Strange Days Await Ian Moore
Singer/guitarist premieres new single
By Kevin Curtin,
1:25PM, Mon. Feb. 20, 2017
“Nobody told me about the coming of the strange days,” Ian Moore sings over strutting, beat-heavy, psychedelic soul on his forthcoming single produced by Brownout’s Adrian Quesada and Bay Area hip-hop producer Jim Greer.
It’s an ominous message, translatable to the trials of growing older or today’s darkening societal climate, but the Austin-reared guitarist’s heavy new track, in which he sings about being a “free man of conscious with my gun,” drew inspiration from Joshua Oppenheimer’s 2012 documentary The Act of Killing, recounting the organized murders perpetrated by Indonesian death squads in the Sixties.
“It’s interesting that the song’s coming out now when shit’s so weird, but at the time I wrote it, I think everyone was starting to feel the rise of some kind of inner violence in our country,” ponders Moore during a recent Saturday afternoon phone call. “The amazing thing about The Act of Killing – and what the song’s about – is that Oppenheimer goes to Indonesia and interviews these people who were basically government-sanctioned serial killers. They assassinated everyone who was a communist. They’re considered these national heroes and when he interviews them, he’s coming in with a Western perspective and they’re actually reenacting the killing of these people, which they’re proud of and it creates these horrific scenes.
“What you’re left with when you see these guys – and now they’re older men with grandchildren and they're kind to the people close to them – is the realization that evil, as much as we like to think of it as a destination that’s across an ocean or in a different skin color, is right next to us and it’s always inside of us. So when you’re looking at a Hitler, a Mussolini, or Pol Pot and you say, ‘Fuck, look at those atrocities!’ we’re capable of the same stuff. I wrote the whole song’s narrative about someone defending his space.”
“Strange Days” stands as a radio-ready convergence of all of Moore’s well-studied disciplines: guitar hero, voice of the people songwriter, restless musicologist, and soulful pop singer. The track’s decidedly modern production can be ascribed to the fact it’s essentially a remix. After tracking locally with Quesada, the song was taken for a spin by Greer, one half of Bay Area beat team Rondo Brothers and a onetime collaborator with experimental hip-hop über producer Dan the Automator.
“The way Adrian and I cut it reminded me of [reggae/dub legends] Black Uhuru,” Moore explains. “It was really meditative and had this heavy groove, the right vibe for ‘Strange Days.’ Then Jim gets it and of course he doesn’t know any of this, plus he’s coming from hip-hop, so he takes the bridge, which goes into this Bowie left turn and becomes almost a rock song for a second, and puts those chords in the whole song.
“The whole dynamic changed!
“When he sent me his idea, it took me a day to wrap my head around it because it was so fuckin’ different from what I was envisioning,” he continues. “I’m a rock & roll guy – you get a bunch of dudes in a studio and make a record – but for me to have one of my own records where someone’s taking everything I’m doing and changing it fundamentally was a deep aesthetic shift. I realized that I don’t really give a shit what anyone else thinks. I’m just trying to do something that’s interesting to me.”
“Strange Days” serves as the title track to Moore’s 10th studio LP, arriving digitally tomorrow and physically March 1. What can fans expect from the constantly evolving songwriter?
“In some ways I think there’s a lot more of what people believed in when I first started: it’s more soul-oriented, the guitar is more bluesy and emotional,” says Moore. “So in some ways, it’s a revisit of things I’ve done before, but there’s a part in Miles Davis’ autobiography where he gets real pissed off in reference to someone asking him about going back to the music he did. It’s like you can’t go back, even if you want to. At least I can’t.
“You’re just different. You’re a different person. The things I write about are different. The things I think about are different. Even the way I play my guitar is probably different.”
Moore begins a tour of the Western U.S. the day the album drops and showcases at the Continental Club during South by Southwest. Here’s “Strange Days:”