BBT 1v1: Moon Hooch’s Mike Wilbur

By Matt Wickstrom

As Moon Hooch prepares for a return to the bluegrass state next weekend for The Moonshiner’s Ball, I had the opportunity to chat with the band’s saxophonist Mike Wilbur about their upcoming album “Red Sky”, New York City, moonshine, and much more! Read the full interview after the break.

 

Matt Wickstrom: “I know you guys got your start by busking in the subways and other areas around Brooklyn and NYC. In what ways has the Big Apple influenced Moon Hooch’s sound?”

Mike Wilbur: “To me New York is a very noisy, chaotic, and crazy place. In my first year at The New School (for Jazz and Contemporary Music) I started really getting into John Cage and listening to sounds, and hearing sound as sort of this big noise orchestra that’s chaotic and seemingly improvised. Listening to that and hearing all these industrial sounds like feet screeching through a hall, people screaming at each other or taxis speaking all in different tones creating these crazy random harmonies.”

“It definitely influenced me, but it also put me on edge. Its made me more aggressive, as a musician that is. I actually think I’ve become less aggressive as a person. If you let it get to you, you just kind of self-implode…”

Wickstrom: “That’s one thing that really stood out to me when I saw Moon Hooch last year at the Moonshiner’s Ball. You’re very loud and in-your-face when you play, in a good way. I can definitely see how that aspect of the band was influenced by NYC. I know you guys also like to attach objects to your instruments to alter the sound. Does that go hand-in-hand with the industrial sounds you previously mentioned, like car horns and such?”

Wilbur: “Yeah. We like to modify our instruments to emulate electronic sounds as well as industrial, metallic, intense sounds. The saxophone is good at that. The saxophone is just an intense sounding instrument. You can play it buttery but it’s still intense, it’s not a clarinet. A clarinet is like cuddling a pillow, whereas a saxophone is like hugging a metallic cloud.”

Wickstrom: “From the band’s early days of busking up until now, closing in on the release of “Red Sky”, how would you say Moon Hooch has evolved musically?”

Wilbur: “Well for one I think we’ve all just become better on our instruments. Our instruments are less of a barrier to us now then they were when we started the band because we’ve been busy touring and practicing. Over time we’ve become tighter, more direct… I think its really combined our live energy with what we do in studio. What we do in the studio is different. We end up getting pretty heavy with electronics, which is kind of more of what the second album (2014s “This is Cave Music”) was. The third album (“Red Sky”) combines both of those.”

Wickstrom: “I know you recorded your previous two records at The Bunker in Brooklyn. Was that the case with “Red Sky” as well?”

Wilbur: “Yeah. We did it at The Bunker. John Davis mixed and produced it.”

Wickstrom: “I noticed you guys have some upcoming tour dates in Europe, mainly the U.K.. Will this be your first time travelling overseas to perform?”

Wilbur: “We’ve been to the U.K. a few times now. I think this will be our third trip.”

Wickstrom: “So do you guys have the jet lag figured out by now?”

Wilbur: “No. I don’t think you can ever figure that out man. It’s misery, pure human misery.”

Wickstrom: “What are some of the cultural differences you notice over there compared to here in the states?”

Wilbur: “It’s sad, because most western countries have adapted to American culture, you know, consumer, corporate culture, where everything is the same, every shopping district and every corner. Honestly, there aren’t too many (differences). I also haven’t spent enough free time in different European countries to really know. I’m usually just there for a gig, so I rush to the venue, show up, play the gig, sleep, and hit the road again. It’s not like I get to experience the culture a whole lot. I have noticed that people like drinking a lot, even more than in America. Like at lunch you go out for a pint.”

Wickstrom: “Now you guys are also getting set to return to the Moonshiner’s Ball in a couple of weeks after rocking out on the main stage late night on Saturday last year. What are you excited about in your return to the Ball?”

Wilbur: “Moonshiner’s Ball was a blast last year. These girls gave us some moonshine; some really good strawberry moonshine. It was delicious, I’ve gotta be honest.”

Wickstrom: “Haha. I remember there was no shortage of moonshine the entire weekend. Now, over your years of playing music, what is something music has taught you about yourself?”

Wilbur: “I think when you’re really playing music well, you can step aside and really tap into this divine cosmic force that is ever-present. All really good musicians are doing that. They’re getting out of the way you could say, and tapping into this ever-present pool or reality that we’re all in simultaneously, at least that’s how it feels to me when I’m doing it. It’s taught me to do that, and then you can bring that into your everyday life and kind of experience every moment as it’s happening rather than being caught up in the projection of the future and illusion of the past, because the past is dead, yet it still haunts us constantly and takes us out of the present moment. Music has taught me how to be very present and listen. Listening to everything is the fastest way to get into a meditative state. If you open your ears and just listen rather than think or talk, because so often we talk rather than listen, you’re able to be more aware and serve yourself and the world around you.”

Wickstrom: “I don’t have any more questions Mike, but is there anything else I may not have brought up with my questions that you’d like to get out to the airwaves about Moon Hooch?”

Wilbur: “We feel like as a society there’s not enough support for people’s passions. We’re put into school systems and institutions that are very curricular and bureaucratic rather than individual and group-based. I feel like everybody should really just focus on their passions and what they love doing, because we only have one shot in this life. We all have the right to spend it doing something we love, and everybody has the power to do it too, so I just encourage everybody to follow their passions.”

Wickstrom: “Awesome. Those are some great words of advice. Thank you so much for your time Mike!”

 

To read more about Moon Hooch visit the band’s web site. To get more information about the Moonshiner’s Ball, including purchasing tickets, visit themoonshinersball.com. To view the original Kernel article as is on BBT, go here.

Check out “Psychotubes”, a new Moon Hooch cut straight from “Red Sky”, below.

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