An Arab Strap, as any fan of Scottish pop or sex toys will tell you, is a rather unwieldy device used to aid a gentleman

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Brave Hearts

Arab Strap's Malcolm Middleton on sad songs, dating difficulties, and the genius of Queensryche.

An Arab Strap, as any fan of Scottish pop or sex toys will tell you, is a rather unwieldy device used to aid a gentleman whose, um, member requires assistance in prolonging certain pleasures. Arab Strap, the Glaswegian band, is an equally unwieldy entity, but its purpose is to aid those whse battered hearts require assistance prolonging certain miseries and frustrations. Miseries and frustrations that, it should be noted, are often easily confused with pleasures.

On the forthcoming Monday at the Hug & Pint (Matador, April 21), Arab Strap's support arrives in the form of 13 dour, drunken melodies stained by the bitterly romantic fairy tales that unwind from singer Aidan Moffat's deadpan delivery and whatever musical device manipulator Malcolm Middleton has chosen for that particular movement. Backed by programmed dance beats, mini-orchestras, acoustic guitars, and twisted Celtic traditions, the songs on Hug & Pint are overflowing with so much perversion and pathos that we sent Middleton an e-mail to make sure he was doing OK.

Seattle Weekly: So what's the deal? Are you guys terribly depressed and sad or just really good at portraying those feelings?

Malcolm Middleton: I've never seen Arab Strap's music as depressing or tragic, but rather humorous, and most importantly, comforting. Music to cuddle yourself to. I don't think I've ever cried to any song, and especially not because of the lyrics, usually just the hinted-at sentiment of the music. I did cry during E.T. the first time I watched it, and then a few years ago at the end of Young Guns for some strange reason. I suppose Nick Cave's "Idiot Prayer" and "(Are You) The One That I've Been Waiting For" are the closest I've ever come, but that was just a slight choke followed by a vague longing for something. "If You See Her, Say Hello" by Bob Dylan can stop me sometimes and make me feel like a complete bastard for the way I treated someone once.

It seems like relationships could be a bit of a bitch for the both of you. When you approach women, aren't they a little apprehensive about dating you for fear that they'll end up in a song?

Most people just say, "You'd better not write about this!" To which we'd reply, "You think this is fucking important enough?" Yeah, sometimes it's hard when you meet someone new. You don't want them thinking that you're sitting there waiting for inspiration. And then there's the bit about trying to explain old songs to them and how they mean nothing now. It's best to write as much as you can when you're on your own and then enjoy yourself when you're with someone.

If I were to dig through your CDs and tapes, what's the most surprising thing I would find?

Shit, I've been listening to Queensryche's Operation Mindcrime all week. This album is flawless. It's a concept album, which I stole the plot from and used to pass my English exam at high schoolI got an A! And people say heavy metal is dumb. . . .

In other interviews, you've often shown little or no reserve in terms of your scathing and/or indifferent opinions of other musicians. How often does that kind of honesty bite you in the ass? Any brawls as a result?

Yeah, we have big mouths sometimes; we've been in scraps with plenty of bands, not usually because of their music, but mostly because they're acting like rock stars or something. We did steal the Stereophonics' Brit Award oncethat was funny. Most things about today's music climate piss me off, all [of] the commercial shit where so much money is thrown at crap acts. Even more annoying are the smaller indie bands or dance acts who feel superior because they are on the outside. My ass, it's only music. And don't get me started on DJ's . . . they only play someone else's fucking music. It's ridiculous.

You've got to be at least a little apprehensive about coming to America for a tour in the middle of all this "shock and awe" business.

We did have some reservations about it at first, especially with our name. [We'll] probably get some idiots turning up at gigs to shoot us. It's a shame in today's climate that British and U.S. citizens can't rise up against their governments effectively. Man with a tank fighting against a man with bare hands . . . I am ashamed to be British, and this war is disgusting.

lcassidy@seattleweekly.com

 
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