Re-Introducing Chuck Mosley
An Interview with Douglas Esper
By: Pete Crigler
Chuck Mosley was many different things. A chef, musician, husband, father, but to me he was the original singer of Faith No More. My love for this band has been well documented but in fall 2019, I got some new insight on this overwhelmingly interesting figure. Doug Esper, a sometime musician and businessman who spent two plus years on the road with Chuck as his percussionist wrote a book about his friendship with the man. Reintroducing Chuck Mosley: Life on and Off the Road is a detailed exploration of life with Chuck and what he meant, not just to Doug but to all his fans. The fact that he's no longer here still hurts but at least we'll always have his music and to Doug, all the remembrances of a great friendship. The book is very good and is available now so if you're a diehard fan like myself, it'll definitely be worth your time.
PSF: How did you first get introduced to Chuck and his music?
Doug Esper: My older brother had a few friends over in his room, blasting music and jumping around. I was in my room listening through the wall since I wasn't "cool" enough to hang out with them. One of the songs was "We Care A Lot" and I loved it the first time I heard it. It strangely reminded me of Faith No More, but the vocals were clearly different. Now, this was around '91 as The Real Thing was in the midst of it's mainstream run, with the band playing SNL, the MTV Music awards, and earning Grammy nominations. I was twelve or thirteen at the time. Risking the anger of my brother, I knocked on the door and asked him to play it again. He did, and he allowed me to look at the liner notes for the album. This was the first time I remember hearing Chuck and realizing they had had music out before The Real Thing. I didn't have a CD player, and I doubt my brother would've let me borrow it anyway, but I soon had to have a cassette for myself.
PSF: Where was Chuck in his life when you came in to help out?
DE: Well, I met Chuck in 1997. I was eighteen and he was thirty-seven-ish. He had relocated to Cleveland, Ohio from Los Angeles, California and he had formed a new band called VUA. They were paying random gigs, here and there, but the other members of the band all had other bands. For them, VUA was their side project, for Chuck, it was his comeback attempt. He was paying for the recording out of pocket, which stretched for years and had to incorporate line up changes and various other hurdles. Within a few years, I worked at a radio station, an online radio station, and I was booking concerts for a promotions website. I interviewed Chuck a few times. I booked his band a couple times. I helped get him to the studio a few times. I burned CD's of the studio sessions and mixes for him. Whatever I could do to help.
I tried to get him out of the house to play shows, tried to get him to think of his name and music as a brand, tried to get him to embrace social media and staying in better contact with his fans around the world.
He wavered between desiring to tour and considering quitting and disappearing. I helped by listening and pushing him to play.
Then in 2016, he called on me to play with him. He hadn't written new music in years. He had only played a couple times at coffee shops, a song here or there at open mic nights. He had a collection of demos coming out via a new label, and they really wanted him out there spreading the word. I helped him with a Facebook account, Twitter, and I took charge of his emails to get them under control.
PSF: What were your expectations for taking Chuck on the road?
DE: I went into our tour knowing that it could end at any moment. It could collapse before we had played a show. It could fall apart onstage at the first gig. Hell, Chuck could've kicked me out at our first practice! Can you blame me? Chuck had a thirty-year history of false-starts and near-misses to prove my point.
Outside of expectations, I had goals and so did Chuck. We wanted to play as many new cities as we could. We wanted to surprise the crowds. We wanted to get to as many countries as we could. We wanted to record and release a live album. We wanted to release a vinyl single for Record Store Day, and we wanted new music from Chuck.
PSF: How did Chuck take to performing again, was it easy for him?
DE: Chuck was built for the road. The weird hours, long drives, eating crappy food, lots of downtime, meeting new people each day, truck stop bathrooms, dark clubs, all made him comfortable. The actual playing terrified him worse than anything else. He had serious stage fright. He even got uncomfortable in conversations involving four or more people at a time. He would shut down. Now, that's not to say he hated being onstage. Chuck loved attention. He loved the spotlight. He loved to play and sing, and he loved telling stories live. He had some great/funny unplanned moments even when he was freaking out.
PSF: What was his reaction to performing with FNM again in 2016?
DE: Chuck was excited to do those shows. He loved those guys and had a lot of fond memories of those years. He had gotten up twice with them, 2010 and 2015, for a few songs, but to front the band for full sets presented a great opportunity. He was nervous, but modestly ready to shine. There were certain songs that he felt he could sing better than he had back in the ‘80's since he was such a new singer back then. On the flip side, there were some songs he was hesitant to tackle.
PSF: Do you feel that getting back on the road exasperated his passing; brought up old habits again?
DE: The road was grueling and we didn't get as strong a response as we hoped, but Chuck was a creature of habit(s) and I think he had a lot of stress in his life, self induced, that constantly reared it's ugly head on or off the road. I think if he had decided to go out years earlier and had been committed to using his music to sell merch, t-shirts, CD's, tickets to bring in money, he could've alleviated a lot of the economic stress he was under. Either that or he could've gotten a steady job and focused harder to pay bills on time. All that being said, Chuck had a lot of choices to make as he grew older and his kids were moving out, but he avoided choices and conflict by falling onto old habits and re-watching Band of Brothers, over and over.
PSF: Was he always promising he was going to write about his life and then you had to pick up the pieces?
DE: I approached Chuck, shortly after we met, with a proposal to help him write an autobiography. He was keen on the idea, but warned me he had been asked many times before without it getting done. He had wanted to write more. I mean, he did write a lot in journals/notebooks, but it was more freeform thoughts and lyrics and recipes rather than a coherent narrative.
We would get together specifically to record his stories, but there was always a hang up. He was nervous, he was wary of sharing too much that might embarrass his parents, then when they passed away, he was nervous to let his children know about some of his checkered past and present. Progress was made, but it was slow going.
I wrote two chapters, made an outline of the book, gathered info about similar titles in the market, and I created a promotion and marketing plan to give to publishers and agents. I sent it out to a dozen or so places, but didn't hear back from any of them.
We did, however, meet a radio talk show host who was a poet who had a direct connection with a small publisher down south. A couple of days before Chuck passed away, we signed a contract with a publisher to get the book done. When the news broke, they asked me to take over and write a book about Chuck. I told them I didn't have enough knowledge to create a life story, but that I could write what I knew from my twenty years with him.
In the end, that publisher didn't work out, so I started the process over and luckily ended up working with ScoutMedia (scoutmediabooksmusic.com) and their leader, Brian Paone, who is a Chuck fan and a friend.
PSF: Was it cathartic to write about your experiences with him?
DE: Yeah, I mean, I started working on my book the day after he passed. It was all so raw and fresh. I was so sad and angry and confused and lost and disappointed. I was able to really take a look at what we did and why we did things that way. I got to reexamine our fights and our laughs and gain perspective on the journey. If I had waited, like, if I tried to write that book now, it would be a completely different animal. I'll spend the year promoting the book, reading blurbs and reviews of the book and answering questions and I imagine I'll learn as much as the reader.
Then, I'll move on to whatever comes next and I probably won't be able to pick up the book for a few years. When I do, I think it will mean a lot to me to have this time capsule of my days with Chuck.
PSF: Did you have a fresh understanding of who he was as a person after you completed the book?
DE: I see Chuck from my own POV... I'm a huge fan of his. I grew to respect his humor and songwriting and love for his family and I saw first hand some of the issues he faced, but I won't claim to know all of Chuck. He compartmentalized himself depending on who he was around. Many people had different relationships with him than I did. I saw only glimpses of his various other... um... personalities. I am appreciating him more and more with a new understanding. Not from my book, but from the stories his family and friends and band mates and fans have shared. Our tour and recording was tough with very few successes, so it is great to hear people listen to what we did or watch videos on YouTube and remind me that even if we failed and came home broke, we did have a blast doing it.
PSF: What role do you think you played in Chuck's story?
DE: Chuck had so much help. He was surrounded by people that wanted him to succeed and for him to get back out there. Going over to his house for social gatherings was always cool because he had a great network of interesting and creative people. Just like he became fast friends with almost anyone he met, I too got comfortable with his friends and family.
I was Chuck's friend. I was his fan. I was the annoying guy who tried and tried to get him to work on new music and embrace the people around the globe who loved him without really knowing him at all.
PSF: What do you hope people will take away from the book?
DE: Enjoy and encourage your friends. Support them even when they pull away. Try new things. Take risks. Commit, yet be willing to walk away when things get toxic. Surround yourself with loving people.
Without my wife, none of the Chuck acoustic shows would have happened. The record Chuck sang with Indoria would never have happened. Chuck's solo record never would've happened. His Record Store Day single never would have happened. I hope people realize the hard work and sacrifices she made in this process.
PSF: What do you ultimately hope Chuck will be remembered for?
DE: Chuck was many things to many people: a husband, a father, a son, a brother, an enabler (in a good way and bad), a musician, a guitarist, a piano player, a songwriter, a cook, a fan of late nights, a hobbyist scholar of WW1 and WW2, a funny guy, and a friend. He will be remembered by many people in many ways.
Obviously his music with The Animated, Haircuts That Kill, Faith No More, Bad Brains, Cement, VUA, Indoria, solo, and many other songs he worked on with various people over the years have found a place in the world, but I think down the line, when people have forgotten his troubled past and they find his music fresh, he will be remembered as a stellar lyricist and songwriter. Sure, he was a little left of center, but he comes off as so honest and open that you can't help but know a bit of his soul after hearing his music. I'll remember him as a funny, frustrating, talented, troubled, and unforgettable friend.
See interview with former FNM guitarist Dean Menta, an article about FNM's Angel Dust, an article about FNM's The Real Thing, and a tribute to FNM singer Chuck Mosley
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