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UnderCover Presents to showcase Sly and the Family Stone's Stand! - part two

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Interview with David Möschler, Music Director for UnderCover Presents' Sly and the Family Stone tribute.

Wendy:

It was your decision to go with Sly and the Family Stone's Stand! for this UnderCover Presents. Why did you choose that album in particular?

David:

Once we had settled on the artist, the job of the guest music director is, in my mind, to choose the right album and the right artists. Everything after that is just a piece of cake if you do [that] job right. I wanted an album that is not only iconic and inspirational, so that I could find artists that were also inspired, but something that represented the band at the peak of their powers. I've [listened to] Sly and the Family Stone since I was a really young man growing up in North Carolina, listening to my parents LPs. It was at the crux of the time when they were being so innovative, with their music and with what they stood for as artists and as people - the fact that they were one of the first multi-gendered, multi-racial and one of the most successful in the country and the world. Stand! represents that to a T. It also was the album that Sly was at the height of his creative powers with composition, [in the] studio, and as a band leader. They went on to do amazing other things, but for UnderCover purposes it just fit the bill perfectly.

Wendy:

As Music Director, you're also in charge of selecting the bands. I understand that part of why you selected these bands in particular was because they all have a family vibe to them, and also because of the diversity that this mix of artists provides. Are these all bands that you've worked with in the past?

David:

No, actually they represent quite the gamut. Part of the whole idea of UnderCover is to push people outside of their comfort zone a little bit and expose them to a lot of new things. That goes for the guest music director and musicians just as much as the audience. About a third of the bands I have worked with before or I have been following them for a long time. Another third of the bands I have been aware of, and three of the bands I had never even heard of until Lyz [Luke] and Yosh! [of Faultline Studios] had introduced them to me. As soon as I heard their sound and saw what they were about and read what they were about, I just knew - it was love at first sight.

Because we have a different band for every song we definitely want it to be all different genres, and so diversity is absolutely key, which goes hand in hand with Sly's music, the way that they do music together, and the different people that they appeal to.

Wendy:

It fits hand in hand with Sly Stone, UnderCover Presents, and also with the city of San Francisco.

David:

Absolutely. UnderCover Presents is about community and bringing people together, different artists together, celebrating the wealth of musical talent and diversity in our community. I didn't just want bands that represented San Francisco; I wanted an album that represented San Francisco and the Bay Area also.

Wendy:

And it's a fitting weekend - MLK weekend.

David:

Exactly. That was a bit of a coincidence but a very happy coincidence, because Sly's music was so much a part of the civil rights movement and has continued to be, and represented this call to action, and nonviolent protest especially.

Wendy:

The bands themselves do the arrangements for their songs and stay true to their style for those songs and that's highly encouraged, but are there any guidelines that you, as the music director, put forward for this performance of Stand!?

David:

Yes. There's one. My main job, aside from hiring the right bands, was really to give them one piece of musical direction which was, make the song sound just as much like your band as it does like Sly's. That balance is difficult to achieve depending on the song itself or the artist, but I was very happy with the results - over the moon in fact.

Wendy:

It seems like logistically it could be a bit of a challenge to pull together in terms of the set changeovers. How are you guys gonna handle that? Do you have a DJ between sets?

David:

We do. It is definitely a challenge, that is the understatement of the century, but we have a really amazing co-producer - Yosh!, who is in charge of set changes and running sound and all the technical elements there. They've got it pretty much down t a T; they run a pretty tight ship with their schedule, with their soundcheck. DJ Dizzy Victola plays songs in between sets, not only of other [reimaginings] of Sly's songs and Sly influenced songs, but also songs by the artist that we just heard. We also have Mike Tahani who does visual projections in between as well - again Sly influenced images and images of the civil rights movement of the era.

Wendy:

Aside from being the guest music director for the show, your own project - Awesöme Orchestra Collective is performing a number from Stand!. That's an interesting idea that you had where it's for lovers of orchestral music who come together in a different space each time, and I understand that there are no rules and regulations other than proficiency and a love of orchestral music. What musicians sometimes don't like about the classical music scene - not to say your work is always classical, but sometimes with music other than rock and roll or close to, is that they feel it's a stuffier environment. This does away with that aspect of things.

David:

You nailed it. I started this group last year in the early spring for those exact reasons. I worked as a musical director in theater for a long time; my training was in orchestral music, and yet I grew up playing in rock bands, in funk bands and cover bands; I was in a Spinal Tap cover band in high school. I love playing orchestral music with other musicians at a high level; I also love social interaction in an actual band that has a democratic process, was relaxed, was more engaging with the audience. I moved to the Bay Area and quickly got to know hundreds of musicians that played mostly for theater projects of my own. I had, every now and then, a few other rogue or renegade projects that came up - sort of flash mob type things that required an orchestra. I had no problem putting together a 50-piece orchestra to come together and play for fun. The seed was planted. I know lots of players that play well and that are good people and I have lots of friends with warehouses and other open spaces where we can rehearse and I have tons of music that we can read. So I started the group and it's slowly been evolving and changing with the core mission of people coming together to play music for free in an accessible way to both the audience and to each other. Most classical music is music from a bunch of dead white guys. I wanted music from female composers, from people of color, from the LGBTQ community - music that was crossing boundaries and genres. The main criteria for the events that we go for is making sure that we're going on an adventure 'cause that's what musicians want; that's what we all want whether that's the music they play, how they play it, where they play it. And that's what this group is about. So for Sly and the Family Stone, they're gonna be not just performing live music, but we're gonna be performing at The Independent, from memory, up there dancing - 50 people onstage directly in front of the audience engaging with them. It's more accessible for the audience, themselves, and it's a perfect kind of project that we wanna be involved in.

Wendy:

You've been working with an arranger on Awesöme Orchestra's song that night, Stand! Who are you working with?

David:

His name is Brian Adam McCune and he's a professional composer and arranger, and one of the best arrangers I've ever worked with - absolutely. I knew I wanted him right away for this project. He's been very involved with the formation of Awesöme Orchestra - he's a master orchestrator and has one of the best set of ears of any musician that I've ever met. I was a lttle bit more involved with choosing the song and choosing the size of the orchestra, but the actual arrangement and music - that is his magic. He's a little wizard. I owe a huge amount of credit to him and he's also one of my favorite people in the world. Again, it's been a total dream job to work on this show and I'm so glad he could do it.

UnderCover Presents features Sly and the Family Stone's Stand! on January 17th, 18, and 19th at The Independent. Doors at 7:30

For more information please visit:

www.undercoverpresents.com

www.theindependentsf.com

www.awesomorchestra.org

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