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An Interview with visual and sound artist Thee Moths

June 17, 2011

Renata Walton interviews Thee Moths Alex Botten-Clark, who will be playing at Light House, Wolverhampton this Saturday

How long have you been producing under the name Thee Moths?
Thee Moths has been a going concern for over 10 years now. Originally it was a far more conventional ‘band’ set up, guitar, bass, drums, and vocals, playing fuzzy lo-fi noise pop that sounded a lot like groups like Eric’s Trip or Evie. Over time it gradually changed – the second album was recorded as a duo and featured layered choral vocals, programmed beats and samples. After that the guitars were slowly replaced and by 2005 the project was mostly a vehicle for my solo electronica.

What does Thee Moths mean to you? / What is Thee Moths?
It’s been my primary outlet for music for a long time, so I’ve gotten very used to doing it. I don’t know what it means to me really, it just sort of ‘exists’ now.

You have a staggering output, these are often solely self produced and shipped, with limited releases, it’s a lot of work, do you ever feel like calling it quits?
Every couple of years I think about stopping Thee Moths as a project, and doing something else, but I keep coming back to it. The band did finish, briefly in 2009, but after a year I somehow ended up on the bill for a show at a pub in Stourbridge, and the name got hauled out again. Since then it’s been pretty busy, playing as many gigs as I can get, and recording and releasing things very regularly.

Where do you take your inspiration from? / What keeps you going?
As I’ve got older I’ve seen my music and my visual art as being more and more part of the same thing, so they kind of feed into each other, so where my head is with the visual work informs where I go with the music. As for what keeps me going, well, I try to not bore myself – as long as I’m not thinking ‘god, this is dull’ then I figure everything’s ok.

What can people expect to hear when they come to your gig?
It very much depends on what kind of mood I’m in, or how the rest of the gig has gone. Mostly there will be looped and layered singing, home-made synths, small 80s keyboards, plus other things spluttering out of my laptop. There’s also often some audience participation towards the end, and I’ll probably play bells, my melodica, and a thumb piano at some point.

Say something for people who have never been to a live experimental gig?
Hmmm, well, there’s not likely to be conventional ‘songs’ played, and the artists might not stop playing for the entirety of their time on stage (I know I don’t), so you won’t have to applaud every 5 minutes! Often you’ll hear sounds that end up in the mainstream about 5 or 6 years later. The best advice is to just accept whatever comes to you from the stage, try not to have expectations!

What tips would you care to share with people just starting out?
People starting out need to not worry about whether they’re doing things ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ as there’s no such thing in music. The same applies to what instruments you use – play with what you’ve got, make the available tools work for you rather than craving the latest or shiniest guitar or laptop or whatever. Technology has improved immensely even in the last five years, and the tools you need to start making music are probably already in your pocket – got a smart phone? Hit the app store for dozens of excellent (and often free) noise making programs. You can record with what you have, and there’s nothing to say that what you make is right or wrong. Chuck your work up on Bandcamp and you might even make a couple of quid.

What new projects are you working on? / Would you be looking to collaborate with some new people?
I’m starting to think about getting enough visual art together to exhibit – I’ve never had an exhibition of my work before so I’d really like to get that together. As for my music, I’ve just released a couple of albums, one called ‘Peace Flag’ and the other ‘Soundcloudbusting’, and I’m starting work on a couple more in the next few weeks. I do collaborate from time to time, the most long-lived collaborations in recent years have been with Ade Bordicott from Mutate – we play together in Señor Citizen and Wülfstabber, the first is a Casio keyboard based improv thing, and the latter is straight 4/4 techno. I’ve got plans for a couple of other things, but I need to sound some people out, I’ve got a name for a side project, but I need to work out who I want to do that one with.

Thee Moths is playing Lock Works on Saturday 18th June, from 8.30pm
Alongside BiLE (Birmingham Laptop Ensemble) & Noise Research

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One Comment leave one →
  1. June 19, 2011 5:35 pm

    Thanks! If anyone wants to see more of my art they should go to http://www.alexbotten.co.uk

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