Monday, 28 February 2011


'Then I woke up and it was all a dream' was the love of my life.

An album based on composer Vernon Elliott's music for the Small Films TV programs; 'Clangers', 'Ivor the engine', 'Noggin the Nog' etc (but not Bagpuss, that was different).
When I set about recording it I knew I needed a great harp player and a great bassoon player. I got very lucky indeed, finding ...

Fiona Troon (she plays the bassoon) and Tom Moth (he plays the harp, it doesn't rhyme but he has since joined Florence and the Machine so that clearly wasn't an obstacle to success)  The two greatest musicians I have ever met, and I say that knowing I have worked with some astonishing talents (Hello Moses). Seriously, virtuoso players but also just instinctively musical to a degree that I can only envy and be thankful for.

With these 2 on board I also found Caspar Cronk (musical saw, our way of imitating the Clangers voices without the potentially hilarious swanee whistles) and Claire Cobley (Flute) and my Moses pals Gav (drums) Colin (bass, accordion), Katy (violin), Harriet (cello) and Sophie (singing). I asked the missing Moses member, my brother Dave, to sing on 'Friend, won't you be a brother to me' but he drunkenly declined, something he since cannot recall, a shame. 

I asked Clangers co-creator Oliver Postgate to narrate a song called 'Los Pajaros'. He (not drunkenly as far as I know) declined, citing ill health. He did however describe the unfinished recordings as 'Lovely and delicious' whilst also expressing concern that I wasn't sampling or copying Vernon's work in any way. I wasn't, so all good there. 

Sadly Oliver's ill health proved to be serious and he died shortly after the album was completed. I did send him a copy but I never knew if he actually listened to it. 

I had intended using this page to share the entertainingly formal email exchanges between myself and Oliver but decided against it out of respect for his privacy and indeed my own.

I wanted some guest singers and I aimed high. Moses had toured with Sam Brown, precisely because she was my favourite singer, and she was lovely enough to agree to sing on, and completely transform,  'Dear January'.  My other favourite artists where and are Miss Carolyn Mark and the band Misty's Big Adventure. Carolyn had a UK tour around the time and graciously agreed to visit Johnny the engineers house in Seven Sisters to record 'More Stars' one extremely entertaining afternoon. We also wrote the big number for our very brief musical called simply 'A strangers just a C*** you haven't met!'.

Grand Master Gareth of Misty's I had met a few times previously, we had a Dodgy (the band) connection and I had helped them complete a music video in my day job. I sent Gareth the recording
of the song I had hoped to get Oliver Postgate to narrate and secretly assumed he would find my music a bit 'singer/songwriter-y' for his tastes. He was complimentary and prompt in his response and gave me an excellent reading of the 'Eeyore-ish' narration for 'Los Pajaros'.  

I failed, I guess, at telling the world about 'Then I woke up and it was all a dream'. I spent more making it than I made back selling it, but it remains my proudest achievement. If anyone where to say, and I get this quite often; 'I can hear what you where trying to do' they would be wrong, because it sounds exactly like I intended it to. Every note.

Some months after I had given up trying to persuade the broader music industry to listen to '...dream' I was focusing on the next project (the '...boy' EPs) when I received an email from Vernon Elliott's grandson. He had been passed the album by his mother who had received it from Oliver Postgate, and all of them had enjoyd it and where 'proud and delighted to know Vernon had inspired something so beautiful and evocotive'.

I couldn't and wouldn't ask for more than that. 

Sunday, 27 February 2011

we are electric (supermen)

I like collaborating, it's not always very easy but I think its always worth it. And ideas that can start as one thing can end up being another.

My excellent friends PLAKKA: play spaced out heavy electro pop and have so far provided me with a song ('Plakka got good') and a xylophone player (Georgina Trelour who used to play drums in Plakka).

I suggested they and I form a new band together but in the true spirit of collaboration I essentially came along with my idea of this band fully formed and wanted to do exactly that. I wish I'd not but I did.

This  band where to be called WE ARE ELECTRIC (SUPERMEN) - the name was my idea, the brackets where theirs. You see the level of collaboration I was embracing at the time?

As such it didn't really take off but it did lead to a handful of cracking songs, some of which I've yet to do anything with and some of which ended up on 'The Romantic' notably the song 'Electric superman' which is about and features Plakkas singer Bobby 'BK13' Kennedy. But mostly it led to a raft of ideas for websites, artwork, t shirts, all the important stuff you know.

So this is that. I still rather like it all....

I think there was an actual song called 'stranger' but I may have been designing sleeves first and writing songs second. Certainly can't remember it now if there was one....

The T Shirts may have been a little bit... niche? 

indian john

I'm asked quite frequently why I  choose to release records under my own name instead of a 'band name'. The logic being that solo acts are often assumed to be one man with a guitar and thats not what I do.

Originally I sort of did, I was called 'Indian John' for a grand total of 4 gigs...

Influenced by the Canadian singer Hawksley Workman (real name Ryan Corrigan) I invented an entire back story for Indian John and got my sister to 'research' the fake historical figure I had created to give myself a name. The blurb for the website read like this (words By Karen Mosley) :

Those last two lines where the chorus of the eponymous song, never played since.

It's a cute story but I wasn't really that bothered about having a fake identity and I worried it would make people assume I was Indian myself, which seeing as I'm not, was a rather pointless idea.

In later years I toyed with calling my band 'The Lucky Bitches' (their suggestion), 'Electric Superman' (of which more elsewhere) and 'Pirate Radio' (of which much more some day soon...). I think I am still open to suggestions if you have any....


Back in the Moses days I was interviewed for 'Attitude' magazine as the gay half of a new 'gay/straight acoustic duo', not a description we'd ever used ourselves...

The general gist of it was very positive and complimentary but the idea of outing myself on such a scale for the sake of selling a few more albums was a bit alarming. In real life, as usual, nothing really happened. In or out, straight or gay, we still had the same excellently devoted but distinctly small group of fans.

Years later when recording 'The Ventriloquist' I decided to leave in a lyric that had been troubling me; ..'& I just want him to be happy'.  I had tried to make it work without being gender specific, thinking songs are songs not pages from my diary, the obvious gayness may stop some people connecting with the song. That all felt a bit fake, especially on such an open record so I kept it in and I think it was the right decision. For what its worth, 'The ventriloquist' is a very personal record, yet still a lot of peoples favourite. 

Now I do gender specific songs reasonably often. Coming out in song is like coming out in life it seems, you have to keep on doing it and after a bit, in a good way, nobody really cares.... 


'This is the Universe' was my and Johnny the engineers first attempt at integrating robot voices into my music. Its still a rough 'n' ready demo at the moment, I'll revisit it one day.

I am mildly obsessed with robots, and the auto-tuned vocals of popular, modern, young peoples music is actually probably my favorite thing about it.

We have since used robot voices a few times notably on 'Asteroids' (from 'Monkeys, Pigs and Wolves') and 'You saw the ocean' (from 'the romantic'). They just sound so friendly, I am always delighted to hear them.

There is a robot suite of songs still to record, 'Roboboy' may be familiar to live audiences, and I recently got very excited about the possibilities thrown up by doing something like this...

That clip is nothing to actually do with me of course, and I'd have to whack up some more weirdness in the music, but I like. And it has got me thinking....


Pianos are not cool. Boogie Woogie and Jazz are a little bit cool but they are hard.

Like most singer-songwriter types I use my instrument to write on and throw in some twiddly bits when I get chance and come up with something I can play and sing at the same time, so it's relatively rare that the piano parts are a showcase of fabulous musicianship, more usually they are a pad along with a lovely tune on top.

Maybe it's because you have to sit down - well, Ben Kweller has a good standing up technique with the microphone pointing straight up like an ice cream, but even then you can't go shimmying about the place.

Plus pianos are heavy. Literally, which is actually a bloody nuisance for those of shlepping around the gig  circuit but also sonically, there can be something doomy and thick sounding about pianos. (Until you're really, really good and can play fast and light but again, that's hard).

I avoided this problem with the 'Then I woke up and it was all a dream' album, by transferring all the piano parts to the harp, a lighter sound, though an even less convenient instrument to get down the twisty turny back stairs of The Punctured Monkey.

So although I write pretty much everything on the piano it is fairly rare for me to stick to the ivory tinkling come the final arrangement. As such its nice when a song comes along that is absolutely right for the piano. The title track of 'The Ventriloquist' works well and so does this little fella I think.

"Captain, I confess' is not as yet on any albums, but I'm aiming on fixing that in a rather exciting way soon....

Like a lot of things that are in our lives everyday, its nice to suddenly remember how much I do love the magical instant pleasure of the piano....

tiger tiger...

Why am I dressed as a tiger in several of my promo pictures?

Because we couldn't find a Monkey, Pig or Wolf outfit is the slightly dull answer.

I have written about animals from the very first Moses album (the Swimming Zoo). I find them a handy instant metaphor for peoples personality types  and an evocative way of giving a song character. Here's the full interview....

The photos are by Viktor Vauthier and the article originally appeared in Arts journal 'Volume'...

Saturday, 26 February 2011


I love my ukulele, it's like playing your own heart (which sounds a bit rotten written down, shame).

When my genius harp playing pal Tom Moth got the call to be part of Florence's Machine I though hard about how to replicate his priceless contributions to my music. A virtuoso player, an otherworldly instrument, the  music of the spheres. Obviously some cack-handed ukulele by a complete novice is called for here.

I persevered, got a little bit better, liked it a lot and then a whole album grew out of it (2009's 'The ventriloquist'). It mixes strangely well with synths, has something of the lightness of touch of the harp, and it means you can get the bus home after gigs. It gets you free drinks, it gets you a certain romantic kudos and it apparently gets you laid up in Canada, result.

A lot of folks use them as a one off novelty but it really is a lovely instrument, especially the larger ones.
Here's my favourite (so far) of the uke songs 'Please don't turn away for me now'...