Rob Moss and Skin Tight Skin
Now with more rockets
Rob was in Government Issue and Artificial Peace. DC legends of the hardcore scene. He had a little rest after these bands but was always sprinkling water on his songwriting roots until new songs emerged in 2020. I guess that feeling of creativity never really leaves you. He now has a new record out with a different guitarist guesting on each song – which isn’t immediately obvious but there are slight variances to the style throughout
From the start the record fades in and then out with “A rocket ship to you” complete with strong guitar lick and a rock n roll feel. And this is the general feel right throughout. It ebbs and flows with some tracks being slightly rockier and then slow and moody. Guitar solo’s depend on the guest with some more prevalent than others. There’s country rock, blues and even dipping a toe in 60’s groove with Bloody Shoes coming across like Stepping Stone.
As someone who has visited New York a few times in recent years I was intrigued by Rip Van Winkle ’85. This song tells the tale of Rip Van Winkle falling asleep in 1985 and waking up to a modern day city completely unrecognisable 3 and a half decades later
And then it all ends with I’m On a rocket ship heading my way back home. This still has that rock’n’roll feel with a solo fading the whole thing out at the end but the water keeps flooing on the songwriting juice as it fades back in to finish off.
I asked Rob some questions in anticipation of the records release
What inspires you to record these songs and seek out collaborators? What was the journey like trying to get people to work with you? Would it have been an easier ride just to do everything yourself?
The act of creating songs inspires me in the first place. Always has. It was that way when I started, 1979 and early ’80s. And being away from songwriting until just a few years ago makes it more powerful. It’s like I’m performing a magic trick in my bedroom when I create a song. And then comes the next part: who can I bring on? Who will understand what I’m trying to do and make it better?
I seek guest musicians who bring ideas I wouldn’t necessarily have thought of and who also have the right feel and temperament. It’s like how a director casts actors for a part. For instance, “Ink Blue Smoke.” It’s an outlier of a song for me in the first place. It’s a song that would be produced if you mated The Dead Boys with Lynyrd Skynyrd. Swamp rock meets punk rock. I knew Greg Strzempka from Raging Slab would be perfect for the song. I knew Greg from way back. He was in a Washington, D.C. band called Egoslavia, which originally was called R.E.M. They made a deal with an Athens, Georgia band called R.E.M. Whichever band got a record deal first would keep the name. The D.C. R.E.M. lost.
In general I tend to ask musicians who are old friends or friends of friends. That connection helps. I also bring on musicians I looked up to when I first got into songwriting and who were in bands I saw when I first started going to shows. On my first album, I sought out Marshall Keith from The Slickee Boys to play on a song. On this album, Joey Cola from Sorrows plays on one. Abaad Behram from Johnny Bombay and The Reactions and (The) Razz plays on another. Martha Hull, the original singer from The Slickee Boys, does a duet with me on this album. Gil Leigh I first saw play guitar when we were in junior high school. But he was two years older than me, so he probably thought I was a little kid back then if he thought of me at all. Gil has since become my go-to advisor when it comes to getting feedback on demos. Gil plays on the new album, too. I guess that’s the journey. It would be impossible for me to do everything myself, it also wouldn’t be as fun.
What donkey did you ride to town on as a boy?
He was a donkey named Slick that belonged to a neighbor. When I was a kid, where I grew up was not nearly as developed as it is today. There were cows in the field across from my high school. And a block from my house there was an old, boarded up, abandoned trolley station that we used to climb into. We found all sorts of stuff in there. An old valise filled with letters from a girl to her aunt, stashes of porn. So if I wanted to go to downtown Bethesda, riding a donkey was a good way to go.
Of all the people who have had injustice foisted upon them how come Richard Jewell struck a chord with you?
Richard Jewell just wanted to help people and do what’s right. He was unjustly accused of committing the crime he helped stop, or at least made a lot less deadly. He was scapegoated by incompetant FBI officers and the media. People made fun of him because he was fat, didn’t have a fancy education, spoke with a Southern accent. In this way Richahard Jewell represents the bigotry that people experience, just because they’re different.
Did you have any particular group of people in mind when writing Bloody Shoes?
Bloody Shoes, yeah. People who do things only because they want to be seen as doing what good, polite people do. But it’s all vanity and at their core they’re hypocrites. Like driving an electric vehicle and not thinking about where the energy comes from. It’s often coal. Or about how the minerals used in electric car batteries are mined. It’s often done by kids in pits. Like in the Congo. Kids as young as six, digging cobalt with their bare hands for the equivalent of two dollars a day. That’s where Bloody Shoes comes from.
Any plans to play live?
When I got back into making music I looked into forming a band to play shows, but it’s songwriting and recording I enjoy most. I had the opportunity to play incredible shows when I was in Government Issue and Artificial Peace. So I’ve had that experience. Touring. I’m glad I did it. But given how I enlist a different lead guitarist on each song, and some songs have piano or other instruments, that would make it difficult to reproduce with a conventional four-piece band.
How difficult is it to get your music out there? I’m guessing it is a chore, even though it is an easier process as there’s so much music available to people at the click of a mouse
When the songs are written and recorded and the work of making an album is over, the work has just begun. It’s very difficult, Niall, to get people to listen to new music. It’s even more difficult to get them to pay for it. Napster and Spotify have ruined the business of music. It is a business. There are hard costs that musicians and songwriters incur.
The notion that “Information, or music, just wants to be free” is bunk. It’s propagated by middlemen who want to profit by packaging what other people create. They make money through the platform and advertising. Our music is just content to them. It’s a commodity.
I’ve no intention or aspiration of making a living from making songs, but it’s no fun when what takes more than a year to produce just gets a lot of Likes on Facebook and not much else. I hear this from a lot of other people making music today.
Ultimately, I make music for myself. Performing magic tricks in my bedroom, creating songs I want to hear. And if other people want to hear them too, that’s a bonus.