The Moonlandingz interview: We are here for those who will have no culture

Adrian Flanagan of semi-fictional "psychopaths" The Moonlandingz held absolutely nothing back when he spoke to Dan Wray, ahead of their Ultimate Realism Tour in September.

Ben Smith

Last updated: 29th Nov 2016

Image: The Moonlandingz

You’d presume a group that describe themselves as a “semi fictional outsider Ouija pop group” would not be like many other bands and in the case of The Moonlandingz this is most certainly the case.

Their initial incarnation was a conceptual construct; entirely imagined. They were the fictional band from the fictional area of Valhalla Dale, Sheffield, created to tie in with the narrative of a local musician being stalked to death within the 2015 superlative Eccentronic Research Council album Johnny Rocket, Narcissist & Music Machine…I’m Your Biggest Fan.

Within the album - crafted with such glorious details, humour and characters that it transplanted the listener to the very place it created – The Moonlandingz were the local band, led by Johnny Rocket.

Four of the album’s tracks within the dense narrative were by The Moonlandingz and for these specific songs a separate band was made to further cement a sense of reality and authenticity to this world that had been created.

To do this the ERC brought in friends and label owners Lias Saudi and Saul Adamczewski from the Fat White Family. The resulting tracks were a marvel, an explosive collaborative reaction and stood out in such singular quality that they were plucked out for a separate Moonlandingz EP.

BBC Radio 6 DJ Marc Riley fell in love with them and invited them for their first live appearance in a session and thus a real life band was born, mutated from an oddball concept and gone unexpectedly popular. 

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The full group consist of Adrian Flanagan and Dean Honer (the core of ERC too), Saudi, Adamczewski, Ross Orton and Mairead O'Connor. In the last year they have played a series of incredible live shows, often teaming up with Rebecca Taylor from Slow Club who acts as a joint front person with Saudi.

Together they create a sort of screaming acid-meltdown Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin vibe; they too have been back and forth to New York recording and finishing their debut album with Sean Lennon and are about to embark on their Ultimate Realism tour throughout September.

Ahead of this, which includes a Salford date at The White Hotel on Thursday 22nd September and Liverpool International festival of Psychedelia on Saturday 24th September, Flanagan of the band talks us through the wild and unpredictable first year of the inimitable Moonlandingz. 

You only played your first ever live gig a year ago and in the meantime you’ve made a record, played with Iggy Pop in Texas and played some rather incendiary and notorious live shows and radio sessions.

How much of the Moonlandingz’ journey is planned and thought-out and how much are you just letting it do its own thing and following it? 

Last year we had four songs, admittedly four incredible songs [laughs] and for a giggle we announced a tour. That tour pretty much sold out before we'd even written a full set. I think by June we had 6 songs, by August we had 10 songs and for some reason, people just seem to really like them.

All the live shows to date have been really riotous events, stage invasions, people knowing the words and travelling from other countries to see us. In many ways starting out as a 'fictional band' has allowed us to push various boundaries and buttons and hold a mirror up to the bullshit that is this whole music game and the people who are in that particular, dubious occupation are genuinely scared of us.

We truly give zero fucks about the music industry, it's a dying industry, having its final feast from the nipples of Pink Floyd and Bowie and all them old big hitters. But where do they go in 10 years when that well of demos, made only for the ears of a dead artist that they are creaming off, has run dry?

I'll tell you one thing, it won't be Catfish & the bloody Bottlemen! Are these fuckers even aware there's a war going on? It's not even escapism is it? It's just a Stereophonics B-side styled by Topman and, frankly, I'd rather sandpaper my own penis off than listen to shite like that.

I whole heartedly believe people need The is dying, art is dying, all the musical greats are dying, we are here for those, who in the future, will have no culture.

How important to you is the role of subversion in music and how much are the Moonlandingz a construct to challenge norms, conventions and banalities to be found in certain areas of modern music?

I don't think we are that subversive, I think we are pretty blatant about what we do and mean; we put that attitude to pretty cool music and I guess that must feel pretty refreshing and revolutionary when held up next to most current music minstrels.

I think as a norm, whatever is deemed taboo or off topic - to the careerist, piss-weak musicians - we embrace with both arms. In fact, we don't just embrace it, we fuck it hard in front of their loved ones. Now, if that's not for you and you want something to just launch your own head at a wall too, you can always just listen to Slaves or the latest Billy Bragg cut!

Can you talk us through Lias’ aesthetic in the band when on stage? I’ve seen him perform make-up clad, covered in pen, bread and ham and hummus on his face etc – is there anything connecting all these various guises of Johnny Rocket? Who / what is he?

Basically, what ever the group don't eat backstage from our rider, Lias will wear somewhere on his person. Plus, if we get a little peckish during the set, we can have a nice slice of salami off his face. People have already started turning up to gigs wearing bad make up and bread bangles, usually the promoters! 

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Tell us about the recording sessions for the album and working with Sean Lennon, is his role more producer or is he a band member as far as the recording goes? What was the studio vibe like? 

Dean and I recorded all the electronic side of the music here in Sheffield, then Lias came and lived up here for a month or so and me and him wrote some lyrics and vocal melodies together, we then got Saul up for a few days to add some extra bits of guitar. Once we had an album’s worth of tracks together, we took them to Sean's studio in upstate New York and added more of the traditional live instruments, drums, bass, more guitars, organs, vocals.

He's got some really cool instruments up there and it's a really inspiring space for being creative. No distractions. The record is a co-production with Sean and Dean and I/The E.R.C. We worked so well together and strangely in the main it was really easy and really good fun to make.

Sean is such a virtuoso on most instruments but in a cool way, so whenever I had a slightly flighty idea, I'd say “could you do something a bit French, a bit Alain Goraguer, on this track?” and he'd get me straight away. I felt I could stretch my own musical limitations through him, he was like having an extra appendage.

Earlier this year you played the BBC6Music festival and Lias had the names of convicted BBC employees all over his torso, Jimmy Saville etc. Given this was a televised festival, what was the reaction to this? Did the BBC have words or try to censor you in anyway? 

We played Hebden Bridge Trades Club the night before and it's such a great venue, they really look after you. We got paid well, it was a sell out show, they got their in-house chef to cook us a beautiful fresh meal which when you’re on the road, fresh anything is a godsend.

They gave us all several bottles of wine, each [laughs] and all this wasn't long after recovering from a major flood. Just these beautiful, kind, open-minded and appreciative people making you feel like, for one night at least, that you're not scum and that you might have some kind of future and worth.

Then in contrast, the next day, hungover, we, with no label support, are expected to drive in a hire van, that needs paying for, driven by a driver that needs paying for and petrol that needs paying for, with musicians that need to eat and paying for, all the way to Bristol to play a gig, for free, for a massive corporation.

Then when you get there, you're ordered about like a child by a teenager with a semi-on, waving a clipboard in your face and you're then sent on a wild goose chase around some massive auditorium with hundreds of doors in it to then get pushed in some tiny room with a packet of Haribos, some water and a lone banana to share between 7 pissed off, hard drinking, hard living, psychopaths [laughs].

Then you go and stand in front of a big crowd of paying punters, who cheer loudly before you've even done anything with a big sign with said corporation’s name on it flashing above your head and you know it's all just self serving and making your band look like some ass lick, sick and twisted, sell-out desperadoes.

Those three powerful letters looming over you as you play, taunting you, inciting memories of all the great music it brought us, all those great documentaries, TV plays and films and then you remember, all that turning a blind eye to nonce stuff and then you’re back to being a rock & roll band, kicking against the untouchable pricks.

Your upcoming tour dates take in The Liverpool festival of Psychedelia. What is the Moonlandingz definition of a psychedelic band? 

The Moonlandingz are my definition of a psychedelic band. All you've got to do is lick our faces and watch us unravel your most depraved and primal thoughts. You've got to get up close though, real close. 

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Liverpool - Invisible Wind Factory, Saturday 25th March

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Manchester - Gorilla, Thursday 30th March 

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