CMJ Preview: Interview with Moon Hooch
Moon Hooch at CMJ 2012
Words by Autumn Walden
Tuesday, October 16th kicks off the College Music Journal (CMJ) Music Marathon in NYC. Moon Hooch, a three-piece jazz, funk, dubstep band, with two saxophones and a drummer, plays on the opening night, 11:40pm-12:15am at Littlefield, 622 DeGraw Street in Brooklyn. See the full schedule here.
The guys of Moon Hooch—Wenzl McGowen (Tenor Saxophone, Baritone Saxophone, Contrabass Clarinet, Tubes, EWI), Mike Wilbur (Tenor Saxophone, Baritone Saxophone), and James Muschler (Drums)—met in college at The New School in NYC. I’m all about getting my learn on for this festival and James Muschler dropped some New School knowledge on me.
TSI: Why saxophones?
JM: The whole concept of playing dance music with two saxophones was actually an accident. It all started when Wenzl and I would go out to the streets of NYC to busk (play music for $). Wenzl would play jazzy riffs and I would play a house beat, and we’d sort of just jam out until we exhausted whatever musical idea was appening. One day, while Wenzl and I were busking at Washington Square Park, Mike also happened to be busking nearby, and he, along with another drummer and friend of ours, joined the saxy-jazzy-house music. Something clicked musically, and the three of us started playing together all the time.
TSI: I recently learned of the term “busker”—did they have a course on busking at The New School?
JM: Haha no, there is no “busking” course at The New School—but there should be!! Good busking techniques ideal for an aspiring creative musician living in New York City!
TSI: I saw a video of you guys playing at Occupy Wall Street. Did the protesters give you money for playing?
JM: When we played at Wall Street, we did not ask for money. We were there not to make money, but rather, support a cause that we believe in—raising awareness of the dangers of destructive practices of corporations, and of how ridiculous and extreme corporate greed has become, etc… We wanted to come down and show our support by playing our music and creating energy in the protest.
TSI: I first saw you play live at All Good this summer. How did that festival compare to the other shows you’ve played?
JM: All Good was definitely one of the greatest musical experiences of our lives! All those people, like 7,000 or 8,000 people, feeding you all that energy—the music was so high! That was why that show was so unique—there were so many people!
TSI: Who came up with the band name?
JM: When we first started busking, we did not have a name. One night, a particularly enthusiastic audience member at the Bedford L train station asked us what we called ourselves and Mike just blurted out “Moon Juice!!”—and the name stuck for a while… We soon found out that there are literally 8 other bands of the same name, so to avoid confusion, I looked in a thesaurus and found a synonym to “Juice” that fit perfectly—Hooch! And it’s been Moon Hooch ever since..
TSI: Any plans to bring on a singer? Do any of you sing?
JM: We’ve had a singer on a few occasions… and we plan to have singers and other instrumentalists share their energies with us in the future. And we all sing… We’re not great singers, just ok… But we’re definitely improving our voices.
TSI: Anything you’d like to add?
JM: Well, yesterday, I made a pumpkin pie from scratch. I just finished eating it, and the whole process was just an incredibly rewarding experience, and I recommend that anyone with a fondness of winter squash and pies do the same—go out and buy a locally grown pumpkin, steam it, scoop out the flesh and put it in a good pie recipe—before pumpkin season is over!