Self-Portrait: Aidan Moffat of Arab Strap | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Tuesday, May 21st, 2024  

Self-Portrait: Aidan Moffat of Arab Strap

Another Brick in the Set

May 10, 2024 Web Exclusive Photography by Aidan Moffat Bookmark and Share

For our recurring Self-Portrait feature, we ask musicians to take a self-portrait photo (or paint/draw a self-portrait) and write a list of personal things about themselves, things that their fans might not already know about them. This Self-Portrait is by Aidan Moffat of the Scottish duo Arab Strap.

Arab Strap also features Malcolm Middleton and today the band released their new album, I’m totally fine with it don’t give a fuck anymore, via Rock Action. The album follows their 2021 comeback LP, As Days Get Dark, which was the duo’s first full-length in almost 16 years (since 2005’s The Last Romance).

Arab Strap recently did a tour in honor of the 25th anniversary of their 1998 album Philophobia, but are looking forward to performing the more energetic songs from the new album. “The [Philophobia] tour’s been fun, but I’ll be glad it’s over so we can move on,” said Middleton in a press release announcing the album.

Moffat added: “The Philophobia gigs have been a way of saying goodbye to the old us. It was a very gentle, quiet tour, so I expect this year we’ll just be playing banger after banger—I think we’ve earned the right to make some noise now.”

The album’s latest single, “You’re Not There,” is about a man who continues writing to his deceased wife via text message. “It’s a very common part of the grief process now, and it can help the bereaved come to terms with their loss,” said Moffat in a press release for the song. “I love the idea that our phones can function as a kind of modern Ouija board—the difference of course being that most people aren’t expecting an answer.”

The genesis of “You’re Not There” was a piano piece by Middleton called “Joshua’s Gone” that he wrote about his son’s melted snowman.

“So it seems it was always destined to be a song about loss and impermanence,” joked Moffat.

Arab Strap were interviewed in Under the Radar’s very first print issue in 2001, for The Red Thread, an album released the same year.

Read on as Moffat writes about his geeky passions, his preferred mode of transport, and his childhood career aspirations. Above is a self-portrait photo he submitted to us.

1. I’m an AFOL—Adult Fan of LEGO—and I spend far too much of my spare time keeping up to date with new bricks and sets, and watching YouTubers reveal leaks in LEGO’s future plans. I work on a MOC—My Own Creation in LEGO community jargon—whenever I can, and I’m running out of storage space at home, so I have yearly clear-outs at Christmas when I give unwanted sets to charities. I find it therapeutic; building with LEGO is one of my happy places, and I enjoy the problem solving that’s required to make things work and look the way I want them to—researching and sourcing parts, learning building techniques, and so on. We all know creativity is good for the soul, so when I’m not working on music or writing something, I turn to LEGO to scratch an imaginative itch. I’m still too shy to share the MOCs online, though.

2. I’m also a comics geek, and have been all my life. American comics were pretty hard to find in Scotland when I was a child, but when the new, darker wave of comics arrived in the 1980s, I was a teenager—it was perfect timing, and great company for my adolescent moodiness. Glasgow’s Forbidden Planet opened up around that time too, and I’ve been a regular customer there for 35 years now. As much as I love my job, I often dream of running a wee comic shop somewhere, focused on buying and selling Silver and Bronze Age issues, with some vintage toy trading on the side. There are regular comic-cons in Glasgow these days, and I’ve been thinking of booking a retail table at one of them, to live out a little bit of my dream. I always seem to be away on tour when they’re on, but one year I’ll make it work.

3. I don’t drive, and probably never will. It just never really interested me; I’ve always used public transport. I think traveling for a living put me off too, because I already spend a great deal of my life in cars and vans, and I can often be found in a passenger seat shouting at bad drivers on the road. I don’t think I’ve got the temperament to be a good driver, and neither do I have the eyesight, apparently—at my last appointment, the optometrist said I’d need special driving glasses now, so I’ll probably just leave it. It also doesn’t help that I’ve suffered from chronic carsickness all my life—which isn’t ideal in my line of work, obviously—although I’ve recently been tempted by electric cars, so you never know. I must owe friends and family about a million rides, though.

4. Most of the music I listen to these days is instrumental, usually in a modern classical or ambient vein, and I largely enjoy it in bed. There’s a 90-minute show on BBC Radio 3 that I love, called Night Tracks, and I try to listen to every episode—although it recently got promoted to five nights a week, and I’m finding it a bit overwhelming. It’s introduced me to some beautiful music, though—most recently Laurel Halo’s Atlas album, and Christina Vantzou’s whole catalogue—and it’s become a regular feature of my bedtime routine. I love the adventure of radio, the way a proper human being can take you on an unexpected journey, unlike DSP playlist algorithms that just try to keep you in the same lane. I still listen to BBC 6 Music too, of course, and NTS has a whole library of great shows to lead you down the occasional rabbit hole.

5. The first thing I wanted to be when I grew up was a ghost-hunter. One of my favorite books ever—The Hamlyn Book of Ghosts in Fact & Fiction, Daniel Farson, 1978—had a section on Harry Price, Britain’s godfather of ghost-hunting, and a list of the equipment he used. I tried to gather as much as I could from the list and packed a little kit until an investigation came my way. We had a mysterious ornament at home, a little porcelain statue that my mum claimed was moving around as we slept—no matter how often she fixed it before bedtime, it would always be facing the wall again come morning. I suspect my mum was the culprit, though, because when I fetched my kit and told her we needed to cover her good carpet in talcum powder to reveal any overnight human footprints, she decided it didn’t actually bother her that much anyway. I’ve recently began reading ghost stories and horror fiction again, and listening to the brilliant Uncanny podcast on the BBC—I don’t believe in any of it anymore, of course, and Harry Price was a complete charlatan, but I still love to hear and read the stories, and I’m fascinated in the human need to believe in the supernatural. There’s still a wee boy inside me somewhere, kitbag packed and torch in hand, patiently waiting for a knock on the wall from a poltergeist, or the glowing apparition of his granddad.

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