Renaissance Pop Phone Call
by Marcel Feldmar
Two things you should know. Momus is a pop star. A self proclaimed misfit, a tender pervert, a literate and cynical wit... but still... a pop star. The second thing you should know is that the latest offering, Stars Forever , is an impressive 30 song pop portraiture. A concept album of sorts, taking the concept of patronage to new musical heights. From the Minus 5 to Jeff Koons to people you've never heard of, Stars Forever brings together elements of life and music to create a new renaissance.
Confused? The short version is that on January 1st, 1999, due to certain legal expenses, Momus announced that he would create thirty sonic portraits for $1000 each. Three months later, thirty people had signed up. The rest is to be history. Momus has said that the whole experience was very interesting, because after writing countless songs about himself, it was refreshing to take on other lives. "There's a limit to the amount of material that you can mine from your own life," he says.
What does this give us? As the press release states, "songs which touch on universal themes: childhood, loneliness, love, anal sex, and chocolate." On the phone from his London home, Momus talked to me about all of the above, and more.
So now that you've done all these portraits, and you've said that you've exhausted the material in your own life, what direction will your next album take?
Well, I was thinking of doing it from the viewpoint of the disillusioned celebrity, which will once again be me. I gain more life experience to draw from as I do more. I'm sort of selling snake oil, in a way. Promising the ultimate, but there's always another step to take.
All of the responses to your Stars Forever call were through the Internet, as well as your Web site (http://www.demon.co.uk/momus). Are you actively involved with the Web-based side of your pop personality?
Up to a point. I do it all myself, though I'm not using much more than an old word processing program and primitive HTML.
On the new CD, did you find any of the commissioned songs to be more inspiring than others?
I can't pick any particular pieces, though it was most challenging, and rewarding, when I got to work with new stereotypes. I'm generally working with my own stereotype, the thin British man, but here, I got to work with a child of three, some Japanese people, and it was new. It was inspiring that people were open about themselves, letting me know who they were or who they wanted to be. Letting me make them perhaps a bit larger than life.
I was amused to see one song done for the Minus 5. How did that come about?
Scott McCaughey contacted me. I don't know him, but he seems to be a fan, so I did some basic research, and it turned into a sort of editorial on celebrity.
You define your music as being analog baroque, and you also mention the term "infoDeco." What, exactly, is "infoDeco"?
It's a mixture of things. More music, but at the same time, moving away from musical authenticity. Like when you play folk music on a synthesizer. Ironic Electronic. It's like creating a new folk, what happens on the television is what we can write about now. There's a measure of the French pop in the equation as well. Serge Gainsbourg... rock and roll and poetry. Sound and literature. Just looking for the startling contrast. Sampling of speech. Sometimes a more German aesthetic, or "pop artificialé". Music that is electronic, robotic, stripped of it's origins, but at the same time, still moving.
And the music is still moving. Song after song introducing us to character after character, and the Renaissance is upon us again.