Few themes are as connected as sex and death. The former is life and the latter is the end of life. And few artists can reconcile the complexities of the two as well as Aidan Moffat. He’s dealt with the themes expertly on Arab Strap albums and on Here Lies The Body, a collaboration with fellow Scot RM Hubbert (known as ‘Hubby’). Set for release on May 11 on Rock Action Records and aware of its double-entendre title, it weaves Moffat’s funereal narrative lyricism with Hubbert’s versatile guitarwork and plenty of other compelling flourishes, from electronic instrumentation to collaborators such as Siobhan Wilson. We spoke with Moffatt and Hubbert via email about how they came together, the effects of fatherhood, and the struggles of fiction writing.


The two of you have known each other for a long time. What sparked the idea to do a full collaborative album?

Aidan Moffat: We'd already recorded ‘Car Song’ together for Hubby's Thirteen Lost & Found album, and we'd play it together at his gigs whenever we could. I was always really fond of that song and folk really seemed to like it, so one afternoon when we were driving down to Gateshead for a gig we started talking about doing an album. This was years ago, it took a while to finally find the time to record it, and it took me ages to finish the words.

How did you bring other collaborators into this album?

AM: The main one is Siobhan Wilson. I think she's on six of the songs. I wrote ‘Cockcrow’ as a duet and knew I'd need a woman to sing it, and when I heard Siobhan's album from last year, I thought she'd be perfect – she has a beautiful voice, and it's a good contrast to my rough, half-sung grumble. Plus, she's brilliant on the cello and piano, two instruments we'd already planned as part of the set, so we just sent her the demos and let her add some parts. Rachel Grimes, who I've been a fan of for – frighteningly, I've just checked – 27 years, plays on one track, and John Burgess, who played with Bill Wells & Me, adds some sax and clarinet on a couple of tracks.

Aidan, your vocals here (and on past works) strike me as a middle ground between singing and spoken word. How did your voice develop into its trademark sound?

AM: Well, I can't really sing that well at all, so you just need to work with what you've got – necessity's the mother of invention and all that – so I suppose I just settled into what seemed to be effective over the years. I'm a slightly better singer than I was a few years ago, but I actually try and hold myself back now because I don't want to end up sounding too much like a proper singer, there's enough of them about already.

Were you anticipating such a variety of sounds and instrumentation when the two of you decided to make this album?

AM: I was, but I'm not sure Hubby was, ha ha! He very kindly left me to my own devices (quite literally) and I always just use sounds that I think best convey the meaning of the song. For instance, when I started writing the lyrics for ‘She Runs’, I knew it needed to have that sort of gym work-out feel, so I went for the synths and drum machine. In retrospect, I think it was inspired by the Chariots of Fire theme.

RM Hubbert: Haha, aye, I literally had no idea what would come back after sending the initial structured guitar parts. It's a good way to work, I always enjoy being surprised when writing.

Hubby, how did you find the right guitar passages to support Aidan’s words?

RMH: The vast majority of the songs we've written started as guitar parts with Aidan adding words and accompaniment after. I tend to leave more space in the parts when I know there will be words added. I'll quite often simplify the structure as well, the tricks I use to hold the listener's attention with instrumentals can be a bit too much when the focus should be on the voice. Other than that, it was pretty natural, we both tend to write about similar themes so I didn't need to change my normal tone too much.

Aidan, your narratives are as focused as ever, and you’ve done non-musical fiction writing in the past (Like the story “The Donaldson Boy” and a children’s book, The Lavender Blue Dress). Is this something you have any interest in returning to?

AM: Aye, definitely – I'm hoping that might be my next thing, but it's taking me ages. I met with a publisher years ago but it never happened, and I'm literally years behind on my deadline targets. That makes it sound like I'm writing some sort of thousand-page epic, but it's actually just ten short stories and might not even be 100 pages! I'm far too meticulous and I've got no discipline, so I don't know if I'll ever finish it.

How did your relationships, past and present, affect the writing of this album?

AM: Ha ha – no comment!

RMH: Ditto!

Aidan, you’re a father. How has having children affected how you view your songwriting (past and present), as well as life in general?

AM: I don't think it's made any difference to the songs, although it probably should – my son came to see Arab Strap when we reformed, and his mates at school all know about me too, so now they're Googling my old songs, which is a bit of a worry. Thankfully, the parents don't seem to mind, although I don't expect the children and going home to tell them they've heard Samuel's dad singing about cocks. This is the first album I've made that doesn't have a single swear-word on it, but that was just because it only had one anyway, and it was on probably the most radio-friendly song on the album. I couldn't be bothered recording two versions, so I just took it out. As for day-to-day life, being a dad's the most beautiful and terrifying thing there is. I'm an emotional wreck, but don't tell the kids.

Hubby, flamenco guitar runs richly through this album. What about this style appeals to you?

RMH: I love the visceral nature of flamenco. It's brutal and tender at the same time. It has the same violent sense of injustice with the world that drew me to punk rock when I was young.

Not including this album, what are your favorite works from each other?

AM: Hubby's Breaks & Bone album is my favourite, without a doubt.

RMH: Probably Everything's Getting Older. I've got really fond memories from touring with Bill & Aidan for that album. I remember hearing for the first time and thinking “Fuck, I need to do better!”