We’re afflicted, programmed to turn our heads and take notice of words like “Dinosaur” and “Sci-Fi Rock Opera”. MJ Hibbett, of the UK indie-rock act MJ Hibbett and the Validators, knows this and he feasted on our “weakness”, creating a unique, silly, and wonderful concept album that speculates on a world where Dinos dash back from an outer-worldly land to re-claim the earth… oh, and there are robots too. I spoke with Hibbett about a possible Dinosaur Planet live show, his ode to Alan Moore, Human/Dinosaur… “relations”, and making nerdy music for all the right reasons.
First thing is first, tell me about the album and what inspired you to undertake something so ambitious?
MJ Hibbett: The album is a science fiction rock opera about what happens when the dinosaurs return to earth after 65 million years in space, and how they came to be there. I wrote it as a one-man stand-up/music show after I went to see someone doing a slightly disappointing version of Jeff Wayne’s ‘War of the Worlds’ — I’d wanted a jolly romp through sci-fi terror and song, and received instead a rather somber stroll through light opera, so decided I could do better myself.
I guess I could have saved myself a lot of time and money by just recording the solo version of the whole thing on an acoustic guitar, but I realised that this was probably the only chance I’d get to do a full-cast, full-on actual rock opera (with EXPLOSIONS) so I thought I ought to put the effort in and do it properly. I think we pretty much pulled it off!
What will a Dinosaur Planet live show look like (please say puppets)? Also, if you need someone to carry a dinosaur on a stick should you come stateside — hi there. I also play the triangle… well.
MJ: Thanks very much! We actually have a lot of props (including glove puppets!) that we used for a two-man version that we did a while back, following the script of the show, so I imagine it would involve giant robots made from tinfoil and cardboard boxes, middle-aged men wearing dinosaur masks, inexpensive wigs… and of course massive, planet destroying explosions!
Do you really expect us to believe that dinosaurs and robots will ascend from the sky to come after us? I mean, it is entirely unbelievable, surely a two hearted man in a blue box will come to the rescue, right?
MJ: Well, obviously, but this IS science fiction rather than science fact.
Keith the Dinosaur and Muriel the human person lady, Muriel and Keith — is Keith an overly big dinosaur? Because I’ve been trying to figure out, in my mind, how they would make sweet, sweet lo… you know what, we should move on shouldn’t we?
MJ: To quote Jurassic Park, “Nature will find a way”.
Getting back to a more serious question, is it annoying that I haven’t really asked a question about music yet?
MJ: Not really, no — when you’ve written an album featuring Giant Robots, global destruction and EXPLOSIONS, it would be churlish to expect someone to concentrate on bass strings.
Will the song ‘Alan Moore’ ever get a proper release and is it based on a true experience?
The song’s on an album called ‘All Around My House’ which was released for one weekend only (though it’s still available
digitally) back in 2008. The whole album was written, recorded, and released in the space of a month for February Album Writing Month, and it just so happened that one day at the start of that month I was in my local comic shop (the lovely Gosh Comics in London) browsing through some ridiculous book (I think it was, to my shame, an issue of ‘Countdown Arena’) when I heard a familiar voice. I looked up, saw it was Alan Moore and… well, it played out pretty much exactly as it does in the song!
A couple of years later I queued up at a signing of ‘League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen’ to meet him. I told him I’d written the song, and he seemed quite pleased about it — at least, he didn’t summon Glycon to smite me, so I took that as approval.
You are, of course, a huge comic fan so the question is — do you prefer a trip to a comic shop or a vinyl shop?
MJ: Definitely a comic shop – I go to Gosh pretty much every week and lovely having an amble round looking at what’s new. I buy nearly all my music online, on CD or downloads, and don’t really like record shops at all. They always seem to be adored by people who like the exclusivity and finickiness of music buying much much more than the joy of the music itself. I’d rather be able to get whatever I want at the click of a search button than have to trawl around for hours and then undergo the scrutiny of a goateed git behind the counter!
Aside from your own, (which can be found here) what are the 3 under the radar albums that we should all own right now?
MJ: There’s a real renaissance of great bands on the indie pop scene at the moment — there’s new albums coming from Allo Darlin’ and The Just Joans soon, but the current record “Out Of Sight Out Of Town” by Standard Fare is utterly brilliant. More under the radar would be “F*** You, I’m Keith Top Of The Pops” by Keith Top Of The Pops & His Minor UK Indie All-Star Celebrity Backing Band, which is a wonderful collection of surprisingly touching songs hidden under a rowdy bluster of hundreds of minor UK indie celebrities. And finally “God Bless Jim Kennedy” by Phil Wilson, later of The June Brides, came out last year and didn’t get half the attention it deserves, it’s ACE!
I read on Twitter that you are having a, hopefully, peaceful issue with the Validators name, any chance you become MJ Hibbett and The Transformers? And also, I feel pretty good about people only getting that reference if they buy the album, how do you feel about it?
MJ: That’s fine with me! The name thing looks like being resolved — basically someone else was calling themselves The Validators and a bit of confusion was being caused, but I’ve recently had a very pleasant chat with them, so hopefully they’re going to make a change so it all gets cleared up. I was worrying for ages about unpleasantness and harsh words but I think it’ll sort itself out now. “The Transformers” is an EXCELLENT name for a band now, I’m amazed that it’s not in use already.
Do you make an album like this for your fans or is it for you?
MJ: Every time I try to guess what people would like I make a bit of a mess of it — I’m thinking especially of the time I spent ages trying to write a sequel to “Hey Hey 16K” — and anyway, I don’t really have enough actual fans to make them a viable market to cater to! The most brilliant thing about the internet is that for any idea you have, no matter how ludicrous, there will be someone else out there on the planet who thinks it’s great. If you’re lucky, there may even be more than one other person, and so people like me, who in previous times would probably sit at home along making cassette tapes just to foist upon their long suffering friends, can now find loads of like-minded people to listen to their ideas. It’s a wonderful time to be alive and making music, and I’m constantly grateful to Tim Berners Lee for giving me the opportunity to be part of it!