Songbook / The Moon and Serpent / The Highbury Working

By Barry Kavanagh, 17 October 2000

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Those CDs you’ve done. Are they all spoken word with music, or – ? I know you write songs because I’ve seen in a shop The Alan Moore Songbook

Yeah, well, most of those songs actually emerged from when I was with a band, about six or seven years ago, eight years ago, called the Emperors of Ice Cream. [That’s when] I’d written most of those songs, then a couple of them I’d written back when I was seventeen.
The band was good, we had some good fun, we did some good songs but it probably would have just been just a pop band at the end of it and there’s plenty of good pop bands. But the band all broke up, with the usual “musical differences”, i.e. we couldn’t stand each other. But no, me and Tim Perkins, who was also in the Emperors, we stuck together and just after that I got into magic. The first thing that we did was this big performance in ’94 at Bride Lane off Fleet Street [London] Subversion in the Streets of Shame. It was Paul Smith from Blast First records had got Iain Sinclair to put together a three day event of, I suppose, subterraneans, really. I was reading; there was Stewart Home; Robin Cook [aka] the crime writer Derek Raymond, that was his last reading before he died, he came and did a reading about death, very ill.

Some of his stuff is very metaphysical.

Oh, he was a great bloke, Cookie. He was a rotter, he was a perfect old Etonian rotter. Great guy to have a drink with. Yeah, and then Kathy Acker turned up unexpectedly halfway through the performance and did the best reading I’d ever seen her do. Dear, sweet, lovely Kathy Acker. She’d got kind of Mary-Jane shoes on. And socks. I don’t know whether it was some kind of paedo- thing that she was going through but she looked kind of – I mean, like, you know, she was in her fifties, nearly fifty but she look so sweet and cool and cute and she did this brilliant reading. So we finished off the Saturday night with this hour-long magical extravaganza. That came out, it was Cleopatra records, in the States, they brought out the CD that’s just called The Moon and Serpent – Grand Egyptian Theatre of Marvels.

Right, I saw the cover [in an advert] on the back of Cerebus [#221] with that ghost photograph.

That’s pretty spooky. Yeah, Melinda took that at rehearsals. And yeah, you know, beats the hell out of me.

I remember you sent that into Fortean Times [#79]. “What’s this?”

I’ve shown it to professional photographers, they can’t work out how it’s happened. Nobody can. Yeah, that was quite interesting. [Laughs] Yeah, then, the next thing we did was The Birth Caul and then we did a thing at Highbury [London], which is the one that’s just coming out in a couple of week’s time. Steve Severin from [Siouxsie and] the Banshees, he’s got his own record label now, Re: records and The Highbury Working is going to be coming out and we’re very proud of that. That is –

– That’s a great title…

It’s still spoken word, with music, but with The Highbury Working we did something really different. Say, with The Birth Caul, the words and the music are still integrated, obviously there’s bits where I’m saying something, then something happens in the music and their obviously connected, which is not bad when you consider that The Birth Caul is actually a live recording and that I was reading to prearranged tapes, so I had to kind of time every word that I said for that hour. You see, with The Birth Caul, the music and the words are integrated but the music still tends mainly towards the ambient. It’s more like kind of patterns of sound or fields of sound or drones or whatever, whereas with The Highbury Working, as opposed to
The Birth Caul, what we’re doing is more like dance music – one track on it is very much like drum ‘n’ bass – and the integration between the words and the music is a lot cleverer. It’s a lot more dancey. It’s probably the most accessible piece we’ve done. Like I’ve said, there’s always been a dance element in my mysticism. Yeah, so, you know, I’m looking forward to this and John’s done a really great cover and a really great package for the CD. It’s a little Sergeant Pepper, that we’ve got here.

Incidentally, does The Alan Moore Songbook sell?

Oh, I don’t know. They never sent me any copies of it. Well no, they did, they did send me some copies of it but this is just people who sort of said “Look, we’re desperate for something of yours, what have you got?” and I say “Nothing,” and they say “Well, don’t you write songs?” and I say “Well, I can send you a bunch of lyrics if you want and then you can hand them out to artists.” And so that’s what they did. They just handed it out to artists. The artists illustrated the songs. I hadn’t really got anything to do with the process. I’ve no idea whether it sold or not, you know, I didn’t know they were bringing out a collection. I thought it was just a little occasional piece in an anthology.

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