I am R. Stevie Moore, the one you've heard or read about.
I can feel sixteen or thirty six, incidentally.
I am your first commonplace Southern original composer.
I also delve into about fifty other arts & crafts.
I appear somewhat just out of high school full of ambition.
I let my music contain that awkward innocence, as well.
I really can't do anything about my tendencies, except grow older.
I have always been a prisoner of viewing life and philosophy from Tennessee.
I am a Sixties child, always enthralled with the show business of rock 'n roll.
I was never close enough to touch it.
I have listened to more records than anyone in the world.
I have liked almost all of it.
I write a lot of songs over random-played drum tracks.
I want to befriend all of my rock heroes.
I shall make some great records if you encourage me enough.
I believe I'm making you an offer here.
I might remind you of somebody, maybe your brother.
I come to your town in peaceful artistic form, with great expectations.
I must work to fit in, I'm sure.
I can become physically and mentally involved with a simple tape deck.
I like to do everything that can be done with one.
I am proud of my personal music catalog.
I don't think there can be anything like it anywhere.
I really have no statement, other than this.
I am turning into a complex man.
I can't help it.
I am happy this way.
I love almost all punk rock, but I wouldn't want to be one.
I have a large mustache most of the time.
I sometimes lose it to boredom.
I know I can always start a new one.
I never get enough sex.
I can wear some strange clothes.
I wonder why I can't begin to play a horn.
I really miss all of my former girlfriends, sometimes.
I hope my bed saves my life again.
I thank you by stopping this stupid shit.
R. Stevie Moore has never released a record on a major label. He has never had a hit single or been on a mainstream radio station. He has released more records than Bob Dylan, The Beatles, and Elvis Presley combined. Moore's career now spans forty years but his genius and influence are yet to be fully recognized; he is regarded by most who know his work as a DIY pioneer and 'the godfather of home recording.'
Moore's influence is two-fold: at once, he has a staggering music collection, encyclopedic musical knowledge, and bizarre personal tastes that he uses in experimental recording techniques and diverse compositional styles; while at the same time, his practices of self-distribution, music sharing, and minimal self-promotion were unheard of for a musician when he started his career. His sonic and musical stylings have influenced artists from Beck to the Microphones to David Byrne alike, while his distribution tactics stand as an uncompromising pillar in independent music.
Robert Steven Moore was born in 1952 in Nashville, TN. His father was Bob Moore, a celebrated session musician on the Nashville scene, who appears as a bassist on famous recordings by Chet Atkins, Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Hank Snow, Patsy Cline, Bob Dylan, Carl Perkins, and Willie Nelson. R. Stevie Moore met many of these performers as a child, and began his own music career as a background musician as well, appearing on a Jim Reeves single and performing at the Grand Olde Opry by the age of 17.
Even though Moore was raised in this environment, he realized its limitations and did his best to expand his musical boundaries while living at home. "By late 1977, Stevie [had] become quite disgusted with the Nashville scene. It's Waylon-Merle-and-Dolly territory all the way. They just don't hear (as in "deaf) anything else down there. (When Talking Heads played Nashville in 1977, a local DJ emceeing the concert made ad nauseum remarks about "Punk Rock comes to Nashville.")... And all the while, at home, he'd be listening to John Cage, Brian Eno, Frank Zappa, Firesign Theater and the New York Dolls." (Irwin Chusid, NJ ArtForum 1980) In 1978, Moore moved to Montclair, NJ.
Moore began to make a name for himself by working at local record stores, becoming an underground radio DJ, and performing on the Uncle Floyd show. With no real profession, no regular performance schedule, and nothing but self-promotion to sell records, he has lived near poverty for decades. "R. Stevie Moore lives in autistic, self-conscious existence in that tiny bat-roost, which is his bedroom and makeshift recording studio. The room is a shambles: overflowing ashtrays, magazines, god-only-knows-how- many-months' accumulation of dirty laundry, empty milk cartons and donut boxes, posters and tearsheets all over the walls. And records. More records than dirty laundry. Everything from the Sex Pistols to Duke Ellington; the Beach Boys to Bartok; Frank Sinatra, new wave, and "How To Train Your Dog in 10 Minutes A Day." Stevie attests that he's listened to more records than anybody in the world. Nobody's challenged that contention." (Irwin Chusid, NJ ArtForum 1980) Despite his local reputation and increasing popularity, Moore still lives in Bloomfield, New Jersey, emerging seldom to play club shows in New York City.
The aspect of Moore's career that is most influential today is not the musical output itself, but the mode of his output. R. Stevie Moore has composed, produced, published and distributed over 400 records since 1968. At a time when Pink Floyd and Brian Eno were expanding the sonic landscapes, and even Joni Mitchell and similar folk artists were shifting toward writing more polished pop albums, Moore was offering an alternative. His home-recording style went beyond mere low-quality demo tapes, which might warrant the term "lo-fi" in referring to musical aesthetics, as Moore independently shaped his music to be "a blend of classic pop influences, arty experimentalism, idiosyncratic lyrics, wild stylistic left turns, and homemade rough edges." (Stewart Mason, allmusic.com). Even in songwriting, Moore admittedly picked up on Eno's "happy accident" theory of composition.
Brian Eno, while recording his first four records (prior to his shift to "ambient music"), would often record vocal tracks by singing gibberish and guttural noises over instrumental tracks, listening to the playback and writing down the lyrics he thought the noises sounded like. Moore shifted this slightly by letting the accident become the basis for his composition. He would play drum beats and rhythms at random, or often solicit friends and other musicians to submit drum tracks by mail, and use these as a jumping point for the rest of his compositional process. What this produces are songs varied in tempo, style and feel, to which Moore has to adapt his harmonic and melodic structures. Furthermore, because his home-recording studio is built of low quality and now corroded recording equipment, Moore often finds unintended "mistakes" in his recordings---artificial distortion, tape warping, skips, silence, "shadow" tracks, etc. Ironically, with the nativity of a new "indie" music in the mid-1990s, most artists now working in digital recording strive for this sound that Moore produced accidentally.
R. Stevie Moore has been shipping mail orders from of his home since his first record. In 1981, he formalized this "business" by establishing the R. Stevie Moore Cassette Club, which has since spawned the R. Stevie Moore Video Club and the R. Stevie Moore CD-R Club. Each of more than 400 records are still available in a variety of forms, and with increasing popularity, Moore is now able to complain about the order volume occupying too much of his time. "People tell me I'm shooting myself in the foot, releasing so much -I've heard that for years... but I can't help it. It's who I am. I have this prodigy talent I was born with." (New York Times, 2005) (In addition to Moore and his uncle's publishing company, HP Music, Moore has also released records on Vital, Flamingo, New Rose, Hamster, Cordelia, Megaphone, Fan Club, CDRSM, Fruit of the Tune, Jar Music, Evelyn Place Tapes, Old Gold, Innova, The Orgone Company, Heliotrope, Comfort Stand, and WM Recordings.)
Home recording and self-distribution are often categorized as DIY music, which generally alludes not to a particular musical style but to the mode of its production. Thus, the significance of a DIY artist cannot be measured by how many records have been sold, by what is popular, or even by what is accepted. The reason DIY artists chose this mode of production is to have the freedom to do what they want, thus the quality of such artists lie in the compositions. Not to say that popular artists do not produce quality compositions, but DIY music shifts the notion of power in popular music and the popular music industry because it allows musicians to produce records without any presupposed attempt at fame; they are not recording for any producers, radio stations, or record labels. Yet in the case of Moore, this evaluation is slightly enigmatic: by home-recording, he provides himself this artistic and compositional freedom---he is not attempting to become "popular". However, most all his musical knowledge and influences are popular music and he often appropriates those "poppy" sounds. The problem is this: yet he is not "poppy" enough to be popular. As it appears listening through his catalog, R. Stevie Moore may be his own undoing: he is too good at what he does. With constant inspiration and output, Moore may never have time to popular.
Home recording has certainly made it easier for Moore to produce the volume of work that he has, but his mode of distribution inadvertently foreshadowed the immediate future of music. Much as Neil Young was unwillingly labeled the "godfather of grunge," R. Stevie Moore has been labeled the "godfather of home recording" as most fans admire his sheer dedication to his own ethos (even if he claims inability to deny his own genius). This type of recording and sharing would not only skyrocket in post-punk New York and pre-grunge L.A, but in the mid-1990s - when Kurt Cobain had committed suicide, "grunge" was being sold in the shopping malls, and the disillusioned youth became re-disillusioned---the music industry was overrun with post-grunge bands picking up new "indie" sounds and trying new ways to get their music out there. Some bands, Pavement for example, used tapes and recording to spread their music almost word-of-mouth in rising to indie fame, whereas not dissimilar bands like Beck or The Microphones more recently embraced the idea of a "bedroom album" - a definition that could easily apply to each and every one of Moore's recordings. The concept of DIY music challenges the concept of musical distribution not in terms of technological advances but in its respect for musical composition and artistic integrity, often overlooked in the record industry.
In conclusion, R. Stevie Moore's genius derives from his stubborn eclecticism. His passion for music of all varieties shapes his own masterpiece compositions, while his dedication to his own music relegate him to obscurity. Yet however unheard of Moore is to most, the sound of indie records and the underground exchange of DIY music are all due to his experimental, reclusive, and bizarre perseverance.
The R. Stevie Moore YouTube.com webpage
Back In Time (1986) - Video by R. Stevie Moore (1988)
Chantilly Lace (1980) - Video "The Uncle Floyd Show" (1980)
Conflict of Interest (1980) - Video "The Uncle Floyd Show" (1980)
Cool Daddio (1978) - Video by Peter Stellato (1982)
Holocaust Parade (1984) - Video by R. Stevie Moore (1988)