Interview by Rachel Jablonski
Before you read this interview or, even better, while you read this interview go to Chroma Key’s website http://www.chromakey.com and just listen. What you will hear streaming is the band’s new release Graveyard Mountain Home in its entirety. Listen to these songs to help set mood and understanding, Kevin Moore is not a simplistic character necessarily. A talented and very interesting gentleman whom I’ve admired for a long time, I was excited to have the chance to speak with him and in turn learned a lot about his approach to music, his workaholic nature, the different places and cultures he is living in, and most relevant information about his great project called Chroma Key.
Rachel: So, you’re in Turkey. What’s it like over there right now?
Kevin: Right now? It’s covered with snow. Other than that, it’s pretty uneventful.
Rachel: What’s it like in general?
Kevin: For me it’s an amazing city to live in. It’s a totally different world from any other place I’ve lived before. It’s hard to say, it’s hard to really describe. It’s a mystery to me still after living here for like a year. It’s still a mysterious city for me.
Rachel: Why did you choose to live in Turkey for now?
Kevin: A friend of mine is living here, he is teaching film at a University. I went to film school with him and we were working together on some music projects and he invited me to visit. So I came for like two weeks and I thought I would like to settle here for a bit and record the record so that’s what I did.
Rachel: So you went to film school? How long ago?
Kevin: I graduated in 1999.
Rachel: Why did you choose to go to film school? Have you used your education to aid in your music?
Kevin: I was doing some video work, just like short video pieces, and I wanted to get further into that. I did end up doing a lot of stuff. I did some videos for some of the Chroma Key songs and some other unrelated stuff. I think ever since I left school I’ve done film a lot less, but I’d like to start doing more of it because I’d like to make it part of my live show when I tour with Chroma Key.
Rachel: That would be cool. Where can we find Chroma Key videos? I don’t think I’ve ever seen one.
Kevin: Well, I haven’t released any. I think that maybe if I reissue the first two Chroma Key albums sometime I’ll reissue them with a DVD, sort of like the new Chroma Key album has, and I’ll include those videos.
Rachel: I see. So they are just buried away for now.
Rachel: What songs did you make videos for?
Kevin: I did “Hell Mary,” I did “Camera 4,” and “Mouse” from Dead Air for Radios.
Rachel: What do you typically do in Turkey while you’re there? What’s a typical day like for you?
Kevin: My typical day is I go out maybe once for breakfast or coffee or lunch or something like that and then I work all day the rest of the day. I’m a workaholic so maybe that’s why this city is still a mystery to me because I really don’t get out much. [laugh] But I’m constantly just working on music. I’m pretty addicted to that.
Rachel: What are you working on now that your latest Chroma Key is done?
Kevin: I’m working on a couple of things. I’m playing a show with Fate’s Warning, I play keyboards on a couple of their albums and they’re going to be playing in Greece so I’m going to play a song with them when they come. So I’m practicing that song. But other than that I’m also supposed to start another O.S.I album and I’m working on preparing a live Chroma Key show.
Rachel: Cool. How come you haven’t toured previously with Chroma Key?
Kevin: The opportunity never came up. We are still trying to make it happen this time, it’s nothing solid yet. I think I’ll definitely play at least a couple shows, but it’s kind of hard to get the funding to do touring, so it’s always a constant battle. But I think it’s going to happen this time.
Rachel: Well good. Who would you like to see yourself on tour with? I can’t picture what other band would be a good match for you.
Kevin: It’ll probably just be a Chroma Key thing. I wouldn’t have any objection to playing with other bands, there are tons of great bands out there, but I think it will end up being a headlining tour in small clubs probably.
Rachel: I recently interviewed Max Cavalera of Soulfly and told me about going to Turkey for his latest album to find inspiration and unique instrumentation. He found those things in Istanbul. Have you found inspiration or similar results in Istanbul?
Kevin: A little bit. I didn’t come here for inspiration or to try to absorb the music and incorporate Turkish elements into my music or anything like that, but I think it’s unavoidable really because music is everywhere here. Even if you don’t leave the house it comes in after you from outside. I mean there are prayer calls five times a day that come from the mosques, from the speakers on the mosques, and it’s really totally different than anything I can understand. Even the popular music is really different on a basic level. The rhythms are very different and I think it has opened me up to new approaches to working with rhythms a little bit. Yeah, but I didn’t come here conscientiously on a world music exploration. I just came because I thought it was an interesting city and I thought I could make an album here, that’s all.
Rachel: For those unfamiliar with Chroma Key how would you describe it?
Kevin: Um, I don’t know, how would you describe it?
Rachel: I don’t know I’ve seen it described with the word “pop” and I mean it’s really easy to listen to and that kind of thing, but I think it goes beyond that so I was wondering what you would say.
Kevin: But it is popular music. It’s not classical, it’s not jazz…
Kevin: …and it’s not really experimental or avant garde or anything so I guess you have to call it "pop" in a broad sense. And I think sometimes I just get out of the labels by calling it singer/songwriter stuff in that singer/songwriters are hard to categorize in any other way. They’re writing kind of eccentric or quirky kind of stuff so… yeah I think that’s kind of what I’m doing, filing it under singer/songwriter.
Rachel: Ok, well you used this film Age 13 for your latest album Graveyard Mountain Home. It is so obscure! Where did you find it and why did you choose to use it?
Kevin: I found it on the internet in an archive of old films. The archive is called the Prelinger Archive and it’s just a collection of public domain films, films that sort of had the copyright thrown out on them so that anybody can use them for any purpose whatsoever. You can actually download the films at DVD quality or you can stream them to watch, so I just went through some of them and, actually, it didn’t take me that long to find this film. It caught my attention. It is about a kid whose mother, well she’s dead at the beginning of the film they are at her funeral, and apparently she used to listen to the radio a lot. When she dies, her radio stops working. So her son gets the idea that if he fixes her radio he’ll bring her back to life. And it’s also about all of the trouble he gets into at adolescence and problems like that. It was kind of rich for musical accompaniment and the cinematography and everything is really beautiful, kind of surreal. I slowed the film down to half speed for two reasons, one to make it album length because the film was only like twenty-five minutes long, and the other reason was to make it flow better. When I was writing the album I found it a lot easier to write to the film when it was at half speed, that was the only alteration that I did to the film, I didn’t do any other editing to it. I just wrote all the music to fit the scenes exactly so that if you start the film and start the album at the same time everything matches up.
Rachel: It says in the Chroma Key bio that the album was to “compliment and also to challenge” scenes. How did that work? How did you incorporate that?
Kevin: Yeah, not necessarily to always match the images on the screen, but to sometimes play against it. That’s the idea.
Rachel: Why did you choose to approach some scenes like that then?
Kevin: Because I think it keeps it interesting. Because I could. Because I thought it was fun that I didn’t have to try to advance the storyline like the traditional job of the soundtrack. You have to advance the storyline and sort of convey the mood of the scene for a soundtrack, but I didn’t have to do that because the director’s not around. So I wanted to be more playful with it. I thought, well what would it be like if I did a totally different kind of mood than this scene is trying to convey? When you put that music with that scene what happens there? Sometimes it’s kind of interesting what happens.
Rachel:The place where you found the film, who does the upkeep on the archives and how do they get funding?
Kevin: Well, I guess this guy Rick Prelinger, he just loves old films and so he’s like a collector. But he also does make money at it by say Hollywood films who want to use a piece of one of the films in the archive but want the original print or a 35mm print from the 16mm original or something higher quality than just the DVD file. Then it’s like 2000 dollars per minute or something crazy. So this film I used is DVD quality and it’s free. I guess he makes his money from people who have money and then the other people can just use it. That’s kind of a nice policy.
Rachel: Definitely. How did you find the other musicians for Graveyard Mountain Home? How did you choose them?
Kevin: I just picked people who were around. My girlfriend sang, my friend Theron who I was telling you about, the film school teacher, he did a lot of programming, his drum teacher played drums, and the only guy that we actually sought out was a guitar player who ended up putting one part on the CD, a Turkish guitar player. The parts aren’t that demanding or anything, it’s just more of a feel that we’re going for so it was just a matter of getting comfortable and getting in the mood and playing stuff together.
Rachel: Well gosh that worked well! When you tour who will tour with you?
Kevin: That’s still not set in stone yet and I guess it won’t be until we actually tour, but our drummer will play and I’d like Jim Matheos, my friend in Fate’s Warning, to play, but ya know he’s in Fate’s Warning [laugh] and he’s busy touring and stuff like that. But that would be good. Bass player is up in the air. So if anybody reads this article and wants to addition they can.
Rachel: You do a lot of abstract work obviously. Does that come natural to you or how much effort does it take for you to put abstract ideas together? Is it just like BOOM you come up with something or do you think about more heavily or how do you do it? Because it comes out so smooth and it’s natural and…
Kevin: Wow, cool. Well I think what I do is that I just put two things next to each other. Sort of like if I have some kind of synth sound I’m playing with I’ll just record it then I’ll play around with different loops or something, different beats. Or if I have a beat or something I’ll play around with different spoken word audio that I have. I just drop them in there and maybe they fit perfectly, maybe the rhythm of the speaker is the same as the rhythm of the drums or the mood is the same. And that’s what I did with this soundtrack kind of approach. I played with different musical pieces, ideas that I had recorded, I rolled the film and just dropped them in to see if it was doing anything, to see if anything interesting was happening. So, basically it’s more just like listening and watching to see if anything cool happens more than just trying to concentrate on it and make it happen. I just wait for it happen and try to create situations where it can happen.
Rachel: Well you talked about your programming and samples. Where do you usually get these from cause you have some pretty cool spoken word and stuff and I’m always like where did he get that?
Kevin: Here and there I end up doing a lot of recordings talking to people, interviewing them, ya know, or just carrying a tape recorder around or a video camera. I don’t really do that everyday, some of it I’ve had for years and have never used, but sometimes a spot comes up for it. So I just collect it and over the years it’s starting to grow.
Rachel: Wow you have some cool stuff then. Just random people?
Kevin: Random recordings I guess. I don’t have a set method of going out and doing interviews or anything, but maybe I’ll get an idea or hear something that I think I should record and record it. Maybe that happens once a month or something.
Rachel: For instance, the girl that talks on the track “On the Page” on Dead Air for Radios. Who is that or where did you get that from?
Kevin: That was just a friend when I was living in Santa Fe. She had some interesting stories and I asked her if I could interview her flat out. There is a lot of time spent just trying things out. I mean there are tons and tons of taped interviews that are boring and it’s useless and not interesting at all. And I have tons of music on my computer that’s like that too. It’s just about finding the right situation for the right pieces of audio.
Rachel: You’ve done good work with Chroma Key and Dream Theater and Fate’s Warning and O.S.I. so which work are you most proud of?
Kevin: It’s always the last thing, I don’t know why that is, but it’s the thing that I can identify with the most right now. I think that this album is the most interesting thing and I suffered the least doing it for some reason. I enjoyed it and I was interested in it the whole time and I never felt like ‘oh fuck I have to finish this record, I have to do one more song, I have to do something to this song to make it better.’ I mean it felt more like playing, more like I was playing with this film and I was playing against it so it felt easy somehow. I enjoyed it more I think than the other projects I’ve done.
Rachel: Will this new O.S.I project that you’re going to work on be with Mike Portnoy again?
Kevin: We don’t know yet who’s going to play drums. So I guess officially O.S.I is me and Jim Matheos and so we’ll see what happens with the drummer this time around. Nothing is definite yet.
Rachel: Besides the O.S.I project and touring with Chroma Key what are your other upcoming plans?
Kevin: I’m probably going to be moving to Montreal, that’s about it. I mean as far as career moves that’s about it. I can’t see much past those two things right now. That’s going to be a big mountain.
Rachel: Why Montreal?
Kevin: Well, I don’t know, I just like that city. I’ve been there once before briefly when I was on tour with Dream Theater. When I was there I remembered thinking this would be a great place to live. I went and visited this winter and I was there for a month and I like it. I like the weather, I like the people, I like being in a city that’s not too city-like. [laughs] It’s a more relaxed city. I think people sort of left Montreal alone a little bit because it’s so fucking crazy in the winter. Nobody’s trying to get rich there or trying to take over the world or retire and do nothing. So it’s kind of an interesting city for me. I’m looking forward to getting there.
Rachel: Well cool. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Kevin: You can listen to the whole album on our website; you can stream the whole album with decent quality. I hope you enjoy it.
Rachel: Thank you very much it’s really nice to talk to you!
Kevin: It was good talking to you. Take care. Have a good day.
Rachel: Good luck and we’ll see you on tour.