Rob Derhak Picks moe.‘s Warts (Ten Years On)
Today we look back to December 2001 and site editor Dean Budnick’s interview with moe.‘s Rob Derhak…
Rob Derhak is my rock and roll savior. No really, he is. Like many of you, the events of September 11 left me with a sense of displacement and particularly uncertain as to how I would engage live music anymore. Taking in a show just seemed so self-indulgent and in many ways, irrelevant.
But a few days after 9/11, Derhak issued a strongly-worded open-letter on the moe. web site explaining why he felt the band needed to perform, as scheduled, at Boston’s Orpheum on September 14. While I will admit I was a bit conflicted, nonetheless, due in no small part to his posting, I drove to the Orpheum on that Friday. It turned out I needed those vibrations more than I had realized. A few hours later as the band concluded the night with a powerful, New York City, I felt that some measure of my spirit had been restored and vivified.
Ever since that day I’ve been eager to speak with the moe. bassist and ask him a few questions about that evening (and yes if/when the band would next perform “Plane Crash”). I did just that in mid-December, catching Rob fresh out of karate class to discuss the show, his brief route-me-home-on-the-ground tour with Al Schnier, forthcoming recording plans, his son’s musical tastes and yes, his role in selecting the performance that appears on moe.‘s new Warts and All live release.
DB- I’d like to start with your show at the Orpheum on September 14. After the events that had taken place earlier in the week I really thought I would have no taste for live music for quite some time but after it saw your strongly worded post on the moe. web site it really just inspired me to come on out. I’d like to hear your thoughts on that show.
RD- I really didn’t know what to think. I drove to the Orpheum from Maine with my wife and on the way in there was the hotel on the news that the FBI had just raided. It’s right around the corner from the Orpheum. I just started thinking the craziest things, like there could be a nuclear bomb planted in Boston. There were a million things going through my head. I told my wife I was scared that something might happen and she said, You must have a huge ego if you think somebody’s going to give a crap about you. (laughs).
The whole time we were playing there were all these different things going on in my head. It was very surreal. One thing that was cool was that once we got into it, it seemed like a whole different time and place until the show was over. I almost didn’t know what was happening until the end when we played “New York City.” I almost started crying when we started playing it. I saw some girl out in the audience crying and I looked at Al and he was welling up. That’s when it really hit home and I was glad we did this.
I talked to a cop about it the next day. My parents live outside of Boston and in the morning I went to Starbucks with my dad to get some coffee. I heard this guy say, “What are you doing here?” I turned around and it was a cop and I thought, “Oh my god what did I do?” Then he said, “I missed your show last night but I heard it was great. I’m coming tonight, thank you for playing.” It was really bizarre.
I felt like I had to do my complete best. We couldn’t look like assholes if we were going to do this. I had no real gut feeling that I wanted to be there doing that, I had to force myself into. But it was one of those things where we had to get past that point and do it to make everything normal again.
DB- Of course the two songs that book-ended the show and the ones that people needed to hear were two that you sing, “Captain America” and “New York City.” Did you feel any additional burden to perform those that night? Did you think about them quite a bit going in?
RD- I don’t know why I wrote the set like that, probably because I felt the same way that everybody else did. The only request I remember was, I don’t think you guys should play “Plane Crash” for a while.
DB- Which leads me to that question, of course. What is the status of that song, which as I’m sure you know is up there on many folks’ lists of moe. favorites? When do you think you’ll play it again?
RD- It would have been in really bad taste back then but at this point I think there’s enough time that we can start playing the song again. I tried to put it on the setlist earlier this tour and Al was like, “I’m not ready to play it yet.” So were just kind of waiting, I’m in no major rush.
DB- Although you did play it right after John Kennedy Jr.‘s plane went down.
RD- That didn’t over so well (laughs). Lesson learned.
DB- While we’re on the topic of planes. You felt uncomfortable flying home after the moe. tour so you did a series of shows with Al. How quickly did those gigs come together?
RD- Very quickly. I basically just called friends who owned clubs that were along the way. We actually had a blast doing it. We had no clue what we were going to do but we had all this looping stuff, this gear, and I had a couple of new originals that I thought we could test out. I only got to one of them but we had a lot of fun doing it.
We had a drum machine in Athens where we started. We rented an SUV in Baton Rouge, drove to Albany and went home from there. Along the way we would program drum parts for some of the songs with the drum machine along the way, So by the time we got to the last show we had drums for most of the songs.
DB- Are you thinking about doing it again?
RD- We definitely want to do it again but we don’t want to wear it out. Maybe another time when we have extra time after a tour. We also talked about renting a RV, taking our families along, going to the beach and doing a few shows but that might be insane.
DB- The new song you mentioned, “Summer, Oh I,” when you first introduced it you said that this is not going to be a moe. tune. Do you really think that it won’t be?
RD- I don’t think so. I just got the gear to start recording a solo album at home and I think that’s going to be on it unless moe. really wants to play it. But it really isn’t intricate, it’s sort of a short song. I have a few tunes that are like that.
DB- Songs that you haven’t brought to the band?
RD- I have ten or eleven songs. A couple have been brought to the band and they’ve said, This sounds like Springsteen, we don’t want to do it. (laughs). I still like those tunes but I can understand why they’re really not going to work as moe. songs.
DB- When do you think you’ll start working on the solo disc?
RD- Right now we have a lot of time off because my wife is due with another kid in January. So I think I’m going to start working on it now, once I start cleaning the house. [laughs] I just got a computer for it and some other gear so hopefully after Christmas I’ll be full into the project. Whenever I’m home I’ll work on it. I’m in no rush to get it out and I’d like to have everyone on moe. play on one song at least.