INTERVIEW: McKinley Moore on Planet Earth Day, booking shows, & King Kong’s Business!

McKinley Moore is a treasure in our local culture, as easy to talk to as he is engaging, and boss hog at the guitar. You might recognize Moore as the former manager of Lucky Pineapple, an ex-member of The Wrists or Natives, the guy to turn to at Kaiju, or as the guitarist/vocalist in The Pleasure Boys. The Pleasure Boys, who recently suffered tragedy in the loss of member Greg Bryant, blend elements of hip-hop, prog, and noise rock, all as filtered through an indie lens, making them hard to describe. Check it out below, and don’t miss out on Planet Earth Day hosted by Moore and Kaiju this Saturday, which features a pairing of one artist and one episode of the Planet Earth series that includes work by Aaron Rosenblum, Charles Rivera, Dr. Blight, [squarewave], Introvert, and Tony Robot and Atomo. We caught up with Moore to ask about booking, musical legacy, and Tractor Pulls!

Never Nervous: Tell us a little about yourself. What’s your band resume?

McKinley Moore: I grew up in Eastern Kentucky. I ran away as soon as I could and went to a “liberal arts” college and got an art degree. I moved to Louisville and worked as a glass artist for over 10 years. That scene got old and I’ve always enjoyed music more anyway so I’ve slowly been trying to figure out how to make a living by somehow being involved with the thing I like the most. As for bands, I was in Natives and The Wrists and a few random improv things. Now I’m mostly just doing Pleasure Boys.

NN: When you’re trying to flex on someone at a bar, what do you say?

MM: I typically just look at them awkwardly until they go away.

NN: How did you get involved with Kaiju? Is it your main gig or your side hustle?

MM: The guy that was doing the booking and co-managing the bar had enough and told me he was quitting. A friend of mine who worked for the company was tasked with figuring out how to move forward. They were contemplating having it no longer be a venue. I explained the importance of that room to this city’s scene and talked them into giving it another go and letting me do some booking.

I have a fair amount of experience from years back doing stuff when the Zanzabar first opened and having thrown a bunch shows on the roof at Glassworks. And I had a lot of contacts from handling all the management duties for my bands as well as Lucky Pineapple back in the day. I was able to make some deals through the place I work (more on that later) to get the system upgraded significantly without having to drop a pile of cash up front and it made a huge difference. The booking gig definitely started out as a side hustle, but it slowly made its way to an equivalent hustle and now probably occupies the largest chunk of my time and I basically never have time to do anything other than work and play music. Luckily most of it is fun.

“I basically never have time to do anything other than work and play music.”

NN: For that matter, how did Kaiju start?

MM: It is owned by the same woman, Toki Masubuchi, who owns both the Dragon King’s Daughter restaurants. A couple of her employees talked her into it when Lisa’s was closing. One of them was Joe Deaton, whose band Sick Velvet is awesome, btw! I think mostly it was a way for her to get all her employees to go somewhere else to drink after work instead of trying to hang out at the restaurants all night. I could be getting a bunch of this wrong, though as I wasn’t there at the beginning.

NN: What constitutes a good show and why?

MM: Good people on stage and good people in the crowd, and the people on that stage making those people in that audience feel something, anything. It is, in my opinion, easiest to facilitate that if you place as little of a barrier as possible between the performers and the audience. That is one of the reasons why Cropped Out is as close to a perfect music-going experience as you can find in this country.

NN: What advice would you have for anyone booking a show? What are common areas of improvement?

MM: Number one, make sure it sounds good. No one wants to go to a show they know it isn’t going to sound good. Number two, don’t treat local bands as an after-thought. Treat them like they are as important as whatever touring band you have coming through town. Because in actuality they are much more important to the scene than whatever hot blog hyped flavor of the week you might have rolling through.

“Don’t treat local bands as an after-thought.”

NN: Do you know when a show is going to be solid before hand? Is that critical to booking the space, or do you ever roll the die, so to speak?

MM: There are times you know you’ve got a pretty sure thing and there are times that it is a total crapshoot. I feel like I roll the die pretty regularly. I would get very bored if I couldn’t.

NN: What’s the story behind the show this Saturday? Why Planet Earth?

MM: I’ve always been a huge fan of the series. It blows my mind every time I watch it. Every episode has super dramatic elements that lend to live scoring. And you don’t need to understand whats going on when some cheetahs are fucking up an antelope or some dolphins are bro-ing down. Though I do feel some guilt about removing the most badass voice narration in pretty much anything ever. David Attenborough rules.

NN: How did you pick the acts playing the show? In what ways do they represent the episodes that they are paired with, if at all?

MM: I just picked people that I know and trust to be able to effectively pull of something like this. I know them all well both as people and musicians and have seen what they are capable of doing. For the most part who would do what episode just kind of fell into place with people doing what they felt comfortable with. Other than Tony Robot/Atomo, I knew when I had the idea for the event that I wanted to try to get them to do the Cities episode. It seemed too perfect and they agreed pretty much immediately. Also I’m very excited because I will be participating in one as Dr Blight with some of my favorite musical soul-brethren (Jason Rubino, Nic Layman and Lacey Guthrie)

NN: I understand that this is an Earth Day celebration, but is it in any way a response to Thunder Over Louisville, an event which is ultimately destructive to the environment and that unabashedly celebrates military might?

MM: 100% yes. It has always amazed me how often this event falls on Earth Day and how no one really questions it at all. Local organizations literally have Earth Day celebrations on a day other than Earth Day, because the whole city is losing its shit over stuff blowing up and falling into the river. And I’m not even pretending that I don’t enjoy getting drunk and watching some things blow up. It just seems like a thing where there should be some more awareness. An none of the weirdos that wanna see this wanna be down in that whole mess anyway.

“Local organizations literally have Earth Day celebrations on a day other than Earth Day, because the whole city is losing its shit over stuff blowing up and falling into the river. And I’m not even pretending that I don’t enjoy getting drunk and watching some things blow up.”

NN: I understand the event is free, because of Music Go Round. What does that mean and how did they come to be involved?

MM: Back to the earlier question. That is the other place I work. They have helped me get the new equipment in the bar and they occasionally help us out by sponsoring rad events. Basically they throw the bar some store credit to use for whatever gear we end up needing next and we pay that amount out to the performers. It’s a win for everybody.

NN: Switching gears, where are The Pleasure Boys at nowadays? What can you tell us about the decision to move forward after losing Greg?

MM: Heavy turn. Pleasure Boys are currently working on our second record and not really planning on playing again until Poorcastle. Moving forward without Greg was a very hard decision. We were already on the poster for Cropped Out so I knew I had to get something together for that. He was looking forward to it so much. We were a 3 piece and I knew I had to keep playing with Tim and I asked Nic Layman to join us because he was also a good friend of Greg’s. He’s a sonic warrior and now a soul brother.

The rest of it just kind of came together. Phil Farmer, who was in one of my fav bands around, Teal Grapefruit, was, for some reason, down to drive to town from like an hour and half away once a week to play with us. Lacey Guthrie had already been working on music with us and ended up really being there for me through that very difficult time. (She’s a busy lady so she can’t make it to every show, but she has a spot anytime she’s around) Charles Rivera is a jazz guitar virtuoso who had just moved back to town and is good friends with Nic. I knew I didn’t want to try to bring in an organ player to do anything like what Greg was doing, but I had to keep some jazz weirdness in the mix.

The first time everybody showed up it was magic. The plan was to play the Cropped Out set and then come up with a new name. But his mom came to Cropped Out and saw us and it was very special. She told me not to worry about not changing the name. And thinking about it, I can only imagine how bummed out he would be if we didn’t keep going on and keep making music. It was the only thing he really cared to do with his life and I know he wouldn’t have wanted us to stop. And, to be completely honest, I don’t know how I would’ve dealt with it all if I hadn’t jumped back into making music as quick as possible

NN: Has your writing changed with the new lineup? Do you ever write with Greg in mind, either a riff you think he would’ve liked, or in tribute?

MM: I feel like he is always there in the room with us. There are times in practice when we just get on some crazy shit and it feels very strange to not look up after we’re finished and see him flipping off an imaginary audience whose mind he knew we would’ve just blown if they had been there. I’m 100% sure he is into the music we are making.

NN: When should we expect a new release? What’s on the horizon for the band?

MM: I’m hoping to have this record finished by the fall. We might try to drop a single before then. Before now every record I have made has been one of those things where we know the songs so we go to the studio and bang them out and thats that. We’ve got two songs finished on this next one and I think I’ve already put more work into it than just about anything I have ever done.

NN: Let’s talk about how Gorilla junk works. So King Kong is naked, right. Why can’t you see his business? I haven’t seen the movie, but he’s like 200 feet tall; you think it’d be the first thing that you’d notice.

MM: Ah, this is more what I was expecting from this interview! King King is a monster. To bring things back around, if we’re being technical, he is considered a kaiju. But whatever, I’m just saying that he’s not a standard gorilla, but a sci-fi monster. Sci-fi monsters don’t have sex organs. They are all asexual beings that just exist to fuck stuff up. They don’t have time for sexual conquest.

“Sci-fi monsters don’t have sex organs. They are all asexual beings that just exist to fuck stuff up.”

NN: What are your thoughts on Tractor Pulls?

MM: I associate them with disappointment. My friend Savannah got me to go to her hometown county fair some years back. Getting me to agree to go to a rural county fair was quite the feat considering my roots, but I was promised chicken and dumplings and a demolition derby, which I had never seen and always wanted to see. I got the chicken and dumplings but the demolition derby turned out to be a tractor pull… I’m not still mad about it, though, I promise.

NN: What non-musical things have you stoked lately? Have you read, watched, eaten, or drank anything worth talking about?

MM: There are a couple beers I’ve been loving lately, like Mr. Candy King from Brewski and Central State’s Lazer Raptor. Casey at Kaiju consistently keeps one of the best beer lists in town! Logan was the coolest comic book movie I’ve watched in a long time. I can’t wait for The Last Jedi, but I’m hoping it does more for me than The Force Awakens. Also I like food. I’ve eaten Eiderdown’s new-ish chicken wings like once a week since they opened. New Wave Burritos rules. There is a kinda weird counter service Cuban place in the old Sonic on Bardstown Road. Everyone should go eat that. It is amazing.

Picture credit: William Benton