Exclusive Interview With New York Trio Moon Hooch

by Hugo Beynon

22th August, 2018

Moon Hooch is a trio from New York, consisting of James Muschler (drums), Mike Wilbur and Wenzl McGowen (both saxophone). The trio defines their music as ‘cave music’, a dance-orientated form of jazz which blends influences from EDM and jazz. The band started to make a name for themselves from busking in the New York subway. After building a fanbase from busking, they released their first album in 2013, and since have released two more albums, one live album and two EPs, one of which ‘Light it up’ has just been released earlier this year on Hornblow Recordings.

Before I got to see Moon Hooch’s incredible set at KOKO, I got the chance to sit down with them and ask them some questions.

So you’re currently touring your new EP ‘Light It Up’, where have you just come from and where are you going to after tonight?

James: We’ve just done some festivals in France and Belgium which have been super fun. We came from Calais last night. After the show tonight, we go to Rotterdam I think, then, after some more dates in Europe, we go back to the US for a while.

Where in the world would you want to relocate to?

Michael: The west coast of the US.

Wenzl: You also say you want to move to Norway quite a lot…

Michael: Yeah, either Norway, the West coast or Colorado. Or Canada. Somewhere with forest, mountains, and water. Somewhere with serenity.

How difficult do you find being vegan on tour?

Wenzl: In France, it’s extremely difficult to eat vegan because no one even understands the concept, it’s very strange to them. It’s worse when they don’t speak English, especially because we don’t speak French and it’s kinda like apes trying to communicate about something no one understands.

James: We preordered vegan meals for our flight and the stewardess came and said, ‘you can either have chicken or beef.’ When I asked for the vegan meal she came back with yoghurt, a cereal bar with milk in it and potatoes covered in cheese.

Michael: I accidentally ate spinach with butter on it the other day. When I think of steamed vegetables I don’t think butter? I think Asian cuisine!? However, it’s not that difficult to be vegan anywhere. You can get by. Especially if you’re living there.

James: We’re going to start fermenting on the road. All the leftover green road foods.

Wenzl: yeah James is getting into fermenting, he’s been reading this thick book about fermentation.

Oh yeah, I thought you were joking at first…

Wenzl: haha not at all. It’s crazy the dishes some cultures come up with. We were reading about this tomato dish where you let them mould, then stir in the mould with salt and drain it to make this amazing paste.

James: We’re going to take tomatoes off the rider though…or just start fermenting all of them.

Well, that leads nicely on to my next question, what do you guys get up to in your spare time? (Apart from music and fermenting…)

Wenzl: I write a lot, I’m going to put out my first novel out next month. Yeah just trying to put words on a page and have fun with that…

I’m trying to explore the edges of belief systems because at first I was trying to figure out how to explain this scientifically but then I realised every theory is just a belief system because somewhere there is always an unknown. So now I’m kinda writing more of the bootstrap approach, where you know that each theory is a patch, which will never be true but might be more useful to certain interpretations.

I love it because it creates a world which starts to grow on its own and spending so much time on the same material, you grow, the book grows and it’s sort of like this interdependent relationship where you evolve with this world you create.

You guys have spoken a lot about your spirituality and about meditation and how it’s made you all better friends and better people. I was wondering how your enhanced spirituality and meditation has helped with music performance.

W: For me, it’s just been getting out of my head. When I first started playing with these guys I was very heady, like thinking a lot, and Mike always told me that music is essentially just sound, and I would argue with him a lot because I thought music was more of a construct that humans created in sound.

Playing a lot of free jazz with both of them and starting to understand that mentality, to really lose yourself in the music, and making a concise effort not to think about it – I think that started to get me into meditation. Realising that there is this space of thoughtlessness which is successful, it’s just a matter of focus.

It’s just like, ‘ok I’m not going to think anymore, I’m going to play some music’ and I think that’s the way you can keep playing the same songs over and over again and learn to be more present with them. It’s not every show where I’m one hundred percent present, I still have irregular thoughts and I feel like as long as I’m having irregular thoughts, there is room for growth.

What music have you guys been listening to recently, any recommendations?

James: Hariprasad Chaurasia, he’s like the best flute player from India, you should check him out. Also Death Grips.

What do you guys think about the current jazz scene with people like Kendrick Lamar and Kamasi Williams really blowing up jazz and bringing it to a wider audience?

James: I think it’s great that acoustic instruments are making a comeback, it’s only a matter of time where you go so far in one direction before you start to trace back. It Brings a more human quality and emotion to the music.

Michael: Yeah it’s great man.

Wenzl: I heard that Mercedes are now coming out with a horse because they are going back to horses. It’s a racehorse that doesn’t eat, just takes energy from the sun, and is apparently faster than most cars. It also has a button where you hit it and it has wings and it takes off. It’s like a super Mercedes horse. We’re thinking about getting a tour bus and it being pulled along by the Mercedes super horses.

That’s actually how I came here today…

One movie you can watch for the rest of your life, what do you pick?

Michael: Is this like some sick prison where they’re forcing you to repeat only one movie?

James: Movie would be Jurassic Park. Just because I’ve seen that movie more than any other and it’s so nostalgic for me. Never gets old. New ones aren’t as good, but I appreciate them.

Wenzl: Maybe, The Mask?

Michael: YEAH! With Jim Carrey? That’s a good one, I’ll have that one too.

Wenzl: Also, The Aristocats…

Find out more about Moon Hooch and see their tour dates here.

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