The Unstoppable R. Stevie Moore on Ariel Pink, Cassettes, Collaborations, and New Projects into 2017
You just can't talk about phenomena like home recording and DIY music without eventually talking about R. Stevie Moore. No category or genre can accurately describe or contain this living legend, so it's always an education, privilege, and pleasure to speak with the one and only Godfather of Home Recording himself. He was recently gracious enough to let us check in with him, and we candidly covered an array of topics, including collaborations, new releases, and upcoming projects.
Bobby Weirdo: Good evening, Stevie! How are things?
R. Stevie Moore: Greetings! Good, how are you? Good to hear from you.
BW: It's great connecting again.
RSM: I love doing this kind of thing, but I’m also often on guard. Like, I better be careful what I say. It’s best in some ways, to be understated, and not over-enthusiastic about anything. And yet here I am with the tape rolling, and I’m ecstatic about all kinds of things, both pros and cons. I’m loving it all – all the social media stuff.
BW: Speaking of interviews, social media, and that kind of thing, we recently talked about the problem of editing. It’s funny though – you strike me as someone who doesn’t get caught up in editing. It seems you like to put it out there, and then not worry too much about the reception, or what people are going to say. Like, “I’m putting this idea out there – take it or leave it.”
RSM: Exactly, yeah. And I’m proud of that, and yet I also pay the price for that in all kinds of ways. Here I am trying to provoke, and one of my jokes is “how do I get on the news without going to jail?” [laughs]. And one of my mottoes is ,“Starving for attention. Who knew?”, like I’m constantly feeling guilty that I’m crying out for hype. Fucking super hype and trying to get promotion. Everything’s promotion, even if you don’t have a product. Of course, everybody’s a product, so you’re trying to sell yourself, whether it’s with a new girlfriend or [whatever].
For me, imagine the ageist thing that I have to go through day to day. And yet my head is still teen-aged, and I’m reckless, and looking for kicks. Unfortunately, I’ve lost a lot of the stamina as a recording artist that I used to have, and it kills me. But on the other hand, at least I have this huge back catalog, and that’s my résumé. And I don’t have to worry about meeting a deadline, or somebody’s expectations. It’s weird dealing with the ageist thing. Now see, all this stuff…should be used: "An Exclusive Phone Chat with R. Steve Moore" [laughs]! Are you still there?
BW: I’m still here – I just don’t want to cover all this up with me talking! I want to hear what you’re saying.
RSM: Exactly! And here I am on a roll. I hardly speak at all. I live alone, and I don’t go outside much. It’s a creepy, crazy kind of life, and yet I’m so plugged in on the Internet and all the stuff that I do. I mean, I’m like a businessman trying to do deal with a little record company, and I’m sitting on box lots of fantastic merch – dozens of albums. I mean who has that problem? Only Stevie! It’s a great problem to have.
This is interesting that you’re letting me talk, because I usually hate being on the telephone, because everyone’s usually talking on top of each other. Anyway, you got me started, and I can’t stop.
BW: You met Ariel Pink because he reached out through a letter or something, right?
RSM: Yeah. That goes back to about 2000. He contacted me through the mail – the postal mail, you know. The Internet was brand new, and famously, Ariel has said that he got his very first e-mail from me -- ever. My username was Moores Code. We had already contacted each other back and forth with mail, and then packages. He was sending me a shitload of stuff – cassettes, and then real early CD-Rs. Sloppy, dirty, CD-Rs [laughs]. It was beautiful, you know? He was totally over-the-top, and he sent me way too much. He was just like me – I couldn’t keep up with him. You know, he was prolific and totally enthusiastic. All he needed was a response, and that’s what I gave him. He was on cloud 9, naturally, and from then on it was just constant, constant. [Ariel was saying] “We have to meet - you have to come to New York”. And it seems like he so young back then – I guess he was. He was sending me big packages of drawings, but not copies – the originals! So he was sending me original artwork.
He finally did visit me in New Jersey, and was starting to do shows alone, and that’s when the Paw Tracks thing happened with Animal Collective. He was in New York to become famous, and also visit R. Stevie Moore [laughs]. That must have been around 2004, 2005. He was doing gigs around then using backing tapes – those are legendary. [He was] with John Maus , Dana [Young], and Gary War. I jumped up onstage and wasn’t plugged in – it was just a spectacle. Ariel hated being onstage – he was pacing the stage, having to deal with playing cassette backing tracks. It was fun, but nothing like what eventually happened, with his kick-ass band. Going to see Haunted Graffiti in 2009, '10, '11 was like seeing Pink Floyd or something [laughs]!
BW: I’ve seen pictures of you with Jason Falkner at Amoeba Records in Hollywood. Is that where you first met, or did you meet in a different context?
RSM: That’s where we first met, in 2011, which is the same time we got together for the very first time in his home studio with Ariel. He was a longtime fan, and we had been in touch through the mail since 2006. I sent him a huge package of rare R. Stevie Moore albums, and he flipped out. And he sent me a bunch [of music] to me and I was honored. And that was way before we met at Amoeba; so it’s been long-running thing, and the same with Ariel. Ariel should get his ass over here so we can make a fucking country record! [laughs]
RSM: Again, he was a long-time fan of mine, without me knowing it. And I wasn’t really that big on the Charlatans or any of that stuff at that time. I was aware of it, and I liked it, but unless they reached out to me, I certainly wasn’t reaching out to people like him. And I was surprised.
BW: I love the Tim Burgess song you’re on, "The Doors of Then". Was that song sent to you almost complete, or did you work on it with Tim?
RSM: No, it’s his song, and I was just a session cat. We didn’t write it together. I love it; I’m glad you brought it up. Ironically, he was recording in Nashville, and tracked me down. He wanted me to be on this song.
Another major name is Theophilus London. Are you aware of him?
RSM: Yeah, and when I was notified that he was gaga over me, I thought, “This is fantastic – I’ve got to do whatever I can to make something happen here!” This is back when I was on tour, and sleeping on couches in Brooklyn two or three years ago. He was texting me, [saying] “we gotta get together.” Ironically, I did meet him at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas.
BW: I’ve seen a picture of the two of you together.
RSM: Exactly. He name drops me in interviews, and he did a cover of one of my songs, "Everyone but Everyone".
The possibilities are endless with R. Stevie Moore. But everyone’s talking about old R. Stevie Moore out in Madison. But nobody’s like me, with this back catalog [of mine]. It’s just crazy – me trying to fit in. And man, the time is flying by and there’s new artists and new bands every two weeks, and our rock heroes are dying suddenly, and it’s like, what’s next?
That’s why the Jason Falkner/R. Stevie Moore album, and the documentary film need to get media attention. I’m dealing with people who have just discovered me on Facebook, and can’t believe it. They always say, “I can’t believe I never even heard of you, or heard your music. Where do I start?” It’s hard for me to be objective. The struggle continues.
BW: How did you and Jad Fair end up crossing paths?
We go way back – postal. 1978, 1980, around then. He sent me letters, and we traded tapes. [This was] way back in the prehistoric days. As far as the Fairmoore album, we didn’t do anything on the Internet. He was mailing me CDs of his voices, and I was doing the instrumentation. We crossed path during the 2000s. We would sometimes play on the same bill in New York. He was the perfect artist to send bare, raw vocal tracks. In fact, they weren’t just vocal tracks – they were vocals and electronic drums. A lot of the drums on that [album] was him – not me – which is interesting because of those kick-ass drum sounds. It was all drum machine. Isn’t it funny that people don’t realize it until they go to the source and find out? So much music is like... we’re fooled. How did you get this sound? How did you get that sound? You just don’t know -- you have to use your imagination.
RSM: I love her.
BW: Yeah --I'm really into her music.
RSM: Yeah! And of course that’s quite a news bit for me. Just the fact that I have had three cassette releases this very year. And I’ve always been sort of anti-cassette, but the Doom Trip cassette was just outrageous as far as the exposure. [Doom Trip label head] Zac Emerson has just been wonderful. These are tiny little pressings [and] it’s almost a paradox to get so much attention for a cassette…but that’s what they do. And I’m the Godfather of cassettes. I’ve kind of denied that for years. Well now it’s like, “Bring it on.”
R. Stevie Moore's Make it Be album with Jason Falkner, documentary Cool Daddio, and RSMGW vol. 1 (with Gary Wilson) are all out soon.