A Conversation with Stanton Moore
By Mike Powers
Stanton Moore continuously exhibits an enthusiasm behind the drum kit that keeps audiences dancing all night long. Whether anchoring the percussion for Galactic, Moore & More, Garage A Trois or any of his numerous projects, there is always a terrific smile on his face. Very few musicians hold down an arsenal of funk, rock, blues, soul and jazz as Stanton Moore does. Listen to him mention his friends and you’ll quickly hear names such as Chris Wood, Karl Denson, Charlie Hunter, Skerik and other talented performers. Stanton’s main flagship, Galactic, is reaching new cosmic heights every day. Galactic has thrilled crowds from coast to coast since grooving into orbit out of New Orleans in 1994. This month Stanton and Galactic find themselves on a cross-country trek with Les Claypool’s Frog Brigade, Lake Trout and Drums & Tuba on the SnoCore Icicle Ball. Santa Cruz’s Civic Auditorium was host for the third night of the SnoCore Icicle Ball late last month. As Lake Trout took to the stage that evening, Stanton Moore sat down and generously took some time to talk about his musical adventures.
Powers: What’s it like for Galactic to be headlining the SnoCore Icicle Ball? Did you ever imagine that you guys would be sharing the stage with artists like Les Claypool’s Frog Brigade and Lake Trout every night?
Moore: The first two shows were really cool. I’m excited about the whole lineup, because there are three very completely different bands. Each band is just about playing music and that comes across well. I’m psyched as a music fan to go out and watch Lake Trout and then Les. I think that the crowd really gets a nice span of different types of music. It’s very exciting. It seems that all the bands are really pushing each other to play well. Les comes on and sounds killer and then we come out and have no choice but to really step it up. It’s got to be happening man! Lake Trout is totally killin’ it too. So we have these two great bands in front of us that are going to push us to step up to the plate. It’s cool to have two bands that we really dig to be sharing the stage with us.
Powers: Will your buddy Skerik be sitting in with Galactic on this tour after Frog Brigade finishes their set each night?
Moore: Yes, just about every night he’ll be sitting in with us for a little bit and Les too. We’re starting to get a little bit of that cross-pollination going on. In the past when we’ve had Lake Trout open up for us, we’ve had them sit in with us…two drummers, two bass players. Hopefully we’ll be having more of that going on. The one problem is that our sets are about an hour and half or less, due to curfew.
Powers: What’s that like having a shorter set time on this tour? Does it feel un-Galactic-like?
Moore: [laughs] It feels like you want to keep on playing. It’s a little bizarre. That’s why we have to come out with all guns a blaze and straight out of the gate. But then too, we break it down... we have a couple of new tunes like a nice pretty slow tune that has an interesting groove to it. We’re not just trying to come out and bash people on the head, we’re just trying to really come out and get straight to the people right away.
Powers: Now when most fans think of Galactic, “late night” is usually a feeling that comes immediately to mind. You guys have a built a name for yourselves for tearing it up until the sun rises at festivals like Mountain Aire and Jazz Fest. Is it a bit relaxing knowing that this tour lets you go to bed by 2 AM?
Moore: Yeah! [laughs] People do love to see us play late because not many bands do that these days. But this is cool too. We feel like we’ve come a long way, especially with this tour. The band just recently got into a bus. We got on this tour and realized, “Cool... maybe we’ve taken another step.” It feels like we’re moving it up to the next level in a way that’s more obvious to see than in the past. This time we’re playing all new rooms, which are about twice the size of what we’re used to playing. We’ve played the Warfield in the past, which seems to be the exception. San Francisco is a great market for us. Until now, the Warfield was usually a venue that was about twice the size of our normal haunts. This tour is enabling us to play places that size across the whole country and letting us reach more audiences. We’ve got a bus, a semi, a full crew. This is the first time we have a crew to take care of our instruments and we have plenty of those that need constant care!
Powers: That must be cool. I remember watching Galactic walk up the street with instruments and amps in hand to play a gig at Café Brazil in New Orleans a couple of years ago. You guys set it all up with the crowd watching and then grooved straight for hours. It must feel nice having the extra support these days.
Moore: It’s great! It is nice. It allows us to try to write songs and work on new material. It really steps things up for us and allows us a lot more room to be creative. Before, we would be driving in a van all day and then get to our gig and have about 30 minutes to sound check... because we’re always running late [laughs]. Afterwards you would go to sleep, wake up, and drive all day. Now with a bus, you can nap and write and work stuff out on the road and at sound check. Hopefully we’re going to get a lot of stuff done on this tour.
Powers: Speaking of new material, when will that live record at Tip’s be released? Is Capricorn going to put that out in the near future?
Moore: Well, we just found out that Capricorn Records ceases to exist. They were bought by Volcano which is a subsidiary of Jive Records. We’re excited about it though. It’s going to be a cool thing and they seem to be excited about us. The live record will probably still be released hopefully soon.
Powers: Are you comfortable with being on a major label? Galactic started off on the independent route with San Francisco’s Fog City Records and then later on signed up with Capricorn. Now it seems you’re about to start up a new phase at Volcano. Each stop must bring the band new resources to help grow.
Moore: Yeah, that’s what we’re hoping for, more resources. We’ve had a great growth at each stop. With an indie though, it’s tough for over-seas releases and tour support. It’s looking like being on a major will be a good thing. We’re psyched!
Powers: Now outside of the Galactic world, you’ve had two very cool independent releases on Fog City Records so far; All Kooked Out! and the Garage A Trois collaboration with Skerik and Charlie Hunter. Is there anything new on the horizon? I heard a rumor about a new solo album on Verve in the future.
Moore: Yeah, it’s cool! Verve is going to be releasing some new material of mine. I just recorded a second solo record from January 4th through the 11th. It’s with Skerik, Karl Denson, Chris Wood and Brian Seeger, a guitar player from New Orleans. We’re hoping for a fall release. We still need to do some editing and mixing and all that kind of stuff.
Powers: How was the Fog City Big Night Out show right before New Year’s? You took part in quite the super jam with an amazing line up of musicians at Bimbo’s in San Francisco... Robert Walter, Skerik, Charlie Hunter, Chris Stillwell and even Warren Haynes. I heard it was amazing.
Moore: It was fun! It was a very good show. It’s cool to get all these opportunities to play in different situations all the time. I did that gig, then the Galactic NYE, then worked on a solo record all within a couple of weeks together. It’s fun doing all this different stuff.
Powers: So you just never get tired of live gigs?
Moore: No man! What else am I going to do? [laughs] I do like working in the studio a lot. But it’s a give and take kind of thing. I was in the studio for around eight days and then I was really psyched to get out and play live. It revolves. After too much of anything, you’ve got to start looking for a fresh situation.
Powers: Do you have any early memories of drumming?
Moore: I was around six. I probably had been going to parades in New Orleans with my parents since I was one, though. At around 6 or so, I started really noticing the drums. The sounds of the drums coming down the streets made a big impact on me. It was the most amazing thing I had ever heard. I started hitting on pots and pans and Tupperware. I took some piano lessons too. By age nine, I asked for a drum set. My parents just wanted to make sure it wasn’t a passing fad. I was playing every day. I started playing with friends and then started getting into bands and later on gigs.
Powers: Are there any future collaborations in sight for you? Is there a Stanton Moore artist wish list?
Moore: [laughs] Definitely Maceo Parker. We were just talking about doing some shows with him. George Clinton just sat in with us at New Year’s and that was nice. I’ve really gotten the chance to work with a lot of people that I’ve admired and wanted to work with. It would be cool to do some stuff with Prince or Sting. These are great artists and writers who are completely removed from what we do, but are amazing musical entities. Stewart Copeland was at the show in LA last night. That was cool. Lenny Kravitz would be a cool one too. I’ve gotten the chance to work with a lot of the musicians who I really respect and who are related to our thing... I’ve played drums with Leon Nocentelli and George Porter and Zigaboo. They’ve come to our gigs and those guys are my musical heroes from way back. That’s really hip.
Powers: Did you ever imagine that this would all happen? You’ve had quite an adventure with Galactic and on your own so far.
Moore: Yeah. You have got to have a dream for a dream to come true. That’s what I set out to do. I feel very fortunate and lucky that all the hard work and effort has allowed us to get to where we are now. We’ve worked our asses off and just feel fortunate that the hard work has gone in the direction of what we’ve wanted to do. This is what I wanted to be doing. I feel lucky that no tragedy has fallen on us... knock on wood. I’m loving it. No complaints. You have to have confidence. I knew from early on that this is what I wanted to do. I was really lucky to find guys who were like-minded and who wanted to play the type of music that I wanted to play. That’s the real luck. A lot of people unfortunately never find music partners that they can run with and collaborate with. I feel lucky in that way that I was able to meet these guys. The biggest part of the battle is meeting the right people.
Stanton Moore and Galactic continue to thrill SnoCore Icicle Ball crowds throughout this month. Galactic cruises the Northeast as the tour pulls into Rochester, Syracuse and Portland this weekend. The SnoCore Icicle Ball winds down the eastern seaboard until it docks in Atlanta on February 23rd. Late April and early May will offer Jazz Fest attendees many doses of Stanton as he vigorously leads Galactic, Moore & More and Garage a Trois through late night groove sessions in his home base of New Orleans. For more information visit www.GalacticFunk.com or www.FogWorld.com/Stanton.
Special thanks to Aaron Natowsky & Jill from the Galactic team and Heidi Robinson.
The Powers Interview Archive
Michael Kang | August, 2000
Karl Denson | September, 2000
Les Claypool | January, 2001