Meaningful Music

Well, it is not the sitar he plays or the cool films on stage that make you turn your head when you find yourself at an Ian Moore concert. He is a melting pot of sounds. Eclectic and diverse Moore is not at the end of transformation but in a journey where music blossoms from everything he touches, including in his songwriting. His diversity was well foretold by some of his friends during the early 1990s when the young blues player was exploring different musical horizons guided by unyielding intuition.
Moore’s music is far more that the soothing effects of Middle Eastern music heard in his song "Diablito" (featured in his August 2000 release "Via Satellite") that he picked up as a boy in India. It is the incorporation of different places and emotions he has come across by living in different places throughout his life. "I lived in Mexico for a while, I lived in a town called Tepoztlán, in Cuernavaca and even in Mexico City,” he says.
Moore talked to Jupiter Index about his songwriting process and ever-changing musical voice in 2002.

Editor’s note: Moore’s last release titled Toronto came out in 2018 and recently he has been on the road touring.

Jesús Ramos: Was it a difficult process to synthesize the musical diversity of sounds or was it more of a natural process for you?
Ian Moore: Well, the process is natural but it’s difficult because most people are not opened to that. The learning and picking music is the one thing that is easy, it is people around you that don’t understand it that it is difficult.

From your shows one can see a good number of fans that appreciate what you are doing, though.
Yeah, and that is kind of how it works. There’s a period when people abandon you and some even hate working with you and suddenly there are people that like what you are doing at that point and they ride with you for a while until there’s a point when they don’t like what you are doing anymore and then you do it again.

Are you still musically experimenting?
Yes, and I hope I will, hopefully, throughout my career.

Do you think that at this point there are still record labels that shy away from recording this type of music, that is, diverse, different and artistically personal?
I don’t know, I really don’t know what record labels are into these days. I don’t think there ever was a time when they didn’t shy away. You know, it is basically their job to sell records and that is something that is going to make their job look easy, which generally means that is something that it is not challenging because anything that presents a challenge, it’s hard to sell.

And what is the hardest part of this challenge for you?
Well, it is just part of being in the middle ground and being an artist of any kind. That is, to struggle between what you are doing and people that can put it out, you have to find a way to sell yourself. I just think that sometimes you will write a song and a lot of people will relate to that.

Once you said that you would like to be remembered as a good songwriter. Listening to your songs one cannot help but notice the attention to every detail: the lyrics, instrumental arrangements and effects, all of them are carefully crafted to produce a song not as a primarily lyrical piece but as an artistic whole. Do you see yourself as more of a songwriter?
Well, I try to balance it all out. I definitely spend a lot of time in the lyrics of a song. I probably spend more time in it than in anything I do.

But I want the songs to have a balance with all of the other elements in the music. I like to make an emotional song that can convey something and look for the elements that will enable me to get that, whether it is spending five minutes editing the lyrics or it is 10 hours on the music, whatever it takes.

In your music I hear a lot of pedal tones letting your melodic lines soar way up there -- whether vocal or instrumental -- denoting some Middle Eastern musical tones. I also know you lived in India for a while. What was the element that is the most compelling to you in Middle Eastern music?
Well, yes, those features are definitely from Middle Eastern music but I use some elements from Celtic music as well, which also uses pedal tones quite a bit. I just think that there is something that gets you into a different emotion when you write over that type of music than when you write in a pop form. It kind of affects the psyche differently.

Is there something in your music in particular that you are listening for these days or something that you are trying to bring out?
Something original, it doesn’t need to be something glaringly original but at least something that is unique in some way or another.

You are continuously playing with great musicians. Is there someone at this point with whom you would like to collaborate?
I’d love to do a record with P.J. Arby. I think that we would work very well together and maybe we would do something interesting and beautiful. The interesting part of it is that I can go into so many areas that are historically more female and she can go into areas that are historically more male. There is stuff that she writes about that I relate to but we are very different, I just think she is really amazing.

know you like to read fiction. Do you have any favorite authors you like to read often?
Well, I’ve lately been trying to read non-fiction because I’ve read so much stuff that the narratives were starting to get stuck. I love all the classic American and South American and Irish writers, the kind of classics that almost everybody likes. I like Faulkner, Borges, García Márquez, Lorca, Octavio Paz.

I also love James Joyce, Tolstoi, Dostoievsky, Dylan Thomas. I am not into poetry but I like Dylan Thomas’ poetry a lot. There are so many authors, just so many people, you know?

I also now that you are a bit of a hot salsa fan.
Yes. I am. I have a molcajete that has been in my family for about 30 years. I make a lot of salsa. The one I like the most is with blackened jalapeños and tomatoes. I also love one I had in Yucatán with habanero peppers and orange juice.

How do you see the Austin music scene?
Well, I think Austin is a town of great musicians. I think that it has grown a lot and has become such a big city. I think that the people that are coming down today have toned down a bit; the bands are being encouraged to be more party bands. That is not to say that there are not good bands out there. I just think that the best bands are a little bit invisible right now because people kind of like things that are quite less challenging right now. I think that has got to do with the change of the city. I think that there are different people that live here now.

What is it that you still find hard about music?
The writing process is unbelievably hard and that will never change. It is painful to dig inside yourself and find songs and really work. When you are really pushing yourself, it is hard because sometimes you are pushing yourself beyond what you think you can do and in that respect, songwriting is difficult. It such a drag sometimes. But it is great to do it. I don’t want to sound ungrateful, I just think that is the hardest thing for me.

Looking far back to your beginnings as a blues musician, your moving to Seattle, re-defining yourself, and going through an intense musical transformation, how do you feel and see yourself musically at this point?

by Jesus Ramos c. 2002