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Chuck Mosley has always been a sort of creative enigma. He was the original lead singer of experimental hard rock act Faith No More during the ‘80s where he brought a mix of rapping and punk rock grit during a time where no one was attempting to do so. After he left, he was the frontman for punk legends Bad Brains for a period and he’s also dabbled in various projects since including his rock project VUA. On October 3rd, Mosley is coming through Dusk in Providence as part of his Reintroduce Yourself World Tour with locals Blackletter and Black Oil Incinerator opening things up.
Ahead of the show, I had a chat with Mosley about what people should expect from his current band, being in a band that he originally couldn’t stand liking, his opinions on rap rock and what his plans are for the future.
Rob Duguay: This current tour has you performing acoustic. Being a musician with a punk and hard rock background, what made you want to transition to a different sound?
Chuck Mosley: First of all, my buddy Doug [Esper] who is playing conga on this tour and helping organize it has been a friend of mine for over 20 years. About 10 years ago he tried getting me to do an acoustic tour because of the frustration of trying to get that VUA record done and a combination of things. Availability of certain band members in VUA wasn’t lining up at the time so we were doing different projects. It took 13 years to get [the album] Will Rap Over Hard Rock For Food Done and the availability of everyone was in flux so Doug said that I should do an acoustic tour. I said “Hell, fuckin’ no” because I was never that good on acoustic guitar.
I like being a frontman if I have a band behind me but for me to have all the responsibility of the music and playing, especially on acoustic, the thought just horrified me. I never really got into that whole idea for a long time. Around a year ago, I was doing an interview with Thom Hazaert, who has a radio show. We started talking after the interview and I was telling my story and he was like “Dude, I’m a big fan and you should be out there. You should be out there playing and you could make whatever amount of dollars per week. We gotta get you out there, I got the label so let’s do this.”
Then I said,” Well, if you want to put a record out then we could put that out. It might help me on the road and stuff.” So him and Doug started conspiring against me to get me on the road and finally it came about when they started booking shows and stuff and it happened. With my punk rock attitude and background, I never really left that and I never brought with me on this whole new endeavor but you’d have to see the show to see where I’m coming from. With the pre-conception that you might have with the stigma attached to the word acoustic, it doesn’t apply with this at all. It does a little bit, technically, because we play acoustic guitars but there’s also an electric bass and a conga.
Technically it starts out that way but it doesn’t stay that way for very long during the whole set. When a lot of people hear that it’s acoustic, the sound is kind of like a pre-conceived notion that it’s folk music. I know a couple folk songs because I write them. I’ve never been that confident playing electric guitar so I don’t but I do have a pedal board and a bunch of effects. It makes it look and sound like I might know what I’m doing but it’s totally punk rock but it’s also a bit psychedelic too.
It starts out acoustic and it ends up way in a distant galaxy. The sound has been called “distorted acoustic” and then we started to be known as the loudest acoustic band in the world seeing as we are an acoustic band but we’ve blown up three sound systems at least from what I recall on this tour. Our last guitarist couldn’t figure out why so many metalheads were coming out but I get that with the association with Faith No More and that’s what people know me from originally.
RD: After you left Faith No More, you were the lead singer of Bad Brains from 1990 to 1992. What was that experience like for you? Were there major differences between the way both bands operated?
CM: A lot. For me, one band was white and the other one was black but that’s the most literal difference. Both of them were pretty damn disciplined in their own right but there’s also a lot of similarities. I don’t compare myself to H.R. at all except for the fact that we both have our own style. I love reggae, I grew up listening to Bob Marley but it’s just one of those things where I would never attempt to come up with my own songs like that because it’s not who I am and it’s not what I was raised as. I was raised as a reggae fan but not to the point where I would try to play it because I don’t feel like it’s me.
It’s like me trying to do some James Brown dance moves or rap like Chuck D.
RD: It’s not you.
CM: Yeah, so I do my own thing, whatever that is. I love punk rock and that’s what I grew up in. I was all over the place growing up so I listened to Michael Jackson, David Bowie, Stevie Wonder, Temptations, a lot of jazz in my house along with George Michael. My taste is really all over the place so if I decide to do something, it’s because I like it and I’m gonna try to do it. Being in the Bad Brains was like a total learning experience, they took their shit really seriously and there’s no surprises because they are the strongest rock band on the planet.
They’re on one level and everyone else is at some level below them. They’re on a level all by their own. As far as I’m concerned, no one can touch them. The only major difference for me with them was the reggae thing. I wrote a few reggae songs with them and it was fun but growing up I was fan of their music but I didn’t like the fact that I was a fan of their music. I was in a punk band at the time and I always aspired to be in the first black punk band that got notoriety.
We were terrible. We were really bad, we couldn’t even play our own song at one point. They were always really good and my drummer was a big fan. He’d play a song and I would be like “Who’s this?” and he say “You know who this is! Bad Brains!”. There’s no competition, they’re just ridiculously better than everybody else.
When I got with them, it was unbelievable and they called me to introduce themselves. They were looking for someone to sing while H.R. was out of the band and they pushed me and I took pride in what I did. It was tough, but I rose to the occasion. If I did nothing else but learn how to sing H.R.’s songs, it made me a better singer. There was six hours of practice for seven days a week and with all of these shows.
I was totally petrified the whole time but once I got going during the live shows, it got easier and they gave me a little care package (laughs).
RD: It’s cool that it made you a better musician filling H.R.’s shoes for a while. Due to your musical output in the ’80s, people consider you among others a pioneer of the rap rock genre. With the commercialization of the style in the late ’90s and the blunt non-existence of the style nowadays, how do you feel about rap rock? Do you feel what you were doing back then was different than what acts like Limp Bizkit and Korn did?
CM: When you say Korn and Limp Bizkit, in my opinion and I’m not afraid to say it, but you’re talking apples and oranges. What Korn did, and I happen to love Jonathan Davis from that band, was they took what we did in the ‘80s, they digested it and then they turned it back out to regurgitate it out into something different. I’ve never really heard them rap that much over their music but Johnathan has a great voice and he knows how to stretch it all around into different stuff. I’ve heard them do a little rapping or freestyling or whatever but I never heard a big similarity between Faith No More and them. Whatever they did with their influences, they took it and turned it into something new.
Limp Bizkit on the other hand, not so much in the originality department. In my opinion, they just started rapping over rock. No offense to anybody but that was some rock dudes and they rapped over it. One thing I did like that they did was that cover of George Michael’s “Faith”. That was less of an attempt to maintain a sense of originality through their influence.
RD: Ok. After this tour, what do have planned next for the rest of the year? Do you have any new projects you’re involved in?
CM: Thom Hazaert is part of the EMP Label with David Ellefson from Megadeth put out the second album from VUA which is basically a demo CD called Demos For Sale. That came out last August and it’s pretty much a new version of Will Rap Over Hard Rock For Food except for a few songs. Right around this time, I’m not sure of the exact date, one of my earlier bands called Cement is doing a re-release of our second album The Man With The Action Hair that was originally supposed to come out back in ’94. As you probably know, Faith No More’s We Care A Lot got remastered and re-released last year. There’s also another industrial project I’m involved in called Primitive Race that’s putting out their second record called Soul Pretender in November.