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Locals Only: : Dawn of the 'Deaf'

Enduring the highs and lows of major label life, Moth returns to the basics with Drop Deaf

By Sean Rhiney · January 7th, 2004 · Locals Only
Matt Borgerding


One year after being released from their contract with Virgin Records and almost two years after their major label debut, Provisions, Fiction & Gear, Cincinnati-based Moth is unveiling their first independent release in over four years on Saturday at Bogart's. The self-produced Drop Deaf was completed in record time last year. And for Moth's principals, guitarists Brad Stenz and Bob Gayol, it couldn't come a moment too soon.

By way of history, Moth's major label debut was a year in the making, but four years in the waiting. Recorded multiple times for their production company and label, the disc finally saw the light of day in 2002. That's a long wait considering the first (relative) hit single, "I See Sound," had been around in one form or another since 1997.

But it was the waiting that sowed the seeds for Drop Deaf. Initial ideas for songs came during daily band rehearsals. While preparing for a tour with drummer Atom Willard (Rocket From the Crypt) and bassist Ted Liscinski (Hedwig and the Angry Inch), Gayol videotaped rehearsals and catalogued a number of possible ideas for future use.

"We really had nothing to do on a day-to-day basis except go to rehearsal, which only took up two hours of our day. That could be a good or a bad thing," Stenz laughs. "You could find a lot of spare time to get yourself in trouble, get bored or depressed. Or you could go out and write songs."

The waiting was over when Provisions was released that spring, and the band started playing club and festival dates to support a disc MTV2 and college radio were lustfully embracing.

But when EMI/Virgin decided to drop Pop diva Mariah Carey, the resulting financial fallout from her hefty signing and $28 million dollar "severance" forced EMI to completely restructure. The company began letting go of employees and, according to Gayol, "everyone but the multi-platinum artists and artists who sold gold." Provisions had just been released, selling only 10,000 to 15,000 units, and the writing was on the wall.

"When it finally came down to it and they said 'We're not going to do another album with you,' it was expected," Gayol says. "It's not like a regular job where someone will say 'We're going to be making cutbacks in a month.' It's just how the industry is -- your phone stops ringing. So the best thing to do is take the initiative."

Stenz and Gayol were back to square one. And Stenz was particularly disappointed.

"Everybody can deal with the situation differently. I was really fucking low and really pissed off, and all the songs (on Drop Deaf) are pretty angry because of that," Stenz says. "And it's good. It's healthy. I wrote the songs to self heal."

With Virgin behind them, the duo were resigned to start working on a new album, including assembling and rehearsing a locally-based rhythm section with Bill Buzek on bass and drummer Kevin Hogle.

Stenz recalls the inspiration to actually start writing songs for the new album came from the unlikeliest of sources: the daughter of heavy metal high priest (and now reality TV star), Ozzy Osbourne.

"I was in a lull, nothing much to do and was asked to write some songs for the new Kelly Osbourne record," Stenz says. "I cranked out five tunes and sent them off. Later, I got a phone call saying 'We're not going to use the songs. What else do you have?' I said 'Fuck that. These songs rock, and I like these songs a lot.' So we took some of those songs and started to build from that."

Initial tracking took place at local studio, Group Effort, with longtime band ally, Jeff Monroe, while the remainder of the tracks were recorded at Stenz's home-based Studio Red. Stenz assumed responsibility for Deaf's production chores and confesses it was "extremely stressful." After 10 years together though, Gayol knew they were in good hands.

"A lot of credit goes to Brad," Gayol notes. "I was almost at the point where I said 'Why even do it anymore?' We started recording, and I regained a lot of hope."

The final result is a taut 31-minute collection of corrosive, churning rockers whose flames might be fanned by disappointment and loss but are tempered with a well-worn sense of humor and Stenz's sly self-deprecation. And where Provisions utilized complex arrangements to make its grand impression, Deaf practically deconstructs songs to their essential core, making a more immediate, powerful, emotional statement in the process.

"The difference is like a slap in the face," Stenz says. "Provisions was relying on four, five, or six parts on each song. Now the songs are three parts total -- verse, chorus, bridge -- and that's the payoff for me."

"I think we've simplified what worked on Provisions," Gayol adds. "We're always going to turn corners differently than other bands. It's just a lot more raw now."

More importantly, both Gayol and Stenz are pleased with the immediate results they achieved with Deaf, and even though they'll miss the resources a major label brings to the table, they're thrilled to be working with their own timetable again.

"We thought that being on a major label was the beginning of it and to be dropped would be the end of it. We know now that being dropped from a major label is not the end of the world," Stenz says.

MOTH (themothwebsite.com) releases Drop Deaf on Saturday at Bogart's.


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