Antimatter | Interview | New Album, ‘A Profusion of Thought’
Antimatter is the sonic generator of some of the most melancholic and subtle vibes in the rock scene. Being active for almost 24 years, this band went through the different stages of evolution and for a few years it’s run by multi instrumentalist, talented composer and performer Mick Moss.
Moss is the only original member of the band, so he easily keeps Antimatter’s identity through years behind all changes he puts in his albums. Everyone faces “bad periods” – sometimes they run faster, sometimes they lay for years, and so Mick’s songs resonate naturally with the hearts of many people in the world. Not long ago Moss revealed 25 unreleased songs and released a part of them on the full-length album ‘A Profusion of Thought’.
“Change is constant”
You’ve just released ‘A Profusion of Thought’ and had a 10-day tour. What’s your next step?
Mick Moss: Well, I went way, way over my deadline in the recording of this album and its production, artwork, manufacturing, everything. As a result, I didn’t have time at all last year to do any promotion. I literally handed the album in for manufacturing, made the video for ‘Fold’ in 6 days and then had to leave the country straight away to go on tour. Nobody got a promo, interview, nothing. Thankfully my project is now in a position where I’m not reliant on promotion to get albums into peoples hands, so I was able to just move things quickly once I got on tour. I was actually racing from city to city playing shows and packing up orders in the back of the motorhome, making stops at post offices where and when I could. It was insane, actually. I had been burnt out for months making the album and the tour just heaped an extra cauldron of lava onto my head. I got through it, though, thanks to energy drinks and optimism! But yeah, promo now is something that I have moved onto and, thankfully, the ‘Fold’ video was very well received.
In one interview you mentioned that you have a lot of unreleased songs. Some of them appear on your latest album.
Well, ‘A Profusion of Thought’ started life as a double album, 20 songs, but I realised very quickly that making a double album would in fact finish me off, so I downsized it to a single release, 10 tracks. It would have been very interesting to have heard the double album version as it would have felt a lot more like ‘The White Album’ by The Beatles, in the sense that there would have been this vast collection of disparate pieces of music all together on one release. Once it was downsized into a single album, I just chose the biggest songs, really, the songs with the most memorable melodies and personalities, and then worked with the ones that showed the most promise in terms of being able to complete their arrangement. As for unity in concept, in my opinion the concept of the album was the fact that all of its songs shared the commonality of having been previously exorcised from their respective albums due to me simply having too much material at the time. That was the thread that united everything, and the album’s title ‘A Profusion of Thought’ ties that all together quite neatly for me.
It’s interesting how organic this material sounds when you know that these songs were scattered throughout the years. How do you see the core element that unties all of your songs?
Perhaps style and melody. I have a certain style of song that’s kind of dark but really accessible, and my vocal melodies all veer towards the kind that stick in your head. Earworms. When I’m working on a song I always end up with the bloody thing playing on repeat in my head, so I know they’re generally catchy. I can’t help it, that’s just how my melodies come out. But musically I don’t like anything to be too nice or bright, so I like to have that dark, moody vibe underneath. So whether that manifests as an acoustic, rock, prog, electronic, or a heavy piece, whatever, there’ll always be that kind of accessible darkness. My two first musical discoveries when I was a kid were The Beatles (melodic vocal lines) and Ultravox (dark synth vibes), so, this doesn’t surprise me, really.
The concept behind your previous album ‘Black Market Enlightenment’ is about how you used to view LSD and cannabis as spiritual gateways when you were in your late teens/early twenties, and the irony of how you ended up actually suffering from a deep existential crisis from their use.
Lyrically I guess I’m just working through my various PTSD’s and disturbing realizations, which can really build up over a lifetime, especially when you’re an over-thinker, analyser, vulnerable type (which I clearly am). I always knew I would do a concept album about the spiritual misadventures of my youth (and the conclusions they led me to). It was just a case of working through the other concepts first. Solo albums take me quite some time, so, it’s gonna take a few decades to work through everything. I always know what themes are coming next. I have the next concepts in my head already.
The world is becoming a less and less comfortable place to live. Do you feel the urge to write an album about things that happen on the outside? Or do you have enough of your own impressions?
Well, I started writing more about society, psychology and a touch of the political after the release of ‘Leaving Eden,’ so for the last 15 years I’ve been writing mainly about things that are on the outside. In fact it was strange revisiting these old songs as the angle of my older lyrics were very inward-looking. For example, the song ‘Fold’ is a very personal one that sees me at my most vulnerable. The genesis, and indeed the story, of that track came about in 2005 between the release of the third and fourth Antimatter albums (‘Planetary Confinement’ and ‘Leaving Eden’) as I moved forward to continue the project alone. The first three Antimatter albums (recorded as a duo) were quite simply a spiral of debt. The trend wasn’t good. From ‘Saviour’ to ‘Lights Out’ to the advance for ‘Planetary Confinement’, Antimatter was simply a financial red line on a graph going quickly and steadily down. Then, in the first half of 2005 my ex-partner decided to finally quit, which was whilst the project was in quite literally the most debt it had ever seen. Now, he left to form a new project, and what happens when you sign a new project (with a new name) to a label is you reset to zero, no historical debt and you start afresh. Personally, I had decided to continue with Antimatter, which was my decision… Antimatter was a duo of equal parts and one person leaving does not in any way mean that the project was over. And that’s not a subjective opinion, either, that’s the objective truth. So, yeah, I decided to continue. But in continuing with Antimatter, I also continued with the project’s debt – there was no such financial reset for me. Now, the next album, the fourth release (‘Leaving Eden’), was the last album on the contract with the record labels…and if that album continued that financial trend of downward spiral (which I fully expected it to) then I didn’t have much faith in the contracts getting renewed and that would spell the end of a project that had been basically propping my mental health up for the last ten years. Hence the lyric ”this can’t fold, or I’ll fold too…”
There is a twenty-one years gap between ‘Saviour’ and ‘A Profusion of Thought.’ There are obvious differences between these albums: you write music alone now, it’s not as minimalistic as in 2001, arrangements have become richer and yet some songs sound gentler. But the emotional content is still very similar, your music as emotionally touching as always. How far did you come from the point where you started the band?
I didn’t start the band. The original “band” (and I use that term very loosely) was a duo of which I was half. I started my half in 1995, three years before I teamed up with my ex partner by combining my project with his. It was never originally meant to be that way, but that’s how it turned out, two equal halves. And that, the combination of the two projects, was named “Antimatter.” I can’t claim to have started my ex-partners half, similarly he can’t claim to have started my half. Both would be absurd claims. We never wrote together. I have always written alone anyway, even when it was a duo, so the current model of “Antimatter” is something I have been doing for nearly 30 years now. My music is less minimalistic and more progressive these days simply due to the fact that I have developed my style over the decades, that’s just my own personal evolution as a writer and arranger. Plus I seem to be getting more and more intricate with my guitar parts on each subsequent album.
You said that ‘Breaking the Machine’ was composed during the ‘Lights Out’ period, how did it feel to resurrect this song and these emotions again?
‘Breaking The Machine’ would easily have gone onto ‘Black Market Enlightenment’ (as it fit the concept of that album perfectly) if I hadn’t already made the decision to create ‘Black Market’ from scratch and to make the next album (‘A Profusion of Thought’) from my archives. Lyrically I don’t feel that way any more, as I don’t habitually use drugs, but it was easy to finish the song as I still remember how I felt when I started writing it back in 2001.
And what’s the freshest song on the album?
The three freshest songs are ‘Heathen,’ ‘Templates,’ and ‘Entheogen’ as they were pulled from the newest album ‘Black Market Enlightenment’. They were all written around 2017-18.
I remember how it was hard to categorize Antimatter in the early ‘00s because the band was a real discovery for many metal fans and its name was associated with Anathema who followed a similar direction (in a wider sense).
Anathema never had anything to do with me, that is my ex partners old band. So any Anathema comparisons back in the day were completely void when talking about my own solo Antimatter material. I just never took it seriously and got on with my own journey. I actually turned down an offer to join Anathema back in 2002 whilst they were doing very well and Antimatter was completely dead in the water, so let it never be questioned what my motives are when it comes to music. I wouldn’t quit this project for anything, and it cannot be overstated how important my own songs are to me as my roots with them go as far back as Summer 1995. Almost three decades. Back then, in ’95, I had bought a bunch of equipment with the intention of forging ahead on a solo musical project whilst my private life and mental state were in ruins due to my girlfriend leaving me and taking our 1-year old daughter with her. We’d had a baby very young but I was committed, and I’m very family orientated, so I went from being a loving father in a family unit to being completely alone, overnight. I was devastated, and as a way to avoid routine panic attacks and obsessive bad thoughts I buried myself in my musical project for years as a means of creative therapy. By Summer ’98 (three years later) I had written, arranged, recorded and performed the instrumentation on the demos of over a full albums worth of material, including ‘Too Late,’ ‘Saviour,’ ‘Over Your Shoulder’ and ‘Angelic’. And then, that Summer, everything changed…my solo project became one half of ‘Antimatter’, contributing 5 out of 9 songs to the first album ‘Saviour,’ and that’s the way ‘Antimatter’ continued for the next two releases with, as I said earlier, my project being one half and my ex-partners project being the other half. I continued to put everything into my music throughout the next seven years. There’s so much of my life in those songs, they continued to be a great source of comfort and solace, bringing us up to the point, as I mentioned, in 2005 where I found myself continuing Antimatter alone whilst the project was essentially on a downward trajectory. I continued with Antimatter as I had no intention of letting my project go. It was a part of me, and still is. Luckily, ‘Leaving Eden’ was the album that turned everything around and I’ve been blessed enough to be able to carry on with my life’s work in an unbroken line.
Anathema announced an indefinite hiatus due to hardship with the pandemic. How did you come through this period?
2020 was a fucking horrible period which saw the world turn upside down, and it doesn’t seem to have come back to normal yet. Along with the virus came a show of really bad behaviour and politically we are in the hands of psychopaths. They don’t even try to hide it anymore. As for myself personally, I caught Covid in April 2020 (most likely in Istanbul airport where thousands of unmasked people were crammed together all trying to get out of the country before flight routes were closed down). That knocked me off my feet, and as the world came to a standstill my lungs took a huge hit. I wondered at one point would I ever be able to sing again, and if so, in what capacity. Such was my difficulty breathing. My recovery took a long time, during which an old school friend took his own life, some incredibly nasty, life-changing shit happened behind the scenes in the music business between some people that I used to know, some childish lies about me were spoken in an interview from a competitive ex-colleague and then the madness of Brexit came into force. Combined, all of those factors pretty much killed any enthusiasm I had for continuing with Antimatter at the time. As my breathing slowly improved I got involved with some collaborations instead, so I was able to ease myself back into singing, and music in general, firstly for Michal Lapaj (Riverside) and then with a project called MMXX (in which I co-wrote a song called ‘The Tower,’ which is for me a career highlight). After that I was invited to go and support Riverside and then Marillion, two tours which got me right back onto my feet again. So I came back home completely professionally rehabilitated thanks to Michal Lapaj and Steve Rothery, and made it my mission to get ‘A Profusion of Thought’ recorded. In the end there were four years between the last album and this new one. It took much longer than it should have.
Running a band turned out to be a far more difficult task after the pandemic, so how do you deal with all these issues behind making music?
I make music with the creative side of my soul/brain, and then when that’s done I switch to the other side, the business side (which I prefer to take care of myself rather than letting other people drive my car). I’m relatively competent when it comes to co-ordinating the business side of things because I’m a sensible, logical, mature person not under the boot of any addictions or mental/personality disorders that disrupt my ability to process the concept of finance, discipline or basic respect for business associates. And believe me, I have witnessed people that are. As for the post-pandemic period, I’ve been sensible enough with my finances over the years to be okay. Like I said, I’ve seen people piss every penny of theirs away by indulging in various addictions, and that was something I was very aware that I could have done myself had I not fought and won that particular battle back in my mid-late 20’s. Having kids changes the way you choose to live, and as I had kids early, I chose to sort my financial shit out early too. When the pandemic hit I was supported by the government during lockdown, and honestly, I think Brexit is more of a threat to UK musicians than the pandemic. At least the fucking pandemic is over, whereas the stench of Brexit will hang in the air for a generation.
“The UK music industry has taken a huge hit”
You sell ‘A Profusion of Thought’ through Antimatter’s official site.
I originally wanted to do a 2 disc edition but that idea got cancelled once I realised I had run out of time, which is a pity because the other disc was an acoustic session and album commentary. I hope to run the 2nd disc out this year. As for any other market, again, I am unfortunately subjected to Brexit here, so getting stuff into the EU is a pain in the arse. Those that campaigned for Brexit did a great job of manipulating people here to vote against their own interests by using false promises and fear of mass immigration. The UK music industry has taken a huge hit. Quite a few industries have.
You recorded guest vocals for bands such as Clouds, Décembre Noir, Oceans of Slumber and MMXX.
Yeah this was all in 2020/21, a very prolific period for me doing guest vocals. I just put my own vocal stamp on the music that people ask me to collaborate on, but only once I’ve listened to it and decided that I can actually contribute something worthwhile and do a good job. As for the Oceans Of Slumber track, I had wanted to duet with Cammie since I first heard her amazing voice and I was so fucking happy when Dobber asked me to do so. The song turned out really nice, Dobber & Cammie were happy, I was happy. Originally the plan was that I would fly to Texas and we would shoot a promo there, but then the big fucking Covid boot came along and we all ended up in isolation. In the end we had to make good use of our time and made one of the better lockdown videos I saw during that period, which was a miracle because I was in a house by myself in Liverpool, England, just getting over Covid and operating a cheap camera, and Cammie was locked down in Houston, Texas, 5,000 miles away. However, for whatever reason, the label decided to release it as a straight-up promo without specifically stating it was a lockdown video, which I personally don’t think was the right move as, like I said, it’s in my opinion one of the better lockdown videos I’ve seen, but not one of the better promos I’ve seen, haha. Anyway, between us we did the best that we could and I’m glad I took part as any learning experience is always valuable. During this time I also worked with Michal Lapaj (Riverside) on his solo album, which was electronica, so it’s not all heavy.
Antimatter is an international entity, as you’re often open to collaborations. Do you see it as an essential part of the band?
Not really, no. There are no borders now where the internet is concerned. I just inevitably hook up with people regardless of where they were born, or where they live. As for Antimatter itself, the project, it hasn’t had many international guest musicians over the years. It’s me personally who collaborates outside of the Antimatter project with international artists be it as a guest vocalist, such as Trees Of Eternity (Finland/Sweden), The Beautified Project (Armenia), Michal Lapaj (Poland), Oceans Of Slumber (USA) or on other collaborative projects, such as Sleeping Pulse with Luis Fazandeiro (Portugal) or MMXX with Andrea Chiodetti (Italy). On the subject of MMXX and Andrea, we enjoyed working together so much that we have formed a new project, a duo, and are already a long way into writing the demos for our debut album. It’s a really cool kind of melodic gothy, metal, grunge mashup. I love it!
How did you get to Armenia back then during your work on ‘Black Market Enlightenment’?
I was already there due to us playing at a festival, so I arranged to make the video for ‘The Third Arm’ and record some qamancha for the album while I had a few days off in Armenia.
What’s the furthest place you have performed with Antimatter?
Brazil is 5,500 miles away. We played there in 2015 at Overload Festival alongside Paradise Lost and Riverside. That was a great experience.
You recently had a short tour visiting a few cities in the Netherlands, Germany and Poland. Why did you limit the tour to these three countries? And do you have other gigs scheduled for the near future?
That last tour was a Covid-hangover thing, these were all shows that were originally booked for 2020 and got rescheduled again and again. Once I realised that I would have a new album out I just renamed the tour and modelled the setlist around mainly the last two albums. I managed to get the final night in De Boerderij, Zoetermeer, Netherlands, recorded and filmed so that there will inevitably be the next Antimatter release in 2023, another live CD/DVD following in the footsteps of the last two. Looking forward to that release! As for future dates, we will headline the Sabbath Stage at Mystic Festival, Gdansk in June. This is a mammoth event for me, I’m really looking forward to it as the Polish audiences have been absolute darlings over the years. There’s also an appearance at Graspop, Belgium the same month so, there’s still a sense of growth here, of things moving forward. And after over two decades I’m lucky to still be in a position where things are progressing
You’re not only a musician, but also a father. How easy is it to separate your artistic and family life?
Both my kids are adults (28 and 23) and both live with their own partners. My studio is at home, so yeah I do play all my music there, and work incessantly. In fact, my son recently told me that once he moved out to live with his girlfriend he had to adjust to not hearing my music 24/7.
Three years ago you had nearly 25 unreleased songs. I bet you didn’t waste your time and you have more now taking into account those ten included on ‘A Profusion of Thought’.
Well, I still have what would have been the other disc to ‘A Profusion of Thought’ had it been a double album. But I will hold onto that for now and do something with them in the future. For the time being I’m taking a rest from Antimatter studio albums as I’m really enthused with the idea of collaborating with other musicians. So I’ll be moving ahead with the next Sleeping Pulse album and my project with Andrea Chiodetti, two albums which I am really emotionally invested in. I also have a solo acoustic covers album that has been in my head for years, so, lots to be getting on with outside of Antimatter.
Would you like to add a few more words for our readers?
If you’re in a bad place right now, hold on, better days are coming. Change is constant.
Headline photo: Krzysiek Jester Baran