For my latest article in the Voice I decided to have a chat with one of Ireland’s finest musical talents, Captain Moonlight.
Earlier this year, in the midst of a Government and media witch-hunt heaping blame on everyone and anyone but those responsible for the collapse of the economy, there was the release of the excellent third album from the Kilkenny Hip-Hop MC Captain Moonlight, Agroculture pt. 3—On the Lough. As he was one of the few musicians who dared speak out against the excesses of the so-called “Celtic Tiger” and the gombeen-men who presided over it, it was time we had a well-overdue chat.
He’s obsessive about politics, philosophy, literature, music, and hurling, which is fused with a diverse range of musical influences, including Planxty, Dead Kennedys, and Public Enemy, resulting in intelligent, honest and hard-hitting hip-hop.
The response to the album has been pretty routine for an independent artist, with some good reviews, but financial constraints make national distribution difficult But “that’s what you get for going this route. The majority of distribution labels don’t want to know or even do jack shit. Being a solo artist, having a political edge doesn’t necessarily endear you to everyone either.” He quickly points out that while making a living from music would be great, it’s more about “doing something that wasn’t being done where I come from, that is to actually bother your arse writing something of substance and stickin’ it to the bastards.”
People have generally been receptive to certain attitudes in his music, be it Dublin, Derry, or Kilkenny, but he feels it has little to do with the death of the Celtic Tiger. “Was it ever alive or just merely an animated corpse, in the last decade anyway?”
As one of the standard-bearers of “political” music, he is a writer first and foremost, with music being the vehicle he can drive most comfortably. “Music lyrics are where I am best equipped, especially as it was hip-hop that sparked my real interest in the social aspect of art.
“No other art form can generate the immediate energy or emotion of a particular view as music. It’s not superior to other mediums but it creates inspiration and is very much a collective experience, which is very important regarding political or social moods and movements.”
He deals with many social and political issues in his music that most musicians wouldn’t dare touch. But what’s bothering him at the moment is the inability to change. “We have basically given carte blanche to the government, business elites, bankers etc. to rearrange the mess they created, without any consequences. We accept health-care cuts, benefit cuts, public-spending cuts across the board while they keep shovelling money into bad banks and we do nothing.
“There hasn’t even been a serious demand for the Government to step down. I would have thought in this ‘civilised’ society it would be the least we could expect.”
He reserves special mention for his involvement with the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign, with criticism of the Government, who are “good at paying lip service to in their criticism of Israel and its treatment of Palestinians while allowing Irish companies like Roadstone to do apartheid business with an apartheid state, and allowing other multinationals related to this crime to carry on here also. Hypocrisy is alive and healthy in this little fiefdom.”
There appears to be an absence of politically aware musicians at present, which he largely agrees with, saying, “What do you expect? Most people are raised on a diet of the idiot culture, where celebrity is the all-embracing definition of everything. At least there is some semblance of a violent reaction within the realms of popular culture to the mundane atrocity that is the mainstream, from musicians like Jinx Lennon, Acoustic Dan, Los Langeros, and the Rubberbandits.”
The real battle seems to lie, not surprisingly, with the mainstream media and their “saturation of ‘bastard’ artists who do not deserve their moment to shine, whether this be the manufactured industry of designer-sounding euro pop or the boy and girl bands, X Factors and ‘talent’ shows, where you get to decide who wins by texting to the marketers and all-round scam artists and phone companies, akin to a willing self-induced lobotomy.
“This muck is saturating the air waves, keeping everything else on the periphery, so those who participate can’t use the excuse that they’re not affecting everything else.”
With the air waves, television and news outlets full of meaningless drivel aimed at sedating us, what realistically can be done to help progressive and alternative voices break through?
“For a start, if you have a medium, then use your judgement. If you want to be a part of the solution, then make it your business to help give people a platform to voice themselves. If there is something out there worth being heard, then push it, whatever way you can. This isn’t about the commercial aspect as its own ends but a means to actually hit them hard and undermine the muck we are being force-fed every day.”
So what of the future? Captain Moonlight has another new album, Offences Against the State Act, 1, planned for July, and “some agitation with a dash of solidarity.”
[Listen/Buy from Bandcamp]