Ask Kill Rock Stars records owner Slim Moon about the dearth of high-quality spoken-word artists and, naturally, he'll bemoan those folks who want to be perceived as poets more than they want to actually learn the craft.
But give him a minute and he'll let you in on a far more intricate
conspiracy theory: Moon said he believes the comedy circuit is sapping the spoken-word talent pool.
"I think the truly talented people who could do spoken word -- because it
is so hard to get any kind of success or audience -- end up being
comedians," said Moon recently by phone from his home in Olympia, Wash.
Moon certainly has learned a thing or two about spoken word himself: In
addition to operating Kill Rock Stars (which began as a spoken-word
venture), he's been a performing spoken-word artist for more than a decade.
"The people who could really do serious art in front of you and keep your
attention would be somebody like Janeane Garafolo or George Carlin," the 30-year-old Moon said. "It's people like that who can get up in front of an audience and command an audience, and do it alone. It's a rare thing."
"Legion of Doom," (RealAudio excerpt) from his recently released album Won't You Dance With This Man?: "I've been so much happier since I joined the Legion of Doom," Moon intones in a voice clearly attuned to its own sound, but utterly average for a supposed super-villain. "Good doesn't really triumph over evil, it just postpones it. In the end, we're always the ones who get to claim the last laugh. Which is the whole point of being a super-villain in the first place -- 'cause of the laughs. You don't know how much fun an evil laugh can be until you've tried it."
Despite the fact that Moon has seen Kill Rock Stars through nearly 100 releases (including seminal punk records by Sleater-Kinney, Bikini Kill and Heavens to Betsy) since founding the label in 1991, this is the first collection of his own work. The label chief said he intended to issue Won't You Dance With This Man? shortly after it was recorded in December 1995, but found himself continually pushing it back.
"Every time it was about to come out there'd be an Unwound record or a
Bikini Kill record," Moon said. "Because I happen to own the record label
that it was going to be coming out on, it was easy for me to tell myself,
'You're not important enough, you can be bumped.' "
Won't You Dance With This Man? includes 20 pieces that Moon created
over the decade preceding its recording. The work ranges from early pieces
wrought with repetition, through what he calls his "fucked up fairy tail"
period (see "Critterville"), on to more recent work such as "Legion of Doom."
"I've never written for print," Moon said. "The more I knew what my voice
was, and my performance style, the more it affected the way I wrote. I
changed some of the way I used repetition, maybe I'm not repeating the same
words, or maybe it's becoming more tonal. Or maybe I'm even letting some
things become so sound-oriented that I flat out know that the audience
isn't going to follow what I'm saying. But I'm hoping that it still works
in a sound way."
Asked why, after investing so much time and energy into releasing some of
the most exciting punk music this decade, he continues to be inspired by
spoken word, Moon bristled. "It's certainly not most of the spoken word
out there that's exciting me, that's for sure.
"But it's the potential of it," he added more seriously. "In terms of
performance, what could be more pure and simple than just one person
talking to an audience, with no music, no props. To do that effectively, I
think that's the toughest kind of performance. [Friday, Dec. 5, 1997, 9 a.m. PST]