nyrocker2.jpg NEW YORK ROCKER

attic antics
"R. Stevie Moore"

new jersey's rocking recluses

by Michael Hill

nyrocker.jpg In the attic of a comic- spooky house in Montclair NJ, R. Stevie Moore is transferring sounds from his head to a reel-to-reel. Considerably south of Montclair in the basement studio of his Mercerville NJ home, Tom Marolda is mixing songs on an eight-track recorder. These two musicians, geographically

close but stylistically far apart, share in common a committment to creating music in these out of the way places, alone.

Robert Fripp might call them "small, mobile, intelligent units." Someone else might dismiss them as particularly self-absorbed "solo artists." You could label them eccentric; you could call them pioneering. Moore and Marolda don't want to be part of any trend or scene, to front a band, to perform live. They have taken the idea of the garage band to a minimalist extreme, retreating to the basement or the attic to channel their vsion through simple, home-grown technology.

* * * *

"Even though I know the joy of performing live," R. Stevie Moore says, "I never heard a concert that made me feel the same as putting on a pair of headphones and listening to recorded music."

Moore wants to be known as a recording artist, a studio artist覧 "an aural painter," as he puts it. He works by himself in his cluttered attic room making tapes on primitive equipment or, more recently, playing all the instruments at sessions in a small Manhattan studio. What he creates is a dizzy amalgam of influences: country, pop, punk, avant garde. His latest album, Delicate Tension, is, Moore says, "a juxtaposition of incongruities," similar to, but more off the wall than Eno's Here Come The Warm Jets. It's what Fripp's Exposure would sound like if he didn't take himself so seriously, what The Beach Boys Love You might have been if Brian Wilson lived in New Jersey. Eclectic as it is, Delicate Tension gives little indication of Moore's roots.

Moore grew up in Nashville, Tennessee, where his father is still a top-rated session man who has worked with performers ranging from Elvis Presley to Kenny Rogers. Moore initially chose a similar career, playing guitar in recording sessions and even backing country performers at the Grand Ole Opry House. But his interest diverged from his father's 覧 "I had southern roots but a British outlook." He cultivated his personal tastes by building a record collection and compiling tapes of new, non-country music.

"That's what threw me off from following in my father's footsteps," Moore explains. "I would come home at night to my two tape decks."

In the early '70s, Moore was encouraged to develop his own work by an uncle who had already moved North to work in the music business. Together they formed H.P. Records in 1976 to distribute Moore's songs, and released 100 copies of Phonography, an album culled from Moore's Nashville tapes. Press response to the LP was encouraging so they released an EP, Four From Phonography, and distributed it through the mail. Moore discovered he could build a following (which now includes San Francisco's Residents), and in 1978 he finally moved to New Jersey. Armed with his tape equipment, he settled into his one-room attic headquarters.

Moore, who works days at a local Sam Goody music store, is an experimental songwriter, employing, to a certain degree, Eno's "happy accident" theory of composition. For example, a drummer from Nashville will send Moore a drum track. Moore will then compose a song around it, based on his reaction to the rhythms. He also includes unrelated tape fragments覧 snatches of conversation, excerpts from local radio shows覧 on his tracks, emphasizing a collage effect and leaving space for something to happen覧 a juxtaposition that could come off as really inspired, a happy accident.

Although his work generally takes this humorously abstract approach, it can be straightforward, even gentle. Moore composes some rather traditional love songs, like "You Are Too Far From Me" from Delicate Tension.

"There's this innocent-little- boy-type thing about my music," Moore explains. "So many groups are on the edge, but they have no grass roots level. Maybe it has to do with my upbringing, my Southern roots."

Moore will soon release a new single, He describes it as "more palatable to the mass ears. They're dance songs as opposed to the arty-type things." He's been trying to discover if his music is palatable to the major record labels but, he admits, "I'm not much of a salesman. I find it hard to convince everyone that I, too, am the greatest thing that ever happened."

He's not totally opposed to performing live, although he isn't enthusiastic about the prospects. He did perform a gig at Maxwell's in Hoboken last fall, which featured Moore, his tapes, his toys and his friends. He says, "With the right backing and the right combination of ingredients I could perform live. It could very much be the primal scream I need."

But he'd prefer not to.

"I'd like to continue doing this," he says, indicating his tapes, "and keep with this underground cult status thing. That's very special. There's nothing quite like it."


(Tom Marolda section omitted by choice vs necessity)


sited somewhere off the coast of Gary Sperrazza!

N Y Rocker February 1981

Welcome to CRIB*DEATH, the column that pretends to review your demo tapes while dismissing months of hard work with a flippant one-liner. OR, the column that discusses your demos in a mid-level circulation monthly in an attempt to help YOU get signed. Depends.
In the C*D of NYR #32, editor Andrew Schwartz interjected an editorial side-swipe pointing out the many fine American bands flaunting their innovations and/or dedicated stylings before us while we smugly sit with ears and eyes cocked towards England as the global capitol of rock 'n' roll. If it's true that the NYR staff takes an aspirin every time Mr. Schwartz gets a headache, that explains why this mag is becoming increasingly concerned with domestic groups. And indeed, if we created it, it seems we should take it over, even if most of the rock-faces covered in American music press are no more than junkies, pompous synthesizer geeks, or whiny suburban wimps.
But we all KNOW American rock suffers from a weakspot of imitation rather than innovation, a sagging middle of lazy musical rambling instead of legacy-creating. But until we as a rock-nation have more to offer than the Cramps, a few scattered regional bands, some half-assed Motown compilations, and NYR as the sum total of the U.S. contribution to rock 'n' roll in 1980/81, methinks we'd better put up or shut up.
Hence CRIB*DEATH. The search. I'm not crazy about what I've had to work with... and I fear the demo scene may not get any better. Let this be an open challenge to all you unsigned bands out there to PROVE ME WRONG. Please note the new mailing address (again), and volunteer your tape to:

c/o Gary Sperrazza!
P.O. Box 437
Grand Central Station
New York, N.Y. 10028


(1) R. Stevie Moore (177 Park St., Montclair, N.J. 07042) 覧About time! Moore, in addition to the records he has out, has used the cassette medium for years now to sell his music to the public in lieu of a major-label signing. R. Stevie will send you a full 60-minute Maxell (tape of champions) of his music for a measly $5.00; since he has 15-20 hours worth of originals, you'll get a big surprise in every box. Mine contained the following highlights:
"Chantilly Lace"覧a super update of this classic, really showing off Moore's "band" and revealing his production to be slickly superior and most decidely NON-DEMO.
"Conflict Of Interest"覧Whether this is a Public Image parody or not, it's brilliant, with a Wobbly bass line, Levene-ish dischords, snappy dance-drums, and mock-Limey "I'm so bored" vocals.
"Bloody Knuckles" and "Makeup Shakeup"覧 Could sit tight on a Kevin Ayers album, though others in this vein are too close to the Muppets for comfort.
Second impression: R. Stevie Moore is Daryl Rhodes without the antiquated hippie humor. (A big C*D on me for PICK*HITting Rhodes, after hearing his recent album-- yet another case of the "Honest, his tapes are better" syndrome.) I'm sure each Moore cassette will be one-third great, two-thirds dross-- a recurring problem for those suffering The Heartbreak of Eclecticism.