January 15th, 2010
McGonigel’s Mucky Duck: Ian Moore Interview
We’ve preached over and over around these here parts that we like to view ourselves as a blank canvas. Because of that we like to try new and sometimes unexpected things. If you expected a real interview with a honest-to-God musician on The Loop Scoop, consider yourself in the minority. A big “thank you” to Nikki for tracking down Ian Moore. You can read about her exploits at The Anomalous Life.
The Loop Scoop: Your music career has taken you in a number of different directions. Most of us initially came to know you for your early blues rock style. But your style has changed – or should I say “evolved” throughout the years – and you’ve received both accolades and criticism for those changes. Personally, I love to see the evolution of an artist – in fact, Green Grass is still one of my ‘go to’ CDs – but there are others who have had a hard time with it. How do you deal with those that have trouble with your musical evolution? Are you more inclined to understand and try to steer them towards the new sound and a more open mind? Or do you generally let it go and say good riddance? Obviously you can’t control others, but I’m interested in how you approach those that are stuck on only your earlier sound…
Ian Moore: I think in any career it is your job to focus on the quality of the work, and that is set by your internal ballast. Regardless of your craft there will be some that will desire what you know isn’t of a quality that it should be. I try to not focus negatively on those types of people, but obviously my attention will be put elsewhere.
I learned to play music in front of people and the music I played early on echoed that. As I went deeper along the path, some of the more obvious elements dropped away, and in those changes some of my more conservative fans were lost. I understand, and never took task with that. If someone liked something I did in the past better than in the present, that’s great..I only have issues with people who seem to feel they have the right to tell me what I can and should do.
I was brought up in an open, creative world. I will always steer towards areas where I feel that is nurtured. In my mind, it makes for much better music, at least that has proven true with all of the bands that I am into.
TLS: You do still play some of the old favorites: Blue Sky, Satisfied, etc. – but it seems each time I hear you play them, they’re a little bit different. Are these songs you really still enjoy playing, is it a shout-out to fans that have stayed with you throughout the years, or is it a little bit of both?
IM: I love playing those songs. I think of my early music they are the strongest, and the purest. Though there are elements that may be a bit heavy-handed compared to my writing now, I love the energy and soul of those songs.
TLS: How did your early influences: family, music, etc. shape your music today? What other influences have you come across more recently (say, in the past 10 or 15 years) that have brought you to where you are today?
IM: Those are everything. My music is my honoring my people. I think we all do that. In my case, it’s another take on “Texas music”. My dad was a buddhist scholar/beatnick, my mom a northern 60’s liberal drawn to Texas to do bilingual social work. My experience is just as “Texas” as Townes coming from an old Fort Worth oil family or the Vaughans coming from a south Dallas. I think it’s a voice that hasn’t been as heard as the older archetypes, but I am speaking for many people, not just myself.
TLS: What inspires you to write today? Do new tunes come to you out of nowhere or are they shaped over a longer period of time? What generally comes first – the music or the lyrics?
IM: I write from the same places I always have. Things around me, sometimes books, current events, etc., but always written from some personal take.
On the forthcoming record: gentrification, hipsters, Amanda Knox, the great boxer Jack Johnson/race relations, the radio, mountain climbing, direct pop reference, ignorance, the hurricane/racism, girls/sex, ironic bloodletting.
TLS: You play covers from time to time. What are your favorites and which are you playing more of today?
IM: I like them all. My struggle is not focusing on covers and playing my originals. I feel like those songs are golden gifts just a moment away.
TLS: How would you compare your current music (the songs that will be on the new album) to your past albums? To my untrained ear, it really seems to be a unique combination of old and new. Rockin, guitar-driven sounds mixed with a (slightly ) older / wiser Ian Moore sound. Your last Houston show was my first taste of it, so I’m certainly no expert on the all-around new sound, but what I did hear seemed to be an eclectic mix – great stuff.
IM: I guess there could be kind of a re-visitation of those sounds again. I have been really enjoying the guitar, and this record has a lot of it. I don’t allow my career goals to influence my songwriting. I want it to remain fresh and influenced by the hope of writing the ‘perfect’ song, not desperately trying to write something that people would like.
TLS: There’s a perception of you (possibly a misconception) that you avoid mainstream success. Is this a function of wanting to stay or play in smaller, more intimate venues – keeping control of your next move, or is it a fear (or reality) that mainstream success means big labels, too many cooks and those that would work to pigeon-hole you or take away the creative freedom that you value? If it were available to you, would you steer away from an appearance on a national stage or mass distribution / exposure?
IM: There is no fear involved. I do what I think is the best music I can make at any time. If material success presents itself without making the music crappy, then I’m happy to embrace it. Currently, there are very few people who make music I like that are hugely successful. I’m most concerned when I take a vantage point of my legacy. I want to present a body of work that is individual and hopefully on a nice climb artistically. That is a huge success, and something that I see as being much more rewarding when I stop to look back.
TLS: What is your favorite city to play in? Why?
IM: The cities where people are really present, having a great time, and we can do our thing. It changes as scenes come and go, and as our music changes as well.
TLS: You have a pretty loyal, strong fan base in Houston. Do you enjoy playing here?
IM: We are one of the few bands playing original music with so much loyalty. We are really lucky to have such a great crowd. I would say that currently Houston is one of our best towns anywhere in terms of energy and feel.
TLS: You’re living in Seattle now. Do you miss living in Texas?
IM: I am in Texas so often, around once a month. I get to be a part of the city, yet I’m not in Austin, where I lived almost my whole life. It’s nice to have some space. I love it, it is my hometown, but I have so many connections there that it is a bit overwhelming at times.
TLS: You mentioned at the Continental Club that it was your last show on that tour. At that point, are you relieved and damn ready to go home or is there a sense that you want to let it all out one last time?
IM: It means let it all out. Wake up Sunday and be grateful for a wonderful tour, a voice that made noise the whole time, and look forward to relaxing. It’s been the busiest six months of my life. I look forward to sitting down.
TLS: How has having a family changed your approach to music, writing, touring, etc?
IM: I have less tolerance for BS and wasted time. I struggle with being away from my family. The biggest balance in my life is honoring the responsibilities that both family and music demand. I feel that is my greatest challenge.
TLS: For those who haven’t heard any of the new music, how would you describe it?
IM: Not my strong suit, self description. I think at this point, a kind person would say intelligent guitar-based rock. Our record sounds a bit like a Texas take on power pop and psych, live it is more aggressive.
Thanks again to Ian for his time and we look forward to the Mucky Duck show this Saturday!