Før jul ble undertegnede overtalt til å bruke litt tid på Robert Moses & The Harmony Crusaders. Noe som var sjeldent velbrukt tid. Jeg falt pladask for platen, og har vært så heldig å få høre singelen de jobber med i disse dager. Og det jeg har fått høre lover særdeles bra for fremtiden til dette bandet, som er noe unikt og særegent på den norske Americana og alt-country himmelen.
Siden Robert Moses & The Harmony Crusaders er ute på veien i disse dager, så har vi tatt oss en prat med vokalist og låtskriver Robert Moses.
Tell us a bit about Robert Moses, your time in Chicago and the music-part of things over there…
Well, I grew up in Chicago, went to a Catholic all boys high school, my dad was an artist and my mother a member of Mensa. I played a lot of sports and guitar and eventually got in a band of young men who thought it was us against the world when we were between the ages of 18 to 24.
We were very serious as young guys can be about their first band and very dedicated to the music. At one point we had seven guys living in a house built for three normal people (all band members plus sound guy and two roadies). In our living room we had our equipment set up so we could play 24 hours a day if we desired and sometimes we did, and right in front of us was a waterbed so you could lay there, stoned out of your mind if you wanted to, and listen to our mind altering jams!
I will never forget the furniture in the living room. We bought a really nice van, kind of like a customized one a retired person could take out on vacation, and since we needed room in it for our gear we gutted it and those brown, orange and yellow seats became our couches and chairs – of course with no legs on them so they were right on the floor. And they smelled like cat piss!
Would be hippies, who wanted to check out the vibe in San Francisco and see if it was better for them than the square Midwest, would leave their grungy cats with us, usually not knowing they were pregnant.
You could say that we were the kind of band that guys with long hair would come to see to stare at our hands. Not a lot of women came around in the early days, and certainly none that hung out at our house for very long. That was until I figured out that to get guys to come to the shows you had to get the women in the door. After that it kind of took off.
Any recordings exist from those days ?
There are no proper releases from that time, but I have some decent demo recordings laying around. I have to put them somewhere online someday. They are really good. I listen to it now, and we had a great little band. Back then it was not as it is today to release stuff on your own, and I guess we had dreams of a record contract, and had a couple of people sniffing around us in that direction, so we waited. And it was before the internet.
Then I lived in London for about three years and now have been in Oslo, Norway for about 17.
At some point I got a little disillusioned with music, mostly because it happened that the people I had the best musical chemistry with and were loyal to didn’t always have the same drive to do something with it as I had. There is nothing wrong with sitting around, waiting for tomorrow to come, listening to hours and hours of bad quality Grateful Dead bootlegs, but I was not into it. If you ask them, at the time they were probably glad to not have to hear any more Replacements records, or whatever it was I was playing. We all needed a break from each other. And I don’t know if we all recognized what we had either.
Anyway, around that time I also saw that there was more to life than music and living among and I wanted to explore the world and experiment with creativity in different forms. I also thought that for a person to be well rounded and mature, it helped a great deal to live in a foreign country and be challenged in terms of the norms we grow up with and what we think is ‘right and wrong’.
My vague goal at that time was to become like a Renaissance Man – like Leonardo da Vinci in a way. To be able to write poetry, draw, make things with my hands, be knowledgeable about different aspects of culture, be able to say something in an educated way about most subjects, be more aware of the world around me, even be more sympathetic to the plight of others, etc.
So, London seemed to be the place for just that. One day I realized that if I did not do it when I got the chance it probably would never happen. Then one day, the band broke up and it was time to ‘put up or shut up’ as we say. In the previous six to nine months before that a number of things happened – my father died, broke up with my girlfriend, etc. The time was ripe for change, so I got on the plane and didn’t look back. And I certainly was not going to do music ever again.
London was a great time. And quite difficult and challenging. But I got to spend a lot of time working on creativity, art and aesthetics, going to art museums most every afternoon in the beginning and staring at paintings by Cezanne and Picasso and trying to figure out why they were supposed to be good. It was a time of indulgence and turning over every rock I could to find the ‘answer’. Looking back on it now, it was a lot of preparation for developing my own set of aesthetics and compositional ideas that were later employed when music came back into my life.
Why Norway? How did you end up here?
I came here as part of a bicycle camping trip through Scandinavia (it was connected to the Renaissance Man concept – not being an outdoorsman, it was a challenge, and if something went wrong I had to fix it with my own hands). I went through Denmark first because I knew a lot of people there and had spent a couple of Christmases there. I knew one person in Norway who was the mother of my first serious girlfriend in Chicago.
I remember coming in on the ferry into Oslo and as soon as I hit the ground felt there was something strange and yet familiar in the air. I rode my bike around for a while, going up to Telemark and then down to Verdens Ende before heading back to Oslo and meeting up with this person. Through the women I knew I met people I clicked with quite well and shared personal goals with, saw that Oslo was a nice, small city, one that I had thought I would always live in one day and that I was kind of miserable in London. I then had an opportunity to work here and then a place to live, so I thought ‘why not?’ I was at a crossroads in life and it was time for a change and at the same time a continuation of the life I had lived up until then. I had found the place where I was supposed to be.
After being here for about 10 years and still not doing any music, I ran into someone that is a kind of vocal coach and I went to her seminars just to do something different. She heard me sing and began encouraging me – the voice was just something that was fun to work with. Meeting her made a big difference and was a turning point.
I had been thinking of getting back into some kind of performing art, no matter what it was, and this looked like a good opportunity so I jumped in and learned a lot from this person and over time I realized I found something unique in my voice. To me, if you find some kind of talent, almost no matter what it is, you have an obligation to develop it. Otherwise, why be born with it and have it just sit there? That didn’t make sense. People, including myself, spend years looking for something they have that is unique. What are you going to do when you think you might be on to it?
How did you end up in Halden to record your debut album?
Eventually I began writing the songs that appear on the record and I began attracting people to work with, they started to show up the more I got out there and sang. I have a friend whose father runs a studio and I decided to make a demo of a couple of songs. At that point Malin had begun to sing with me and Kristoffer from Ila Auto was playing the bass.
The studio often called Freddy Holm to do sessions for them and they asked him to work with me. I had kind of known who he was and was overjoyed to think he would play on my demo. I asked him to play a concert with me and then he heard more of my songs and voice and became interested.
After we did the demo, he thought that recording live in his studio would better suit my voice and songs than how we did the demo. He wanted to put all of the musicians into the same room and have us play live with little overdubbing and us bleeding into each other’s microphones. And to record quickly when the feel was right. He brought in Glenn on drums and Terje on bass – those three had been playing together for a number of years and knew each other well. I brought in Malin and Ketil. Ketil does not really have a background in Americana at all, but has as good set of ears as anyone I have ever met. They are all amazing.
Anyway, those guys had not heard the majority of my songs before we recorded in Freddy’s living room. Just about every song on the record is at most a fourth take after hearing them for the very first time. I was amazed. There are rough things on the record, and vocal takes I had to live with because my loud voice went into everyone else’s microphone , but the energy was the main thing we wanted to capture. And Freddy did a good job in keeping us going at a quick pace and things never got stale.
Pretty quickly we saw we had a really good chemistry and that what we were doing was original. Tom Skjeklesæther heard it and was very encouraging right from the start, offering to take our music to record companies and represent us. He joined us at that point and has been very helpful in opening some doors for us that would have taken a longer time to get through on my own.
I have to say I am incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by such talented, enthusiastic people. It is a dream for anyone who writes songs. There are thousands of us somewhat sad guys roaming around by ourselves with an acoustic guitar, howling about our feelings into an uncaring empty night sky, escaping into one beer after another and robotic, unattached sex. I was one of them, and without my good fortune, and a lot of hard work and determination on my part, I would still be there – producing a sound people didn’t really care about. I know what that is like!
What does the future hold for you guys?
We are working with a very good promotional company for a spring tour around Norway who is also going to help us lay down the foundation for when our second record comes out. We are going into the studio very soon to record a couple of songs that will be released at that time as a single.
Slowly but surely our record is getting some notice. I find that things take longer in reality than in my head! Oh well, that is how the world works.
I believe this band has a lot to offer to audiences and it is kind of my job to get us heard. Again, if you have something good it is kind of your obligation to get it out there and let people decide. Otherwise, why do it? We are also planning on playing some festivals, and if anyone is out there running a festival, listen to our record and invite us along.
We have a very talented group of musicians in this live band. We are even talking about going to Germany with another Norwegian band called The South.
Turnéplan, vår og sommer 2014:
27. mars: Logen Bar – Bergen
28.mars: Vertshuset, Bø Jazzklubb, Bø
29. mars: Antikvariatet, Trondheim
3. april: Buddys Scene, Drammen
4. april: Riksscenen, Bakjens Basar Concert Series w/The South, Oslo
24. juli: Utkantfestivalen – Skjerjehamn.
Og platen Self Developing Country ble nylig nominert til Alt. Country prisen hos Independent Music Awards, sammen med folk som Richard Murrey og Possessed By Paul James