25 Magazine interviews neo-funk California native, Nino Moschella.
WORDS BY MAYA RHODAN
It’s 9 a.m. on a windy Tuesday and while other emerging California artists are turning over in their beds after a long night of gigging, soul singer Nino Moschella is on his way out the door of his O’Neals, CA home taking his wife and daughter to work and school. Not the standard morning routine of an artist days away from his second album release. But Moschella lives his life like any other Bay Area family man; the self-proclaimed house dad is the father of three-year-old daughter, Stella, and husband to indie artist Mia Birdsong. Despite his Danny Tanner tendencies, Moschella is a hardworking artist, dedicated to representing all things funky and soulful in his music.
In 2006, Moschella released his first studio album, The Fix, on the San Francisco based Ubiquity Recordings, renowned for their devotion to cult music lovers of funk, soul and jazz. On his debut, Moschella’s underground roots were revealed through his non-conventional use of beat-boxing and hand-claps instead of the standard drum kit sound. Critics and listeners alike were wowed by the west coast singer’s soulful sound and deemed his album a hit, despite low numbers and mainstream recognition.
Since the start of his music career, Moschella has taken on the challenge of trying to reacquaint the world with the power of pure funk. Heavily inspired by the greats such as Sly and the Family Stone and James Brown, Moschella uses his music as an opportunity to demand respect for the genre that is only subtly represented in mainstream music. His sophmore LP Boomshadow, is a testimony to the style, the sound, and the artists that defined funky but also an original, soulful and personal work of art.
Nino Moschella: Good question. I would have to say that there hasn’t been a specific way that I have progressed but my feeling about the music has taken me to the next level. This album is definitely a step up. My feeling about the music has helping me to develop a knowing of when to push through and make a song work and when not to. I recorded about 40 songs in the making of this album, but I let the songs tell me when to push through. I’ve become more in tune with the music.
NM: [laughs] The character doesn’t even really represent the music. About 10 or 15 years ago me and my friends would joke around, while drinking and talk about this character Boomshadow. I hadn’t even thought about it until after the record was done and for some reason the name came back to me. The title does represent the sound of the album, but it was definitely an afterthought-it doesn’t relate to the creation of the record but the name relates to the sound that is the music.
NM: Yeah, none of the beats were actually made with a broomstick, that’s just something the label says, but a lot of the sound was created without the traditional drum kit–there was a lot of beat boxing. I still like beat boxing and a lot of the music on this album comes from the same place rhythmically, but there is a lot more drum kit and structured sound. The drum was my first instrument and I naturally gravitate toward it, so there’s a decent drum representation on the album. I guess you can call the beats homemade, but there were no broomsticks involved.
NM: I think just the day to day experiences with those that are closest to me has the most influence on me and what I do. I mean there are definitely the musical influences in terms of what I listen to and who resonates with me musically (Jimi Hendrix, Oscar Brown Jr, John Lennon, Etta James, David Bowie, Stevie Wonder, Miles Davis, prince etc), but I would say the thing that has the biggest influence on what I write about and where my desire to express myself comes from, would be all the challenges and blessings that I go through with the folks that I’m closest to. I feel that is where I’ve learned the most about myself, being around and sharing experiences with the people I love.
NM: Everyday I get up, get my wife and daughter ready for work and school. Work on music, rehearse…I’m a house dad.
NM: Definitely hard to pin exactly how. But generally, [my daughter] has opened my life to new experiences. She has introduced to me a new capacity for a different kind of love. I have written songs for her; the affect that she has had on my life and my wife’s life is so great. We are constantly trying to view the world how she views the world, which is so different than how we do, and so unique. Stella has given me a different awareness. The thing about children is you have an instinct to take care of them, it’s so natural. Being a dad definitely impacts my music, but not in one specific way.
NM: I didn’t realize that I wanted to until about high school. I always knew that I wanted to make music, but I had to realize that I needed to make money while I was doing it. I played the drums in high school, my dad was a musician, and my mom was a music lover; there was never a separation from me and music. But my becoming an artist wasn’t a conscious decision; it was the most natural progression for me. It wasn’t like I said ‘Either I’ll be a doctor or a musician,’ I knew it was going to happen, but I had to decide I wanted to make it happen for myself.
NM: I love music, I have always loved music. Anything that perks my ears, I am attracted to. I do my thing and I appreciate other people doing their thing. Any music that I do is a reflection of what I like to listen to. My mom and dad met in Greenwich Village in New York at a time when artists were being openly creative and exploring their craft. I grew up listening to artists like Muddy Waters, Mahalia Jackson, and Etta James who were very soulful and Stevie Wonder, Prince and lots of California funk. I developed my style from what I love and I use my music as an opportunity to express myself the most openly-you create the best when you’re just being yourself.
NM: I try not to [chuckles]. My style has been derived from Funk, Soul, Rock, Folk…everything I grew up on, I draw inspiration from. I try to challenge myself not to create predictable music. When you listen to artists like Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles and bear witness to how they were able to cross categories on so many occasions-even the Beatles did it. Music isn’t supposed to fit into a category, its experimental. I guess if I wanted to be classified it would be as funk or soul, but I its best not to get wrapped up in style and just do it.
NM: I think it’s great in that it gives so many people access to music and it’s great for independent artists. Marketing is too general- I don’t feel you can be completely represented by a paragraph written by a label. The words they publish shouldn’t be what lead people to understand me- that’s why I write the music. The marketing goals of record labels have purpose, that’s why the internet works so well for independent artists. Independent artists have to hustle, but you have to put in the work and make things happen. The internet helps people to push themselves and it gives them complete control-it’s empowering. And there is so much music out there! Back in the day there was a filter so only so much music could get out and only so many people could actually get in the studio to make it. Now everyone can make it, anyone can market it and there is a constant influx of new music and a lot of it is good! The only downside is that there is a lot of not-so-good music out there too.
NM: I don’t have a twitter; I don’t think I will either. My friends have them, but I don’t think I need to tell everybody, everything I’m doing. I can’t remember my phone half of the time. It would be cool for when I’m in the road to be able to tell my family stuff like “It’s snowing in Denver,” but no twitter for me.
NM: Definitely Stella, it’s featured on this album. I wanted the words to be articulated perfectly because its about my daughter. I needed it to be a certain way both lyrically and visually, so that she could hear what I wanted her to know but at the same time paint a picture in her mind. The words were the last part I even wrote, the song was done for six months before I did the words. I had them in my mind, but it took me forever to commit them to a piece of paper. I just needed it all to mean something. After it was done my wife cried, so I guess it worked out cool [laughs].
NM: Still here, making music. If people like my music, I’ll still be doing it for the next 30 or 40 years, and even if they don’t, maybe even 60 years. I think I can live to be 93…but I really hope people enjoy it!