Often described as ‘semi-fictional’, The Moonlandingz spawned from Eccentronic Research Council’s 2015 concept album Johnny Rocket, Narcissist & Music Machine… I’m Your Biggest Fan. It featured the band’s own track ‘Sweet Saturn Mine’, fronted by the ever-notorious performers Lias Saoudi and Saul Adamczewski from Fat White Family.
Fast forward a couple of years and The Moonlandingz appear to have officially transformed into a separate, real entity. We caught up with Adrian Flanagan to tell us more.
How did you become involved with Lias and Saul from Fat White Family?
I named them as one of my favourite new groups in a piece I wrote a few years ago for The Quietus and they invited me along to a show in Sheffield to hang out. This specific gig they played at The Harley went down in the ‘annals’ of local music folklore.
Basically, there was a naked onstage incident that ended in a dirty protest, with Lias dipping his finger into said ‘protest’ and giving himself a mucky war stripe. The entire audience stepped back about 20 foot. For me, it was love at first sight – love at first shite, even.
After the show, the promoters and the bouncers were running around in disgust and waving clipboards about, wanting to throw the band out. I stepped in and tried to calm stuff down, stating that ‘everyone at this gig will never forget it’. I must add that I was the only person willing to give Lias a hug after the show. His shit kind of cemented our friendship.
Your work always seems to have a concept behind it. What’s the idea with the new record?
Eccentronic Research Council albums are concept records. The Moonlandingz album isn’t a concept record, unless the concept was to make an outstanding adult pop record that can make you laugh out loud, make you cry, make you pull some serious shapes with your body whilst doing the ‘propeller’ with your penis.
I couldn’t help but notice that the cowboy (Randy Jones) from the Village People is featured on a song called ‘Glory Hole’. How did you swing that one?
Johnny Rocket propositioned him in the KGB bar toilets in the East Village, NYC. His advances were spurned but they kept in touch, with racy correspondence sent via a dusty old fax machine. Recording with him was a real laugh. Did you know before the Village People he was in an arty punk duo with Grace Jones? He’s a really interesting fella is young Randy and he was a total babe.
What was the impetus to turn The Moonlandingz into a real life touring and recording band?
It kind of started as some kind of absurdist, Dadaist joke. My plan was to get one of The Moonlandingz songs to national radio. Within a week of sending it out, The Guardian got behind it and the track was playlisted by BBC 6Music and remained on the radio daily for around two months. I was getting loads of offers of live shows from all over the world, all of which I turned down, because we weren’t actually a live band.
And then Marc Riley got in touch with me – he’s a big fan of the ERC – and he asked me if The Moonlandingz would come in and do a live session for him. At that point we only had four songs and no live band. We did the session, the tracks sounded really raw and exciting, and it went down so well with the listeners that we thought it might be worth pursuing further.
You’ve worked with actor Maxine Peake, first as a crazed fan and with ERC. How did the connection come about?
I’ve been working with Maxine for around six or seven years. She’s one of my closest friends. We have a lot in common, be it music, politics, films and the same coal black sense of humour. Maxine has been the narrator on all my Eccentronic Research Council albums. Our records are in essence like radio plays that Maxine narrates and Dean Honer and I soundtrack with synthesisers. I’ve no plans to write another story based on The Moonlandingz, but will hopefully do something new with Maxine and Dean when our Moonlandingz commitments have died down a little.
You recently hit out at ingrained industry sexism when you asked for all-women support acts on your tour. What can men in the music industry do to influence the situation?
I actually asked for all women or female-fronted bands, so I wasn’t saying ‘no men’ per se. I have a mistrust of male-only groups. They are just randy bastards, animals even, who only see women as their ‘playthings’ and wouldn’t dream of encouraging them to pick up a guitar or to be on the stage.
Four boys in a band is such an arcane musical formation. It’s a cliché. I’ve always had women in my bands. Often they are ten times better players, with a better feel and a deeper understanding of the music. If we can give half a dozen female bands a shot at playing to a decent crowd across the UK then maybe promoters of, say, the Leeds/Reading Festival might consider booking more female artists, rather than what I can only see as being a hideous sausage fest.
Personal highlight on Interplanetary Class Classics?
Without a doubt, having Yoko Ono guesting on the album’s closing track. We had this big psychedelic funky jam thing that was about 15 minutes long. It sounded a bit like some of Yoko’s solo records from the early 70s, which I loved. I had a brief chat with Sean [Lennon] about maybe getting Lias and Yoko having a scream-off on the track, which he loved the idea of, but nothing was said for about a month or so after. Then one cold night in Sheffield, Sean sent me a short video clip of his mum doing her thing over our track. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so proud. It was a great, great honour. She’s an avant-garde warrior, a true and tireless activist, a great artist and the queen of the scream.
There’s a group of people singing all at the same time on the chant-a-long verse-chorus thing. We’ve got Rebecca Taylor from Slow Club singing, our friend the Lord Mayor of Electro Pop, aka Mr Philip Oakey from The Human League, grouped in with Lias and me. It’s certainly a unique juxtaposition of people – five generations of outsider pop music making, ex-art school legends singing in unison.
What’s next for The Moonlandingz, ERC and beyond?
Well, The Moonlandingz are about to start our big UK tour, then we head into Europe for a couple of weeks, then doing promo shows in the US, then pretty much playing almost every other weekend at festivals across the UK and Europe. I’d like to do the ERC’s Johnny Rocket album live in its entirety on the South Bank next year, involving the ERC, Maxine Peake and The Moonlandingz and do a big production of it, but we’ll see. I might just fuck off and join a monastery.
Interplanetary Class Classics is out now.
Photo by Chris SaundersTasha Franek & Sam Gregory