Web site boosts prolific songwriter


Friday December 31, 1999
The Ticket, page 10, POP/ROCK

R. Stevie Moore
WHERE: Maxwell's, 1039 Washington
St., Hoboken
WHEN: 9 p.m. Thursday
HOW MUCH: $6. Call (201) 798-0406

By Jay Lustig

    Decades before the stubbornly independent singer-songwriter Ani DiFranco started her own record label and Guided By Voices began recording albums in their basement, R. Stevie Moore had the territory covered.

    Over the course of his 30-year career, various record labels have signed him, briefly, and he has received glowing reviews in Rolling Stone and Musician. But this singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, who performs in Hoboken on Thursday, has put out most of his music himself with little fanfare.

    At last count, he had written more than 1,000 songs in genres ranging from power-pop to country, folk and electronica. Most of the songs--which are by turns painfully honest and frustratingly cryptic, soothing and grating, zany and sentimental--are available only on the 250 or so cassette-only albums he has distributed via mail order.

    His latest album, a German label's compilation of songs recorded between 1975 and 1998, is called "The Future Is Worse Than The Past." But the Internet is actually making his future look bright, as his Web site ( is helping him get his music out to the public.

    The Internet works for him "in the same way it works for Bill Gates, only smaller. Much, much smaller," says Moore, 47, who grew up in Nashville, spent most of his adult life in Montclair and now lives in Bloomfield. "I'm delighted that, unlike five or six years ago, I'm now getting orders and queries from arond the globe instantaneously. Wannabe fans can click on--right into my living room, right into my family history scrapbook, right into info about the recording I did last night."

    The Web site also keeps fans informed of new developments and quirky trivia. Wanna know how Moore got hired to play two faux Beatles songs at a Beatles convention this spring? The story is there on the Web site. Wanna read about his recent collaboration with XTC's Dave Gregory, his contributions to a compilation released by Weird N.J. magazine, or the recent CD rerelease of his 1976 "Phonography" album? That's there too.

    The site also promotes his rare concerts, such as his Maxwell's gig Thursday. Most of the material will come from his '70s albums, Moore says. But there will also be newer songs, spoken-word segments and obscure covers.

    Chris Bolger, Moore's longtime musical partner, will be on bass. Chris Breetveld, leader of the Breetles, will play drums. Also joining Moore, who will sing and play lead guitar, are rhythm guitarist Bob Brainen (best known as a disk jockey on WFMU-FM) and keyboardist Tim Korzun, who has played with The Punsters and Duf Davis.

    Moore booked the show, he says, "because I've suddenly built the band of my dreams--old friends, good players. We got together for a one-off gig in Boonton at the Darress Theatre back in September. Both rehearsals and the show itself went so well, that we naturally decided to stay with it."

    He'll preface the band set with a short solo-acoustic set--an abbreviated version of the solo shows he's presented in New York and Nashville this year. "Alone, the act is unpredicatable stream-of-consciousness, dozens of incomplete songlets and zany mayhem," he says. "The band presentation, however, is fully structured."

    Strangely enough, Moore had strong ties to the music-industry mainstream at the beginning of his career. His father, Bob Moore, backed Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison and other stars of the '50s and '60s, and had one hit of his own, "Mexico" (1961). In his Nashville days, R. Stevie did session work in the early '70s for artists such as Perry Como and Earl Scruggs.

    He never felt at home in the conservative Nashville recording community. He was more inspired by the baroque experiments of the Beatles and the Beach Boys, the confrontational craziness of Frank Zappa, the previously unheard sounds Jimi Hendrix was able to make with his guitar.

    He has pursued all of his obsessions, on his own terms and at his own pace. Even with his recent spate of activity, he's not exactly threatening to escape the underground.

    "I'm still clueless at vigorously pursuing booking agents, managers, career advisers, etc., which is always what makes me retreat back to hiding in my studio for years at a time. It's too competitive and back-stabbing phony. Do I have an audience? Unknown. Should I concentrate on building one? Ha!"








COPYRIGHT © Newark Star-Ledger 1993 Issue Date: Sunday May 2, 1993

    R. Stevie Moore started recording music a decade before the punk revolution began, and is still doing so now, more than a decade after the movement ended. But you couldn't find, in any era, a better exemplar of the punk slogan, "Do it yourself."

    Moore, who was raised in Nashville but has been living in northern New Jersey since the late '70s, has generated more than 200 CDs, cassettes, vinyl albums and videotapes over the last 25 years. While record companies have released the CDs and vinyl albums, both in the United States and overseas, the cassettes and videotapes are available only through the R. Stevie Moore Cassette Club (429 Valley Road, Montclair, 07043). [NOTE: MOVED, LEFT NO FWD ADDRESS]

    Whereas most artists release only their most commercial work, and spend weeks, months or, in some cases, years polishing it in the studio, Moore records mostly at home, and releases, on cassettes, virtually everything he comes up with. If record companies become interested in him, he selects material for them, but "cassette customers always prefer the original tapes as they were meant to be heard," he said.

    The cassettes represent an extremely intimate form of communication between Moore and his fans, and some of those who listen to them become hooked. Between 10 and 20 people have all the tapes and still want more, he said. "Hundreds and hundreds" of other people, he said, belong to the club, which has no membership fee. "It's not just a typical club, where you join, and get a biannual newsletter, and a badge, and a T-shirt," he said. "I write letters to these people, and it gets out of hand. I can't really deal with it. I've created a monster."

    Contact Risk, a new Moore anthology released by the Montclair-based Fruit Of The Tune label, serves as a useful introduction to Moore's prodigious output. Composed of music from the '60s, '70s, '80s and '90s, it is by turns painfully honest and frustratingly cryptic, soothing and grating, zany and sentimental, ornate and spare.

    The only common element throughout all the songs is Moore's uncanny ability to master any musical genre and then twist it to suit his own needs.

    "I feel like the ultimate weirdness is somebody that can be totally insane, and then, on the next cut, do a gorgeous symphonic arrangement, but do everything with a twist of humor," he said. "I've done a million different things, in a million different styles. And I love them all. They are all valid to me." Moore picked the songs for the CD himself. "It follows the same basic premise I've always followed, as far as variety," he said. "It sounds like a radio show: A little bit of all styles, from all different periods." He said the songs on the CD aren't his best-known songs, but some of the more obscure material in his catalog."But that's a totally unrealistic viewpoint," he added, with customary humor and honesty, "because I'm virtually unknown." Ironically, Moore had strong mainstream music industry ties at the beginning of his career. His father is Bob Moore, who backed Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison and other stars of the '50s and '60s, and had a Top Ten hit of his own in 1961, with a song called "Mexico." Largely through his father, R. Stevie got session work in the early '70s with performers such as Perry Como, the Manhattans and Earl Scruggs. He even performed once at the Grand Ole Opry. He never felt at home in the conservative Nashville recording community, though, and was far more inspired by the sounds that were emanating from the rock world: The baroque experiments of the Beatles and the Beach Boys, the craziness of Frank Zappa and Jimi Hendrix, and all sorts of things in between. "I was always coming back to the Beatles and the Beach Boys," he said, "and there was no place for that in Nashville at the time."

    Moore worked in cover bands, too, but the main outlet for his creativity was always his homemade tapes. The cassette club "tapography" lists entries all the way back to 1968, though one early tape comes with an "extreme immaturity" warning.

    A big turning point for Moore was the release of his first vinyl album, Phonography, in 1976. It received a glowing review in Trouser Press magazine, and Moore came to New Jersey in 1978 to seek his fame and fortune. Trouser Press subsequently went out of business, though "The Trouser Press Record Guide," an encyclopedia of alternative music that is revised every few years, continues to examine his output very seriously. "The Rolling Stone Record Guide" has also printed positive reviews of his albums, though his entry was cut out of the latest edition.

    After relocating to New Jersey, Moore speeded up his output, and began presenting loose, unpredictable live shows too. He came up with the idea for the cassette club in 1981, and in 1983, a feature in Musician magazine helped enlarge his following. The New Rose label began releasing his records in France, and even achieved a hit there, with his eccentric cover of The Big Bopper's "Chantilly Lace."

    Moore doesn't record much new material anymore. He sees himself ("laughingly," he said) as a record company executive overseeing his vast catalog of songs. More live shows are a possibility, though nothing is definite. "I've hardly even touched a guitar for the past couple of years, and now I'm getting back into learning my old songs, and being able to present them just as a solo artist," said Moore. "I do have people who I could possibly form small combos with - nothing major, nothing loud or electric, though I'm not opposed to doing that either." ----------