Left Of The Dial • 1988


Left Of The Dial
April 1988
Cover Story
By Adam Budofsky
Bloomfield NJ

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We'll be brief. R. Stevie Moore grew up in Nashville, the son of a studio musician and nephew of Scotty Moore (sic), Elvis Presley's first guitarist. Bored with the "strictly polished, sophisticated, dumb country music" that he grew up with and backed up in the studio, he escaped to his tape recorders at home and began creating. What was to result was an incredibly abundant and varied wealth of material, all of which was saved, put together in radio show-type formats on cassette, and passed out to his friends. With the help of another uncle ("my one guiding light"), he set up a mail-order catalog to service the ever-growing requests for his pop, rock, you-name-it excursions, and moved to New Jersey. Ten years later, the catalog has over 180 entries, and Moore has released several albums on independent labels, which, along with the tapes, have received gushing reviews from every important rock journal. One source is Trouser Press' New Record Guide, whose Ira Robbins pronounces, "That the world at large hasn't yet recognized and lionized R. Stevie Moore is criminally neglectful of a giant talent."

Soon Moore will be coming out with a new six-song EP on New Rose Records. We've not much space, but R. Stevie has much to say. So here's some uninterrupted R. Stevie Moore for you.

    "I always had a childhood fantasy of musicians being more personal with their audiences. I think it must be great for people in the cassette club: they get a handwritten letter with every order, inserts, bonus things.
    "To make a long story short, it was a horrifying childhood, and I left home. I had the opportunity to follow in my father's footsteps, but I was too imaginative, too smart for my own good.
    "The whole thing has been sort of a fantasy, a self-mockery, as if I've deceased. I'm already dead, and all this available material as been discovered. It's the whole collector mentality––the same reason everything I record has been released. It's like a diary of sound, rather than just the best songs. It's a perpetuating monster.
    "Luckily I'm still at the level where I can do that. On the other hand, my ultimate goal is for it to get totally out of control. It's hard to be objective about what I want; it's a real catch-22 situation. Not to mention where the public is at these days. It's hard for something really unique to happen...
    "No one is coming out with new concepts. And if they did, they're virtually ignored, because that's not what the public wants. And all it really takes to sound different is a few kinds of chord changes. But these days mediocrity has become so accepted that when someone does something a bit different, they're really considered off the wall. Like a Godley and Creme or They Might Be Giants.
    "The whole heavy metal thing is detestable––continuing to vomit itself up. And there's always new teenagers. Country music in Nashville isn't country anymore––everybody is cross-
over happy. Pick any genre, and it's like that. This whole new age thing is ridiculous; it's dentist office music. And there was a time when I idolized Eno's ambient music things, but that was way back then. If something gets too popular, unfortunately it just doesn't seem to work anymore. The Beatles seem to be the only consistent exception. Only because they could do anything; they were never mundane or mediocre. They opened the doors wide open for experimentation, but they always remained unique as far as being melodic. And they were smart enough to break up.
    "You could imagine what it was like in Nashville when I was growing up. It's still going on here in Montclair––all the little girls with their Grateful Dead t-shirts. I take it all too personal, for Chrissakes. It gets me down, because one of the worst things for me is to be stuck working in a record store, and seeing all these bands that get the contracts with Geffen. I shouldn't be jealous of them...
    "Besides the cassette club, there has always been that other possibility ––even though I wasn't out there, playing live, hitting the streets, knocking on doors––I was always ready, at any moment, to be a sucker and sign my name with someone who was interested...I'm constantly waiting for that magic phone call. That is still the case and that is what has been causing some of the recent bitterness. I had gotten so fed up with the "game" and the competition. But I can change my attitudes with a lot of things at the drop of a hat––just with someone being interested...
    "I'm called the father of home taping, but that's only because I have been doing it for so long. So it's mildly amusing to me to be lumped in with the rest. Suddenly you can buy Option magazine and there are like hundreds of what might be great amateur, 4-song EP cassettes by everybody and his brother and sister who has a band. I get letters from people asking me to please tell them what I think of their music. Obviously it's flattering in a lot of ways, but I really don't feel like I'm a part of that anymore.
    "With me it's been a combination of the two extremes: the amateur, everyman concept, which I guess in itself is automatically rebellious against the system. I'm not going to preach against it, because whatever works for anybody is the way. But on the other hand, I'm enormously talented, and have been for decades––as far as writing melodies and arrangements. The main thing has always been to constantly stay unique. That's why just about every one of my records and tapes are pretty much like a radio show; they incorporate a variety of stryles. I've never been able to sound the same on every song, like everyone else seems to be able to do.
    "I always tend to lean toward the melody thing, because almost anyone is born with the rhythm thing. Any untalented––and that's the beauty in a lot of ways, the charm––anyone can feel the rhythm. It does take kind of a gifted person to put melodies together. It's hard to argue for melody because in 1988 people have sort of forgotten it. The Beatles are a quaint, nostalgic thing for most people. Forget that, they want what's now.
    "I'm very much against most new music. I try not to be; I guess I am because I'm trying to succeed in this music business, and I want these other people to get out of my way, for Chrissakes. I'm uninterested to the point of being arrogant. I used to like rap music, but not now; I can't stand it. And that should be the kind of thing I like. It does go beyond that; I like Tackhead and things like that that are sort of rap but are more over-the-edge, industrial––the Adrian Sherwood thing. That's at least creating.
    "I'm definitely not a fan of technology, but that seems to be changing. I've only had black 'n' white TV up until a few weeks ago, and I got two VCRs for Christmas––10 years too late. I was always anti-video, and then it snapped and all of a sudden that's all I've been into. But just home video; I have two video compilations, but they have nothing to do with that MTV kind of thing.
    "I was completely anti-CD, but I've been thinking of getting into that, if only for some of my favorite things. As far as recording devices and musical instruments, in spite of myself, I don't know why I don't pay more priority to that. I got tired of home recording because things kept breaking down. My last two albums were done on 16 tracks. Some people think it loses its charm, and that might be inevitable, as opposed to your living-in situation, where you can go in any time of night with ideas. It's real hard to be objective about a lot of things these days. We all know the world is crazy. There's no real grass roots. It's obvious to everyone and their children and grandchildren that money is the real issue...

Interview and photos early '88 by A.B.
in the back of Crazy Rhythms, Montclair NJ