Sunday, April 10, 2005

Ian Moore at Bend Studio

Ian Moore at 36 has mellowed. Still unique, far from ordinary, he’s leading his passionate pursuit of music around the country. Thinking back on Dallas and Austin, wondering when he’d make that one great album, he joined DMG for an evening of candlelight and quiet conversation at Bend Yoga.

Surrounded by the aroma of patchouli, candlelight, and the simple Zen décor of Bend Yoga Studio, barefoot and stretched out on my back at his feet, I’m absolutely sure I’ve never experienced an Ian Moore concert like this before. The website promised an ‘intimate evening.’ They weren’t kidding. Reclining on serapes and soft pillows, sipping BYOB spirits, the lucky admirers on the studio floor gazed on the blues-rock guitarist lovingly and he responded in kind to the evening’s increasing affection. But before my slow slide into wine-soaked adoration, I managed to sequester Mr. Moore for some pleasant conversation about Dallas, Austin, ordinary people, and the pursuit of creativity.

Dallas Music Guide: How is it being back in Texas?

Ian Moore: I have a harder time in Texas than anywhere else; it’s a little like going home to your family, like high school. You have a history. I’m not complaining, I’m very happy and feel lucky that I haven’t lost my fan base with the changes (in musical style). People stuck with me, but it’s hardest to get press in Texas. It’s interesting; the Dallas Observer is probably the only major weekly that hasn’t reviewed my record. At least of the towns that I play. I’m sure that there’s some I’m not aware of, but you know… Maybe they’ve reviewed it, and I didn’t see it, but I don’t think they have.

DMG: I don’t think they have.

IM: Well, in Austin -which is my home town- The Chronicle was late, too. I think a big part of it is that I left Texas. Texas is a very very provincial state. It has an idea, almost more than any other state in the country, of what it is and what it is to be a Texan. A lot of that is pretty cartoony, and I think anybody grows past that, hopefully pretty quickly, and into themselves as an individual, but I think people take it personally when people move out of Texas.

DMG: Yeah, I can definitely see that. You mentioned in conversation, at your show in December at the Granada, that there used to be a conduit between the Dallas and Austin music scenes that you don’t think exists any more.

IM: Well, I don’t know. It doesn’t exist within the community that I’m aware of. There may be. I’m sure there are always new groups of bands. But I don’t see a lot of interplay between Dallas bands and Austin bands right now. I’m not aware of it. That also came out when we were talking to (Billy Potts) in The Lord Henry. He was talking about not really knowing many Austin bands and I was like, ‘that’s strange’ because when I was growing up, I knew pretty much every Dallas band, even at 19 years old. I did shows with them when I came up here and they did shows with me when they came down (to Austin).

DMG: I hope that’s changing. But it would have to start again, and it doesn’t exist right now. I think there’s a little bit (of interchange) but I don’t think there’s much.

IM: Well, they’re very different communities. People that live in Austin are often very different from people that live in Dallas. Dallas is pretty conservative.

DMG: When you were playing before, you knew a lot of bands in Dallas?

IM: Yeah, tons. I did shows with Ten Hands, To The New Bohemians, Mike Dane who was in a couple of bands. We used to play with and stay with them, all hang out and it was just a very tight community. I notice there’s a very tight community in Dallas.

DMG: Right now or previously?

IM: I really don’t know because most of the bands that I’m aware of from North Texas are from Denton. I know Deathray Davies, I know the Kadane brothers –I don’t know them, but I know their music- I know Brent, the Slobberbone guys.

DMG: Yeah, they just broke up.

IM: Yeah, I saw that. That’s the world that I’m aware of. Most of these bands are from Denton and I don’t really know many Dallas bands, at all. I knew those guys in Mur moved to L.A.; they opened up for Centro, they were really good.

DMG: You also mentioned that when you were starting out in Austin, you felt like you were ten years either too late or too early with your music and you were trying to do more experimental things.

IM: Well, no, just my influences and where music’s at now, it’s much cooler. The kind of stuff I was into then is considered much cooler now. It wasn’t cool to be arty back in those days. (The Austin music scene) was going through a bit of a thing like that a few years before me, but then it was really back to this macho kind of stuff. It was a short-lived thing, but definitely it was most of the people I was aware of. It was a pretty macho town back then. I kind of fell into that a little bit; I think I definitely simplified the stuff I was into. When I first started playing, I was taking sitar at UT and I’ve always loved ‘50s music a lot.

DMG: What’s your favorite ‘50s band?

IM: Well, my favorite musician in modern music is probably Buddy Holly. Just love him. He’s the basis of everything. So much of the Beatles is Buddy Holly. Especially the stuff that I think eventually morphed into their experimental side. He was so experimental; people don’t realize that. They think of the ‘50s and they look at him and he’s just like Elvis. But he did things like playing drum parts on his knee. People didn’t do stuff like that. Especially to think that he was recording in Clovis, New Mexico. If you’ve ever driven through Clovis, you get an idea. That guy was a real vanguard and he was really amazing. Nothing happens on a timeline, but I’m just glad to be finding more people that I share stuff with these days.

DMG: Do you feel more at home in Seattle than in Austin?

IM: So much of my life has been traveling that I really don’t feel home in a place, I feel home amongst different groups of people. It’s not so much a material place. I really like where I live, and I spent a lot of time in Texas, so I don’t really feel like I’ve necessarily moved, because I’m really not gone any more than I was back then.

DMG: What was growing up like for you? You had a pretty cool childhood, didn’t you?

IM: Well, yeah. Definitely did some cool things. Folks were cool, got to travel a lot, surrounded by a lot of really interesting people. But also, it was really hard because growing up in the ‘70s in Austin with parents that were counterculture, was not… you know, everyone gets teased a lot, but man. Outside of the typical teasing that kids get just for being alive, which happens to all of us, having your parents… my mom didn’t wear a bra and she wore toe rings, and my dad smoked weed and was very intellectual and very much his own person. I got a lot of shit growing up because of that. I alternated between trying to tone down who I was and saying ‘fuck it’ and being really outspoken with my beliefs. It’s very similar to who I am as an adult. My mom taught me to be a bit more demur about things. She was from an old money family so she understood the nature of gentle protest. My dad’s from a second generation Jewish family, all his ancestors were annihilated, so he had no need to be gentle about anything. Shouldn’t have. So I’m the by-product of the two of them.

DMG: Like polar opposites coming together.

IM: They were. That was the beauty of the ‘60s; so many cultures that really hadn’t meshed that often were intertwined. My mom came to Texas, I’d say, on the magic carpet of Joan Baez, ‘We will overcome, let’s help the poor minority people’ thing. Typical late ‘60s liberal -rich liberal- mentality and my dad came looking for beatniks to Austin because that was the closest to El Paso. So they met in Austin. She was probably attracted to him because he had elements of the things she was looking for, and probably to my dad, she was a good foundation and seemed pretty solid.

DMG: In your music, it seems as if there are two groups of people in your world. One, the ordinary souls, the rest of us that lead lives of quiet desperation, and the others…

IM: (interrupting) I’m making fun of myself, by the way. It’s a jab at feeling like you’re different, actually. It’s the Randy Newman school of thought; you put out something ridiculous enough that makes you look like a real asshole, like ‘Short people got no reason to live.’ That song’s obviously an irony. Put it out for other people to grab. I’m not that pretentious to think I would write a song like that. Well, I mean, I can’t… (shakes head).

DMG: What?

IM: Well, it’s just funny. I remember fans of mine mailing, ‘What does Ian have against fat people?’

DMG: Why? (laughs) Because all your ‘friends are pretty and thin?’

IM: My friends aren’t like that. I live on an island, I’ve got two kids, I garden and cut wood. I don’t hang out with a bunch of fuckin’… you know, those are not my friends. I actually don’t hang out with people like that. A lot of my friends are like Borkowski characters and the rest are Mormons; I’m a little bit somewhere between. Really, it’s not… I don’t have that many rock-n-roll friends.

DMG: Here in Dallas, people think I’m nuts; I’m going down to Deep Ellum and I’m a woman. I tell them, ‘It’s not like that.’ Musicians are normal people and who are just making music.

IM: Dallas is a very conservative town. I mean, it really is one of the most conservative towns in the United States. It really is. You wouldn’t think it. I’ve spent a lot of time in this town, outside of Austin and Houston, I’ve probably been here more than any other town in the country. It’s ironic, even the crazy people I’ve toured with are more mellow than the average normal person. I’m always amazed, when I stay with people that are more traditional, beer-drinking, typical people in their twenties, at how wild they are.

DMG: Do you think they are still rebelling against how wild their parents aren’t?

IM: I don’t know. I don’t know, but I don’t understand it. I don’t like staying in places like that because I like to sleep at night. I don’t want to live in a frat party. I know when I was young and I would date girls, their parents would always be really wigged out at first and I was always like, ‘Judge me as a human being, see what I’m like.’

DMG: Yeah, everyone is bummed you cut your long hair.

IM: (shakes head, laughing) Isn’t that sad?

DMG: Well, you had good hair.

IM: I mean, think about that for a second.

DMG: It’s like your hair defined you.

IM: (sarcastically) Yeah. That is… that is ridiculous. I mean, it would have been one thing if I had grown up in Teen Beat magazine and I’d ascribed to that. That the length of my hair has anything, in any way, to do with the music that I’m doing is something that I can’t even conceptualize.

DMG: It’s the outward appearance, the easy Cliff Notes to ‘this is what he must be like on the inside.’

IM: People need to work on their imaginations.

DMG: What image do you think you’re broadcasting these days?

IM: I have no idea. I don’t know. I have no idea. I like Paul Weller (The Jam, Style Council) a lot. I’d like to look like him, but I don’t. So, I have no idea.

DMG: I have to ask you about a lyric: “I live a life, that’s what it is.” There two meanings to that lyric.

IM: Yeah.

DMG: How did you mean that?

IM: Both ways. Too many people go through life and they just get by. But I know the truth.

DMG: Can you tell me a little bit more about that?

IM: My life is a life that I live. So many people talk about the nature of life: ‘So how was your tour?’ or ‘How are you doing?’ Those kind of things that you already know what the answer is going to be before you ask it, most of the time. Probably some good stuff happened, some bad stuff happened; I was tired, I had a few good gigs, some bad gigs. People are either enthralled by my life and totally romanticize it or, and this happened the last time I was here, this girl came up after the show, because I was talking about my kids from the stage, she said, ‘I think it’s really arrogant of you to be on the road and to be away from your family and to be playing music. You need to put your children first, before anything.’ I said, ‘I agree with you, and I do, and you don’t know anything about my life.’ So she was coming from the opposite space of her perspective of what I don’t have, instead of the fact that every path that you take is a series of pluses and minuses and you make choices to change the path you’re on, depending on what you want to do in your life.

DMG: You’ve said that if you’re home, you sometimes get frustrated and want to get back out on the road.

IM: I don’t so much want to get back on the road, I just want to… You know, I’m thirty-six years old, and I still feel like I haven’t really made a great record, the record that I want to make. I try not to get into the thing of being in a race with time, but I do know that it gets harder and harder in some ways. The great irony of acquiring wisdom is that there are less and less people to share it with because wisdom is an individual pursuit. And you gain your thing and it separates you from people. I’m on my own path and I don’t have a lot in common with a lot of people the older I get, whereas when I was younger and I had less life experience, it was easier for me to be part of a group.

DMG: But thirty-six? That’s young, that’s just starting.

IM: Well, I know. I don’t feel old that way, I feel old in the fact that most people in their thirties have completely given up on a creative life. They’ve just accepted it, through having kids. I see the struggles; it’s hard, it really is difficult. I’m a chef, I love to cook, but when I’m not home, my wife very rarely cooks because the kids aren’t gonna want to eat it. Who’re you going to cook for? And do you really have the time to spend the time to cook? Then at the end of the day, you’re psychically so tired, it’s much easier to sit in front of the television and watch a sitcom which deadens your brain and your soul, than it is to write or sew or create. But you can’t shut people down, the energy inside comes out some way. You need to feel fulfilled as a soul. Some people fool themselves and have a nervous breakdown at forty-five or fifty, shut down by societal interaction. So, when I’m home for a while, I get the urge to dive in and use my time to do something that I’m hoping is going to be great. Which I know is the carrot I’m never going to catch. That’s the pursuit of art.

Ian Moore returns to the new location of Poor David’s Pub by South Side Lamar on Sunday, January 23rd for an evening that may be a little less intimate, but just as creative. His latest album, Luminaria, is a beautiful, folksy ride thorough his gothic world. Just the perfect listening material for a Sunday.

Originally published © 2005 Dallas Music Guide

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