Interview: Ian Moore talks psychedelic rock, the magic after midnight and decades of touring

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Photography by Daniel Work. Imagery provided by Western Publicity. 

Presently, Ian Moore is touring the Northeast of the U.S. and sharing his music to promote the release of his new album Toronto. A month prior, Moore cruised through Austin, Texas in Aug. 2018 to celebrate his 50th birthday at the iconic Antone’s. Moore is originally from Austin and he’s got a lot of Texas soul within his music. His birthday celebration deep-in-the-heart-of-Texas lasted two nights. Eric Tessmer was the opening act each night. These two artists are both deeply talented at playing guitar, songwriting and vocals. At times, their music, energy and style felt electric and transcendental, which is one of the many reasons why they call it psychedelic rock. 

Before the ATX birthday shows that were filled to brim with many of Moore and Tessmer’s beloved fans, friends and family inside Antone’s: I interviewed Ian Moore over the phone. Another Rank & Revue (R&R) writer interviewed him years ago, but this time it was my turn to interview him. At random, my editor sent over a pitch to me from his publicist at Western Publicity to see if I wanted to conduct the interview. Once I read Moore’s bio, even though I had not heard of him before: I knew I wanted to book it. Clearly, the man has talent to venture on national tours with the Rolling Stones, ZZ Top and Bob Dylan. 

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Photography: Nicolette Mallow

“Ian Moore, the Seattle-based, Austin, TX-born guitar player, singer and songwriter makes the proverbial renaissance man look lazy. Coming on the heels of Strange Days, his most successful record since his eponymous debut. Despite a never-ending cycle of touring, Moore offers a new record of bright, blazing rock-n-roll that combines his legendary guitar prowess with radio-friendly songs that showcase his elastic, soul-inflected vocals. As always, Ian has his eyes on the challenges faced by musicians of every stripe, having experienced the spectrum of artist successes and tribulations over a nearly 30-year career. “It’s a very different climate right now. When we hit a city, it doesn’t matter that I have 14 records, radio hits, etc. The only thing that matters is if we can really show up and leave the people feeling they saw something amazing. Its keeps me hungry, and I like the challenge,” says Moore… You might have been surprised to hear Moore’s songs popping up on major network shows on prime time television this past year; several selections were prominently being featured as performances on both American Idol and The Voice (“Satisfied” and “Blue Sky”). He also founded the artist’s healthcare alliance SMASH (Seattle Musicians Access to Sustainable Healthcare) and has joined the board of NARAS for the Pacific Northwest as governor and head of the advocacy committee. Moore’s story is often told and probably familiar to most critics; his initial record on Capricorn propelled him to national tours with the Rolling Stones, ZZ Top and Bob Dylan, acting in the acclaimed indie feature “Sling Blade,” and having Ice Cube direct the video for his track “Harlem.” Moore deviated from his initial blues-oriented guitar sound on subsequent records, touching on graceful pop songs and the psychedelic as well as British pub rock and deep Americana. The Toronto record and its 6 tracks represents those influences in such a way that they have informed his songwriting, but is likely more recognizable as a strong collection of the kind of guitar rock his core fan base would respond to immediately”. 

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In advance to the interview, I was reading the information Ian Moore’s publicist sent me and researching other interviews of the past. I Google’d him to read about his older albums like Capricorn. Within the photos from then and now, I noticed that Moore had super long brunette hair in the 90’s and looked like a total rock star. Even though time has passed, he’s still strikingly handsome and very talented. I enjoyed listening to his musical style change from Capricorn to Toronto. I read a lot of lyrics. Watching his SXSW 2017 performance at Continental Club last spring in ATX: I could see Moore is in love with the guitar and the music. Texans are often known for being passionate and intense, especially the artists and athletes. 

As I read more and more, I realized that I was out of the loop, especially since I am an Austinite. Ian Moore has been around for three decades and I was shocked I’d never seen one of his shows. As a Texas girl and artista, I consider myself familiar with the local art scene. Obviously I was not up to track. Like many people, it seems the more I know, the less I know. There’s simply no way to keep track of all the great talent out there, and that’s sort of a beautiful thing: always discovering new artists and new music. I didn’t really know what angle to take the story. All of the music was new to me—I enjoyed many different songs from different albums—and I didn’t have much time to prepare for this last minute interview. Even though the story wouldn’t run on R&R until September. So, I figured since every other media outlet was going to be asking about Toronto and Antone’s—I decided to just get to know the artist, like any other stranger, and sort of assess what we called at SCAD, a character profile, a mini version of the artists career.

On the dot, all the way from Texas, I called Ian Moore on the number his publicist provided me with. Moore was sanding an old tour vehicle outdoors in Seattle. 

Nicolette Mallow: Growing up in Austin, did you always have a childhood fondness for music? I read you switched from guitar to violin. 

Ian Moore: Yes! One of the first times I kicked in the womb was at Vulcan Gas Company. Even though neither of my parents were musicians, they were both music enthusiasts. I started playing violin as a child and switched to guitar as a teenager. When I was 16 years old, unfortunately, I cut some tendons. Still makes me a little sad to think about because that ended my violin career… When I first started playing music in Austin, I had a real hard time starting a band. My peers were into other music. They were more into the punk rock culture, but I didn’t care much for it. I was more into soul music, blues and psychedelic rock – garage rock – 50’s music. Then I found a drummer from high school and we started making music. We were the first band to ever play at Black Cat Lounge. This was a biker bar and we brought in youth and kids from all walks of life to a new scene. It was cool because this was before Emo’s and there were limited music venue’s at this time. By ages 19-20, I started touring. But yeah, it’s my 50th Birthday and Austin is my hometown. My history is as deep as any musician there. Guitar lessons. Stages. Memories. Riding bikes to Antone’s on Guadalupe. I had to celebrate in Austin. 

NM: Your album Capricorn launched tours with Rolling Stones, ZZ Top & Bob Dylan. That’s really impressive! How long after the release of your first record did these tours come about. And do you recall the names of the tours?

IM: Capricorn. At the time, being a blues-influence guitar player was kind of unknown territory. There was no cool roots, rock scene. I had a difficult time finding people to put the record out. It was very hard to find a placement. The label who signed this deal had managed Otis Redding. Before that, one deal after another fell a part and took a while to find a place to put my record(s). After Capricorn was released, the radio success and decent tour numbers got past the agents. Once the agents caught notice, I began touring. I think, but am not certain, the tour name with Rolling Stones was The Blue Lounge Tour and I think with ZZ Top it was the Recycler Tour. But I’m not certain, it’s sort of a blur… My band was the biggest band of our generation in ATX for a good 10 years, 2000-3000 people a night at our shows. 

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Imagery from IanMoore.com. 

NM: In regard to your newly release album Toronto, I read the lyrics for the songs “Satellite” and “Rock n Roll”. Tell me about the bright side and the dangers of living your life in the magic of midnight.

IM: The magic of midnight and the brutal reality of harsh dawn; we are all eternal dreamers. We are prone to think the next place, town, song or etc.—we think it’s gonna be the next thing to connect us. We can continue to dream and be dreamers, but it’s intense and a lot of people cannot sustain it. A lot of people lose themselves. I’ve been doing KXP radio and I talked about pitfalls of touring and how to survive. Being focused on the music helps. You can tell where the motivation is. If you want to party—and you’re focused on the physical attention—you will wear yourself out. It’s crucial to focus on the music to sustain sanity. It’s very rewarding and spiritually fulfilling. Just gotta keep focused on the prize. Don’t lose yourself in the illusion of midnight, thinking that something greater is right around the corner… My music has been a continued manifestation of what I wanted to do. When I was young, learning how to play and sing, I did a lot of wandering. Leaving scenes and drifting into the ether, a wanderer with temporary companions. It’s been an interesting journey. Even though my most successful record (thus far) was my 1st album: I think I’ve gotten quite a bit better and become more interesting. I never chased the fame. However, I’ve become an underground artist.

NM: I read your quote about the challenge of keeping the crowd enticed and how the music culture has changed. How do you sustain such energy while touring, so that you can always give the crowd the experience they’re seeking?

IM: This is the hardest time to survive with music, it’s so challenging. But I have a deep passion for music. I do it all, simply because I love music. Music is most deeply motivated for me, the actual music, not the attention and the success, that is peripheral for me. No matter what, I always want to get better and write a better song and feel like if I could just concentrate harder, it will manifest… When I am all beat up and tired and miss my family: the music keeps me going. That’s the thing, I can be completely exhausted and always dig in to find that passion. 

NM: The transition to Seattle from ATX, over the decades, based upon your observations—what changed most within the local scene between the two cities? 

IM: A lot of what I do is between Austin and Seattle. I live in both towns. We had nothing here (in Washington) when I arrived awhile back. There’s been a lot more drastic changes in Seattle. Obviously, all cities are enduring major changes right now, any cool city with artists. They’re all being priced out. However, Austin is one of the best for artists, right now. At least in ATX you have some people working for you and trying to make it better. ATX is weathering the storm best.

NM: Do you have any favorite or newfound cities in Europe that you look forward to touring this year?

IM: Europe: I love Spain and Italy. Amsterdam. Denmark. London… I’d like to play in Portugal. It’s so cool playing in different places, but what’s cooler is playing well in the places you play.

To view upcoming tour dates, listen to music and read about Moore’s songwriting workshop in Canyon Lake, Texas: please visit his website at www.IanMoore.com

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Note: This article was originally published on Rank & Revue

Darren Fung is one of Canada’s most accomplished music composers

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Darren Fung. Photography provided by CW3PR Inc.

Based in Los Angeles, Darren Fung is a talented, award-winning music composer. Born in Canada with strong Chinese roots, Mr. Fung’s music is a medley of the East and the West. His love of music began at the age of three and lead him to become an accomplished composer. After a lifetime of living in Canada, Darren Fung moved to the United States to create music for film and TV in a new location. 

Fung has a colorful, diverse and nostalgic style of music that has a powerful, yet gentle affect on the viewer’s senses. “With over 100 composition credits to his name, Darren Fung is seminally gifted and a highly influential composer who is well-respected in the TV and Film scoring worlds. Fung is one of Canada’s most accomplished composers, thrice nominated for a Canadian Screen Award. Most recently, he scored the The Great Human Odyssey, a mini-series that explores the roots of human kind. The project opened to widespread critical acclaim in Canada, winning the 2016 Canadian Screen Award for Best Music and receiving a nomination from the International Film Music Critics Association. (The Great Human Odyssey premieres in the U.S. this fall on PBS.) Darren utilizes an epic, large-scale orchestra and choir to bring this special’s score to life, replete with memorable melodies and unique musical colors. His diverse credits also include a recreation of Canada’s second national anthem (the beloved Hockey Theme) for CTV and TSN and the theme music for CTV’s flagship morning news show Canada AM. Additionally, Darren scored Bell Canada’s Orchestra advertisement spot (for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics), which was voted as Canada’s top commercial by readers of The Globe and Mail. Darren’s feature and short film scores have been heard at prestigious film festivals around the world, including Toronto, Cannes, and Sundance. After Fung studied at McGill University and worked full-time as a composer in Montreal, he moved to Los Angeles and is represented by Maria Machado of Gorfaine/Schwartz Agency and CW3PR.”

In 2016,  Mr. Fung spoke with local Texas writer, Nicolette Mallow, to discuss the bird’s-eye view of his life lived in music and how he came to be in California with his wife and daughter after many years in Canada. 

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Darren Fung and orchestra. Photography provided by CW3PR Inc.

Nicolette Mallow: Will you please tell me a little about when your love for music began and when you learned to play an instrument? 

Darren Fung: I started playing piano when I was 3. Music has always been part of my life. After piano I dabbled a little in violin and then the saxophone. I loved trying new instruments and playing the music in my head. 

NM: Yes; I read in other interviews that you tend create music with a large scale orchestra. That makes sense given you learned to play so many instruments… What number of instruments (musicians) entails a large scale orchestra? 

DF: A large scale orchestra can be 40, 50, 60 people. Even 90-100. For me that means anything over 40. Over 40 is a pretty big orchestra…Now, do I prefer to work with a recording group? I also like the challenge of not having a large scale orchestra and doing other things that are not orchestral.

NM: Your online biography states that you “caught the composing bug at age 15” when you wrote a piece for Edmonton Symphony Orchestra’s Young Composer Project … Did you always know that music was your life calling? 

DF: Yes and no. I always loved music, but at the age of 15 is when I knew I wanted to be a composer… But it was hard for my family at first to accept that I am good at this, good enough to make a career of it. My mother is a Chinese tiger mom, and she wanted the best for me growing up and had a preset idea of what my future looked like. She wanted me to pursue something more secure than music. Music or a creative career was too risky. So, when I first began music school instead of pursuing a life as a lawyer… it was hard for her. Culturally there were some conflicts and it would’ve been easier and more accepted had I chosen to be a doctor, lawyer or engineer. My mother is very supportive now and she is very happy for me that I chose music. 

NM: I understand the family and cultural aspects of what you just said. My Latina mother was most displeased, if not furious, when I said I was going to Savannah College of Art & Design 12 years ago instead of Barnard or Stanford to be a psychologist or doctor. But she, too, is now very happy for me that I chased my artistic dreams.

DF: Yes it can be hard at first to choose your own path. 

NM: In regards to music composition, what are some of the most distinct differences between the Canada and US? 

DF:  The biggest diff between the two is that Canada is more comparable to the Indie film scenes—the budgets are not that big. The AFM call them low budget films because we are lucky if we got around $3 million budget. We are supposed to do more with less. However, since we are so close to the states we have a lot of similar musical influences.

NM: Reading about your career I saw the phrase “musical colors” mentioned in writing. Can you tell me a little about what musical colors means to you?

DF: Instruments or sounds are our palette. Composers (and musicians) can kind of make whatever we want out of it. Musical colors are why I think I love orchestra so much because there is so much available. So many colors and moods to portray. Not to say other genres of music don’t have that. But I am a classically trained musician, and to be able to take that stuff and play away. It’s endless and I never know what will happen and I love it. 

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Darren Fung and orchestra. Photography provided by CW3PR Inc.

NM: Were you nervous or excited to recreate the 2nd national anthem for Canada? 

DF: Both. When I recreated the 2nd national anthem for hockey night in Canada, we wanted to pay homage to the original, but with a whole bunch of orchestrations and differentiators. For the longest time it was a really iconic song in Canada. Everyone knows the song and it’s equivalent to Major League Baseball’s classic tune “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”…At the time I was working with CPC and they wanted to make it their own. I was 26 at the time and I didn’t want the country hating me as the guy who guy who f*cked up the hockey thing… However, I was thrilled to be part of the project. And at 26 I got to work with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and specific members who the company hired to play. So to be given that budget and content for a major broadcast was amazing. 

NM: The Great Human Odyssey sounds amazing. What was it like writing for this TV show?

DF: It was 85 minutes of music in 7.5 weeks. There was material to score but we didn’t start writing till 7.5 weeks before we recorded… Niobe Thompson (Producer and Director of The Great Human Odyssey) sort of talked about bringing me on board as he was shooting. Almost two years before he started editing, I saw some raw footage. And I have to admit that when I first met up with Naobi, there was not a lot of money and I was not really sure the resources were available to create what he wanted with an orchestra and choir. But then he showed me the first warrior of this man jumping across ice flows. Drone shots across ice flows, and the backdrop was spectacular. The costumes, everything was visually stunning. And I realized we needed to get the music to match the greatness of the film… Fast forward in time and he then needed trailers. Then suddenly later on I am going to Prague so I can record a couple of cues to cut… Fast forward to the final count down where we are talking frame by frame, intentions, character and motivations; figuring out the music for each character and each scene.  

NM: Do you have any hobbies that you enjoy to keep you balanced outside work?

DF: Hockey and rowing are my two hobbies. Often I get up at stupid-o-clock in the morning around 5 A.M. to go rowing before work. What I love about hockey and rowing is that it’s two completely unrelated things to music. I meet people who aren’t in the business and it’s not a sedentary job. I get to move around and I get to blow off a lot of steam. I keep biz cards on me, just in case, but I like that it’s totally separate from work. Honestly I worry about the day where I might have to give one or both of them up… I find so much sanity and comic relief in hockey and rowing. Im horrible at both… but trying to get physical activity is necessary. And it’s fun to go have a beer with the guys sometimes. 

NM: Are there any genres in film or television that you would like to write for that you’ve yet to work on? 

DF: I’ve been lucky so far and enjoyed all my projects. But I would like to write for sci fi or opera. I haven’t yet had the chance to do either. Also, Animation is something else I am interested in. I like changing things up and I just finished up on an installation work for a gondola ride in Banff. So long as it’s a great project with great music: count me in! I am always looking for new projects and I came to LA to establish myself here.

For more information about Darren Fung please read his online bio. And to hear many songs or tracks from Fung’s music portfolio, please check out his SoundCloud page.