Listen while you read ;)
Today a great interview with songster, diy man, american heart J Moss of The Modern Folk.
Ok, i have always liked your true and honest approach to music, going for the essence of it
and you are still living in Portland?
And how do you like it? is Portland dying of its own success?
Thank you, yeah, i live in Portland, in the Lents neighborhood, deep
Southeast Portland if anyone knows the town!
Is the gentrification going
Yeah, there is a lot of gentrification, i think the government of Portland tries to handle it reasonably, but that is not easy...the city suffers from a lack of affordable housing, and certain neighborhoods lose their individuality. but i only moved here 6 years ago, so it's not a good look for me to complain to much.
Where did you move from? was music the reason?
I moved from the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, where i grew up. Work (non-musical) was my reason to head west.
I am very interested in the non-musical aspects of the musicians, it's very common to have a day-job (or three) nowadays. Some musicians prefer not to discuss that.
But if you like, what do you do apart from music?
I assume i will always have a day job, i do not expect to make a living off of music, despite the fact it is my passion. My day job now involves using computers to map wetland areas from aerial photographs.
I assume it too and i know it's the case for most musicians...specially many that i personally prefer better than the "big names". And maybe it's not a bad deal either...i mean, it's obvious you put so much passion and personal stuff into your songs, so music benefits for that balance against other activities, is that way?
I am happy with the balance, i am not sure i would want to live the life of a "professional musician". I'm not sure i would want to tour all the time, and i love recording on my own with no pressure or expectations. At the same time, there is a part of me that craves recognition, i would be dishonest if i did not admit that.
Yea, it's the old "musician's contradiction" it's hard to know what moves somebody to make music. I really like that "lo-fi" aproach, although i have to admit i don't like drum machines much. What is your gear of choice?
I like to find different gear for each project, and let the gear inspire me.
Any preference for old-cheap gear?
I really prefer live drums as well, i have become a drum machine fan due to space/volume restrictions, and not having access to drums and drummers.
I like old and new gear, i don't tend to fetishize "vintage" gear, but i do love Tascam tape recorders, and tube amps tend to sound better.
I have listened to all your albums and download some of them, "American cave" and "American mountain" hooked me. I remember you wrote something that went like "i play what's americana to me"
With the albums that have "america" in the title, i was trying to express different facets of what it means to be american and make american art so.
Could you explain a little what's Americana for you? i think you hit the nail right down
To me, americana is so wide and expansive of an experience, and should be more than what is typically expressed in the musical genre called "americana"
I took it as a self-expressing statement, which i liked it, instead of trying to follow a music trend.
For instance, "american cave" was supposed to be about the "desert" experience of america...sunshine burning up a wal-mart parking lot, survivalists in a blacked-out trailer, a lonely immigrant shepherd, a meth addict dying on the street.
And expressed in versions of american music: punk, folk, rock, metal, grunge, to me this is all americana. Now, i know you are not from America, so stop me if i am giving the US too much musical credit
No, it's ok, most of the pop culture comes from the USA.
Great, have you written your other albums around other concepts?
"American Mountain" was more typically "americana", dealing with what is normally considered "folk music" from Appalachia, where i grew up.
Did you grow up in a small town?
Medium sized college town, honestly
Were you influenced by the local culture directly, or was something that showed up later in your life?
I definitely was. I grew up in a place in Virginia not too far from where the Carter Family was from, and old-time and bluegrass type folk music were huge interests for me from a young age. Some of the first songs i ever tried to play were these kind of ancient folk songs, though i might have learned them from a Bob Dylan or a Ramblin' Jack Elliot Record.
It recalls me the tittle of that John Fahey book, it was more or less: "how bluegrass music ruined my life"
I love that book! Fahey was an influence i came across more recently in my life.
Mine too, i wish i had the energy he put in playing and composing.
In this century, americana, folk, blues have had more than a revival. Not maybe in the mainstream, but definitely in the "independent" scene...
I like the underground revival that some of this music has had recently, people are putting their all into it, making it a scene, doing LPs
It's like folk was the "new punk",
what bands do you dig?
Right now, i am really into some of the people reviving Fahey's "American Primitive" and going new places with it, such as Elkhorn, Daniel Bachman, and Will Csorba. I really like the NY rock'n'roll band PC Worship. I listen to a ton of the big modern rappers, Kendrick Lamar, Vince Staples, Chance, Kanye, these guys are making great music right now. I really like the techno producer Delroy Edwards.
Another great solo guitarist is Sarah Louise, and she has a band called House and Land
I'll have to check most of the names! Excuse my ignorance, are all of them "working musicians"?
Aside from the rappers, i have written about them all on MFOA (blog about music). Yeah, i only mentioned the currently working artists i am digging right now!
Ok. It seems that is a bit easier to make a living as musician in America, nothing fancy maybe but you can be an "underdog" who tours the whole country, which is impossible here...even with the irony that Spain is a little country compared to the USA.
That's true, the size of America probably gives musicians more opportunities to make a living
Yea, but the distances and costs build up too. For what i have gathered, there are some advantages like, musicians there can book dates easier along the country in venues that fit them, is it true?
I must admit, i don't know too much about this, i don't really tour much on my own, and i am not sure how different people book them. I know some people tour constantly on a DIY basis, and i think they get by on it. I know musicians who tour all the time with label support definitely make a living. i know that's where the money comes from, not record sales!
That's it, that's the appeal of it to me. It has to do with the american business and pop culture. You can't do that here without going bankrupt.
Do you make long term plans for your career or just going day by day?
I think a surprising amount of american touring bands, especially DIY ones, might be losing money...i know when my old bands went on tour years ago, we always lost money...but we were rich in fun times, hahaha! I don't make any long term plans aside from to continue to create albums.
How do you compose your songs?
That really varies. Some i compose from a drum beat and build them up as recordings, others i compose as chords/lyrics and work on them for months before recording them. I often record a song 3-4 times. Certain songs of mine appear multiple times in my available discography. Sometimes a song is written but i do not feel i have gotten to it's heart in terms of recording.
Do you keep a set list rehearsed for performances? or change it depending on the show?
I usually have a core group of tunes that work live, and then i pick a few from that for each show, but i try to vary my live setup...sometimes i will recruit other musicians, or use a keyboard or drum machine with presets to flesh out the sound. Other times i just want to bring one guitar...so i choose songs based on that, as well
Is it hard to keep a band together?
Yeah, it is for me. I have a hard time finding people who share the same taste and vision as me for the songs i and sounds i want to create. On the other hand, i play bass in a band led by someone else, and that is a total joy, and very easy to stay interested in...so i think i just have trouble keeping a band together for MY music.
Yea, i think the same. What tunings do you use on your guitar?
I play in the DADF#AD tuning, got stuck on it several years ago after discovering Fahey and have not turned back (even though i know that's not really the Fahey tuning!)
Yea, Fahey's kind of...diabolical hahahaha.
Is it hard for you to book shows? which venues do you prefer?
I am not great at booking shows. Partly because i am not very social, and a lot of booking is just socializing. I guess i prefer a house show, i like the intimacy. I like playing in a small bar as well, i also love playing outside!
Wow! how's that? i'm not very social either and i hate to play outside hahahhahaha.
For instance, i can't go to a park with the guitar and just play, not even thinking of singing...
I guess i feel more social if i have been asked to play. then i feel as if i belong there, as if i have a reason to be there! hahaha. I like to play outside and jam with the outside noises
What are your "hatepets" for writing about?
I mean, subjects that you come back to when writing the songs, the good ones and the bad ones, kind of obsessions
Ah, i understand. I like the theme "you'll reap what you sow", i like the idea of writing about the "dark sides" within us all, i like writing about imagined "ends of the world", i like writing about people i love, and about lost love and heartbreak...archetypical stuff!
And the last two questions are for you: one is for promotion of your new projects and the other is for anything you wanted to say but i didn't reach to
Ok, great! thank you so much for even wanting to do an interview with me in the first place! as far as promotion goes, I'd love it if your readers checked out my bandcamp page
everythign is name-your-price, starting at $0!
I have a new album in the making, but i cannot predict the release date, unfortunately, but there is plenty available there for those who have never heard my music!
Secondly, please check out my blog www.themodernfolk.net where i write about other artists who make DIY/lofi/homemade music! I love to share the work of others, as well as my own.
Any suggestion for a better living?
Aside from that, i thought you asked great questions, and i just appreciate your time and what you do! i don't feel too qualified to make suggestions for better living, but i have found that pausing to consider what you can be grateful for can help reduce your anxiety! and, speaking of grateful, listen to The Grateful Dead...that always makes my living better!
Thanks again, this was fun!
Thank you, as you said, sharing is a big part of all this. By the way, the Bre Taylor that sings in some of your albums, does she make music too?
She is actually my wife! so far, she just sings with me, though i encourage her to do more!
She has such a great voice!
I will definitly let Bre know you complimented her voice!
Thanks, it's been a pleasure!
The pleasure is mine! thanks again!