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Moon Hooch’s Cathedral Construction

You’ve released the live DVD Live At The Cathedral. Why did you want to make a concert film? Is that inkling in every artist or did you think there was something that you did on video that couldn’t be translated on record?

MW: I can’t say what inklings every artist has but I do think our live show carries more energetic weight than our records. We are a touring band and the stage is our realm.

What went into the decision to record at Cathedral of St. John the Divine? The videos make it quite an imposing space.

MW: Our manager knows the lady that hold events there and they thought it would be cool to have us play there. As a band we didn’t put much thought into it other than working with our friend John to set up an insane laser show.

What did you absorb from Joshua Tree while you were out there recording your latest EP? It’s one of my favorite places in the world.

MW: The mountains, desert and calm have really stuck with me from that place. It’s so incredibly quiet out there that you’re forced to sit with your thoughts and who you are as a person. The whole time I was there I had my phone powered off so I could escape from the psychosis of modern culture and actually just live on this planet as a human.

James, you were in India and got deep with the tabla. What was going to India like?

JM: It was a very intense and inspiring experience. The first time that I went there I studied the tabla and the second time was a really amazing experience. The first two weeks I went I met with someone I had studied with before and knew was a good teacher, but I didn’t really have any plans besides going there and seeing if he was still there. The first morning I was there I woke up super early and walked along the Ganges and I heard this music off in the distance. I followed the music and ended up at this Indian classical music concert along the river. I walked up to the tabla player and asked him if he would give me lessons, so every day I took a listen with him and the other person I met previously. Other than taking those lessons, I was practicing every day, maybe six hours a day. I learned a lot and I just wanted to soak up the repertoire as much as I could.

Then I went to Calcutta and met the teacher I study with in New York City. I stayed at a hostel nearby and every morning I walked to his house and practiced with him. Sometimes he would bring me to concerts in the evening. It was incredible, it was basically just an immersion in the music as much as I could.

Have you ever indulged in other musical adventures or percussion sabbaticals like this before?

JM: This would be the first percussion sabbatical in India. The first time I went in 2012 and I was only there for two weeks in Calcutta. I attempted doing intensive practice where you close the blinds, have food ready in the room, there’s a bathroom nearby and all you do is practice. When you can’t practice anymore you go to sleep and when you wake up you continue to practice and just keep continuing on that cycle. But I could only do it for three-and-half days, though I tried to do it for 10. I wasn’t ready.

I’m certainly a fan of the band and I had a cool connection with you one night when you played in Lake Tahoe with Pimps of Joytime. I happened to be working the venue that night and they needed someone to step in and do lights, so I stepped in and did it despite having never done it before. I had a great experience really trying to connect with what you were doing with the music and syncing it up with the lights. Have you ever had connections like that as fans that had a profound impact for you?

JM: Mike Doughty was the first one to bring us on tour for him, so he had a big impact on us. He was the first one to show us what touring is like and we’ve collaborated with him quite a bit. They Might Be Giants really showed us what touring was like; Lotus and Beats Antique too. All these bands that we tour with we definitely take inspiration from. It’s hard to say exactly what, but we are sharing the same creative space and space on stage with them. We are definitely picking up hints of inspiration.

What are you trying to work on as a human being?

JM: I think we have a duty to give back more than we can take if we can. I feel like when you are young, you have this tendency to take, take, take. Then as you get older you have this feeling that you need to give back. I feel like we are stepping into that domain or chapter in life.

Something I find commendable is that Moon Hooch only seems like an aspect of what you are doing on this earth, it isn’t the full picture, you have other outlets. Could you ever see yourself stepping away from Moon Hooch if the business side of things ever got in the way of connecting with fans or the music?

JM: Personally, I don’t think I could ever see myself doing that. I could still do other things as a profession, I could be interested in that too. But I don’t think I could ever get away from music and think it was a good thing deep down (laughs).

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