R. Stevie Moore

R Stevie Moore - November 2012

R Stevie Moore Session
Violitionist Sessions

Session Date: October 11, 2012
Posting Date: November 19, 2012
Artist Hometown: Nashville, TN
Links: RStevieMoore.com, Bandcamp
Recorded by: Michael Briggs

I Like To Stay Home
Conflict Of Interest
ONE: Considering the titanic size of your back catalog, how do you decide which songs to perform in your live shows?
R. Stevie Moore: A common question, yet it’s not as complicated as it sounds. We just pick enough to do and we’re done. It’s not like it takes forever to filter a hundred songs to fifty, down to thirty, down to twenty— it’s not that way, and consequently, we pretty much know. I mean, I have a band that has favorites, and I’m all down with whatever they choose, almost always. I may have different…opinions at other times, but, again, it’s not as complicated as it sounds. Most people take that different viewpoint, like, ‘You guys must really be freaking out!’ because, you know…making a choice. ‘We can’t make a choice! I guess, maybe let’s just break up the band!’ You know? It’s not complicated at all. And we try to do a little bit of everything. I was just telling him, this little thing that we just did was so refreshing, because it’s so underground and non-commercial mainstream, or…it’s not even indie, it’s just, you know, it’s ‘outsider’ or whatever you want to call it. But my live act is virtually just a hard rock band. It’s not punk, it’s not metal, but it’s loud and it’s hard, you know? And I shred my vocals screaming so much, and it’s only thing I know how to do in that situation. I can’t, kind of like, back off on it…or, I can. But a lot of fans get disappointed because it’s a little narrow, just doing, you know…the whole set’s pretty, I mean, it’s loud and soft and fast and slow, but it’s still just a hard rock band as opposed to like what we just did now. You know, I hate ‘laptop bands,’ and guys that do all this mixing on the stage. Like that’s really fun to watch, you know. That’s ridiculous to me. I’ll like, listen to that kind of music, but there’s fans that wish I’d do a little of that. I also…Our set is multi-faceted, in that we do five songs, it rises to a climax, almost every show we do— if it’s valid, if it’s worthy of this, and then I say, after five songs— it stops, it’s quiet, audience screams, and I say, ‘Thanks for having us. Goodnight!’ and we leave the stage. And people freak out. Because it’s either, ‘You didn’t play long enough! I didn’t get my money’s worth!’ or ‘This is so good, you can’t just stop!’ or they’re just scratching their heads. So, it’s a great incentive, it’s a device almost, a theatrical device to get that ‘Uh! Uh! Uh!’ It’s like they’re calling for an encore, but at the beginning of the set! So, then I come back out for a second set all by myself. I play a little dumb drums, by myself, like an idiot. I do a little crash cymbal, stand up, and they’re like, ‘YAY!’ Then I march over to a keyboard and do something dumb there, and they’re going, ‘GENIUS! YAY!’ Then I’ll grab the guitar and do a little bit of a solo thing, just for a change of pace from the hard rock set. I do that, and I say, ‘End of Act II. Intermission.’ I leave the stage, and then the band comes back and we do another whole five, six song set. So, it’s a great value, and makes it seem like the set’s three hours long.
TWO: Since you started touring for the first time in 2011, how have you adjusted to life on the road?
R. Stevie: Not very well, at my age. Yeah, I’ve always been…I’ve done gigs sporadically, but never toured. Never one-nighter, one-nighter, one-nighter, one-nighters, and the long 8-hour drives. It’s just killer. I’m trying my best to persevere, but it’s difficult. And, you know, it saddens me to think that my— that the clock is ticking, and I just can’t— like, next year, they’re saying, ‘That’s going to be the year!’ Already we’re like fascinated because we’re booking in Moscow, in Warsaw and Helsinki, and that’s— What could be better than that, right? And, you know, they’re great money, great crowds, they’re paying for all the plane. We don’t have to worry about that all that crap…of touring. And you come back home! And you’ve made your mark. But we’re still at the bottom rungs of the ladder where we have to accept gigs at smoky beer dives, you know? And then also, festivals, which is…that’s the ultimate. We’ve been doing festivals, Primavera, and Roskilde in Denmark. I went to Europe three times last year. So, I went from no tour to globetrotting! And it’s been amazing. And I’ve had this big following that’s growing and growing, as the grandfather of DIY home-taping and stuff, and people— there’s all different generations. Ones that have been following me since the cassette days in the ‘80s, and a lot of new kids that know all about me. I’m this elder statesman, you know? And I’m having a blast. I do a lot of spoken word. I love doing that. In the middle of our set, you know? Profound Dada nonsense, spoken word poetry and stuff…I just love it.
DJ: How has the touring life affected your musical output?
R. Stevie: Well, that’s another thing. I recorded so much for so long, I’m blessed with having this amazing back catalog of my own stuff, which is fresh and brand new to those who haven’t heard it. And a lot of people love the old stuff better, you know? I’m born and raised in Nashville, and that’s what started my home, one-man-band stuff, and that stuff is outrageous in its unique individuality, and then I had to get out of Nashville. Nothing happening there. I moved to New Jersey, north New Jersey, near New York City, right as punk and New Wave started exploding. And the struggles continued, but I still recorded a lot. Decades of recording. So, now…what was the question? Touring doesn’t affect writing and recording, because I hardly do it anymore, and I don’t have to. That’s kind of cool, you know? It’s a relief to not feel pressured to come up with something new. And I’ve been— plus my philosophy of diversity is such that I don’t need to worry about fitting into a market, you know, of pop, power pop or punk or weirdo Captain Beefheart chaos. I can do it all, and I’ve always loved doing it all. But, biggest news now, too, is I’m starting to become friends with name celebrities in the music world, people I respect, and we’ve done a lot of collaborations. People like Jad Fair, Mike Watt, and the list is endless. Tim Burgess of The Charlatans, but the big news— I’m going to Jason Faulkner’s Hollywood home to record a brand-new album, first few weeks of November, with him. I’m just stoked about that. He’s another power pop wunderkind and he also has a great imagination and open mind, to where we’re just going to roll tape and start recording, and write new songs on the spot. I’ve also got tons of shards of lyrics and chord progressions, let’s do some cut and paste on Pro Tools, and also again I have the luxury of this great back catalog to choose songs from. So, that’s going to be pressure time, I’m going to have a lot of them and I’m going to have a blast doing it. I love the guy, and…who knows. That whole game, too. When you come up with something, what do you do? You shop for labels. Good, cool independent labels, or you know, forget the majors. They don’t exist anymore, really. You don’t want to be on a major unless you’re Britney Spears or Bon Jovi, that kind of stuff.
JR Thomason: Also, I would say that touring has affected recording in the sense that we’ve made some recordings on the road. This, I guess, qualifies as a road recording, even though it’s my hometown, though I don’t live here anymore. Also, we did a few days of tracking in Köln, Germany, to be edited down to be made into a record by R. Stevie. A lot of improvisation and stuff—
R. Stevie: Yeah. I’m sort of into cut-and-paste, too. Let’s capture thirty seconds of something and then deal with it later, as opposed to ‘We need a brand new, perfect song, three and half minutes, verse chorus verse chorus refrain’…you know, we could do that, too. I’m not against that, but that requires a lot of effort and pre-planning. But I’m all about experimentation. More than ever.
JR: We recorded in Denton about a year ago with JC Collins, Justin Collins…and it was three or four tunes, rock tunes, you know—
R. Stevie: That was different. That was redoing our stage act—
JR: But there was also two or three just pure improvisational tracks. Maybe as many improv tracks as…so, it’s creative output. It’s stuff that is being reinterpreted or it wasn’t there before, because it’s improvised, so I think there’s probably quite a few recordings that you’ve made in the last year since your started touring? And you did Please Leave since—
R. Stevie: Yeah, bits and pieces. It’s compiled, you know. But it’s good to have the luxury of being able to do anything and everything we want. And I don’t have a reputation to uphold except, you know, chaos itself. And I’m loving it.
THREE: Do you ever get frustrated by the ‘outsider artist’ label that people attach to your music?
R. Stevie: I do, because I’m a little of both. I have the talents of arranging and…you know, I was weaned on Beatles, Beach Boys, Zappa, Hendrix…Bowie, you know, and not what you hear these days with all of these stupid bands. The indie— indie rock! Where they have…I mean, you’re always going to have to have indie rock bands for that audience, and they love it. It’s all tunnel vision. Every song sounds the same by every indie rock band. But, what was the question?
JR: Do you want to be labeled, or do you want be labeled ‘outsider’—
R. Stevie: Oh, the ‘outsider’ thing, yeah! So, that’s why…I mean, we have your indie rock bands, this week’s model, but then we also have that ‘outsider’ thing, with the Daniel Johnstons and the Wesley Willises, and Jandek, and I’m all with that stuff, too. I mean, I love bad music, amateur music, but I really don’t belong in there. And yet, I do. I have one little— one toe in the water of that stuff, but those guys have no real abilities. They can’t sit down and compose a mock-Beethoven concerto and stuff. They’re just not into that. Or heavy hip hop. I love the hip hop stuff, I love Odd Future and Tyler and all this stuff that’s just really— Frank Ocean, that’s a big influence. But, I mean, everything is an influence, and I put forth the effort to show. Whether I can do it well or not, it doesn’t matter. My music is like a mixtape. It’s always been like that. So, the outsider thing is like a curiosity only. These guys, I don’t know why…All of these people that have a little bit of…you know, a screw loose here and there, and they’re genuine, and they’re cool in what they do, but that’s, that has nothing to do with Pet Sounds, or Sgt. Pepper’s, and that’s where I strive, so that’s not ‘outsider’ at all.
JR: It’s just the home recording thing that gets the ‘outsider’ label. What, because you don’t go to a major studio, you’re like…kind of more weird than you really are? They’re just really good— there’s some strange R. Stevie Moore songs out there. A lot. I mean…but, I don’t know, is Captain Beefheart an ‘outsider’ artist? I don’t know, I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone call him that.
R. Stevie: And yet everybody knows he certainly is! It’s like free jazz and stuff.
JR: Well, right, but the thing about ‘outsider artist’ is so specific to people who are home recorded, and the music’s kind of difficult to…maybe, appreciate, so ‘outsider artist’ is just a weird term.
R. Stevie: And related to that, I’m constantly on this crusade of stop calling me lo-fi, because we’re beyond ‘fi.’ Everybody, every kid is on digital fucking computers, so what is ‘fi,’ or ‘fidelity?’ My old stuff is hissy, it has a lot of muddiness to it or noises where normally you’d say, ‘Ok, wait. Get that little noise out of there! Delete it!’ you know? But the lo-fi thing means nothing to me, because I grew up on Beatles bootlegs, and we never complained about, ‘Huh! This doesn’t sound as good as their studio records!’ Come on! How stupid are we?! I kind of…DIY is it. Lo-fi means nothing to me, and I’m having to wear this nametag. And so be it, if that’s what they call it, but I mean, you don’t need to sound like Madonna and 48,000 tracks, you know, with DJ remixes and all— we’re all beyond that. One of my favorite recording machines is a little hand-held MP3…you know, like a dictation machine. I use it for song ideas, I use it to capture sound effects, ambience. I use it to do spoken word off the top of my head. And I release that stuff! It’s not like— well, and of course that’s how my whole career is. There’s no outtakes. There’s no, ‘Well, here’s my album, but over here is a shelf of songs that didn’t make the album because they’re not good enough, they sound bad.’ None of that applies to me. I’m a diarist of sound. It’s a diary of my life. And I love that kind of stuff. Always have, always will. It’s not…if that’s not part of your taste, move on! I feel like I’m an ultimate fan kind of artist, because fans love that stuff. You know, if you have a hero, you’d love getting any tapes, whether it’s music or not! Spoken…so, it’s not ‘fi’ at all. It’s sound. I’m into sound, not ‘fi.’
– Interview and transcription by Dale Jones