Ian Moore, a singer, songwriter and guitarist whose first album was released in 1993, still has a lot to say in the form of a song. Over the years he has continued to release new material and perform with both a full band and a more stripped down duo version. I had a chance to talk with Ian prior to his show at Shank Hall in Milwaukee, WI. We discussed the benefits of touring with a full band and as a duo, song writing and his forthcoming Strange Days EP. He shared what he is still striving for, how he’s had to change his thought process on getting music out to the people, how he defines success and more.
You just started this Midwest/East Coast run of dates with a full band, The Lossy Coils. Who do you have out with you this time around?
We’re a four piece this time. We just finished a West coast tour and a South By [Southwest] tour. We were a five piece, so we had Kullen [Fuchs], who you know from the acoustic shows. This tour we’re a four piece, a bit more lean, so it’s Travis Foster on drums, Matt Harris on bass guitar and vocals, Greg Beshers on guitar and vocals, and myself, Ian.
How did you connect with these guys? Have you played with them before, word of mouth?
Well, this band has kind of coalesced over a long period of time and kind of basically around Matt and I. Matt started playing with me when I was still playing with, what I call kind of the tail end of the Via Satellite Band, so George Reiff was still playing with me so Matt came around that time, around To Be Loved, and started touring with me and then Greg Beshers came probably about three years ago. Falcon [Valdez] is the newest guy and Falcon was our drummer before Travis and then Travis joined the tour before last.
Well, that’s kind of cool. At least you know who you’re getting into touring with.
We’ve been playing for a long time. Matt and I, Matt’s been quite involved. We actually kind of trip out sometimes how long we’ve played together.
Based on the time that I’ve been seeing you, you tend to go back and forth between the full band and the duo. What do you like best about each of those situations?
Well, I like the duality of it. I like the fact that I can go and I can have this acoustic show that’s really song-oriented and focuses on more sensitive subtle aspects and then I can come out with the band, which is super intense, and really, really rhythmically derived and you know to have the duality of that, I don’t honestly, I don’t know that many people have that luxury of having two distinct identities in a career that I have.
Which choice would you say you have more musical freedom?
Well, I have more freedom probably with the duo but it’s a trade off because right now, to be honest, whenever I play with the duo, as a matter of fact, I always try to kind of facilitate a thing where you can have a rhythm section come in because I miss the rhythmic elements. The duo show, because I know you’ve been to a couple of them, it’s a different thing and it’s a really powerful thing. I feel like the strength of my soul really shines through in that set but I miss the rhythm. I miss the drums and the bass and the pulse, so right now I’m really keyed into the band.
Based on your entire back catalog, do you feel that you have to select certain songs over others depending on the situation that you’re playing?
Yeah, I don’t think that I think the way maybe other people do. I’m more aware of it now because I realize that other people think much more, straight ahead. I just kind of try to play the songs that sound the best within a group. So if one group doesn’t play a song that was a big radio hit well, I don’t really want to play it because I want to play the material that really, you know I kind of feel like when you go see a band, the passion and the intensity of that band is focused on what they believe in and so if you just try to make everybody smashed into this one identity to play what you do, it won’t be as good. That said, I’ve been more aware lately, probably of my legacy, and the fact that people get really attached to songs that they know so I do try to be a little bit more aware of that than I used to be.
You’ve been teasing a new EP, Strange Days. Is there a release date and can you share some of the musical direction?
I don’t have a release date, which I’m not happy about, I really want there to be one. So I have a management team behind me, which I haven’t had for a long time, so what I’m trying to do is trust the process. This record, the Strange Days thing, you’ll hear a bunch of it tonight, it’s a lot more rhythmically oriented. It’s weird, it’s like, in some ways it harkens back to some of my early material but it’s a lot deeper. I’ve done a lot of living since I made my first record so the content of the songs, I mean, people don’t maybe know even what a song’s about but you might like it or whatever, but definitely for me, when I’m singing these songs, it feels different than what I was singing about on my first record for instance.
I also read that there are some collaborations on the EP, is that true?
Yeah. I’m very collaborative in nature, that’s kind of something that’s ironic for always releasing albums under Ian Moore. I worked with Adrian Quesada, who’s married to a very good high school friend of mine, and he’s from Grupo Fantasma, actually which was Prince’s backing band at one point, so more in the funk kind of realm, so that was a departure for me because I’ve been living in this power pop, noise pop world for a little while, so kind of a different scene. I also collaborated with Jim Greer who is an Oakland guy who is kind of part of the Galactic crew and works a lot more, again, in kind of the funk world. Music’s funny because of these little streams and we may all like all the same stuff but when you hang in those different scenes they have different rules, so when you get in a different stream for a minute all of the rules are new, you know, what’s cool, what’s not cool, the way the instruments sound, so it’s been good.
What have you found to be the greatest benefit from working with other people?
Learning. If you looked at my career and maybe wondered why it was so weird, because it does seem weird sometimes when I look at other people’s careers, it’s definitely not as straight ahead, like my thing is kind of ziggy zaggy. I really think my impetus is I just want to get better, I want to learn. So whenever I meet somebody that’s interesting I try to hang out with them and take in what they have to offer.
So would you say that things, whether it’s people or situations or whatever, that influenced you in the beginning are still influencing you today?
Yeah. I don’t leave things behind. I mean I’m still ultimately kind of a soul singer, my core. Most of my guitar influences are blues and psychedelic blues guitar players. I’m not really influenced many rock players so my core influences are all the same I’m just trying to get deeper and get better. I just want to be more interesting.
With years of experience under your belt, how often are you writing and do you struggle with the process or does it come more easily for you now?
Anybody that says they don’t struggle with writing is a liar. [laughter] You know, it comes in waves. I haven’t been writing as much lately because I have so much unreleased material I kind of put a stop on it for a second because I just want the stuff to get out. I feel like I’m being so prolific and I have been so prolific, that I need to focus on tending to the things I’ve made, but yeah, I go through phases. You know what’s ironic about song writing and creation? You don’t know when it’s coming easily, you only know when it’s coming difficultly. When it’s coming easily, all these songs pop out and it’s like, “Oh, killer. New songs.” When it’s really hard you’re very aware of how hard it is because you can’t write a friggin’ song.
Throughout your career, you’ve released music in the physical format, vinyl, CD, iTunes only. I know you were doing a “pay what you want” kind of thing. Did you start changing it up out of necessity or you just wanted to try something different?
Well, I’m just trying to find a way to connect with people. You know, the music industry and the world of music is very different than it was when I started. People don’t consume music in the way they used to, they don’t go to live shows and buy the CD and go see the band. When I very first started the way it worked was you might get a little bit of airplay on the college radio, which was easy because nobody carried about college radio, and you’d get a following and then if you were good, your following would increase and they’d buy your CDs and that’s how bands were made, like you kind of did this. That doesn’t happen anymore. Now it’s kind of like this and they’re two different worlds. There’s that world which is basically you get this huge hype thing and there’s the big licensing thing and then you’re in the world of the Katy Perry’s and Beyonce’s and Ed Sheeran’s and that kind of thing and I don’t know if I could live in that world regardless. So what I’m always trying to do is trying to figure out ways to, I just want to connect with people. I think what I’m doing is pretty unique. I think the combination of my guitar playing, my song writing, the width of my material and the way I approach it is unique and so I want people to hear it the way it is. I’m like a weird store that you haven’t been in before as opposed to, I don’t want to be the one in the mall. I want to be the store you walked in where you’re like, “Woah, cool.” So I will try different methods of releasing music with the hope that I might kind of attract people whose hearts and souls are open to the methodology.
Do you keep up with current bands even if it’s a specific genre?
Sometimes. I mean, not for lack of liking it. I’m actually a big fan of music. I like a lot of stuff but I have to be careful what I listen to because it reflects in what I put out. So for instance if I listened to everything that came out I’d probably sound pretty generic, so it’s kind of like eating. I try to not eat too much junk food. I try to be careful what I consume but I will go on little jags. I don’t like much pop music just because it’s not made for me, it’s made for other people, but I like bands. I go through phases.
After a couple decades of making music and seeing the ups and downs of the business, how are you defining success these days?
That’s a good question. Well, I think success to me is resonance. I take the most pride, the thing I’m most proud of in my career is how I’ve affected the people I’ve affected. I’m really glad to feel that the people that were attached to my music weren’t just doing it peripherally. I feel like it’s been an important component in a lot of people’s lives. For me success is internal. I want to be better, I want to make more interesting records. I’m never satisfied with anything that I do so I want things to be more interesting, so I guess I define it that way. In my mind I have these perfect records that I’ll never be able to make because they are impossible to make but that’s my success.
You have some dates through July, the acoustic run I believe is the last thing posted. Do you have more plans coming for more touring?
Well, I don’t have them yet but I will. I have a new agent, I have a new manager. Hopefully my EP, we’re trying to figure out the way that’s coming out, so once that’s out, that’s kind of when it all starts. Ironically I’m busier touring now than I have been at any time in the last 15 years. I’ve never toured this much, so I’m already touring a lot and part of what I’m trying to do is I really want to get my chops up, the band’s chops up, because I kind of feel like, if anything happens with this EP, a lot of people might see us for the first time that have never seen us before and I want to be able to present a very acute version of us. You know, it’s like the world moves so fast now. There is so much information, so many different people making records and doing stuff and competing for people’s attention, so if you look at it from that way, you don’t have the chance, you gotta make an impression quickly, so kind of all this time, you know me, I give 100%, I want these shows to be great but they’re also kind of training right now. This band is the best it’s been. It’s probably the best band I’ve had, definitely since Via Satellite, which is a long time ago, because we’ve been playing together for a while so I can really tell the difference and I just did all those videos that are up on YouTube on my live site. I did the editing for those, I edited them and it wasn’t this phenomenal show of ours but when I started mixing it and putting it together, I was like, “Man, we’re getting really good,” which I normally don’t think. I’m normally frustrated.
During the Shank Hall performance, not only did Ian Moore and The Lossy Coils play quite a few older fan favorites, they also played most of the Strange Days EP. Definitely keep an eye on Ian Moore’s website for forthcoming details about the release. In the meantime, you can hear some of the songs from the EP (Strange Days, Hercules, Lords of the Levee, You Got To Know My Name, I Will Carry On) on his YouTube channel here.