Mex’s latest offering is a Cinema X soundtrack, attained somewhat through fantasy and partial existent reality.
Do You Wanna Fuck Around? Soundtrack Reflections on a Golden Age of Vice lends a punk sensibility twist to the archetypal ‘60s and ‘70s adult film scores through the inspiration of acts such as the Doors, Neu!, Stooges and Velvet Underground.
Interview from The Strange Brew, May 2018
Paul Mex talks about his new release ‘Do You Wanna F*ck Around? Soundtrack Reflections on a Golden Age of Vice’, and reflects on his earlier work including collaborations with Robert Wyatt and George Michael.
What inspired you to write and record the album?
I’ve been involved with music for a long time with the result from that being I’ve undertaken lots of various routes with it, yet never scored a soundtrack to accompany an adult movie. It’s a perverse bucket list item I wanted to tick off and what with being a bit of an agent provocateur, I naturally lean towards ventures that might be considered a little taboo, as some have viewed this album to be because of its subject matter.
I once nearly came close (no pun intended) to producing music for the adult movie industry when the legendary English pornographer, actor and director Ben Dover, offered me a project in the early ’80s. But having a conflicting schedule meant this was never realised and subsequently been a regret ever since. So I started thinking about how I could fulfil this off-limits desire whilst reflecting upon the artistry of adult movies from the ‘60s and ‘70s, which often gets overlooked because of the nature of the films and certainly it is a lost virtuosity in modern pornography. It struck me that the book publishers Taschen often celebrate the creativity of the bygone era of adult art, photography and film in their tastefully produced coffee table books and that perhaps I could do something similar musically, with that same refined regard. Consequently I fathomed I could sample and incorporate morsels of vintage dialogue from the world of Cinema X into the sound, creating an adult movie soundtrack that was attained somewhat through fantasy, yet was a partial existent reality.
What was the writing and recording process?
Well, I had to do a lot of research for this album before a note was even played, which entailed watching a lot of adult movies from the ‘60s and ‘70s, ha! ha! This isn’t anywhere near as much fun as it might sound because one had to listen really carefully to the dialogue in the films and stay focused on any snippets that inspired a potential title, sounded interesting or was an unusual phrase which could perhaps, almost act as a chorus line in order to create as close to a conventional pop/rock song as possible. Furthermore there are a lot of hurdles involved in this because the filming budgets obviously weren’t too high on the agenda for sound on most X-rated movies of those days, whereby the audio quality was often very dubious indeed. On top of that I also wanted to incorporate the sampled clips into the videos that accompany each song on the album, ensuring the visuals remained tasteful enough and within the boundaries to be available on YouTube. Thus it was hard (again no pun intended) finding fragments that fitted this criteria, yet I achieved it through the help of several X-rated films, along with an uncredited interview from the ‘60s with a girl called Shirley, who worked as an erotic dancer in a London club at that time.
The music part was easy as I was bursting with ideas that had been itching to get out of me for quite some time. It was as if certain styles of music I enjoy listening to had commingled somewhere in my psyche, creating a melting-pot combination of The Doors, The Stooges, Neu! and Velvet Underground, mixed with my own punk rock sensibility. Therefore the actual recording was pretty fast, keeping all the rough organic edges and as the album is mostly guitar driven, those parts were predominantly first takes, which kept an excitement and edge to proceedings.
What musicians are on the album and what samples did you use?
Although I mostly work with other musicians during the course of my recordings, all of the music on this album was performed by myself.
I’m one of those multi-instrumentalists which sounds quite grand on paper, but the truth of the matter is that I’m actually a jack of all trades and master of nothing. If I do have a prime musical skill, I think it’s that I’m good at bluffing sound to make it appear I’m actually a better musician than I really am, because a few very highly trained and accomplished musicians I know have commented on the musical virtuosity displayed on this album.
Although each instrument had to be played separately by myself in a multi-tracked fashion, the recording is very much a band sound and so pretty basic, simple and straightforward in its approach.
As far as samples go, minimal snippets of dialogue were used from the X-rated movies Take Off, The Sexualist: A Voyage to the World of Forbidden Love, The Tycoon’s Daughter, Malibu High and The Passions of Carol, along with bits of the aforementioned interview with the lady known simply as Shirley. Overall though it is essentially an instrumental album with the lewd dialogue added to spice things up a little and make the album an authentic soundtrack, regardless that it’s undertaken in a somewhat fictional manner.
Are there any particular tracks you would recommend readers seek out?
Although this is a new recording, in many ways it has an old school notion in that it’s been designed as a conceptual album, where ideally the listener goes on a journey with it from song-to-song. That said the title track Do You Wanna F*ck Around? is a good one to listen to if one wanted to get an overall flavour, although there are some meditative lighter moments on the album.
Which artists have you enjoyed working with the most, how were you involved and what have been your favourite tracks resultant from them?
I’ve primarily spent the bulk of my time in music sitting on the other side of the glass recording and facilitating other artists as a producer, mixer, co-writer, or simply just there to press the record button. It’s been a bit of a trek that’s encountered many musicians, some who’ve been amazing to work with, whilst others have been rather challenging to say the least. I guess the one that people always ask me about is George Michael, who I recorded with right at the start of his career with Wham! and although that style of music wasn’t my favourite, he was an incredible talent and a really lovely man – it’s so tragic that he departed this odd thing called life prematurely.
Another remarkable and truly inimitable person I’ve recorded with is Robert Wyatt… there is a theme to this in that the really talented guys also happen to be the nicest as well, with Robert proving this point. I have a kind of obscure recording I made with him from the early ‘80s, which hasn’t seen the light of day properly that I’m going to revisit and issue within the next eighteen months or so – watch this space as the saying goes!
Because it’s been such a long musical journey it’s a little tricky trying to be impartial and pin down tracks, but I produced a song called Terminal Love that I also co-wrote for the band Ugly As Sin back in the late ‘80s, which I’m not sure why, still tickles me rather agreeably.
Going back, what where your formative influences?
My parents had an old radiogram and a ton of 7” singles that used to fascinate me whilst growing up as a kid in the late ‘60s, with my first memory being that The Last Time by The Rolling Stones sounded different from the other records they had. I played it over and over with it sounding kind of dangerous, like you could get into trouble from just listening to it alone. This appealed to my roguish susceptibility, although I wasn’t quite sure why at the time. Nonetheless, I guess that record set the foundations for my path ahead, as in my early teenage year’s glam rock was definitely a formative influence, with Roxy Music and Bowie welcomingly turning grey life into colour, although it was Slade that I adored.
Coming of age during punk was the biggest and most important part of not only my musical sphere, but also life, in as far as it echoed a young man’s world of that time and garnered courage to do whatever your heart told you. So after witnessing the Sex Pistols during the summer of 1976, life never was the same again after.
What music inspires you at the moment?
The thing is there’s so much brilliant stuff out there both old and new, that I’m constantly being inspired. Lots of music from the past has managed to bypass me and so I’m continuously finding former acts that are like a new band for me; last week I bought two albums by Blonde On Blonde, who I’d loosely heard before… but when you really pay proper attention – wow, what a fantastic group.
I’ve also been revisiting acts that I enjoyed when younger but for one reason or another, have put on the backburner over the years. Recently I dug out the Sensation Alex Harvey Band’s albums – with more mature ears they sound even better – incredible in fact – that word ‘sensational’ was stuck at the beginning of the band’s name for a very good reason.
I also love jazz and have over two hundred Miles Davis albums in my collection – he was the ultimate punk rocker in both spirit and musical openness.
One of the newer artists I enjoy is The Weather Station; their frontwoman Tamara Lindeman is an astonishing songwriter and I absolutely just love the lushness of their sound.
What records have you previously brought out under your own name – which material would you highlight?
I’ve got four official album releases under my own moniker, all independent releases that started with Alternative Pop Music back in 1980, and was followed up by Intense Living in 1981.
Then the hiatus took over (although I was consistently in the studio working with others), with the third album (or comeback depending on one’s view) called Dr Jekyll & Mrs Hyde, released in 2014. But my latest offering of Do You Wanna F*ck Around? is the one I’d personally highlight, because it’s me of the moment and coming from a place that is now defined, whereas I was perhaps still finding my feet in the past. That said and it’s hard to be objective when one has created this stuff, but people seem to still enjoy the songs on Alternative Pop Music, where there’s a very loose quirky and naïve charm to it if looked at from a certain position.
Where is ‘Do You Wanna F*ck Around? Soundtrack Reflections on a Golden Age of Vice’ available and in what formats?
Digitally this album is available everywhere downloads are obtainable; so all the usual suspects such as iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, Google Play, etc.
There’s also a very nice shiny CD that resembles a vinyl album in gold, with a tasteful yet loudly coloured sleeve designed by yours truly, which is available at selected outlets, although primarily via mail order from my website.
Just to kick off in what will probably seem like one hell of a tangent, independent art cinema is, perhaps surprisingly, very much an unfamiliar realm for me. I've seen the odd thing inevitably borrowed from Ted at work, but most of those were weird and terrifying, and probably not representative of your average independent art cinema production. My friend Noel made purchase of a Ben Dover video whilst visiting London and so we watched a bit of that seeing as Noel was kipping on my sofa. For the uninitiated, Ben Dover produced a whole string of independent art cinema videos in which himself and a bloke with a video camera travel England, proposing sexual intercourse to random women working in shops, service stations, or just out walking the dog. The encounters seem casual and opportunist, even if they're almost certainly staged, and the appeal is probably mostly in the cheap and cheerful realism. Ben Dover's independent art cinema looks as though it could happen at the end of your road with one or more of the neighbours; and Ben Dover himself resembles a self-employed plumber more than a mogul of independent art cinema, although I suppose it could be argued that he sort of is a self-employed plumber. Anyway, all I can remember from the one Ben Dover production I watched was a scene in which our man enters an actress whilst persuading her to additionally stimulate the penis of the bloke with the camera, who accordingly chirps, 'This is indeed an unexpected bonus!'
Weirdly, it turns out that Mex once came fairly close to providing soundtrack music for Ben Dover; or at least I'm sure I read that somewhere. Do You Wanna Fuck Around?, subtitled Soundtrack Reflections on a Golden Age of Vice, is therefore an album of what could have been, music for imaginary independent art cinema productions. Naturally it's instrumental, barring snatches of dialogue invoking celluloid seventies blueys more than Ben Dover encouraging giggling cashiers out of their knickers. Musical cues come from psychedelia, bits of the Velvet Underground, and things which have since been reclassified as acid jazz in certain quarters - organ swirling over a big fat beat with blues guitar licks squirting hither and thither, at least as wild and sensual as those films always seemed to think they were despite so often resembling Abigail's Party with budget cuts in the wardrobe department. Doubtless owing to the inspiration of similar sources, whilst this could almost be a funkier, wrinkle-free Led Zeppelin in terms of instrumentation, musically it makes me think of Fatboy Slim, or rather what Fatboy Slim should have sounded like, that same sort of punchy bass heavy go-go but without the whole element of trying too hard.
As might be discerned from the first paragraph, I'm hardly an authority in the field of independent art cinema, but it seems to me that the one thing Mex gets wrong is that I don't recall ever seeing a bluey with music this good. In fact, the few I recall had awful midi-synth soundtrack music of a general type which ended up recycled as vapourwave and Go Kart Mozart. So here is an album which is actually better than the thing it's trying to be, if you see what I mean, and another argument for Mex as one of the most underrated artists and producers in the biz.