Singer-songwriter Momus has nearly completed an album of songs written during, and about, the Covid-19 lockdown while recovering from a suspected case of coronavirus.
The Scottish indie musician usually operates at the margins but says the outbreak “puts us all in the same state of existential anguish”.
Nick Currie – who has made music under the alias Momus for more than 30 years – had just finished the first track from his forthcoming album when he started experiencing symptoms of coronavirus.
“Having heard accounts of people who have been through very mild cases, they have had the same symptoms as me – the chills, the fever, the lack of appetite, the raging thirst,” he says.
“At that moment, I was very scared. I really thought – this is it – and started anticipating all the RIP Momus messages people would be posting.”
He spent seven days in bed in his adopted home of Berlin recovering from his illness.
Social media has been full of musicians playing live from their living rooms during the lockdown and a trickle of individual songs have been penned about the pandemic.
But, when he started feeling better, Momus began work on a whole album charting his own and the world’s progress since the day his illness struck on 17 March.
“This is an amazingly intense moment for the whole of mankind and, for a marginal artist like me, it is an extraordinary opportunity to be on the same page as everyone else, to experience what everyone else is experiencing,” he says.
Momus has released 33 albums and published eight books during his career, but the closest he has come to a UK hit was when The Hairstyle of the Devil reached number 94 in the singles chart in 1989.
“I’m always topical. I’ve been writing about Brexit for the last four years. I think the main difference this time is the emotional resonance,” he says.
“Brexit was very divisive, but Covid-19 puts us all in the same state of existential anguish.”
The song he had written, recorded and released before he started showing symptoms was titled Oblivion, which he described as “a statement of absolute pessimism”.
“It is funny to think that, if indeed this really was Covid-19, the virus was already in me when I made that song and, in a sense, the virus was singing that song Oblivion – and it really does sound like that,” he says.
Since his illness, he has written 11 more songs in the space of 23 days – starting with Optimism, a melancholy track about his own recovery.
‘A very vivid experience’
Other songs include Empty Paris, which explores Europe’s deserted city streets under lockdown, Self-Isolation, Working From Home, Movement and My Corona.
He plans to call the album Vivid, and says: “It has been a very vivid experience, for better or for worse. It is quite extraordinary how a confrontation with your own mortality focuses the mind.”
Momus says the “science fiction” of his lyrics has very quickly turned into “science fact”.
“My visions are extending about three days into the future,” he says.
“Once you had to wait months to release a record and you could never be sure that it would still be relevant when it came out.
“Now, the exact hour and minute you hit ‘publish’ on YouTube can make all the difference.”
Momus usually accompanies his songs with videos often made in his living-room or kitchen, so in some respects the current situation is largely business as usual.
“Shopping, sight-seeing, these things are fun to pass the time when you don’t have anything else to do, but when you really love your work and you can do your work alone at home, social isolation in your apartment is kind of wonderful.”