Rob Derhak Picks moe.‘s Warts (Ten Years On)
DB- On Warts and All, “Crab Eyes” and “Kyle’s Song” are credited to moe. and not any individual. Was the process different there?
RD- Yeah, with the whole new batch of tunes we have, we decided to try something new. In the old days we would sit down and hash things out. Songs like “Rebubula” and “32 Things” came out during a period of time where we all lived together in Albany. So we went up to Albany where Vinnie lives now and we stayed there for two weeks, rehearsing every day. We went in with almost a clean slate and started working on stuff. So with “Kyle’s Song,” we wrote the music together and everyone would come up with ideas for the words.
DB- What do you think about those songs [which also include “Lazarus” and “Kids”]
RD- They’ve been really hard to finish. I think they’re really all in progress and were still keeping at it. I can see that two years down the road they’ll be staples and well be playing “Timmy Tucker” less. I think that’s kind of how it works with us.
DB- Two of those appear on Warts and All. What was the process of selecting the show for that release. Did you all listen the gigs you recorded and then hash it out?
RD- It was supposed to be like that but at some point I realized that I was the only one listening. I’d been through like ten shows and I said, This one sounds like the best to me. Al said, “I’ll take your word for it, I trust your opinion,” and Chuck was like, “I don’t know.” Then he listened to that one show and said, There were some screw-ups but it was pretty good. So we picked it. Actually they may not be completely true but that’s the way I remember it (laughs).
DB- What is the experience like for you, going back and listening to your performance?
RD- It used to be thrilling. Every night after the show, we’d say, Did you get the tapes? and we’d listen. Now if something bizarre happens during the show, we’ll listen. Or, well do it when one of those moments occurs when were in a jam and something amazing happens where all of us will look at each other and say, “Holy fuck how did we do that? Where did that come from?” One of those times you can’t even explain how something like that happens, we have to hear it again.
DB- What were you listening for in selecting the show?
RD- Jams that were actually good, not just everybody going into space between two songs before we get to the other tune. That’s usually a bullshit cop out. I was listening for vocals not completely sucking. If there’s some funny between-song-banter, I thought that it represents the band. I wasn’t looking for the most obscure set although maybe we’ll put that out. Some people have complained that it was a matrix and not a full on board but I really don’t like the straight board tapes. I think they sound too dry and weird.
DB- Since you mentioned stage banter, do you think that aspect of your show changed when you moved out of bars and into bigger rooms?
RD- I think it’s like when you’re in junior high and you first go to high school, you keep your mouth shut and find out what’s going on before you start acting like yourself. Anytime people graduate to something else I think their human nature is to observe and see what happens. I think that once we got used it and started to feel comfortable we went back to our same ridiculous ways. It used to bother me. The only thing that really bothers me now is when we take way too much time tuning or dicking around between songs. I’ve seen bands do that when I’ve been to watch them play and it’s been like, “Okay that was a cool song but it’s been fifteen minutes since they did anything and I’ve got a babysitter and I need to get home.”
DB- When writing a set list do you keep that in mind?
RD- Yeah, I try not to put songs together where Al has to play his twelve string and then move to his mandolin. You also don’t want to come out with a tune where there’s way too much tuning to start a set. My main goal is to just walk on stage and hit it as hard as we can, to come out kicking ass. But sometimes bad things happen. The first night in New York [on November 23] we said well play “The Boys Are Back in Town” that will be so cool. Then my bass rig shit the bed during that song. It was like Spinal Tap. It totally sucked.
DB- How are your set list duties allocated?
RD- Me and Al switch off every night.
DB- What factors do you take into consideration when writing a list?
RD- I think about putting together the perfect album and what songs should go next to each other. Sometimes I want to bring something up, have it be really intense, sometimes it will be a gradual curve downward. I try to keep relative keys next to each other and also tempos to make the jams smooth. Then there’s time, you don’t want to do things for too long because people’s interest is completely lost but you definitely want to give people enough.
DB- What about statistics, in terms of the last time you played a song or last time in a particular city?
RD- I used to. Scippi [Richman, road manager] would print out what we did last time we were in a town. We also have the list from the last three shows and we try not to repeat anything from those three. I kind of bailed on what we played in the town because then the sets tended to move too far away from what a lot of our fans wanted to hear. Of course that’s still a balance because some songs that I consider my favorites I doubt that moe. fans would think of in that way. For instance, “The Ghost of Ralph’s Mom.” I really like the tune. It’s a hard-hitting rock and roll number but it’s in sevens, which many people don’t realize.
DB- Do you think that Al and yourself write drastically different set lists, so that its easy to distinguish a Rob list from an Al list?
RD- We used to. Now people will sometimes say to me, You wrote the setlist, that sounded like an Al setlist to me. It used be that Al would put in covers that I didn’t want to play and I would put in proven favorites that he probably didn’t want to play. I think we’ve gotten closer to writing the same kind of setlists because we’ve come up with better newer songs and we’ve come up with better covers.
DB- Let’s move on to the New Year’s Eve shows. Do you have anything special planned that you care to reveal?
RD- Were going to have a horn section that were psyched about. Jeff Petit from Yolk is putting it together. We came up with a whole list of songs for two sets of material with the horns, so well have some new covers. Maybe well do Greetings from Asbury Park. Maybe you never know I doubt it. New Year’s is getting closer and closer (laughs). Robert Randolph is opening the night before so that should be pretty cool too.
DB- What about plans to return to the studio?
RD- The talk is we are going to try to record after the winter tour. It looks like well work on a lot of those newer tunes and hopefully well have it ready for the fall.
DB- Looking back, what do you think of Dither?
RD- I am ecstatic. I like it a lot. It’s my favorite thing we’ve done so far. It sounds more like the band to me like any of the other albums. There’s a little weirdness but it sounds more earnest.
*DB- Final question, since we have children of the same age, what kind of music do you listen to with your son. One of my daughter’s favorite albums is actually No Doy. We crank it up and run around the house like maniacs.
RD- He really loves moe. but every time he hears a band he thinks it’s daddy on stage. He likes the new Lo Faber album but he thinks it’s me, though. I’ll also find him dancing to the weirdest things. I’ll find him bogeying, really getting down, to commercials on TV. Right now he’s all about Christmas music because this is his first year getting geared up about Santa. That’s why I said I’m always listening to Christmas music because he wants to hear Rudolph and all that stuff.
DB- What about any of that made for kids music
RD- Only when he’s acting up in the back of the car. We have one tape that we put on that has all this bad kids synthesizer music. It makes him stop freaking out and he always says, “No I don’t want the tape!” because he knows it has this power over him.
DB- And I think that says all there is to say about crappy kids synthesizer music.
RD- It does [Laughs].