Over the top // Daniel GREENE / MOUNTAIN MOVERS

Interview en V.O (2021)
          A few weeks after the release of World What World, the 8th album of The MOUNTAIN MOVERS, we interviewed the head of the New Haven band, Daniel GREENE.


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"Trading tapes, looking out for shows, reading zines"

Do you remember your first musical feelings ? Where did they come from ? More generally, what are your main sources of influence ?

     I grew up with a bunch of older brothers and sisters who were always playing records in the living room. My oldest brother used to play guitar with his rock band in our house in the mid-70’s. I sat on the floor and watched their practices. I loved how loud the music felt up close.

When did you realize you wanted to be a musician? What was your defining moment (if there ever was one) ?

     I started trading tapes, looking out for shows, reading zines, ordering VHS tapes, and checking out the underground scene when I was 14. But it wasn’t really until I sat on the stage at a club in Providence a few years later watching The FEELIES on their Good Earth tour that I said to myself, “I would like to be in a band like this”.

Do you remember the first song that you wrote ? What was it like?​ ​​​​​​

     Not sure exactly what the first song was, but I was trying to write songs with one word titles like Wild, Serious, and Shame in reaction to so many bands at that time having super long, annoying song titles.

Were The BUTTERFLIES OF LOVE your first band ? Looking at the band's bio, it seems that most of the band members were not originally musicians. Do you think that it shaped the band's music?

     Yes, I’ve really only had two bands : The BUTTERLIES and the MOVERS. Jeffrey GREENE (no relation) and I started playing and writing songs together in New Haven in 1992. We were definitely not musicians. Around 1996, that expanded into our 5 piece line-up with me and Jeffrey on guitars and vocals, Scott AMORE on keys, Pete WHITNEY on bass, and Neil O’BRIEN on drums. In the end, we managed  to surround ourselves with musicians.

How did you get to work with indie legend Mark MULCAHY ? What did you learn from this collaboration ?

     Mark was touring all the time with MIRACLE LEGION in the early 90’s and I would see them when they came back to town. We met after a gig one night in 1994 and have remained close friends ever since. He was the drummer on our first record, and he added lots of background vocals and ideas to other releases.I learned a lot from Mark about show biz, gigging, songwriting, and ideas for recordings.

mmovers_spirale_500.jpg, by Bingo

"Went out on top"

Your single Rob a bank was praised by John PEEL which led you to record a Peel Session in 1999. What was the experience like ? More generally, how do you explain the band's success in England ?

     Jeffrey wrote and sang Rob a bank and it became a hit. John PEEL played the single a bunch, and soon after we were signed to Fortuna Pop!, an indie label out of London run by Sean PRICE. We had done a lot of BBC sessions, but the Peel Session was such an amazing experience. We developed a consistent/curious audience in the UK by touring there between 1998-2007. I think we caught on in the UK because, while other bands seemed so minimal and polished, we were always stumbling around, falling apart.

You played reunion gigs in 2017 in CT and London, do you have more plans for the future ?

     Our last gig ever was at Islington Assembly Hall in London in 2017, a decade after we stopped playing together. It was a perfect way to end the band. Went out on top.

How did you get to know Rick and what made you decide to form The MOUNTAIN MOVERS ?

     Rick OMONTE and I became friends in New Haven through the music scene. We started the MOVERS together in the mid-2000’s. Initially, we played with different local musicians, all people we love, including our current studio engineer/magician John MILLER. We started playing with Kryssi BATTALENE (HEADROOM / MASAMI KAWAGUCHI / COLORGUARD) in 2011, and soon after, Ross MENZE (HEADROOM / ESTROGEN HIGHS  IRON HAND) joined too. Our permanent line-up was set.

The MOUNTAIN MOVERS are often portrayed as the godfathers of the New Haven scene. Do you feel like there is one ? Except for you, HEADROOM and Stefan CHRISTENSEN, not many local bands get known internationally. Are there any that we really should be listening to ?

     There have always been cool music scenes throughout New Haven history. This is just another one. Locally today, you should check out any music by David SHAPIRO (ALEXANDER, CENTER,  or CT legend Kath BLOOM). Also, projects that involve New Haven musicians Ian McCOLM, Zach ROWDEN, and Henry BIRDSEY.

There seems to be a lot of collaborations between the aforementioned artists, is it something that you need to draw inspiration from ?

     Yes ! We love playing music all the time, and playing with people you love is easy. Everyone is so different and thinks and plays so differently, it’s interesting to see how different combinations can produce such different work.  Sometimes we all get together and play as LOOSE TRUCKS or The DIRT PILE FAMILY BAND and just have fun.

mmovers_draps_500.jpg, by Bingo

"As dynamic as possible"

Your Car Crash Avoiders label has been dormant for quite a few years, do you plan on bringing it back to life ? You released two MOUNTAIN MOVERS albums through it at the beginnings of the band, before focusing only on 7's. Were there any differences in the recordings of those albums compared to those that were released by other labels ?

     Rick OMONTE and I made up the record label to get some releases out, and I guess we could always revive it, but right now it feels good to work with other labels. But we released some cool cassettes and lathe cuts and 7”s and lps. It might come back around in the future.

How did you get to know Kryssi BATTALENE ? Was her guitar playing as abrasive as it is today when you first heard her play ?

     The first time I saw Kryssi was playing was at a noise gig in Heaven People. No guitar. Then I got to know Kryssi and Stefan CHRISTENSEN at the same time because they ran a DIY spot in town called Popeye’s Garage where many cool bands came through town. She was also doing a solo noise project called COLORGUARD. No guitar. The first time I saw Kryssi play guitar was with the brilliant CT band MEDICATION. When we asked her to join the MOVERS, we didn’t know what a magical guitar player she was, but her lead style quickly transformed our band for the better. We just love her sound.

Even though Kryssi first appeared on Death Magic, I'm under the impression that your self titled record was the one that marked the new MOUNTAIN MOVERS identity as it is way more abrasive and psychedelic than the previous ones. Did you feel a shift during those recording sessions ?

     The shift happened a year before that record. We spent 2016 jamming without plans at practice instead of working on songs. We jammed so much, we said we should just do some of this live in the studio. Our s/t record became a mix of songs and free jams.

This album was the first that you did with Trouble In Mind, which is a marriage that makes a lot of sense from the outside. How do you operate with them?  Which other bands on the label (or even outside) do you feel the closest too ?

     Bill and Lisa ROE who run Trouble in Mind out of Chicago have become our friends. They do a great job running the label, but we connect on so many other levels. The label has such a varied roster and we’ve been fortunate to play with many of their bands. The other two New Haven bands on the label ESTROGEN HIGHS and HEADROOM are family. HEADROOM has a lot of different releases with other labels internationally. They are also my favorite live band in the world to watch. Also, the David NANCE GROUP out of Omaha, Nebraska is on the label, and they are family too.

The last two albums heavily underline the contrast between very quiet and supersonic moments. Do you feel like either could take over or do you really need this ambivalence to function ?

     We want the band to be as dynamic as possible.

mmovers_chats_500.jpg, by Bingo

"Writing, art and music"

You are the band's songwriter, but how important is improvisation in the recording process ? On the new record, a song like Final sunset starts in the middle of a jam : was there a lot of editing done ?

     Sometimes we jam for 14 minutes and use all of it, and sometimes we jam for 7 minutes and use 5 of it. We just agree on a starting and end point after we hear the whole thing.

There are only two songs that go over the 5 minutes mark on World What World, which feels more like an early MOUNTAIN MOVERS tracklist. Was this a conscious decision to be more efficient ? I have a feeling that Flock of swans could easily become twice as long when played onstage (and honestly, so it should).

     Not a conscious decision. We just see how all the tracks fit together. I’m sure many of the jams at the end of songs, like Flock of swans, went on a lot longer than how it ended up on the record.

Having seen you live at Union Pool a few years ago, what struck me the most was the way you had this huuuuuuge sound crashing on the audience like a gigantic wave, which reminded me of BARDO POND and live Neil YOUNG & CRAZY HORSE a lot. Do you also have a sense of immersing yourselves in the music and getting lost when onstage ?

     We definitely wrap ourselves in sound. Personally, I get lost on stage when we’re playing and I get carried away by the music, but I’m also listening to what Rick, Ross, and Kryssi are playing while I’m drifting away.

It is quite hard not to see World What World as a lockdown record. I feel like the first half of the album is yearning for some sort of fantasy-like world before the second part is a violent check back to reality. Flock of swans is actually quite explicit on the subject. Was the entire album written after covid19 struck ? How has the pandemic influenced your way of doing things since ?

     The songs were written in 2018, two years before Covid. We recorded World What World in 2019. I have no ability to see the future haha !  Once the pandemic hit, I think we thought as a band, “We have no gigs to play, and we finished World What World. No pressures or responsibilities. Let’s just play different instruments, do whatever we want, and spin free”. Once we were all vaccinated, we began to make music that was completely new to us.

There are two very distinct ways of understanding the record's title : one as in we are living in a world that will never cease to amaze/surprise us and another one that is way bleaker and would suggest that it's almost a gone entity. Would you consider yourself as a half glass full or half glass empty type of person ?

     World What World was originally a song we recorded as a 7” in 2013. The first lyric was “What does everybody see in all of this ?”.  Definitely bleak.

Your artwork has accompanied the band from its beginnings. Did you start doing drawings, paintings and collages before you played music ? It can't be denied that both are quite intrinsically intertwined. Is there one form that influences the other more or do they just come from the same source in the end?

     Writing, art and music all come from the same source. They are all connected.

mmovers_yo_la_tengo_500.jpg, by Bingo

"Super excited. Back in the 90’s ! "

You are to play with YO LA TENGO on September 1st in New York, which sounds like an amazing bill. How do you feel about finally being able to go back on stage and do your thing ? Which feeling is prevailing right now : excitement or anxiety ?

     Excited ! YO LA TENGO continues to make music they love without regrets. They’re also a dynamite live band. Super excited. Back in the 90’s ! I saw some cool bands play Central Park (NYC) in the summer. Now we get our chance. Life is full of surprises.

Interview by Eric F. 

(september 15, 2021)

MOUNTAIN MOVERS – World What World (Trouble In Mind Records, 2021)
mmovers_wwwpochette_500.jpg, by Bingo


Go further...



In our written archives :
What a wonderful world ! , World What World's review par Eric F. (03/09/2021)
Rencontre au sommet, this interview in French version.

All artwork (c) Dan GREENE // Photos : Eric F.

mmoverschat_500.jpg, by Bingo
mmoverstour2.jpg, by Bingo