The Island Come True: Aidan Moffat

"It helps to have a pseudonym..."
L. Pierre

The artist currently known as Aidan Moffat has returned in another guise. He’s making another appearance as L.Pierre, the artist formerly known as Lucky Pierre. With his fourth album, ‘The Island Come True’, he’s sought sonic inspiration from the unlikeliest of sources – a haul of old public domain films, stumbled upon by chance – and transformed them into L.Pierre’s richest offering yet.

Reacting against the clinical textures of modern production, he wanted this record to sound older, wiser and more lived-in – akin to cracking open the pages of an old book, like the J.M Barrie novel it takes its the title from. As influenced by Peter Pan as it is by John Carpenter, ‘Island Come True’ sways from track-to-track like a dark, demented movie soundtrack – splicing sinister children’s song with gorgeous strings and the mournful cries of seagulls. Motifs return and are re-visited like a recurrent dream. Here, he stopped to chew the fat with CLASH on writing, keeping it vague and – believe it or not – musical theatre….

So L.Pierre began after a dare from Malcolm Middleton, right?
Ah, I’m not sure. But I don’t think so! Where did you hear that? You read it? Well, find me the article! I think maybe the name was a bit of a joke we had, but I don’t know.

The late 90s were a bit of a blank to me, if I’m entirely honest, so it could well be true.

Why adopt a pseudonym? Do you feel like the ‘other identity’ frees you up to experiment?
Yeah, I think it does. There’s always a difficulty if you want to do something that’s pretty radically different from what you normally do. It’s pretty difficult to have it judged on its own merits.

If I’d realised it as an Aiden Moffat record, I think it just wouldn’t work. I guess it isn’t an Aiden Moffat record. Even I made the distinction. If the record has my own name on it, then it probably means that I’m singing, or there’s words, or something like that. I make that distinction myself. It helps to have a pseudonym and it certainly allows me the freedom to do certain things. Aye.

All previous L.Pierre albums appear to have had a theme of sorts –'Hypnogogia' being your ‘comedown’ album, 'Touchpool' lounge music and 'Dip' of countryside recordings. Was there a sense of theme or story with ‘The Island Come True’?
There’s been one to begin with, but once you start making a record you like a few bits and you feel that it all starts to go somewhere. It just reflects what my interests were at the time of making the record. I’d been interested in children’s stories. I’m a big fan of Peter Pan – which is where the title comes from – it’s a chapter of the book.

It became evident I wanted less of a theme this time. In fact, with this record, I wanted it to be about the lack of a theme. I wanted to leave it up to the listener. It’s as like a blank canvas as I can make it. Vague. People can go where they want with the record. That’s why it is called Island Come True. In the book, it’s the chapter where they reach Neverland, so it’s all about the imagination. It’s really a subjective experience, a record like this.

Do you collect sampled material as you work alongside other projects?
This started because I found some discs I had from years ago. I started listening to them and that’s what sparked making the record. Most of it ended up coming from these public domain films which I found online. I was just looking about and I stumbled upon these websites that have all these old films that no-one wants, no-one cares about and no-one watches.

They all have wee elements of things that I like. Some of these were old adverts. ‘Now Listen’ that’s all from some old advert – possibly about ice cream. It does sound like an ice-cream van jingle and it had this haunting wee vocal in it. And it’s just one of these things lying around that no-one wants. It struck me that there was something quite pretty within it that I could use.

When creating a ‘song’ out of samples, how do you assemble it? How different is the writing process from what you commonly do?
You just start with one. You find a loop that you’d like to start with, and you’re just working round that. With this, quite a lot of them took the same loop and used it at varying speeds, to see what was coming through. A lot of it comes through chance, as well. The big long one at the end, The Kingdom, was just an experiment in slowing things down – playing the same loop at different speeds and putting it through different things – none of which I can remember now.

It always starts with finding that you really like and building up around that. Then you go through your library to see what fits.

Had you always played around with samples and instrumental music throughout your time in Arab Strap?
No. When I did the first album, in the late 90s. Arab Strap started doing it – not very often, just for around three or four songs – but we did go to a different studio to do something with someone. A guy called Calum, who actually did the last L.Pierre. albums. And I really enjoyed doing that. That’s how L.Pierre started because I had ideas about taking sounds that I had found, and making something from that. It’s good for me. I’m not a musician, as such. I’d love to write beautiful string pieces but I haven’t been trained to do so. This is my way of making sounds that I would enjoy listening to.

The album takes its name from a chapter from 'Peter & Wendy', and you yourself are famous for the storytelling, unsparing lyrics of your solo material. What’s different about using instrumental textures instead of words?
I think when you do words, you’re in control. Officially, the singer takes control – there are guitarists who will more than disagree with me, probably quite violently as well – but the singer in a band is generally in charge of where it goes. People follow words: that’s just what they do.

So, when you make a record like this, even though there might be a story behind every track to me, and I know where it is going, no-one else does. It’s very much up to the person who’s listening to it. And I like that. It’s a nice breath of fresh air for me, not to try and steer it in some way with a narrative. That’s quite a taxing thing. As a record, L.Pierre is much more relaxing for me. It doesn’t keep me awake at night in the same way that writing the words does. All of that having to make sure that I’ve got the exact right thing, in the exact right place.

You’ve spoken of “the grit and hiss” of old recordings before. Do you see ‘Island’ as a conscious return to those values? What do you feel is being lost in the over-production of modern music?
It’s not so much about the production. The connection for me is more to do with the emotional seal – when something sounds like it’s been beaten and well-used, it adds something. It sounds like it’s lived a life. It’s still retained what makes it wonderful and I really like that idea.

But I’m not opposed to modern technology. Certainly, when it comes to recording with a band I’m much keener on using digital than going back to using tape. The old way of recording with analogue tape was a nightmare – it would take months to record. I love the technology, with ProTools and studio systems, because it’s so much more liberating creatively – and you can do so much more than with tape. I’m sure there’s many purists who disagree with that but they’re talking shit!

The album plays like a movie soundtrack – did you have a particular film in mind? Any images you wanted to evoke within the album?
Well, yes and no. When I listen to it, I think of certain things. The first track, with the seagulls and stuff, was named after the radio station in this old John Carpenter horror film ‘The Fog’. That’s what came to mind. But again, I wanted to keep it vague. I didn’t want to steer the listener too much in any direction. I wanted them to figure out what they wanted on their own.

A previous Aiden Moffat solo album, all the love you need, came with a comic book to help ‘assist’ the narrative. Would you consider that project with L.Pierre?
No. Certainly not with this sort of stuff. In fact, I was going to make it more obscure. With song titles, at one point, I had named all of the songs and I had arranged anagrams of all the songs so that they made absolutely no sense. I was trying to erase any idea of where they came from. And then I realised that that was just going to be quite annoying for everyone! So that went.

You’ve mentioned with ‘Dip’ that you were so satisfied you felt you wouldn’t need to revisit the project anymore. Are you still working towards a point of completion, or are you satisfied enough to retire L.Pierre?
I’m not entirely sure and that’s a question I can only answer in a few years, when I’m sitting about, twiddling my thumbs. I don’t plan to make another one. I did say that five years ago, when I finished the last one, but we’ll see. As of now, I’ve got lots of other things to keep me busy for the next few years. Lots of plans. L.Pierre isn’t really part of that.

Anything you can reveal?
There’s loads of ideas that never come to anything. Bill Wells and I are going to make another record. We’ve actually started writing again, and we’re a wee bit further than I thought we’d be. We’re also going to start writing a musical as well.

A musical?!
Yeah. You know the album? There’s a song called ‘Glasgow Jubilee’, which is all about people being unfaithful around the town. There’s an idea to make that into a musical of sort, but whether or not that happens – I don’t know if we’re capable of that! But we shall try.

Words by Marianne Gallagher

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'The Island Come True' is out now.

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