Kingston After Dark: Chuck Mosley’s art of reinvention

Chuck Mosley.

Alternative rock legend Chuck Mosley made a name for himself singing on the early Faith No More records, briefly fronting punk greats Bad Brains and in bands like Cement and V.U.A. He brought a sense of surreal street poetry and colorful, open-ended self-expression to the music scene in a way that has often since been copied. His credibility had people like John 5 (of Rob Zombie’s band) and Jonathan Davis from Korn eager to be guests on his Will Rap Over Hard Rock For Food album, but of late Mosley has been playing stripped-down acoustic versions of some of his best songs alongside new material and getting to know his fans again in intimate venues. Friday, July 28 (9:30 p.m. doors) you can see the affable and enduring rocker at The Anchor alongside local sea-chanty folk punkers (and die-hard Stockade FC supporters) Casting Ships for one of the best shows of the summer. For just $5 you are going to have a night to remember.

I had a very fun and enjoyable conversation with Mosley recently and he shared fun memories of Woodstock (where he conceived a child), warm recollections of enjoyable times spent with Doc and Daryl from Bad Brains during his live tenure with perhaps the greatest hardcore band ever, what it was like recording once at Dana Plato’s house and a lot more. He has been playing some songs like “Bob Forest” that have been around since the ’80s in certain forms and some songs he wrote with Doc and Daryl that turned up on a Cement album after they never used them, as well as some of his more well-known hits and new stuff. He has a warm demeanor and it is easy to want to hear him keep telling stories in his breezy anecdotal way that nonetheless includes sharply funny observations and wild memories.

One thing that we discussed was, both having fronted various bands, how nerve-wracking it can be to not have a full band behind you and instead be vulnerable with an acoustic guitar.

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“I know, dude! I’m not even drinking right now. I accepted a challenge to not do anything and it has been five months,” Mosley laughs. “I mean, I can do one shot before a show but it would never be one shot. I’ve tried every other way of performing so now I am gonna try this way for a minute. To be honest I didn’t have a damn thing when I wrote my new songs. I usually smoke weed to be creative but this time it turns out I am just naturally creative anyway. These new songs are some of the best I have written, insane and all different.”

Mosley has always been adept at telling stories but they can be taken different ways. He was a pioneer of that vocal style and you can sort of hear it today in a group like Deftones, for example. After a friend died recently he found himself writing more songs than he had in years.

“My lyrics aren’t always being real clear and I liked to throw people off,” he tells me. “They kind of painted an interpretive picture. These new ones are more introspective and crap. Faith No More, a lot of them I knew what they were about but I wouldn’t really share it. This time I made it more clear.”

He laughs recollecting old times with the Bad Brains and how he used to have low self-esteem. “Daryl and Doc beat it out of me,” he laughs. “They’d say, ‘You’re a singer. Take pride in it.’ I got better. The only thing they couldn’t get me to do was a lot of Praise Jah stuff ’cuz that wasn’t me. I still love them to death, man.”

Mosley bursts into song and starts singing, “I got to be meeeeeee” over the phone and we both crack up and then share a few moments talking about how glad we are that Doc from Bad Brains is doing better after a health scare. I then try to ask in a polite way if Mosley feels blessed that he is still feeling so creative at this stage of his life.

“I can’t stop writing songs. I was gonna have more old-school live stuff on my new release but it is getting squeezed out by new songs. I can’t turn the faucet off and I don’t record it so I have to play it over and over again so I don’t forget it.”

I laugh and tell him I sing melodies into my iPhone sometimes.

“See, that’s where the age thing maybe comes in because I don’t know how,” he laughs. “I have a cheap phone. It’s stupid. I’d need my glasses ’cuz the print is so small. I’m old fashioned that way.”

I tell him to not feel bad — I only got a cell phone a few years ago because I was paranoid about government spying.

“I’m still only halfway into the 21st century,” he confesses. “Every time someone wants to send me some music I have them send me a CD or still ask for a fax. Nobody has a fucking fax anymore. I don’t pay attention. That’s what I have my daughters for or my friend Doug. Or I have an extra guitar player now so I can still be bad. But I am getting better. Any time I am playing guitar I want to be the Brian Eno of that unit and make freaky noises and sound effects. Our set now starts acoustic and then goes into a sonic atmosphere. I like psychedelic from some Neil Young to David Bowie all the way out into the next universe.”

I tell him to check out our local psych heroes It’s Not Night: It’s Space and Mosley loves their band name. I tell him they have very long trippy songs.

“That’s cool, man. That name is funny. I need more effects pedals,” he said. “I got the reverse delay, the delay, wah-wah and distortion. I need a couple more to take us a little further out there. But it is getting there, man. One of the new songs is called ‘Relocation’ and it starts in one place acoustic and nice but by the end of the song you are in another stratosphere.”

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