The Core: Galactic
Drummer Stanton Moore on reconnecting with his New Orleans roots, performing with rappers and his “sports car”
Our new album Ya-Ka-May is a tour through New Orleans’ different music scenes as hosted by Galactic. We are surrounded by all these musicians here so we sort of bring you through their different neighborhoods—from Allen Toussaint and Irma Thomas to Rebirth Brass Band and some rappers. I think it’s been very beneficial for Galactic to get out there and collaborate with all these different people—we took a lot from working with all those MCs on From the Corner to the Block, training for those different production approaches and techniques.
We had the idea to do a New Orleans-centric record before we did [2007’s] From the Corner to the Block, but then focus shifted to that MC record. But we always had this New Orleans album in the back of our minds and worked in the studio whenever we were off the road. It took us almost two years to finish—between being on the road so much and getting all these guests. [Even though they have different sounds], I think Ya-Ka-May was an extension of what we learned on From the Corner to the Block in terms of its production, tone and songwriting.
Groovy History Lessons
My new CD Groove Alchemy is the culmination of a three-tiered project I am releasing with my trio [with keyboardist Robert Walter and guitarist Will Bernard]. There’s also a DVD, but it all started with the book I’ve been working on for four or five years. I’ve been digging in and checking out the history of funk: how it came from early James Brown, where these drummers came up with their ideas and how it all traces back to New Orleans. I’ve also joined forces with [New Orleans musician] Anders Osborne. I co-produced his new record and brought Robert Walter in for that project. So when it came time to tour, we brought him out with my trio—so it’s almost two bands in one.
I’ve been playing with this trio since about a year before Katrina. I started to realize that it would be cool to pare things down and improvise a little bit more. Galactic has gotten a little more song-oriented, where we’re playing songs that are more structured. Improvisation happens within the songs, but it’s more focused on the songs at present. Playing with Galactic is a bit more like driving a Mack Truck, while my trio is kind of like driving a sports car. When I get with Galactic and it’s time to lay things down, I feel more comfortable because I’ve had a chance to express the other side of my playing. And then when I’ve laid it down for a while, it’s nice to be a little expressive as well.
Indie Rock Ambassador
I met both Tom Morello and Alec Ounsworth here in New Orleans through Future of Music Coalition events they played and I ended up on both their records. With Tom, I played the opening party and later saw him at the bar. He turned to me and was like, “Are you the drummer?” And I said, “Yeah.” He said, “You’re my new favorite drummer. I hate drummers, but you haven’t done anything to offend me.” So I gave him my number and we did the session that resulted in the [band and album] Street Sweeper Social Club. Laying it down behind an MC on From the Corner to the Block really helped me with that project.
[Los Lobos’] Steve Berlin and I met Alec at a similar benefit and, after he saw me play, he asked me to get the band together for this record, so I chose Robert Walter and George Porter Jr. I got George Porter because I did another singer/songwriter project for Diane Birch. They had requested someone who could play “mean-ish, Meters-style bass” and I said, “How about George Porter Jr. himself?” They said, “He’s still playing?” and I said, “Sure, he’s still gotta earn a living.” So when it came time for the Alec record George said, “Alright, I trust you.”
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