In the last year and a half, Galactic has been a busy band. After releasing Crazyhorse Mongoose in the summer of 98, they embarked on their “non-stop national tour,” in support of the album. The tour has just wound down and the bands back home in New Orleans for the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. During this time, the backbone of Galactic, drummer Stanton Moore, released his debut solo album, All Kooked Out. Stanton did a mini-tour with Charlie Hunter and Skerik in support of the album. He occasionally sits in with the New Orleans Klezmer All-Stars and numerous other Crescent City acts.
JJ: Now you use to play in the New Orleans Klezmer All Stars, how long ago was that?
SM: I guess about two and a half years ago. I toured with them for around a year and a half, two years as the regular drummer. Then I started touring with Galactic and the Klezmer Band, and Ben (Ellman) was doing the same thing. But with Ben we could get someone to sub for him a little bit easier than the band can get a sub for me. Ben kept doing it with both the bands and missed a couple Galactic gigs every now and then and we’d get Skerik or Brent Rhodes or Jason Mingledorf or someone else. But for me I had to commit full time to Galactic. But I still play with them every now and then.
JJ: Now Theryl’s a bit older than the rest of the band, how did you guys end up hooking up with him?
SM: All three of us, Jeff, Rob and myself, would hang out at Bennies, a little tiny Blues bar in the neighborhood where the Neville Brothers and the Meters grew up in. So Jeff and Rob were going there to see Theryl on a regular basis, and I was going there to see this other band JD and the Jammers. So were all going to this club all on different nights and Rob and Jeff eventually became buddies with Theryl. We got the band kind of rollin’ from there and we asked Theryl to come sing with us. We had been playing around for a while, we had a young college dude singing with us and we had a horn section. Then we kind of got rid of the horn section and the singer and decided to revamp the band. Theryl had already seen us and known about us and said he would be interested and coming and playing with us. The first time we got together we wrote “Something’s Wrong with this Picture” and a couple other tunes. Then we were about to go into the studio a few months later, so we invited him to come sing on a few studio dates and that was Coolin’ Off. So it just kind of felt natural and it started to roll from there.
JJ: And Theryl is committed to Galactic full time now, right?
SM: Oh yeah totally.
JJ: So how long have you been playing funk music for?
SM: I guess about 10 years now.
JJ: And you’re a native of New Orleans?
JJ: So you’ve been right around the whole music scene in New Orleans for a while?
SM: Yeah, I’ve been around it my whole life. I’d go to the parades and hear the bands passin’ by and during Mardi Gras you hear music like Professor Longhair, the Meters no matter where you go. No matter if your into it or not, you still hear it. Then eventually I started getting interested in it. My dad was a really big fan of all Mardi Gras music so we would listen to that music together. Then pretty soon I realized who it was I was listening to and the significance of it. So when we started to get into this style of music, we were checking out bands like the Meters and James Brown and all that stuff. Then I slowly got into to stuff like Lou Donaldson and Grant Green, and tried to expand, with our own voice from there. Just kind of digest all that. And now, we feel like we’ve digested that and are trying to go in our own direction.
JJ: When you guys go into the studio do you guys have a majority of the songs written, because it often feels like they have an more of an improvisational feel to it than a written format?
SM: Right, for Coolin’ Off we had like 10 or 11 tunes worked out ready to record. That was our plan to put those on the album. Then Dan (Prothero), the producer at the time was like, “Why don’t you guys just jam and I’ll record it.” So it wound up about half the record turned out that way. Dan really dug the spontaneity of it. Only half the songs we had ready beforehand showed up on the record.
JJ: Did any of those song get carried over to Crazyhorse?
SM: Actually no, a lot of them haven’t been recorded by us, they’ve been recorded by other people, one of them has at least, but most haven’t been recorded.
JJ: What song would that be?
SM: Tchufunkta, it was recorded by the New Orleans Nightcrawlers and I recorded on my album. All Kooked Out
JJ: I’ve heard rave reviews of All Kooked Out, how long did you work on that for?
SM: We went into the studio for about five days.
JJ: Now that album featured Charlie Hunter on it, and you guys have toured with him, how is your relationship with him?
SM: It’s great, just talked to him the other day. He’s a really cool guy and we had a lot of fun on that tour. He would sit in with us and I sat in with his band a couple of times. He went on tour with me and Skerik just as a trio to support All Kooked Out. It was a five date short little tour. Yeah man, we have a lot of fun together.
JJ: Where did you come up with the name for Crazyhorse Mongoose?
SM: We named the tune that first, somebody I know took that name and started calling himself that. We just thought it was a cool name. I was like, “Hey man, check this out Crazyhorse Mongoose” and were like “Ah cool” So we named the song that and then later that same guy started calling himself “Quiet Please” and that’s the last tune on the record. So that’s kind of neat.
JJ: The secret song on Crazyhorse, is that a jam or an actual song?
SM: Yeah, its called “Get a Head On” we play it live.
JJ:Does Galactic have plans to put out a live album any time soon?
SM: I think so, we’re definitely considering it. Were going to put out this record were working on now.
JJ: Oh, so you guys are recording right now?
SM: We went into pre-production, and did one date in the studio already, to try to get the tunes that we’re planning on recording on tape and see how they sound. So we can think about it mulling over, before we actually go in and make the record. So we plan on doing this record and I think were going to record it in September probably and maybe do the live album after that.
JJ:So we can expect to see in the next couple years?
SM:Yeah after this record or shortly thereafter. We just bought our own DAT machine and mixer so we can start experimenting with getting better at making our own tapes.
JJ: I have a few friends who just started playing in a band and are just starting to play out gigs and traveling around, I was wondering, how rough is it on the road for you guys?
SM: Its not too rough anymore, but it was for a while. We were just sleeping on people’s floors not really getting showers, not being able to rent a hotel, moving all the equipment ourselves and setting it up. You know that’s what you have to do to get started. But we would have never gotten to where we are now if we hadn’t stuck in there. We did about a year and a half of playing in front of fifty people or whatever and schlepping the stuff around ourselves. So that was hard, not drastically difficult, but it was no walk in the park. Now though the road is a lot easier now. Its only because we’ve worked so hard.
JJ: Your tour has been billed as the “nonstop national tour.”
SM: …and that’s about the story.
JJ: Around the states, do you find any difference geographically in the scene, like out on the west coast, down south or out here on the east coast?
SM: Yeah it’s slightly different, they have all their different little niches for sure. Like down south it has its own vibe, its own energy in the audience and because we’re from the south, we have a nice thing going on with the south/southeast. The crowds turn out pretty much everywhere we go. We love it all, we love going up to New York, we love Jackson, Miss. Either one, because most anywhere we go now, people are excited and getting into it. It’s a little different everywhere but we dig it.
JJ: What kind of music are you listening to now?
SM: I’ve been listening to a lot. Actually it’s this Balinese music, and other music from islands of Asia.
JJ: So it’s the music of the natives?
SM:Like really bizarre sounding stuff
JJ:What’s the instrumentation?
SM: I don’t even know the names of the instruments. It’s just fun to listen to, because I don’t know anything about it, so I don’t listen to it with an analytic ear, and just listen to in a way that I listen to a lot of other types of music. It’s just like “wow” it sounds so good, and I don’t know anything about it. I’ve been listening to stuff from Cuba, Morocco, drummers from Africa, all kinds of different stuff. I’ve spent so much time listening to the Jazz/Funk/Soul stuff, and I love that, but I find it refreshing to listen to other types of music, and try to let that influence you.
John James is a student of Journalism who can’t snap his fingers.