For this week’s artist highlight, we met with Rachel Moon, Boston area guitarist extraordinaire. A student at Boston College, Rachel is the guitarist for the band Unit One, and has an ongoing solo project as well. Here she shares her thoughts on campus music culture, the much-touted “death” of the electric guitar, and her own inspiration.
Why did you start playing guitar? What or who inspired you? Who were your guitar heroes?
Rachel Moon: I was in 8th grade and a friend of mine, Vince, had started playing. I went to his house and saw him jamming with his brothers, and I was really intrigued by it. I went home and told my mom about it and asked if I could start playing guitar, but she said no, I had to keep playing violin, and why did I want to play guitar anyways? But I kept saying, if he can do it, why can’t I? It took me two or three solid months of begging her to let me play for her to buy me my first guitar and it just stuck for me. I started off playing classical guitar for a few years, but the blues called me, so my heroes became players like Stevie Ray Vaughn, John Mayer, B.B. King, and those blues greats. I also found myself drawn to players who played to enhance the music on the whole, rather than just show off, or make guitar the center of attention, so players like Nancy Wilson (Heart) and Dave Keuning (the Killers) also were cool to me.
What do you think of rock culture on your campus? Does it exist? Is there enough? If not, why do you think that is?
Rachel Moon: At BC there is a pretty small community who really love and appreciate rock music. On the whole, unsurprisingly, the culture is more focused on pop and general party music. The Music Guild, which is sort of the equivalent to the School of Rock, hosts open mics and band showcases at BC, but this is a fairly small group of people…nowhere near enough in my opinion. Some bands have done well at BC, Juice springs to mind, though calling them rock might be a bit of a stretch.
Honestly, music comes and goes in waves, it kind of has an ebb and flow, so right now electronic music and rap are on top. Another part of that is the kind of isolated life that college students live, where the type of music that is played at parties is the dominant source of exposure that many people have to music. People want know all the lyrics to that new rap song, so that’s what they listen to between classes, and then it’s what they get drunk to. I don’t think rock is as dead as we think it is sometimes. Though rock music is certainly in a kind of recession, there will always be people to jam out to real drums, a funky bass, and a guitar.
The Washington Post recently published an article called “Why my guitar gently weeps: The slow, secret death of the six-string electric. And why you should care.” Do you think the electric guitar is dying? Why or why not?
Rachel Moon: Well maybe if the death is secret, then I wouldn’t know, but I don’t think the electric guitar is going anywhere soon. Hell, Lil Wayne tried (and failed) to play guitar on some records and was infamously terrible live. There is an undeniable cool factor that comes with playing an electric guitar, and an irrefutable analog vibe that no digital effect could replace. The guitar won’t die unless we let it die. The technology has been around for some 70 years now, and no one has yet been able to do it better – to make something that so ably draws out music from the soul. There is rapture in absolutely bashing on a guitar at a live show and in a quiet midnight session alone in your room. I haven’t met any software that can give me (or anyone else) that same feeling.
What kind of music do you like to play and why?
Rachel Moon: I play mostly blues and rock these days. I still go back to classical guitar when I feel inclined, but for the most part I’m a jammer now. I think it comes down to connection. While I definitely love playing in solitude and creating from just myself, music is meant to be shared. I have met my best friends in the world by playing music with them. There is nothing like being completely (and literally) in sync with another person or group of people, in the same tempo and key, moving forwards and slowing down and showing off together. It’s an incredible feeling to be a part of, even if you’re just watching. And that’s why the electric guitar (and analog instruments in general) will never die. Quantized tracks and time-aligned drums are a different kind of beast, and they don’t speak to the soul on that visceral level.