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Apr 23 / Aaron

You Don’t Arm Wrestle With Stanton Moore!

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On the evening of Galactic’s April 9th show at the Westcott Theater in Syracuse, NY, I had the incredible pleasure of sitting down with NOLA’s own Stanton Moore for a delicious and memorable meal at Alto Cinco, easily one of the Emerald City’s best Mexican restaurants.

First thing’s first: the food, of course!

Stanton ordered the Grilled Shrimp Plate (with tomatillo sauce, fresh avocado, black beans, rice & steamed spinach), and I ordered the Jerk Chicken Quesadilla (a grilled tortilla with Cinco’s signature jerk chicken, cheese, and mango salsa).  Oh, and we also had some drinks: for me, I nursed one of my all-time favorite seasonal brews, Dogfish Head’s Aprihop, while Stanton enjoyed a glass of Fleur de California’s Pinot Noir.

All in all, a tasty backdrop to an even tastier discussion about the intersection of food, music, New Orleans, and creative expression…

EM: Let’s start with New Orleans.  How can you best sum it up?

Stanton Moore: Well, there are really so many different things to check out, where to start?  Let’s start with it’s native populations, Creole and Cajun.  Creole is more of a New Orleans city thing; Creole people were by and large French, very educated, and initially it referred to folks who were born in the city, as opposed to those born in the Old World.  The definition goes back and forth, but in a nutshell it means indigenous to New Orleans.  So the culture, as you can imagine, is very rich, and Creole cooking is really a blend of French and African styles.

Cajun people, on the other hand, are descendants from Acadian exiles.  [Acadia was a French colony in northeastern North America, which now includes parts of Quebec, the Maritime provinces, and even part of modern-day Maine.] Eventually, they made their way from Canada down to Louisiana, so that style also has its cooking elements rooted in each of its former homes.

So for easy comparison: a gumbo is more of a Creole food, from what I understand, while jambalaya is more Cajun.  But in reality, both foods combine whatever is on-hand and throw it in a pot, and they’re both now as New Orleans as it gets.

Do you have any particular favorite dishes or restaurants around town?

Well, there are lots of different things that I like, but in terms of favorites, that’s a bit difficult.  It really depends on your mood.  I do love a good shrimp and oyster po’ boy, though, pretty much anytime.

If I’m headed out for a nice meal, I love John Besh’s restaurant August.  Another great place that I just went to is John Folse and Rick Tramonto’s restaurant R’evolution, which is brand new.  And then there’s places like Bayona, which is Susan Spicer’s place.  Gautreau’s is another great spot, which is uptown.  Jacues-Imo’s Cafe is more casual, with a nice mix of Creole and Cajun.  I also like a lot of the fusion places that are mixing Creole and Italian, like Vincent’s, which is basically Italian and New Orleans combined; their fish cream sauce is superb.  And then there’s Adolfo’s, which is kind of a hole in the wall, and is on Frenchman St., which is right near a lot of the gigs I play.

Any special venues in NOLA you always enjoy playing?

Tipitina’s is always great; I love Tips.  D.B.A. on Frenchman Street is great.  I’ve also been doing a weekly gig at Snug Harbor with my piano trio, which I love.

What about on the national scene?  Any favorite cities you love coming back to?

You mean other than Syracuse!?  Well, we’re on our way to Terminal 5 in New York, and who doesn’t love that city?  Philly soon after, and all the members of Galactic are big foodies.  So we love going to Philly, and one of the first things we would do early on would be to hit up Geno’s and Pat’s for their cheesesteaks.  We’ll do things now like send out 4 different guys to bring back 4 different cheesesteaks. We’ll cut them up and everybody gets to try.

When you were growing up, was food part and parcel of everyday life?

Yeah, absolutely.  My mom makes the best red beans and rice you’ve ever had.  [This was independently confirmed by a subsequent interview with Robert Walter, for those skeptics among us!]  I make them now, and sometimes when I do my master-classes on Mondays when I’m home in New Orleans I’ll bring some along, and it’s great!  My mom makes great lasagna, too, and every birthday she’d make me a pineapple upside-down cake.  And, of course, there’s the usual crawfish boils, plus my Mom makes great fried chicken.  It just doesn’t get better than that!

Do you ever bring any of these reminders of home with you on tour?

When I’m on tour now I really try and eat as healthy as I can, so before a tour now I’ll cook up a big batch of grilled chicken.  I use olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, and some lemon.  I’ll cut it up and stick it in the freezer on the bus.  Then I’ll get a big container of spinach, and some frozen veggies, and I’ll stock the fridge with that, too.  I’ll put it all together, heat it up, and throw some of that fresh spinach on top with some balsamic vinegar.  It’s quick and healthy, and saves me from looking for a greasy cheeseburger or something.  Saves me time and money and is really healthy.

Not too long ago I talked with Alan Evans of Soulive, who mentioned he was really into juicing.  What about you?

I love juicing, man.  Carrots, beets, celery, and ginger.  It’s real dark and full of nutrients, not too much spice, but just enough.

What about the other guys in Galactic… Are they over at Dinosaur Barbecue tonight or do they prefer a healthy meal, too?

Hah! I refrain from answering that question.  When everyone’s pigging out on the bus I’ll usually have an apple, so at least I’m eating something… I try to do what I can do, that’s all I’ll say!

Well now I understand what helps gives you such power behind the drum kit… I gotta start juicing and eating more apples!  Speaking of drumming, what are some of your drumming influences, now or growing up?

Well, the three guys I keep coming back to are Elvin Jones, John Bonham, and ‘Zigaboo’ Modeliste.  So with those three guys you can pretty much cover all the bases: jazz, rock, and funk, baby!

Why do you think music and food go hand-in-hand so well?

Well, they’re both very sensory, you know?  A good meal is something that you savor, and enjoy, and it brings joy to your senses.  I believe you can definitely get a good buzz off a good meal… You feel slightly groggy, slightly happy, and satiated.  And with music, it’s the same kind of thing.  I’ve heard it said before: “Food replenishes the body and music replenishes the soul.”

And lastly, what’s a good story from the road you can share?

Well, a few nights ago we were in Chicago, on the tour bus just hanging out, when our new singer, David Shaw (of The Revivalists) starts challenging everyone to arm wrestling.  So here you have a 29-year old kid, very athletic, versus a 40-year old drummer.  And you know what?  I beat him…

The lesson here?  You never want to arm wrestle Stanton Moore…

Check out all of Galactic’s upcoming gigs here and Stanton’s entire schedule is here.

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