Interview with Kevin Moore (O.S.I./Chroma Key)

Colin Legerton sat down to lunch in NYC with ex-Dream Theater, current O.S.I. member Kevein Moore to discuss the new O.S.I. album, the possibility of a tour and what’s next for Kevin Moore.Colin Legerton: So, background on OSI, how did it come together?

Kevin Moore: Jim Matheos was working on material for the next Fates
Warning album, I think. It originally was going to be material for
Fates Warning stuff. So, and then at some point he realized that
it wasn?t a good time to start a Fates record because the other guys were
busy with other projects and stuff like that. He had always wanted to do
something with Mike, so I think they were talking about doing something.
And then he emailed me. This is when I was in?well, I live in Costa Rica,
so he was emailing me. And then, before we made any decisions, he
sent me an mp3 of some of his guitar tracks and asked me to do some keyboards
to it. And my approach to it was more like trying to make a song
out of it. So, I sent it back. He was expecting sort of like what
I did with Fates Warning, which was add keyboard tracks to it. But instead
I took a different approach, because I?ve been working differently, you
know. I don?t really think in terms of keyboard tracks as separate from
bass, as separate from guitar. I don?t write like that anymore as
much as I?m composing a whole song. So I just messed with his tracks
and switched things around and put vocals to it and stuff like that and
sent it back to him. And he wasn?t expecting that, but I think he liked
it. I think it was a little strange. And this was ?Hello, Helicopter,?
I think, the first one. So, I think he wanted it to be a heavy album,
so he?s like, ?well, that sounds cool, but you know, I don?t know if it?s
going to be what I have in mind, as far as heaviness.? And then the
next one we did was ?OSI.? So after I did ?OSI,? then that was obviously
a heavy track, he was pretty much comfortable with whatever I wanted to
do.

CL: So, when he sent it to you to put on the keyboards, was
it, he already was thinking of it as a project with Mike? He had already
abandoned the Fates warning album idea?

KM: Yeah. It?s a little fuzzy area there about when he decided
that Mike was going to do it, because I think he was worried about asking
Mike to invite me into the project. He was worried about how Mike was going
to feel about that. And then he was worried about how I would feel
about working with Mike. So I don?t know exactly what happened still.
He mentioned Mike as an after thought. After he told me about the
project and did I want to work on the project, and I was like, ?yeah, let?s
do something together.? He?s like, ?well this is who I have in mind for
a drummer??

CL: So he basically had both you guys lined up without telling
each other?

KM: Yeah. There was something a little bit strange with that.
And I was like, ?yeah, that?ll be fine.?

CL: Were you guys not on good terms after you left the band?

KM: It wasn?t like bad terms, we just weren?t in touch.

CL: Speaking of Costa Rica, when did you move there? And for
any particular reason?

KM: Yeah, after the last Chroma Key record, just as soon as I
finished that, I moved down there, I think.

CL: So it was just two or three years ago?

KM: I think it was three years ago. Well, I?ve been there
before. My cousin moved down there to study Spanish, and I visited her
for several weeks one summer. And then, my younger brother visited
her and ended up living there. This was like six years ago that he visited
and then started living there. And now he has a Peruvian wife and I have
a nephew and they live in Monteverde, which is by the forest in the mountains
of Costa Rica. So they were established there, I was finishing my
record and I was going out of my mind because I was in the studio all the
time. I always wanted to live outside of the country, and I wanted
to learn Spanish, it just fit in a lot of senses, to go down there.

CL: So I imagine you speak Spanish fluently now?

KM: Well, I?m getting better.

CL: So, down there, you do some shows on this Radio for Peace
International? What?s that about?

KM: Well, last year, before I started the OSI project and I knew I was
going to be leaving I wanted to decide what I was going to do, if I was
going to go back to Costa Rica or what. And I wanted to do something in
radio, and knew that eventually I?d like to have a radio program, a weekly
radio program with music and samples and stuff like that. And so
I was looking if there were any radio stations in Costa Rica, and I went
on the net thinking, what could there possibly be? And I found this Radio
for Peace International short-wave station, broadcast in English, broadcast
all around the world. And they have volunteer opportunities and it
sounded good. So I didn?t even visit it, I just went and did the OSI thing
and still was like, what am I going to do with my life? I?m like, ?alright,
I?m gonna go down to this town, Ciudad Col?n, outside of the capital,
and I?m going to go volunteer at this radio station for a couple of months.?
And it?s been really great, I mean, there?s really great people working
there. I?ve made a lot of really great friends. I?ve been learning so much.
I mean, I was pretty politically na?ve, before September 11th for
example. I?m just trying to learn as much as possible to figure out
what?s going on. That and it?s just a really great place to be to
learn it. And also I?ve had an opportunity to start a show, a half-hour
show every week. They?ve been really open with doing your own programming
and broadcasting it. So that?s been a really, really good opportunity
doing that. That?s what I?m focusing on now really.

CL: It?s your main project?

KM: Yeah. I?ve been putting off Chroma Key because of it, a little bit.
I have a feeling it might all come together. Like, material that I write
for that show might be on Chroma Key.

CL: Are you doing a lot of new material for that?

KM: Yeah. I do a half-hour of music underneath it. And I use contributions
from my friends, like my friend in Turkey, who I went to school with in
Los Angeles. He sends me loops and stuff like that, soundbits, by
the internet. There?s another guy I met at the video station. He
does music, he does loops and stuff like that. So I do incorporate
them, and I edit them and I do my own stuff. And then once in a while I
use someone else?s song, the whole song, always putting samples over it.
Mostly stuff that we play, programs that we play at Radio for Peace

International.
When you?re there, the day is like six hours long, and then they play it
on a loop. You?re sitting there and listening to six hours of programming.
Mostly talk radio about the war and about media and stuff like that. And
there?s some questionable stuff that I don?t really like, like spiritual
stuff. There?s like a New Thought program. New Thought is a religion that
tries to incorporate all religions, and just, you know, be very general
and vague about things. But I really hate that programming. And I?m able
to use samples of her, and set it up against samples of Bush talking about
things that really sound similar to what she?s saying, or really far right
media or racists and how that sorta sounds like what she?s saying as well.
And so I?m able to use that stuff, and they?re really cool about it, they
never say anything like ?you can?t use that.? It?s a good way of reacting
to and digesting it. Putting it up to talk back to it.

CL: Going back to the samples? you do use a lot of samples.
More than anyone else, really, that I listen to. Is it trying to make a
point within the song? What?s the main purpose of the samples?

KM: I think it?s always just trying to set a mood. Somebody just
asked me this question before. I don?t think I answered it really well
that time either. A lot of times I have samples sitting around. Most of
the time I hear something or I?m able to get a recording of something.
I sample it and I have it there on my computer. And I think all spoken
word stuff has tempo to it, and words have certain voice or certain beats
or certain grooves or certain tempos, and sometimes it just doesn?t work.
Even though the concept of what they?re speaking about might be appropriate
to the music. But, you know, once you have it on your computer, it?s very
easy to audition stuff and play it. See if it works there, if it doesn?t
you don?t need it. But it?s just trial and error. I don?t know if
there?s any real purpose to it.

CL: You use it more for the beat than in terms of what they?re
actually saying then?

KM: Not more, but I?m just saying that you?

CL: Both have to fit?

KM: Yeah, exactly. I mean, it always has to fit as far as context,
meaning. But sometimes it gets disqualified because it just doesn?t work.
It just doesn?t sit in the beat. You can just hear it doesn?t work.
But, for the first song?uh, what?s it called? ?What He Said???

CL: ?The New Math?? With the Dan Rather samples??

KM: Yeah. I got half of those samples and I knew that I
wanted to use them on the record. And on that song, I don?t think changed
any of the structure of the song. That?s almost all Jim, and me playing
and programming and doing the keyboard parts sort of like if I did the
bass; a little more over the top, but that approach. But what I did do
to it was to throw all those samples in there.

CL: So, you took a lot of his demo and changed it around.
Did you guys actually sit down and write together at all? Or was it more
separate? He sent you something and you altered it to what it finally became?

KM: That?s right.

CL: Alright. I was curious, you know, when it lists two authors,
how exactly?

KM: Yeah. I?m trying to think if there?s any exceptions
to this, but I think in all cases, Jim wrote his guitar parts, you know,
wrote the songs or whatever they were: guitar, keyboards, bass, and sometimes
drums, and I took them after the fact. Either, like in that first example
(?The New Math (what he said)?), left it the way it is and put keyboards
over it, or like in ?Head? or a couple other songs, I just completely made
a song out of it, also ?OSI.? I just completely chopped it up and
changed it, but we never really sat down and wrote a song together.

CL: Speaking of ?OSI: The Office of Strategic Influence,? who
chose that title?

KM: I did.

CL: Why?

KM: I keep a running list of good band names, song names, album
titles, just whenever I come up with something good. The Office of
Strategic Influence was a Pentagon office that was established after September
11th to put out propaganda to, not just enemy countries which is really
open and everyone knows we do it: we?re real proud of it, but also to friendly
countries, France, Spain, stuff like that. Just to give stuff to the media
in other countries to get support for the ?War on Terrorism.? The
New York Times did a story on it and they were really embarrassed about
it and shut it down. I mean, it lasted five months or something like that.
The funny thing about it was the government and administration was saying
it?s so embarrassing that they had to name it the ?Office of Strategic
Influence,? we couldn?t just put it in a room in the Pentagon and name
it whatever the room number is, B29 or something like that. That?s how
they usually do these operations. Someone decided to be really creative
about it and name it what it really is.

CL: Yeah, it sounds like something out of 1984.

KM: Exactly. I?m actually re-reading that. It?s just
a comically funny name for a Pentagon office?. ?Comically funny?? (laughter)

CL: Yeah, it?s a little redundant, but it gets the point across.
So, with that (the name OSI) and your Dan Rather soundclips, was there
a political point to the album at all?

KM: Yeah, but it isn?t a political analysis or anything like I?m
trying to get my left-wing views across. Because, like I said before,
I?d been politically na?ve. I?m just learning it, and just like
Chroma Key, it?s just a reaction to what?s going on in my life. And that?s
what?s been going on. I?ve been learning more and more about what?s
going on in the Middle East, and what?s going on with our policies, and
what?s our history, and how are we supporting these revolutions going on,
and I?m just sort of reacting to it. It?s not like a ?Rage Against The
Machine,? I don?t have to think of things that rhyme with ?Zapatista.?
It?s more of just a reaction. It?s still really personal. Yeah,
it?s political, but it?s not too dogmatic.

CL: You?re not trying to make a point or make a big stand?
It?s just how you personally react?

KM: It?s not that I want to make a point. But when you watch Dan
Rather on TV, or you see him the time he was on David Letterman, where
that sample was from, and I?m watching him and he says ?whatever the president
wants me to say, I?ll say it.? And I was thinking like, ?wait a minute.?
It?s just a reaction. I don?t know that I want to make a point, but sometimes
you just point at things, and that?s enough.

CL: You saw something wrong with it, and you?re just putting
it there for everyone else to look at.

KM: Yeah. Exactly.

CL: So how was it working with Mike again after Jim set it
up?

KM: It was hell?. (laughter) He?s an asshole? I?m stalling?

(He was trying to get a few bites of his lunch in between the barrage
of questions.)

It was pretty uneventful. We worked together for a week.

CL: Was that it?

KM: Yeah, because we had worked on so much of the project before.
We recorded the drums when 60 or 70% of the parts were finished, or my
parts and a lot of the arrangements. Then we went to Connecticut
to record the drums. We spent a couple days just altering and listening
to the material and talking about arrangements. Then four days, I think,
recording the drums. That was it. And then I continued arranging
and recording keyboard parts and sequencing. Jim did his guitar parts over
and I did vocals. It was six or seven months, or eight months, and
I was only really working with Mike for a weekend of that. I was
working with his parts, but he wasn?t there.

CL: No interesting anecdotes from the studio?

KM: Interesting anecdotes? No, I think one thing that Mike was
talking about was that it was different for him because he had to take
direction: just taking input. I was talking to him about what I heard
as far as drum parts when we were recording in the studio. You know, ?try
this, try this?? And we actually tried it, not really tried, but recorded
different parts, different drum parts for the same section of a song so
I?d have something to choose from later on. A lot of the stuff I
wanted him to do was very simple, without the triplet fills in between
each beat. I think that day was sort of tense, because he?s not used to
working like that. He?s used to just playing the stroke once, the
way he wants to. He said that day was sort of hard, but he was happy.
He even said that day, at the end of the day, that he realized that the
record was going to be completely different. It was something new
for him and he was excited about it, it was just very frustrating.

CL: Now, you haven?t been touring with Chroma Key at all, right?

KM: Right.

CL: Are there any plans to do so with OSI?

KM: Not yet.

CL: It?s on the table though? Maybe?

KM: Well, it?s not on the table. We just got here yesterday, and
we?re supposed to talk about it. I guess it?s possible, but it?ll
be a huge deal, because we?ve never played the songs together. It?s
going to be almost as big a deal as making the record was, to actually
put it together as a live show. So it?s going be a lot of money,
and be up to the label and Mike?s time constraints, and my fear of singing
live.

CL: Really?

KM: Well, I don?t know, there?s just a lot of stuff.

CL: And you never even saw Sean Malone at all, who did the
bass parts, right? Was that by mail or something?

KM: With Jim, yeah. I didn?t even communicate with him by mail.

CL: Wow. The way they can make albums these days? It?s amazing.

KM: Yeah.

CL: So, you said Chroma Key is on hold right now, with your
radio show?

KM: Yeah, and with the OSI stuff. I think I?ll do that maybe
into the spring. I?d like to keep on doing a weekly radio show. It?s
a huge amount of work, but it?s really fun. As opposed to doing forty-five
minutes of material every two years, I get to do a half-hour every week.
It?s really hard, and it takes an enormous amount of time, but it?s also
fun, because you don?t have to care about it so incredibly much. It?s like
?okay. I?m gonna get this done by Friday, and I?m going to start a new
one.?

CL: There must be a lot more freedom too. Unlike releasing
something on CD, you don?t have to get the label?s approval?

KM: Well, I don?t have to do that with Chroma Key either, because
it?s my own label. There?s more freedom just because it?s not going
to be an album, it?s not something you?re going to have to live with for
the rest of your life. It?s just out there for a week. I think I?d
like to release CDs sometime, maybe 2 programs per CD or something like
that.

CL: Any big influences on your songwriting, the way you play
the keys, or your vocals?

KM: Well, vocals I can?t think of anything. Musically, I really
don?t think in terms of playing the keyboards anymore, like I was telling
you before, it?s more arranging the song. If I have to touch a keyboard,
it?s just part of it, just another way to get into the computer.
I listen to a lot of minimalist techno kind of stuff, like Pole, and other
experimental electronic musicians. And then I like bands that sort
of chop up their stuff after they record it. Bands that play live and then
chop it up, like Gordons, or Japanese bands like Acid Undertones.
I think that?s been an influence on this record.

CL: Through the wonder of the Internet, I?ve heard the Space-Dye
Vest demo and I have to say that I wasn?t so impressed by the vocals on
that one, but you?re improved incredibly over the past few years. Did you
go to a vocal coach or just work on it a lot or what?

KM: No, I got a software plugin. (laughter) I don?t know if it
improved. Maybe I just felt the same way you did after I listened to it,
and just cared and spent more time on it. It?s really hard for me to do
vocals. It takes a long time.

CL: And that?s why you don?t want to do them live?

KM: That?s why I?m leery about it. Yeah.

CL: I think it would be worth giving it a shot though, because
a lot of people will want to see it.

KM: Yeah. Well, what do they want to see? They don?t want
to see me howling. But yeah, I do want to do it. I?d like to
give it a try. If not with OSI, then with Chroma Key.

CL: You had different guys on both (Chroma Key) albums, didn?t
you?

KM: Yeah. So I?d find some other guys.

CL: Find whoever?s available?

KM: Yeah. Try to keep it minimal too. Find a guitar player,
drummer, bassist, who knows.

CL: And you play bass as well, right?

KM: Yeah.

CL: Any other instruments? Besides all the computer stuff?
Mostly bass and keys?

KM: And vocals, yeah.

CL: Alright, if you don?t want to answer this one?

KM: Dream Theater?

CL: Yeah. Actually, this is my only one, I promise.

KM: That?s fine. Go ahead.

CL: Back when they were doing the CD, the ?Live Scenes from
New York,? I think Mike had asked you if you wanted to do ?Space-Dye Vest?
live and do two keyboards on ?Learning to Live? I think. At least
that?s the word that got to me. Why did you not want to do that?
And if he (Mike) asked in the future, now that you?ve worked in a kind
of progmetal thing again, would you be interested?

KM: Well, the specifics of that I don?t really know about, but
he did ask me to play a show with them. I know what you?re talking
about. I don?t know, it just doesn?t sound like fun to play a ten-year
old song to a bunch of people that already know it. For what? Just a cameo
appearance? I don?t even like it when I see other bands do it. ?And
now our old guitar player!? For one song. From Costa Rica to
play that one song. It just seems silly. I really don?t have anything musical
to offer. It?s not creative. It?s not fun.

CL: Well, I think a lot of people see it as their favorite
Dream Theater songs. And it?s one of the only ones that has never been
performed live.

KM: Well from that point of view? But from my point of view, think
about it. Would you really want to do it?

CL: So, it just wasn?t any sort of musical disagreement? It
just was not worth all the effort?

KM: It?s not about the effort, the traveling. I don?t mind
stuff like that. It?s just? gratuitous. There?s nothing creative
about it. There?s nothing I?m going to learn. There?s nothing I haven?t
experienced before. I?ve played that song millions of times for people.
It?s just going to be another time, and it doesn?t sound like an interesting
project. This (OSI) was an interesting project, to do something and have
a lot of fun with it. I?m not interested in just going up on stage and
doing the reunion, just for old time?s sake.

CL: Basically, you?re more excited about moving forward than
nostalgia?

KM: Yeah.

CL: That?s understandable. Well, that exhausted my questions.
Anything else you wanted to tell your adoring fans?

KM: (laughs) I can never really think of any answers to that last
question?

CL: Yeah. It?s too broad.

After that I let him finally finish his lunch. Big thanks to Koggie
for setting up the interview. Thanks to Kevin for all his time and answers,
and to Jim and Eric from Inside Out Music America and Jim and Mike from
OSI for being so friendly and putting up with me for the afternoon.

Koggie is the founder of Ytsejam.com and a really cool guy

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