INFREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS: R STEVIE MOORE
Something to bear in mind as you read: the answers to my questions are presented here exactly as Mr. Moore gave them to me. They are not always straightforward black & white answers, which, for RSM, is par for the course. As he explained in a note to me: “With all due respect + gratitude for your interest, having a hard time giving straight answers. Almost none of the questions really apply. I’m ruefully Outsider, basically 100% self-misunderstood. my life story is a detour from the norm.” As you read, you will see his claim bear out. –JTS
Your story, in a nutshell, is that you’ve released over 400 albums throughout your career, all of which you released yourself—you’ve never been involved with a major record label. What do you think is the biggest reason you never signed with a label?
No clue. Art is not always fame driven. There could be several explanations:
1) It just didn’t happen, i.o.w. simple “fate.”
2) Wouldn’t I maybe have been a too-extreme, unusual ‘character’ to try & promote to the rock mainstream? Would I have been labeled ‘weirdo’? Even in the 70s-80s? And also, critically, I wasn’t so interested in doing the required live performance band act. Which labels basically demand. Guess I was a risk, idk.
3) My musical styles’ unpredictable chaos, diverse variety, free-form programmed, with lack of any focus.
4) In retrospect, perhaps it’s ideal that I simply stuck to my guns: fiercely independent, for better or worse. Who needs corporate?
\what people still (sic) don’t realize is I NEVER CONSIDERED that I “RELEASED” as ALBUMS; I WAS A PROLIFIC HOME TAPING ENTHUSIAST and ‘PRETENDED’ I HAD ‘REAL’ TAPE ALBUMS OUT. PERIOD. For 40 YEARS. Fun game. From HOME. COTTAGE INDUSTRY. Yet ZERO DISTRO. It was a serious joke. Bypass the system. POVERTY PLAY. OBSCURITY KNOCKS.
Your father was a session guitarist who worked constantly, with A-list musicians like Elvis Presley. What’s the biggest thing you chose to emulate about him, and the biggest thing you chose not to emulate?
Emulate? All I chose to bond with was his superlative bass playing and quick ear. Solid and inventive. And never chose ‘not’ to emulate. Anybody. I go with my gut. Dad was smart, but just a country boy. 1960s teen life was eons away from that.
How did you first learn that there were other musicians in the world looking to your work as an inspiration, wanting to record ‘lo-fi’ as you do?
Word got around! Took decades tho.
What is your usual process for writing a song?
There is no one process, obvi. Words first? Music first? Neither/nor. Every song’s different. Much often, I’d lay down a rhythm tempo track, not even musically composed yet, just barebone arranged. Then the song would self-form on top of the bed. Editing was always key.
Usually, an R. Stevie Moore song is 100% R. Stevie Moore; you write it, you sing it, you record yourself playing all the instruments. When was the first time you worked with another musician, and what led you to do it?
First time, I don’t remember.
As recently as 2018 I’ve at times worked with others, the kids get around! It’s no big deal, for this one-man band to adapt. Again, most of my recent career has been leaning only towards improvisation & soundpainting. I haven’t addressed proper basic songwriting for many years. I made my quota. Just start recording.
In the eighties, you started making your own videos, in addition to writing and performing your own songs. What made you decide to add that element?
It just happened, why not! Borrowed camera access, a bright painter’s lamp, hook up my audio system to the VCR, and I never looked back. It became my new priority hobby, preferred in fact over continuing to write more tunes. No time.
When Imogen Putler and Monika Param approached you about making a documentary, what was your first reaction?
Not sure. I got many invitations over the years BY FILMERS; I NEVER KNEW WHETHER to TRUST or NOT. IMO & MON JUST POLITELY ASKED, ADMITTED THEY’D NEVER DIRECTED A FILM BEFORE; I MIGHTA had some EARLY DOUBTS, TIME PASSED and IT ALL JUST CAME TOGETHER BY COMMON COMMUNICATION.
You grew up in Madison, moved to New Jersey for some years, and then moved back to Madison. Is the music you create impacted in any way by where you live?
I could say YES, but probably not. Prolly not, no. Environs are NOT AS IMPORTANT as then-CURRENT MIND-SET MOOD-SWINGS. Then is now is when?
Drop some names for us: you have a lot of fans who are themselves musicians, well-known ones at that. Who is a fan of yours that you can’t believe is a fan of yours?
HMMM. NO ANSWER. SO MANY. Not enough. YOUTH, of KILLING JOKE.
Of the 400 albums you’ve released, which do you consider to be your best? Your worst?
ALL OR NOTHING, BOTH. Please! I famously loathe the popular emphasis on ranking favorites. Ying und yang.
Are there songs or album concepts that you have never recorded or finished recording?
2020 I retire from music making and concentrate solely on my writing. Bit poetry & text rage.
There’s footage in the film from your appearance on The Uncle Floyd Show, a kid’s show once aired in New York/New Jersey that still has a cult following. What was that experience like?
I adored it, the 1980-1989 decade timeframe. I was on there 7 times. The lipsync experience taping was easy and quick.
Who are the musicians you admire, and have tried to emulate in any way?
Too many to ever mention. I don’t consider favorites, of any kind. It’s all a multi-hybrid. Befuddled that more people aren’t that way.
TOO MANY TO EVER EVER MENTION. I DON’T CONSIDER FAVORITES, OF ANY KIND. IT’S MULTI-HYBRID. BEFUDDLED THAT MORE PEOPLE AREN’T THAT WAY.
What advice would you give someone wanting to record his/her own ‘lo-fi’ music?
SORRY, shaking my head + eyeroll facepalm. LOFI is not who I am, D.I.Y. is. It’s the aesthetic of taking care of business by myself, from conceptualiz until exposing. I make my music sound as good as it can, or not. There’s no button that sez “LO-FI”. YOLOFI. LO-IF. Bold chord changes and sudden left turns are more important than signal-to-noise ratio.
You have the advantage now of the Internet, but you’ve maintained a cult following since well before it existed; do you think the web is leading more people to your music?
That you know of, is there anyone out there who has bought all 400 of your albums? If not, who has bought more of your albums than anyone else?
Too many to mention. NAMES misplaced.
What are the best and worst trends you see in modern music?
I’M NO EXPERT. GOT MY OWN BITTER VIEWS, AND BEST TO KEEP ‘EM TO MYSELF. IT’S NEVER GONNA CHANGE. GRANDPA OLD MAN YELLS AT CLOUD. Compared to MY blissful 50s/60s/70s, anything since that is derivative or hideous style shelf product. Cobain notwithstanding.
EXPERIMENTAL UNDERGROUND IS MY JAM. There’s no app for that.
If you had to pick, what would be your all-time favorite artist? Album? Single song?
I WILL NEVER PICK. THAT’S WHAT EVERYBODY ELSE DOES 24/7. RANKING IS REDUNDANT. Goat.
You’ve toured a few times; has there ever been such a thing as an R. Stevie Moore groupie?
Many. But not today.
What do you want to achieve that you haven’t yet?
CONSUMER ACKNOWLEDGEMENT. Own a house. With PAID servants.