by Kat Kinsman
"Nicholas, don't be ridiculous," Nicholas Currie, a.k.a Momus, admonishes
in "The Animal That Desires" from his 1997 album, "Ping Pong." No doubt,
though, the canny Scot realizes that it is precisely this brand
of extravagant farce which distinguishes him amidst the current
spate of aesthete popsters. His low and intimate techno-intellectual
tinged croons have garnered him a legion of rapt fans and vehement
critics since the early '80s. While The
Divine Comedy wryly dissect, and Belle
and Sebastian coolly sentimentalize the motions of desire, Momus
stands out as the sole chronicler of the sensual absurdity of popping
a boner on the subway. On his new album, "The Little Red Songbook,"
he croons about a love gone wrong"Not even Vaseline and a
lot of mutual pain/could put Humpty Dumpty together again/Like a
square peg forced into a round hole/This into that just wouldn't
go"and offers a droll (and thinly-disguised) account of the
self-pleasuring proclivities of "Harry K-Tel, the method actor."
The frank accounting of sexual outlandishness is by no means
new territory for the 38-year-old performer. From his early days
in the Edinburgh band, the Happy Family; to the years at seminal
Brit-pop labels él, Creation, 4AD,
and Cherry Red;
to the songs he's penned for breathy Japanese chanteuse Kahimi
Karie, Momus has never shied away from mapping the physiology
of lust. Now with an ever-burgeoning base of European and Japanese
fans behind him, he is setting out once more to woo the American
people into his circle of tender
perversion. The Shopping in AmeriKKa Tour, also featuring
Karie and French neo-cabaret dandy Gilles Weinzaepflen, hits
Fez for four nights this week.
On his last tour of the States, Momus was summoned to Chicago for a
session with legendary sculptor/rock-and-roll curator Cynthia Plaster
Caster. CitySearch sat down with him to get the long and short of it.
CitySearch: Of course
I'm going to ask you a few music-related questions, but what the
kids really want to know is, what about Cynthia Plaster Caster?
Oh my God...Well, actually I was, I think, disappointing to Cynthia, because I think there was potential for her collection, which obviously includes people like Jimi Hendrix and the Rolling Stones and all those people. Essentially it wasn't a very erotic experience for me, so I wasn't at my best. In fact, she sent me a little photo strip with herself in a photo booth with my cast on her head and on her nose, and it wasn't actually much bigger than her nose. Sort of an elephant's trunk kind of effect.
CS: Ouch! That can't
be good for the ego. But how did she get wind of the fact that
maybe you would be someone she'd want to work with, and that she
might need to be stocking up on extra plaster?
M: I really don't know. I think someone
told her I would be a good person to do. So far as I know, it's
still the only cast she's done this year and she doesn't do them
that often, so that is rather flattering. Actually, I have a suspicion
that it's because I was on Creation Records, and it has an offshoot
called Creation Press which is a racy, sadistic kind of imprint,
and does books by Gilles de Rais and his followers. The people
at Creation were always really obsessed by this legend of, well,
legendary penis, and when you're on a record label for eight
years like I was, and you date people who are friends of (Alan)
McGeewho runs the labelrumors get back. McGee was more interested
in that than he was in my music. So I think Cynthia has been negotiating
with Creation Press since she's writing her autobiography, so
they probably said, "we know this guy...." She was actually kind
of nervous about it.
|Gilles and Momus in Hollywood
CS: So what was it about for you? What was your role in the process?
I kind of felt that rock and roll has now become the new academic painting. All those gestures of rebellion are actually totally conformist now, and in a way, Cynthia Plaster Caster represents that. She's gone from the really wild, innovative time of rock and roll into the time where it's basically the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Everything in rock and roll now is like plaster. It's like a museum. In a way I felt that the solidification, the lack of spontaneity, my lack of enthusiasm summed up the lack of real sexual energy there is in rock music.
CS: So then what do you think is truly exciting these days? What do you find out there that's shocking?
Well, hey, the web is the new rock and roll!
CS: How are you trying to push the web to be more like rock and roll?
M: As far as rock and roll being about
primal expression and spontaneity, which it used to be, to me
the web is totally about that because I just get an idea and within
seconds I can put it on my
CS: Well, you have to have the technological background. The medium is fairly organic, but it's built upon a solid framework.
M: The framework,
for me is now totally transparent. I got my first Mac relatively
late, in '93, and spent about two or three years just learning
how it thought and how it worked and now I don't even have to
think about it. I just have to think about what I want to say.
It's become like a pen and the ink goes straight out into the
world and it's totally international, and it's self-publishingvanity publishing. Ultimately, it's about the written word for
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