Our resident DJ, Nooka Jones, sat down with Brendon Moeller to discuss the current state of social media, transitions in life, and staying true ot self. Check out his feature mix, and stay tuned for upcoming releases from Echologist on Prologue and Soul People Music.
Brendon: Good morning, sir.
Nooka: How are you doing?
B: Yeah, not bad, not bad. You?
N: Pretty well. Got a strong pot of mate.
B: Yeah I'm doing fine from the buzz from the first cup of coffee of the day. Seems like it's a nice day brewing. Summer is moving in slowly.
N: So. I currently read that you're residing 60 miles upstate new York. How are things up there?
B: It's great. Basically, we have a nice house that is in a real rural farming area, surrounded by forrest and lakes. Having lived in Astoria for 15 years prior to this, it's nice to have some room to breathe and some space for my wife and I's two kids.
There are times where I wish I was closer to the city and it wouldn't be such a drag to hop down to the local or catch somebody's set somewhere. For the space and having the ability to have my studio set up like it is now, and my neighbor as far as way so I can crank shit as loud as possible. It's good.
N: You've been up there for a few years, so you might not get down as frequently as you'd like to. But I was wondering, you've been in and around NY for about 20 years now, and I was wondering what your take is on how you've seen NYC evolve over the ages.
B: I spent my first few years really soaking it up and getting inspired from everything going on, coming from Johannesburg. It wasn't sort of a cultural wasteland, but it was not as abundant in culture as New York was. When I first got here, I was going to bands, to clubs, buying up CDs and books and collecting. Really soaking it up.
Then it got to the point where I was like, "Ok. Now it's about taking all that in. Not being so consumed by it, and focusing on what it is I'm trying to do and what I have to bring to the table." So I stepped back from that to take things on. I got married, as well, which brings about other circumstances. Now, I will venture into the city if it's something I think is gonna really be something I have an experience. I've become more selective now, and the real joy in my life now is the fact that I get to be with my family, my kids, I get to spend a lot of time with them.
Getting back to NY. NY never stops, so you can always go into that city anywhere and you're gonna get something great. As far as music, it's still just a hub of inspiration. I miss being able to pop down and catch someone's set. Now it becomes a deliberation. I've become such a studio hound that any time that isn't spent in the studio, I want to spend with my family.
I don't think I've been the kind of person that needs to be somewhere to be inspired. Inspiration comes from inside your head and the rest is just out there to enjoy. You can't say someone is going to be a better artist for being there at that time. I tend to think that you need to look inside.
You could argue that having so much going on, and being presented with so much information and art, can sometimes confuse and get in the way of your peer creative instincts. It all depends on the person and how you go about working.
With our industry, there's a lot to be said for networking. You could argue that being in the world of "club music" is more of a popularity contest than it is about artist statement. The networking and social media politics that drive the scene is crazy.
N: Of course. Do you have a personal opinion on that? Is it good or bad, or something that will change what the scene stands for?
B: Well, I guess, it...
N: It's kind of a loaded question, so I understand if you don't want to answer.
B: Well, it's something I think about a lot. I talk to my wife about this social media world that we live in. Basically, Facebook and Twitter have tapped into two human characteristics or emotions that seem to have run amok. One is exhibitionism and the other is voyeurism. Both of those, combined with narcissism, leads to... it's a trick thing right now. Part of me finds myself wishing I could just walk away from this and let the music be the ultimate communication that I have. Because, you know, I have people contacting me on social media that I don't know, and they talk to me as if we've been friends for years. It's kind of bizarre when that happens. Then I think to myself, "Well if these people really got to know me they might not even actually like me." So it's all based on this flimsy notion. It's not real. It's not built on any realness. That becomes problematic.
Also there's people at your gigs, standing up there with their iPhones filming or taking photos or messaging someone, "Guess where I'm at." It's like it's become more important to tell people what you're doing than doing it and experiencing it.
N: I totally agree. Haha.
B: It's a bizarre stage we find ourselves in. And how it effects the music... it's tough to say. I've certainly seen at my own gigs that it is not so much about the music and more about people being there, or being there because it's been hyped on by somebody that they should be there for that.
But that's the nature of the world we live in. We can go back and attribute this back to marketing/advertising. And what BIll Hick's said about it, that marketing and advertising is the "ruiner of all things good."
N: I think something that's related to this, too, is something I think about in parallel paths - is the growth of social media and its influence on our scene, but also the necessity for people to release continuously in order to stay relevant.
N: And something I find interesting with your discography, is that you continue to release a plethora of material, churning our lots of releases a year, and NOT doing it out of some sort of necessity to stay "alive" or relevant, but out of a necessity to breathe out your music.
B: Yes, I'm glad you said that. It's exactly how I feel. That's what I do. I'm a studio musician, and I love recording music and releasing albums. Some of my favorite artists of all time are artists that have release 2 albums a year. By the time I'm done, I want to have a massive discography of recorded music because that's what gets me going. I feel like I have so much to offer and learn, and to share this journey and release this music and have people interested in what I'm doing and saying musically is the ultimate blessing and inspiration. I'm happy with things the way they are.
Going back to what we were saying about social media. You look at someone like Burial who does not have Facebook or Twitter. He rarely does interviews and refuses to do DJ gigs because he feels that ultimately, all he wants to communicate is what he puts out as Burial on that record. The rest is nobody's business. And that is such a rare exception in this game. We all know everything about our favorite people now because it's all out there.
It's going to be interesting in 5 to 10 years to see where we are in this situation. Is being anonymous or just not playing this game, is it possible to succeed?
N: It's almost as if you didn't chose to participate, you would need someone else to speak on your behalf. Or else it would just get lost.
B: Exactly. If you look at all the promotion companies, these are the outsourcing of this by the artists and labels to do what you don't want to do. It's a strange climate for music because you wondering "What's real and what isn't? What's legitimate and what isn't?"
N: And especially, too, as that communication becomes ubiquitous– so people are doing it on their phones, in all sorts of environments– it starts to change, what I've noticed in NYC especially, is how it changes the club scene and people just letting loose, just experiencing a night for what it has to offer, rather than having to be connected and sharing all the time.
B: Yeah. It's a funny thing. Like you said, sharing, the concept is a good thing. But can you call it sharing, or is it an addiction or a habit, where people need to say everything? They need to let you know what you're missing out on, or look how great they are for being there.
N: Well, going back to what you've dedicated your life to, which is music. That's really admiring. Something I wanted to ask– Since music is your dedicated focus, what sort of intention did you have to set, maybe earlier on in life, to say, "I'm not going to pursue a 9 to 5 job. " What tribulations did you go through to come to that, and what motivations did you have to say yes?
B: Well it started around the time when I was in college in Johannesburg, SA. I finally had some friends who decided to form a band. As a kid I had taken music lessons, but they ended up alienating my love of music. I was listening to pop charts on the radio at the time, and wanting to go and make that kind of music, whereas my parents sent me for classical lessons, then trumpet lessons. I had no interest in that, and it sort of killed that desire.
When I got to college, I bought my first drum kit and started jamming. Once I got into the studio and jammed with musicians, I realized, "Man, this is what I need to be doing." At that time I was studying to become a schoolteacher and avoiding the forced military service in what was then apartheid South Africa. All along, I was doing as much as I could in this band, and also become somewhat of a music journalist for some small newspapers.
In my third year of teaching, I was like, "fuck man, I can't do this anymore." I'm supposed to inspire these kids, but I'm not even helping myself out. I'm a teacher who doesn't really want to be a teacher, and I'm a musician.
So I said to the guys in the band, "Let's move to the states and get serious about this." Unfortunately, they weren't into it. I basically realized I'm going to have to do it on my own. Which also coincided with the fact that I was listening to stuff like Aphex Twin and Future Sound of London, who were doing 1 or 2 man operations. So I said, "Why not go by myself and start recording on my own?" So I said fuck it. Fortunately, I had a friend in NY who said if I came over I could stay with him until I got my feet on the ground. That was it. I sold my car, gave away most of the stuff I could, and bought a ticket out.
B: I wouldn't say there were tribulations. I would say my parents were slightly upset when their son went from a stable job kind of guy, to a musician. They did understand that I needed to chase this dream. Coming to NY was the best thing I ever did. When I got here, within days of being here, I knew that I would not be going back to South Africa.
N: Great. Thanks for chatting with me, Brendon.
B: It was a pleasure. Enjoy the mix.