'80's albums, major-label-dom and Pink Floyd calling
Interview by Jason Gross
Once again, we continue with an annual tradition of checking in with singer/composer/multi-instrumentalist/educator Anthony Moore and finding a bit more about his storied career. After finding out about his early years with Slapp Happy and Henry Cow, his experimental solo albums and his monumental recently-reissued album Flying Doesn't Help, we move on to his '80's work, including a hook up with a major label and collaborating with a certain well-known UK band.
PSF: Why did you decide to stop your own label Quango?
AM: Flying Doesn't Help was recorded in studio dead time so needed no significant upfront funding; that made record companies less important at the outset. In the post-punk era, the major labels were 'professionalising'; accountants and lawyers were taking over; musical exploration seemed to have no place in the business. Then there was the rise of the independents. Flying grew up in the age of Rough Trade and Geoff Travis. Quango was an irreverent invention with no offices or employees apart from my friend and then manager, Glen Colson. Neither of us were particularly impressed by the mainstream business, so we decided to construct a mysterious fake. Quango (quasi non governmental organisation) and its anti bureaucratic logos, stickers and labels was conceived as a one-time vehicle for the LP. After the release, I swerved back into Europe, underground movie soundtracks and working with Dieter Meier of Yello in his home country of Switzerland. Glen and I parted ways and Quango, its function fulfilled, came to an end.
PSF: To my ears, World Service sounds like a more danceable and upbeat album than Flying (which makes me surprised that it wasn't more of a commercial success). Did you see it that way? What did you see as the difference with the music and recording of it otherwise?
AM: I met up with some Swiss musicians and anti-establishment freaks who had built a funky studio out in the sticks. I'd already written most of the songs for the next album World Service, but rather than working alone, overdubbing, multi-tracking, as I'd done in the past, and thanks to the people around me, it made more sense to form a band and play the songs 'live' in the studio. "Le Cretin Bleu" was Henry Vogel, guitarist and co-producer of the record, and "Orb" was his brother, Robert, who played drums. They had both previously worked with Dieter Meier and other projects in Zurich.
The fact that the material evolved while playing live with a drummer definitely led to a more rhythmic, tempo-based work rather than the atmospheric sounds arising from tape manipulations. So yes, more danceable, more lively. As for commercial success... I don't know. There have only been two such dramatic occurrences in the last half a century of my time on the planet and they both came from writing. The first was "No Parlez," which ended up as the title track on Paul Young's hugely successful first album. The second was my contribution to Pink Floyd.
I remember some pretty lively times in that Swiss studio whilst recording WS; and discovering new arrangements and being spontaneous, taking risks and stepping into the unknown - familiar conditions for players, but entirely new for me. I was always something of a solo studio animal living in windowless rooms, crawling around the floor with cables round my neck. I also recall that we took the album to Berlin to mix the tracks in a different environment. There I came across the great jazz bass player Hans Hartmann and he put a beautiful bowed double bass part on "Nowhere to Go." Sadly, none of this survived as we still didn't feel completely happy with the overall result. So we went back to The Workhouse studio in London and did the final mixes there with the help of Laurie Latham who had worked with me on Flying. It's curious and not a little irritating how such spontaneous music-making led to such a complicated post-production. I suppose if you piece something together, using the studio as an instrument, then it arrives at the mixing stage almost fully formed.
PSF: How did you get to work with Do It Records for the next album?
AM: The short story regarding Do It is that the Tregoning brothers who ran the company had just signed Meier and his band Yello. Because of my connection to him they came to know of my work and offered to release World Service.
PSF: How did you get to work with Parlophone Records at that time for the album, The Only Choice (1984)?
AM: I was being managed by Kip Krones at this time and the deal with EMI Parlophone would have been down to him.
Another couple of years slip by and I found myself living in a warehouse on the river in Wapping, East end of London, working with dear departed friend, Matt Irving, who was a bass player and Roland MC4 programmer. Again, I'd been writing songs (I had a publishing contract with Virgin to write a dozen songs a year in return for a small advance). The Only Choice was derived from a MIDI-sequenced loop with an irregular time signature - something I did a lot of from very early on; I loved the jarring of expectation when listening to music in 5, 7 even 11 time. "No Parlez" and the other songs on the album were all demo-ed on a Fostex 8-track synced to a MIDI sequencer and using a very early Yamaha CX5 music 'computer.' The end effect was a very specifically '80's sounding album; again recorded with Laurie Latham at the Workhouse. "Industrial Drums (in 5 time)" is a highlight with the incredible harmonica playing of Marc Feltham and "Your Stars" features me rapping the astrology column of a daily newspaper! I guess I'd been digging The Furious Five. There are some touching songs on the album, not least "Souvenirs"...
PSF: Do you plan to reissue those albums from that time period?
AM: There has been some rough attempts on pirate CD labels. I think re-issuing World Service might still be problematic due to the complex history of its post-production. On the other hand, The Only Choice is pretty complete and I think a handsome vinyl re-issue could be very cool for any fans of the eighties.
PSF: How did the Pink Floyd connection happen for you?
AM: My earliest encounter with David Gilmour and Pink Floyd happens sometime in '84/'85. It's rather odd because I cannot recall how I first came to meet him. It would have been an informal encounter somewhere, through mutual friends. Initially I was invited to contribute ideas towards getting what became the album A Momentary Lapse of Reason off the ground (to use a 'flying' metaphor). I remember discussions with Bob Ezrin, David, Richard and Nick about conceptual notions, use of field recordings, suggestions of an overall structure, of beginnings, middles and endings. All this took place in the stunning surroundings of their floating studio on the Thames. The boat had been built by theatre impresario Fred Karno in the first decade of the 1900's and was perfectly preserved with an upper deck under a glass roof with enough space for a 40 piece orchestra. I recall turning up with samples on floppy discs as previously, I'd already been working with the early Akai samplers. The lyric writing came about quite naturally, arising from the discussions about ideas, and on listening to the emerging fragments of playing that the band put together in the for'ard salon of the boat. It became a daily routine to drive down to the river every morning, spend a few hours writing and talking. and then driving back home - very workaday, continuing for some 18 months, but in utterly magical surroundings.
A year or so later, they returned to start The Division Bell and lastly The Endless River. It was these three projects I contributed to, writing lyrics for "Learning to Fly," "Dogs of War," "On the Turning Away" and "Wearing the Inside Out" (The Division Bell), as well as playing a fragment of keyboard on The Endless River, which was a tribute to Richard Wright.
Somewhere in between or after, I spent another 18 months in the South of France and London co-writing and co-producing Rick's last solo album Broken China (1996). I loved him dearly, simply put.
Also see Moore in the 1990's: Slapp Happy reunion, Pink Floyd encounters, Sinead O'Connor collaboration