- Wed, 2006-07-19 10:00
Moloko's Greatest Hits Album, Catalogue is out now, and testament to the quality music that Mark Brydon and Róisín Murphy made during their time together. When Mark met Róisín Sunderland-born Brydon had already worked with artists as diverse as Sly and Robbie, Cabaret Voltaire, Karen Wheeler, Psychic TV, Yazz, Eric B & Rakim, Ten City and The Art of Noise. He was also a founding member of the influential FON Studios in Sheffield: the birthplace of many early records by the like of 808 State, Pop Will Eat Itself, Nightmares on Wax, Warp records and on the day that they met, the as yet unnamed Moloko.
Róisín Murphy, hailed from Ireland via Manchester and had never written a song before meeting Mark, but had done some screaming in an experimental Manchester band. Róisín was neither a mopey chanteuse nor a pouting diva. She purred and growled, romped and stomped, roared and soared. She was to become the kind of pop star we could do with more of. From debut album Do You Like My Tight Sweater? (we did) to final album Statues (released 2003) Moloko have provided a soundtrack to our lives with standout tracks including Sing It Back, Time Is Now and Familiar Feeling, among many others. Just prior to recording Statues, Mark and Róisín ended their relationship as lovers, but carried on with Moloko until the time felt right to stop.
I Like Music caught up with Mark Brydon before the release of Moloko’s Greatest Hits Album, to find out more about the journey Mark and Róisín went on as Moloko, and talk about the Moloko creative process, giggling fits and the DIY ethic.
“I like music because… it’s my life. But at the same time, I hate it; it drives me nuts!” Mark Brydon, Moloko
ILM: So, your greatest hits album, Catalogue is out on July 17 spanning a decade of top records, can you tell us which one you remember to be the most fun to make?
Mark: I think some of the earlier stuff, like Where is the What If The What Is In Why, it’s in the title, we were having a laugh. It was a very fun time and that’s how Moloko started really, it started with Róisín and I just messing about and having a laugh. At the time music was very earnest and quite ‘darkcore’ , it was all ‘bittersweet symphonies’ and stuff, which we love, but it different represent where we were in life. We’d just met and we were messing about and having a laugh. So I guess that was the fun time. And then over the years it grew into something else but it always represented where we were in life I suppose.
Some amazing things happened even on Statues, the last album. The experience of doing the string sections, that you’d spent a couple of weeks scoring for it, and then all these players would come in and all you could do was sit back and listen, and we were giggling at that, it was just an amazing experience that we’d created that.
ILM: It must be awesome the creative process and when it all comes together.
Mark: It can be a very bloody process.
ILM: Before we talk about Moloko and what you’re doing now, I have to ask about House Arrest by Krush, which I absolutely adored and used to play over and over again in my bedroom aged about 13. How did it come about?
Mark: That was one of the earliest thing that I was production input on. I co-produced it with a guy called Robert Gordon. We had a studio in Sheffield called FON, it was like a collection point for a lot of things that happened in the north of England, the sort of emerging dance music that was sort of being invented by a bunch of people, but we sort of take it for granted now.
The vocal was my input in it I guess. My then partner Robert, that was his missus singing and they couldn’t really work together in the studio, so I was kind of left to do the vocals with Ruth Joy, the singer. It was an early pop dance record I suppose. We were all really seriously into our house music and that was all really exciting at the time and coming to life, so I guess it was one of the first dance records to break through to the charts, there were a few at the time. It probably sounds ludicrous now.
ILM: It doesn’t you know. I was listening to that and Yazz, Doctor In The House, the other day, and it sounded good.
Mark: I worked on the Yazz album as well; we did the album tracks for her album and off the back of that, there were a trail of people who wanted house music incorporated in to their pop sounds. So we were a very busy little studio for a while.
ILM: So it was like a springboard for what was to come then?
Mark: Yeah, it was like my training ground. From all sorts of areas; from Psychic TV to Boy George all wanted a piece of the action, so we worked with a wide range of different artists at the time.
ILM: How has the music industry changed since those days?
Mark: The studio was everything in those days. Getting in to a studio was the only way to make music which was why we built the studio, because we didn’t want to be beholden to anybody to get studio time. So we pooled everything to build the studio.
But I guess the difference is today most people have got a computer, so people can start writing music on their laptop and there’s the studio, so there’s the difference. Music always takes a leap with technology.
When they invented the electric guitar it changed, when they invented the drum machine it changed, so I guess laptops and all the bits of software that go into that has made making music available to a lot of people and there’s some amazing music being made because of that, and a lot of it.
More than there ever has been.
ILM: I hear you’ve designed a new studio. How’s that going and good to see you’ve still got that DIY ethic?
Mark: That’s my instrument really, so I’ve got to have one. Years ago we were quite militant about it, that we could make music and operate a music business outside of London. I live in London now, so I’ve kind of contradicted myself there, but back then that was the ethic, DIY.
ILM: As a band you’ve been the soundtrack to many people’s last decade and sold plenty of copies of your 4 albums, with Time Is Now reaching #2 and going platinum. How much of a sense of achievement do you wake up with each day?
Mark: The thing that really brought it home to me, you know, we’ve made records and they’d come out and you’d read a review and think that’s alright or that’s not good or whatever, but what brought it home to me what music can do was The Time Is Now. Because that was the first time when we’d go out on stage and people were smiling at you and singing it. And you’d hear the stories about oh we fell in love to this record, or this helped me through the death of so and so, and just quite how powerful a song can be, and at the time I had mixed feelings about what I did and was thinking, this is really frivolous way to lead your life, making silly music, and what’s it all about and then I realized just how worthwhile it was and just what a positive thing it was to do. That a song could really be very positive. And that’s a great feeling, I’ll always be proud of that.
ILM: You write music that’s timeless yet modern, funky, organic and uplifting. Can you describe the MOLOKO process of making such bloody good music?
Mark: Well I think it’s changed over the years. The first album isn’t the same as the last album. And time traces that change because our lives change. It was very much a little world that Róisín and I created around ourselves and it was only later in the process that we felt comfortable to let other people come into it. But it was quite a little private sense of humour or view of things.
Most of the time it was a musical idea or sketch that would suggest a mood and then Róisín would start coming up with some lyrics and it’d bounce backwards and forwards, so it was like a creative ping-pong game.
ILM: Sing It Back sold over 500,000 copies and featured on 100+ compilations worldwide. How did the track come about?
Mark: It got remixed by Boris Delegos, he got hold of the multitrack parts and it just kind of arrived one day and we loved it and it happened very naturally. It just was a huge record, another really happy life-affirming record. It was actually a song on the second album, but it’s very different on the second album, but Boris obviously had the vision to transform it into this Balaeric vibe.
ILM: It reminds me of girly holidays in Brighton and dancing for hours.
Mark: Yeah I think we were all dancing for hours then. It was a great mix. I guess we did a lot of other things, so I didn’t really want to be defined by that record. But happily I don’t think that’s the case.
ILM: And this album is testament to that, there’s so many standout tracks on it and all different.
Mark: What we’ve done is been experimental with pop music. That’s what we’ve tried to do and hopefully that’s what we achieved.
ILM: Statues was the first album Róisín and made as friends rather than lovers. I work alongside my other half too. What’s the best and worst thing about working with a lover or a friend?
Mark: That’s a big question. You’ve got to be there for all the ups as well as done. You’ve got to share in all of the ups and all of the downs. It was irremovable from life itself, it was our life.
ILM: It was like your journey together.
Mark: Yeah, you couldn’t separate any of it. That was really amazing. It’s very different for one member of a partnership to go off and have an amazing success and then come back and tell their partner about, but equally it was happening to both of us at the same time, but equally there was no letting it go at the end of the day. You couldn’t get away from it, it’s there constantly, and that’s the hard thing about working with your partner, you’ve got to know when to leave it outside and leave it behind.
ILM: I gather you’re still friends now?
Mark: Yeah from a distance. We speak to each other every now and again, but we’re both doing our own thing.
I’ve just been enjoying myself writing with a lot of different people, just seeing what I can do and enjoying the openness of research and development. I’m not committed to doing anything particular at the moment, which I’m quite enjoying really. And Róisín is writing her solo record I believe. I think its just really healthy to have that. We kind of stopped doing what we were doing because it just came to a natural end really. We’d toured and toured and kind of said see you later at the end of two years of touring. It just seemed like it was the right thing to do to keep it healthy and stop it right now instead of making it a messy drawn out trying to carry on no matter what kind of thing. It was quite a tough decision to make, but you never say never. When we’ve both had our time to do our own thing, so you never know.
Change is a good thing, you’ve got to embrace it.
ILM: Yeah and it means you’re growing too.
Mark: Yeah, and if we come back to write together who knows, we’ve got experiences to bring in to that.
ILM: Any tips or advice for budding artists and producers starting out?
Mark: Krikey. Be yourself is the obvious one. It’s really easy to sort of be steered by what you think is going on, but chances are by the time you’ve made your record, that’ll be consigned to the history files. You’ve got to think two or three steps ahead. Predict the rockabilly revival or whatever it is before it happens. Your music should be a sort of shadow of who you are.
ILM: The Bonus Disc - recorded live at Brixton Academy in 2003 - was the culmination of an 8 month world-wide tour. What MOLOKO songs do you enjoy playing live the most?
Mark: Time Is Now and Sing Is Back, because we used to do a 15 minute version, it’s the prog rock dimensions, it was just a blast doing that. It went through various permutations of the song. It was always good. I used to enjoy playing... We used to do a two and bit hour set then which is quite a long set by most people’s standards.
ILM: Good value for money then too.
Mark: Bloody good value for money! And good value for the musicians and we had a great band by the end of it. I’m as proud of the live side of things as much as the record and that’s all credit to the musicians who played in the band, especially Eddie and everyone. I have to say Róisín is an amazing performer as well; every night no matter how tired or hung over she was or even how we felt about each other, I have to respect her for getting out there and being a great performer; there aren’t many of them about.
ILM: The Time Is Now Remix you mentioned earlier, was a highlight for Moloko. If someone is sat in their bedroom right now with a great idea for Moloko track remix, what should they do?
Mark: The internet is a wonderful thing. We’re just redoing our website and we were talking about putting some parts for download so that people could do remixes of our music and we’d have a little chart and maybe they’d be some sort of bar of chocolate at the end of it. I think that’s great, that’s the beauty of all that kind of technology isn’t it? So if someone had a remix then they should look at the website for the relevant links once it’s finished as we may be offering remix opportunities.
That’s one of the things I hadn’t realized until we were putting this album together. You make your conventional CD but then with all the downloads and electronic versions of an album has given us the opportunity to bundle in loads of other stuff that you can’t fit on conventional CDs. So we’ve got all these odd mixes that never saw the light of day. Some of them are really good and some of them have got better over time. At the time they were dud and we thought they weren’t appropriate, but they sound really fresh now. And so it’s a great way of making stuff like that totally available when they only came out on 50 white labels before, or not at all.
ILM: So all the treasures…
Mark: Yeah we’ve been rummaging through the digital loft getting all these bits out.
ILM: Forever More which will always be hailed as the festival favourite. Any festies planned as a punter?
Mark: I haven’t planned to. I don’t know if I’d like it if I didn’t have a tour bus. That one where everyone dresses up in Brighton, Lost Vagueness, I quite fancy that one. But moshing around at a big festival, I dunno. I’ve been to a lot of festivals but I like catering, I like having the tour bus to escape to.
ILM: What is in your CD player right now?
Mark: Things I really like this year… the album I’m absolutely in love with is the second Phoenix album, and I heard they’d just had a new album out and I waited with baited breath for this album, and it’s a bit different, it’s a bit more guitar oriented, but I just love that album, there’s not a duff song on it. I didn’t know about them until quite recently so they were quite a discovery.
I like Ryan Adams strangely, in his gentle ways. I like Jamie Liddell, I like Sebastien Tellier, Kanye West, I like the Shortwave Set, they make very amusing records. It’s all iTunes now. I slot em in my iTunes and it just spurts it all back at me. It’s not like you listen to an album in one go really, but I like that, it keeps surprising you.
ILM: Yeah, so it’s like a mystery tour of your music database.
ILM: Can you describe your favourite place on earth?
Mark: The chair I’m sitting in right now, looking out into my little garden, that’s my favourite place on earth right now.
Moloko – Catalogue is out now, released July 17th 2006