Interview: Mordecai Smyth
Published on February 27th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
Last month, Rocksucker was tickled pink by Mordecai Smyth’s debut album Sticky Tape & Rust, describing it as “unceasingly playful and breezily melodic; familiar yet strange and ultimately pleasing, like a pint of bitter with Ray Davies’ face etched into the foam like a clover on a Guinness.”
As such, we fired over some questions to Mr Smyth himself, and found ourselves delighted yet suitably embarrassed to find that he’s not, as we’d presumed, operating under a pseudonym…
Congratulations on an excellent debut album (if it is indeed your debut). Is it a band recording, or mostly/entirely a solo effort?
It is indeed a debut; a long, long time in the making! The words were all written by yours truly and the music was largely written by myself, but with a huge nod to my long suffering friend since childhood, The Amazing Mr. Heath. Why amazing? Have you heard his bass playing?!! He also helped out on some of the arrangements and plays quite a bit of the fiddly guitar work, such as at the beginning of “All Right Now”. You get the idea. Despite the album taking so long, it comprises a stable line up, of myself, Mr. Heath, Tabitha (clarinet and sax) and Thaddeus Jones (drums).
What was the inspiration behind your fabulous moniker? Have you considered a double-barrelled surname? I only ask because Smyth works so splendidly as the second half of a double-barrelled surname.
Birthright is the inspiration behind my quite normal name; we are simply plain old Smith spelt with a “Y”! Everyone pronounces it the posh way, so, I just go along for it. However, posh I am not!
Where are you based?
We don’t see ourselves as being “based” anywhere. I can understand people being proud of where they come from, but I have to say this: The Beatles weren’t a Liverpool band forever, but they are forever a band from Liverpool. Seeing as we all hail from different parts of the globe, I hope you don’t mind my answer.
Not at all. Do you have any live shows coming up?
We aren’t really looking at the live circuit as a “band”. That takes lots of money and endless rehearsals, so in that respect, no. It would be nice to have a record company with pots of money to throw at a “tour”, of “proper” music venues. So who knows, if anyone reading this likes us enough….?
Mr. Hitchcock, Herbert Frowsy, Colin and Georgina Jones are all characters that crop up in the album’s lyrics/song titles. Are any of these based on real people?
Now to the meaty questions; yes! Herbert and Colin are character sketches based on people I have met. Not particularly pleasant, but where is the fun in writing about “boy meets girl” all the time. There is some of that on the album too! Even John Lennon got fed up with that subject matter by the time he wrote “Nowhere Man”, the first Beatles song which wasn’t written about “boy meets girl”, if I’m not mistaken.
Mr Hitchcock is about Alfred Hitchcock’s films; the last verse name-checks a few of them. Georgina Jones is a fictional character from the 1960’s BBC tv series Adam Adamant, a kind of low budget riposte to The Avengers.
With regards your song “Almost Murder”: have you ever almost murdered somebody? If not, who would you like to almost murder?
No! I haven’t “almost murdered” anyone. I just thought it would be fun to use the same kind of black comedy Hitchcock did in his films in one of my songs. The idea for the title comes from Nick Cave’s Murder Ballads. No, I wouldn’t like to murder anyone. Far too messy; have you watched Whitechapel on the telly?
Have you started writing for/working on a follow-up album yet? If so, what can you tell us about it?
Rather than wait another five or six years for the ‘next’ album, I thought it’d be fun to record a four-track EP, just like they used to make in the 1960s. Two songs are complete, so only two more to record! This time the music is credited to both myself and Mr. Heath, who is still as amazing as ever and helping me out more than ever. Lyrical content is down to me as usual. The lead track is quite a Freakbeat kind of number. The second one has some Mod overtones.
What else do you have planned for this year? Any festivals?
A festival would be lovely. Any takers….?
Are there any obscure and/or up-and-coming artists that you’d like to recommend or give a shout-out to?
Finally, if you were forced to spend the rest of your days in solitary confinement, but were allowed to bring the entire works of five different artists along to tide you over, whose would you choose?
It is strange in a world so full of choices to be restricted in such a way, so I don’t know if I can. However, as a bit of fun and to answer your question…here goes: The Beatles, The Kinks, Howlin’ Wolf, The Doors, Tom Waits, Syd Barrett. I never was very good at counting.
Mordecai Smyth, thank you.
Jonny, it has been a pleasure.
Sticky Tape & Rust, the debut album by Mordecai Smyth, is available now, right here on his official website.