by Eric Baylies
Count Zero was formed roughly twenty years ago by Peter Moore from the ashes of Think Tree. They will celebrate two decades as a band with a 20th anniversary show at Cuisine El Locale at Once in Somerville on Friday, March 18 with The Shills and Bury Me Standing. I had a chance to speak with Peter about two decades of music, teaching, recording, performing and the Blue Man Group.
Noise: How did Count Zero start?
Peter Moore: Count Zero rose out of the ashes of Think Tree, an experimental and inventive electronic rock band that was bizarrely popular in these and other parts of the country and Europe. Think Tree disbanded in 1994, three of its five members wanted to continue but didn’t feel it was right to keep the name, so we started Count Zero, officially playing out the first time exactly 20 years ago (March 1996).
Noise: Who are the members and what do they play?
Peter: Two of those founding members are still in it. Peter Moore (me) is the main songwriter, lead singer, arranger, etc. Will Ragano is still the guitarist. On keyboards is Joel Simches, drums is Shawn Marquis, and Mike Corbett is our bassist.
Noise: How many other projects are you involved in?
Peter: Well, now that I’m a free lance musician, I need to be involved in as many as possible. I’ve got a mortgage to feed, you know! I currently play in Sarah Rabdau & Self-Employed Assassins, John Powhida International Airport, Handymen, Hermits of Mink (Todd Rundgren tribute band), Music for Enophiles (NYC-based Brian Eno tribute band), Melt (Peter Gabriel 3 tribute band) and various other projects. Usually I’m the keyboardist and vocalist.
Noise: Do you still play with the Blue Man group and how did that happen?
Peter: The Blue Man Group hired me as a ProTools specialist in the late ’90s, and I would go to their Lower East Side Manhattan studios as they were working on their audio records. Eventually I started playing keys and other instruments, and doing guide vocals for them (laying down a reference vocal track if they wanted to send the song to someone like Wayne Coyne or David Bowie to learn to sing). Then they wanted to tour that record they’d made, and developed a special monstrous Blue Man show called “The Complex” and later “How To Be A Megastar” and needed a vocalist and keyboardist, so I toured for years with them, all around the globe. They don’t tour a huge rock show like that anymore, so I don’t work with them more than once a year.
Actually, a funny aside, in a plea to T Max to postpone a Noise cover story on Count Zero’s second CD release that T had been belatedly reserving for us, I promised him I’d get an interview with Blue Man Group. This is before I’d started working with them in any meaningful capacity. I was T’s bee-yotch!
Noise: T Max will like that! Has Count Zero played non stop for the past two decades or is this kind of a reunion?
Peter: Yes even when I was making my keep touring with other acts, I’d come back for a month and we’d find a way to sneak in a show somewhere. Other members also toured with other gigs, too (DJ Logic, Natalie Merchant, Tanya Donnelly, Weezer) so we survived by developing a cadre of replacement players. We have about a dozen of those people returning to guest in the band the night of our anniversary (March 18th at Once Ballroom in Somerville).
Noise: How long do you see this band going?
Peter: I guess because we keep getting little perks here and there (touring with the Dresden Dolls; songs featured in video games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band) we are very adept at fooling ourselves into believing we matter. So until that stops, I guess.
Noise: Don’t let it stop! What else do yo guys do outside of the band?
Peter: I own a studio at my house, so I’m often engineering other band’s music or other projects. I produced the last Goli record, and currently a rock opera double-album by local prog wonders Schooltree. I also started teaching voice and keyboard lessons.
Noise: I know you have done some touring in the past. Is that something you guys are still interested in doing?
Peter: Touring’s too difficult for the long-term, it’s a financial dead-end. Even if you make some money, it’s maybe enough to barely cover expenses.
Noise: What’s coming up short term and down the road?
Peter: I’m working on material for a fifth full-length, but I can only get time to work on it about four hours every two months. And then I feel guilty I’m not doing “real work.” So as long as we’re chatting like California redwoods having tea, we’ll have a fifth record out shortly.
Noise: Where does everyone in the band live? Are you all in the greater Boston area still?
Peter: Yup, all the current band members live in Greater Boston area, but for this 20th anniversary show we’re bringing out a dozen or so ex-members, some coming from as far away Los Angeles, San Fransisco, and Michigan.
Noise: Was one of the guys playing extra keys for Weezer or opening?
Peter: One of our bassists years ago had to leave the band to play for Weezer for a short stint… 1997?
Noise: That’s cool, I never knew that. If touring is scaled down, will you be making more videos to get the band out there?
Peter: Sure, and even in the short term, in the weeks leading up to our 20th anniversary, we’re releasing a series of videos from the archive of live shows, so people can travel through time to see records of the old lineups. Well, it won’t ACTUALLY be time travel.
Noise: Or will it? Check out Count Zero wherever and whenever you can. You will be glad you did.