Staying Moist: Mickey Melchiondo Reflects on 20 Years of the Moistboyz
You’d posted last year that you were making a solo record, with a bunch of different musicians, including Guy. Did that turn into a Moistboyz record?
Ween broke up in May last year. I’d been writing some songs just ‘cause that’s what I do. I don’t need a Ween record to do it. I’ve always had some kind of home studio, office studio, or a rental space, and if I feel inspired, I do it. I was writing some of my songs, and I was going to try to do a Moistboyz record and a solo album simultaneously. And then at one point, I was having Guy sing on a lot of my solo material, and I thought, “wow, let’s just combine this and make this one big record.” I posted that, and then I backed away from the idea. The Moistboyz have too much of an identity, and these songs weren’t going to fit into a Moistboyz record. The songs that I write by myself don’t sound like the Moistboyz. Guy is just one of the most incredible singers and lyricists I know. He’s just so talented. So, we decided to work on the Moistboyz record and just focus.
Guy was staying with me here for three months at a studio I rented. It took us exactly one year to make the record, but not consecutively. We worked on it in September and October and then Hurricane Sandy was a real buzzkill. He was living at the studio. It was a great place. It had three bedrooms and a retail space. It had a lot of space, too much space, and too expensive. We lost power up here in New Hope for around 11 days and it completely stopped the momentum of our record. He had to stay at someone’s house with a generator. I had a plan to stop around that time anyway and start striper fishing. That’s when my fall schedule as a charter boat captain kicks in. It was devastating on a number of a levels. A lot of my friends lost everything. My one friend’s house burned to the ground in a gas fire and washed away with the hurricane. All of our attention just turned to complete sorrow, helping people get back on their feet. I did a benefit concert in Asbury Park for my friend. We stopped and Guy went home, because it was getting to be around the holidays.
You can’t be creative every day for too long. Getting together and writing new songs. I’ve found that with Ween and the Moistboyz that you can do it for around two weeks, every single day, but then you need a break of about a week, and then you can do it. But really after a couple of months of it you’re dry of all your ideas and you start to hate the sound of your own guitar and your own words. It all sounds the same.
So, Guy, went home and it gave us time time to live with the material, and I realized that we’d finished the record. But there were four or five songs that were standouts out of 10, so I decided to go back to Austin, where he lived, in February, and try to write three or four or five more songs that were as good as the best songs that we had done. Overdo it. Instead of making the record great, make it Back in Black great, not a wasted second. We did it and it worked. Some of my favorite songs were done in the second batch of writing.
So you guys over-record, like Ween?
Yeah, we have a ton of material. A ton. If people are interested in it, we’ll put it out. We’ve been very good about making our shit free and accessible on the internet. You can tape, you can film. If there’s something I don’t want people to have, I make sure they don’t. I keep it under wraps. The best Ween unreleased stuff, no one has ever heard. For all that stuff I’ve put out there, the best stuff, we keep that sacred. It’ll come out some day.
How did you and Guy meet?
We met when I was probably 14 years old. We had a mutual girlfriend. When Aaron and I moved out of The Pod, he and a couple of his friends got a farm, Brookridge Farm, which is on the back of Pure Guava, and I moved in with my wife. I was 21 years old. Guy’s band, The False Front, lived at the farmhouse, so there were two bands at that house at once. That’s where I started four-tracking with Aaron. That and my apartment. It was a great brotherhood thing going on between the two bands. Very incestuous. They’d open for us a lot. Then we got them signed to Shimmy Disc, who put out our record The Pod, so they signed False Front, too. Kramer produced their first two albums.
I would go over to the farmhouse every day and night and I would four track with Aaron. We were writing the songs for Chocolate and Cheese. Aaron wouldn’t always be there, and Guy was always there, since he was the singer in the False Front. So Guy and I started recording together, and it had this real identity to it. It was punk rock except for the drum machine. We started doing it at my house and we were getting better and better and refining it. Our first real breakthrough song was “Carjack,” the first song on the first record. And it was so much better than the other things we did. And it set us in motion, and the identity of it focused us.
I’ve known Guy since ’84, something like that. We go way, way back. We’ve been through a lot together as far as births and marriages and divorces and life and death of a lot of our close friends. I have a very brother-like friendship with him, much like I do with Aaron.
New Hope seems like a pretty fertile place.
People are blown away when they come and see what we have here. We have our own little CBGBs, John and Peter’s. It’s this little bar in a tourist town that holds 100 people, and it’s the only dank, dark bar where the tourists avoid it. Every other bar is mobbed on the weekends. We have our own club where we’ve played 8 trillion times. You’ve got Andrew Weiss, Ween’s producer. You’ve got Claude Coleman, Glenn McClelland, Dave Dreiwitz, Chris Harford and the Band of Changes. We have our own scene here. There are a lot of other bands. We have this music scene in this tiny little town, that’s one square mile on the Delaware River, of top notch musicians. There’s a rotation of around 100 different guys that we’ve been in bands with that we’ll continue to be in bands with. We have a jam night on Wednesday night at John and Peter’s, and see the amount of talent that’s in this one little town. It’s incredible. It has a lot of history to it, and there’s a lot of great music here.
New Hope was founded as an artists’ colony. There were a lot of impressionist painters. If you go to Amazon and search “New Hope, Pennsylvania” or “Bucks County, Pennsylvania,” there are coffee table books of art going back centuries. It’s just always that place. If you go 20 miles away, you get to high schools with football teams with 1,000 people in the graduating class. Aaron and I went to the public school, as Guy did in Lambertville, on the Jersey side [of the Delaware River] and we had 50 people in our graduating class. It’s not a place where you grow up where the jocks are more popular. Everybody’s weird and strange and accepted. Charlie Parker lived here during the final years of his life. It’s sort of like what the Hamptons are to New Yorkers, or Fire Island or something. You’re not out of the picture. A lot of people commute to New York every day. It’s only 67 miles. You have Princeton and Philadelphia. So you’re in the country without removing yourself from the advantages of living in the city.
Oh, right, and there was that weirdo folk scene in Bucks County in the ’60s, with Michael Hurley and [Holy Modal Rounders co-founder] Steve Weber. I’d never connected that Ween and the [drug-taking weirdo-folkies] Holy Modal Rounders came from the same place.
Yeah, we went to school with Hurley’s kids. Weber’s still here, if he’s alive. I haven’t seen him in a few years. I used to see him at the bar every night.