Alien Stadium on new mini-album Livin' in Elizabethan Times
- David Pollock
- 1 December 2017
Martin Duffy and Steve Mason of Alien Stadium / credit: Sylvain Deleu
Steve Mason and Martin Duffy chat alien life, graves and metallic asparagus
New conceptual mini-album Livin' in Elizabethan Times is the first transmission from sci-fi expeditionary force Alien Stadium – aka Fife's former Beta Band and King Biscuit Time cosmonaut Steve Mason and Primal Scream keyboard player and Jedi master Martin Duffy, who released his own solo album Assorted Promenades (on the label run by Tim Burgess of The Charlatans, another of Duffy's former groups) in 2014. Ahead of the album's release today, we managed to get through to them at their crashed spaceship base on the south coast of England.
Tell us how you met.
Martin Duffy: Sometime in the 90s we met, I think. In fact, it was Bunhill Fields in East London.
Steve Mason: Whose grave was it?
Martin: We were looking for William Blake's grave. And for Daniel Defoe's – they've got pauper's graves at Bunhill Fields. We happened to meet through a mutual friend, it was a Sunday afternoon, and we met in the pub on the corner of the cemetery. It sounds like something we made up, but it's true.
Steve: 'We met over William Blake's pauper grave' – put that in. This was maybe 1998, 99? In fact, we'd played together on Dr John's album Anutha Zone, and played the gig with him as well, so we briefly met at Abbey Road before that. It sounds like we're making this all up, doesn't it? It's true!
And did you find the grave?
Martin: Oh, yeah. I mean, we found the marker. I don't think there is a proper grave, just loads of bones spread around. A boneyard, basically.
So was Abbey Road the only time you've worked together until now?
Steve: Yeah. I was living close to Martin in London when we met, but I was balls-deep in The Beta Band and he was very busy with Primal Scream. [Former Stone Roses bassist] Mani had just joined the band, so they had a full head of steam. Sometimes these things just take time, but then worlds collide and everything aligns, and they become really possible all of a sudden.
Martin: I was living in Hove, and then Steve moved down here and we became neighbours. We thought it would be rude not to do some music together, really.
Steve: We've both got similar outlooks, I guess. I always wanted to work with Martin, because he's really talented and he's not short of ideas. Over the years you try a lot of different things with a lot of different people, and sometimes it's just easy. Musicians are pretty lazy fuckers, so anything that's easy is good! The only difficult bit was handing it over to [producer] Brendan Lynch and letting him knock it into shape. I mean, it took us three years to get it out, but it was probably only about 20 hours of actual work spread over that time. You couldn't call us workaholics.
There's a concept going on in the record, isn't there?
Steve: The first track, 'This One's for the Humans', is us laying out a message for the human beings of the planet, who have really bollocksed it up down here. We send the message into space, because we really need some help and we can't do it ourselves, and somebody has to do it for us. Unbelievably, this message gets picked up, the aliens come down… and they don't really like us, so they annihilate us. Me and Martin escape, we build our own little ship to the stars using components from a Playstation 2…
Martin: I thought it was a Playstation 1?
Steve: I want them to send us one…
Martin: Yeah, and I want a Playstation 1.
Steve: Shit, yeah. Okay, put Playstation 1. So we realise it's just as messed up out there, and we end up at the party in the restaurant at the end of the universe. That's the idea.
Martin: That's the back-of-a-fag-packet idea.
And was any cannabis used in the recording of this music?
Martin: No, I'm highly allergic.
Steve: No way, I haven't had any green in my diet for 20 years. The last thing I ate was a metallic asparagus. It's the new superfood.
But you're both sci-fi fans, right?
Martin: We're living in a sci-fi universe. Look through the papers today and what you see is science fiction.
Steve: The title, Livin' in Elizabethan Times – we're all still serfs and wenches, nothing's really moved on. You either have to stop whinging and embrace it, or pull the pin. But we've decided to ask for alternative help. There are multiple levels to the record, though. I mean, it's all there in the lyrics, but we want to leave a bit of mystery, you know? It's best not to break these things down too much – the mystery, the secrets, these are what make things special and last eternally. We live in a world where information about everything is available all the time, and it's pretty fuckin' boring, you know? It's good to just leave little clues, and hopefully people will be interested enough to do some detective work of their own.
Can we expect anything more from Alien Stadium?
Steve: Yeah, possibly. I mean, we'd love to do an album, but it's just time more than anything.
Martin: We'd love to take it on tour, but it's not a great time over Christmas…
Steve: Christmas missed us. It's the dream, to play it live, but I think it would be quite tricky to do it properly. [There's a cry in the background] Do you hear that Martian baby in the distance? They want their metallic asparagus…
Mini-album Livin' in Elizabethan Times by Alien Stadium is out today on Double Six / Domino.