Back in the Autumn of 2005, I reviewed an album by an unsigned band called Moonshot, a band who have been around for years, produced album after album and despite obvious talent have yet to get a recording contract.
The album was called Fear Today, Gone Tomorrow and was their best yet, despite the lack of commercial interest the band are defiantly upbeat and positive about the DIY success they have had so far.
We caught up with two of the three piece Richard and Dan to ask them about what we can expect from Moonshot in 2006 and how they felt about the lack of industry interest. In return we got one of our best ever interviews with a whole heap of honesty and a dose of humour from the Moonshot boys.
I suppose the first thing I ought to ask is did you have a good Christmas and New Year?
Richard: Very nice thank you. Hope you did too.
Dan: It was great – caught up with friends, watched lots of DVDs – just what was needed.
2005 must have been quite a good year for you I would have thought judging by the reviews you received for the Fear Today, Gone Tomorrow album?
Richard: We’re really pleased with what people have been saying about the album (and us). It’s always a bit scary putting your stuff up for comment – especially as, lyrically, it was a bit of a departure from our earlier CDs. There’s a fair bit of political comment on it, and we weren’t sure if people would like that or just think we’d disappeared up our collective backside.
Dan: I reckon 2005 was one of our best years ever. In the early part of the year songs from Friday Street were getting airplay and then later Fear Today had some fantastic reviews. Plus we played some great gigs – including a couple in Moscow. There aren’t even many famous bands who have played Russia!
Does it help you keep on going when you see good reviews coming in for what you are doing? You must feel vindicated?
Richard: I remember how excited I was when we got our first good review and yes it’s great that we’re still getting them. The challenge is to convert this positive feedback into a recording contract. But to answer your question, it does help us feel vindicated in our choice of style and content as people obviously like what we’re saying and the way in which we’re saying it.
Dan: Good reviews are also a fantastic motivator. When we saw how positive the Fear Today, Gone Tomorrow reviews were we got stuck into a new album straight away. We were really charged. I feel like we’re building up a head of steam at the moment – 2006 is going to be THE year for Moonshot.
It’s quite well publicised that you haven’t got a record deal. Has there ever been any interest label wise?
Dan: A few sniffs of interest, but nothing that’s come to anything. For the last couple of years we’ve been getting together loads of good reviews and airplay – kind of a CV for the band I guess. I think we’re ready… but then again, it isn’t up to me.
Richard: A few years ago we wrote what we thought (at the time) to be a great dance track and had a bit of interest, but it didn’t come to anything in the end – probably because the track wasn’t really as good as we thought 😉
And have you ever had feedback from industry figures as to why you haven’t been what they’ve been looking for especially considering the positive response from reviewers?
Richard: Not a sausage.
Dan: On the upside we do now have a few reviewers campaigning for us to be signed. I think the last 6 or 7 years have seen electronic music take a real kicking and record companies haven’t been interested, but things are slowly starting to turn – electronic music will hopefully return to the mainstream. Moonshot need to be ready when the scene is right.
Do you ever see bands in the chart or on TV and wonder how the hell they’ve managed to get as far as they have?
Richard: Yes but I won’t name names. Well, OK I will. Ronan Keating comes to mind. I read a story that said he tried to break the American market by having his teeth capped. Don’t know if it’s true, but it’s certainly apothrical.
Dan: The sad truth is most people will listen to what they’re told to by the marketing boys. Talent has very little to do with it. I’ve heard some fantastic unsigned bands who will never make the big time because no record company wants to stick their neck out – they’d rather flog the next Westlife cover version to the housewives. God, I sound really bitter – but even my friends fall for it. This is the point where I could easily go into a rant on my soap box so I’ll stop before I start.
Of all the songs you’ve written which do you think is the one that you’d like to see be a hit and why?
Richard: I’m torn – half of me would like it to be a very serious and worthy song – like 38 Years or Counting Sheep. On the other hand, it would be cool for Wonderland to make it in the summer and for everyone to be dancing to it on the beach. Can they all be hits, please?!
Dan: Wonderland is fun, but it’s not very “Moonshot”. I think we’d need a hit that really reflected our ‘sound’ otherwise when we put the next song out no one would buy it. Something like Do You Dream of Me? from Night Visions or Painted Madonna from Fear Today. But hey, we’re not picky – any of them would be just fine…
You’ve got what looks like a fairly relentless work ethic judging by your output of albums, is that a natural thing or is it borne out of a necessity to keep the interest going in the band both from yourselves and your fans perspective?
Dan: Because we make electronic based music it’s always been natural to focus on albums especially before our equipment was good enough to allow us to gig. In the early days the albums were just for our own amusement although we did inflict them on our unsuspecting friends. They were pretty pants at first (the albums not our friends!), but that focus has carried on to this day and thankfully they’ve got a lot better! Even if no one bought any albums we’d probably still make them…
Richard: We’ve been quite strict over the last couple of years and the schedule between Friday Street and Fear Today has been quite ruthless (as has the one between Fear Today and our new CD).
It has been a couple of months since you released an album now, you’ve got another one in the pipeline can you tell us a bit more about that?
Dan: We were really inspired after the reviews for Fear Today so there’s another album that’s well on the way to completion. It’s called Uncertain Weather and I think it’s going to be quite intense. There’s more guitar than normal too so it’ll be a little rougher round the edges than the last couple of CDs.
Richard: All the programming/guitars are done, so it’s vocal time, which I personally find the most stressful and difficult (as I’m sure the others will tell you). It’s actually a bit of a cock up timing-wise as it’s got a very wintery feel and will probably be getting most of its reviews in June/July. D’oh.
Do you feel that the dance music world is moving closer to what Moonshot are about now? By that I mean that a lot of the more chilled out bands are beginning to have more of an impact rather than the scene being based just around big anthems which it seemed to be ten years ago?
Richard: Yes and no. Massive Attack won best dance act a few years ago (I think they were quite perplexed by that, if I remember the looks on their faces). I think a lot of it comes down to the fact that the big dance anthems have been superseded – people seemed happier downloading something like I Predict A Riot rather than the new Encore En Fois – and there’s certainly a lot of success on the Hed Kandi label which pushes out quite a lot of chilled-out stuff.
Dan: In recent years there has been a distinct lack of music that ignores the pop/dance/rock boundaries. People are either making hardcore dance records or pop/rock and there is little in between. There is a fair amount of chill-out music, but most people are only buying the compilations. I love bands like Zero 7 and Air – they’re flying the flag for innovative electro bands, but I think Moonshot sits more in that cross over territory between pop and dance which no one else is really occupying at the moment. It’s the domain of the old guard such as Pet Shop Boys, Depeche Mode and New Order – bands that combine electronic music with great pop song writing. They’re all still going, but they’re not finding new audiences anymore which is a real shame. Someone needs to inherit the flame. We’d love to have that chance.
How did the decision to share the lead vocals around the three of you come about and how do you decide who takes which vocal?
Richard: I think we were all quite precious when we first met and no-one wanted to give up their previous incarnation of lead vocalist. Well, I didn’t, anyway. Today, we don’t really talk about who’s singing what – it seems to happen quite naturally. Usually (although not always) it’s the person who writes the lyrics.
Dan: Richard’s being deliberately vague – he was the most precious of all! It did take a while to establish a happy balance, but it works really well now – not just on the albums where it adds variety, but also at gigs because we all get a chance to ‘step up to the mic’ as they say. We’re quite good at agreeing whose voice suits which song and breaking the lyric writer/vocalist rule when needed.
I described you as seeming to be a democracy in the way you work together is that true or does one of you tend to take the lead in making any decisions?
Richard: No we’re 100% gestalt – just like The Borg. Resistance is (hopefully) futile.
Dan: It’s true. We tend to come to decisions collectively. Of course the recording studio we use is pretty small so there’s no space to chuck stuff at each other.
The influences on your album seem very eclectic and aren’t always as clear as some reviewers would have you believe, who would you say are the artists / producers who’ve had the most influence on the current Moonshot sound?
Richard: I don’t think we’ll find any common ground on this one, so here are my choices:
Soft Cell/Marc Almond
Dan: Reviewers do often try to pigeon hole bands – I’ve done some reviewing myself and it’s very easy to do. That said, my influences include (in no particular order):
Floyd (Dark Side of the Moon – 20 years ahead of it’s time!)
Leonard Cohen (lyrical genius)
Pet Shop Boys (the ultimate band for great dance/pop crossover)
Portishead (amazing atmospheres with minimal music and big ass beats)
Tom McRae (love the angst – his first album is so unique)
Finally what can we expect from Moonshot in 2006?
Richard: More gigs, certainly – once we’ve finished our material – and hopefully a CD called Uncertain Weather in March/April time.
Dan: Kevin – You can expect a VIP invitation to our celeb packed party to celebrate Fear Today, Gone Tomorrow going platinum. There’ll be wall to wall, scantily clad women, Elton John and probably some people who claim they were in Big Brother that no one actually invited. Failing that probably more gigs and a new album as Richard says…