Whenever you pop a new record onto the turntable or download a new song, you're going on an adventure of sorts. Some are about as exciting and predictable as a trek to the nearest Ralph's. But sometimes listening to new music is like going to another planet.
RSMGW Vol. 1, which features the work of Nashville-based lo-fi/DIY home recording guru R. Stevie Moore and lounge singer/experimental groundbreaker Gary Wilson (who lives in San Diego), promises to be much more of the latter. Every song on the 14-track effort is like learning a new fact about an unexplored world, and frankly, it's wonderful. And weird. Although it will not be released until early 2017 (on a yet-to-be-named label due to ongoing negotiations at press time), it will be more than worth the wait for those folks out there who are willing to let the boundaries of the envelope get pushed as far as they will go.
To say these two guys are legends in the experimental music world is an understatement. Moore, 64, is considered the godfather of lo-fi recording and has over 400 releases to his name, including the 1976 classic Phonography, which Rolling Stone's “Alt-Rock-a-Rama” issue listed as one of the 50 most influential indie albums of all time. The prolific Moore is constantly on the lookout for new collaborations, although at this point he is more into creating sound collages and exploring turntablism (the art of creating new sounds through record scratching and beat-matching) than recording new songs.
“The home recording thing, the irony is that I don’t really record very much anymore. I don’t have to. I have this huge back catalog. My aesthetic seems to be my huge selling point. People seem to like the haphazard, accidental noise stuff a lot,” says Moore.
Like Moore, Wilson, who turns 63 this month, made a name for himself in the 1970s with the release of his iconic experimental record, You Think You Really Know Me. Soon after that, he effectively disappeared from the music world for over 20 years until Motel Records re-released You Think You Really Know Me in 2002. Since then, Wilson has been a fixture on the experimental lounge/jazz/weirdo-pop scene and continues to crank out new music.
“Stevie and I go back to the Trouser Press days,” says Wilson, referencing a magazine and anthology series for alternative music popular in the late '70s. “Both of us were self-releasing our own records at the same time. It was cool finally meeting and playing together after so many years. We recently did two shows together in Brooklyn at Issue Project Room and Glasslands.”
The Wilson/Moore collaboration is the brainchild of executive producer Anders Larsson, who plays drums in Wilson's band, The Blind Dates, and also worked with Moore on the single “Boysage.” He explains, “Gary and Stevie are often paired as like-minded artists, which makes sense, since they were both at the forefront of the DIY and home recording movement. The idea came about very organically, like, 'Hey, what if Stevie and Gary were on the same song? Wouldn't that be crazy and just so perfect?' Before we knew it, one song had become two songs, and then we had several collaborative efforts.”
For Moore, the collaboration, which has all taken place long-distance, has been a unique experience.
“This has been a strange compilation because we haven’t done a thing together,” he says. “It’s very fun. It has no focus, but of course I’m happy with that. We put our work projects together haphazardly. I’m kind of known for that. I like to dwell on spontaneity and accidents and then move on to the next thing instead of toiling and procrastinating.
“There’s not much to say about me and Gary except the fantasy of it all,” Moore adds. “To let everyone’s mind wander about the possibility of what could happen with an R. Stevie Moore and Gary Wilson record.”
There are a few other recognizable names on RSMGW Vol. 1. Half Japanese alumnus Jad Fair appears, as does Jellyfish drummer Jason Falkner, Ryan Sinnott of The Distillers, L.A. scene-maker Karen Centerfold, Department of Descriptive Services' Bebe McPhereson (half of Tucson experimental legends Bebe & Serge), Pall Jenkins (Black Heart Procession), Shags Chamberlain and Jimmy Whispers.
The Karen Centerfold/Bebe McPhereson song “Anders Saw Karen” is completely riveting, with Karen Centerfold repeatedly asking, “Do you know who I am?” over Wilson and Moore's funky sound collage. McPhereson says the idea for the song came about after an interaction between Centerfold and the LAPD at a party.
“She said to the cops, 'Do you know who I am?'” says McPhereson. “It was so flippin' funny to hear her say that to the cops! That's the actual moment I wrote the song about.”
McPhereson is a huge Gary Wilson fan. “It's so incredible that I got to sing on his original music. Every time I see him live I make a big freak-out, screaming and hugging his leg.”
“It's always fun to be with Bebe and Karen. The song makes me want to dance 'The Twist,' ” says Wilson of the track.
Both Moore's and Wilson's fathers were also musicians: Moore's was a highly acclaimed Nashville session player, Bob Moore, and Wilson's dad had a long-running lounge act in Endicott, New York. Both men grew up with access to all kinds of musical gear and recording equipment.
“I've been interested in recording since I was 8 years old,” says Wilson. “Wrote my first song influenced by Dion and the Belmonts when I was 9 years old. I wanted to be like Dion. Then The Beatles came to town. [I had] the pleasure of seeing The Beatles live at Shea Stadium when I was 12 years old. I just continued that process of writing and recording my own material.
“It gives me joy when a song is born,” he continues. “I also considered myself at that time an amateur audiophile. When I was a teenager in Endicott, New York, I kept up on all the latest high-end audio equipment and would often spend hours in the local stereo equipment stores. I was always looking for the best sounds from my vinyl records and tapes. I still try to get the best sound I can in my home studio.”
While both musicians would probably prefer some more-direct collaboration with each other in the future, they are excited about the record and how it is evolving.
“The album sounds good to me — a cool selection of music and artists that are different from one another but all fit together in a strange way,” says Wilson.
Moore agrees. “I’m digging what I’m involved with on the album. I’m digging what Anders is doing … It’s a loose album. There’s a lot going on — a lot of mysterious soundscapes and echo-y reverb.”
For Larsson, working with the two legendary experimental artists has been a pleasant process of discovery.
“To see what both Gary and Stevie have done is, like so much of their work, awe-inspiring,” he says. “They both really surprised me with how they develop the music. Both of them are known the world over for creating music at home, and it's not really a transparent process. So to hear early versions, ideas, riffs, skeletons and then what they developed those into was very cool.”
Even though RSMGW Vol. 1 is not out yet, everyone involved seems to be already looking forward to a sequel. “Maybe a volume two would really be a great marriage of his smoothness and my cracked-up style,” says Moore, laughing. “I love him because his appearance is totally off-the-wall, but his music is right on point as far as lounge and jazz. He’s not a rocker, and that’s OK.”
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