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Des de Moor
Biography


"Look back on us with indulgence" - Bertolt Brecht
On the riverfront at Greenwich for the Water of Europe photo session Photo: Jo Minton

Cute or what?  First passport photo, circa 1976 Photo: Unknown

On 'tortoiseshell guitar' with Colin Braybrook (right) as Philosophy, Hertford, November 1974. Photo: Isobel Braybrook

Performing with Tau Zero, Hertford, June 1978: note cosmic backdrop. Photo: Mike Jackson

Performing with Laurence Piper (left) as The Suitably Often, Ware Arts Centre, July 1982. Photo: Steve Beeston

Klaatu Barada Nikto!  Des and Laurence (on steps with significant watering can) come down to earth in publicity snap for uncompleted album, early 1983. Photo: Mike Jackson

Rare live appearance at Hatfield Polytechnic, Summer 1985. Photo: Unknown

Surrounded by the panoply of early 1990s electronic music-making during the time of the Photographs in Empty Houses sessions, Autumn 1992. Photo: Jim Tyson

Leuven, Spring 1992. Photo: Jim Tyson

Live at the Vortex with the Des de Moor trio, Summer 1995; Julia Doyle on bass just visible at right. Photo: Jim Tyson

Greenwich foot tunnel, March 1999: photo session for Water of Europe. Photo: Jo Minton

From the Water of Europe photo session, Greenwich, March 1999. Photo: Jo Minton

Photo session for Darkness and Disgrace show, Oxford Street, London, November 1999. Photo: Jo Minton

Dodgy geezers: Des (seated) snapped with Russell Churney during further promotional photo sessions for Darkness and Disgrace. Photo: Theo Cohen

1961-1973
Born Ipswich, Suffolk, England, April 20, 1961. Mother Phyllis born Dover, Kent, England but grew up in Eltham, Kent (Greater London) and Ipswich, Suffolk; Father Werner born Rotterdam, Zuid Holland, Netherlands but grew up in Amsterdam, Noord Holland. Moves with family to Liverpool, Merseyside, England and Fflint, Flintshire, Wales. Moves with family to Bayford near Hertford, Hertfordshire, England in 1971 and from 1972 attends Richard Hale School, Hertford.
1974-1978
Musical career begins with experimental recordings involving sound effects, improvisation on traditional instruments and overdubs, first on his own and then in collaboration with fellow school students as Philosophy. In 1976 forms a rock band, known variously as Shadd and Tau Zero, and promotes his first gig, a charity benefit involving local bands. By 1978 has begun solo acoustic performances at a local folk club.

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1979-1982
Leaves school early in 1979 and forms what becomes a long-running musical partnership with keyboard player Laurence Piper; initially they attempt to form a conventional band but by 1981 are working as an electronic duo, The Suitably Often. Works with a local poetry group, in 1980 co-founds a folk club in Ware, Hertfordshire and from December 1980 becomes involved in a community newspaper project, Hertford Independent Press, where duties include a regular music column. 'Proper' jobs during this period include shop assistant, buying office assistant, swimming pool changing room attendant and motorcycle parts telephone salesperson.
In 1981 releases a solo indie cassette, A Bloody Row, combining folk pastiches, experimental effects montages recalling earlier work and first forays into the repertoire of Brecht/Weill and Brel.

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1983-1986
Becomes a student at Hatfield Polytechnic, (now University of Hertfordshire), studying linguistics and philosophy; lives for a while in Hatfield and Potters Bar and supplements his income with street busking. Suitably Often winds down and Laurence goes on to work with The Monochrome Set.
Apart from an attempt to create a follow-up to Photographs and a handful of solo acoustic gigs, Des is largely musically inactive while concentrating on studying, and later getting involved in political campaigning via Lesbian and Gay Youth Movement. Lives intermittently in Deptford, London, during 1985, and moves to Camberwell, London, in 1986.

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1987-1989
Forms a hi-tech sampler-based eclectic electronic duo, The Irresisitible Force, with Morris Gould. First gigs at the now-defunct London Lesbian and Gay Centre and at a street party, and remix work on Lloyd Cole's 'Perfect Skin'.

Des with Morris Gould (left) caught at The London College of Printing in March 1988 modelling the same leather jacket for the cover of The Irresistible Force's 'I Want To' single.

Photo: Pete Noble

In 1988 first Irresistible Force single 'I Want To' is released, and there are failed talks with Rough Trade on signing to label. A remix of Stump's 'Charlton Heston' follows, and live appearances at the London Musicians' Collective's Festival of Plagiarism and supporting Psychic TV at Dingwalls. The duo move in a danceward direction by organising and performing at the world's first live acid house rave, Live Madhouse, at Brixton's Fridge. Des on his own co-arranges and produces two sessions for Newcastle band The Redwoods, financed by Polygram Publishing.
Des moves back to Deptford, London in 1989 as Force remix Edward II's 'Swedish Polka', a collaboration that spawns a Radio 1 session for Andy Kershaw and TV appearances on Rhythms of the World (BBC-2) and Big World (Channel 4). Mini-tour of The Netherlands, including appearance with Meat Beat Manifesto at The Paradiso, Amsterdam, gigs at Busby's with The Shamen, and demonstrations at the Scottish Music Fair in Glasgow. Release of second single, 'Freestyle', soundtracks for corporate videos and a BBC pilot, Mindbomb, and two substantial unreleased sessions that represent the best of the Irresistible Force in this form.
From 1989, Des begins to earn a living as a freelance sound engineer. In December he quits the Force, largely through frustration at the now-exclusive emphasis on dance music. Morris becomes Mixmaster Morris and goes on to become a well-known face on the ambient scene - check out his home page.

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1990-1992
Collaborates with Robert McKahey (ex-Stump) on an Irish/Industrial Rock crossover project backed with development money from Chrysalis, co-producing, programming and playing keyboards. Project is not taken up and Rob goes to live in Cork. Engineers and mixes Noel McCalla's McCalla album. Records 'The Spice of Life', a two-track demo of latin/rave crossover under the name of Sofrito with help from other musicians.
Contacted in 1991 by The Sturdy Beggars Theatre Company and collaborates on their first production, Baal. Second Sturdy Beggars project, The Ghost Sonata, follows in 1992, along with a remix of Edward II's 'Brilliant Pebbles'.
Encouraged by his theatre work, that same year Des completes and releases his first full-length solo recording in a decade, Photographs in Empty Houses, marking a return to song-based material inspired by cabaret, chanson and theatre song.

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1993-1994
Returns to live cabaret performance, warming up with floor spots in acoustic clubs and then a full-length set at The Tenor Clef in London N1 (subsequently The Blue Note, now closed) with Sarah Collins, herself an accomplished electro-acoustic composer who also guested on Photographs, on piano. The set features a handful of new songs written specifically with this style of acoustic performance in mind, and the first fruits of what becomes an ongoing series of original and faithful translations from French, German and Dutch songs. Subsequent gigs include The Last Straw, Ructions, Winter Pride at ULU and The Samuel Pepys in Hackney. Cassette EP of songs from live set, Margins. Contributes a song to Sturdy Beggars' Groping for Trouts in a Peculiar River.
During 1994, Ben Care replaces Sarah as regular live pianist for gigs including Pride, The Paradise Bar, Club Integral, Monty's Bandstand, Bunjies and Chats Palace, while Des contriubtes an original score for Sturdy Beggars' Macbeth, and also appears on the theatre stage himself as The Husband in the HP Producktions' musical La Ronde at the Actors Centre.
In December 1994 Des launches Pirate Jenny's, a unique monthly musical cabaret and chanson club, at the Vortex, Stoke Newington, with an inaugural gig featuring Kate Westbrook, with Des promoting and hosting the evening and contributing a set himself.

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1995-1998
Des continues to gig in London and elsewhere, solo or as a duo with Ben Care; they are now sometimes joined by accordion player/vocalist Deb Swallow and cellist Stanley Adler; in October 1996, double bassist/violinist Julia Doyle (ex-Happy End) becomes a semi-regular collaborator. In 1997, cabaret maestro David Harrod (Phil Jeays, Eric Presland, Celia), who has effectively become the house pianist at Pirate Jenny's, becomes Des's regular accompanist and towards the end of the year Des also starts to work with Russell Churney, best known as former pianist and foil to comic Julian Clary.
Gigs include Bristol Watershed Centre, Apples and Snakes, Big Word, Deptford Urban Free Festival, Bunjies, Chats Palace, Sticky Fingers cabaret club, The Smoker at Cyberia, Grace Theatre at the Latchmere, and a season of 'dinner cabaret with a difference' shows at Heather's, London's top veggie restaurant. Pirate Jenny becomes a well-established fixture, also expanding on occassion into the famous 100 Club in central London, including for the last rare London appearances of the near-legendary Agnes Bernelle; a host of other names working in cabaret and chanson also appear, such as Barb Jungr and the Tiger Lillies.
Songwriting and translation continues, with new work usually premiered at Jenny's. At the London Poetry Festival in 1996, Des contributes his first spoken-word work for many years, and continues to perform intermittently in this medium. He also starts DJing, initially for Club Popcorn at the 100 Club.
A busy 1998 sees a renewed collaboration with Sarah Collins on an Erik Satie project, and a contribution to Jacques Brel compilation Ne Me Quitte Pas, the brainchild of singer-songwriter and Irregular Records boss Robb Johnson. This recording prompts Des to begin serious work on a long overdue new album.

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1999-2005
Des completes work on Water of Europe, released on Irregular in September 1999, a representative collection of mainly original songs from his live shows created in collaboration with David, Russell, Julia, Stanley and a number of other guest musicians. Begins composition of next project Testing Times.
Collaboration with Barb Jungr selecting and translating songs for her album Chanson: The Space in Between, released June 2000.
Begins to work with Barb, Robb and other performers on an intermittent series of Jacques Brel shows inspired by 1998's album and also entitled Ne me quitte pas.
In April 2000, launches David Bowie-based musical cabaret, Darkness and Disgrace, at Rosemary Branch Theatre, also featuring Russell and with Barb directing. Later in the year performs a show tracing two centuries of dramatic song, Those Old and Evil Songs, at same venue, working with David and Stanley.
Appears on Radio 4 series about English political songwriters, Singing in the Wilderness.
Numerous live gigs including Sheffield Raise Your Banners festival, Barb Jungr's Café Prague shows in Brighton and London, Belper Festival, Winchester Tower Arts Centre, various gigs in the Brighton area. Pirate Jenny's becomes intermittent for a while due to uncertainties at the Vortex but normal service is restored by the end of 2000.
In November 2000 Des takes his first non-musical full-time job for many years at the Ramblers' Association.
An extended run of Darkness and Disgrace at the Rosemary Branch in January 2001 leads to various bookings for the show, a radio appearance, great excitement from the Bowie fan network and, eventually, a nod of approval from David Bowie himself. In August the show relocates to the Edinburgh Fringe, running for two weeks at the Pleasance Dome.
In February and March, Des performs and also hosts some performances at the Bread & Roses Magnificent 7 of English Chanson series.
In January 2002, Des presents a number of new songs for the Testing Times project together for the first time in a short season at the Rosemary Branch. In February, two songs by Des, including a translation of a song by Flemish songwriter Wannes van de Velde, appear on 9x2, a compilation album of English chanson, launched at a gig at the Bush Hall. Songwriting for the new album project continues throughout the year and is finally completed in early December.
An enhanced and much more theatrical version of Darkness and Disgrace runs at the Pentameters Theatre, Hampstead, London during February 2003. Recording plans are revised to meet the demand for a recording of the show, which is finally released as a CD in November. Des marks the 25th anniversary of the death of Jacques Brel by contributing to a BBC Radio 4 documentary, broadcast in July, appearing in a show of Brel songs in Whitby in August and in a Pirate Jenny's special in December with Barb Jungr and Robb Johnson. Other gigs include two appearances at the Drill Hall, London WC2, as part of Irregular Records English chanson seasons, and in the international cabaret season at Walton on Thames.
In 2004 Des appears singing Brel songs at New Greenham Arts, Newbury. Pirate Jenny's finishes its run at the Vortex when that venue closes, with a show featuring Kate and Mike Westbrook, who appeared at the first PJ's. From September the club transfers to the the Drill Hall 2 in Central London for a series of sell-out nights, marking its tenth anniversary in December. For the autumn season, Des and David Harrod present four special themed sets featuring Brecht songs, original songs, French songs and English chanson.
Pirate Jenny's continues in 2005, once again with most shows sold out. Des also appears at the Tolpuddle Festival, New Greenham Arts and the Old Town Hall, Hemel Hempstead. In September, his version of veteran English chansonnier Leon Rosselson's 'Jackboot Democrats' appears on a tribute compilation, And they all sang Rosselsongs. At the same session, recordings for new solo album Testing Times finally begin.

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This chronology is updated annually. Latest news is highlighted on the home page, while forthcoming gigs, new recordings, the current Pirate Jenny programme and additions to the press cuttings file are added to the appropriate pages on a regular basis: see the menu at the top of the page.

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