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Mick Moss has created a delicate, involving and contemplative sixth Antimatter album. Opening up, just as he does with many of his lyrics, to Ghost Cult, the English songwriter took the time to discuss the heart, soul and creation of ‘The Judas Table’ (Prophecy)
“The Judas Table absolutely needed to be recorded. Those songs had festered in my head for too long and I needed to clear the decks out.
“The second need was to get the songs recorded in a manner that was interesting to myself despite the fact that I had heard them again and again within the jukebox of my own brain. Job done. Both of them.”
While intrinsically melancholic art rock, Moss has brought together another album of personal, introspective reflection and revelation.
“It’s good to get things out, of course, but it’s not so much catharsis as hardcoding my realizations into lyrics so that I can live those empowering conclusions again and again. I actually want to revisit these realizations rather than to spit them out and be done with them. Hopefully if the listener can relate to my conclusions then they can use them to their own benefit.
“I wouldn’t call it selfish, but I absolutely must think of only myself whilst working” states Moss when asked what his consideration when writing is. “The ‘listener’ is potentially everybody else in the whole world. Therefore, it would be impossible for me to work whilst always considering the listener in the back of my mind, as it would be impossible to please everybody, or worry about not pleasing everybody. I would go insane.”
That said, there is an acceptance that the nebulous “listener” plays a hidden role in the workings of most musical craftsmen.
“Admittedly, there are some incidents during the writing or construction process where I’ll come up with something that I feel is moving, and I’ll get excited and wonder if it will move the listeners the way it moves me.”
“During the writing and construction process of any piece of music, I always work to how my body and mind are reacting to what I’m writing (and) playing. This is how I navigate a piece from start to finish, trying to manipulate my inner feelings through the sounds that come back to me. So, yeah, it is an intention that the music is uplifting for myself. I then assume that if it can do that to me, it will do the same to some of the people who hear it.”
A similar assumption allows Moss to be fully expressive and personal in his lyrics; to exhibit a bravery in allowing his vulnerabilities and reflections to be exposed to others. “It’s all I’ve ever done, so it’s not scary to me, no. Since my very first songs in 1996 I’ve been pouring my heart, fear, pain into my lyrics. Sometimes if I’m writing (something) too personal I can always wrap it up in metaphor, to protect myself I guess. But that’s something I’m doing less and less as I get older, and I’m making the lyrics more direct. I wrote the lyrics to ‘Epitaph’ from Planetary Confinement (The End) 30 minutes after I was notified of the death of a close family member, so I’m not sure if there’s anything too personal for me to write about.”
As far as Antimatter goes, Moss has always worked alone; he is neither distracted nor persuaded by the whims of others, but instead is able to hone and lead the path his music takes, keeping it a pure, personal vision. As such, there is a palpable bond between albums, with familial resemblances evident, a shared genetic make-up, alongside progression and development. The Judas Table, for example, bears the hallmark of its forebears but continues the evolutionary arc. “Any new album carries over some traits from its predecessor. But there’s also a natural urge to go to new places that weren’t previously explored” Moss considers. “Plus, before Fear Of A Unique Identity (Prophecy) was recorded, the majority of Fear… and Judas… both existed in my head at the same time, so there’s going to be some links between the two there.
“After the frenetic arrangements of Fear…, I focused on simplicity. The brief that I set myself was to have everything nicely arranged and with no crazy tangents – although two songs did end up with a slight detour – (and) also to let a song tick over and explore that space with ethereal melody, as was successfully done with ‘Hole’ and ‘Little Piggy’.”
“There’s no real rule, except that I tend to know what I want to write about, and this flows out in a kind of stream-of-consciousness jam with myself. I then adapt the acoustically written songs to the full-band scenario based upon the drumbeats and dynamics that I hear in my head. I make a demo at my home studio and then record the album based on the demos; it’s a well-oiled way of working for me now, things just flow.
“Apart from the drums, which were recorded at (the) prestigious Parr Street Studios, Liverpool, I recorded the album in my home studio. I decided early on that, after the ‘Too Late’ single, which was partially recorded at home, I would do everything here where I would have the time needed to get everything just right rather than looking at the clock in a studio and having to pack up and leave at a specific time. It turned out great, actually, and has given me the courage to go on to do more here.”
Mick Moss of Antimatter, 2015. Photo Credit: from www.facebook.com/antimatteronline
For those of us of a heavier, more rock/metal background, the likelihood is we were introduced to Antimatter due their association with Anathema, being the project Duncan Patterson turned to after leaving the progressive metallers, teaming up with Moss for the first three albums, with Moss continuing alone for the subsequent trio.
Interestingly, though, while they shared writing duties, they didn’t necessarily collaborate in the truer senses of the term. “When Duncan and myself worked together, we didn’t actually work together… I would craft half of an albums worth of complete songs and Duncan would do the same” confirms Moss, reflecting on any potential for expanding his song-writing to include collaborating with other artists.
“Ergo when he left, I didn’t lose a composing partner as I’d always worked 100% on my own material. The only thing that changed upon Duncan’s departure was that I then composed twice as many songs, which wasn’t a struggle as I already had a good archive of work by that point. In some ways it was actually better for me as then I had complete control over the album as a whole rather than it being two separate visions fused together. “I can’t imagine myself ever working with somebody to write a song from zero, it’s such a personal experience and it takes a certain vision to get it finished. I would imagine that there would be quite some disagreements. And I certainly wouldn’t involve anybody else in the creation of what is known as ‘Antimatter’
“If I were to work with another person then it would be under a different moniker, such as the Sleeping Pulse project I launched with Luis Fazendeiro in 2014. Despite what I say about not wanting to compose with somebody, Sleeping Pulse was a fantastic opportunity to work with Luis’ existing music and then craft vocal melodies and lyrics over the top. A wonderful experience that allowed me to operate fully as a vocalist and lyricist, and to put all of my energy into those jobs alone without having to worry about all of the other instruments, like I do in Antimatter.”
Antimatter, 2015. Photo Credit: Caroline Traitler
The Judas Table is a beautiful, reflective and uplifting album that works as an immersive experience, or, through its delicate melodies, as a calming influence. Aware of previous comments Moss had made, that, for him, success of an album isn’t measured in terms of personal profile or “fame”, just what would “success” for The Judas Table look or feel like, or is it something that has already been achieved in its creation? “That’s a difficult question, as success can be judged in different ways.
“The album I made was better than the album in my head, so that alone is quite a success. Again, most reviews are positive, some are overwhelmingly positive, the fans have received it with love and enthusiasm, and the live sets are now stronger due to the inclusion of songs such as ‘Can Of Worms’, ‘Killer’, ‘Stillborn Empires’, so, again, I would declare it a success. How it does commercially is a different matter, and I have no way of knowing that at this time, but even if it sold just one copy I would still love the album completely.
“One by-product of taking the new songs out on the road, one thing I’m not sure I had really expected, was that the addition of this new material strengthened the Antimatter setlist like crazy.
“It was like a shot in the arm.
“The setlist we now have is like none I’ve ever had in the past, and one thing I’m thinking lately is I just want to enjoy this moment live for a year or so, really celebrate the place Antimatter is with these new songs in the repertoire.”
With Anathema bassist and song-writer Duncan Patterson having left the Antimatterproject in the sole hands of former writing partner Mick Moss a decade ago, The Judas Table (Prophecy) is the sixth release under the Antimatter banner, and the third of Moss’ own making – the initial triumvirate featuring a split of compositions and recordings made by the pair mainly in isolation of each other – and continues the move to a more organic melancholy, leaving further behind the electronica that had featured in their earlier material.
Introverted and disappointed (though not disappointing), Moss uses The Judas Table as a cathartic vehicle to share his dissatisfaction with the people and situations he encounters in life, along with the betrayals and frustrations that he faces; “Just another dream that died…” he laments in ‘Stillborn Empires’.
Wholeheartedly earnest, there is no mistaking the feeling and conviction in Moss’ unassuming vocals, vulnerable on ‘Little Piggy’, a heartfelt song that builds from simple acoustic and vocal origins, or the more powerful, though still emanating a fractured soul, oration in the title track, his baritone meshing with a haunting female vocal and cello accompaniment.
The Judas Table invites reflection, it opens a forum to analyse loss and betrayal, and is a catalyst for melancholy, yet in a therapeutic way; there is something cleansing and uplifting about the introspection and realisation that occurs during the musings propagated by the subtle and underplayed despondent art rock Moss has produced. On ‘Hole’, the stark staging and gentle progression is as effective as Moss’ gets, sincere and sparse, just a voice and a guitar until the song spreads and breathy female vocals accompany a coda that slips away as delicately as it was constructed. Indeed, most of the songs here develop and sprout from clean guitar strums and soulful male vocals, building through adding strings and synths, and, at its core, are about the sharing of feelings, of sadness.
It goes without saying The Judas Table is not an album for all occasions, but its beauty and melancholy has a place and time with genuine and heartfelt emotions, it is a reserved and affecting soundtrack to reflection.