Last week I went to the opening of a great exhibition organised by Marie-Louise Plum. I was glad I went and I liked all the artists she had selected. I knew of the music John Moore made with Black Box Recorder but I didn't know he was also a painter. I was pleased when he agreed to answer a few questions via e-mail...
The Rebel: I read that "Mental Spaghetti" was founded by multidisciplinary artist and mental health service user, Marie-Louise Plum, in 2011 as a ‘confessional’ blog to share her experiences in the NHS mental health system. Her website evolved into a platform for fellow artists and mental health service users to share, develop and promote their own work and meet like-minded peers. And that now a network of artists work together. How did you meet Marie-Louise and get involved with her group?
John Moore: "We were brought together by a six foot seven, one-eyed, Polish skinhead, who'd come to mend my windows."
Black Box Recorder went on Top of the Pops, had rave reviews and respect from their peers. What was the best thing about the whole period of your life? And what was the best song the band ever recorded?
"Afternoons spent plotting with Luke Haines in the Spread Eagle pub in Camden, over huge amounts of Guinness, throwing down appalling ideas which, when sung by Sarah, sounded gorgeous...we were on fire for a while. My favourite song from that period ( at 11.30 on a Thu morning.) is Gift Horse, which was going to be called Gift Horse Mutilator. I was walking through Notting Hill one afternoon, and came to a house where there police were digging for human remains...a gift for any songwriter. By the time Luke and I had finished, it had become a yearning love song, set during a police investigation, with Sarah's most beautiful vocal, and a choruses that sounded like the theme from The Likely Lads."
You are a musician who makes paintings and also occasionally writes articles for newspapers. What do you think of this quote by Julie Burchill? "Art is the brainless babble of a visual person (who are by definition stupid: painting, that's what children do because they can't write)." Do you make paintings about things you can't write or talk about?
"She says it like it's a bad thing. (I adore her, by the way; and she was a BBR fan. ) I'm fairly articulate, and I do write when the mood takes me...or when there's a cheque involved. I actually don't see much difference between words and paint...as long as they are properly applied."
There are thousands of paintings in the vaults at Tate Britain because there's no room to show them. Do we need more paintings?
"Mine....and my friends, no one else's. The vaults should be emptied and picture loaned to people...my mother would have one."
Which artists do you know most about? Are there any painters you would consider giving a talk on or making a documentary about?
"I don't really know much about any artists. I have a feeling about some of them, and certain clues about why they did what they did, but I don't have a Van Gogh Pillow case or Modigliani table mats. I couldn't possibly make a documentary about either, because I didn't go to Cambridge."
Do you like to work from models directly or do you prefer to use photographs?
"Photographs. With models, I have one sitting, and take a lot of pictures, all angles, 360 degrees. When I painted the landscape, I kept having to go back, and work out which trees were which, what they were...there was one I had a real problem with, I couldn't identify it at all, until I realised it was three trees spaced apart, but all appearing as one."
What is your idea of beauty in art?
"This is where the words/painting debate kicks in. I couldn't possibly describe it, but I could show you."
Could you be a model and are you happy being naked in front of an artist?
"If I believed in the artist, then yes, of course, but, with very few exceptions, anybody who wanted to paint me naked would automatically disqualify themselves for having very poor judgement."
The artist and critic Matthew Collings believes Captain Beefheart is the only famous musician who also paints that is any good. Are there any other famous musicians who make paintings that you rate? (e.g. McCartney, Dylan, Ronnie Wood, Joni Mitchell etc)
"Well the critic John Moore says there aren't any artists who are any good as musicians, and there aren't any pastry chefs who are any good as tightrope walkers. I like Ronnie Wood because he paints Bo Diddley. I like Luke Haines's wrestling paintings, Mikey Georgeson's Bowie paintings were great to see at The Menier gallery, and Ian Dury was no slouch. I'd even quite like to own a Ronnie Kray painting one day...although he wasn't quite a musician."
You paint in oil, acrylic and watercolour - what's the best thing about each of those three mediums?
"Watercolour - the price, the portability..when I remember, I take a notebook to paint in. I'm a bit heavy with it, and it ends up like gouache, but I am getting the hang of adding water. Acrylic because it dries during your lifetime, and doesn't poison you, and Oil, because it's oil..the holy grail. Oil gives you an argument, and it's hard to use, and you wish you'd stuck with acrylic, until it goes right...it has to eventually, because it is so bloody expensive."
Are you still linked with Absinthe or have you cut all ties? Is Absinthe a good thing to dabble in?
"I'm no longer involved. It was a nice phase, but once it became a business, I lost interest. It's a very bad thing to dabble in, you must take it seriously, or La Fee Verte will bite you on the arse."
How did you learn to paint? Do you think Art schools are good things? Were most of your favourite artists self-taught?
"I'm still learning, and I hope I always will be. I never went to art school, so I don't know whether they're good or bad. Probably a great place to hang around when you're a kid, and waste some time, and form a band.
They're all a bit Tony Hancock The Rebel aren't they? I don't know enough about my favourite artists to know how they began, except for Van Gogh, who worked it all out himself, and was told by his successful artist brother in law to chuck it in, as he was rubbish...probably a descendant of Tony Hancock."
What next for John Moore?
"More painting, more writing, more recording. Releasing a new LP, called Knicker Dropper Glory".