– A conversation with Tom Moriarty
A year ago
, I came across an interesting singer-songwriter with a very distinctive sound of an old school musician – but that’s only the surface. Under it, you can find a very modern personality, an up-to-date version of the classical rock poet. Tom Moriarty
doesn't hide behind walls of silence. He is very active in the social media and challenges the truths we’re hearing. Inconvenient or not, he doesn’t hesitate to speak his mind.
Moriarty has released two critically acclaimed albums: Fire in the Doll’s House
and The Road
If I have understood it correctly, you’ve studied economics at LSE and worked after that in corporate marketing? What made you to quit a steady job and start the singer-songwriter career?
“I have always been a singer-songwriter. I started to write songs as soon as I got a guitar when I was 6. If you're a musical child, it's like drawing. So it all starts then. You don't think of it as a career, it's just what you do. You just want to keep doing it and make enough money to survive. That's all most musicians really want. By the time I got to LSE I’d been writing songs for a while and was gigging round the London acoustic circuit.
Yeah, it was mostly macro socio-economic theory, things like international labour patterns, European economic union, social policy, environmental issues, that kind of thing. There’s a lot of it about. I’m glad I went there. It has a rebellious streak which I appreciate. It’s in the culture, the history, it’s in the walls. I guess that experience all played a part in influencing my music.
After that I actually went to live in Cambridge for couple of years and then Los Angeles, where I studied at the Musician’s Institute in Hollywood. It’s basically a rock school, where you play electric guitar all day. It was after then that I came back to London.
London is expensive, so like many musicians I got a day job It was in corporate marketing. Feels very distant now, another life, like when Obi-Wan
says “now that’s a name I’ve not heard in a long time…” But it was a job, my mother was ill and I had to pay the medical bills and you do what you have to do. I think of it as my years in the desert.
So it's not so much that I quit a steady job to “start” a singer-songwriter career, it's that I had to put it on hold for a while. “
I have noticed you criticize quite a lot about the greed that banks nowadays represent.
“I don't think banks "represent" greed like flag bearers for a movement. They are what they are, and they caused a lot of people a lot of pain and I am critical of that. They have got away with it and I am critical of that. Nothing has changed to stop it from happening again…and it will happen again. It tells you a lot about where they sit within our global society…mostly above politicians pulling strings.
Since the crash, the banks, helped by puppet politicians, have done a good job in convincing people it wasn’t them. So people find others to blame, other people, races, nationalities etc. It's like the quote from that movie The Usual Suspects, The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist.
We can of course see the effects of the crash all around us in the form of economic recession and austerity, cuts to services, education, healthcare etc. It’s made life a lot harder for most people, however the more concerning effect is more profound and long-term. It mutates society’s DNA.
In times of hardship people start building walls and not bridges. We’ve seen this in recent years all over the place. We have seen a rise in nationalism, increasing xenophobia, the blaming of migrants for economic problems, increased tension and a shift to the Right politically. Other symptoms are that society becomes less tolerant and you see a resurgence in racism, sexism, and other forms of prejudice and discrimination, for example, based on religion, sexual orientation, mental health or disability. Culture becomes shallower and controlled, the arts and the sciences are attacked and manipulated. Astonishingly the UK Education Minister has said that a career in the arts is a waste of time and children should choose other subjects at school. And right now the UK government is trying to take over the BBC and turn if from a public broadcaster into a state broadcaster. I know it sounds strange but it really is happening. And I’m sure everyone is aware of the US Senate denial of climate change… err…
Society becomes fractured and divided. Protest becomes demonized and outlawed. Government, judiciary and media become one in the same and dissenters and dissidents are silently silenced. And we see an erosion of empathy and a corrosion of compassion, and that’s what I mean about changing the traits of society, changing its DNA.
It would be difficult to imagine and yet it’s happening right in front of us, like we’re are watching a train crash and there are some people on the train making it go faster. You know who I’m talking about, political candidates who love and thrive on these destructive things and use them to their advantage to satisfy their psychopathic perverted egos and desperate need for power. I think basically they’re driven by revenge for something that happened to them at school.
These are dark times that lead down a much darker path. We've been here before after the great depression of '29 and the resulting economic hardship in Europe, particularly in Germany. That didn’t end well.
At a broader level one can see the latest financial crash as a symptom of a bigger problem associated with uncontrolled and corrupted 21st Century super-corporate capitalism. We need to think about that and redesign the system to cater for the challenges and dynamics of the 21st Century. We need to think about democracy and freedom. We should stand for change, we should demand it, vote for it and be it. Writers should write about it, artists should paint about it and singers should sing about it.
So that’s a long way of saying why I write some of the music I write. There are reasons why I wrote tracks like Rise Again
or From now on
or Finding a better way
. It’s all in my music. We need to open our eyes and see what’s going on. There really is a fire in the doll’s house.
It’s about a shared realization, it’s about how we see ourselves, it’s about believing that we can be more than we are and standing up against those so-called leaders in power who tell us that we are less than we are.“
Hey Mr Justice, you’re telling me that I can cross the road… as long as I do exactly what I’m told. Hey Mr Minister, you’re telling me that I can not be free whilst you talk of my right to liberty
from Fire in the Doll’s House
You released your first album Fire in the Doll’s House in 2011, but it took until 2015 to publish the second album The Road. I read about your accident and the financial and physical struggles in order to make the album. How would you describe this process?
“It seems strange to me now to think I recorded The Road
in 2013. It’s like I’ve time warped into 2016, but yeah, that's how it happened. We would have released it at the beginning of 2014 but that's when I had my accident. I fell over, hit my head and had concussion for 6 months.
It's a surreal experience, you see the world differently. It affects everything, how you process information, your vision, your balance, your hearing, your memory. I would watch a TV programme and know that I recognised the person but couldn't remember their name. The pathway to the answer had been disconnected and my brain had to create a new pathway which took time. Someone described it once like comparing a new mac with an old super slow 486 PC. Anyway, that’s all I can say about that. I don’t like to relive it. It was basically my kind of hell. Concussion is the wrong name for it. Call it what it is, brain damage. Financially, well, it almost wiped me out. In the UK the government has been dismantling and defunding state care since it got in to power 6 years ago and taking away the safety net. The truth is that I discovered there isn’t one. I know I paid for one but I think they used my tax money to pay Google’s tax or Amazon’s or Starbucks’.
In the UK old people will die of the cold because we can’t help them pay for heating but Starbucks customers will get cheaper coffee! I hope their customers like their coffee bittersweet…
Things need to change but UK politicians live in a dream world and truly don’t give a fuck. They’d skip over the dying.
You have also made a musical about The Great War (WW1) and collaborating EP of Bob Dylan’s songs. How do you compare these projects into your other works?
“I don’t think I compare them. They are what they are on their own. People probably wouldn’t expect me to have written a musical and in truth I am not a fan of a lot of musicals that are out there. I thought I would do something different. It was a few years back and it was around Remembrance Day. I guess I was thinking about The Great War and as I walked along a song came to me with the lines “why do we fight this foolish war and here’s to the way we were before”. The lines were sung by a man and women, a couple, and I knew instantly that they were singing at the end of the First World War. Those are in fact the last lines of the whole thing. It all started with the ending. It was just a question of writing their story and the music. So I wrote the lyrics, the songs and an orchestral score that told the story of their experience of war, on the home front and the battlefront. Just as an aside, it also meant I had one of the most memorable experiences of my life in meeting the last British soldier alive who fought in the trenches, Harry Patch
. It’s an amazing thing to hear a person telling you about the smell of a WW1 trench. RIP Harry.
Dylan is one of my biggest influences so it was no surprise that I would sing a few of his songs now and then. I can relate to the fact that he sings about what’s around him whether it’s about love or war, humanity, the times we live in, or “senators and congressmen”. Of course people would call him a protest singer but really it’s just writing about what’s in front of you. That’s what I do. There’s so much to write about. It’s weird that people don’t do it so much. That tells me something’s wrong. I remember a journalist from the Sunday Times asking me if I was “worried” about being seen as a protest singer. I told him I wasn’t but I was worried he asked. I think there are times when people use the term “protest singer” as a derogatory term because they want to quieten protest. Fuck 'em.
So it was only a matter of time before I recorded a few Dylan tracks. I’ll probably record some more in the future. This time I got together with a friend of mine Katey Brooks
and we chose four classic songs including Blowing in the wind
which has always been very important to me. Musically the EP has a similar sound to my last album The Road
given it was produced by the same producer, the very talented Tristan Longworth
. It was a real pleasure to do the EP and make a contribution to the Dylan catalogue. The more I sang his lyrics the more I realised how great a writer he is.
He has always been an inspiration and you can hear his influence on many of the songs on the The Road
There may be a fire in the doll’s house
, but only time will tell if our road will be true. Tom Moriarty raises several serious questions and some adequate answers can be found in his songs. While we’re getting our act together, he’ll be recording new material, which will probably shake the very foundations of the false point of view of the xenophobic and racist fearmongers around us.