INTERVIEW: Aidan Moffat & RM Hubbert | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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They’ve been friends and musical cohorts for the best part of three decades, yet it took a trip to Tyneside for Arab Strap’s Aidan Moffat and flamenco extraordinaire RM Hubbert’s collaboration to get off the ground. “We both played a show at Sage Gateshead for Lauland 2014,” Hubbert recalls. “We’d talked about it a few times over the years, but it was while driving down from Glasgow that we actually started discussing it.”

From an outsider’s perspective, the only wonder is that it took them so long. Indeed, it was Hubbert who booked the first ever Arab Strap show back in the mid-90s, and ever since uniting on Car Song (from the guitarist’s superb 2012 LP Thirteen Lost & Found), a full-length project has seemed virtually inevitable. With the duo also regular touring partners, I ask Moffat what it is that makes them click: “I’m not really sure, but I have noticed that for two people renowned for their sad and gloomy demeanours, we’ve never had a conversation that hasn’t end with us pishing ourselves laughing, so we’re clearly on the same wavelength somewhere!”

This paradoxical air extends to their album Here Lies The Body; a beautiful, imaginative collision set to shatter any lingering preconceptions. True, Moffat’s rich brogue and Hubbert’s spidery guitar lie front and centre, but it’s also a record rife with sonic surprises, from frequent jazzy flourishes to the evocative field recordings illuminating the likes of Zoltar Speaks and Fringe. “I was constantly surprised by what Aidan was sending back to me,” says Hubbert. “There’s actually some really weird stuff on it, now that I think about it… It’s more like what he’s done with [electronic side project] L. Pierre.” Some things, however, never change: “I sent Aidan 10 songs about death, and he sent back 10 songs about shagging!”

I sent Aidan 10 songs about death, and he sent back 10 songs about shagging!

For his part, Moffat is keen to downplay these revelations. “I don’t think we were really conscious of expectations,” he contends. “The only effort I made to move away from previous work was to write from more perspectives than – ostensibly – my own. I never think about genre or that sort of thing, it’s whatever suits the feel and message of the song.

“It’s about two old flames who meet in a Blackpool arcade on stag and hen nights who then end up in a philosophical, existential crisis,” he continues, when quizzed over the record’s central arc. “It was partly inspired by an article I read about mothers who leave their families, and how rare that still is – so I wanted to make sure there was a female counterpart to balance that, which led to some new perspectives.”

This leads us to Cockcrow – the LP’s wonderous lead track and a duet with fellow Scot Siobhan Wilson, who is set to both open for and perform with the duo at The Cluny on Monday 21st May. “I had a few ideas about who I wanted to sing it. Then last year, Siobhan’s album came out and it’s gorgeous, and I thought she’d be perfect for it. I knew Hubby had met her a few times, so we got in touch and I’m very happy to say she was into it. She’s been great for the album – her backing vocals and cello parts have really lifted it, too.”

Aidan Moffat and RM Hubbert release Here Lies the Body on 11th May via Rock Action Records. The duo perform at The Cluny, Newcastle on Monday 21st May.

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