Interview: Horace Moore WSP Archivist
Horace Moore is the archivist for Widespread Panic. He heads up the band’s archival multitrack releases, Porch Songs releases and podcasts.
McClain Johnson: When did you first become interested in tape trading?
Horace Moore: It was kind of interesting, because I grew up in southeast Georgia. All I had growing up was the radio and 8-tracks and just one record store. It was kind of Top 40 oriented. I can remember back in grade school, high school, just getting worn out on the same version of a song. So when I got introduced to the Grateful Dead, once I got to college, that was one thing that I really picked up on immediately. This is cool. You got this band who just goes into a show not really knowing where they’re headed in a specific kind of way. They just let it happen every night. As a result, you get these different performances that just have these moments of magic that typically don’t end up on a studio kind of release. That appealed to me right off the bat. Then, I started quickly realizing that if you wanted to listen to the show and relive it, pretty much immediately as you’re going to the next show, you had to tape that show yourself or be hanging with some buddies who were doing that.
I kind of got introduced to the Dead by a dude named Tom Merrill who lived out in Colorado. He gravitated toward the taper thing immediately. We’d grown up together as well. He introduced me to that whole thing, and it just took off. That really segued into how I met Dave Schools. His first day of school at Georgia in the fall of ’83, a friend of mine who was living in the dorm across the hall from him. He realized that Dave had a lot of Grateful Dead tapes, called me up and said, “Dude, you have to come over here and meet this guy.” So, that was it. The whole magnetism of the taping experience really pulled me into that whole thing. It really opened up a lot of friendships, experiences, and opportunities for me down the road. It was destined, I guess, in a certain way.
McClain Johnson: There’s something about that aspect of the Dead, the community aspect of things, it really did bring people together.
Horace Moore: Yes, it did. No doubt about it. The taping thing in the Panic world one of the things I’ve heard the guys say and and seen a few times in print a few times as well. They get out to these shows in the Midwest and on the West Coast and they’d realize that people were already ready for them and knew the tunes a little bit because of the tapes. Friends connected with colleges, groups of people that come together there. There would be people here that would see Panic, get some tapes, then go home wherever, out west, for the fall breaks, spring breaks, summer breaks. They’d take those tapes out there, and low-and-behold, these guys get out there, and it helped them out already. A little pre-marketing way back when. It’s definitely connected in with the whole community aspect of it. It’s a fabric of friends sharing music.
McClain Johnson: Do you remember the first time youÂ saw the guys in Panic play together?
Horace Moore: Yeah, it was kind of interesting because it originated, in a sense, as a one-by-one deal. The first time I ever saw JB perform, Dave and I actually went and saw him together after a Georgia Bulldogs football game. It was on a Saturday afternoon in early October of ’84, I believe. We had heard about this guy that played a lot of different kinds of music, Dead tunes and stuff. He was playing down at this bar after the game. We went and checked him out and had a blast It was a lot of fun.
A few weeks later, by a chance meeting with a mutual friend of his, that became our friend, we ended up meeting JB. He and Dave met, JB already knew Mikey. I saw JB and Mikey play, and before you know it, Dave’s beginning to play the bass with them. So, the first time I see those three together is, literally, in a living room, over on King Avenue, here in Athens. Then they started playing some parties and stuff.
It was a good year after that when Todd finally showed up and they called it an official band, with a regular drummer. 2/6/86 at the Mad Hatter Ballroom, here in Athens. That was their first gig, but long before then, a lot of friends just hanging around. It’s just like any other college scene, where some people are playing music. This was one of those things that just had a real special spark to it. It just kind of grew from there. It was a real friendly, hangout, community scene there at the very beginning. I think everybody played the bongos and served as the drummer at one time, hanging out at the house. It was one of those things that just grew from friends into something that grew into something else.
McClain Johnson: How do you feel that Panic’s sound has grown and evolved over the years?
Horace Moore: Well, you know, it’s not unlike any other band that’s been around for as long as they have. You’re going to have your younger days, where they’re just full of this crispy energy and creativity. Then you’re going to have the effects that are felt by the passing or departure of members. As the keyboards got introduced, with T Lavitz, then that turned the corner into Jo Jo. That was way back in ’92. Then you have Michael Houser’s passing in 2002. Things like that are going to certainly affect a band. Then you’ve got just the natural life-cycles of the lives involved. Their experiences they bring to it, their energy levels and how they go over the years. It’s interesting to see that, still, on any given night out there, with Jimmy Herring these days and this great band they have now. It’s almost like the next show could be the best show. It might be the one that they’re playing the first notes of right now. It’s still got a real freshness to it. You don’t really know where they are turning, here and there, during the course of the show. There’s always new offerings to be made or new things to be revisited from the past. They’re continually keeping it interesting in everything, in my opinion. I’m a little biased, no doubt about it. It has changed throughout the years, like any other band that has a lifetime of music. You can go back to the different eras and pick out the marked differences, and enjoy it and play around with it. Those first few years of just the four of them, then Sunny coming in on the shows that were here in Athens. That’s got a real unique sound to it that they didn’t really capture at any other time. The equipment they were using and the lyrics as they were developing into tunes. There’s a lot of fresh stuff that you can go back and listen to like that. Then you can go back into the late ’90s and just listen to this band that is turning on a dime into everything, playing extended jams throughout the tunes at all different points. Bass solos hitting wherever. They’re just on fire. At that point and time, with that version of the band, they were on top of their game. Then you’ve got when Jo Jo came on and all the exploration that they did. They were young and finding their way through the music industry. It’s just all these different spots in time that you go to. You can see over the past several years, with the addition of Jimmy Herring, how things have just really grown with him. How they’ve really taken off and they are just killing it out there.
McClain Johnson: The thing I love about Panic is that you never know what you’re going to get. That’s what keeps drawing fans in. Even at every gig, there’s usually someone that’s never seen them before. They go home blown away. Then they’re sucked in.
Horace Moore: No doubt about it. Another thing that is interesting to have watched throughout the years is their collaborative efforts with other musicians on their own stage. They’ve brought hundreds of people onto their stage. There’s no sense of even starting to list people. You could go from A to Z, from musical genres across the board. That gives people, obviously, an interesting twist to the show that’s going on at the moment. It also gives people, through the cover tunes they play, plus the musical collaborations, an opportunity to stretch their own musical limits. They become interested in artists they may not have thought they would’ve been.
McClain Johnson: It’s amazing that they’re willing to pull out some classic stuff, the Meters. I went to school in New Orleans. I love the fact that Panic is out there bringing that funk to the people. Once people hear that stuff, they’re going to look up the tunes and they’re going to get sucked into it. That’s good for New Orleans.
Horace Moore: That’s really right. New Orleans holds a special place in their heart. They’ve had some amazing, amazing performances down there, no doubt about it.
McClain Johnson: What do you think it is about those shows?
Horace Moore: It’s New Orleans. Anything goes. People are in that mindset. You’re going down there to throw down. I think it’s easily transferred, all of that energy. There’s dark sides, light sides, and all sides in-between in New Orleans. I think that’s kind of like the Panic experience. You’re going to be taken on a ride.
McClain Johnson: They definitely fit in well down there.
Horace Moore: They mix well. They don’t collide. There’s some places where it’s real interesting, where you see a Panic show and it’s on the heals of a wrestling event or something. As the crowds are making their way out and in, you see this parking lot, and you’re like, this is weird. When you’re in New Orleans, like you say, it dovetails. On the stage to in the crowd, all around. People are on the same page. It definitely shows. That’s the nature of this band. When the band and the crowd are all working together, it’s happening. There’s places where everybody’s kind of dialing themselves in through the energy that is present. Like Red Rocks. There’s places that we’ve convened as Panic fans and a band, that have endured over the years and produced lots of great performances. When you go back there, you know how to dial it in and final that emotion again. That’s an advantage of having a long career. You find those spots and learn how to work them.
McClain Johnson: What qualities do you look for in an archival release?
Horace Moore: We’ve got a few different platforms that we work on. Our top quality, home run stuff is what we call our Multitrack Releases. Those are dialed in from multitrack recordings that, literally, are able to be remixed in the studio today. Using today’s technology. The Panic sound engineer, Chris Rabold, just gets in there and works his magic. we’ve got a studio that we work out of here in Athens. The personnel has been fantastic working with us and growing with us. We kind of learned that side of the project. From that perspective, what I’m really looking for is shows that, over time, become representative of where the band was at that point and time. It may be a little bit venue based. Certainly, the performances need to be just spectacular. Special things may have been happening around that time that make that show more worthy, if you will. Then I also try to blend in a typical Panic fans perspective. I’ve got an email address where I’ve received tons of, “Man, this show is awesome. You should really consider this.” So forth and so on. Varying degrees of detail come across as well. I’ve really gone through each one of those emails as I’ve received them. I log them into a database that I keep, just to see which shows are really popping up over time as ones that people want.
McClain Johnson: It’s so nice to be able to have these classic shows If you’re trying to explain Panic to somebody, taking them to see them now is a great example. That will get them hooked. However, like you were saying, there are different sounds. There are different eras. They’re the same band, but they’re different animals.
Horace Moore: Yeah, absolutely
McClain Johnson: What have been some of your favorite Panic shows you’ve seen over the years?
Horace Moore: They all run together. It’s friends, family and venues. The shows themselves. There’s been a lot of them that have really struck me as being special. From a venue perspective, Red Rocks, the Fox Theater in Atlanta, the Georgia Theater here in Athens. Oak Mountain, for all the hot shows they’ve played there. Phillips Arena, in Atlanta, because of just all the consecutive New Year’s shows they’ve played there. It just felt like home all the time. Anywhere in the mountains. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned Madison Square Garden. That was amazing. There’s a lot of places that I haven’t been that I’m dying to get to. The Gorge, the Wiltern Theater in LA. I’ve not been to see Panic at the Greek Theatre, in Berkley. I’d really like to see that. The Spring shows over the weekend were pretty interesting. It went from the Palace in Louisville, Kentucky, which is this beautiful, ornate, small theater. It is awesome. It went from there to the Asheville Civic Center. You’ve got a nice, big room, with general admission seating on the sides. No seats on the floor. Just a big, huge, coliseum-type experience. Then the next weekend was in Oak Mountain, Alabama. It was scheduled to be two shows at Oak Mountain, which is an outside amphitheater with no roof on it. Really no roof on the stage either. They had storms and they had to move the BJCC Arena, there in Birmingham. The second night, we were outside at Oak Mountain. That’s a great example of outdoor venue, indoor arena, then indoor small intimate place. Outside of the bars and the hole-in-the-walls they played in the very beginning, that’s a great three weekend representation of the types of places they’ve played and why they’re special. You get different energy in each one. It just provides for different experiences. The venues and the shows themselves, once you’ve got a few hundred underneath your belt in terms of attendance, they all take on a special meaning. They all kind of run together and become just like one tapestry. You look back on it, and you remember special moments and special shows for sure. It’s the music and the people around you. Those are the experiences that you take in from place to place. You could be in somebody’s back yard, in a sand lot, and it’s going to be awesome. It’s been a good opportunity to see the country. It’ll take you to lots of different places in lots of different ways.
McClain Johnson: When did things change from knowing the guys in Panic to getting a job as the archivist for Panic? When did that shift happen?
Horace Moore: I guess it was three or four years ago. I’ve always been an unofficial archivist, in a sense. By archivist, I’m kind of just keeper of the tapes. Back in the early days, the first three or four years the band was together, it was just a bunch of cassette tapes. I literally got those from Dave, way back when, in a garbage bag. He was tired of toting them around from house to house. We were afraid they might get lost. At that point in time, it was like, “We’re never going to want these, really. We might as well hold onto them. You want to keep them? “I was like, “Sure.” It was pretty cool. I kept the bug in their ear. If you guys ever want to do anything official, somebody to do it as a labor of love, let me know. At a show in Savannah, Georgia, I got shown the packaging for the archive series. It was just like, “We’re going to move with this. It’s time to get it kicking.” I started talking to Chris Rabold. He was telling me some holes that needed to be filled, on a just love of the game kind of basis. I just kind of jumped in and started helping out. It’s grown into a great hobby, that’s become an official kind of deal. It’s allowed me to take my two worlds, of accounting and live music, and combine them together. It allowed me to create my present day opportunity.
McClain Johnson: I’m sure when you were starting out, you never imagined you’d be doing something like this full time.
Horace Moore: I juggled two things together. I also work at the Food Bank of Northeast Georgia. I do accounting services for those guys. That’s a real big part of my life as well. Scratching both sides of my brain. Panic, themselves, over the years, have had an association with local, national and regional food banks. Panic Fans for Food has been developed, primarily by Josh Stack, who lives out of Asheville now. It’s interesting how that has come together for me as well. Living in the food bank world as well. That’s been a great experience, to be able to take my accounting career and experience and funnel them into that side of things as well. It provides a great handshake I never thought that, from my days back in public accounting to doing other things out there in the accounting world, that I would ever be able to truly enjoy it. I’ve got to pinch myself a lot.