by Aaron Porter
Anthony Moser is an unassuming man, but make no mistake, he is as wise, intelligent, talented, kind, and welcoming person as you will find. Anthony is the best kind of Blues musician, the kind that will bring it to the next generations. As they say the internet is a powerful tool, and it’s just one of many that Anthony wears on his belt. Ladies and gentleman, a musician for the years to come, Anthony Moser.
BL: When did you get into the blues?
AM: Blues and folk music – I grew up listening to a lot of folk music, and actually started playing the banjo before I started playing guitar when I was sixteen. Blues and folk just blend right into each other, you know. So, there was a lot of that kind of old, I guess they’d call it a Piedmont Blues. The stuff where people are picking and it sounds a little more like folk music. A lot of very old recordings and stuff like that. Through that I started listening to other kinds of blues. I didn’t really get fully immersed in like the Chicago blues, per se, until I started working here, and, obviously that was kinda a full-time, blues around-the-clock experience.
BL: That was one of my other questions – you’re an employee of Buddy Guy’s Legends on and off the stage. How did you start working here? Or why?
AM: I’ll tell ya – I remember it vividly because I’d been looking for work for months, I was just applying for anything I could get and couldn’t get anything. I had actually accepted a job where I was going to be working as a caretaker for people with disabilities in Skokie. It was going to be way up there, and it was not going to be starting for three weeks; and I was like fine, I’ll take anything. So, I still came in and applied here because I’d seen the ad on Craigslist. [pullquote]So, they interviewed me immediately and said, “Can you come back in four hours?” [/pullquote]I said, “Yes! I definitely can.” So, I called the other people and I was like, “I got a job that starts tonight, so thanks…”
BL: What got you started on playing the banjo?
AM: My mother gave it to me, as a matter of fact. She was a guitarist and she still is. She loved folk music so my dad had – it was probably a solid five or six years before (my 16th birthday) he had thought that for her birthday one year she might like a banjo. My mother hates surprises – really just does not like them at all, and he’d got this banjo and had it in a closet. She found it when she was putting something away, and just totally lost her shit. She was pregnant at the time, and she was like, “I’m pregnant, I’ve been doing all this stuff, and now I’m supposed to learn how to play the banjo?!” So, it was kind of a sore point. It just stayed unplayed for a long time. Then when I was sixteen, she was like, “Here, happy birthday – now the banjo is yours.” I was like, “Cool! Alright!” And I took to it.
BL: Had you seen the banjo prior to that?
AM: It wasn’t like it was around all the time. No, it was new to me.
BL: That’s pretty good. So, you play the guitar? Do you play any other instruments besides guitar, banjo?
AM: Sure, I play primarily guitar and piano. I also play around on some other stuff – a mandolin, a couple of ukuleles. The baritone ukulele is just part of the guitar, it’s just four strings of the guitar.
BL: Gotcha. So, you said you got into folk and that led you to the blues, so clearly you’re not strictly a blues man. Do you play anything besides folk and blues?
AM: Sure. I like a lot of different kinds of music. I like jazz. I don’t play a lot of jazz because I haven’t pursued that as much, and it takes some pursuing, but I do play a lot of original tunes, a lot of Beatles kind of music, Paul Simon stuff, old-timey things. Generally, I can play almost nothing that’s been written in the last ten years.
BL: Thank God for that. Is there anything you do besides play music? Hobbies?
AM: Yeah, I also work with a group called The International Bedlam Society. It’s sort of an art collective. Different kinds of performance and art and so on. Every year we do a photo challenge at the art museum called, “Life Imitating Art” where we’ll get people to show up and go around and take pictures of themselves doing impressions of the paintings, in front of the paintings. It’s a lot of fun.
BL: It sounds like fun.
AM: We did a variety show on kinda a quasi-monthly basis for a while, here and there around the city. And, by the time this interview comes out, we’ll be rehearsing already for the Festival of Dionysus which was probably our single biggest thing that we’ve done. We did it in 2010 and it was a set of eight, ten minute plays based on Greek myths or tragedies. So, like a ten-minute Oedipus. And of course, they were also funny as opposed to being just tragic, you know? So, we’ll be doing that again in March of 2012.
BL: Oh cool. So, you’re somewhat of a renaissance man. You don’t limit yourself to any one thing. You have a little bit of technology geek in you also.
AM: I do the technology stuff. I work at an after-school program teaching high school kids how to rebuild computers. The Youth Technology Corp.
BL: You recently did an event called, Occupy Your Kids?
AM: Keep Your Children Occupied.
BL: Keep Your Children Occupied. – What was that about?
AM: Like I said, I like folk music – kinda the Woody Guthrie thing, a lot of good songs about rich and poor and things of that nature; and I had been down over at the Occupy Chicago that was going on over on Jackson and LaSalle – I went with my sister and a few other people. We played some music and had a good time and everything, but there are a lot of the same people who are always kinda protesting – they’re down there keeping that one spot going – but we thought it would be good to represent a different kind of vantage point and get a lot of other folks involved. Like a family fair type of deal at Michigan and Congress right there at The Horse, and it’s called, Keep Your Children Occupied. It’s in conjunction with the folks from Occupy Chicago. We had a lot of people, a lot of kids came out. We had balloon animals, face painting and bubbles. There were these guys who showed up and had a sign that said, “Free Moustaches,” so anybody who wanted to, could just get a Snidely Whiplash or whatever.
BL: Haha, that’s pretty good.
AM: People playing music and singing along and doing stuff like that. Actually, I just saw they put a thing about it in the Huffington Post.
BL: Really? That’s pretty good.
AM: Yeah, it’s the local edition. I guess they liked it.
BL: There’s a bill being looked at in the government that’s looking to restrict internet access for the common man as well as block particular domain names. If it were to pass, how to you feel that it would affect not only the general populace but independent musicians as well?
AM: That’s a good question. I do think it’s something that interests me both as a question of technology and as a question of music. [pullquote]I guess the first thing that I would observe is that from a technical perspective, it’s just not gonna work.[/pullquote] It’s very difficult to try and separate out what is legitimate traffic that people can share files between each other that they’ve created and chosen to share versus stuff that is supposed to be copyrighted and theoretically each copy belongs to a single person, you know? It’s very, very hard to do. In particular, it gets even harder when the stuff you’re talking about is music or video, because basically anything that you can listen to or watch on your computer, you can rip while you’re doing it and create a copy that can be shared. So, I think in the first sense that it’s wrong-headed because you can’t do it, you know? It’s just not gonna be effective, and so I think it would make a lot more sense to pursue a different kind of thinking about this whole thing.
BL: And it would cost a shit-load of money.
AM: And it would cost a shit-load of money – right, right. So, the most likely scenario then is that in the attempt to pursue this victory through regulations, they mess up a perfectly good internet with all kinds of additional hardware components and trying to do some kind of additional requirements and say that everything has to meet all these standards to try and make this copyright thing happen. Even though, it’s just not going to work, because of the way that everything else is already set up.
BL: I don’t know. I mean, they did a really good job on the war on drugs.
AM: Yeah, of course. We see how that turned out.
AM: So, I think first, it’s technically…I just don’t think it would work. And, I think that desperately pursuing a plan that won’t work and trying to make it work is likely to screw up things that already do work. As far as the musical aspect of it goes, I guess – speaking only for myself, I think that ownership and the idea of owning a song or a particular part of a song or something like that, I don’t think you can really do it. I believe that music is something that belongs to everyone. And, I think that’s actually really apparent in the blues more than anything. This is all music that people shared. This is music that brought people together and that everyone learned from someone, you know? Everybody got it from somebody, and somebody taught them how to play. What happened, I think, is that people took the things that they had learned, just like shared tradition of music; then if they were really good, they added something to it, you know. They changed it and they made it something new in a certain way, but also still a part of that shared tradition. Then somebody else inherited that, you know? I think that culturally we would do well to move to a different way of looking at this and stop trying to pursue this particular way of looking at it that is both technically infeasible and, in my opinion, sort of wrong-headed.
BL: It feels somewhat against what the Blues was based on… sharing.
AM: Exactly. Also in particular with the blues. I mean, come on. Like how many people come out and say, “Here’s my new blues album. I’ve written a song about how my woman left me and I feel terrible.
AM: And that’s fine because women continue to leave them, and people are going to keep writing songs, about it. There’s nothing wrong with saying that’s your song and you’ve done it, but I think trying to argue that that is a piece of property that you can own and differentiate from every other thing, is difficult.
BL: Right. Do you feel like the music industry is in trouble as far as sustaining itself?
AM: Sure, yeah I think that’s definitely the case. I just think that they represent a certain set of patterns that were true for a while. Patterns in the way that people distributed music, listened to music and interacted with it in a way that you can make money off of it. They had a certain kind of business model, they had a certain kind of thing that they did, and there was a certain kind of way that people got music. That allowed them to really thrive for a long time, but I think that those things have fundamentally changed. That people listen to music differently, music is distributed differently, and music is even made and recorded differently, you know? I mean, recording companies – one of the things that they originally had a lock on was the fact that it was difficult to make good recordings. Now, everybody’s got a recording device in their pocket. Everyone’s got a studio that they’re carrying around. I think in a lot of ways, their attempt to solidify their position through regulation is an act of desperation, because it signifies that they’ve already lost their original source of power.
BL: Do you think it has anything to do with the type of music that they’re still trying to sell us?
AM: I do. I think they’re connected. I think that the music and the model are connected, you know? If they were to just change things around – if they were interested in rejuvenating themselves, then they would have to embrace the fact that they would need to bring musicians into the experience in a real way. It’s not going to be how it was where – okay, you’re going to make the music, we’re going to record it, and we’re going to make all the money. You could bring people in and say, all right, we’re going to work with you to create something interesting, and you’re going to get a significant part in what’s happening, you’re going to have a real voice at the table. Then I think they could try to find a new place for themselves. But I think as long as they’re trying to remain this dominant, exclusive force, that we’re going to put out what we want to put out, and we’re going to put out whatever it is that we think people are after. Then I think they’re going to often times just keep turning out a lot of stuff that all sounds the same or isn’t very good, and they will wonder why people continue to look elsewhere to find other stuff that they think is interesting.
BL: Cool. Four band mates that you’d love to play a gig with?
AM: Like out of everybody, everywhere? You know, I’ll just say, typically, the people that I want to play with are the people that I do play with. They’re the people that I would want to get a hold of. They already know my songs – a lot less explaining to do. So, I would say Nik Skilnik, Pat Seals and Marty Sammon. I usually only play with four people, total. Those are the guys that I also recorded with for the album that’s just about done. I’ve got one more session. I’ve recorded two of the tracks here at Legends, actually.
BL: Sweet. Speaking of people that you play with, you mentioned Marty Sammon – you also run a Ten Spot Workshop here at Legends.
AM: That’s right. This is something new that we’ve been putting together. Basically, I was just thinking this is a place where people obviously come – it’s a bastion of the Blues. We’ve got all the artifacts, we’ve got all the people playing music; and I thought this would be a good way to keep being part of the blues community and get some new people involved. So, we’re just doing workshops on relevant subjects. We did one that was just blues bass, you know – lines that you should know. Jimmy Johnson did a workshop that was jazz for blues players. Marty Bi nder did a workshop on blues drumming techniques. Just some basic things to make it sound good. And then this month is Gilbert (Garza) is doing a workshop on re-stringing techniques for guitars. I don’t know what we’re going to do after January. I haven’t booked up the next ones yet, but hopefully we’re going to keep it going. The idea is that people can just come down and ten bucks gets them into the workshop and into the jam, and they can learn something and try it out.
BL: Cool, cool. What are your plans moving toward the future? Are you looking to become a full-time musician or are you just kind of satisfied? You have a lot of stuff going on.
AM: This is true. I guess, definitely my goal is to be playing music full-time, although, I’m open to doing that in various capacities. I also sometimes teach, and I would do more of that, and so on. But, at the same time, I also know myself and I’m probably going to be involved in a bunch of different things because I always am. That’s just kinda how it goes. So, I’m sure I’ll just take it as opportunities come and see what unfolds. My most immediate goal is just finishing up the CD and getting it out in like a couple of years.
BL: I feel that way about a lot of stuff too. Two more questions, one humorous: Who would win in a fistfight, zombie Kennedy or zombie Nixon?
AM: Oh…uh, well I guess, the zombie Kennedy would probably be in better shape, but Nixon was crazy. So, zombie Nixon presumably might also have some kind of residual craziness. I guess I’m gonna say zombie Nixon. You know what? I’ve got a better question; I guess – is it on television or is it over the radio? Haha
BL: Haha – very nice. Well played sir, well played. The last question is: What is music to you?
AM: It’s obviously a very open-ended question.
AM: I think that music is a way of communicating with people, non-rationally. I’m a really verbal person. It’s very easy for me to get tied up in words. I think that to me, one of the things that I love about music is that without having to say something explicit and verbal, you can still say something that has meaning to people. Often times it can have different meanings to different people, and that’s one of the things that I enjoy about it.
Want to check out Anthony and all of his various projects? Here’s where you can find him.
The International Bedlam Society: http://www.myfacesterfriendbookspace.com/
you can see pictures, video, and scripts from our various hijinks.
Also you can hear the podcast he hosts (TIBS Old Time Radio Hour) and find out more about the Festival of Dionysus.