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Published: 1999/04/15
by Jesse Jarnow

DOIN’ 90 THE ENTIRE WAY: Rob Derhak and moe. hit the road… again.

The perpetual motion of moe. might appear abnormal at first glance. At this point for the band, though, it’s practically routine. A quick recap: Following the release of the band’s second major label effort (and fifth album), entitled “Tin Cans and Car Tires”, the band hit the road for a long fall tour, slowly beginning the transition from mid-sized and large clubs to small theaters. In addition to the birth of guitarist/vocalist Al Schnier’s son Benjamin in August, the moe. family was further expanded with the arrival of bassist/vocalist Rob Derhak’s son “Fast” Eddie mid-tour.

Following a triumphant New Year’s Eve show during which the band managed to pack Philadelphia’s cavernous Electric Factory, the band took a few weeks “off”. Use the term loosely. Al ended up on the road for a short tour with his new side endeavor, Al and the Transamericans. Fresh on the heels of that, the band holed up at one of their numerous secret bunkers along the eastern seaboard to prepare for their spring outing.

When the band hit the stage for a stealth gig at the Stone Coast Brewery in Portland, Maine, moe.rons were in for a surprise: a five-piece version of moe.. Supplanting Derhak, Schnier, guitarist/vocalist Chuck Garvey, and drummer Vinnie Amico, was former moe. and Yolk drummer Jim Loughlin (aka #2) who had recently played bass on the Al and the Transamericans tour. Stationed at a master control just next to Vinnie, Jim held forth on a wide array of percussion, as well as flute, melodica (that keyboard thingee that one blows into), and even acoustic guitar.

The quintet snaked its way across the country and back again from the beginning of February to the end of March on what was dubbed the No Hard Feelings tour. The band continued moving into larger venues. In addition to a variety of bust-outs, the band added a greater depth to their sound – a trend started on New Year’s Eve – by adding a variety of new instrumentation and arrangements to spice up old songs. After a show at Cleveland’s Odeon on March 21st, the band headed home for a few well-deserved weeks off.

On the morning of April 9th, I spoke to Rob Derhak from his home in Maine, just before he took off for the evening’s gig in Boston, and the next leg of the tour which will take the band into the Midwest, through the southeast, and back home again by the end of May. Plans for the rest of the year have been shaping up recently too. Periodic studio time is planned (see below interview), multiple weeks of rehearsal are scheduled, and, to cap it off, the band will be playing at Woodstock ’99 — a festival in, uh, the “spirit” of the original to be held in upstate New York during the last weekend of July. Perhaps the only independent band on the bill, moe. will join a bevy of big name rock acts such as Aerosmith, Metallica, Bush, the Chemical Brothers, Alanis Morisette, Sheryl Crow, George Clinton, and others.

JJ: The first question for you today is what made you wanna rock?

RD: (laughs) Lack of girls.

JJ: How did the Woodstock thing come about?

RD: The truth or the fantasy part?

JJ: Either/or.

RD: We were so good they had to get us. (laughs) We’ve been working with Don Law for a while and we just have a relationship with them. It’s our hometown, basically, where we all grew up. It made sense for them to put us there, I guess. It’s not like we’re headlining or anything.

JJ: Do you feel like anymore of a big rock star than you did, say, before you were asked?

RD: (laughs) No, not exactly.

JJ: How was the first leg of the tour?

RD: It was great, I had a blast. It was fun playing with Jim. We actually really enjoyed ourselves… not that we hate what we’re doing. Even though we were on the road for seven weeks, which is kind of long to be away from home, especially when you have kids, we had a really good time. It was great for me except I got sick once, for like three days, three gigs right in a row, and that kinda sucked.

JJ: Do any moments, musical or otherwise, stick out?

RD: Yeah, sure…

JJ: Good answer. Very lucid.

RD: There was a lot of stuff that was interesting. I thought Cleveland was pretty wild. I couldn’t believe the crowd we had there. We’ve never had that kind of crowd in Cleveland before. Musically, there were a couple of times, like… Meat seemed to be the best song we were playing the whole tour. We’d really tear it up. We’ve doing this thing in that and Brent Black, where instead of where in Brent Black I used to just take a solo, we’ve been doing it so it’s a percussion/drums thing, and then a solo. It’s been more of a collaborative thing. That seems to stick out for me, on a couple of occasions. One night in Chapel Hill, Meat was really good. That really stuck in my head

JJ: How much was the whole group dynamic changed by having Jim back in the band?

RD: We fight a lot more… (laughs)... It’s been really cool. Jim’s a really good guy. Him and Vinnie get along great so it wasn’t like any kind of weird drummer jealousy thing going on. I think it’s made us listen even more than we do normally to what everyone else is doing because Jim has to make sure and Vinnie has to make sure that they’re not stepping on each other’s toes for drum fills. I’m kind of in that circle. Me and Vinnie kinda have this going, after two and a half years, where we know when not to do a fill and let the other guy go. Now we had to put another person into that mix. You really have to keep your ears open.

JJ: Have you had to change what you’ve been doing specifically at all to handle this?

RD: Yeah, I tone it back a little. I’ve been toning it back more and more as I play trying to take more of a role as a bass player and a singer and not so much crazy-step-on-everybody’s-toes-slap-funk boy. I try to keep the groove going a little bit better.

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