing drugs, playing music, wearing weird clothes and generally indulging in hedonism... "counter culture" was an excuse for that.

But if you're talking about culture, surely you are talking about what people consume, what they wear, and how they live? Those are the legitimate components of culture, and changing the world is all about changing those things, that habitus. The failure of the 60s counterculture is simply the inevitable failure of success -- that you have to drop the "counter" bit and abandon the avant garde pretensions. You're not the future, you're the present. You're not the bohemians, you're the bourgeois. The same thing goes for punk, which I think is the UK's last subculture, and which now sits respectably "in the throne of Apollo".

Japan at least has a freaky otaku subculture which is only now entering respectability. It's a more recent accommodation than anything we can point to in the UK.

As for how I'm personally perceived in the US or Japan (supervillain, emotionally constipated academic, effete eccentric, ha!), it matters less to me than it ever did. I think ten years ago I had an interest in posing as a poisonous dandy on the stage of the Fez Club in New York, or pretending to be Alexis de Tocqueville, the European who explains Americans. Now I just feel we're all part of the same glocal soup. I don't bother to personify the exotic other to anyone. I like cultures which offer me work, though. I'm grateful to Tokyo for getting me involved with Kahimi, to San Francisco for giving me a column to write for Wired, to French curators and New York gallerists for roping me into the art world, or to French publishers for trying to get me to write a novel. None of this stuff comes from the UK, but I guess I had my UK breaks in the 80s in the form of relationships with indie labels. The UK and I have drifted apart. But I think we were always apart, because my 80s UK albums are full of satire and poison.

I do think that sense of alienation from (particularly English) UK culture is because of an unusually large gap between my values and the mainstream values of the English. It's a gap that doesn't exist in other countries, partly of course because I like being lost, and I tend to exoticize difference. (In other words, it's a "minor differences are the most murderous" type of thing.) Geodemographics puts me in my place still has a lot to say about this stuff. It really pins down what a tiny minority of the English population shares my values, and why I'm not, as a direct result, going to have a successful music career there, or be offered a column in a UK newspaper, or get UK publishers knocking at my door. So it goes -- and so I go! It's fine -- it's a joy to travel, precisely because of the possibility that you'll find you have elective affinities with people who don't share your nationality. Maybe you've already discovered that with Japan!

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Thu, Apr. 26th, 2007 01:43 pm (UTC)

As an American, this is the first time I've heard Nick's spoken accent - but, I've always liked the music and the writings. Scottishness isn't something particularly exotic or special to Americans anyway, so I'm not sure if that's a valid argument - especially in music, where everyone affects accents anyway.

ReplyThread Parent
Fri, Apr. 27th, 2007 04:15 am (UTC)
It so pains me to read this

<< The children of today, we dont need that excuse, and perhaps more realistically, we realise that capitalism is the only reason we can enjoy that life. I think you're looking at the past through rose-tinted glasses. >>


If it were not for the aspirations of the kids in the sixties, you and yours would not be able to stick their fingers up the man's ass, the way we can now, in the U.S.

How can you think your generation is somehow superior to mine? Yes, there were the ones with colored glasses, but what about, oh god don't get me started, all our culturual heroes from that time? Lou Reed John Cale Bob Dylan Pete Townshend

The eagerness and determination of your generation may save the planet, but we wouldn't have that zeal without what has gone before

We got you where you are now, so show some humility and then save the planet, okay?

ReplyThread Parent

(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand

Thu, Apr. 26th, 2007 05:40 pm (UTC)

I'm curious as a British expat who also still "retains" a degree of Britishness - A reading of Click Opera seems to suggest that you are still a frequent visitor to the UK. Is this not the case?

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Fri, Apr. 27th, 2007 07:22 pm (UTC)

I just realized you're one of those Third Culture Kids (see Wikipedia), all grown up.

ReplyThread Parent
Fri, Apr. 27th, 2007 09:12 pm (UTC)

about music . . .

who do you mean doesn't pay attention to music any more? I personally went through a period recently when I didn't care as much about music but now am listening to music anew. Dioynisus doesn't work for virgin, but a plastic statue of him may advertise.

It may seem like people don't pay attention to music these days, but instead the instant gratification of ipods have temporiarly made people who don't listen to as much music buy a lot and throw off the charts. ipods are more a status symbol more than a personal stereo, and there temporary significance also has the byproduct of bringing trival boring music (or necro-music) to the forefront.

Even during the music explosion this kind of music was being played but the public didn't pay attention to it then because they didn't want wallpaper music. Art too sells vodka and gasoline these days, but you don't talk about corporations use recently graduated art students to sell products, you focus on the artworld that makes no money. There's a world of that in music too, though to quote you "Transcendence isn't dead, it's just gone deeper underground."

Have you listened to your old catalog recently? I know you still love music since those songs reveal the mind of someone who loves music deeply, maybe you've just been a bit jaded by ipods and the industry in general.

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