Shoot for the Moon – An Interview with Peter Prince
Contributing Writer – Garret K. Woodward
Peter Prince is quite possibly the greatest guitarist I have ever seen live.
And, with the innumerable amount of performances I’ve been fortunate enough to witness, this is not an easy or diluted label I have adorned upon him.
The first time I heard him was in 2006. Paradise Rock Club. Boston. Opening for Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. Our encounter started with a whiskey in one hand, a bottle of red wine in the other.
Hours later, I awoke in a Boston University student parking lot, not knowing how I got there.
Now, four years later, Prince (who has fronted the infamous rock outfit Moon Boot Lover for the better part of two decades) is launching out of New England with his latest solo release, “Dizzymaker”- a record overflowing with a one-of-a-kind signature sound, caulked full of “rocket soul”, blues, and funk.
The 14-songs includes appearances from Tim Reynolds (Dave Matthew Band), Alan Evans (Moon Boot Lover, Soulive), Poogie Bell (Herbie Hancock), Jeremiah Hosea (James Blood Ulmer), Oja (Earthdriver), Ryan Montbleau, Yahuba Garcia (Ryan Montbleau Band), and Jason Cohen.
Hunter Thompson once described his accomplice Oscar Acosta as “too weird to live, too rare to die.” Well, if there ever was a line to perfectly capture the mythical musical beast that is Peter Prince, then there it is.
And yet, throughout my journeys, the madness of that initial meeting with Prince is still vivid in my mind, and college journal, which remains spattered with drops of alcohol and cigarette ash:
Strolling down the dimly light hallway towards the stage, a name on the wall caught my eye. Peter Prince? Tonight? Opening for Grace Potter? Granted, I had yet to see Peter Prince in all his glory, but his reputation far preceded him in my musical realm with his innumerable contributions to all which is gonzo musicianship- never ending energy, unrelenting passion, and an unreal stage presence.
I readied myself for Peter Prince and Moon Boot Lover. Soon, the thunderous roar began of the stage-mutation of Al Green, Jimi Hendrix, James Brown, and Rod Stewart into a fridge-shaped, cue ball headed man, with accompanying mustache. It was love at first guitar strum, which is what I imagine anyone feels upon initial glance and listen to the man sporting the Moon Boots.
I rushed into the show and was immediately taken back by the spell Prince cast over the audience with his guitar that seemingly resembled a wizard’s wand.
We were hanging over his every word, every riff, and every scream. Everything he touched turned to gold or at least sounded as rich. Seeing as I was unaware of song names or what was transpiring for that matter, I didn’t care because I was in the moment with Peter, his band, and the hundreds of soon-to-be drunk…wait almost there…ah, there we go…drunken fans on a chilly September evening.
And then Scott Tournet joined in on the fun.
Telling me moments earlier how he would give anything to play with Prince, the Nocturnal guitar prodigy soon found himself right smack in the center of the mayhem, which is the Moon Boot vortex. An electric love child was spawned onstage through the marriage of Prince and Tournet.
With the ending of Moon Boot set and anticipation of the Nocturnals, I soon found myself backstage, face to face with Peter Prince and a Jack Daniel’s bottle soon to meet its maker. One shot led to two led to three led to five or six? I was on assignment, but at the time of the show I doubted even myself and my intentions as my eyes were clear, then glassy, onto foggy, and then some.
Backstage transformed from Commonwealth Avenue in Boston to a scene reminiscent of early morning Connecticut- a dense and overbearing fog. Eventually, I made my way through the haze and came across members of Grace Potter, Ryan Montbleau Band, Ramble Dove, and Moon Boot Lover.
Parked in front of the venue, I was placed into a taxi with the musicians, only to be shot out somewhere into the Boston night, in search of an after-hours party.
We ended up in front of an unknown townhouse belonging to someone who knew someone in the band. Nonetheless, I readied myself for an already lost battle with confusion and excess.
And then everything went blank.
Blinded by the early morning sun like a police interrogation, I awoke in a Boston University parking lot just as the pep-band was marching by to my disgrace. I wondered how I made it back to my truck and how was I able to think at this hour, under these conditions.
Staggering out of my truck, I resembled some homeless man due to my unkempt appearance from night’s past- empty wallet, bloodshot eyes, and lack there of balance and coordination, which is key in surviving the meat-hooks of the American musical landscape.
I began doubting my story. Was it all a dream? Had I somehow just had too much to drink at a random Boston pub and made my way back to my four-cylinder road warrior? My bewilderment subsided as I felt and reached for a mysterious piece of paper in my side pocket. Unraveling the crumpled white mass, with crude handwriting, it said only one thing:
Garret K. Woodward: Who is Peter Prince?
Peter Prince: Hi, I’m Peter Prince (Johnny Cash voice). I’m a singer, songwriter, musician, producer, visual artist, dancer, husband and dad. I grew up in Saratoga Springs, New York with my folks, Peter and Patti Prince, and two sisters, Laura and Sara.
GKW: Describe your first experiences with music. Who were the influences?
PP: My early musical experiences would have to be, tinkering on a Yamaha classical guitar, listening to the folk musicians like Michael Cooney, Utah Phillips, and Rosalie Sorrels at Cafe Lena’s. Seeing many performances at SPAC (Saratoga Performing Arts Center), The Moody Blues being my first concert, then, soon after, The Beach Boys, Seals & Croft, and the Captain & Tennille. These were the shows my parents brought us to. When I was a lil’ older, my friends and I started to see other shows like Eric Clapton, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, Aerosmith, Grateful Dead, The Kinks, etcetera. My father did the art show at the Newport/Kool Jazz Fest every year at SPAC. And, with free passes, we were able to see many amazing artists, Miles Davis, B.B. King, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Ray Charles, Gladys Knight and The Pips, Herbie Hancock, Pat Metheny, George Benson, WAR, The O’Jays, Aretha Franklin, just to name a few.
GKW: Moon Boot Lover. How did the group come around?
PP: I guess you could say the bug bit me. Then, of course, Stars Wars came out and fucked up everybody, along with my love for comic books, Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, Steve Buscema, and Barry Windsor Smith. I created Moon Boot Lover with a bunch of different ideas. First, I wanted to make a comic book hero that could accompany, visually, the places we were going musically. I wanted to illustrate the “album” covers in comic book form, making them “editions”, “The Adventures of…” kind of thing. Moon Boot Lover has rocket soles in his boots, to propel him in space. So, we’ve always welcomed the improvisations and jams. Take it out, pull it back in, that’s why we named our first release, “Outer Space Action”, but really the live show is where improvisation goes on. The songs on the albums are like the head’s of each song. Live, we play the song and investigate further. A lot of that can depend on the set, and where we are going with it. It keeps things new in a way, a lil ‘more dangerous and unique to that moment. So I started to describe our music as “rocket soul”. Oddly enough I heard someone in Country Joe and the Fish, at Woodstock, tell the crowd they were about to play some “rocket soul” music, so it’s been around. I certainly didn’t invent it. Though, for a minute, I thought I did.
Other influences, first being my neighbor across the street, Andy Arpey. He was a lil’ older and played guitar loud enough that I would listen to him from outside. He rocked out. Robin Trower, Hendrix, Richie Blackmore, ZZ Top. So I went out and started taking lessons at “The Only Guitar” in Clifton Park, New York. Started jamming with Andy across the street and saved up for my first electric guitar, a crème colored Gibson SG. Oh, to have it back in my hands again. I was a music major, fine art minor, at Buffalo State.
While in Buffalo, two great things happened. I worked with The Gemini Dance Theatre where I learned a lot about performance and dance from Martha Graham and I met the Evan’s Bros. Alan and Neal played with me in a band called The Groove for about the four years when I was in college. Then, in 1993, we moved to Brooklyn and that’s when I came up with Moon Boot Lover, because, at that time, we were calling up places to play and with a name like The Groove, it was hard to not be mixed up with all the other “Groove” bands, like Tongue and Groove, Shotzy Groove, or just Groove, you get the picture. This seemed like the time to do something different, and include my artwork. Thus, Moon Boot Lover was conceived. Since then, I’ve illustrated all four of our album covers.
GKW: What are your thoughts on the current music industry? How do you want Moon Boot Lover to be different, or contribute to the evolution?
PP: As far as the music industry right now, we’re living in a shitty economy. Nice work “W”. The nature of selling music has changed again. We’re back to selling singles for pennies. From what I’ve seen, alot of people aren’t buying full album releases. I guess there’s only so much room on these iPods (laughs). I’m still a fan of listening to an artist’s complete release and get the whole journey of their recording and song process. The Internet of course being the very thing that changed the way music gets distributed. So many avenues for you to get yourself heard. The major labels can’t keep it locked down and can’t make their money. No more big record deals, budgets, and advancements. Them days are over. But, the Internet brings all its possibilities. Global networking, digital sales, ownership rights, making the artist much more involved. Over saturation? I don’t know. I just got to do it. So, we’re putting it out there. Now, if half the people who saw Avatar went and supported some local talent, then that would be different.
GKW: How receptive have audiences been to your creation onstage?
PP: I think they like it? I don’t know, in my mind I think everyone hates it and it’s Moon Boot Lover against the world. No. I think they like it.
GKW: Why do you like playing the Northeast? Dream venue to play?
PP: I live in New Hampshire. All the New England states are so close, gives us plenty to do, though I’d love to play Red Rocks, what an incredible venue.
GKW: What do you want the listener to ultimately witness or walk away with when they see you perform?
PP: Energized. Inspired to express themselves. Entertained on some level, perhaps a melody or tune stuck in their head. Ultimately, I hope they enjoy what we’ve put together. Music reminds me of ice cream, so many flavors. It’s not a necessity like food, water and shelter, but we want it, need it, and when we get it, we want it to be good and cool. Ben & Jerry’s made those worlds collide with Phish Food. Bravo fellas. Music has zero calories anyways. Here’s a good question for next time, if your music was ice cream, what flavor would it be? Wait, this is sounding too much like the Newlywed Game. Please forgive me. Knife in the belly. Ok, Lunar Lust, white chocolate ice cream with craters of nuggets and nuts. Please try it.
GKW: What’s on the horizon for you?
PP: I’m recording alot at my home, developing new material to take out with the group. Some recent film soundtrack work has been great, bringing the music together with different mediums. Continuing to produce as much as I can and perhaps do some mini tours here and there. My wife Rebecca is pregnant right now with our second child, so I’m not looking to be on the road right now like I’ve done in the past. Perhaps in a little bit.
GKW: Thoughts on your next performance?
PP: Good Times. (Mr. T voice)