“We love playing festivals, especially after two years of not doing it”
For more than 20 years, the Green River Festival in Greenfield has been one of the top music summer festivals to check out in New England. It went through many incarnations and locations before adopting its current name, and this year, the festival will return from June 24 – 26 at the Franklin County Fairgrounds with another stacked lineup.
The bill for this edition includes Brooklyn via Boston soul act Lake Street Dive, Boston pop-leaning alt-rockers Guster, Berklee-bred funk dynamos Ripe, and Americana artists Allison Russell, Rayland Baxter, Ryan Montbleau, and Father John Misty, to name a few.
Another amazing musical entity that will take part is the New Orleans funk act Galactic, which will perform during the first night of the festival at the Greenfield Savings Bank Main Stage at 7:20pm.
I spoke with Galactic drummer Stanton Moore about growing up going to Mardi Gras parades, collaborations, drum lessons, and his thoughts on the festival among other things.
You were raised in Metairie, Louisiana right outside of New Orleans, so what made you first want to pick up a pair of sticks and get behind a drum kit? Do you come from a musical family? Do you make a lot of noise as a toddler and your parents thought drums would be a good idea?
I was brought to a lot of Mardi Gras parades as a kid as early as I can remember, my parents were bringing me starting at around eight months old. At the age of three or four, I was excited by the drum lines coming down the street at the parades so much so that my parents would have to hold me back so that I didn’t get hit in the head or the face with a bass drum mallet. That really got me excited and I would jump up and down when these marching drum lines were coming down the street. By the age of five or six, I was going home and picking up knives, spoons, and forks, and hitting on the table. Once I realized that I could join the band in grammar school, I started asking my parents to let me join the band and they eventually let me take piano lessons and let me join the band if I kept up the lessons and kept up my grades.
Long story short, I eventually convinced them to get me a drum set. When they asked me where I wanted to go to high school, I wanted to go to the school that had the best drum line. I didn’t know at the time, but the instructor at Brother Martin High School where I went was a world-renowned rudimental teacher and player. I was fortunate enough to go to a high school where they had a world-renowned drum teacher in Marty Hurley. I started realizing how great of an opportunity that was so I started studying with him privately and I really started applying myself in high school to try to become as good as I could.
Then I started realizing artistically I wanted to play more New Orleans-style funk, so I started studying with Johnny Vidacovich while I was still in high school. I started learning from all the records from the Meters and I started going out to hear Russell Batiste Jr.—so I had a strong rudimental background with Marty, I started studying on the drum set with Johnny, and I started hanging out with Russell. That really informed a lot of what I do on the drums still to this day.
Outside of Galactic, you also play with the jazz act Garage A Trois and the brass band Midnite Disturbers. Going between the funk, jazz, and brass styles as a drummer, do you shift your approach or technique at all or do you find it to be very fluid?
For me, everything is related and it’s all coming from groove-based, blues-based Black American music. The biggest difference is maybe I’m playing with brushes or I’m swinging out, that’s slightly different then slamming out backbeats behind a giant brass band like the Midnight Disturbers but it’s still groove based and still has its roots tied to Africa. New Orleans to me is the epicenter of American music, especially Black American music, and I’m fortunate to have grown up in the suburbs of the city while quickly realizing this is what I wanted to do with my life and have access to all these great drummers and all this great music. I see a lot of similarities and it’s not always the same but I can see the clear connection to the roots and it’s all from Africa, through Haiti, through Cuba into New Orleans.
You’ve done a wide range of collaborating while being on recordings with jazz-funk artist Robert Walter, heavy metal act Corrosion Of Conformity, Street Sweeper Social Club with Tom Morello and Boots Riley and rock legend Joe Jackson, to name a few. With these four collaborations, what would say made them similar to each other?
With Corrosion Of Conformity and Tom Morello, both of those situations were basically what I would call “riff rock” where the guitar and the bass are essentially playing the same line. They’re playing a riff and both instruments are playing it together. What’s interesting is that the Meters basically follow a similar format, if you think of the song “Cissy Strut” it’s a riff where the guitar and the bass are playing together. That’s the same formula as Black Sabbath, so it’s “riff rock” and they’re similar to me in that way with Corrosion Of Conformity, Street Sweeper Social Club, the Meters, a lot of what Galactic does and it can all be tied into that. To me it’s not that different, it’s not different worlds, and with Joe Jackson it’s still groove based.
You know, it’s funny because there’s a song called “Neon Rain” by Joe Jackson which is a triplet floor tom fill that is basically the same beat that I played on one of the Corrosion Of Conformity songs. It worked because it’s a triplet-based shuffle but on the toms, so when Joe presented this song I was like, Oh, I know what to play on that and it was that same beat I did with Corrosion Of Conformity. To me, a lot of times I can draw from the same influences because it’s groove based. It’s not like I was playing speed metal because that and Joe Jackson would be different, but to me Corrosion Of Conformity is more blues based and groove based so there are a lot of similarities there. With Robert Walters, it’s the same time of thing and a lot of his influences come from things like the Meters, a lot of the New Orleans funk and a lot of things that can be traced back to New Orleans funk.
It’s not like I’m playing odd-metered prog rock in one situation and then playing New Orleans funk in another. All of who you named, even Tom Morello, had me playing all these beats you can find in a Galactic song or beats that were influenced by the Meters.
Back in 2017, you started the Stanton Moore Drum Academy as a forward-thinking online educational community for drummers and teachers of all levels and styles. How has it been running this academy for the past five years and what do you enjoy the most about teaching music?
With the academy, it’s become the joy of my life. It’s the thing that I love doing maybe the most because I can write out these drum lessons—I’ll write them if I’m on the plane, if I’m on the bus, or if I’m in the hotel room and I can write something and I know it’s going to make a difference. It’s gonna help, influence, or change multiple drummers’ drumming so when I’m writing a lesson I can’t wait to get it out there because what happens is I put something out and then a few months later, a year later or years later people come up and say, Man, the way that you explained that really clarified things, it set off a lightbulb for me, it made such a difference, it changed my approach to drumming and it made me a better drummer. In making me a better drummer it made me a happier person, now my wife or my significant other likes being around me more and it’s made my life better.
After I write the lesson, I’ll film it and I know that it’s going to make a difference in somebody’s life. I know they’re going to spend hours practicing it and by putting in the time it eventually has the potential to enhance that person’s quality of life. That’s powerful, I love that and that process becomes addictive knowing that I can’t wait to write a drum lesson and film it because I know it’s going to help somebody.
It’s awesome that it has that effect and it’s great that you have that perspective on it. What are your thoughts on the Green River Music Festival? Are there any similarities between a New England festival crowd and a New Orleans festival crowd?
For one, in New England it’ll be a lot less hot and that’s nice. The festivals in New Orleans can be very, very hot but I love it. I love festivals, I love playing outside, I love being outside and it’s really an enjoyable experience so the similarities are that you’re outside, the weather in New Orleans is a little hotter but it’s still nice and you got people who are just happy to be there. You’re playing for some people who’ve heard you before, you’re playing for some people who have never heard you so that’s unique, interesting and really fun. We love playing festivals, especially after two years of not doing it, it’s great so we’re really looking forward to it.
It’s been a bit since Galactic released their last album Already Already Already back in 2019, so can we expect a new record to be out soon?
Yeah, we are actively working on it and I think we’re trying to get it out maybe by the end of this year.
Rob Duguay is an arts & entertainment journalist based in Providence, RI who is originally from Shelton, CT. Outside of DigBoston, he also writes for The Brooklyn Rail, The Providence Journal, The Newport Daily News, The Worcester Telegram & Gazette, New Noise Magazine, Flood Magazine and numerous other publications. While covering mostly music, he has also written about film, TV, comedy, theatre, visual art, food, drink, sports and cannabis.