Rock of Ages (September 2005)
Eddy Smit talks to Martin Gordon
He's done just about everything in his power to avoid us, but threats of a lawsuit for abuse of the Big Guy in the Sky's name eventually made Martin Gordon give in. Well, maybe a bad experience with that shrink he recommended had something to do with it. Anyway, "God's on his lunchbreak" is Martin's new CD and after extensive time in my cd spinner, I figured a few questions might be in order. Unfortunately Martin didn't think so. So he's done just about everything in his power to avoid us... oh, guess I've said that already...
- Virtually from the outset, there was talk of a "mammal trilogy". What's the idea behind that concept ?
The idea was brought on by large amounts of red wine. I had thought about an Odd-Toed Ungulate Tetralogy, or a Herbivore Pentateuch, but these were, to be frank, and I will, uncommercial concepts, I freely admit it. Memories of the Radio Stars album 'Bowels Stuffed with Spleen' and Jet's 'Have You Seen Charlotte Rampling?' sprang unbidden to mind. These titular gems were also dismissed as being not quite the sort of thing to throw at our pop kids - today I am an older and wiser person, and accustomed to the ways of self-censorship. After another vat, I found what I was looking for, and it was Mammalian in shape and three in number.
- Most, if not all of the music is about man at his smallest. After the baboon and the hog, God does kinda throw a new light on all that...
Well, I think God illuminates the same sort of ground... it's an endless task, really, detailing human crassness. I should have taken on something more manageable, like teaching the world to sing in perfect harmony, or to walk like a duck. Perhaps that will be my next trilogy. Or, what is equally possibule, perhaps not. Actually this Herculean task should be episodic, rather like Dickens. I think that's the only way forwards, really...
- How difficult was it to come up with this third album?
Not at all, it's what I do, you see. I ruthlessly chucked songs away, which was a constant process. Enrico recorded about 20, Pelle recorded about 16 in all, but originally I had about 24 or so. Most will not see the light of day - a couple might.
- Was there no pressure to 'confirm' with this third album ?
I see what you mean. But it's not my third album, in reality, it's actually my (does a quick count) seventh, beginning at Jet, so the tricky third album was probably the second Radio Stars album, which actually WAS a bit unfocussed, now that I come to think of it. But currently I have a clear picture of what I want to do, how I want to do it and who to do it to, and it all seems to hang together, rather... Plus, as noted elsewhere, I wonder where the pressure might come from - if you (or indeed anyone else) were to collect all the Martin Gordon fans in one place, they could probably be comfortably accommodated in my Berlin apartment. But I would have to have some prior notice.
- Would you agree that overall it is quite different from Baboon and Hogwash ?
To be honest, I have no idea. It's a bit more eccentric, I think. But, as Chris Townson says, fuck 'em if they can't take a joke. It's not as if the global economy is going to be ruined by hordes of Martin Gordon fans refusing to flock down their virtual high streets and download the latest episode of the Mammal Trilogy, now is it.... There's a bit more of me on it, doing my best to be a cockney git. Whether this is a good thing or not, only time will tell. I have my own personal view on the matter...
- Whereas Baboon and Hogwash may appeal more to Radio Stars fans, I hear a lot of Sparks on God, in particular on tracks like Fickle and The Captain of the Pinafore.
Listen - there are as many Radio Stars fans in the world as you can could count on the fingers of one finger. I'm not earning enough from all this palaver to even cover the butler's wages. The woman who comes in to clean the silver is owed holiday money for the last three years. We live in desperate times, my friend. Where there's a will, there's a way. Every cloud has a silver lining. Look before you leap. And so on.
If I might digress into a comparative studio of Sparks fans, on the other hand, let me say that all the ones I've met are absolutely charming, with the solitary exception of one such who came up to me and said "I don't know who you are and I know absolutely nothing about what you do", her actions rather belying (at least the first half of) her words. I attempted (unsuccessfully, I fear) to rise above it. But I am reminded of Peter Cook, who was never lost for words; upon being told "I don't know anything about you, I saw you on the telly once but the sound was off', he WAS lost for words.
Sparks, you say. That's odd, I thought I had checked quite thoroughly that there weren't any Moles in the studio. Perhaps they squeezed their way in through the air-conditioning... Come to think of it, there WERE a few tell-tale lumps under the carpets, and they DID seem to be in different positions each day. The next time I will smash them on their snouts with a spade without so much as a by-your-leave, that'll teach them to be surreptitious nocturnal rodents and no mistake.
- My first impression of the album was that is was much more guitar oriented. Repeated listening brought the vocals much more to the front...
We are joined here by guitarist Enrico Antico, he of jazz leanings and Beatles and loud noise, not a bad cocktail. But in a way, I would like to hear MORE guitars on it - in an ideal world, there would be. But Pelle struggles manfully with the barrage, I think...
- Unless they'll be included with stock copies, again no lyrics in the cd-booklet ? Why not ?
I'm not a big fan of words in the booklet, especially as booklets are so small. I was going to include a free magnifying glass with every copy, or a telescope, but there were difficulties with the packaging. What I have done in the past is post the words up on the website, but this time, thanks to the cartographic skills of Chris Townson, there will be an Illustrated & Annotated Companion to God's On His Lunchbreak. This will be a book with all lyrics, a full colour drawing accompanying each song, anecdotal palaver about the recordings, musical analysis and thoughts upon the topic of each tune. Should keep 'em going for a bit. I am currently harassing Chris in order that he completes the drawings before the release date.
On that note, I have created an exclusive Rock of Ages 'God Is Very Mixed Up' mp3 containing instrumental bits and guitar solos from all the tunes - if anyone can tell me which tunes appear in it, and in which order they are (as I have forgotten), they will receive a gratis, lavishly hand-signed copy (at least by me, and probably also by my fellow creator Chris Townson) of the essential-to-any-household God's Companion.
- There's also an interesting version of Paul McCartney's Too many people. A longtime favorite? What kind of an influence was he (or the Beatles) on you ?
McCartney is certainly a long-time favourite - Too Many People was a substitute for Monkberry Moon Delight, when I decided that there was no better arrangement (or indeed vocal) possible. But I am definitely a bit of a Paul man meself, the occasional fatuous lyric notwithstanding...
- The end of the line...a bit of Monty Python singalong ?
Oh, yes, xenophobia is a right larf. Tell you what, let's all go down the pub, get completely pissed, then to the Indian takeaway and bash some Pakis. Some of my best friends are English, honestly, it's just that some of them don't think things through... they mean well, really... Although when I was in London recently, I did find myself inspecting my fellow passengers on the Underground rather more closely than I have previously... This one is possibly the nastiest song on the whole album, it just is disguised a bit.
- Fags...double entendre ? The coughing at the end obviously refers to cigarettes, but the rather aggressive music in the first part does evoke pictures of, let's say, violence towards fellow-men.
It is in fact a single entendre in which I call a spade a spade. I hate them, actually, really can't stand 'em. You know me, no fags around here, mate, I should bleedin' think not. Ghastly business, really. And especially not in front of the kids. Germany is very big on fags - it's a constant assault... Fortunately, I have never had a light mac, although I did once have a dark grey overcoat.
- Wanna go over the other songs & say a few words on them...
I can't decide whether I should make my mind up or not... What do you think? Noel Coward lives.
2. ALL DAY THINKING
It's all very well just changing the British thinking laws willy-nilly but consider the outcome, for heaven's sake! What about the traditional British suspicion of intellectuals, anyway?
3. MIRACLE BABY
Brought to you courtesy of the Blessed Order of the Bleeding Cheese Sandwich of the Holy Virgin (Accra branch). Sign here, Bob's yer uncle, bish bash bosh, here's yer kid.
4. A PORTION OF PARADISE
A trip to warmer climes provokes a minor outbreak of xenophobia. What ARE all these people doing here, anyway? Are you calling me a cargo cult, mate?
5. BAD LIGHT STOPS PLAY
As the light fades and night draws in, our thoughts turn unbidden to the long slow walk back to the pavilion...
6. THE CAPTAIN OF THE PINAFORE
I have never recorded this song before. What, never? No, never. What, NEVER? Well, hardly ever...
7. HOW AM I DOING SO FAR?
Channelling the spirit of music hall? You're having a baby, right? Life on the Streets has never been up to much, and still ain't.
8. HERE COMES THE FAMILY
The joys of unilateral action and visits from the nearest and dearest.
9. GIMME FOOD
If I don't get some calories, I'm gonna come unglued. Quick, sue someone. Or get some stretch pants.
10. GOD IS ON HIS LUNCHBREAK
He must be. He's taken his eye off the ball, that much is clear. He's probably watching Big Brother or American Idol.
11. TOO MANY PEOPLE
Paul McCartney's infamous tirade against the nocturnal mole, unwarranted but dead catchy.
12. THE END OF THE LINE
What have the Huns, Micks, Krauts, wops, dagos, spics, frogs, Polaks, etc. etc. ever done for us, you tell me that...
Horrible habit, ought to be banned. In fact IS banned, in the Old Testament and public spaces. And Texas, I think.
- Any tracks that got recorded but didn't make the cut ?
Ascension Day by Third World War - a killer tune but it was too defined by the original vocal, so we got no further than guitar; Smaller Than Life, which will see the light of day in the future but needssome more work;Happiness At Any Price, which I decided was to close to standard fare - on the other hand, it IS very Rundgren-ish; Product May Be Hot and You Should Get Out More, both of which needed a bit more polishing compositionally, and so fell early on.
- What's in store next ?
I was thinking of death, actually, at least it would be cheap. I'll call up Crem-U-Lite GmbH, get incinerated and then tossed into the River Spree for ¢15 all in, including free beers all round. Not to be sniffed at. And I think it's excluded from VAT, as well.