Quickfire Questions #13: Matt Abbott of Skint and Demoralised

By on Monday, 4th July 2011 at 12:00 pm

Header photo by Alex Knight

It’s been a long time coming, but Skint and Demoralised is finally releasing their debut album. Or rather their debut album ‘Love, and Other Catastrophes’ that should have come out on Mercury ages ago will be released as a special second CD to the band’s new full album, ‘This Sporting Life’, on the 2nd of August on Heist or Hit Records. Dunno why, but I just get the feeling that like Little Comets before them, this is going to be another case of the majors making a big mistake for letting go of an amazing band. (Just a hunch.) Today is the release of the double A-sided single ‘The Lonely Hearts of England’ / ’43 Degrees’ in digital format, and to celebrate this, we’ve asked frontman and lyricist Matt Abbott to answer our Quickfire Questions. And answer them he did, with the kind of eloquence you would expect from the socially conscious, intelligent writer. He tells us what music made him jump around as a sprog, what artist led to a trip to Paris with a sweetheart, and more. Read on.

1. What song is your earliest musical memory?
Very interesting question. My earliest musical memory in general is being obsessed with Madness and nagging my parents to play their ‘Definitive Singles Collection’ on repeat when I must have been about 5 or 6 years old. I’m pretty sure it used to drive them insane! I remember that my favourite in particular was ‘Driving in My Car’, although to this day there’s still something I love about that band. Beneath the whimsical and comic element, and the obvious up-beat party tunes such as ‘Baggy Trousers’, there is a fantastic charm and a stroke of genius that really captures the spirit of British culture and life in general. Songs like ‘My Girl’ and ‘Our House’ will always be close to my heart. Although back then of course, I was only interested in jumping around and singing the infectious vocal melodies!

2. What was your favourite song as a child?
That’s a tough one. Assuming that “child” means before I started comprehensive school at the age of 11 (when you’re not quite a teenager but certainly making steps towards becoming one), I’d probably have to choose one of the tracks from ‘I’ve Been Expecting You’ by Robbie Williams. I was bought the album for Christmas at the age of nine and have always had a huge soft spot for Robbie. These days he’s certainly more of a “guilty pleasure” but when you’ve loved somebody from such an early age, it’s hard to dismiss them entirely! In a similar way to Madness (despite a different musical style), he manages to carry that quintessential British charm perfectly. He’s the archetypal “cheeky chappy” that oozes charisma; with his tongue lodged firmly in his cheek, of course. Favourite song? Probably ‘Strong’ back then.

3. What song makes you laugh?
Quite a few! Although seeing as I have to choose one in particular, I’ll say ‘Readers Wives [Part 2]’ by John Cooper Clarke. Perhaps lacking in charm when compared to my last two choices, but the man’s talent knows no bounds. I think it’s safe to say that he’s an acquired taste, and will be forever condemned to “cult hero” status in tiny pockets of the globe, but those who are blessed with knowing his work are safe in the knowledge that he’s a genius in every sense of the word. I genuinely believe that he’s the finest English word-smith since William Shakespeare, and though he may not evoke emotion in the same way as the likes of Morrissey, his use of the language is simply breath-taking, and his take on British working-class life cannot be beaten in my opinion. This track is hilarious, and one of the few poems that worked well in song form.

4. What song makes you cry?
The sheer beauty of ‘On the Nature of Daylight’ by Max Richter rarely fails to have an effect on me. I first heard his work during a two-part drama on BBC2 in late 2009 and soon downloaded the entire ‘Blue Notebooks’ album. The strings on this song are incredibly powerful and moving, and it has been known to bring a few tears to my eyes on several occasions. The track ‘Vladimir’s Blues’ is one of the most tender, delicate and enchanting pieces of music that I’ve ever heard, and at one minute and nineteen seconds in length, I’ve genuinely sat playing it on repeat for an hour before. But when it comes to being tearful, ‘On the Nature of Daylight’ wins for me.

5. What song reminds you of the first time you fell in love?
I guess it would have to be a Robbie Williams song again. He shouldn’t pop up in an interview more than once, but I have to be honest! My only ever long-term relationship (well, considering our age at the time) was throughout college, and we were both big Robbie fans at the time. I actually took her to see him live in Paris and then later in the year at Roundhay Park in Leeds. “Our song” was supposedly ‘She’s The One’ by Robbie Williams, as cringe-worthy as that may seem now, but I suppose if one song represents that time, then that’d be it. Sigh.

6. What song makes you think of being upset/angry?
Whenever I hear Oasis it generally puts me in a bad mood, but I’ll give an answer with more depth than that! I suppose ‘Masters of War’ by Bob Dylan is the song that has the potential to make me angriest, provided I’m in an appropriate mind-set at the time. His vocal delivery is superb and the lyrics definitely strike a chord with me. I’m passionately anti-war, and as we see billions being spent today on military action on Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya – on illegal wars that are fuelled by a greed for oil and power at the cost of human life – it angers me that Dylan’s anti-war messages of half a century ago are still relevant now. They should have long since expired with his songs of protest for the Civil Rights Movement.

7. Which song (any song written in the last century) do you wish you’d written yourself?
Even though I’d choose ‘Desolation Row’ by Bob Dylan as my favourite song of all-time, the one that I really wish I’d written myself would have to be ‘There is a Light That Never Goes Out’. Sheer class. The vocal lyric is possibly the most beautiful and, although incredibly morbid, the most romantic thing I’ve ever heard. It’s just…well, it’s Morrissey at his best, which is of course extremely good. The vulnerability, the desperation, the hope and despair, the fear, the tenderness…everything. It is incredible how such thoughts and emotions are captured so well with such mind-blowing simplicity. That song for me is untouchable in it’s genius, even down to Johnny Marr’s flute playing!

8. Who is your favourite writer? (This can be a songwriter or ANY kind of writer.)
This is a very, very difficult question, as writing is something that I’m so passionate about. I’m torn between John Cooper Clarke, James Joyce and Alan Sillitoe. The inspiration that I took from reading ‘Dubliners’ by James Joyce led me to write the lyrics for our second album; it had a profound effect on me, and to this day I still find it mind-blowingly good. That said, ‘Saturday Night and Sunday Morning’ by Alan Sillitoe is my favourite book of all-time and when you put it into context, surely one of the greatest literary achievements in twentieth century Britain. But in terms of what he represents, how he inspired me and the way that he continues to amuse and enthrall, I will have to choose John Cooper Clarke. I cannot express how much admiration I have for this man. I am simply in awe of his use of the English language. If you haven’t already then I urge you to check him out – whether written or recorded, everybody needs to be familiar with his work. I’m not sure how it’ll translate across the Atlantic, but I’m hoping that it’ll still be as effective and appealing. I’m sure it will be!

9. If you hadn’t become a singer/musician/songwriter/etc., what job do you think you’d be doing right now?
I would hopefully be a football writer or journalist of some kind. Football was my first passion in life and is still jostling with music for the number one spot in my heart! It has always been a huge part of my life and always will be. I know that I was put on this planet to write, and so if I wasn’t a musical writer then I’d hopefully be a football writer/reporter, or failing that, a struggling novelist no doubt! I am actually working on my debut novel ‘Fireworks’ at the moment and have been developing the storyline and characters since October 2008, so hopefully within a year or two I’ll have a draft ready. We’ll see!

10. If God said you were allowed to bring only one album with you to Heaven, which would it be and why?
This is a nightmare of a question! Haha. I regularly switch between the Doors, the Smiths and Arctic Monkeys as being my favourite band of all-time. But seeing as it was a part of my life as soon as it was released, and it continues to excite and entertain me through years and years of listening, I will choose ‘Favourite Worst Nightmare’ by Arctic Monkeys. For me it is their finest piece of work by far and has the perfect balance of upbeat, catchy indie-rock songs and alternative, strange and experimental almost prog-rock songs. The lyrics are Turner’s finest (particularly ‘Do Me A Favour’ which has more relevance to me lyrically than anything I’ve ever heard, and also in ‘505’) and musically it is incredibly good. I will never tire of hearing it. A simply fantastic record.

The double A-sided single ‘The Lonely Hearts of England’ / ’43 Degrees’ is out today digitally on Heist or Hit. Watch for the band’s album ‘This Sporting Life’, with the bonus ‘Love, and Other Catastrophes’ album, as a 2 CD set to be released on the 2nd of August.

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