Ian Moore was born to be a guitar God. At the age of six, he was encouraged by his parents to take up the violin, but nine years later he found his true calling in the electric guitar. Most think of him as a blues guy a la Stevie Ray Vaughn, but he’s about to shake that moniker with a brand new pop album that suspends you in dreamy melodies and surprises you with the minimal guitar work. Before you start asking yourself what exactly is going on, read the words from the man himself as we explore Moore beginning to end.
The album is great. It comes out tomorrow. So what are you up to?
Well, I’ve got a ton of stuff. I’ve got press for radio and then South By Southwest and then a Koch private party for press.
Are you getting antsy to play out?
I haven’t toured like this for a while. I was touring nonstop, but having a record and the need for publicity definitely keeps you busy.
I was on your website today (www.ianmoore.com ) and I have to say I loved the fact that you actually reply directly to readers.
Oh, man, you don’t even know how wonderful that has been in my career. That single-handedly brought probably a few thousand people to my page. And I don’t mean to my web page, I mean to where I am at as a musician. There is a lot of misunderstanding about what my aim has been. Through the media, people get a real convoluted vision of what you are trying to do. When you are replying yourself, there is no editor. It is really cool. When I first started doing this two years ago, some of the questions were really volatile and we had a few people that are not fans of mine because of that. Those who stayed are really galvanized as fans because now they have a deeper connection with me.
That is sort of the reason why we choose to do transcriptions instead of writing interviews as articles. I know a lot of our readers might want a little story, but they can read your record label bio. We chose to let the artists have their say instead of me or any of our writers putting our spin on artists we favor.
That’s true and that is actually the beauty of the online world because you can do that.
I read one reader on your site who really seemed concerned with you and how artists are paid and/or getting the shaft.
Well, that guy and I have had a really long online relationship. The last album he didn’t like and I respected his opinion because I don’t need everyone to like everything I do. I don’t expect everyone to because I’m all over the place. I love a million styles of music. He communicated in a very intelligent manner, and consequently we developed an online friendship. He had no idea that you can sell half a million records and not make a dollar.
I know. It seems that everyone thinks just getting signed is like hooking the gold ring.
I know, and a lot of people don’t know.
There are so many misconceptions regarding artists by fans.
The other big misconception is that you get played on the radio because fans like your music. (laughs)
Right. They don’t understand the politics and the benjamins.
Right. They don’t get that about the payola.
A lot of fans also have this diluted belief that you show up at a gig, rock, and then you leave.
Yep. That is the beauty of the mythology. It’s a wonderful life. I mean, I do bitch about it, but I never feel sorry for myself. Sometimes I want people to understand really what is going on.
Is Hablador your label?
I read in some of your messages back to readers that most artists start labels because they don’t get much money back from record sales. Is this what initially started your label?
I actually did it because I was between labels. I had some interesting material I wanted to put out. What happens to me is that I have so many types of music I like, that when I go in the studio I’ll have ten songs that don’t really fit the record and the producer will go, ‘Why don’t we pick one or two of these for the record?’ Consequently, when I have these songs that don’t make it on a major label, I can put out any song I want under my own label. These are a really good representation of things that I like. Music is really predictable right now. People need to shake it up a little bit more.
The problem that seems to happen to musicians is that they are held by the labels for when they can or can’t release something, and they like to milk albums for years now.
My big thing, especially when you talk about the changes in my career from the soul oriented stuff to the psychedelic sort of visual stuff I do now, is like The Beatles went from Meet The Beatles to Sgt. Pepper in two and a half years. I mean, put it in perspective. It took me seven years. You need to understand that those guys back in their day were a living renaissance. Artists today get flack for changing at all in four years.
The worst I’ve seen a band get tagged about their progression was Metallica. I mean, those guys aren’t twenty years old. They’ve matured and have moved to bigger and better things.
Were you being stifled by Capricorn or did you just choose to leave after the contract ended?
Well, it wasn’t a good relationship. They just basically saw a cash cow and they were pissed that I wasn’t going to be the cow with the bell on. They wanted me to do the post-Stevie Ray Vaughn blues/rock thing. There are plenty of other suckers out there doing it and I don’t want to do it. It’s embarrassing to me.
Is it that you get bored doing the same old thing?
I think you find your truth. The truth has to do with why you do the music you do. Partially I was attracted to the sorts of music I liked because no one else was. It was my music and was special to me and my friends. We had a scene and it wasn’t everywhere. The problem is that once it gets in the music industry, it gets exploited. A perfect example is Nirvana. After they had their big record, they tried to regroup and find themselves. I think they were embarrassed about all of these cheesy bands trying to copy their style.
Especially when all of the sudden Seattle was the hotbed of rock. I mean, it’s just ridiculous looking back at how this was supposed to be the only place rock was happening, basically because of a couple of bands with roots there.
Was there a lot of pressure on you being young and pegged as a guitar prodigy?
Mainly from my label. Within Austin, I had a completely different representation. I had a rep as a guitar player, but it was different than my label’s idea. Capricorn was in Nashville at the time and they didn’t understand what was happening in Austin.
When I first heard the record, I have to say I was surprised because I was expecting something else.
It’s funny because my second record, Modernday Folklore, is very similar to my new album. Sonically it sounds better, but it’s very similar. There is some really dreamy pop stuff on it, but “Coming Around” is similar to “Dandelion”. “Retablo” is similar to “Muddy Jesus”. This one is just more mature.
When you listen to music, does that effect your music?
It actually changes from day to day. I go through phases where I will listen to George Jones for three months and I’ll want to put out a country record. And then I might be listening to Guided By Voices, Elliott Smith, and Neutral Milk Hotel albums, and they are pretty much pop albums.
The new Guided By Voices is great, especially the new album.
Yeah, I know. Do The Collapsis is a wonderful album. So my next Hablador record will probably be a really good, smart pop record.
I think the problem is with categories and the bad connotation pop brings nowadays.
Yeah. I’m a musician and I don’t think like ‘Hey, I’m a guitar player and I need guitar on every song.’ That is just a tool that I’m the best at. Because of that, it is used more than other instruments. I have no boundaries but to make good songs. When I talk about pop, you know what I’m talking about. Like when I talk about soul, I don’t mean R. Kelly. If it’s new soul, it’s D’Angelo, and if it’s old soul, I’m talking about Al Green and Marvin Gaye.
What inspires you to write now?
A lot of the songs outside of “Oceansize” and “Closer” are older songs. They are four or five years old. I was reading a lot of Latin American literature. That is all over the record. But right now my head isn’t in that, well, it is a little, but not as much. I just wrote a song, I write about everything, but sometimes I take characters and I combine them with other things. Sometimes I’ll see something on the Discovery Channel and I’ll turn it into a (pauses) Right now, as a matter of fact, I’m writing this song about this guy who is from Outside, you know, the outdoors magazine? But there is this guy who goes up to this hot spring and stays for thirty days because it was so cold that he couldn’t get out, but in my song he stays because he is obsessive compulsive and he is out of his mind. He thinks that he has to stay there because this person is coming to meet him because he is psychically communicating, and the only way she’ll come is if he keeps playing that one song, “Hold On Hope” from Guided By Voices. And he has like five hundred batteries and he’s freaking because he is running out.
Is it weird to have a song like this or the older songs and have them kicking around for years before they get released? And do they change a lot over time?
I’ve rewritten some of the tunes lyrically. There is some stuff that even lyrically they are getting a bit old, but that is okay because I enjoy playing the songs. Definitely lyrically they are four or more years old so they’ve changed quite a bit since then.
Is Koch just a distributor of your album?
No, actually they are a full-fledged label. I like to describe them as what Innerscope might have been like eight years ago.
Yeah, like the hip label no one really knew about, but had a lot of good bands on board.
Yep. Koch is a fun label. They’ve signed some great new bands. They’ve got some money and they are smart with their money. They aren’t throwing it around like Warner Bros. They are a major boutique label. It is indie distribution, but they have the clout to move records.
Will your deal with Koch slow your production?
My deal with Koch is that if I want to put out a record, Koch has first right of refusal. So if I give them a record and they think its going to be a hit, they have the right to release it. But I have the ability to put out records as often as I want with my own discretion.
It has to be tough playing songs that are new to us, but old to you.
The thing that drives you crazy is that you have to answer to fans who, in their defense, have heard a song for the first time, but it’s six years old to you. It’s a difficult place to be artistically. It’s really important to have an outlet for your new stuff so that you can go, ‘Look, here is what I’m doing, and if you want it, here is my website.’
That was what I was going to ask you about. The site gives you a great outlet to give your fans instant gratification. The major labels are really afraid of this and it seems that they are just finally getting involved in it.
Yeah, but they’ll figure out a way to control it and then they’ll love it.
I hope that day doesn’t come.
Yeah, then we’ll all be screwed. (laughs)
You’ve actually been really lucky in opening for some really big artists, like Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones. Did you ever get the chance to sit down and talk to them?
Yeah. I sat down with Dylan and Keith Richards. The really cool thing for me was that I never really found any bands that I found were doing something similar to me when I was younger. That is frustrating. The one thing I’ve found that was cool is that I’ve got a lot of older musicians that I thought were cool, like Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan, and the Rolling Stones, who dig what I’m doing. I’ve gotten to do a lot of great things, like stand on stage with Albert King and Johnny Cash. Those are the things I’m grateful for doing. It’s a tradeoff. My friends were all concerned about being trendy when we were young, but I always liked the old ’50’s and obscure ’60’s music.
I was wondering what would you tell any aspiring musician?
I have tons of advice, but it depends on how much space you have. (laughs)
We’ve got plenty.
I would say, first of all, make sure you do it for the right reasons because you will meet people along the way that have different motives. It can be frustrating to try to make honest music. When you are trying to make music, you should also treat your life like it’s art. Everything that you take inside of yourself, have it be quality. And don’t worry about listening to what others listen to, because what seems uncool at the time will come back around. Define yourself with your own terms, not from what others end up making for you. It’s funny, because when people are coming up and want to better their song writing or guitar playing, I always say, ‘If you’re a guitar player, then don’t listen to guitar players.’ They should listen to piano players or singers. You have to develop your style in a unique way. I’ve really been trying to do that myself in the last few years. I don’t want to do the typical guitar playing because it’s been done and it’s boring.
+ charlie craine