Interview BILLY MOSS (Tahoma Souls Alive June 2015)
RTJ : Hello Billy, many thanks for answering our questions for The Road to Jacksonville, webzine dedicated to Blues and Southern Rock.
First, can you tell us where you come from ?
Billy : Hello Philippe,
My Dad grew up in the state of Alabama and joined the military and drove trucks as a young man during the cold war in the late 50's, and met my mother when he was stationed at Fort Lewis in Washington state. My family has lived in both places, but were living in Alabama during my brothers and my formative years getting into playing music. We were exposed to real deal blues in Mobile Alabama and had a great concert venue in the Mobile Municipal Auditorium where in the 70's we would see the touring rock bands of the time, and I saw Muddy Waters open the show for Eric Clapton there and I was already playing the guitar, so that was the spark for me really that started the fire to want to play and get into all that. I guess I have always considered myself a blues rock guitarist. My family moved to the state of Washington in December of 1979, and by the summer of 1980 we had The Moss Brothers Band put together and were playing our first gigs.
Where did you grow up and how did you discover the music ?
We lived in south Alabama north of Mobile in the country just beyond the bayou's. We had a good radio station W.A.B.B. broadcasting out of Mobile. We taped a lot of shows on cassette from the king biscuit flower hour. This was in the 70's. My Dad bought me my first electric guitar when I was 15 years old I will never forget it was a red hollowbody. We lost our Dad Mick Moss here recently. I think I was lucky while learning to play that I had my brothers around me. They were the kids I grew up jamming with. I have been a member of The Moss Brothers Band 5 times I think but only the original run had all three brothers. I have been a member with just Troy, and just Jeff, but our whole family has all been really close all along the way. Jeff worked for a company in Orlando for about 10 years, but other than that we have all lived close to each other as adults. The brothers and I all graduated from Puyallup High School which is 15 minutes from where I live now and where we moved after Hurricane Frederic hit Mobile.
RTJ : Can you introduce to us the members of your family, is everyone of you a musician ?
Billy : My immediate family is Carrie Martin, my baby brother Troy, middle brother Jeff, and my mother Colleen. My Dad was the only member of my immediate family that was not a musician but growing up he turned us on to Johnny Cash and he used to sing to me the song “Midnight Rider” by the Allman Brothers. My dad had found a love for the blues growing up in the deep south and having many black friends. He loved Lightning Hopkins. My Dad was a hard working Truck Driver since the age of 15, and did not spend much time doing anything else, but in retirement collected,built and restored old Kenworth trucks. I miss my Dad Mick very much.
RTJ : Can you introduce to us the members of the band of your last disc Tahoma Souls Alive?
Billy : Tahoma Souls Alive our debut album was recorded with what has turned out to be the core of the band who would be Carrie Martin on lead vocals, Adam Reid on guitars and myself on guitars. We started recording after only being together for two months and it took close to two years to get it finished working on it intermittently in three different studios. When we made the first drummer change to Matt Fasekas not to far along into the project it was decided to have Matt play on all the songs. Matt had toured playing drums with Paul Revere & The Raiders and The Righteous Brothers so we were doing really good for a drummer. The two bass players on the album were Gary Montgomery who we are still good friends with, and Matt Mustapha who I have known since the early 80's. Both really great players. additionally we had Lee Gregory play some key's for us he is a major talent, and Katie Mosehauer played all the violin tracks on the song 'Mamma' she is just amazing. My friend Joe Riggio played electric 12 string on the song 'He knows'. When I went about forming Tahoma Souls Alive I had been playing with my old blues pickin guitar brother Steve Cooley for a year, but I get weary of playing the blues and wanted to get back into a good original rock band of my own design. The first thing I did was ask Carrie Martin if she wanted to sing. Carrie I knew in the middle 80's and we played in a couple of bands together. She had not been singing for a long time but I knew how good she was and that she was a good writer. I had met Adam Reid a couple of months earlier and he told me that because of me he was a guitar player! He told me he had seen Rebel Storm play a concert shortly before our first European tour in 2002 and that he was a 16 year old drummer. After seeing us play he wanted to be like Billy Moss and got a Les Paul and had taught himself to play. I had to have him in my band! One of the cool things for me doing the first Tahoma Souls Alive album was all growing as a band together and basically writing all the music as we went along through the whole process. Also it is interesting doing this with a female vocalist. Carrie has so much heart and soul she puts into the music and is a great writer, and she just keeps getting better at singing and writing all the time. Carrie, Adam, and myself all contribute to writing music and lyrics. I like to play with musicians who take their craft seriously and keep progressing and doing their woodshedding at home. I still work on improving my musical skills. Currently our rhythm section is Ray Sullivan on bass who has been with us for awhile now and we all love, and the new guy Roger Baldwin on drums. The things I like about this first album is the diversity and quality of the songs, and that it is upbeat feel good music and I like the grooves. Good music to me is all about the groove.
RTJ : How and where did you record this CD of Tahoma Souls Alive?
Billy : Well, we began the recording process at House Of Sound in Tacoma with Joe Riggio where I recorded the Rebel Storm albums. Joe is a good friend of mine and it just seemed like a good place to start. Joe Riggio was just getting his custom guitar business Riggio Custom Guitars off the ground in a big way and he got too busy to continue recording with us. We then moved to a recording studio owned by Billy Leach who played guitar on the 2002 Europe tour with Rebel Storm. We ended up finishing the album at the old Sound West Studio's which is a historic recording studio here in Tacoma Washington. It was originally built as a recording studio in 1972. I think the band Tahoma Souls Alive was not ready to begin recording after only one month. We really didn't even know who we were as a band yet. We had not even all played together live yet. The first songs we recorded at House Of Sound were "This Aint Love”, “He Knows”, “Movin On”, “I Believe In Angels”, and “Ridin The Line”. I can actually hear the sound from House Of Sound because of the rooms and the microphone preamps we used were the same as the ones we used on the Rebel Storm albums. The last songs we recorded from the ground up were at Sound West "Dark side of the city, Nobody's listening, and Momma. We recorded those three songs and finished recording the songs we had started at Billy's studio. So we actually recorded the majority of the album at Sound West. I guess the thing I like the most about the Tahoma Souls Alive album is the fact that you can hear the growth as a band on that album. By the time we recorded the last four songs, and finished the overdubs from the songs we started at Billy's place we were hitting our stride. We were lucky to have started the project at House Of Sound. Joe Riggio is great as a producer. I think that is how we were able to pull off recordings of “Angels” and “He Knows” and have them sound as good as they did. Recently Joe sold House Of Sound studio's and I bought most of the gear that gave that studio its distinctive sound right down to the microphones we recorded the guitars and vocals on the Rebel Storm albums.
RTJ : The title that opens the album (“Back Where I Belong”) has an intro in a Molly Hatchet way, the guitar parts give us a big heart joy, can you tell us how you distribute your guitar parts between you and Adam Reid ?
Billy : Wow! I've never considered that the riff on “Back where I Belong” sounds like Molly Hatchet! I haven't really listened to Molly Hatchet since the 80's. I think me and my brothers had the first three albums and we all went and saw them in Seattle. Jimmy Farrar was the singer by then. As far as thinking out how Adam Reid and I split up the guitar parts, I don't think we planned it out too much other than myself just taking the role as the leader when I had to. Adam Reid is 23 years younger than me and I was playing music live for five years when he was born. But don't take me wrong. Adam is a very talented guitarist and takes over the direction as well when needed. When we are working on our music if one thing does not work we just try something else.
RTJ : The second title of the album Dark Side of The City remains us by its basis the Rebel Storm album The Hard Way, and it's the same for « Nobody’s Listening » with its sublime guitar harmonisations, was it a will ? Can you tell us more about « Ridin The Line », an energetic boogie ?
Billy : Tahoma Souls Alive was meant to be a rock band where we could play any styles and genre's we wanted too. To me, as influenced as some of us are by Southern Rock, we stray pretty far away from that in my mind all throughout the album. To me it is a rock album. Just as Warren Haynes has Gov't. Mule, I have Tahoma Souls Alive to try different things and go other places with my music. I just write music that I personally would want to listen to within my personal limitations, and music the others in the band help write. Since I used to play with Rebel Storm and write most all of that band's music, I realise that there are times where I will play something that will sound like Rebel Storm, or Southern Rock in general.
I can see where you might say that 'Nobody's Listening' would sound a bit like Southern Rock because of the chord figures and the guitar solos. That's just the way I play guitar. TSA tries not to limit ourselves to genres or styles. That particular song definitely has my signature sound on it. To me where it is different than Rebel Storm is where Carrie took the song, but I like where she went with it. To me 'Dark side Of The City' sounds like a Rolling Stones song. All of us thought that it did because of the chord structures. The song was meant to sound dangerous as it was written about the bad part of our city that we call the 'dark side'! Lots of drug addicts, alcoholism and crime and stuff like that. Most big cities have a dark side. The song 'Ridin The Line' was a riff that I came up with and actually jammed on with the original Rebel Storm lineup as we were getting ready for the last tour. It was never fully developed into a song and I started jamming on that riff at a Tahoma Souls Alive rehearsal and Carrie loved it, so it did get developed into a song.
RTJ : On « I Believe in Angels », Carrie Martin's voice gives a thrill, was it for you a choice wished for a long time to work with a female singer to get that kind of emotion ?
Billy : I wanted to play with Carrie Martin because SHE has got that kind of emotion. Carrie and I have played in bands before in the 80's and did an album then too. I wanted to play with Carrie because I knew what she was capable of. I dreamed the song 'I Believe In Angels' and was able to capture the lightning in a bottle so to speak. That song was in the first batch of songs we recorded for the album. Carrie and Joe Riggio, who produced those first recordings, helped me make the song better shortly before we recorded it.
RTJ : « Momma » is a special tune with its string arrangements, can you give us more details about its design ?
Billy : Thank you, it is a special song. That is because it is Carrie's song. Carrie is a world class singer and proves it on this cut. I was walking around the house one day playing some parts of the song as it was coming to me and Carrie liked it right away. We usually know if we have something when Carrie likes it and takes it in to make it her own. Carrie's mother Linda was sick and dying at the time. As we got into writing the song it was the emotion Carrie was pouring into it that caused the big buildup at the end. When we recorded “Momma”, Lee Gregory was in playing some keyboards on a few songs as a studio musician. Lee came up with the string section idea and some of the parts on a synthesizer and we really liked it! Since the song understandably meant a lot to Carrie, I went about finding a classically trained violinist that could work with a group like us that only plays by ear. It seems like all of the people responding to me were cowboy hat wearing fiddle players and as good as those folks were, that is not the sound I wanted. I knew it would have to be a special woman to do this, and finally a recording studio owner across town gave me the name of Katie Mosehauer. I contacted Katie and sent her the music. I didn't even meet her in person before she recorded her parts but she would email me questions. The day she showed up at the studio she had two violins with her and all of her parts written down on her laptop and she began recording one part at a time. Doing four piece string sections by overdubbing her parts. When it got to the big build up at the end she just wailed on it with the guitars, so we just mixed the song that way and kept everything she played because it was so amazing! Katie is a serious professional and we are really happy with what she did. The song is a fitting tribute to Carrie's mother who I had known since I was about 25 years old. I miss Linda, she passed away shortly before we finished recording the song. She was always so good to me. I loved hanging out with and talking with her at the Martin family holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving. I loved her so much.
RTJ : « The Sun » is a solid boogie that ends up the album, and allows us to warm ourselves during this winter time just like the whole album, can you tell us more about this tune that makes us think about the Henry Paul Band, third album period ?
Billy : Honestly, I am not familiar with Henry Paul's solo albums.
'The Sun' is about finally seeing the sun after a long Pacific Northwest winter where it is rainy and grey for nine months out of the year. 'The Sun' is a good rocker and super fun to play live, we have closed every concert we have ever played with that song. We used Marshall amplifiers on the recording.
RTJ : You announce the return of REBEL STORM. Who makes up the group in 2015? How and where did you record the new album?
Billy : Well we don't have a album finished yet. In 2007 I had formed a lineup for a reformation of Rebel Storm but was having some health problems. We recorded thirteen basic tracks for a new album at House Of Sound Studio's where Rebel Storm recorded the first two albums, but I was not able to continue at the time. I had some problems with my memory from my illness, and eventually wondered what the hell happened with all of that! There were more tracks than I had remembered recording! I always liked my song “Coming Home”. We will release more of those songs as time allows possibly as an album. We recorded the overdubs to 'Coming Home' at Freeman Road Studio's, it is close to the Moss family ranch where Rebel Storm used to rehearse in our touring days. Bobby Nesbitt plays drums on all of it and I wouldn't do Rebel Storm without him, and Phil Suggs plays bass. Adam Reid and I play guitars and sing lead vocals and Joe Riggio who produced the Rebel Storm albums back in the day plays guitar with us. Carrie Martin and Gary Montgomery sing backups on the recording.
RTJ : How does REBEL STORM's composition processes usually go ?
Billy : When I write a Rebel Storm song it has to have a good groove. Some tasty licks. It has to have harmony leads, and soul in the vocal.
RTJ : Have you some anecdotes of your tour in 2003 , in particular in France with Pat Savage ?
Billy : Our management at the time hooked us up with Pat because we needed a guitar player for the 2003 Hard Way tour. Pat is a Canadian national who was living in Belgium at the time. He met us in Amsterdam and went on tour with us per our agreements. I have to say that it took a lot of balls for him to do that but Pat is an adventurer like I am. He is a KILLER guitar player and was really fun to play with. Pat and I jammed on stage with W.I.N.D. and all kinds of people along the way it was awesome fun! We met the Bands Of Dixie crew in France! Honestly we had just left the Black Forest in Germany to come to France and we have a bunch of friends there so we were hurting from all night partying there and being on the road all day. I don't remember if we even spent the night in France, but I guess we did because I remember having breakfast with Didier Céré the next morning. You have to understand that Rebel Storm loved people, and consequently had a bad reputation for partying! I love Pat Savage and liked to party with him! We had a blast on tour and we have kept in contact over the years.
RTJ : Do you have something to wish to REBEL STORM for the future ?
Billy : We plan to keep Rebel Storm a studio band. That is the only way me and Adam and Carrie can do Rebel Storm, and Bobby Nesbitt has just put out an album with his metal band 'Chasing The Bullet'. Everybody is in other bands. We will continue releasing Rebel Storm music, but I am all about Tahoma Souls Alive.
RTJ : Do you know southern rock bands in Europe?
I do know some southern rock bands in Europe. I am very good friends with the German band Flatman. I guess the southern rock bands in Europe I am the least familiar with are the ones in France. I myself like the bands that stick to their guns and play and record their own original music. I have a general dislike for cover bands. I see some bands playing southern rock covers and calling themselves a southern rock band. I know there are bands in Europe playing their own original southern rock songs and making their own albums. Those are the bands that I like. Honestly, I don't give a shit where you are from. If you have the southern sound in your soul and you are doing your own thing with it, that is good enough for me.
RTJ : Last and traditional question, if you have to stay on a desert island, what would be the 5 records that you would bring with you ?
Billy : That's easy! AC/DC - Back In Black, The Moss Brothers Band - Monarch Jubilee, Montrose - Montrose, The Allman Brothers Band - Live At Fillmore East, The Rolling Stones - Let It Bleed. All subject to change without notice.