One hundred sixty shows, two rushed recording sessions, a reunion with an old band, and a Hail Mary shot at a comeback represent the tip of the iceberg of my 20-year journey with Chuck Mosley.
Chuck (Faith No More, Bad Brains, Cement) toured the globe as a vocalist, appeared on magazine covers, rubbed elbows with idols, and through it all remained 100% convinced he didn't deserve your praise. Yet, he desired acceptance more than almost anything else.
A self-proclaimed "junkie and a liar," Chuck shot himself in the foot, over and over, by shooting up elsewhere on his body. Meanwhile, I stumbled and fumbled and pushed and pulled and scraped and cried and begged and borrowed to earn him extra chances to prove himself. We loaded a van with a guitar, a conga, and an unfinished legacy hoping to reintroduce the world to Chuck Mosley.
These excerpts are taken from Reintroducing Chuck Mosley: Life On and Off the Road (Scoutmedia 2019). The first takes place during the two-and-a-half day recording session we had with producer Matt Wallace (Maroon 5, The Replacements) in August of 2017. We recorded seven songs for Chuck's solo record with a bassist that had two practices and four shows with us to learn the material. Having recorded with Chuck before, I knew how slowly he operated, so I was stunned when he took charge.
Recording with Matt WallaceRandy Pirosko, Cris Morgan, and Chuck worked on "Song 2," a mellow tune I had never played on. Chuck didn't ask me not to, but I thought it sounded so full and powerful without percussion the first time I heard it. His lyrics, his guitar playing, and his voice carry the song without distraction.
I sat with Matt (Wallace), eyes closed and listened as they played. The song ends with two or three minutes of spacey, echoing guitars that, no lie, I could listen to for hours and hours without getting enough.
When we played "Song 2" live, it typically got positioned in the middle of our set, a good time for me to grab the guys a beer. Just as hearing "Chip Away" each night the year before, "Song 2" became that moment that made it all worthwhile. When that song hits, the ending has so much life and so many layers.
Matt clicked his mouse a few times, I think labeling or arranging tracks. "Have you ever thought of singing that first verse higher?"
Chuck tried a few versions of the first line. "A simple..." Cough. "A simple look into..." He cleared his throat. Cough. "A simple look into your eyes."
Matt said, "Higher."
"A simple." Chuck nodded. "Maybe."
Matt raised his hands in surrender. "I'm just your consultant, so you can tell me I'm on crack or whatever."
"No. I like it. I'm just still recovering from the drive and worried about my voice holding up."
Chuck Mosley and Matt Wallace in the studio
"Steveland" came next. Chuck still hadn't decided about when he wanted us to join in. He played the song solo a couple times, and we tried various points of entry. When Chuck had finished his guitar and singing track, his phone rang and he went outside. We continued recording, and Matt cued us to when to start.
I recorded my conga in one take. I thought we were still figuring things out, so I didn't pay attention to when I did the three or four different fills that I played live. Not that it really mattered. Nothing I did could affect the structure of the song, as it all followed along with whatever tempo Chuck set.
I don't remember if we ever practiced or played the song with Randy before recording. If we had, it had been when we bombarded him with all the rest of the songs from our set along with another five to ten songs we never played. While recording, Randy winged it, but it became obvious he wasn't sure of himself.
Matt had him record separately. "Someone call out the notes."
Cris stood by Randy as the song played and informed Randy of the changes and what to play.
The studio version stretched, I want to say to 10 minutes or more, with the last seven consisting of an outro repeated over and over. Chuck added a dozen vocal overdubs. Cris played xylophone and some extra guitar tracks. I didn't push for my backing vocals, as Chuck filled in the space and more, giving Matt plenty to choose from.
We listened to the playback.
I bobbed my head. "For a song we've only played live a couple times and that had so many question marks, this sounds pretty damn good."
Chuck asked, "Do you have a keyboard?"
"Can you get, like, a Hammond organ sound?"
Chuck added another layer that, like the rug in Big Lebowski, really tied it all together.
St. Louis false startsAfter playing almost 100 shows in 2016, Chuck and I added two more members, a guitarist and a bassist. Chuck was fresh out of rehab when we set off in June. It was his first time making a serious effort to tour sober, so his nerves grew unchecked as we took the stage. This was on the outskirts of St. Louis, our second show of the year.
Chuck dicked around until Cris and Joshua got antsy. They started playing "Wisdom Comes." I joined in. Chuck started singing along before stopping because he felt we were playing too fast. We were.
Then he noodled around some more until I asked, "So?"
"Sooooo ... Hey, um, hello. Hi. So, is there some intro music?"
"Err, not intro music. What do they call it? You know, when the band comes out onstage and they play, like..." He made some distorted drum-and-bass groove with his mouth.
I used my radio announcer voice and said, "Ladies and gentlemen!"
Cris started playing "Mahna Mahna" - The Muppets song, not the band called Menomena - and Joshua noodled around.
The crowd went from excited to politely paying attention to murmurs to no one watching, aside from Nick.
I saluted. "Thanks, Nick."
"Oh, boy." Chuck searched the crowd. "Um, good evening. My name is Charles Henry Mosley the Third, and, uh, this is Cris. It's only his second time onstage playing guitar."
I piped in. "Usually, he's just dancing."
Chuck said something about it being an audition for Cris and then added, "If you think he's doing all right, just tell me after the show."
The exchange got a few laughs and claps and would've been a great way to start, but Chuck still felt nervous, so he went into a monologue about all our upcoming shows, half of which he had no idea when and where they were.
"I have really bad stage fright. I always have. I'm not making that up."
A guy, sitting on the couch, yelled out, "It's probably Parkinson's."
Chuck took it in stride, strumming his guitar. "No. It's nervousness, I swear to God."
I said, "Chuck, that dude is really big. Don't mess with him."
Though, by the end of the show, I wanted to.
Chuck asked, "Why? Was that bad?"
"No. Just play a song."
This drove me mad. Absolutely crazy. I understand Chuck felt nervous before we played, but he also insisted on beginning with a song he started, usually singing right off the rip. Time and time again I suggested the band start and he joins us so he didn't have the opportunity or the control to hijack the crowd for 10 minutes while waiting to feel ready to play.
Chuck told the crowd he wasn't sure if he needed to pee before we started, but he decided just to start. He sang the first word of "Bella Donna" before stopping and said, "Yeah, and I'm losing my voice. Please forgive me for all of my shortcomings."
He clears his throat. "I'm not doing that for you guys. I'm doing it to clear my throat."
By this point, the din of the crowd is loud as a chunk of the people have tuned us out in favor of talking with the other bar patrons. People are returning to the bar to get their second drink since we've started, and we haven't even played a song yet.
He played the opening note and let it ring out. "Stop shaking inside out," he mumbled to psych himself up. Starting again, he got through the song's first seven words. "Can I just get a little more of myself in the monitor?"
Joshua asked, "More vocals?"
Chuck nodded. "Yeah, vocals. That's what I meant. I think I'm singing loud, but, if you guys can't hear me, just let him know." He pointed to the soundman. Chuck started the song again. "Yesterd..." Stopping again, he said, "And the starting- and-stopping thing will end soon, okay?"
I made a sarcastic coughing noise.
Ignoring me, Chuck started again. "Yesterday morning..." He stopped again. "I promise I won't do it anymore."
"Sorry that thing distracted me."
I rolled my eyes. "Three strikes, Chuck."
This time when he started, Chuck sounded strong. He had confidence. He had emotion. He was vulnerable. Onstage, we fell in line and delivered to a crowd that no longer cared. Their conversations, laughter, clinking drinks, and indoor smoking drowned us out.
As we played, we won some of them back, and the crowd gave us a supportive applause by the time the song reached its first break.
Chuck thanked them and restarted the song but sang the wrong line.
He stopped. "Wait. That's wrong."
We finished the song, and Chuck said, "Thank you." I don't remember anyone clapping aside from Nick. About 19 minutes into the set and we had one song under our belts. Not bad for Mosley work.
November 15, 2019
Reintroducing Chuck Mosley: Life On and Off the Road, is available December 3, 2019 at scoutmediabooksmusic.com
Here's Greg Prato's interview with Mosley from 2016
photos: Douglas Esper (1, 2, 3), Anthony Frisketti (4), Randy Pirosko (5)
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