Worthing and Brighton resident Moog directed and produced the videos which helped propel Brighton-based Chap-Hop megastar Professor Elemental to fame and well, more fame. In this exposé he reveals the clashes, tears and a heart-warming tale of friendship and chummery that helped create Brighton’s most notorious son. He also lifts the lid on his own musical adventures, explains how to create a great video and notes in passing that he used to perform as a cyber warrior….
We caught up with Moog in The Yellow Book Steampunk Pub on 26 February 2018 as the snow fell outside in suitably Dickensian fashion.
Brighton Journal came to the Professor Elemental show at the Yellow Book on 8th February. You were also playing as Rapscallion [a solo Rock act]. A whole lot of WHAT?
A whole lot of Rosé! I saw the Bjournal journalists’ little faces smiling at that which gave me a little push to get through – just to clarify it is based on AC/DC’s ‘Whole Lotta Rosie’ but with a delightful wine based twist!
The cynical side of me says that I should leave the audience with something to remember me by,and a strong fun cover of a well known track helps. However the truth is probably more that I just love playing kick-ass rock music and it’s good for a laugh. Aside from that one cover, the rest of the set is all original material.
Where does Rapscallion fit into the current music scene?
I am calling it ‘Chap Rock’. It is not necessarily standing up and saying ‘I am a Steampunk band’ but I imagine it is going to fit in very well with Steampunk sensibilities. I imagine I could play a Steampunk festival but also The Chap Ball for Chap Magazine, then stand my ground at a rock night.
My ultimate goal is to play a little stage at Download [Britain’s largest Heavy Metal festival] or something like that. In a world where a band like The Darkness or Spinal Tap exist there is a place for it. I think a lot of Heavy Metal and Rock fans have a good sense of humour, so it would be quite natural for an audience to watch a band taking a piss out of themselves (but not out of the music). It is good time rock n’ roll.
“My official job title was that I was a cyber warrior …. I rode into the ring standing on a cut-down mini … driven by a werewolf.”
What do you plan for Rapscallion?
I am recording the album at the moment, but it is a slow process because I am doing it all myself. I am recording it mostly on Logic – all stuff I can easily do in a bedroom. I started the first seeds four and a half years ago, but I am going to finish it this year for sure! I would have finished long ago but my wife went and had a baby, and they seem to take up lots of free time – who knew?
I am one and half songs away from finishing the album so it should be ready soon. Let’s say Autumn. I am stating that in print. AUTUMN!
But it isn’t just you anymore is it?
It is still kind of a solo project in terms of the recording. The plan was to record and produce the album myself and then after the album was finished I was going to put a band together. Then when the band was together I was going to play gigs. However I got cajoled into doing some gigs when there was no band and needed to come up with some sort of solution!
What kind of cad would trick somebody in such a manner?
That would be that ninny Professor Elemental!
I am doing one more show with him on his current tour. I did one at the lovely Yellow Book Steampunk Pub in Brighton on 8th February. I am doing one more which is for the ten year anniversary show [of the release of Professor Elemental’s first hit video ‘Cup of Brown Joy’] at Blackmarket VIP in Hastings on 14th July. I am still getting to the point where I am gathering my backing band, so I will do that one solo.
So who are the new guys?
We are going to have a guy called Dan Holloway on bass and Jonathan Stanger who is the drummer. I met them a few years ago when I put together a band to do a production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch at the New Venture Theatre, a really amazing little non-profit Brighton theatre (I refuse to use the word ‘amateur’ – it isn’t just ‘amateur dramatics’) for The Brighton Fringe 4-5 years ago.
We have had a few rehearsals which went well. However, all of the stuff I have recorded is kind of layered with a lot going on, so to strip it back to three people was weird for me – but awesome to see how it is going to go. My plan is to get one more guitar player and that will set us up nicely.
So you are going to stay with the vocals?
I never intended to be the singer. I just got tricked into doing gigs – so I had no choice! I’m torn between hunting down the next Ronnie James Dio, or just muddling through by myself. Right now I play live guitar and sing and the rest is all on backing tracks. The backing tracks are exactly my studio tracks, which was kind of inspired by how Professor Elemental does things, which is slightly different for him because he is a hip-hop artist – but I’ve found that it’s perfect for small venues which I’d never have the opportunity to play otherwise. I imagine that ultimately we’ll have the full band to do proper big gigs, but if there’s an opportunity to do somewhere it’s not viable I have the solo thing as backup.
What is the album and what is it all about?
The album is called ‘Maximum Splendid’. Essentially it is serious music, stupid lyrics. Well not stupid – silly. It is very aware of itself and hasn’t got anything like serious message. It is just silly tongue-in-cheek songs. The content of some of songs is about how, for instance, a guy shaves off his moustache and finds that nobody is attracted to him.
Another song is called ‘Call On You’ imagining someone with a Victorian sensibility, a gentleman who wishes to make the acquaintance of a young lady and pop round for afternoon tea – but the song is absolutely laden with the filthiest innuendo I could come up with….
(hurriedly) This Victoriana is the Steampunk vibe?
Yes. I have been into Steampunk for a long time. I connected with it about ten years ago. There was a leaning towards Victoriana before then. I had a large beard and was a member of the Oscar Wilde Society and such. Then I discovered Steampunk which hit a lot of the right buttons for me. I’d say I’ve never gone to the crazy full time passion / spend all my money level into it like some, but I dearly love it and have made some jolly good friends through the scene.
I was thinking when I saw ‘Rapscallion’ supporting Professor Elemental that there would be some rap involved?
Good point … but no. Well, having said that the album features some Professor Elemental stuff. There are two songs of his which I have done done cover versions of , ‘This is My Horse’ which you can see on Youtube. There is another very popular Elemental song which I have done a cover of which I am keeping under my hat for the moment.
One of the other tracks I have written is an eight-minute mini Rock opera, which features Professor Elemental as one of the characters. There is me as one character, there is my wife Lou and Professor Elemental plays the third character. It is called ‘The Night of the Giant Killer Crabs’! We are the protagonists, well mostly protagonists. You realise as the song unfolds that Professor Elemental’s character created these creatures through some bizarre failed experiment.
Your wife is also involved in this madness?
My wife Lou is a phenomenal singer. She has been in a few bands. She used to be in a band called Tapehead, back when she used to run pubs in Brighton -The Westhill Tavern for example. We used to be in a band together called ‘Spünk’! Um the name was kind of a joke. Our newest family member is my little daughter Daisy, who will be two years old jolly soon.
Your name is Moog….
That’s the second time I have been asked this question today. There is no really interesting story behind it. I feel like I need to make something up?
Yep. Make something up.
I was, um, raised in a ball of power cables by ’70s synth-pop act Kraftwerk, and they as I … er … came out of the power cables as a young man at the age of five… they named me Moog …. after [triumphantly] their popular snythesizer!
Your show at The Yellow Book was with the Greatest Chap-Hop artiste that there is, Professor Elemental.
I think so!
I think probably only one person doesn’t?
Dare we speak his name? You are referring to [Professor Elemental’s arch-nemesis] Mr B The Gentleman Rhymer. I think it is all jolly amicable these days actually. He’s [Mr B] a fine fellow and I really like his music.
We’ve done fun things like swapped guest star spots in videos so I filmed a little bit of him for the ‘I’m British’ video. Then we filmed a little section of Professor Elemental for one of his videos in return. ‘Just Like a Chap’ I think it was. That was done in my back garden. The glamorous world of film you see!
Your association with Professor Elemental has been a long one?
It has! It is ten years, almost to the day, that we released the very first Professor Elemental video ‘Cup of Brown Joy’. I have made most of his videos which is how I got to know him.
Eleven years ago I went to see a show called ‘Come In To My Parlour’, which was a really good Victorian parlour show, vignettes of Steampunk-y off-kilter-Victorian-y sketches – all very music hall and very tongue in cheek. That’s where I first saw Elemental. He was doing ‘Cup of Brown Joy’. Before that he was just doing MC Elemental so he was more serious hip-hop, but then he did this show and the character of Professor Elemental was created and born. [Adopts distinguished elderly voice] I was there at the inception dear boy… before it all began…
How did you guys get together?
I went long to see the show a couple of times and it was just when I was starting to get into music videos. My whole plan was that I wanted to make music videos as a career, and I decided that just as all the money fell out of music videos!
I started making videos for a few friends, and I thought what do I want to make? Then I thought – that guy in that bonkers show [Elemental] was really good. I haven’t seen anything of his online and I wonder if he wants to do anything? I eventually stumbled across Elemental and contacted him through Myspace or some such archaic method of communication and sent a message asking if he wanted to make a video, so we met up and had a bit of a chat and realised that we got on. I went away and came up with a few concepts and worked out what we could do for essentially nothing.
What was the budget for ‘Cup of Brown Joy’?
No money whatsoever. Nothing. Nil. We were both in Brighton and thought ‘what’s around that looks old that we can fuck around with’? So for all the exterior stuff we just went up to Stanmer Park, dropped a camera in front of Stanmer House and he just ran around. We didn’t ask permission to do anything!
The rest of the video was shot on the set of the ‘Come Into My Parlour’ show. We shot one afternoon in a couple of hours after one of the rehearsals, just telling people to do things, for instance the old butler guy scratching on the gramophone. I ended up with a bunch of disjointed footage and stitched together a video from that.
So a budget of nothing, you were running around outside Stanmer House without permission and using a bit of theatre and a few people you know. How many hits has that video had?
As we speak I think it is close to 3 million. I think it would be nice if it hit that for the 10th anniversary. I also wish I had monetised it earlier…
Let’s talk about ‘Fighting Trousers’…
Oh yes! The Prof [Elemental] very kindly attributes some of his success to the previous one and ‘Fighting Trousers’ video, which gave him a platform to leap off from and expand. I think the thing that really cracked it was that I put ‘Cup of Brown Joy’ on b3ta.com, a comedy site which really gave it a kick and exposed it to a lot of people, to the extent where we had people in a tea room in Wales asking for a copy to show on a loop on their TV screens – a lot of different people enjoying it.
‘Fighting Trousers’ has a combination of being a great song – primarily – and the video just works for some reason. We decided to put a bit of budget into ‘Fighting Trousers’, and ended up with the princely sum of £125, which went purely on hiring a few lights and hiring the boxing ring location for an afternoon. That was Cheetah’s Gym in Hove. I believe they have modernised it a bit, which is a shame. It was kind of like the gym in Rocky – nasty and smelly but we found it and we were like ‘this is perfect’! I came up with a roughed out storyboard and we made the video.
That video has well over 3 million hits!
Has it? Hurrah! That’s nice. I haven’t looked for a long time. I would probably be a bit conceited if I watch it every week wouldn’t I? But that’s a nice surprise. There is an amazing moment in the life of a video when it hits (if it hits). You put it up and see a few trickles coming through – 60, 70, 80 hits and you think ‘Oh here we go! It is on its way’. For both ‘Cup of Brown Joy’ and ‘Fighting Trousers’ it started getting a couple of hundred, a thousand and we thought ‘Oh wow this is great!’.
With ‘Fighting Trousers’ we put it up and it got maybe 3,000 views on that day and we thought ‘Wow! That’s really good!’ I woke up the next day and I opened my inbox – because I used to get a notification every time anyone commented on the video – and it was rammed. I thought something was wrong, then I noticed they were all people commenting on the video and it had something like 300,000 views. One thing with Professor Elemental videos is that you very rarely get negative comments. It is one place on the internet where people don’t generally be shitty. It is lovely!
“There is an amazing moment in the life of a video when it hits (if it hits). You put it up and see a few trickles coming through – 60, 70, 80 hits and you think ‘Oh here we go! It is on its way’.”
Who are the people in it?
We put out a call – the great thing about Professor Elemental is that his world are very keen for him to succeed. Everyone who loves him really loves him. He put a call out asking for people to be in the video and every single person round the edge of that ring in fabulous costume was just someone who appreciates his work and wants to come along and be part of the video. None of us earned a penny off of it. It was all just a case of ‘we’re there because we love it’!
And you appeared in it?
Yes I was sort of his manager character. I try to squeeze myself into a cameo into every video I do for him. One little snippet of the ‘Cup of Brown Joy’ video is me. I have to be in every Elemental video I make. Some more subtle than others but a little stamp if you will.
You also wanted to talk about the ‘I’m British’ video?
Guess how much that one cost? We are back to zero! I have a very soft spot for this video. This is a perfect example of people coming together to support Professor Elemental. Every single person was there because they wanted to be and no other reason. We set it up as a working fete. It was a fun steampunk day where people could come along and set up stalls and show everybody what they have been doing and it was all going to filmed for a video.
This is quite a rare thing for me. I went in with absolutely no knowledge of who was going to be there, what we going to have to play with, what we were going to do. It was a completely blank canvass. Everybody else had all the fun under the sun and I had a really stressful day going ‘I’ve got to make a video and I don’t know what I’m making’. I just filmed a whole bunch of scenes as they came into our heads. I had a talented choeographer who came along and I told her to go away and come up with a group dance – simple that anyone can do – and at four o’clock we would film it. Throughout the day she dragged off little pockets of people to train them, and at the end we had a huge crowd dancing.
The location was also given to us for free, it was a school at the top of Hollingdean. A friend of mine who is now a brilliant twitchstreamer called Jbizzlebeard happened to be working at this place and arranged for us to use the field. The airship I put in post production, we couldn’t quite stretch to that on the day…
There are not many musical scenes you could do this in.
People came from all over the country as well. There was a guy who came along with a tent – essentially a circus tent. Another guy brought a cannon. Everything you saw there was just stuff people brought for us to use. It [Steampunk] is a very very special community.
It looks like a tonne of fun making these videos – but of course you are still working. Has it been?
Yes mostly. We [Moog and Professor Elemental] enjoy each other’s company. We get on really well and whenever we make a video it is just a good laugh and we have kind of fallen into a bit of a shorthand where we get stuff done. We are really efficient in the way we work. Generally when I direct, because time is limited and I know what I need to get out in my head, so I can get a bit what some people might consider rude. There is no time for being polite.
He will be in the middle of a take and, he’s knackered, we have been doing it for hours and I am like ‘Where is the professor? Where is he?’ He knows that that means that he needs more energy in the character.
Your videos get millions of hits online. You must therefore be good at making video – it is proven scientifically. So what makes a good video?
People do seem to like what I do. I have studied making film and video and taught myself, probably for the last twenty years. I studied nothing in terms of video in a proper learning environment, everything is self-taught. The first actual music video was for a Brighton-based band called My Little Problem. That was 2007/8 and I animated / puppeteered it completely. It is influenced by an animator I love called Lotte Reiniger, who was a German animator in the 1930s who actually created the first animated feature film (usually mistakenly attributed to Walt Disney). Everything is silhouetted animation, stop motion and it is beautiful. That was my inspiration for the first video I ever did. There is a lot that is wrong with the vid, but I still love it dearly. It took ages though, I think that’s what made me pick up a video camera for most of the rest.
Professor Elemental is a good subject of course. I have made music videos for other bands and they haven’t got as many hits. You have to have a good song and a good video to get this result. The professor will generally give me a rough version of the album and say to me ‘Which is the single? Which do you want to make a video for?’. Generally we always land on the same thing. I will only work on a song that I love. There have been a few times when he asked me to work on a song and I have gone ‘It’s good, but its not as good as this song or this song’. Then I’ll make him agree with me!
I find it really hard to quantify what makes a video. All I can ever say is that when I make a video I just set out to make the best thing I can make. Maybe it is just having an eye. I haven’t got a winning combination, or a winning formula. I think I have a natural rhythm musically which I hope lends itself well to music videos. I just do stuff and hopefully people dig it!
Tell me about the movie?
The ‘Chronicles of Professor Elemental’ was the brainchild of a guy called Ben Field. I ended up being Director of Photography on it. People do seem to enjoy it and we definitely had a good time making it. I don’t know how Ben Field did it but we got great locations and an Aston Martin DB9 – someone just came along and gave it to us.
It was a web series originally, rather than a full movie – only about 45 minutes. It was what could have been the beginning of an on-going series. We just wanted to create a grander story for the professor. We filmed in Petworth Manor House, a National Trust place not too far from Brighton. They let us film in a room full of priceless Turner paintings – and that scene didn’t even make the cut! We also had BBC prop makers. We had maybe four days and a really amazing time.
What are you guys up to next?
Well, we recently did a series of ‘radio’ dramas which are fun, but soon, Professor Elemental has a new album coming out. I don’t know if it is titled yet. We started last summer filming a new video. We put a bit of budget into it and got an actual TV presenter who is going to perform in the video and we hired some really nice equipment – lights and lenses. We also filmed a little bit of green screen last month. Then last week we filmed the last bits of it. The album I believe will be released in April or May so I need to get my skates on and finish it up!
Are you available to make music videos for local artists?
Unfortunately the money went out of making music videos some time ago. I’d love to do more just for the fun and joy of it, but I no longer freelance so my time is severely limited. It seems I really only get my camera out for Professor Elemental these days – (oh…and Rapscallion).
So what is the day job?
I work for a company called The TrailerFarm and we make trailers for video games. It’s really an awesome place to work – I’ve done a lot of rubbish jobs along the way and am quite aware how lucky I am to head up a team of lovely folk who make computer game videos. For example, we’ve done stuff for Worms, The Walking Dead: No Man’s Land and recently did a lot of videos for the launch of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. It’s groovy.
This is on the back of what you did before?
What happened was that I used to be in games development. I was a designer. From that I twisted what I was doing in the company to make myself really valuable in terms of video creation. I did a bunch of the old Singstar games then a slew of other lifestyle games, did visual stuff for Guitar Hero, that kind of thing.
I was born and grew up here. So was my wife actually. We grew up in Brighton, which is rare. I think that makes us the king and queen of Brighton!
All this could only happen in Brighton?
I think so. We are in a beautiful little creative bubble down here. I was born and grew up here. So was my wife actually. We grew up in Brighton, which is rare. I think that makes us the king and queen of Brighton! I genuinely think that what has happened to me in my life is because of where I am and who I know. It certainly would have been much harder elsewhere. It is a beautiful place and I love it dearly.
Do you have anything to say to the people of this fair city?
Stop paying £7 for sandwiches! Its too much! I don’t know what to say – just appreciate this town. There is a lot here once you scratch the surface of Churchill Square and all the horrible stuff and start to explore. Listen to what The Brighton Journal has got to say about things. It is a beautiful place and it always has been. It is a little bit more polished now (I have a soft spot for the old, rougher round the edges Brighton) but the heart is still there.
At this point the interview concluded only for Moog to drop casually into the conversation that he was in The Circus of Horrors… we re-commence…
I started off just doing lighting but then pushed my way into the show. My official job title was that I was a cyber warrior. Imagine that! My big thing was I was broadsword fighting. The show started and my big entrance was I rode into the ring standing on top of a cut down mini, all Mad Maxed up and driven by a werewolf. Then I would jump off and have a sword fight with a robot. Everyone’s done that surely?
I spent a year going round the country with them. Went to Germany as well. There was one point where I was going to be understudying the main guy, but then it didn’t work out and I ended up getting booted out. I ran away to join the circus then got kicked out!
I seem to have some sort of ability to push my way into things because I love them. I think people love my enthusiasm….