Moons of Jupiter

Artist Info
One man band Christopher Holt offers some new songs, covers, a vegan recipe, and talk of community, teaching guitar, and Punch-Drunk Love.

INTERVIEW

February 2008
(tss) You've taught guitar to little kids for a while. What's the most interesting thing about that?
(Christopher Clayton Holt) The best thing about it is that I'm constantly talking about, thinking about, defending, re-defining, and reiterating everything I know about music. I'm getting paid to practice. It's good for me from a technical standpoint. But it also challenges the lowest depths of my patience. The students who take me seriously are very rewarding. But I also have students who just don't care about guitar, or even listen to music.
You sometimes talk about moving to California. What is the draw of the west coast for you?
I have this dream of living a in Newburyport-esqe town, right on the water, and winter never comes. It never snows, and is 75 all the time. and I have reason to believe that such a thing exist in California. They don't call it the Pacific for nothing. I guess its a combination of my discomfort with New England's constant flux between 0 and 100 degrees, and my sub-conscious desire to run away from everything and start again. I think once you've lived on the ocean there's no going back. I don't think I could live anywhere inland.
Over the years, Moons of Jupiter has been mostly you, but occasionally you'll record or play with others. Do you see it as a solo project, or an ever-changing band?
It was always supposed to be a band. But you know as well as anyone that keeping people around is not easy. So just to get things done I end up depending less and less on other musicians, and end up playing all the instruments myself. In the beginning, back in the winter of 2002, it was a band. I had all these songs, and the other guys kept asking, "When are we gonna write songs together, as a band", and I would say "As soon as we get through all the songs I've already written", and then I would go home and write a few more songs. At this point, as much as I think it would be awesome to have a full time band, I can't really imagine what it would be like. Also, I fear that having a band would limit the sound and style of the band. If I had a full time drummer and bassist could I still go and make weird synth-folk records, and just be like, "Yeah guys, I don't really hear drums and bass on these songs"? I don't know if that would go over. Also, my last record, the red will fade, I wrote and recorded in 28 days. I played all the instruments. And it's pretty awesome. The record I'm working on now, I'm only playing guitar and singing and trying to get other musicians; piano, bass, drums, violin, trumpet, other singers etc. And it's already taken almost two years, and there's no end in sight. The waiting for other people is driving me mad. Having said all that, if there's anyone out there who wants to be in the band, I would love to have them. Any instrument would be awesome. The best concert I've ever been to was David Byrne. It was him on guitar/voice, and then there was a drummer, bassist, percussionist, two violinists, two violists, and two cellists. It was amazing. That's my dream band.
As someone who loves movies, are you interested in working with film, either scoring or otherwise?
I often watch the credits roll and think about all the jobs I could be doing; sound recorder, sound editor, music editor, sound mixer, sound designer, foley recorder, ADR recorder etc. And all these people have a few assistants. I'd love to get into film scoring, or be able to write some songs for movies. My favorite songs ever is "Drown" from the soundtrack to 'Singles'. Not that the Smashing Pumpkins wrote the song for or about the movie, but that's where it ended up. I also think it would be cool to do one of those scenes that takes place in a club and there's a band playing in the background. that would be fun. Have you ever seen the Talking Heads movie, "True Stories"? It's amazing. I don't know how that kind of thing happens, where some studio just says, "Hey, your band's getting pretty popular with the kids these days, here's a few million dollars, make a movie, go crazy, do whatever you want". Also, I'd like to make a record someday with a film score composer. It would be me on voice/guitar and then Danny Elfman or Jon Bryon with an orchestra.
Tell us about your Punch Drunk Love project.
Originally I was going to write a record with each song being inspired by a different one of my favorite movies. But it became obvious fairly quickly that one song wouldn't be enough to capture the spirit of an entire film. So I picked 'Punch-Drunk Love' partly because it's an amazing movie, partly because it has a nice fluid motion of events over a short amount of time, partly because the emotional context was very similar to what was going on with me personally at the time, and partly because the score, by Jon Brion, plays such a large part in the film that was easy to bridge it, and imagine the entire story being told with just music. Also, I needed to write a record fast for the RPM challenge, and writing about someone else's story was easier than writing about my own. It's a character study of sorts. The record before that, sogni del volo, was going to be a collaboration between me and my friend Martha, who had been playing marimba in the band, with just voice/guitar and a ton of different awesome percussion going on. She ended up moving back to Georgia before we got any real work done, so I did that record myself, and then when it came time to do i am joyous, i am scared: songs in reference to the film "punch-drunk love", I decided the pallet would be voice/guitar and marimba. Of course I used a synth marimba and not the real deal, but I had Martha in mind when I made the record. I gave her a copy after, but she never told me what she thought of it. Because the record was made on a deadline, I ended up doing the bulk of the work in five days. I'm fairly happy with the songwriting, and like the record, but kind of wish I had spent more time on it. Just to get better performances. or even just to spend more time placing mics to get the guitar to sound better. Some of the songs could have been a little shorter. Overall it was fun. I learned a few things about recording and writing under pressure. My friend George, is always asking me to re-record the record and make it sound better. But some of those songs I only played twice all the way through. Once to write it, and once to record it. I only remember how to play three of the ten songs. This makes it the record that's the most fun for me to listen to, because I'm not as familiar with the songs. In the end, is it better to write a record while laying in bed watching movies, or to write a record while having you heart crushed? I'm still undecided about that.
What inspires you?
I had a professor in college who would often say, "No input. No output.", meaning that in order to make music you need to listen to music. When I hear good music, it inspires me to step it up, to practice more and be better. When I hear bad music it does the same, because it makes me wonder why I'm listening to this music but nobody's listening to mine. I'd say 90% of my songs are about girls, or my romantic struggles. But more and more I've been writing about a need to find my place in the world. Or just about the world generally speaking. Not in a political way, but in a "What does it all mean" sort of way. Which maybe shows a sign of a growing maturity. Also, friends like you that make it look easy.
How do you think your growing up in Northeastern Massachusetts has shaped you?
It's given me a love of the water. I think it's exposed me to a fairly wide range of culture and politics. Rich towns and poor towns, inner city's and suburbia. It's all here. All kinds of people. Every kind of music you would want to hear. Not everyone knows the joy and frustration of skee-ball. I think if it was unbearably cold all the time I wouldn't be so weary of winter. If it was unbearably hot all the time I wouldn't be so weary of summer. Spring and fall have spoiled us. but they give us something to look forward to. On the other hand winter has ice skating. But really the more I travel the more it's all the same to me.
Music school. A good choice?
yes. But I think there should be a mandatory class in high school called "financial aid 101". That might have saved me a lot of trouble. Having the knowledge and ability to make my own records makes it all worth it.
What does the future hold for Moons of Jupiter?
Hopefully anyone reading this is listening to record number eight, going home. Record number seven, a quartet of quadruplets, is still being made, very, very slowly. But the songs that are closer to done are sounding awesome. I'm finally finding a few people to help out, and they're doing really outstanding work. It's gonna be the best record ever. Record number nine, we are infinite, which is the third RPM I've done, will be out soon. It's a very different record. And I know all my records are different, but this one is way out there. That's what makes it fun. After that, I don't when the next record will be. I'm making an effort to book more shows. My goal is to get that band together, get a label to put out the records, and maybe make just enough money to feel like a grown up.
Best vegan recipe.
"the Milwaukee special"
  • 1 cup soy milk
  • 1 banana
  • 1 big spoon of peanut butter
  • 1 big spoon of vanilla soy ice cream
put it in a blender and enjoy.
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