STEFAN MOORE (SECRET SOCIETY) INTERVIEW:
December 6, 2009
Websites: secretsocietyss.com – www.myspace.com/secretsocietyss
Talking to Secret Society singer/guitarist Stefan Moore was like chatting with a kid in a candy store, and he has every reason to be that excited. Imagine being a musician and running into one of your idols on the street and convincing them to join your band. That is exactly what happened to Stefan and his wife/bandmate Courtney when a chance meeting on the streets of L.A. hooked them up with the original W.A.S.P. madman Chris Holmes. In search of a drummer, and instead landing an infamous guitar player, together the trio has put together their new CD Death By Misadventure.
Sleaze Roxx: First off, how did Secret Society come together?
Stefan Moore: Well actually we were in another band and we were playing in Hollywood, California and the drummer that we were playing with at the time stood us up and we had to cancel the show, the only show we’ve ever cancelled. So we went out walking around in Hollywood Boulevard and we got hold of the promoter and we straightened it all out. It was a pretty big show and we were standing outside what used to be Gazzarri’s, which is now The Key Club, and I look over and Chris Holmes is standing there and walking through the crowd and I asked Courtney, the bass player, “is that who I think it is?” She said yeah.
I ran right into him and asked him what he was doing and he said that he was not doing anything. I said, well what are you doing with W.A.S.P. and he said I’m not playing with them anymore. He was going into the Key Club to play that night and he was walking through with a guitar and I said, do you want to play, and he said yeah. So we hung out for a little while and as soon as he got off stage he came back and we set it up for the next day to get in contact. Then we just figured it might have been just B.S., but we started lining things up and the very next day started making plans to record.
Sleaze Roxx: So you already had the songs written, Chris just had to record them with you?
Stefan Moore: We had a full record already but, we actually liked his music so much, some of his originals, that when we got with him he had so much to bring to the table that we scraped about half of it and rewrote it.
Sleaze Roxx: Chris wrote half the record with you then?
Stefan Moore: Yeah. He’s a technical genius. He’s really, really talented as far as scoring, he’s real technical. I’m a singer guitar player but I’m not as technical as Chris is. Once we sat down and started going over the songs he said, well we should do this and that. Then we started going over the music, and we were running out of time, so we came back east to South Carolina.
We live on the coast almost opposite where he lives on the west coast. He sent us back with a pile of tapes and we went over it and went through all of them and picked the cream of the crop of what we thought was the best. Then we went out there and we went into a studio called Nightingale Studios and rehearsed for about 20 days. We were playing with Robbin Crosby’s old drummer, the guy from Ratt, Robert Claysmat and it just got really really expensive in Hollywood to record, so we rehearsed all the music out and got it ready to record and then we scrapped it.
Sleaze Roxx: You started all over?
Stefan Moore: Yeah we started all over. After that we decided what we were going to do. So we got Chris. We flew him out here to the east coast and we rehearsed here for about 30 days. Then we went to Chicago and recorded there and we recorded on some real good old equipment. It was Cliff Williams’ from AC/DC, it was some equipment that he used to own and was really good sound quality soundcraft equipment. We got a high quality product out of it. It worked out better because in Hollywood Chris had all of the distractions in the world because he knows everybody. When we were in the studio in Nightingale, Kiss’s manager came by, Simon from Decline of the Western Civilization came by. Everybody in the world came by when we were in the studio, it was just a nonstop revolving door of people in and out of there.
Sleaze Roxx: That must have been pretty exciting for you.
Stefan Moore: Oh absolutely. I’ve never recorded with people like that. So it was like the whole deal. It was like he was used to it, it was the first time – I mean we recorded on good equipment and everything but it’s a different story. One thing is, it’s about four times as expensive out there as it is anywhere else to record.
Sleaze Roxx: When people would come around to the studio was Chris drinking like he did on Decline of Western Civilization?
Stefan Moore: No, Chris doesn’t drink anymore
Sleaze Roxx: I didn’t realize he had quit.
Stefan Moore: He went to the Betty Ford Clinic. He’s clean. He doesn’t drink at all.
Sleaze Roxx: Now that the record is out does he plan on touring with you guys as well?
Stefan Moore: Yeah we are talking about touring. Right now he’s on vacation but we are talking about touring. Right now he’s at his dad’s house in Lake Havasu, but yeah we’re going to push it with him for a tour. We don’t know who we are going to use as a drummer right now. We are planning on touring.
Sleaze Roxx: It’s kind of funny that you guys lost a drummer and picked up a guitarist instead.
Stefan Moore: We were a three piece, and I’ve never really liked three pieces, but it was real clean sounding and the drummer we had is really good. He’s a local Hollywood guy and he got offered a lot of money from some actress. I won’t say the name because I don’t want any bad blood, but some famous actress offered him a bunch of money to be her personal drummer. So he was bought. He was getting paid $300 a day to sit around and wait on her to call. Right after he did that, she got a movie offer and she dumped him just like that. It’s par for the course, so it’s poetic justice I guess. Chris, he brought a lot to the table, it added a lot of depth to the music
Sleaze Roxx: And also that you could learn so much from him.
Stefan Moore: Absolutely. I had heard in my younger days, when I was playing in a lot of bands, and stuff people would say like ‘man, you remind me of Chris Holmes’. Because I was real crazy you know, running around with Jackson’s and Marshall’s and people would always tell me that I reminded them of him. Then in the 80s when I was out there playing I actually had some guy try to talk me into going for an audition with a band that was getting together and it turned out it was Psycho Squad, a band that Chris was putting together. I didn’t get the gig, I never even met him, I saw him but I never met him. But so far we’ve put together a lot of music. We’ve done a lot of junk together so far. We’ve been out to Hollywood a few times and played out there and he’s just really really good at it. He will work on something until he either drops dead or its good.
Sleaze Roxx: Is he still as wild as people say he is?
Stefan Moore: Oh absolutely. A year on the road with him will take 10 years off your life. I’m not kidding. It’s like we were in Indiana in this motel and we were getting ready to walk out the door and the night before we had played this place and there was this buffet there, so we load up all the food. We took it back to the motel and he had this big cup and it was full of salsa, it was a big cup like you get at the grocery store. We were getting ready to walk out the door the next day when we were checking out and Chris walks back in there and sprays that stuff around the room and it looked like somebody had been murdered. Courtney was like what happened? So she went up to get a check for a shirt and there was salsa sprayed all over the room. It looked like an axe murderer was in there.
Sleaze Roxx: So you’ve already played a few gigs with him then?
Stefan Moore: Yeah. We’ve done a few shows. He was touring with another band and we were up in Chicago recording so we hooked up. So we’ve been around a lot with him. This record has taken a while to make. We’ve been working on it for a while.
Sleaze Roxx: Now that the record is done how happy are you with the way it turned out?
Stefan Moore: It’s excellent. It couldn’t have been much better. The only way we could have got it any better is if we’ve had a lot more money on the budget, you know. But as far as Chris’s playing and everyone’s playing, everybody did their job as good as they could. I’m real happy with it. Chris is just an exceptional musician. He just really gives it 110% and he is as crazy as what his reputation is. He is that insane, and it’s not due to alcohol. He is that messed up. He’s crazy for sure. He quit drinking, I think he quit in about 1997 or something.
Sleaze Roxx: It’s been a while then?
Stefan Moore: Yeah he’s been straight for a while. But he is that insane. He’s a 100 miles an hour. When we first met him in Hollywood we went to the show, and the show was like all these Hollywood All-star guys on stage. Chris walked in there with flip flops on and carrying a Jackson and he started jumping around. He tore the place, up it was great. That place was about to die until he started playing and he brought it back to life. There was a bunch of Hollywood All-stars like Gilby Clarke and some old school hot rod players and he absolutely destroyed them. I would have hated to have been there.
Sleaze Roxx: The Hollywood All-stars just play cover tunes don’t they?
Stefan Moore: Yeah. The Hollywood All-stars are just doing cover tunes but it’s like it totally holds him back. I hate to say that but that’s like putting a Maserati motor into a Moped. It just doesn’t fit. Because he’s 150 miles an hour and wide open and that’s like having to screw his hands down or something. He’s that intense of a player. You can tell too it about kills him.
But everything to do with the recording process he went over, everything from amps to everything. Put it this way, we were in Hermosa Beach and we were recording in a motel room, we were saving money, and he set up a recording studio in the motel room and my pickup went bad on my guitar, and I play an old Jackson like he does. We were kind of tight for money at the time and I was like, crap, well I’m done because we didn’t have $200 to go buy a pickup. He goes, I’ve got a pickup you can have, I was kind of saving it but you can have it. I was like, well what’s the deal? He was, well Tony Iommi gave it to me from Black Sabbath. You know that doesn’t just happen to normal people. It’s a pretty good story. It’s got a makers mark in the back and stuff and you could tell, it sounded like Black Sabbath.
Sleaze Roxx: Would you say Chris has taken you under his wing?
Stefan Moore: Oh yeah. He showed me so many tricks of the trade, that comes from years of experience. We’ve played tons of shows before, but not on the scale he has. He definitely knows a lot about the business and he doesn’t mess around. He pays attention. It’s like his attention to detail is very very good. He doesn’t miss too much. He’s got the reputation of being crazy, but all in all he’s pretty detail orientated.
Sleaze Roxx: He probably learned from getting screwed by Blackie for so many years.
Stefan Moore: I didn’t know that everybody knew about that. He definitely had the screws put to him from that. He doesn’t have piles of money coming in from W.A.S.P., which he should, but he’s doing alright. He’s still got everything going in Hollywood and he’s definitely added a whole whole lot to this music and we’ve already got five songs of a new record written. So after we back this record up we are going to get straight back in the studio.
Sleaze Roxx: On this record did you even try and get a label or did you just decide to put it out yourself?
Stefan Moore: We just put it out ourselves. We didn’t even bother. At the time the record labels were being so stiff. All the friends we had, all the record labels were really doing was getting them tours and a little bit of distribution. But they really weren’t backing the bands enough, so we kind of waited an extra little bit of time and did it ourselves. That way we could pretty much command a little bit more of what we were doing.
Sleaze Roxx: Not just that, but these days with the internet you can pretty much do everything a label does all by yourself.
Stefan Moore: That’s what we thought too. I can’t really say any names, but a band that we were real close to ended up signing and pretty much giving the money away.
Sleaze Roxx: You may as well keep it yourself.
Stefan Moore: Yeah, well they pretty much gave away what they made and they would tour and they would have to send the money back, and we were like, that’s just insane. So we were like, it was kind of cool. We were out west and went and stayed with Chris’s mom and he had all his gold records in her hallway in her house. She lives near Needles, Arizona right on the Arizona-California border and she’s got all the gold records and stuff hanging in her hall. It’s pretty cool. He’s like a local celebrity around there. So we go into town and he’s like the local celebrity there, so it’s kind of cool.
Sleaze Roxx: But it must be hard for a new band to sell records today isn’t it?
Stefan Moore: Oh its brutal man. The internet has been the kindest thing and the people that are loyal to Chris have been the kindest thing we’ve had happen. We used to be in a band called Godspeed and the people that have stuck by us, they are real loyal people. The W.A.S.P. fans, and the Chris fans, and the fans we’ve had are real loyal people. So whenever we do anything they buy it, so we are real fortunate that the people that listen to our kind of music are that loyal, because I’m sure that a lot of markets are not that forgiving.
Sleaze Roxx: What about when you go out and play live, is it hard to even get people out for shows these days?
Stefan Moore: Oh no, no, no. We’ve been real blessed with that. We’ve had real good luck with that. Not so much like we live in a place which is like a resort town, but here but in big cities we’ve had a real good response. It’s actually got a lot better. It was way worse about three or four years ago, now it’s really good. It’s getting better.
We’ve always done really well, but the market is starting to harden up again as far as this kind of music goes. We’ve been surprised actually at the numbers and sales. It’s just getting better. I’m real surprised because it’s about time, you know.
Sleaze Roxx: One thing I’ve noticed with the internet it seems like there is billions of bands now when there wasn’t before, and it’s almost hard to keep track of all the new music that is coming out.
Stefan Moore: Oh yeah. Well that’s a good thing and a bad thing. It will flood the market, but it will weed out the real good from the real bad real easy. There is some that is real bad and there is some that is good too. But it’s like you say, it’s almost over saturated. The thing is people got to be able to back it up. You can sell anything, but if they can’t back it up with playing then it’s useless.
That’s one thing we’re definitely lucky with, because Chris can back up anything. It’s like he’s not scared of going on stage anywhere anytime. Like it’s stupid stuff. I mean we’ve even been running around at biker bars and stuff. If Chris gets approached about playing he’ll play anywhere anytime, he doesn’t care. He just likes to play, so he’s really, he’s good, he’s really added a lot to this project. We’re real happy to have him on and I can’t wait get back into the studio and get to playing again because we got about 30 more days before we are going to be out and running. I can’t wait. He’s got a bunch of movies and stuff that he is doing right now too. He did some movie that was involved with Randy Rhoades. I don’t know what, something to do with Randy Rhoades. He did some tribute movie and he was in that. There’s another Decline of Western Civilization that was filmed and he did that as well.
Sleaze Roxx: Does he ever talk about his appearance in the other Decline movie?
Stefan Moore: Yeah, you know I don’t think he got paid in the first one. I think Penelope screwed him on the money in that. I think he is getting paid on this one, but the old one he didn’t get paid.
Sleaze Roxx: I always read that some of the footage in the first Decline movie was staged and I wasn’t sure how much was or wasn’t.
Stefan Moore: Well Chris’s wasn’t staged. The only thing that was staged about that was that Penelope lady said that she requested that his mom be there and that wasn’t true. Chris’s mom was in town and she went with him because he was doing a big interview, it wasn’t because she requested it like she says on TV. That’s not true. And another thing is that pool scene was at Miles Copland’s house, Stuart Copland’s brother. Miles Copland is a producer. It was at his house, not Chris’, they did that there. Everything Chris did in that, that was straight up, it wasn’t a joke – he really did that.
Sleaze Roxx: I wondered if he was embarrassed by it now, even though it has become a legendary scene.
Stefan Moore: He got a little bit of a bitter taste in his mouth about it. I mean because they tried to put him on the spot and they tired to kind of down him about it. It’s just that it was a wild time back then.
Sleaze Roxx: Yeah it wasn’t really that bad, it just showed that whole time was pretty decadent so it just fit right in.
Stefan Moore: Right. Well that was way back when. I mean that was fairly normal for that time period and no one’s talking about them like Vince Neil killing Razzle and all that crazy junk. I mean people were crazy back then. He just got caught on film is what the deal is and the only reason he did the interview was because of Simon. That’s the only reason he agreed to it.
Sleaze Roxx: So it’s almost like music has tamed down now a bit now. You couldn’t even get away with half the stuff that they used to do in the 80s.
Stefan Moore: No not at all. But it’s still pretty crazy. Chris hasn’t calmed down. He just quit drinking, he’s not calmed down a bit. He’s still that crazy.
Sleaze Roxx: So I take it Courtney is your wife.
Stefan Moore: Yeah. We’ve played together for a while now. When I was playing with Godspeed we were looking for bass players, and we probably auditioned about 30 bass players, and she was a guitar player and said, well give me a shot. I was like, yeah sure, and she played and just destroyed them. I mean she looks way better than they did and I was like woooo, it was a win-win situation because she could play and look good. We had been playing with some trolls, so we were real happy with it. It turned out real well because we are real bad about people being able to play. I’m real ruthless about it, if somebody can’t play I can’t do that. She destroyed the other guys, it was great. She keeps up a level that if I forget something I go back and check her notes and they’re right, so it covers my back.
Sleaze Roxx: So with Chris being clean now does that mean you and Courtney get to party at all?
Stefan Moore: Oh absolutely. He’s cool, he doesn’t care. It’s like people all the time are trying to buy him shots and stuff and he’ll hand them off to us.
Sleaze Roxx: So you do better out of it!
Stefan Moore: Yeah, well he’s just seriously clean, he don’t cheat. He doesn’t mess around because he knows he can’t do it. So he doesn’t do that anymore at all. So it’s good for us, but we don’t push it on him either. We’ll drink, do what we gotta do, but we got enough respect for him not to push it on him and we make sure he doesn’t drink. People try at places to push drinks on him and it’s just not his gig anymore. I think he was just real close to dying at one point. You know, just overboard, and it cost him a lot so I don’t think he cares anything about it anymore. He’s moved on. He’s a better player now that he’s not drinking anyway. I mean he never really showed like a lot of players, you can totally tell when they are screwed up. He never really showed that much. But he’s a better player now for sure.
Sleaze Roxx: You can definitely tell it’s him playing on the new CD it’s got his sound all over it.
Stefan Moore: Oh yeah, well his sound in particular is incredible. He’s got all his hot-rodded Marshall gear. When we were in the studio from playing together – we’ve been playing together I think about five years now, five years in August. Maybe six years. Five or six years we’ve been playing together, but he’s got two hot-rodded 100 Marshall’s and he’s got a signature sound. He’s got a couple of PC41s and a couple of regular cabinets. He’s just got a signature sound. He’s got 2 JMP1 Marshall pre-amps with double mono block, double 100 Marshall and he’s got a specific sound. It’s like he knows exactly what he wants.
Sleaze Roxx: You can tell it’s him right away when he plays.
Stefan Moore: His sound is a signature sound and it’s hard to duplicate and there are very few people who are that loud and that clean.
Sleaze Roxx: Now that the CD has been out for a little while how has the reaction been to it from the people that have heard it?
Stefan Moore: It’s been excellent man. The reaction’s been crazy. It’s been pretty crazy. We’ve been having nothing but good. We really haven’t had any bad at all to be honest with you, which is real unusual. Usually someone’s got to hate something. But it’s all been good which we’re real thankful for.
Chris knows all these tricks to the trade, like running a whole channel through a whole song of feedback and then bleeding it into the song. Normal people don’t do that. Normal people think in terms of putting a couple of spots of feedback and stuff, but what he does was he ran a whole channel the whole time of feedback and then bleed it into the song through the mixer.
Sleaze Roxx: Normal doesn’t get you too far in music does it?
Stefan Moore: No, it’s all these tricks. It’s like he knew how to make the dude work for his money. It was funny. He totally was all over the engineers. It’s great. He had then working for their money that’s for sure.
Sleaze Roxx: So is there anything else you want to say about the CD?
Stefan Moore: Not a whole lot man. We just really appreciate all you’ve done for us because you guys putting us on your website and it’s spiked our hits and everything. We really appreciate it and we really are trying to keep up on all this. See Chris always says I’m in the stone age because we have just gotten computer semi-literate in the last little while, and Chris always makes fun of me being in the stone age. So we’re trying to catch up.
Sleaze Roxx: It’s the way to promote your band nowadays.
Stefan Moore: Right. Well we really appreciate you guys. It’s really cool. Yeah we really appreciate you guys doing that. We really do. It’s pretty interesting. Chris definitely showed us a lot I’ll tell you what. It was like anything that – he’s like an encyclopedia of heavy metal knowledge. If there is somebody famous or something from Hollywood he probably knows them.
Sleaze Roxx: Well it was a dream come true for you just meeting him on the street and ending up having him in the band wasn’t it?
Stefan Moore: Oh yeah yeah yeah.
Sleaze Roxx: That doesn’t happen everyday. That’s something for a movie.
Stefan Moore: Hell yeah. Absolutely. I was actually pretty flattered that he played with us and then when we got back up with him shortly thereafter he had our CD in his changer. It really floored me because I was real flattered. I had always listened to their stuff, but I was real flattered when he was listening to mine.
To me that was better than any review I could have ever have gotten. We’ve just been real blessed. It fell into place really good and the record is getting really good reviews, so we’ll try and get it together for a tour. The record came out a little bit late, we were going to try and hit some summer tours but we’re running late so we’re probably going to end up being in the fall.
Thanks to Stefan Moore