soft hair is the sound of connan mockasin and sam dust — ten years ago

Take an exclusive listen to their new single as the dynamic duo fill us in on their album's inspiration. Dive into an exotic, sexy world of soft-haired mutant lizard people, dreamed up many moons ago.

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Oct 5 2016, 4:05pm

Your introduction to Soft Hair was likely the duo's "Lying Has To Stop" music video. For it, members Connan Mockasin and Sam Dust covered their friend's apartment in tin foil and let things get weird — they charm the pants off the expensive camera they hired but fail, on purpose. The accompanying artwork features Connan and Sam, lots of pink body paint, and plenty of snake. If it was any sexier, it'd be a Britney album cover.

But back to where it all began: Mockasin and Dust (of Late of the Pier and LA PRIEST) met at an industry party ten years ago. Mutual fans, the pair headed up North together to set up music camp on a council estate outside Nottingham before spending an intense six weeks — during which Connan became quite ill and subsequently convinced that he had HIV — recording in a shadowy house in Loughborough. Things began looking up however, and Sam joined Connan on a trip back to his native New Zealand to record in a converted school perched on the edge of a cliff. The record picked up a lot more bongos.

Since then, Connan's cult successes with Forever Dolphin Love and Caramel have seen him go on to collaborate with James Blake, Charlotte Gainsbourg, and Vince Staples, while — when Castle Donington heroes Late of the Pier split in 2010 — Sam turned to concentrate on the solo project he'd been working on for some time, eventually releasing Inji last year. Their secret pairing as Soft Hair so long ago makes a lot of sense, and clearly informed their separate solo work.

Searching, back in the day, for a narrative and a focus, their unconventional eponymous record tells the story of an exotic, sexy world of soft-haired mutant lizard people. Finally due for release on October 28 via Weird World, we're thrilled to be able to give you an exclusive listen to latest single "In Love," as we sit down for a beer and a chat with the handsome pair. As you take in their sultry sounds, we discuss their trippy dreams, how to spot a sociopath, and that time Connan was convinced he was dying.

Hello, Connan! Nice pants, Sam!
Sam: I just moved house and put all of my clothes really carefully in a bag to bring with me, but it got taken in the wrong car and put into storage. I can't get there so I need to buy some new clothes, because I was pretty much just left with what I was wearing.

But you've got these funky velvet ones now.
Sam: Well, they're Connan's so…
Connan: I kind of need them. I haven't got many clothes with me either.

You're based in L.A. now, right?
Connan: Yes, but before that I was in Manchester, so I've been away from London for a while now.

And Sam, did you just move here?
Sam: No, I've never lived in London actually. I haven't technically moved anywhere. I'm actually gonna live in an RV in America for a while. The plan is to drive around making music in the van with my girlfriend. I've made a few modifications to my equipment so it runs on batteries.

How long will you travel for?
Sam: Indefinitely.

But presumably you'll need to tour this record?
Sam: Well that would be the ideal thing really, to be nomadic and write and tour as we go. To not have a division between them.

And Connan, you can jump in the van and join the tour.
Sam: I'd love that!

You guys have been friends for ages, haven't you?
Connan: Yeah, we met 10 years ago and started working on the record not long after that. It's been finished for at least five years.

So it's been recorded and ready for that long? Wasn't it frustrating keeping it to yourselves?
Connan: Not really. I'm happy for it to be released even though it's so old, because it doesn't feel old. I'm proud of it.
Sam: I think the more records you release, the more you realize that it's a lot better to wait and do the record in the right way than to put pressure and make compromises in order to meet a deadline. And in the end, we wrote this record for ourselves. Even when it was finished we were happy just playing it to a few friends.
Connan: It was actually our friends who pressured us to release it in the end!

Is it true that the concept of the album originated as a project about a pair of lizard people?
Sam: Ooh, you've got some inside knowledge there.
Connan: It's really damn hard to explain, that's the problem…
Sam: Yeah, it makes it sound like we're trying to make a Disney movie with talking lizards and stuff but we're not. They're actually not strictly lizards, they're more like mutant hybrid people with a scaly quality. The name Soft Hair is linked to that, in that the lizard people that we had in mind would not have many hairs on their heads, they'd have just a few soft hairs and they'd really prize them highly; they're really competitive about the quality of their few strands of hair.
Connan: And there's this rampant virus called lizard immunodeficiency virus, or LIV, that seeps in. They all live underground in a place similar to Miami; it's kind of hazy and humid, and the virus makes them more human.
Sam: Which, for a lizard person, is the worst thing you can be. So they're all really paranoid.

And where did this all come from?
Sam: Probably just our brains. We wrote some stuff really early on when we'd just met and it was kind of for a soundtrack, which we'd always wanted to make. But at the start, it was directionless so we had to think of a storyline. The idea of paranoid people came to mind.

Might you one day actually make a short film to accompany it then?
Connan: At the moment it's just a record that we're both proud of that we want to put out, finally, after 7000 years.

I heard that on Relaxed Lizard the two of you tried singing in each other's voices?
Connan: I suppose it's the lowest I've ever sung before. And Sam does sing in my voice at one point but it's hard to tell. You can tell at the end that it's you, I think. Sam made me wake up in the morning and not talk, and have the mic there ready to record so I could sing really deep.
Sam: When we we recording it, if Connan woke up and talked, I'd tell him to go back to sleep and start again.

It's a good job that you're still friends after all these years. Imagine if you'd fallen out. This record might never have come out!
Sam: There weren't really many incidents we could've fallen out over.
Connan: We haven't seen each other in a long time. We had a meeting to discuss this, but before that it had been several years.
Sam: And then we made the music video! We did it in our friend's bedroom.

Nice. I hope you kept it shiny afterwards.
Connan: I actually slept in the silver room that night because I had to get an early flight the next day and it was so funny.
Sam: The landlord actually helped us make the video, and he stars in it too. He's the one with the Nike t-shirt and the cap.

Why lead with "Lying Has To Stop?"
Connan: I didn't want to actually. It was Jack Shankly who made us, the filthy bastard!

And what lying in particular has to stop?
Connan: Let's start with the people who work in the music industry. They need to stop lying. I know some pretty chronic liars though, actually sociopaths.

Are you friends with them?
Connan: Not anymore!
Sam: Voldemort…
Connan: Voldemort's a classic.

You had to cut him out of your life?
Sam: The thing is, you can never truly be friends with a sociopath but you never know that until it's too late.
Connan: It's good now that I can spot them though.

How do you spot one?
Connan: Oh, there's 10 signs. If you look on the internet, it'll tell you. It's from your upbringing though, it's not like a psychopath. It's hard to confront them because they believe their own web of lies.
Sam: And they're very intelligent too… and you respect them, which makes it really tricky.
Connan: The main one I met told outrageous lies from day one, which I believed.
Sam: So you should only trust stupid people, just in case.
Connan: Basically, that goes to all of the sociopaths out there: the "Lying Has To Stop."

In other news, do you think that LA Priest would've happened if you guys hadn't first worked together?
Connan: He had already started I think!
Sam: Let's put it this way: there's a lot of music that I didn't release. So people might think that I changed direction a lot, but there was a lot of stuff in between Late of the Pier and the LA Priest record. The music I made straight after the band was so different that nobody wanted to release it. And that's why when I met Connan, and we were on the same wavelength, it wasn't like we had to meet in the middle, we just had exactly the same idea about what we wanted to do.

Connan and Sam during the making of Soft Hair, circa 2007.

What other joint artist projects are you a fan of?
Connan: Maybe McCartney and Michael Jackson? Bowie and Mick Jagger?

Yes! What's the weirdest thing you've done together?
Sam: One of the weirdest things was having to look after Connan. He's a very independent person but he was quite ill once while we were making the record, and I'd have to bring him things in bed and look after him. He went out and someone tried to steal your bananas off you, didn't they?
Connan: Yeah, I had a bag of bananas from the shop and somebody grabbed it. It's when I was staying with you in Loughborough. I was ill for about six weeks and I thought I had HIV because I had a dream that a guy with HIV pricked me with a used needle on the tour bus, and I woke up sweating and it felt so real that when I started getting a high fever a few days later I was convinced it was that. So I was ill half way into making the record, which is where it turns kind of unwell and sad, I was laying in bed and actually quite depressed.
Sam: It kind of helps to reference it in the record a bit, and it certainly developed into a bit of a story. You know, it's on i.v., in the middle of the record, which works because it was in the middle of the recording process.
Connan: It's weird because we were in Loughborough in the middle of summer, and I always find inland cities in England really depressing in summer. There's just an atmosphere where everyone's kind of pumped up and it's just weird. It was dark in the room I was laying in and the curtains were drawn but they would kind of blow gently as I just lay there sprawled out feeling like I was dying. I felt like one of those lizards with the lizard virus.
Sam: We had a Chinese tape that we played quite a lot too, it came free with a Chinese walkman. It was really beautiful singing, and there was a line that was in Chinese but to us it sounded like it was singing "I shall not die." It was a really hazy tape.

That whole six week period sounds really intense.
Sam: Yeah, I didn't really know what I do other than just keep recording stuff.

Who do you reckon has the softest hair in the world?
Sam: My cat, Deedee. She's a Norwegian forest cat and she's beautiful.
Connan: People-wise though, probably us back in the day when we made this record.
Sam: Farah Fawcett, maybe?
Connan: Nah, I don't think so. I've got two of her robes though, they're soft.

Why do you have her robes?
Connan: My girlfriend's a Playmate so she got them through Playboy.

Amazing. What do you know now that you wish you'd known at 16?
Sam: I feel like it's more the other way around. I wish I still knew the stuff I'd known at 16. I used to know how to ask for really good birthday presents. Remember the Argos catalogue? I used to cut things out from the Argos catalogue that I wanted and stick them on my wall.
Connan: I wish I had bitten my lip and just got through school. Some of the teachers are just not fit to teach and you're forced to respect them and for me it was all a bit of a joke and about pushing people. I didn't like it and I wanted to leave. I knew what I wanted to do so there was no point.

Finally, tell me your dreams.
Connan: My last dream was a shark dream. There was a great white shark thrashing around in this sort of cage made out of bits of metal and this guy was standing there and it was kind of biting him a little bit, sticking it's head out and he was playing with it like a pet, teasing it. Like people do with tigers and stuff. I think I was trying to get over the fear of them or something, but I couldn't go anywhere and I was pushed up against the wall in this place.
Sam: One dream that took me ages to write down once was when I was at a BBQ at the house where I grew up and there were a couple of tiny dinosaurs fighting, and it was like one of those really old animations. You know, like Jason and the Argonauts with the skeletons? Kind of stop motion plasticine dinosaurs, at a BBQ with all my family and friends. And everyone was really relaxed about it but I was like, ah, they're really gonna hurt each other! One of them bit the other's leg and I had to separate these two tiny lizards from fighting. It was all a bit too much for me so I did something which I often do in dreams which is just start floating away above the rooftops. And then I broke into a library and ended up in a shopping centre in a Japanese tourist scene where everyone had poppies and I had to blend in by stealing a poppy and pretending to be a Japanese tourist.

Credits


Text Frankie Dunn