Moe Berg

The Artist Who Interviews


July - September, 2010
Artist who interviews

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An Interview with Rock Legend
Moe Berg


Moe Berg 1

You have an amazing career, and have accomplished so many things including: vocals for the band "The Pursuit of Happiness;" producing numerous records; wrote songs, articles and books; even now hosting your own TV show...

When did your interest begin in music?
Birth! I was interested in music for as long as I can remember.
I bought my first record when I was four years old and started writing songs not long after that. Not good songs, but songs.





The Pursuit of Happiness (TPOH) is considered an important part of Canadian rock history, even being in the Hall of Fame, how did the band get started?
I was a songwriter back in Edmonton and played in a few bands there. At that time, it was hard to be in a band that played their own material. I moved to Toronto to see if things were better there. My old drummer from Edmonton, Dave Gilby came along and we ended up meeting people from Western Canada who we'd run into in our Edmonton days. That would be Johnny Sinclair and Tam and Tasha Amabile. That was the original group, the one that performed in the original video for I'm An Adult Now, which was the thing that brought us our initial success. We made the video for basically nothing with a film maker friend of mine named Nelu Ghiran and handed it to Much Music who, to our amazement, put it into rotation. That brought us to national attention and eventually to international attention. Tam and Tasha left the band and Kris Abbot and Leslie Stanwick joined. We had already signed to EMI Publishing and not too long after that, Chrysalis Records in New York signed us to a record deal and we recorded Love Junk. After that record Johnny and Leslie left to pursue their own project and Brad Barker joined.




Some say the band broke up, others say everyone went onto other projects on good terms; yet, there is a 2005 release: "When Doves Cry." What exactly happened to The Pursuit of Happiness?
We sort of went on a hiatus that we never came back from. We'd been touring and making records for about 10 years. When we finished the tour for The Wonderful World Of... we took a break and everyone got into their own thing. And that's how it stayed.

Will there be more from TPOH?
We've had a couple of reunion shows since then and had a 'Best Of' come out in the US and then the one you speak of, which came out in Canada. We played when we were inducted into the Indie Hall of Fame. I guess we have never officially broken up because we have no personal issues with each other that would prevent us from playing together again some day. That day may never come but it seems pointless to have some official end to it for no reason.



Moe Berg 2



What are some of the other bands you've been in before TPOH? Any favorites?
I had a band back in Edmonton called The Modern Minds. We had our moment there and released a 7" single that has been notated in books about punk/new wave records. Through the years, I would get requests from Japan asking for copies of the single. A few years ago, a Japanese company asked if they could release it over there. They also asked if were there any other recordings they could include with it. I sent them some demos that we'd recorded around the time of the single and they released them along with the single as a full-length CD.

You have been producing records, please list some of the bands that you've helped produce for.
There have been quite a few, The Cliks, Robin Black, The Ambers, The Populars among many others. I'm just finishing up projects by Grainne Ryan and Trick Of Disaster.



Your TV show, "Master Tracks" is now in it's second season, which is awesome, by the way. For those who haven't seen it yet, please describe what this show is about?
The show is about what a day in the studio is like and what it means for a band to be produced. It's as much education as it is entertainment. It's also more documentary than reality show. There are no manufactured conflicts and we go out of our way to present the bands in the best possible light. Basically, Laurence Currie and I record a band in a day and the cameras watch us do it. Once in a while, we turn to the cameras to let them know how the process is going but it's a real day in the studio, we don't fake anything. We film me doing a bit of pre-production a few days before the session and that's the show. It's on a very cool network called Aux TV, which is a real music station. For those who don't get it, the episodes can be seen online at www.aux.tv

Moe Berg 3

Do you have any favorite, or notable experiences to mention from filming Master Tracks?
Well every episode is interesting in that, it's very hard to produce a song in one day and have it be of the quality that Laurence and I want. So, there are challenges in each and every episode. Bands bring varying amounts of spirit and good will to the show but some bands are really a joy to work with. A show that ran recently by a young band called Teen Tits, Wild Wives were a great example of a band that really wanted to enjoy the day. They were completely unpretentious and really showed their true selves to the camera. We did a show with a band called Galore who both Laurence and I have worked with before. The guys in the band are really good friends of ours so that was a fun day. Bands like The North and Drive Faster came in with great attitudes. Some of the band's come in with really amazing songs, like Foxfire, Mamabolo and Everything All The Time. But quite honestly, with only a couple of exceptions, every band has been really fun to work with.


Moe Berg 4

Describe your band "Monteforte." What kind of music do you play?
Brad and Dave from the TPOH and myself formed Monteforte after a tour of Australia. The bass player in the band we were touring with, The Falling Joys, had a gig with his brothers playing fun cover songs at their neighborhood pub on Sunday nights. All of their friends and fans came to the show and it was an excuse to drink and dance and have fun. We thought about how great it would be to do something like that back home. The other thing was, we'd get off the road after a tour and not have anything to do so this band would give us a chance to keep playing a bit even if just for fun. We recruited our old singer Tam and started playing at the Horseshoe and El Mo and where ever else we could get a gig. We made a list of covers, threw out all the good songs and played the ridiculous, bad, and most importantly, easy songs that were left on the list. We always hoped people realized that it was a joke and we definitely played it that way.

Moe Berg 5

Which artists have been the greatest musical influences on your work?
Definitely Todd Rundgren, both as an artist and producer. The Who, The Beach Boys, The Replacements, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, Marshall Crenshaw, The Sex Pistols and Joni Mitchell. Those were the artists that at certain points in my life, changed my life and changed my songwriting too.


You've also done a considerable amount of writing including songs, articles and books. Please describe your book "The Green Room."
The Green Room is a book of short stories that describe urban life or at least urban life as I know it or knew it. Many of the characters have flaws that prevent them from being happy. Losers, I guess you'd call them, though mostly lovable losers.



Moe Berg 6



At this point, what would be a truly great accomplishment in your career?
I can't say. I always feel a huge sense of accomplishment when I finish anything. I always look at any project I'm working on as the most important thing on earth at the time.

If you could work with any other great musician, who would it be? Why?
I only ever want to work with people who want to work with me.

What are some of the most important skills to have in producing music?
Patience, definitely. And confidence. Mostly it's about being musically astute and having a good musical aesthetic. That's what people are hiring you for.



Moe Berg 7

What would you define as true success?
I guess if you can look back at your career and not be embarrassed about anything you created or worked on, that would be a good feeling. The marketplace defines success for most of society but the marketplace is fickle and makes bad choices. So I try not to rely on it as my measure of success.


What advice would you give to a musician or a band just starting out?
Try to do what you set out to do. Don't let people distract you from what you wanted when you started. And most importantly, have a great time, especially if you have some success. One of the things that irritates me the most is how quickly people become jaded, how easily they forget how incredibly lucky they are to be able to make music, be creative, tour, record, write songs, meet musicians, talk about their music with writers and fans. It's an amazing life and you should never take it for granted.



Thank you Moe!


TPOH.net
Master Tracks



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