Guy Heller (Moistboyz) - 2016 Interview

An interview with Guy Heller of Moistboyz

An interview with Guy Heller of Moistboyz

The wiry, extroverted Guy Heller, frontman for disbanded False Front and active Moistboyz, brings a colorful, confrontational, unapologetic voice to hard rock and punk, a voice often espoused in lesser-known music genres.

Heller, a veteran in rock circles with a career stretching back into the early 1990s, had his first interactions with music at the behest and encouragement of his late father. After honing his voice in his father's garage, he got his first real immersion to the music industry through False Front, who shared living (and partying) space with Aaron Freeman of Ween.

False Front released two albums, "Criminal Kind" and "Dude", before disbanding. Moistboyz has released five albums, "I" through "V", one live album "Live Jihad", and a handful of vinyl singles. Quality over quantity has prevailed: the latest release Heller appeared on was Moistboyz' "Paperboy", a double A side 7" single released for Record Store Day in 2013.

Heller's lyrics force listeners to think: to confront and affirm or adjust their belief systems. Mixing the charged politico bent of old school hardcore punk, the pointed (and often deliberately offensive, to great effect) barbs of "gangsta rap", and the grit and grime of rock and roll, he has found his niche.

Outspoken, Heller delights in confrontation of conformity, 'safe' convention, and social injustice. He shares his uncommon views of good versus bad rock and roll, individual liberty, quality and "danger" in music, as well as discussing many aspects of his musical upbringing and life.

How did you get started with music?
My father was a criminal, a dope runner. He was a hedonist, and sharp as a pin. He knew I had a big mouth. He said it was a detriment to my future. He suggested I start a band, and gave me the garage. "Put your big mouth to some good use", he said.

Did your family support your music?
My dad was good to me, and he turned me onto all the cool s**t on the turntable at home. My home was different than the other kids had in the seventies and early eighties. My father was rock and roll incarnate: handsome, good with the ladies, stoned, rode motorcycles, drove fast, and lived hard. He was murdered in 1995.

Scene-wise, in the beginning, was Moistboyz a 'Jersey band' or 'PA [Pennsylvania] band'?
Well, I was born in Trenton, NJ, and went to grade school near there. New Hope was where the action was for a while. When I was a boy, the Jersey side was where you found hard-working poor families, and New Hope was where you found privileged kids who had time to smoke pot and hang out. There were record stores, head shops, etc. I shared myself with both. Jersey had more hardcore s**t, and New Hope were the (so-called) hippie faction. But I spent most of my life in New Mexico and Texas.

What was your ‘scene’ like in the early Moistboyz days?
We had "City Gardens" in Trenton, NJ. False Front and the Moistboyz were lucky enough to be a part of that. I got to own the opening slot for a lot of great bands. Opening for FEAR with False Front was a real treat in 1990.

Does that matter as much nowadays?
I suppose there are some here who still care, but not very many. Europe owns the enthusiasm now, I hear. The United States were the mother and father of rock and roll, but like many other things, we pissed it away. Not me though.

Do you have to put more concerted effort into 'tapping into the muse' nowadays, or is it as easy as at the beginning?
Not at all. Michael [Melchiondo] and I have a well-greased machine. Like a quarterback and a wide receiver in grid-iron football.

How has your approach to music changed through time, if at all?
The only difference is that in the beginning we recorded at 7:30 am, after consuming strong espresso. As time passed, it changed to getting high, drinking hard liquor, and smoking cigarettes at all hours.

Mickey [Melchiondo] has previously said it’s an 'impulsive' process, is that how you’d describe it too?
Nothing is planned. It’s just the two of us in the recording process, so there are less egos and opinions on how it gets done. We do everything with conviction. You have to chew your way through a brick wall, and come out the other side covered in lime and chalk, and look good doing it.

Conventional wisdom says, don’t rant, and never insult your fans. How well does that sit with you?
Rock used to be produced for kids. The convention comes from the long and enduring time period in which rock existed. Fifty years strong it lasted. But the audiences in any shape or form grew older. As fans grew older, the aspect of adult opinion about its relevance crept in. Adults have children, and work jobs, and become afraid of real steel. The marketing directors changed it and decided that danger was not good for children, and realized that they could sell shi**y safe rock to older people.

Pete Townshend once said "rock and roll is pure Shepherd's Bush entertainment, and if you steer clear of quality, you’re doing alright." I agree, but one could argue this, because I’ve seen a lot of quality in rock, but this quality is based on a razor’s edge of danger and chance. Light-hearted hedonism is a joke.

Where do you sit with defying, or questioning, conventions like this?
So many different types of "rock" music were invented for collecting revenue from chickens**t people who felt safe with [bands like] Boston or REO Speedwagon. Easy to digest lyrics, spiced with electric guitars, to tickle the halcyon days of their youth. Pure bulls**t. I remember I could smoke and drink at an all-ages show, and the kids loved it. It got them off. Nobody cared. Now you can’t even smoke in front of grown men and women. I do it anyway just to get kicked out and reprimanded. F**k 'em all.

What makes you angry? ...Because that attitude is very "punk": that unavoidable, in-your-face, hypercritical, rebellious streak.
Injustice makes me angry, and apathy. The abdication of personal freedom, choice and self government. Shi**y rock and roll.

Some of Moistboyz' lyrics are great. They’re humorous, provocative, and equal-opportunity insulting. With gangsta rap and hip-hop taking over from where rock once was, has offensiveness lost its impact?
"Offensiveness" is based on pure social parody and sarcasm, and sometimes a way to punch the face of a dictator trying to tell me how to live and what to think. I spent eight years listening to Public Enemy, The Ghetto Boys, Da Lynch Mob, NWA, Ice-T, etc. Michael and I ate this s**t up.

These groups were pure American poets. They articulated what I knew at home. Most white folks didn’t live the way I did. They listened to rap for its power, and its "blackness". They were Americans to me, good strong American poets and writers, who kicked out some of the best f**king jams I ever heard. Moistboyz, at times, are just like that. I don’t know if what I or we do matches up to that level, but we certainly try.

The 'politically correct' crowd would try to paint your "Good Morning America" as hate speech, if they thought it profitable. Provocation can still be used and said in song, because at some point, some (self-appointed?) cultural arbiter says "that’s art", and therefore sacred and untouchable.
Few examine lyrics. "Good Morning America" was written about the O. J. Simpson trial, and the racial focus on it. It was my parody of political correctness. It was a negative critique of media, and the racist cops involved. That trial took two years, and flooded the media while the Clintons were hiding their own crimes of cocaine and dope payola to help Bush fund his foreign wars. Japanese judge... white prosecutor, black defense, etc. The term "race card" came from that f**ked up trial.

Would you 'take back' any times in your past?
No, I stomp on Terra. I’m a roofer. I’ve done a lot of dope, had great sex, and kicked out my jams with the best of them. I have just begun to reach my prime, thank God.

I’m not saying demystify all your music. Could you provide any insight into Moistboyz songcraft, though?
Michael writes 99.9% of the music, and I write 99.9% of the lyrics. We never bring any (finished) ideas to the studio. Mick asks for a concept. I give it to him. Then he begins to record tracks, and I write the lyrics as he records the tracks. Then he records me, and it’s done.

What angers you about today’s music? Something's got to be keeping you in the music game, crafting tunes that aren’t the same as everyone else's.
Whining men piss me off. Any man who abdicates his natural ruggedness should stay away from rock, especially. I don’t mean tough-guys. I mean having your balls screwed on, and standing up against being told what to do in a goddamn bar, or on a stage. My mommy and daddy are dead, and I don’t need new ones. Modern rock, especially, is saturated with these f**king whiners and cause-heads. F**k 'em all. I stay in the game to remind them that freedom is chosen. Take a good look boys and girls; I never retire.

Your tunes seem tailor-made for the bars, smaller clubs and stages, and standing room only audiences. There’s an intensity to it. Would it lose its luster if you guys became a rock sensation ‘overnight’?
Moistboyz could rock 50,000 people, or 500. I’ll take both. I’ve never played for more than say... 4000? But when we did it was awesome. We got the chance to open for Queens of the Stone Age in Portland a year or two back. We had their original bassist, the legendary Nick Oliveri. It was bad-ass! We hunkered our gear on that stage tight to the center like we were in a club, and we slaughtered those f**kers at the Keller Auditorium. Then Queens asked Nick to do a tune with them. It was the first time he’d been onstage with his old band in ten years. What a great night.

Do you save unreleased songs to put them out at a future date, or do you work completely from scratch for every new studio venture?
We work from scratch every time. We’ve toyed with the idea of including older tracks that were not of a certain sonic theme for a previous, and/or particular record, but we never did.

Is anyone immune to insult, criticism, or roasting in song?
I could never roast my heroes. Other than that, no one is immune. I roast myself mostly. The looking glass is where one’s sense of humor begins. If you just pick on other people, you’re just an asshole.

What’s in the cards for the Moistboyz’ future - do you guys have any shows or one-offs planned and ‘public’ for fans to anticipate?
I suppose that's really up to Ween, isn't it? Playing it by ear, my dear.

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