Thought For The Day
Thought For The Day
Lost In The Stars
Phew, operating this heavy star-making machinery every day is hard work! Pulling on the levers, welding the metal of a hastily bashed-out halo, an arc of sparks shooting off my drill bit, the star-proof visor over my face (I don't want to go star-blind, do I?) then the laborious wrench as I haul each portrait on a makeshift block and tackle pulley up, up, up into the night sky.
Was it this much work for Warhol? Hell no! All he did was put people on his sofa and set the camera running. He didn't have to rummage in his own soul for correspondences with each sitter, make their biographies rhyme, plump for one of umpteen musical styles at his disposal, and sing and record the whole thing at one sitting (often ten hours of continuous work). Let alone send his sitter an MP3 file as soon as the paint was dry.
No, Warhol had it easy. He was part of another age, one we look back on as quaintly modernist and minimalist. He switched on the Bolex, or made a snap with his Polaroid, and the mechanical and impersonal rendering of a human soul was part of the point. Henry Geldzahler smoking a cigar, a Polaroid of Bianca Jagger, Brigid fixing herself, the Absolut vodka bottle, all as flat and expressionless as Andy himself staring into the camera, playing dead.
But I had to bring back craftsmanship and decoration and wit along with patronage and the baroque, didn't I? And those things aren't easy. Those things take more time and attention than most of us have at the end of the 20th century. (The only reason I have the time and concentration to write 40 songs in little over a month is that I barely have a life outside of this. Ask my friends, ask my lovers. They'll say 'Nick Who?')
I'm now almost half way through Stars Forever and I can tell you that from here it's sounding like the best Momus album so far. It's sounding like it's going to be my 'Thriller', my most enjoyable and funny and accessible album, a compendium of all my styles and themes. (Wouldn't it be ironic, patrons, if it made me famous too?)
You might think that because I'm writing about other people in all their quirky particularity, these songs would be cranky and narrow in their appeal. You might think I'd be inclined to invest less of myself in them. In fact the opposite is happening. Where, writing about myself, I tend to be harsh and perfunctory, here I'm taking a lot of care to get the essence of someone's self-perception into the song. I'm wearing kid gloves. My girly, compassionate side is coming to the fore.
And what's emerging are songs which touch on universal themes: childhood, loneliness, love, anal sex and chocolate.
Well, they're universal themes for Momus fans, anyway. What's becoming clear is that all my fans are gay, or Japanese, or people in the Japanese or American music industries, or other artists. There are no 'normal' people in there at all. Nobody who cried at Titanic, nobody who bought the new Stereophonics album 'because it sounds a bit like Oasis'.
No, normal for a Stars Forever patron means being a globe-trotting Japanese superstar who neglects his cats (they debate in the Keigo Oyamada song whether to forgive him), being Jeff Koons and asserting, over a spooky baroque backing, that 'art can help you have a better day', or being uniform-chasing gay writer Steven Zeeland and, in an electronic sea shanty of excoriating vulgarity, exclaiming with bravado:
When I die mix my ash with the piss
At Camp Pendleton Del Mar Enlisted Club!
Those are the sorts of universals that I'm talking about, and they certainly rock my planet and swing my stars.
This website, like the rest of my so-called life, has ground to a halt while I've been at work on this catalogue of weird normality, this encyclopaedia of universal pathology. But please feel free to talk amongst yourselves on the newly-created Momus newsgroup, alt.fan.momus.
I won't be contributing anything directly to alt.fan.momus (that would be a bit too Courtney Love of me, and besides rumour and gossip is often a lot more interesting than my supposedly definitive take) though I will say here that yes, the Karaoke Parody Competition is still open, and you have until the end of April to get entries in (to Momus, Box 517, 28 Old Brompton Road, London SW7 3DL).
Like me, you may find that this decoration / wit / neo-baroque thing is hard work. But in the end it's a lot more rewarding than switching on a 16mm Bolex and popping out for a spot of shopping at Macy's.
I'll leave you with a few of the reactions I've been getting when (and it's a nail-bitingly wonderful moment) I've sent the completed song portraits off to their sitters...
'I wish you could see my smile right now. Your portrait perfectly captures the spirit of my work. I had no doubt that you would do this, of course, but I'm not exaggerating when I tell you that reading your lyrics was as intensely exciting and moving an experience as I'm likely to have all year. I'm still trembling a little... Nick, I'm going to have a hard time sleeping tonight, I'm so excited. Thank you again, very, very much.' Steven Zeeland
'Sehr chouette, now. Thank you for accepting to make the changes, what a magnificent collaboration!' Florence Manlik
'My song, still the best... thank you and sorry to everyone else...' Karin Komoto
'Well lord love a duck! You done me proud. The song made me happier
than a crooked inmate with a pardon. When I've bought the farm, gone up the flume, kicked the bucket, takin' a dirt nap, had the high grass wavin' over me, sacked my saddle, gone over the range, and shook hands with St. Peter, I can rest easy knowin' that I've been immortalized by the finest puncher on either side of the Rio Grande.' Brent Busboom
'The important thing for the song is to capture childhood, not to psychoanalyze. And, to that end, I think you've done a tremendous job (I'm especially happy you got the monkey bit in there). Noah said "Mommy, Momus wrote a song about me. Listen... it's funky!" So, he's clearly keen about it (although I can imagine him in a couple of years asking me what dope and phat means). Thanks so much.' Michael Brill on behalf of 3 year old Noah
PS: 'I'm kicking myself for letting the second song go. If space opens up, I'd really love to do one for my mom as well (72 years old, 4 kids,
rocks, writes, on the Net, lived around the world, really great life story) - which might be a welcome relief from writing about gay men and Japanese
rock stars. Just hoping.'
'It's really a cool song. I haven't done the MP3 thing yet but I'll try to sort it out so I can hear it. Just from the lyrics I know it's totally great! The chorus
is really fantastic, and I just realized what a great tie-in it is, with
Velazquez, the court painter, and the Stars Forever concept. The whole thing is genius.' Scott McCaughey of supergroup The Minus 5
'I love it! I've found myself.........................I've awoken the kids with my laughter. .........apples and pears, Spincter and Linctus, snigger! You now really do
have Lionel Bart's spirit! I just love it! I like myself again, its just the pep I needed. Who needs a shrink? Wig out! Hope you had as much fun making it.' Robert Dye
'I received my song! Needless to say I am very pleased with it. I adore its ambiguity. Thank you... Three cheers for oligopsony!' Mika Leigh Akutsu
'Oh man, are we loving our lyrics! We absolutely love it. Musically Ennio Morricone. WOW! ...thought it sounded kind of honky-tonk western. And, lyrically, wonderful... we laughed our arses off.' Team Clermont
'I love it! I also feel incredibly embarassed, but that's just my British reserve coming through - I'll get over it! My initial feeling was that you've captured me pretty accurately... Spooky that you should mention seeing couples at Ikea - I was there at the weekend and I did indeed feel more than a touch of longing at seeing one particular couple selecting light fittings! And you also qoute "The day before you came", which I think is a superb song (particularly the Blancmange cover version). Since I mentioned neither of these things in my portrait information and yet they both apply, I'd say you've done a good job at
getting the essence of this particular sitter.'
I also read the rest of the lyrics and it sounds like we're in for an album with all the classic Momus elements: stories of outlandish sexual debauchery next to wistful tales of a lost love, high art next to disposable consumerism (and with Mr Koons, that's rather the point of course). Songs that charm and disarm, amuse, bemuse and beguile the listener!!! Looking forward to it immensely!' Miles Franklin
Stars Forever will be released worldwide in July.