Thomas Moore is a UK based writer whose most recent novel In Their Arms (Rebel Satori Press), follows the spiraling life of a queer art critic as he numbly navigates a life of cruising apps and locales. In Their Arms dabbles wholeheartedly in the kind of erotic and depraved narratives that feature despairing males, made notorious by writers like Dennis Cooper. In Their Arms evokes a vague horror and routinely works to dull the reader’s senses. Stylistically, the book also features a detritus of pop music and cultural allusions. In our next installment of writers talking about the music that has played a part in their creative lives, we talked to Moore about the role music plays in his writing and the importance of tone and style over narrative.
Angel City Review: Your most recent novel In Their Arms features several references to music pop culture – from Alice Glass of Crystal Castles to Wu-Tang Clan – juxtaposed next to images of violence and other pop culture artifacts. How big of a role does music play in your life and the art you create?
Thomas Moore: Music is a huge part of my life and has been for as long as I can remember. I listen to a lot of stuff and try to keep up with things as best as I can. In terms of the references in In Their Arms, a lot of those were more linked to the idea of popular culture now, and the mish-mash of things that the Internet throws up, and what different things signify and how they link together nowadays.
ACR: What came first, your love for literature or music?
TM: I honestly can’t remember, but I suppose I probably heard music before I learned to read…so maybe it was music first? Sat in the back of my parents’ car, listening to their ABBA cassettes and my dad’s Glen Campbell tapes. Although honestly, I tend to try and not really separate things too much – I like the idea of seeing literature, music, film, visual art as kind of the same thing because I like the idea of all of those things being treated with the same amount of respect as each other. In my head I like to think of a new book and a new record having the same kind of weight and importance as each other.
ACR: I’ve read in a previous interview that you are really interested in mood and tone regardless of the medium. Is there a musical artist out there that you feel captures the tone of your works?
TM: Yeah, mood is really important to me and tends to be the thing I respond to the most in art. It’s about the feeling that something invokes. There are lots of musicians who I feel a kinship with in one way or another. When it comes to artists who share the same tone as my stuff, I suppose it changes a lot depending on what I’m working on at any given time. When I was starting my first novel, I really felt that the first Crystal Castles album, and the Deerhunter record at the time, and Stars of The Lid had tones that I felt were similar to things that I was trying to work with. Then when I wrote my novella, GRAVES, in 2010/2011, Salem and some of the related Witch Haus thing seemed to reflect the tone that I was aiming for. With my most recent novel, Angel Guts: Red Classroom by Xiu Xiu felt like it had some similarities in tone and mood.
ACR: Would you say that mood, tone, and style are more important than a formal plot in your writing?
TM: Yes, absolutely. Books that are mainly led by formal plot and character development don’t really do it for me. Which isn’t a criticism of people who do that kind of thing – it’s just a personal preference. It’s the same with films – I respond way more to a David Lynch film than something with a more clearly defined plot-driven narrative thing. I like it when things make emotional sense rather than narrative sense. I also think confusion is really important and shouldn’t be dismissed or used as a pejorative. Things don’t have to make sense. There doesn’t have to be a reason for everything in art.
ACR: Is there anything to be said for listening to music while writing? Do you find any inspiration directly within music that translates to your writing?
TM: I often listen to music when I write – depending on what I’m working on. Sometimes a project has required silence, and other things have required super loud black metal records in the background. Yeah – going back to mood and tone – I think there are often feelings or atmospheres that I hear in music that I respond to, and I like to try and experiment and try to find how writing can correspond to that. I have sometimes tried to play around with text until I feel like it matches a certain tone that I’ve heard in a piece of music. It’s something that I’ve tried to do a lot.
ACR: There’s a line from In Their Arms where the narrator says that “there’s no music vague enough to fit the mood I wake up in.” This really resonated with me. Do you believe there are feelings that music cannot accurately convey, and can perhaps only be conveyed though literature / language, or vice versa?
TM: Oh I don’t know. I don’t think that I’d like to give a definite answer on something like that. I guess it depends on the person who has made the art and the person who is listening/reading/watching/looking at the art. I think it would depend on interpretation, you know? I like the fact that one person may go away from a record or a book feeling a totally different way to someone else. Who knows what someone else is going to feel?
ACR: You’ve recently had one of your works anthologized by KiddiePunk (Collected 2011-2015). In addition to publishing Dennis Cooper’s GIF novels, KiddiePunk also has some esoteric forays into music (including a reverb edition of Hanson’s “Middle of Nowhere” album). How did you originally connect with KP?
TM: Yeah, two of my works were included in that book – my 2011 novella, GRAVES, and my 2013 book of poems, The Night Is An Empire. I first got in touch with Michael Salerno, the filmmaker and artist who runs Kiddiepunk in 2007, mainly just because I saw his stuff and realized he was a complete genius and because his work blew my head off. I think we first hung out in person in 2008 in Paris and we’ve been friends ever since. He’s been really generous and cool in releasing my stuff and I think of him as a very important friend and person in my life. But aside from all of that, his work is like no one else on earth. Complete genius and inspiration. Yeah, Kiddiepunk has done some musical releases. A personal favorite is the Milk Teeth album, which you should check out. I’m extremely proud of my association with Kiddiepunk, because I think that Michael has and continues to do so many amazing things with it.
ACR: What are you currently working on?
TM: I’m in the editing stages of a new book, which I’ve almost finished – it’s shorter texts – some poems and some strange prose bits and I’m just trying to get everything to click into place. And then I’m in the very early stages of working on my third novel, which I’m feeling very excited about. An idea just kind of came out of nowhere, and I’ve begun obsessing about it and thinking about it all the time, so I’ll see where it takes me.
ACR: Top 5 favorite albums of all time?
TM: I feel like I need to put a disclaimer in and say that this is just what I’ve come up with at the time of writing this answer. If you ask me another day then I think you’d get totally different answers … OK, so I’d have to have something by Morrissey, so I’m going to say The Smiths by The Smiths mainly because it starts with the song “Reel Around The Fountain,” which is one of the most beautiful things ever recorded. But really, I could probably just fill this list with Smiths and Morrissey Solo albums (like Vauxhall and I which contains the best Morrissey song ever – “Speedway.”) But yeah, I’ll go with the first Smiths record. Then I’d probably pick Angel Guts: Red Classroom by Xiu Xiu, which just feels like such a complete and self-contained piece of work – totally beautiful and fucked up in equal measures. But again, I’m obsessed with Xiu Xiu so I could have picked any of their records. Then maybe I’d pick the second Le Tigre album, Feminist Sweepstakes. Everything Kathleen Hanna is involved with is awesome and I saw Le Tigre play a bunch of times around the time of that album and they were completely stunning, and played some of the best shows I’ve ever seen – I came out buzzing. I’d probably pick a Hole album, so I’m going to say Live Through This. And then I’d want to pick something kind of experimental so I’d go for Happy Days by Jim O’Rourke, which as a writer I feel like I took a lot from, in terms of how the record is composed and repetition and drone and loads of stuff like that.
The Smiths by The Smiths
Angel Guts: Red Classroom by Xiu Xiu
Feminist Sweepstakes by Le Tigre
Live Through This by Hole
Happy Days by Jim O’Rourke
ACR: Any favorites or influences from 2017 thus far?
Pharmakon – Contact
Divide and Disolve – Basic
Arca – Arca
Xiu Xiu – Forget
Xiu XIu – Gone Gone Gone
The Magnetic Fields – 50 Song Memoir
William Basinski – A Shadow In Time
Anohni – Paradise EP
Brian Eno – Reflection
Blanck Mass – World Eater
The Mountain Goats – Goths
Antony Braxton/Miya Masaoka – Duo (DCWM) 2013
Jarvis Cocker Chilly Gonzalez – Room 29
Diamanda Galas – All The Way and At Saint Thomas the Apostle Harlem
Slowdive – Slowdive
Perfume Genius – No Shape
Gas – Narkopop
Sleaford Mods – English Tapas
Oxbow – Thin Black Duke
Teengirl Fantasy – 8am
Run The Jewels – RTJ3
Priests – Nothing Feels Natural
Wolf Eyes – Undertow
Lawrence English – Cruel Optimism
The Necks – Unfold
Follow Thomas on Twitter: @thomasmoronic