Moonalice Interview: Music Technology and Art Discussion with Roger McNamee
Moonalice continues their 2014 East Coast Tour this week. The band will be performing concerts in Connecticut and New York. I urge you if you are in the vicinity of any of these events to come out and see Moonalice perform live.
I had a 75-minute Web discussion with Roger McNamee last week. I am providing “teaser” highlights of the interview that further explains Moonalice’s command of music technology. The next intent is to publish the “entire interview” along with the Moonalice Infinity Music Hall July 31st concert review at the end of the week.
It was my sincere hope that Roger McNamee and I would mesh as music technologists and rock music poster fans. When you read the interview Q&A I’m proud to say that goal was met. Roger is an affable person who openly shared his love for music, people, society and art throughout our conversation.
Question 1: Does Moonalice plan to make recordings available in high-resolution audio for Neil Young‘s PonoMusic?
Roger: It’s a great question. When we did our first album, Moonalice with T Bone Burnett the answer was an emphatic Yes! We recorded it on an optimized audio DVD with the music in high-resolution stereo 24/96 WAV. The expectation was that you had a mega DVD which had images that went by while you were listening to it, etc. As it turned out T Bone Burnett was nominated for a Grammy as Producer of the Year for our album and T Bone Burnett’s recording. His pioneering work with packaging, high-resolution and high-end masters gained him that recognition. (The album was produced using XOΔE (CODE), a high fidelity audio standard and optimization system created by Producer Burnett.)
We’re very focused on high-definition video, 1080p and we embed the audio into the video so the high-resolution audio is there. When we got started T Bone, Bono and I were working on a project designed to help artists in a very meaningful way. The first album started us on this commitment with what I knew about technology and anything that came along to see what we could do with it. This notion where we can produce live concert videos at 10% of normal cost was really exciting, the math starts to be pretty interesting.
Can I just tip my hat to you? You are the first person to ask me about high-definition audio and its significance in at least five years.
Questions 2: What is the next technological achievement that you seek to achieve with Moonalice?
We’re more likely to do vinyl before we do another experiment in high-resolution audio. Within our fan base there is a really serious market for vinyl. I believe oddly enough a larger percentage of our fans would be interested in ultra high-definition audio if we could figure out how to deliver it. (We discussed Neil Young and PonoMusic at length which I will include in the full Web audio interview.)
Question 3: I wanted to ask if you would give more information about the Haight Street Art Center?
We created the Haight Street Art Center, okay. The reason you can’t find any information about it is because we haven’t said anything. But I’m really happy to talk about it. The original notion is that I am somebody who has always loved studio art. I always loved poster art from the first time I saw it in the sixties. When I moved to San Francisco in the seventies I had no money at all. But posters weren’t expensive in those days you could get one for $15, a first printing was $25, I could afford that.
T Bone told us we should be part of the San Francisco psychedelic roots ethos. I suggested we should be doing rock poster art. I spoke with Chris Shaw, a natural leader with great organizational skills about how can we create posters for the band. Chris then helped us produce a poster for every show, 100 posters a year and we’re up to 735 different posters now. Wow!
We’ve now had 24 posters artists do posters for us, at least half get 50-100% of their income from that poster art. The problem became how do we get their poster art to be appreciated as fine art and put them in a position to make fine art.
What I realized is that we had to move from doing mass volume posters in offset printing to make great screen art and lithographs. What really came together was that we needed a museum, promotional infrastructure and printing capabilities. The Haight Street Art Center becomes that reality. (There is more to this benevolent art story which I will share later this week.)