Thursday, January 13, 2011

John Moore - The Interview

In an effort to rescue features I've done that now reside on "questionable" websites - the process of migrating over those deemed worthy enough to preserve has been instituted. Here is one I did on iconic rock legend (and writer) John Moore. Originally conducted nearly three years ago, the information contained here are no less timely (or timeless) as it is today. Here then is my

John Moore - The Interview (originally presented, March 2008)

John Moore and I have a historical connection between us. Nothing to do with one of our ancestors executing the others or anything like that. Something a bit more recent, but still solidly rooting in those "yesterdays".

The year was 1990 (or 91) - I was a keyboard player at the time - and ran an advert in the Village Voice looking to join a band, and I listed The Jesus & Mary Chain as one of my influences (which could have been perceived as odd - coming from a keyboard player, as they were and still are guitar band) - but anyway - I get a call from a fellow who says his name is John Moore and that he is putting together a band. The point he stressed at the time was he would be taking this band on a tour of England very soon. Although I was thrilled at the possiblity of joining (I suppose some kind of audition would have been necessary) - I had to decline the opportunity as I had just started a day job - that I couldn’t leave (having already been a layabout for many months and depleted all my savings). Why was I wasting peoples time running adverts to be in bands then? Well, I eventually did join another band that fit my schedule better - but I always regretted not at least pursuing this opportunity.

Later on that year John brought his band to New York - and played a club at that time called Beowulf. The club can be seen in the Sonic Youth video for "Dirty Boots". It was a great venue and showcase for all the hippest bands at the time. I also bought his current CD out at that point in time and though John and his band put on a sizzling show.

But that was then and this is now. Its time to catch up with John and find out the answers to all the burning questions I’ve had for the better part of the last two decades. Here then, is the John Moore interview, version 2008.

You’ve had a varied and most interesting career, John. Showing yourself to be a talented musician who plays a number of different instruments. Guitar, drums, piano, harmonica and bowed saw (have I missed any?) Which would you call your first love? Which do you enjoy playing the most?

Well of course, it has to be the guitar. That’s what I learnt to play first – and spent most of my childhood dreaming about.

The drums was a happy accident, and to say I ’played’ them is quite unfair to drummers. I stood near them and beat them occasionally. I love the saw for its sound, simplicity, portability, and the endless amusing conversations it has given me with airline officials who are not keen on me taking it on a flight.

On the internet, in the place where one lists their influences - you have your own back catalogue. Do you think you sound like anyone else? Ever have? Who would you actually list as a musical influence?

These days I don’t think I sound like anybody else. I have many influences – which showed up far more obviously at the beginning. Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley…all the groups you’d expect, Lou Reed, Leonard Cohen…I never thought I sounded like Billy Idol though…I was trying to sound like Alan Vega…but then again, he probably was as well.

You are credited with playing the drums on The Jesus & Mary Chain recording "Some Candy Talking". This is one of my all time fave tracks by them. A signature song that they still play to this day. Can you look back at that day’s recording session and provide any bit of info or anecdote, that has never been revealed before?

Eh – actually I don’t think I played on Some Candy Talking – I think I’d remember a little thing like that. Wouldn’t I?

When you left The MaryChain, you started your own band - John Moore & The Expressway.

It has been written that you ran up excessive bills for your record company - in travel, hotel and studio expenses. Were you caught up in the "excessive rock star" hubris and lifestyle at the time? Do you regret any of it? Or would it not have ultimately mattered in the end, however you behaved?

Absolutely, and I had a wonderful time doing it. When I Lived in London, I recorded in New York, when I moved to New York, I recorded in London. Yes it was expensive, excessive and quite ridiculous…which is what I think rock stardom is all about. There was even a special cash drawer in my manager’s office labeled ’John Moore’s Shoes.’ The only part I regret is the slight lack of sales – to have walked it like I talked it would have been nice – although I’d almost certainly have exploded.

After the release of your album "Distortion" (a record which I bought and still own, by the way) in 1990

- there is a gap of three years until you resurfaced with another project of yours called Revolution 9 in 1994.

What was going on during this three year period? Was it one for reflection and songwriting? Or were there other matters to attend to?

I think I was getting educated – not formally, just assimilating new things – rock’n’roll detox.

Did I read correctly that you started a company that imported the liquor Absinthe? That you were significantly responsible behind a revival of its manufacture and sale in the European Union in the 1990’s?

All true. I discovered Absinthe in the Czech Republic, did a lot of research, discovered it had never been made illegal in the UK, formed a company called Green Bohemia and imported then manufactured the stuff. I am now listed in encyclopedias along side Van Gogh.

Approximately four years after the release of Revolution9, you embarked on a collaborative effort with former Auteurs leader Luke Haines and singer Sarah Nixey calling the band *Black Box Recorder* . Briefly describe how this all came to be.

Luke and I were ’helping out’ a friend’s band…me playing saw on a few numbers, Luke playing guitar. Luke and I quickly became friends. We decided to make a one off noise single under the name Black Box Recorder. We decided we hated noise projects and wanted songs with tunes. Sarah Nixey was the backing vocalist in our friends band – so we helped ourselves to her as well. Musicians aren’t always nice people.

Though you, Mr. Haines and Ms Nixey have all embarked on solo careers here, there has been some talk that there is still interest in the Black Box Recorder still doing something together. Is there any possibility of this?

It is possible yes. We are all on good terms – Sarah and I of course got married and divorced – but we wouldn’t let a little thing like that stand in the way of a good record. In fact, we recorded a Christmas single together last year- just a bit of fun, but it was really nice to be back in the studio together. I think the three of us all got on really well, a good chemistry – obviously Sarah and I got on a bit better…then a bit worse…Oh you get the picture. Yes there is a good chance of further BBR activity.

[2011 Note: BBR did in fact reform for a while and did a number of one off shows]

See the video for "Facts of Life" here:
In 2005 you released a full on solo album titled "Half Awake".

Do you feel those songs accurately reflect your state of mind and lifestyle at that point in time? Are you still satisfied with the way it sounds?

Very definitely – it was the condensed outpourings of a troubled brain – I’m very proud of that record. It sounds fine to me – considering I played and recorded every note on it – recording it was a very intense lonely business. I became a hermit, lived in a boathouse and grew a beard. I did wash though.

There is talk across te blogosphere that some original 4 track recordings you still have (from your early school days) may eventually see the light of day. Can you tell me something about those recordings?

Not school days – I wouldn’t inflict those on the world. No, I am releasing…via the wonderful medium of iTunes, a collection called Floral Tributes, which is pretty much everything from the 1990s until BBR. Some of it is 4-track – but cleaned up through Logic – the recording software. There are 39 tracks – a tad self-indulgent, but that’s me, Mr Generous. Actually, I think many of them are my best work…so far, irrespective of the fact they never got released. I still like the way they sound…stripped down to the bare bones. I’d like to think that word of mouth will propel this record into the ’next Thriller’ category, and I’ll be given a knighthood and a castle somewhere. Sadly though, I doubt many people will notice this most wondrous gift to humanity.

You are also an extremely entertaining and witty writer. The articles and pieces you’ve written for the British Newspaper and website - The Guardian - are some of the best I’ve ever read. Does this kind of literary ability come easy to you? Back when you were starting out as a musician pursuing a professional career, were you also writing like this as well? Or, is this something that evolved later on? How did it come about, that you would be writing regular features for this well-read publication?

I didn’t start writing until a few years ago. The more I do it, the easier it becomes, and I really do enjoy it. It’s a new way of postponing reality…it doesn’t feel like a job, it feels like the avoidance of one. A new way of being able to stay in bed all morning.

Read a quality selection of John’s brilliantly witty blog entries (as well as loads of other info on him) here:

Lets talk about your current music.

Your song "Kisses and Scars" is a beautiful, melancholy piece. Do you find recording and sharing these innermost feelings with the world a cathartic release?

It’s quite strange that in song, I have this bleakness…an all consuming sadness, yet in real life, I’m the life and soul of the party..some would say a bloody nuisance.

On "True Intentions," the accompaniment is very sparse instrumentation. Just a strummed guitar and a harrowing harmonica in the background. Would you be satisfied releasing this as it is (a strong argument could be made that it stands alone quite well in its current state) or do you see this as more of a demo version?

I would – in fact I am releasing it in its current state. It can always be re-done with the London Symphony Orchestra and the Beatles as backing band, but I’d need them all to squeeze into my flat at 2am. I don’t think it would be possible to get the right atmosphere at Abbey Road.

The song "Philosophical Man" deals with you driving out to the countryside from London - and back again. Would the subject matter of this song also reference the same driving excursion you wrote about in one of your features "Adventures In The Potato Fields" where you wrote at one point in the harrowing overnight trek that "it might have been safer just to roll the car over in a ditch and wait upside down until dawn"?

Na, that was much later. I get out of London whenever I can.

"What Do You Want To Talk About" Is another great, confessional singer/songwriter piece. Shouldn’t you have been out at the South By Southwest media and industry orgy fest - hawking and promoting these songs?

Yes. And No.

"Cloud Roll By" continues the dreamy, lying-on-your-back staring-at-the-sky feeling - occasionally invoking thoughts of Lou Reed’s quieter passages in the seminal song "Heroin". Is day dreaming in a natural state the equivalent to the same place people try to get to when they actually take opiates?

The hypnagogic state is what it’s called. The song was written on a bus from Prague to London – hence the rolling daydreaming feel. To tell you the truth, it was written on a bus, with 24 hours of staring out of the window…and opiates.

It has been reported that a band you have worked with - Art Brut - is scheduled to headline the Two Thousand Trees Festival this coming July. Is there any chance you could make an appearance with them to play your bowed saw parts?

I’ll ring Eddie and demand it.

(The Eddie referred to here is, of course, Eddie Argos, who’s fronts that particular band).

John playing his bowed saw

Has the music you’ve made over the years attracted certain types of fans? Could you describe what a long time follower of John Moore’s music might possibly be like?

Yes, she’s seventy years old…but looks much younger, she makes a mean cup of tea, and she signs my birthday card ’Mother’.

What do you enjoy more - songwriting, performing live or adding instrumentation to other people’s music?

It’s a toss up between the first two. Songwriting is unbelievable when you know you’re onto something. Playing live is great when everything’s working properly, sound, atmosphere, audience – but when one of them goes wrong, it’s a nightmare.

You’ve had some pretty celebrated collaborations over the last decade. How important is collaboration to your work, and are there any artists that you’d like to work with, that you haven’t already?

The collaborations have all been happy accidents. I’d qite like to collaborate with Bill Gates on a project entitled ’Give all your money to John Moore’.

How involved you have you been in the artwork for the covers of all the records you’ve released over the years?

Very. Always. On solo stuff 100%. Every artist should control every aspect of their work…except the US cover for England Made Me. The US company thought Americans wouldn’t understand a glam rock wrestler down a coal mine. Idiots.

Would you ever like to write the score for a film/series like, say Angelo Badalamenti did for Twin Peaks?

I’d rather write the show.

What are your goals for the future of your music?

No goals, just vague fantasies.

What are you listening to these days?

4 track recordings of a young idiot singing sad songs while obviously inebriated.

What do you think of the "pop" music today as opposed to yesterday?

I can’t talk about something that I have no knowledge of. Old pop music was great though.
Is Bo Diddley Jesus?

Nope, he’s much more important.

Find out more about John here:


Anonymous said...

Great stuff Dave , John is always an entertaining interviewee. I do wish he'd take up his pen and write for the newspapers again. But of course he has his hands full trying to keep Edward and Mr Kingfisher in check these days.

I interviewed him myself in 2008

DaveCromwell said...

You know him as well as any of us, Andy.

I agree it would be a terrible vacuum if he never was published in the press again. Here's hoping he eventually returns. Either way, we know there will be many outlets across the internet to be dazzled and amused by his Moore-ness.

Anonymous said...

Very super groovy Dave ^-^

DaveCromwell said...

So *groovy* of you to say, Anouk!

Mr Smork said...

you know what you do best and it's undeniable.
and this guy seems to playing along all the interview.
good stuff.

DaveCromwell said...

I'm glad you recognize my "undeniable" "bestness" Mr. Smork ;-)

Be sure to play that video there - it's a cracking good song.

ViewFromSpookysDoghouse said...

Though I can't say I've ever seen someone play a saw, I saw that there are more than a score of John Moore's written about in wikipedia lore. More or less, I must confess, I'm probably not done knowing more about Moore, or about what the future holds in store for him. I know it's not a crime to rhyme all the time as put forth by law, still I remain in awe of the epic nature of this interview, and can honestly say, "I can't-believe-I read- the-whole-thing!" More Moore, please. I want some Moore.

DaveCromwell said...

Ha, ha!

A most clever bit of (rhyming) prose there, VFSD. ;-)

By the way - here is the correct Wiki profile for this John Moore:

Anonymous said...

Great entry!

It's a very good idea to create a little archive of your older writings here, Dave.

John Moore- I have never come across his music before but now, since you've introduced all of us readers to this musician's vast career, I am truly happy to know the man's work. So many facts in one interview- it's hard to keep your head together while reading all of this, but in a positive sense.

A saw player? That's fantastic. Jamie Muir from King Crimson also used to do it:

I hope to see more of the old articles of yours here on this blog, Dave. This particular interview has a different "feel" than your current entries. A bit of nostalgia I suppose. And that's beautiful.

Thank you!

DaveCromwell said...

Hey, glad you like the idea of me reposting the best stuff I have out there, that doesn't presently reside on this site, eagle.

I'm happy to bring the rich history of John Moore's music and writing to your attention.

And, even though this interview is nearly three years old, the fact that its a retrospective on one man's career, makes it just as relative today. Plus, John is currently working on new music, so we've got that to look forward to as well.

Mr Smork said...

as the matter of fact i heard this song some year ago on radio. it is alright (just like the kids). but i didn't knew who was singing....
and now it remind me of some good days...

DaveCromwell said...

Glad to remind you of good days, Mr. Smork.

Here's another killer tune from John:

Worth checking out

Patricia said...

Great Dave! You know how to capture the reader! I really liked.