Easy listening: Momo and 2015

Much is hard to hear, the stories of now.

Austerity. Refugeeism. Sexism. Abuse. Corrupted authority. Demented dialogues with leadership. Disconnections between those who have been lucky and those who have been unlucky. 2015 seems to have only worsened the headlines from years of enbleakening outlook everywhere, this year of comfortingly old fashioned spy films and style-heavy action flicks. In the un-Cinemascopic daily world, it is hard to know where to even start to respond or where we could possibly stop.

I’ve been a little dumstruck by everything, and sort of dried up in my creative response to the news. I’ve found myself just not knowing what to do first, and so I’ve rather uselessly let work and mundane demands and great movies take me away from putting my back into something that seems meaningful. A shame, for such a meaningful year for me personally, making music that is so at odds with the horrors of Now it might either be an abomination to worthiness or an antidote to madness. Because, after all, a vaccine toughens your immune system with a dose of the disease.

My creative work as a music maker has always seemed meaningful to me. At least to my own well being. Bizarre to think that I am two years away from the 30th anniversary of buying my first synth, the Moog Liberation, from a little music shop in Boscombe. Almost three decades since I began the sudden instinctive quest. And my quest hasn’t healed the world just yet. Nor has it released its hold on my daydreams. I always felt there was something in this.

But if I face the larger world’s news with uncertainty of action at the moment, I also face the close of the year and my next chapter with the same. For this does seem like the close of one and so, I guess, the start of another. But what?

Well, making a difference – if that is vainly what we imagine we might do in some way – I think depends on us taking definite seeming, certain feeling, steps forward in our own journey through the chaos.

Or something.

If you want to wave a meaningful hand over it all, tearing one way from holding your face in despair, you could say this to sound important: We are attempting to escape the debris from the collapse of 20th century dreams. Good, innit?

Born in the later decades of the 20th century, I grew up used to a culture of disposability. The century’s desperate need for the new, for the future, for realising its own hopes… and this I think translated into a cultural cloud of ‘fashion’ – and a loathing by the youth of anything more than ten years old. So two things I did not get, in fact, hated while I was at school and then at art college included Easy Listening music and Pop Art. Now I love them. Kind of.

One was a tacit buy-in to the whole lifestyle dream. An ambition to conform so completely you could almost disappear, while imagining you were actually finally free to master your own circumstances – mid century style and easy listening music. Yummy. The other pretended to decorate that lifestyle but was really the work of subversive prophets – pop art. It taught us to see the culture around us for what it really is. Something fake. Even dangerously soul sapping. Easy listening utterly played along, yet turned that total submission into an art all of its own.

Now I’m inexplicably forty-five, these things appeal to me more than when I was closer to them in history. Perhaps my own work will inherit this magical credibility in generations to come. Surely. Don’t  give me that face.

Pop art and easy listening clearly influence something of what I do, after all, these days. And I’ve loved the playfulness of them somewhere in the weird mix of my influences and attitude, mucking about in the studio or on stage. They are, though, references from another age and another news cycle entirely, and so I can feel the winds of change, like a Eurovision anthem, blowing around my ears like an approaching new weatherfront.

Here in my friendly little world, 2015 has been quite a year for Momo:tempo. From scoring a great animated short in development for Nickleodeon at the start of the year – which I wish I could share anything of – to our wonderful night with Swing Unlimited Jazz Club in February, right through to spending a day on set with Benny Campbell in heavy prosthetic make-up appearing in his forthcoming full feature fantasy sword sparker, Knightfall, or hosting a feel-good stage of Bomo artists at the Oxjam Takeover, to sharing our fun tilt at Eurovision in November, it’s been twelve months of creative energies making great memories. Simply swanning about events such as It Came From Planet Exe and Synthwest II down at the blessed old Phoenix seem just as meaningful as any I was involved with. And I mean, what more can you ask for, you cynical old sausage?

And this year has included a number of things you’ve not heard, and that I can’t quite share yet, sadly, including a whole electro swing score to Danielle Arden’s offbeat romantic short, Bristles – which included recording a whole 80s-style ballad for a particular scene, which you will… well, I was going to say you’ll have to hear to believe, but if you’ve followed my work this far, you won’t have any problem believing it at all, I suspect. And following the big album launch in June, Hazel Evans and her partner Sharon moved into Paradiso’s little house by the seaside with us for six weeks and all manner of creative things ensued in the studio and the garden and over wildly healthy and inventive cooking – which may see some release later next year, who knows.

But, of course, the headline for Momo:tempo was indeed that launch of that heavily 20th century inspired creative monster, Thespionage.

It’s always a weird one to have finished and walked away from your time feverishly finishing a big project. It’s the rise and fall of project work that makes for a more interesting job, I’ve always thought, but part of the pay-off of achieving something you’ve aimed squarely at is the low level bereavement of it being over. Goes hand in hand with the satisfaction at the beginning.

Thespionage is, I feel, my finest work to date. Don’t mind saying it. I love it. It’s a creative tour de force that squarely makes good on the promise of The Golden Age of Exploration, five years earlier. For yes, it is a staggering five years since that arrived and I essentially ‘came out’ as Momo:tempo after years in the desert or the musical laboratory, feverishly seeking the face of God after a lost lifetime or two of private musical exploration. In between those two bonkers bits of colourful work, are many little worlds of music for the telly, for short films, for corporate promos, for theatre, for collaborations and for art installations. As well as a little line-up of live musical adventures with the Electro Pops Orchestra as often ill-advised sounding as they were heart-filling fun. These first five years of Momo:tempo have felt like five minutes – but five intensely daft, wonderful, creative years that have brought immeasurable talents and company and encouragement into my life, to play alongside me. It’s been the time of my life, because of who’s joined me in the charlieing around.

And almost everyone joined us for the big bash at Jalarra at the start of June. Is it really SO long ago? Doesn’t seem it. But what a weekend of amigos and maestros joining us in that incomparable night of so many musical favourites from Momo’s world, and yet still so far from all of them. We all still talk of it. That wonderful mix of souls who kipped on our floors that night. Amazing. If I name everyone here, I will be inventorising most of my life.

A tough one then, to look into 2016 and not be sure at all what we shall be doing next. To not having an undercover agent’s knack for turning a dead end into a lucky bold gamble. Sorry, Ethan Hunt, I just need a little sit down and a cuppa, ta.

Life is, obviously, the stuff that happens while you’re making illustrious plans for something else, but I had hoped our plans for a little tour next summer would have come together. For various reasons, including band members taking breaks from creative work, we currently have no dates booked to play live. This, of course, is kind of heart breaking. And bizarre.

But no adventure is adventure without risk and plan swerves. Is it. Not really. And this reflects how hard it is and how determined any lone creative must be to truly create practical momentum out there. And I’ll be honest, I’m tired. And hey, besides Momo:tempo’s cartoon capers, life has been happening in many other ways this year that have shaped the start of a new chapter for me and the lovely first lady of Momo, so you do never know where you will end up, or for what you will be most grateful by next Christmas.

In front of me are numerous studio projects and ambitions which it seems are moving into line to address next. From a possible feature score to develop, to the musical of Adventures Into The Monochronium with Hazel, to a very groovy side project with Patrick Hayes just underway, to… the third Momo LP. A2 layout pads of scribble for which are already all over my studio.

Over the summer and around other creative endeavours, I have been pondering the next move for Momo, and the next creative directions. I’m coming back to my ideas for a possible podcast at last, as well as simply wanting to champion and encourage and discover other people’s new work, especially around me here in Bomo; the curse of the artist’s impulse is self absorbtion. I’m looking forward to popping my head up into some fresh air, to hear one or two new stories from other worlds.

The road is more open and unmapped than I imagined it would be. A road that won’t be easy, I suspect. Though one I’ve also so far not destroyed a priceless Aston Martin on yet, either, which may be something. But if my journey to this point may have been more of a motorhome pootle than a car chase, it has still produced the best work of my life so far – and so I can only hope that its all been qualifications for what comes next.

I have a feeling that art and social politics may collide with visions of the future for the next LP, but who knows. I will put one foot infront of the other and try to behave a bit as though the road is still going somewhere, taking me through new adventures and explorations that may even throw up some stories that are exciting and encouraging to hear. Whether I end up hitch hiking or parachuting into something. Either way, I can’t help hoping that by next Christmas I will be telling you one or two tales of making a difference here and there. Simply by continuing to follow my own particular uncommercial narrative.

Happy, loving, encouraging, creative new year to you and those around you. Thankyou for a brilliant 2015. Hope our roads cross often in the next twelve months, and we have much to tell each other.

Ciao for now,

Momo. x

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