“If you build it, they will come.”
Those words whisper over Kevin Costner’s character Ray Cansilla in the seminal movie Field of Dreams as he walks through cornfields, prompting him to build a baseball diamond in the spot. He believed it would attract baseball players, which it did, though he could have never have expected the ghosts of the 1919 White Sox to take the field. It’s a phrase that has created its own cultural cliché, wherein making something not yet available to the greater public will influence its demand.
Thinking about this phrase brings to mind New York City trio Moon Hooch. Horn players Mike Wilbur and Wenzl McGower and drummer James Muschler started out busking the subway stations in the Big Apple, where their audience was whoever happened to be walking by on their way to somewhere more important. Slowly, Moon Hooch’s bruising, primal, dance music started attracting people, as they moved from subway stations to clubs and then festivals. Now they are internationally known band that has released three albums and tours all over the world. It’s sold out 18 markets in the last 6 months, including three-night stands in Seattle and Portland, and the band put out its first live concert CD/DVD Live At The Cathedral in June. What was once zero fans is now tens of thousands.
But even if there were still zero fans, you’d get the sense that Wilbur, McGower and Mushchler would still be playing. Over two communications with Wilbur and Muschler that caught the pair in the midst of trips through North Dakota and Europe, the musicians revealed a deep appreciation for what they and a commitment to focusing on the honesty of their music. The future will hold what it will hold, but Moon Hooch is concerned about what they are going to do today. After talking with them, it’s clear “if you build it, they will come” adages don’t actually apply to what Moon Hooch does. The band is more, “when we play it, they will come… or maybe they won’t come. But we’ll still be playing no matter what!” Read below about new music for Moon Hooch, a new side project and traveling to India for music lessons.
You guys did a two-month tour on the West Coast, how was that?
James Muschler: It was awesome. We got a lot of sold-out shows and the reception was amazing. We’ve been adding a bunch of new material to our live set and it has been sounding really, really well.
How have you guys been growing as a band that you’ve noticed? What is different about how you interact on stage or the music you are producing?
JM: I think we are actively adding more improvisatory concepts to the live set. We want to improvise within a certain medium or a certain structure if we can; improvisation within the rigidity of the structure. That has always been there with this band but we are trying to open it up a little bit more.
Did you record any material while you were out there on the West Coast?
JM: We managed to record about five songs, we’ll probably release four or five of them. Also Mike and I recorded a duo project, so there will be a lot of new music coming out.
What is your recording process like? Do you notice a change in the way you sound or the way you record?
Mike Wilbur: Recently we have been avoiding the anal, specialized attitude of recording studios and set up our own gear to record ourselves. Wenzl and I are now competent enough engineers and producers to take things into our own hands. The way we record completely changes the vibe of the recording in the same way that the place you’re fucking in changes the sex. If there’s some people you don’t know very well watching you, controlling how you sound, you’re not going to play as freely.
What do you hope to do with the newest album? What would be pushing boundaries for Moon Hooch?
MW: I don’t really think like that. I’d prefer to make honest music in the moment than prefabricate some boundary to be crossed. The future is bullshit and I’m here, now. When we get there, it’s going to pop off.
What’s the name of the new project?
JM: The project is either Cop God or God Cop. We should decide right now. What do you think we should do?
I like God Cop better.
JM: Alright God Cop it is, perfect.
How would you characterize what you’re doing?
JM: It’s entirely improvised and the instrumentation is mostly drum or synthesizer. Mike plays synth and I play drums. Mike also plays clarinet, baritone sax and tenor sax and I play drum set and tabla. It’s totally improvised music, though with the same bruising fashion as Moon Hooch.