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Aidan's big weekend

By Kyle Walker

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Aidan Moffat and RM Hubbert travel north to Wick and Inverness with Here Lies the Body.
Aidan Moffat and RM Hubbert travel north to Wick and Inverness with Here Lies the Body.

The name Aidan Moffat has become synonymous with Scottish indie. Throughout his work with indie-rock darlings Arab Strap, award-winning collaborations with Bill Wells and countless other projects, the Falkirk artist’s blend of singing, poetry and spoken word have provided an often unflinching view of the minutiae of Scottish life. Now, as he returns to the Highlands with longtime friend and Glasgow guitar maestro RM Hubbert for shows in Wick and Inverness, he talks to Kyle Walker about the pair’s first collaborative album Here Lies the Body, preparing to gig in a library, and how things have changed – if they’ve changed at all...

Hi Aidan, thanks for speaking to me. Whereabouts are you just now?

At the computer in my office at home in my flat while the sun shines. I haven’t had time to go outside today, so I’m taking tomorrow off.

You’re back in the Highlands for the first time (for work, at least) since – I believe! – you brought your documentary Where You’re Meant to Be to Drumnadrochit in 2016. This time you’re up in Inverness and Wick – are you looking forward to being back? Any particular highlights from your previous Highland excursions?

I’ve never been up to Wick before, so I’m looking forward to that – we’ve got a whole night off there too, because the gig’s in the afternoon, so it should be fun. And Inverness is always a good laugh, the audience is brilliant –I remain, I think, the only artist to have released a live album recorded in Drumnadrochit, and I’m very proud of that.

The one that particularly fascinates me is the one up at Wick Library as part of Get it Loud in Libraries. It’s such a fascinating idea, that – how did that gig come about? What’s your thoughts on playing a music gig in a library, and how do you think that your’s and RM Hubbert’s songs will come across?

Well, this is the first album I’ve ever made that doesn’t have a single swear word, so at least we know the songs won’t offend any young ears in the library. Not sure the same can be said of the daft patter between songs, right enough. I think it’ll be fun and strange, then we’ll paint Wick red. Or maybe just a touch pink, we’re all getting on a bit now.

For a tangentially-related follow-up to that previous question – what are you currently reading just now, and how are you getting on with it?

I’m reading Carlo Rovelli’s The Order of Time, which is all about the science of time and how we perceive it. It’s for a project I’m working on and I’m doing well so far, but I haven’t gotten to the hard stuff yet. I’ve also been reading an essay on Christmas by Charles Dickens today, just to get me in that summery mood.

Aidan Moffat and RM Hubbert come to Inverness with Here Lies the Body.
Aidan Moffat and RM Hubbert come to Inverness with Here Lies the Body.

You’re up gigging with RM Hubbert for the new album the two of you have brought out, Here Lies The Body. You and Hubbert go a long way back of course and you’ve collaborated together on tracks before, but when did the two of you decide to put a full length album out together?

It was years ago on the way down to a festival – he was headlining a show at the Gateshead Sage and I was supporting with a spoken-word set. We were doing Car Song, the first song we did together, that night, and we decided to write some more. So we chipped away at it over a few years while we waited for a window in our schedules to record and release it.

Aidan Moffat and RM Hubbert come to Inverness with collaborative album Here Lies the Body.
Aidan Moffat and RM Hubbert come to Inverness with collaborative album Here Lies the Body.

I’d love to know about how the album came together for you and Hubbert (and Siobhan Wilson as well, of course), especially considering how busy the both of you have been over the last few years with the many projects the pair of you have. How was the recording for the album? And how did the album’s overall sound and tone come together?

The tone of the album was already settled before we got to the studio – every song had been demoed, and most of the parts had been written, so the recording itself was super fast, I think we were done in five days. Then Siobhan came in at the end to do her parts – I’d been looking for a woman to do the duet, Cockcrow, and heard Siobhan’s album last year and thought it was amazing. We got in touch and sent her all the demos and she was really keen to do it, so we asked her to add cello and piano too, which added a really important new element to the album.

The album’s content was inspired by an article you read about marriage breakdowns where it’s the mother who leaves the family (if you know where I could find it, I’d love to read it!). How did that original inspiration become the narrative throughline of Here Lies the Body about the two ex-partners who have a chance meeting in Blackpool? How did that story sort of develop?

I can’t find the article now, unfortunately – I actually printed it out to read in bed and never bookmarked the link. It inspired the first song we demoed, Fringe, and set the tone of the whole record. And Blackpool’s the perfect metaphor for deceit and lies – it’s all fun and games on the surface, but there’s always something darker lying below. Plus it’s famous for stag and hen parties, so it seemed like the perfect place for the characters on the album to meet.

The album title references sex and death – two topics you’re famed for exploring in pinpoint detail. How has your approach to them changed over the years, particularly with Here Lies the Body?

Ha – I don’t think I’ve changed at all! I’m not sure anyone really does, either.

Aidan Moffat and RM Hubbert (with support from Siobhan Wilson) come to Wick Library on Saturday and Mad Hatters, Inverness on Sunday.

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