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11 February 1960
|Occupation||Author, journalist, songwriter|
For over thirty years he has been releasing, to marginal commercial and critical success, albums on labels in the United Kingdom, the United States, and Japan. In his lyrics and his other writing he makes seemingly random use of decontextualized pieces of continental (mostly French) philosophy, and has built up a personal world he says is "dominated by values like diversity, orientalism, and a respect for otherness." He is fascinated by identity, Japan, Rome, the avant-garde, time travel, and sex.
Momus began by recording post-punk material with ex-members of Josef K in a group called The Happy Family in the early 1980s and was associated with the musicians around Postcard Records (although he never recorded for that label). His debut solo album Circus Maximus (1986, él records) explored biblical themes in dark, almost Gothic acoustic style. His debt to the influence of Gallic pop was clear from a subsequent, sardonically self-referencing cover of Jacques Brel's "Jacky" and portraits of himself in the style of early 1960s Serge Gainsbourg.
In 1987, when he lived in London, he signed to Creation Records and began to record the hyper-literate, quirky pop songs for which he is best known. A trio of albums, The Poison Boyfriend, Tender Pervert and Don't Stop The Night, blended accessible dance-pop with such heavy lyrical themes as paedophilia, necrophilia and adultery. The latter album almost yielded a hit in the UK with "The Hairstyle of the Devil" which peaked at No. 94 in the UK Singles Charts in May 1989, and was a local hit, coming in at #32 on a year-end list, at San Francisco's KITS Live 105 radio station. Subsequent albums on Creation included Hippopotamomus, a scatological tribute to Gainsbourg, as Momus continued to push boundaries of acceptability within accessible pop structures.
By 1994, however, when Creation signed Oasis, his music began to seem wildly out of place on the newer, more 'laddish' and commercial sounds Creation started to produce. He moved to Paris and signed to Cherry Red Records. Since then he has lived in other countries and, while less popular in Britain, has had a reasonable level of commercial success, especially Japan, where he wrote and produced records for successful singer Kahimi Karie, including the hit single "Good Morning World."
He has been sued twice. The first time was from Michelin UK, for the song "Michelin Man", which compared the mascot to a blow-up doll, on Hippopotamomus (1991).
He was sued by Wendy Carlos for the song "Walter Carlos" (which postulated that the post-sexual reassignment surgery Wendy could travel back in time to marry her pre-surgery self, Walter) on The Little Red Songbook (1998). The case was settled out of court for a fee of $30,000, withdrawal of the song, agreement not to use Carlos' name for any purpose, and payment of damages and attorney's fees to Carlos. To pay off the debt, Momus wrote 30 songs, one about each person or group who commissioned a song for $1,000, compiling Stars Forever (1999). Patrons included artist Jeff Koons, Japanese musician Cornelius, and three-year-old animator/superhero Noah Brill. Stars Forever also features the winners of a karaoke contest started on The Little Red Songbook (1998).
In 2000, he performed "As You Turn to Go" (written by Stephin Merritt) on The 6ths' album Hyacinths and Thistles and "Mnemorex" (his own lyrics) on Kreidler's self-titled third album. He has continued to release Momus albums, as well as contribute to other artists' records since.
Momus has written for Wired, Vice, Index Magazine, AIGA Voice, 032c and Design Observer. Momus has also been a guest instructor on sound-art projects with students first at Future University in Hakodate, Hokkaidō, Japan during the early months of 2005, and then again in September at Fabrica, the Benetton Group "research centre" near Venice, Italy. In 2006 he was a featured artist in the Whitney Biennial in New York City, serving as an "unreliable tour guide" to visitors of the exhibition. He kept an online blog documenting his everyday experience, philosophies and fetishes.
Momus said in 1991 that "In the future everyone will be famous for fifteen people", which has evolved into a meme, "On the web, everyone will be famous to fifteen people". The quip parodies Andy Warhol's famous prediction that, "In the future, everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes".
Momus has published several books. The Book of Jokes and The Book of Scotlands have received positive reviews in the LA Times and the Guardian. The Book of Scotlands (Sternberg Press) was shortlisted for the Scottish Arts Council's First Book prize. He published The Book of Japans in 2011, also on Sternberg Press, and UnAmerica in 2014 (Penny-Ante Editions).
In December 1997, he contracted acanthamoeba keratitis in his right eye due to a contact lens mishap sustained whilst on holiday in Greece, causing loss of vision on that side. Although his sight subsequently improved following surgery, he has suffered lingering effects from the infection since, causing him to often be photographed in an eyepatch, very dark glasses, or squinting.
|Album name||Release year|
|The Poison Boyfriend||1987|
|Don’t Stop The Night||1989|
|The Ultraconformist (Live Whilst Out of Fashion)||1992|
|The Philosophy of Momus|
|Twenty Vodka Jellies||1996|
|The Little Red Songbook||1998|
|Oskar Tennis Champion||2003|
|Summerisle, a collaboration with Anne Laplantine||2004|
|Joemus, a collaboration with Joe Howe||2008|
|Thunderclown, a collaboration with John Henriksson||2011|
|Sunbutler, a collaboration with Joe Howe||2012|
|MOMUSMCCLYMONT, a collaboration with David McClymont||2013|
|MOMUSMCCLYMONT II", a collaboration with David McClymont||2014|
|Album name||Release year|
|Monsters of Love||1990|
|Learning to Be Human||1994|
|Forbidden Software Timemachine||2003|
|Public Intellectual: An Anthology 1986-2016 (3 CD Box set)||2016|
Singles and EPs
|Album name||Release year|
|The Beast With 3 Backs||1985|
|Murderers, The Hope of Women||1986|
|The Hairstyle of the Devil UK #94||1989|
|The Sadness of Things||1995|
- Momus (1991). "POP STARS? NEIN DANKE! In the future everyone will be famous for fifteen people...". Grimsby Fishmarket. Retrieved 2008-10-07.
- Thompson, Stephen (6 September 2000). "Is there a God?". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 2009-09-04.
- Gerry Visco (13 October 2007). "Momus Revisited". New York Press. Archived from the original on 22 October 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-29.
- Momus (April 1998). "Story of an Eye". Retrieved 2008-05-29.
- Momus's Official Site
- Click Opera (Momus's LiveJournal blog)
- Whitney Biennial 2006: Day For Night
- A MySpace page falsely claiming to be Momus's, and his Wired article explaining it
- Interview (2003)
- Interview (04/2003)
- Interview (2002)
- Interview (1998)
- An interview with Momus on The Marketplace of Ideas
- An interview with Momus about The Book of Japans on The Marketplace of Ideas
- Ocky Milk Review at Pitchfork Media
- LA Times Book Review
- Guardian Book Review
- Review of The Book of Jokes, by David Woodard
- UbuWeb: Momus and Anne Laplantine featuring the song Summerisle Horspiel