When I last caught up with Moon Taxi, they were just about to hit a stretch of some free time that would allow them to attend a Prophets of Rage concert in their hometown of Nashville. For those that don’t know Moon Taxi, their shows almost always contain a cover or two of Rage Against the Machine – clearly a major influence on the band from an early age. How good are their covers of RATM? Good enough to fool Rolling Stone, who was walking though Bonnaroo in 2015 and thought it was the real band playing. So, it was a real treat for me to interview a professional musician from the side of a fan.
Tommy Putnam, the bassist for Moon Taxi, called me after finishing a round of 18 holes in Chicago. He was in good spirits despite a minor frustration in going all 18 without a birdie.
So, for the Prophets of Rage show…how many members of Moon Taxi went and where were your seats?
“We were in a box that are booking agency runs. All of us were there. Well, everybody except Wes.”
It’s always the keyboard guy.
“Yea I know. They don’t have any keys in their band so I figured he probably doesn’t dig it.”
I looked at the set list from that Nashville show and it was a nice surprise to see Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys and Matt Shultz of Cage the Elephant came out for the cover of MC5’s “Kick Out the Jams.” Did you know that was going to happen? (video here)
(His left turn clicker fills the pause).
“I didn’t know. I talked to Matt a little while afterwards. He was really excited to do it. Apparently, he’s really good friends with Tom Morello and they had gone out in my neighborhood the night before and I didn’t know about it. I was just sitting at home. I didn’t even think they knew each other or would be going out. If I had known that shit I would have been out with them in a second.”
Did you guys see anything from this show you’d use in future Moon Taxi gigs?
“Not particularly. Rage Against the Machine knows how to play their songs so there’s nothing in there we can really replicate. We’ve been playing them pretty much the exact same way they do. I really did like their stage presence. You can tell that they’re a band that’s played together for a really long time. They know if something is off how to get right back on track. They’re just a really sharp, tight band.”
So, now the $100 question. Did you get the chance to hang with Morello and B-Real after the show?
“I did get to meet and talk to Tom Morello for a little while. And I met Chuck, too. He introduced himself to me, which I thought was really cool. Like I said, I was hanging with Matt, and he introduced me to Tom and we talked about what they did in Nashville the night before. I kind of caught myself realizing that I know a lot more about this guy then he knows about me. When you meet someone you really look up to and you’ve listened to their music your whole life, it’s kind of funny, you feel like you know them really well, but they have no idea who you are so. So, you gotta try and keep your cool and not be like ‘I know this about you.’ I caught myself not doing that stuff. You can come off as a complete dork when you know too much about them, which I do.”
“But Tom was really nice. He was chatting with two of his friends that recently moved to Nashville. And I know everything about Nashville having lived there 13 years – where to go out and eat. So, someone brought over his bottle of Johnny Walker Blue Label and I was like, ‘Is this the top shelf?’ And he replied ‘Yea, do you want some?’ And I said, ‘Yea, but I know how green rooms work, and I don’t want to be that guy drinking your super expensive alcohol. If maybe you poured me a glass I’d feel OK about it, but I can’t just sit here and pour myself stuff.’ So, he poured me a little right there and we shared it, and it was awesome. Super cool guy.”
I saw him play solo at Outside Lands a few years ago and his level of guitar skills is a level over so many people.
“I saw an interview with him a long time ago when I was a kid and he said something along the lines of, ‘It’s not impossible to become someone like Jimi Hendrix or great a soloist with notes.’ What he wanted to do is something outside the box and just think differently. To me, what he did, was he took things that are literally noises, something that might sound like a noise to anybody else, and he makes it musicable. He takes feedback and weird distortion…something that just sounds like noise and then turns it into music, which is really incredible. No one else has done anything like that.”
Is that something Spencer is going to do in shows to step up his game?
“Actually, Trevor takes those solos on, and he does a really good job at it. It’s really hard to do. I don’t know if we’re going to be doing any People of the Sun shows coming up, but if we do them again, I’m sure they’ll figure it out.”
I see a lot of bands where the front man has the crazy skills, voice, and good looks like Trevor…and the business suits peel them off. One band that comes to mind is Maroon 5. Has anyone tried to take Trevor away?
“If they have he hasn’t told me about it. Trevor and I grew up together. We’ve been in a band since we were 14 years old. Before Moon Taxi we were in a band called Apex. We are both very much team players. I would imagine if someone told him he could do his own solo act, he’d be like, “Sorry, I like my band.” I don’t know. You’d have to ask him that, but he understands we’re a team.”
Switching gears to your New Years Eve show this year. You’re opening for Keith Urban in a free concert downtown Nashville. Some die-hard Moon Taxi fans are upset you’re not doing your usual, intimate headline show at War Memorial Auditorium. Have you seen the Facebook comments on your Moon Taxi page?
“I haven’t seen those comments but imagine they’re there, and I apologize to those fans that want another raging New Years experience like we do. We don’t like to do the same thing more than twice if we can help it to keep it fresh. We’ve also played New Years in Nashville seven or eight years in a row. Rather than take a night off this year and come back next year and do something really big like we want to do, we get the best of both worlds where we get to play…this year it’s going to be earlier…and then this year we’ll have our own time. I’m not trying to be selfish but seven years is a long time to do this show in a row. So, I just felt like we’re still gonna play, it’s just not the same exact thing.“
Usually you guys do a lot of covers for New Years show….is that going to change?
“I don’t know if our set is going to be long enough to do the medley and stuff this year. I don’t know what time we’re playing or the details, but if there’s time for it, we’ll get it together and do it. We’re gearing up for a really big 2017. So, if anyone’s upset about a lack of New Years this year, they’re just going to have to wait until next year because we’re going to do it big next year.”
There was only two negative comments and one of them was just “GAY.” A perfect internet troll.
“Clearly, if that’s the derogatory term they’re going to use for us not doing that …(pause)… I’m not going to say anything negative about him. I’m just not going to say it.”
A lot of other people on Facebook replied and crushed the guy for that comment.
“See that’s the thing. Whenever someone says negative about us and I’m really itching to say something back, I never have to because our fans will do it for us.”
Here’s the upcoming schedule for Moon Taxi. Thanks again to Tommy for the time.
27 October 2016 – Music Farm, Columbia, SC, US
28 October 2016 – Jack-o-Lantern Jubilee, North Augusta, SC, US
29 October 2016 – Minglewood Hall, Memphis, TN, US
31 October 2016 – Track 29, Chattanooga, TN, US
03 November 2016 – John Emerald Distilling Company and Red Clay Brewery, Opelika, AL, US
11 November 2016 – The Orange Peel, Asheville, NC, US
12 November 2016 – Lincoln Theatre, Raleigh, NC, US
25 November 2016 – Alabama Theatre, Birmingham, AL, US
01 December 2016 – Aggie Theatre, Fort Collins, CO, US
02 December 2016 – Dual Venue Event, Denver, CO, US
03 December 2016 – Dual Venue Event, Denver, CO, US
31 December 2016 – Jack Daniels Music City Midnight, Nashville, TN