In memory of Inga Maria – the Keeley Moss interview

Retracing Steps: Keeley Moss, on the trail of German tourist Inga Maria Hauser at Preston railway station

It’s fair to say that prolific Dublin singer-songwriter and blogger Keeley Moss is loving the amount of international airplay she’s getting right now, not least on national radio in Britain and in her Irish homeland, and on influential online stations in America.

While that’s in no small part down to her sheer will-power, determination and charm, her growing reputation for songcraft cannot be overlooked, her Brave Warrior EP (out digitally for now, with a physical release planned for autumn) lead track ‘The Glitter and the Glue’ described as a ‘blistering buffet of psychedelic rock, post-punk and the more frantic end of the dreampop spectrum’. 

What’s more, for Keeley, the latest signing to Dimple Discs – the London label founded by Undertones guitarist Damian O’Neill – the subject matter is unique, all four songs on that EP and the LP set to follow next year all concerning the harrowing unsolved murder of Inga Maria Hauser, a German tourist who went missing in Northern Ireland in 1988, aged just 18.

And alongside her music, for the past five years my interviewee has published a blog with a devoted global following, The Keeley Chronicles, documenting the many facets of a mystifying, sad case, while determined to correct falsely published details of the teenage victim’s life and piece together what really happened in her final days.

Working in close quarters with Northern Irish police, senior politicians and legal representatives in concerted efforts to advance and resolve a notorious case, Keeley remains determined to keep Inga Maria’s memory alive. And as she put it, “Inga is the subject of everything I write. From the moment I first read about her, her cause became a burning obsession. Since that day I haven’t written a song about anyone or anything else. I consider myself a concept artist, and my purpose is to give Inga a voice.”

Performing and recording under her first name, that side of the story commenced last October, debut single ‘Last Words’ topping Dublin’s Newstalk FM airplay chart and playlisted by RTE Radio 1 and 8Radio, going on to attract radio support in multiple countries and ending up in various end of year best of polls. What’s more, this eloquent frontwoman was also the subject of full-page articles in the Belfast Telegraph and Derry Post newspapers, unheard of for an indie artist after a first release.

And that interest has continued with her latest release, as was plain on checking her online updates and catching the vocalist and guitarist at home in Dublin, first mentioning ongoing airplay on BBC 6 Music’s Steve Lamacq show, this rising star getting good traction on both sides of the Irish Sea.

“Ah yeah – traction is not in short supply!”

I get the impression you’re a great one for all things social media.

“That’s right, I’m a Gemini and a very communicative person, so social media is tailor-made for a kind of motormouth like myself! With most musicians – and I’ve spent my life studying musicians, bands and various aspects of music and the music business – one common feature I’ve noted has been their taciturnity, their reluctance to interviews, generally. But I love interviews! And they’re getting longer and longer. That’s advance warning!”

A discussion followed about the bane of my interviewing life – transcription. But I’d already sussed this was likely to be another epic conversation requiring lots of time to get the words on the screen. And it turns out it’s a problem for Keeley too, having spent most of her time spent ‘on the other side of the microphone’, not least working on a book about Inga Maria’s Hauser’s case.  

But first, how did she you end up on the radar of Damian O’Neill’s recently-established London label?

“Well … prior to the pandemic, a previous band had broken up and I had a whole new batch of songs and this very distinct vision of what I wanted to do, sonically and in terms of the concept behind the subject matter. I set about trying to find collaborators, found my producer, Alan Maguire, gradually found my bandmates, and by January 2020 had the nascent line-up in place.

“We rehearsed up until March, played the first of six gigs booked, then … boom! The pandemic struck, and four days after our first gig, Ireland was plunged into lockdown. And we’ve had the most severe lockdown in all of Europe. I’d prepared the video for the first single, ‘Last Words’, had the song ready to go, but didn’t feel I could release it when I couldn’t play live. So I paused for six months, waiting for the pandemic to lapse.

“Of course, it has never stopped wreaking havoc though, and I eventually decided I was just going to go for it, releasing this material without any recourse as to playing live. That was quite daunting, having never been in that position before. I released that in October 2020, really unsure of the response I’d receive. It’s a very unusual song, everything about it unprecedented. But the response was instantaneous at radio level in Ireland, and it received four solid months of airplay.

“During that time, I was running an entire press campaign from my basement flat, effectively acting as my own record company, radio plugging and designing videos, writing the songs, the only band member in the studio. I found myself flat out working seven days a week, 18 hours a day.

“Then in February the time came to release follow-up single, ‘The Glitter and the Glue’, and the same happened – loads of airplay and a really positive reaction, including airplay overseas, even though I didn’t have time to service those stations.

“I’m rather foolish in that I insist on writing emails to each person from scratch – no cutting and pasting. A nice, honourable thing to do that people appreciate, but made me even more wrecked. By springtime, I really needed help, but was so busy working that I was a bit myopic, losing sight while lasering in on a goal. Fortunately, help was at hand, my efforts alerting Dimple Discs, (Damian’s namesake and label co-founder) Brian O’Neill making contact on a very natural level, a lovely way for a bond to be built. We had rapport on a mutual music-lover level long before anything else came into the fray.

“I hadn’t sent the material I was working on for two years to any label, and when Brian and Dimple Discs made a formal approach at the end of April, I knew in my heart this was the only label I wanted to sign to, because of the calibre of artists they work with and the fact that the people involved are steeped in music industry experience but more importantly for me steeped in real indie values. I knew this was going to be the right home for me. It was very natural, very organic. They contacted me, but it was something that came about as the result of me hurtling about the internet in a sort of Wile E. Coyote fashion.”

While ‘The Glitter and the Glue’ has got most of the recent airplay, it’s interesting you mention ‘Last Words’, which I hadn’t realised was the first single. I think I like that the most of the four songs on the EP, clawed in by those subtle hooks. There’s a bit of a Blondie feel there, and some Johnny Marr-like guitar, but there’s nothing formulaic about it. Similarly, ‘Never Here, Always There’ also impresses. I could hear Neil Arthur tackling that with Blancmange in more recent years.

Is it right that these tracks were put together at Darklands Audio, where fellow Dublin outfit Fontaines DC started out recording the songs that would end up on their debut LP?

“Actually, these songs were recorded at Alan Maguire’s studio, but I’ve been recording a second EP at Darklands Audio. Actually, I’m currently recording simultaneously two sets of recordings at different studios – working on two albums of material at one and an EP at the other!”

Keeley was Dublin born and bred, telling me, “I’ve lived here pretty much all my life, all over Dublin – I’ve had a very nomadic lifestyle, but within the city. I’ve moved 28 times!”. And yet, I put it to her, she seems far too young for that eclectic taste she has in all things indie and beyond. How’s that?

“When I was growing up, I didn’t have any guiding hand in terms of a figure that would point the way to the good stuff. I was really adrift until a chance encounter at a thing called the Gaeltacht, like a summer camp for learning the Irish language. I could speak no more of the language after leaving than when I arrived but ended up having one of the two most significant experiences of my life – through a boy a good bit older than me, I discovered The Smiths.

“That was my year zero. From that starting point I set upon devouring everything in relation to them musically and in terms of books, with one specific book really influential – Johnny Rogan’s Morrissey & Marr: The Severed Alliance. Through reading that I learned about many bands, like Joy Division – who I’d never heard of – and through them, New Order. It was a wonderful way for the entire history of independent music to unfold before my eyes and ears.

“Suddenly, I was let loose in this sonic supermarket where I could roam the aisles and purloin all manner of wondrous sounds. From there, a lot of it came from mainlining books – I’ve always been obsessed with music, with bands, and the music industry. And around the time I started to get into music I had that real enthusiasm, probably more so than any musician I’ve ever known. For others, more or less, their interest begins and ends with the music. For me it runs deeper.

“I was probably the only 14-year-old who would be rivetted reading about Richard Boon, Geoff Travis and Alan McGee! I was really interested in the culture behind the labels and the bands I loved. And there was something I was attracted to in the outsider bands and awkward, difficult artists – people like New Order as they were under the tutelage of Rob Gretton, The Smiths, the Sex Pistols …”

And on your side of the Irish Sea, Microdisney.

“Absolutely, Microdisney are my favourite Irish band of all time. I was a huge fan from the moment I bought a compilation album, Big Sleeping House, taking a punt on a band of whom I hadn’t heard any of their music. I saw it in a record shop, thought, ‘I’m having that!’, bought it, brought it home and fell in love with it. I think what really appealed was the fact that here were songwriters in Sean (O’Hagan) and Cathal (Coughlan) who dared to write outside the realm of conventional, mainstream topics and subject matter. And that’s something very much so with Morrissey and Marr, and something I believe I’ve continued in my own songwriting.

“For example, if you look at ‘Last Words’, for a debut single it’s a real mission statement. There’s a psychedelic fuzz guitar break in the middle and a Smithsian arpeggio towards the end, and it’s a really odd kind of krautrockesque kind of lurching, grooving motoric rhythm. Then there’s the lyrics, which … when I sat down to write these songs, all I had on my mind was one person, the same person and the same theme and the same topic I’ve had on my mind every day and every night for the last five years. That is Inga Maria Hauser.”

At this point we got on to Inga’s link with my adopted Lancashire patch, where it turns out Keeley has visited as part of her research.

“I’ve visited Preston twice as part of my mission to retrace Inga’s steps, and spent time at the train station, specifically because it was where Inga began the last day of her life in Preston train station, catching a connecting train to take her to Inverness in the early hours of April 6th, 1988.

“Ever since coming upon Inga’s case back in 2016 I became totally fascinated by the circumstances of the case and my two key interests in life had always been music and true crime, ever since I was a child. And I felt so moved and inspired by Inga and her story, I felt such an urge to get involved and try and do all I could.

“The case had been dormant for a number of years prior to commencing the writing of The Keeley Chronicles, and I wasn’t in any way deterred by that. I thought this is the most important thing I’ve ever read about, so just give it gusto and approach it with pride and passion, and after researching Inga’s case, I published part one of the blog, which to my amazement went viral on the first day in 2016.

“To me it was a logical step to want to bring Inga and her story into my sonic field and start to write about her. It was all I was thinking about, so it was all I wanted to write about. To pool and fuse the fields of music and true crime together, something I believe has never been done before. No one has made an album about a murder victim, certainly never composed an entire body of work in honour of and about a murder victim and a murder case. But that’s what I’m determined to do, that’s what I’m doing, and that’s what I’m going to do.”  

Will any of the tracks on this EP also feature on the LP?

“That’s a really good question. The thing is, I write so many songs. I don’t know how, because I have no time, but I’m incredibly prolific. The EP I’ve recorded at Darklands involves four stand-alone tracks, then there’s two albums of material I’ve recorded at Alan’s studio, again stand-alone, and there’s the Brave Warrior EP. So to assemble a cohesive album out of this and omit so many songs is going to be incredibly difficult. Some difficult decisions are going to have to be made.

“Record companies are always keen to include songs that are effectively the bedrock of an artist’s popularity, so it would make sense to include songs from Brave Warrior. However, the sheer amount of songs I have and the quality of the unreleased material I’m working on makes it very difficult.

“I very much have a storyline and an arc I’m trying to work towards, so the songs that convey the story in as linear a fashion as possible are probably going to be the ones. But it’s a question of how to assemble it … a happy headache to have. It reminds me in the football world when managers talk about an embarrassment of riches!”

What was it that made you sit up and take notice when you heard Inga’s heart-breaking story?

“In one sense I’ve spent the last five years trying to get to the bottom of that – my own obsession, passion and devotion for this cause. There are a number of reasons I can point to. At the time I was drawn to this case, I was in an emotional space in my life where I had no faith in giving my heart to anyone in the outside world in terms of the romantic realm or at a loving level. So I think I had that drive and desire in an underlying way that I could try to devote to a cause. And something about Inga and her case just screamed at me from the moment I read about her.

“It’s such a singular case and unique situation, the only incident of a sexually-motivated murder of a tourist in Northern Ireland ever. It was the first case of its kind, and there’s not been any other – fortunately – sexually-motivated murder of a tourist in Northern Ireland since.

“I was struck by that and the fact that Northern Ireland at that time was in the grip of a vicious conflict that had raged for 20 years and acted as a deterrent to any would-be holidaymaker or tourist that would consider visiting, yet Inga had the bravery and some might say defiant courage to actually travel on her own to this war-torn region at the age of 18, when she’d never been away from home without her parents before. I found that incredibly brave and incredibly valiant.

“And the fact that she sailed there. To me, that’s an almost romantic element – here’s someone, almost a discoverer or explorer, daring to dream. So there was something about the idealism I identified in Inga that really moved me and appealed to me and that I identified with as a very singular, determined person.

“And the time that it happened – there’s something about that time I find fascinating. Reading about Inga’s story and singing about her and immersing myself in it, particularly that last week of her life when she was travelling all over the UK. It almost felt like it belonged to a world that is gone, this fenced-off space getting ever more distant the further we move into the future. There’s just something on an emotional level I find bittersweetly beautiful and heartrending. The past is getting more and more distant, and the moment inga had during that last week of her life, the happiest of her life. I’m absolutely fascinated by and determined to try and preserve and reclaim as many of those moments from the dustbin of history as possible.

“That’s why over the last five years I’ve tried to track down – and have succeeded – all sorts of people. For example, one person I managed to track down after many months – I wanted to speak to someone with an intimate knowledge of the Scottish railway network so I could establish and map Inga’s exact journey to the minute – was the man who actually programmed the train schedules on the day Inga was in Scotland, on April 6th 1988.”

Inga Maria packed a lot into her UK visit, making her way from the family home in Munich to sail over from the Hook of Holland to Harwich on the last day of March 1988, making her way to London on Good Friday, April 1st, sight-seeing in the capital before moving on to Oxford that Bank Holiday Monday, leaving the following day, stopping at Cambridge and Liverpool before reaching Preston and taking the sleeper to Inverness, arriving in time for breakfast. Further stops followed in Glasgow then Ayr for a connection to Stranraer, catching a 7pm ferry to Northern Ireland, docking at Larne at 9.40pm.

I totally relate to her busy timetable, this post office worker and fanzine writer that week embarking on his own debut overseas experience (give or take a school trip to Boulogne), joining the band I ‘mismanaged’ on holiday in the Algarve, Portugal. According to my diary, the night Inga Maria – a school year older – sailed to England, I made my live bow of sorts, singing backing vocals on covers of Violent Femmes’ ‘Sweet Misery Blues’ and The Kinks’ ‘Sunny Afternoon’ at Harry’s Bar, Albufeira, lots of free drinks coming our way from the clientele, a resident Scots singer only too happy to let us play during his breaks.

We left Faro late the next morning and were back in Guildford by 3pm, reaching my village local a tad too late that evening to catch two friends’ farewell drinks before they left for Sydney and a working holiday as jackaroos on an Aussie outback ranch, my own world travels still two and a half years and lots of saving ahead.

Saturday night involved Milford’s Red Lion, my band supporting the Piccadilly Mudmen, missing out on Brighton bands Blow Up and 14 Iced Bears at Aldershot’s Buzz Club. And a heavy weekend continued at the Brit in Guildford on Sunday night, then suffering Aldershot’s ‘appalling’ Monday afternoon 1-0 Division Three home defeat to Southend United before an Easter family do at home, my Nan and Aunt and lots of siblings visiting, bailing out early eve to see ‘50s rock’n’rollers The Hog Valley Stompers at Pew’s Wine Bar on another memorable night.

Inevitable ‘back to work blues’ followed on Tuesday, but I was focused on our Wednesday night gig at The Star in Guildford, where The Stranglers made their live debut 14 years earlier, a sell-out crowd of 99 raising £135 for charity on the second night that week I passed the milkman on his rounds as I sneaked back home in the early hours.

By then, I desperately needed – and got – a night in ahead of the next punishing weekend, that Saturday involving the Grand National (won by Rhyme’n’Reason), FA Cup semi-finals (Wimbledon beating Luton at White Hart Lane, Liverpool beating Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough) and a top night at Hampton Court’s Jolly Boatman, the bass pumping as I peered through the sweet-smelling fug at quality Handsworth reggae outfit Israel Movements. And in my case – a third of the way through the 67 gigs I reckon I saw that year – I had nothing but hangovers and depleted bank balances to worry about, stacking up life memories, as opposed to the hell Inga Maria encountered across the water, 475 miles away, as Keeley explained.

“Immediately on docking, Inga disappeared, among the most mystifying aspects of the case. Larne ferry terminal is a very small place, somewhere I’ve visited many times in the course of my research and has the same design and layout as it had in 1988, having opened in 1985. There are only two ways in and out – and only one for foot passengers disembarking – out of the front door or towards the railway station at the harbour, which is within the ferry building.  

“It’s not as if she had to go for a lengthy walk or cross the town. She was there, within this building, and the walk from where the foot passengers alight is less than one minute. It’s approximately 40 seconds from there to the train. Now, there was a train due, Inga had a valid rail ticket – her InterRail pass – and she loved to travel by train, and was planning to get the train to Belfast, then on to Dublin.

“Now, the police are adamant that Inga never made it as far as the railway platform, so she has to have gone out of the front door. But no witnesses saw Inga getting off the ferry, no witnesses have ever been able to place her in Larne, and there are no reports of the vehicle that has to have transported Inga. She has to have left the ferry as a foot passenger and boarded some vehicle to have left Larne in order to make it to Ballypatrick Forest, one hour’s drive away, a very distant and remote place in the exact opposite direction to where she intended to travel.

“So there are lots of strange features about this in terms of why Inga took a lift when she had no reason to do so, and why she ended up so far in the opposite direction from that to which she had intended to travel.

“On a purely personal level, I find it incredibly sad and tragic and harrowing that this beautiful, artistic, vibrant young woman – just setting off on her journey through life – would find herself upon arriving in what was the land of her dreams and the country she most wanted to visit according to her Mum and Inga’s own diary entries, that within an hour of arrival she would end up murdered, and murdered in such a way that displayed all the callousness of her killers, subjected to such an horrendous ordeal and such a degree of overkill, then left out in the elements, completely uncared for, unattended  to, not covered up in any way whatsoever, left with a broken neck and a brain haemorrhage, all her belongings strewn around her in such a deviously disrespectful, horrendous manner. It’s the saddest and the scariest story I’ve ever known.”

How old would you have been then?

“I wasn’t conscious of anything in terms of the world and of life, I was just a babe in arms. But when I look back at the past, I’m always trying to gain more of an insight into how things were back then, and I’m fascinated by that time, maybe because I didn’t live through it and wasn’t able to see the world through adult eyes.”

I get that. I’m the same with 1967 and the world I arrived in, discussion following about all the great records that landed that year and my own fascination and interest with that era. Is there a day-job running alongside all this research, writing and composing for Keeley?

“Well, what I do is make music and write on behalf of Inga in terms of the Chronicles. That’s what I do. I’ve had all sorts of jobs in the past – I’ve worked in libraries and bookstores and record shops, done all sorts of things. But these are the two things I’m solidly …”

All-consuming passions?

“Yes! Absolutely.”

With such a great response to her debut recordings, there are also live shows at post-pandemic restrictions planning stages, notably a first Dublin headline gig on October 13th in the main room in Whelan’s, with the support act label-mate Dragon Welding, the well-received side-project of Wolfhounds guitarist Andy Golding, and WriteWyattUK interviewee Eileen Gogan as DJ on the night.

Keeley’s band are also booked to play Dublin Quays Festival in August and are set to make their UK bow on December 9th at The Lexington, Islington, North London, on a Dimple Discs showcase bill, something she’s also looking forward to. There’s the hope of regional shows elsewhere in the UK too.

“The live set is a very emotional and immersive experience, with all the songs about Inga, trying to conjure up an effect. And to play those songs in places like Preston, Inverness and Stranraer would give an extra resonance, definitely.” 

By that point, time was against us both, Keeley telling me, “I could talk the legs off a horse, so thank you for rolling with my verbal voyage!”.

I added that hopefully something will come of all her efforts though, someone out there with that tiny piece of information or background detail needed to finally bring justice and closure for Inga Maria Hauser and her family.

“I’m so glad you said that. Back in 2018, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) had a targeted campaign, and part of their strategy was to target Scotland. Inga had encounters there that have not been learned about to the extent that would be helpful. There are people out there, perhaps unbeknown to themselves, who had encounters with Inga on her travels through England and Scotland who have not ever come forward.

“It would be of huge significance to the investigation were those people to come forward. I’m aware this is very much a needle in a haystack, but Inga’s case has taken so many twists and turns over the last three decades, and anything is possible. There is always the potential for a Eureka moment, involving people who genuinely encountered her in England and Scotland. It would be wonderful if through all the publicity generated, one of those people were willing or could come forward and approach the PSNI.

“Also, there were 422 people on board the Galloway Princess the night Inga arrived in Larne, and only two people claim to have seen her, those witness reports verified. So we have a situation where we have a strikingly beautiful, very distinctive-looking young woman on her own, wandering around a ferry, and it’s a fact that inga was walking around – as the witnesses reported – yet no one else has claimed to have seen her. All very strange, and questions still need to be asked.”

For more about the Inga Maria Hauser case, check out The Keeley Chronicles website. And to check out and purchase Keeley’s debut EP, Brave Warrior, head here, ‘The Glitter and The Glue’ available for immediate download with all orders.

About writewyattuk

A freelance writer and family man being swept along on a wave of advanced technology, but somehow clinging on to reality. It's only a matter of time ... A highly-motivated scribbler with a background in journalism, business and life itself. Away from the features, interviews and reviews you see here, I tackle novels, short stories, copywriting, ghost-writing, plus TV, radio and film scripts for adults and children. I'm also available for assignments and write/research for magazines, newspapers, press releases and webpages on a vast range of subjects. You can also follow me on Facebook via https://www.facebook.com/writewyattuk/ and on Twitter via @writewyattuk. Legally speaking, all content of this blog (unless otherwise stated) is the intellectual property of Malcolm Wyatt and may only be reproduced with permission.
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