The Handshake Interview with R. Stevie Moore
by Jacob Singer / Photograph Courtesy R. Stevie Moore
HS: You’re going to hit the road, right?
RSM: First tour ever. We’re still booking cities as we speak. I have to get a booking agent involved which is all brand new to me. I’m going to have to get into the professional arena. I hate that. Getting legal representation. I’ve been making some plane trips, and I never travel. I can barely get down to the corner store. The last thing I want to do is travel the country, but there’s such a demand right now. I could say, “No, not interested” and just stay home, but that’s ridiculous. Give me that guitar. I’m ready to go on stage.
HS: Tell me about the band.
RSM: This new band and this new direction has been put together by a guy making a documentary on me from New York named Jon Demiglio. He’s started out making a film and it dropped in his lap. He’s helping me finance. He’s become my manager. I have to be taken care of. I have special needs. I have an album called Special Needs. But that’s all cool. I’m not trying to cop out or hide behind any disabilities because I have something to offer. There’s a huge show I’m dying to do with poetry and spoken word. I want to be on Jimmy Fallon. It’s ridiculous. My ambitions are huge, but I’m also like Daniel Johnston, where I’m ready to explode at any moment.
The band is small and I’m playing bass as opposed to guitar, which I’m very pleased about. I’m more comfortable leading the band playing bass. It’s a keyboard, guitar, drummer, and me. And I got a new studio album coming. I’ve done remakes of old songs and some new ones. It’s real straight ahead, unlike the R. Stevie Moore craziness of other records. It’s got a lot of ELO influence and it’s fantastic. I can’t wait. It’s called Advanced, and it’s going to be self-released sometime this summer. I don’t know how it’s going to be distributed. I’ve never been big on distribution. Maybe that’s my problem. Ariel Pink is going through some chaotic moments too. He hates the rock star machine. Did you hear about Coachella?
RSM: He recently played the festival, his biggest show of all time and he has a meltdown on stage—which is so perfect—and people freaked out. “What a joker! What a waste. What a copout.” He’s had it with the machine, with what people expect you to do. He’s toured the world. He was on Jimmy Fallon. But our music is so much different. His music is a bit more limited. My music knows no bounds, and I want to keep it that way forever. I love home demos. I’m totally against the whole mentality of rock bands trying to perfect their music. I’m a sound painter. I’ve always loved those kinds of musicians. That’s what the ‘60s and ‘70s were all about. It wasn’t just music to dance to. Everyone used to love bootlegs.
HS: There’s something about the raw energy of a bootleg that hits you in a really good way.
RSM: My whole life has been about capturing audio and video. I always try to have a camera rolling. So much great stuff has been captured. It’s just never enough. That’s always in the post-production. I’m even bad about putting together my most recent home tapes. It’s just too much work editing. I can’t sit and try to edit. I do my music. I’ll finish a song and put it on SoundCloud and forget about it until the next one. It’s a constant overflow of material. But you got to have that person who will say, “Okay, let’s make some sense out of all this.” And I’m all for that. I’m never hard to deal with. Present it anyway you want to present it, just don’t let it sit and collect dust.
People love cult heroes. That’s what I am pretty much. But I feel like my days are numbered. I wish I was in my thirties or forties instead, but that doesn’t really matter. I’ve got a new band. There’s so much to talk about.
HS: There is an eight-disc anthology of cover songs recorded by an entire generation of musicians that look to you as a role model. There are people who do listen to you, who are inspired by you, and take you as a role model. Do you feel appreciated?
RSM: Naturally, it’s a fantastic feeling. I had a bit to do with the anthology. It wasn’t totally out of my hands, this sickoftheradio.com project. It’s two people who got in touch with me, and I said, “Yeah, I’ll work with you on it and try to compile.” I was compiling it as stuff was flying in. As I was saying earlier, a guy needs an editor, and I was being the editor for the tribute project, which was great fun. I was pulling together the best submissions while listening to the worst ones: terrible, minimal, solos, amateurs. I love that stuff because it off sets the beauty of the produced stuff.
Since then I have even put together a “Best Of” disc which consists of all the slick covers. The biggest thing of all that came from that was Jason Falkner, my new friend. His is probably the best. But he’s a legendary California musician from the ‘80s and ‘90s. He was in a band called Jellyfish. They were super. Huge power pop.
All these people are younger than me. That’s a major part of my success. They’re giving me honor that I’ve never had before. I’m turning into a geezer, but I still have this teenage head. It’s a very strange thing to talk about because I’m a basket case in a lot of ways: an alcoholic, a drug casualty. I’ve never understood finances, haven’t been able to support myself, but I’ve got my music. I have a lot to say. People are saying, “Don’t worry, we’ll take care of you. Calm down. Relax.” That’s what I need right now. I can’t get out and push myself to the top of the class without some help, and that’s okay.
I don’t really enjoy anthologizing. It’s something I did to get it up off the ground and rolling. And of course there wasn’t a cent made from that. Which is funny. I was putting all this effort into something that was mainly just for the cause and not in order to pay my bills. It’s all about keeping your name on the front pages of the gossip columns. You want people talking about you. I just wanted to make sure that things don’t get lost.
HS: Is there anything else you wanted to talk about?
RSM: I just wanted to bring everyone up to the modern day. I got a band and we’re coming to Chicago to play. That’s outrageous and fantastic news for me. I want to play anywhere. Even the bad gigs, where there are only ten or fifteen people. And I want to go to Los Angeles. I have plans to record and tour with Ariel Pink and to meet up with Jason Falkner. There are already gigs booked for France and Prague. I’ve never been to the UK, and I’m playing London late this summer. I can’t wait. It’s fantastic. And hopefully I can bring back a little money to pay my bills, but if I don’t at least it will be about the exposure. The running joke lately is you need to go to Europe to live there because you would be an American legend in Europe…and gig anywhere you want and get paid top dollar. Europe is where you want to be. So let’s go, Jake.
HS: I’m down.