R. STEVIE MOORE
by Dr. Elwood James Mole III
FIXIN' TO DIY
A reasonable guide to one of XXth's Century's
"Unsung Hero only touches on the injustice of obscurity for this wry, heartfelt artist whose limber genius, vitality and productivity make him a far more profound cultural asset than any number of next-big-things with maybe 2 good albums in 'em. Why no major label has ever signed him is one of the modern era's mysteries."
Trouser Press, 1997
Trouser Press, 1997
Our story begins in the year 1974 in Nashville, Tennessee - home of America's Country music empire. Bass player Bob Moore helped build that empire, ever since the 50's golden era when he was recording with the likes of Elvis Presley, Patsy Cline and Johnny Cash. He's one of Nashville's top studio men, an established musician in his own turf. His son, R. Stevie, was now starting to follow his father's footsteps - working in studio sessions, also playing the bass and hopefully keeping the Moore legacy alive. At the early age of seven he had already sung a duet with Country's superstar, Jim Reeves, and by now he was recording with Perry Como, Earl Scruggs and backing up performers at the Grand Ole Opry house.
page #19But every time, Bob passed by his son's bedroom, a strange and incomprehensible noise would confound his ears and disrupt his Country & Western sensibilities. Why was he wasting his talent home recording all this weird music, hanging around with his dope smoking friends and listening to queer records like Frank Zappa's "Absolutely Free" and Brian Eno's "Here Come the Warm Jets"? There was no longer any use in cursing the irresponsible fiend that insisted in releasing all this deranged hippie garbage. Little Stevie had already been deviated, and at the age of 22 he had laid down his unique style as a prodigious songwriter and multi-talented, self-recording one-man band with his first accomplished album - the amazing "Next".
As soon as his craft achieved full form, he dove head-on into an impressively prolific productivity that has kept him going through the last 3 decades, recording unsung masterpieces to a small but very devoted following (that includes such proeminent gentlemen as the Residents, XTC, Chris Cutler and Fred Frith). He is referred to as the founding father of Lo-Fi and home-recording, a pioneer in the DIY ethic, and one of the progenitors of underground tape culture, that began in the early '80s, and later evolved into the cd-r/mp3 revolution of today. Around 1981, he founded the RSM Cassette Club, and began a self-made bedroom label, through which he still sells his music directly via-mail.
The fact that R. Stevie Moore lies forgotten as some odd footnote in the history of XXth Century's music may have something to do with his reluctance to play by the rules of the industry. He rarely does live shows and owns a catalogue of recorded work composed by more than 400 releases, most of them double albums. Naturally, not everything is of general interest, but somewhere among the hundreds of experimental ramblings, early studies and self-indulgences, there's something like 80 astonishingly good tapes/albums. Not as frightening as the 400, but still a fairly impressive number.
He composes, arranges, produces, sings and plays all the instruments in his home-made compositions. The music comes in all colours - from Psychedelia to New Wave, Country to Punk Rock, but also Power Pop, Electronic, Glam, Folk, Found Tape, Prog, Spoken Word, Noise, Funk, and any other man-invented style you may care to mention. He appears to be something of a musical sponge, synthesizing an insanely varied lot of influences, styles and moods into a continuous sound collage that somehow manages to work together as a logical whole. A pop wasteland of disjointed bits and pieces, where extremely well-crafted songs are interspersed with spoken interludes, instrumental themes, and snippets of found sound. Something somewhere in the line of what Beck was doing in the early '90s, but a few decades before its time.
Inspite of Nashville's closed cultural circuit, Moore absorbed as much as he could from the '60s and '70s musical renaissance. The result was a very unusual hybrid; or as Stewart Mason (All Music Guide) so eloquently described: "a one-man band version of the Beatle's "White Album," cross-polinated with late-60s Zappa at his most antic." But though eccentric, his music has a surprisingly broad appeal. Moore has an acute flair for extremely catchy pop tunes, delivered with such an inventive freshness and heartfelt authenticity, very reminiscent of the fruitful days of British Invasion and Punk Rock. He is often mentioned as the man responsible for having written "the best 100 pop songs that no one ever heard."
In 1976, the independent HP Music released 100 copies of "Phonography," a collection of songs from Moore's first accomplished tapes. The album was rejected by the industry's standards (which, at the time, were somewhere inbetween James Taylor and Emerson, Lake & Palmer), but a copy managed to reach NY's underground magazine, Trouser Press. They wrote raving reviews, declaring it a masterpiece and, in consequence, Moore began to gain some cult status among the growing New Wave and Punk scene. In 1977, he left Nashville and went north to New Jersey.
Meanwhile, his home taping kept developing at an alarming rate, both in content and in number. In 1978 alone he delivered four double masterpieces that still remain as important milestones in his vast catalogue. Then, in the early '80s he started the Cassette Club, but since his Tapography was hardly enough to make a living off, Moore had to work a series of music store clerk jobs throughout most of his life, while watching "truckloads of pseudo artists getting the promotional push" he never got, pass by. And here lies the main nerve of the RSM enigma: how come one of the most fascinating, innovative and prolific singer/songwriters of the last 3 decades remains virtually unknown? "I'm not much of a salesman," he explains. "I find it hard to convince everyone that I, too, am the greatest thing that ever happened."
During the mid-80s, RSM's work began to grab the attention of a number of European and American independent labels. Up until now, around 20 albums have been compiled from his Tapography and released to the general public. But even so, Moore hasn't broke away from the same unexplainable obscurity that has kept him unknown for so many years. After an attentive listening to his work, it's hard to avoid the grim impression that in order to be enlisted in history, one must eventually bow down to the rules of the market, or else be "discovered" after death. For good or ill, RSM stayed off the beaten path and has remained so for the last 30 years, only now his Cassette Club has evolved to the CDRSMCLUB, and all his work (still in progress) his available on his site. Nashville may have lost a talented session player but the world won a multi-talented pop genius. It just doesn't know it yet.
-What's The Point?! (1984)
-Delicate Tension (1978)
-Contact Risk (1993)
-Swing and Miss (1977)
-Games & Groceries (1978)
-The North (1978)
-Conscientious Objector (2005)
-Report Card (2003)
R. STEVIE MOORE
by Ariel Pink
Photo by -max-
In 1982, RSM friend and collaborator, Irwin Chusid said that "Moore is not the Next Big Thing. He won't start any trends. There isn't anyone who could copy his idiosyncratic style." But as it turned out to be, California's 26 year old Ariel Pink proved Mr Chusid to be wrong. An original and talented home-recorder, he refers R. Stevie Moore as being his biggest influence. Last year he did a series of gigs with Moore and has appeared in recent RSM cds like "Report Card" and "Conscientious Objector." In 2004, he signed a record deal with the independent Paw Tracks label, who were so admired with his music that they made him the first Paw Tracks artist who wasn't a part of the Animal Collective. Up until now, he has three released albums: "The Doldrums", "Worn Copy" and "House Arrest".
This previously unpublished interview was conducted through a series of email exchanges between California and New Jersey.
RSM: A matter of private concern... you'll hafta ask my recent free-clinic physician guy... it's pretty cathartic, one day at a time... days are alarmingly questionable, nights are party numb (coughs). Why do you ask, doc? (gagg) Nosey bastard, izzat really yer 1st question? In a music interview?
AP: What's your current fan base like? Is it growing? What kind of people does it consist of?
RSM: Exactly like it's always been, 30 years on... the game of watching it grow and then shrink, explode and then disappear... no natural flow nor sensical seizure of converts... one humanoid will buy one item and then vanish... another humanoid will rush me a certified $500 international money order for a first-time tower of Stevie records and cassettes... the answer to your question is that there is no RSM fan base to speak of... only individuals, like you.
AP: I noticed on your homepage you're wearing what appears to be a fast food cap. Have you finally changed your day gig?
RSM: Semi-retired, fully-lazy, beneath the ability to work, earn, even eat... pick me up some big macs, please? Hold the rhetoric. Constantly busy, productive. Uh, lotsa internet interviews lately. Does that qualify? Keep answering the same cryptic questions. Always assuming my story is common knowledge. Naive is my middle name. Positive emails are my only salvation. And new composing has become a rebirth of sorts. My daily routines is webpage building, then burning discs for customers, then lying down short of breath. Mind is working overtime. I have manic dreams in HTML code.
AP: Let's get philosophical, do you think that the tag/concept "Underground" has historically been of value as a prime-mover of influence into the mainstream, is there any thing really credible about it, or is it a farce, a construction revered by pretentious, elitist record necropheliacs who attribute an artist lack of success to uncompromised artistic integrity? Rephrase: is Show Biz dead, or is Show Biz all there really is?
RSM: I think, know and adhere to the constant belief that Show Biz is still aimed at Young Upwardly Mobiles (YUMMIES). The 1960s was the last true renaissance. All the bloody kids who weren't born to experience that creative volcano, they haven't got a clue, do they? And how it shows! Our yearly turnaround of boybands and teendivas gives me burning hot diarrhea, which I prefer to drink with lemon juice and schnappes. Even appealing retropowerpop has become a passe joke (critics darlings, minimal sales). This music lover HATES music now, ok? Not my mistake, by any means. Forgive my rage rant. Somebody's gotta do it. I dig '40s jump blues, acapella choirs, Factory postpunk, Sinatra, Hank Williams, PIL, Zappa, 3 minute 45s, me and nothing much else. Does the term "oldies but goodies" really mean what it sez? Perhaps.
AP: Is there anything in the course of your "career" that you would have done differently? What advice would you give the young and unassuming artiste, as far as working within and without the "system"?
RSM: Naw, no advice, not me. If I could do it all over again, I'd be top of the pop nauseous. I know zilch re: carrering, heck, there are countless people giving lectures, writing books or whatever pontificating on "how to really make it in the music biz," like there's some magical formula! Copy someone else's plan and you'll end up magnifying someone else's errors.
AP: One last question, do you own a drum kit?
RSM: I do not. I make use of those that do. Mine is inside a little electronic box with manual finger pads. Like Keith Moon's laptop.
earlier rsm zootblurb writ/submitted by DEJM3 & Neon Park Puterbaugh
photos by -max-
The unsung father of Lo-fi and home-recording,
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