The Hillary Watts Riot

On The Beat with Sergio Moreno

 

 

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On The Beat with Sergio Moreno

 

Every week, Sergio Moreno has brought you an interview with different drummers in the Kansas City music scene. This week, we turn the drum kit to reveal this man, whose face is hidden by dark shadows and a pair of oversized white sunglasses. Today, we put The Deli KC's favorite drummer in the hot seat.

The Deli: First of all, thanks for spearheading this whole feature. People really seem to dig it! Why did you decide to feature local drummers? Who cares about the drummer, really?

Sergio Moreno: We carry all our cases full of heavy gear, set up and tear down as quickly as possible, we drive the band, playing our hearts out and sweating up a storm; and then we don't even show up in the pictures because we're tucked back in a corner and the lead singer was standing in front of us the whole time! That's why I started this whole mess, to bring the drummer to the forefront. Well, that, and also because I love talking to other drummers!

The Deli: Tell us what projects you're involved in right now.

SM: I'm a drummer Drone™ in The Hillary Watts Riot and a contraption set operator in Alacartoona.

The Deli: How does it feel to be a Drone™ under Miss Hillary Watts? Is it hard to play in those goggles?

SM: Our protective goggles keep us from seeing Miss Hillary in her full glory. As tempting as it may be, we really don't want to risk being blinded by her majesty's glow and we believe that safety always comes first. Except when it doesn't. A lot of things are hard under our Queen Bee's rule, but it is an honor to serve at her pleasure. At the end of the day, I'm just another Drone™. And so are you.

 

The Deli: Well, that's slightly jarring. Let's move on. Here's one of the questions you always ask, and I think it's vital: How did the drums find you?

SM: My dad is a musician. He has recorded and toured for over forty years with his Christian rock band, La Tierra Prometida, all across Mexico, Latin America and a few cities in the U.S. I basically grew up sleeping in guitar and bass drum cases between sound checks and shows. It was awesome. Because of this, I always had complete access to a studio full of instruments and gear, as well as people to play with. I started on guitar, but moved to the drums soon enough. Around the age of 11, I started playing every Sunday in church, and then I started a band in junior high. I got tired of playing covers (but I still love Nirvana, Metallica and The Cure), so my sister and I started our first, original band. And the rest is, well, you know, history.

The Deli: So, you have a few different kits for each band you play with, right? Tell us about those.

SM: After serving Miss Hillary for a while, it was clear she required a special drum set. I had wanted a Kansas City Drum Company kit for a long time, and this was my chance. So I worked with Herb Naster and he made this beautiful monster of a kit for me, I mean, for Miss Hillary, and covered it in sparkle pink wrap. It's my favorite set ever! For Alacartoona, I fashioned a jungle kit out of my big Ludwig set. I used a floor tom for a kick and a piccolo snare. But then I realized that what the job needed was a cocktail kit, so I acquired one and I love it. Because the two bands, and my characters in them, are so different from each other, it seems fitting to have unique instruments for each of them.

A little bit of trivia for you… My KCDC set consists of three drums: kick, snare and floor tom. I wanted each of them to be 14 inches in diameter or depth. That's because my favorite drummer growing up was Robert Sweet, from my favorite band, Stryper. They used the number 777 a lot. So my number is 14 14 14, which is like 777, only double. Awesome, huh? 

The Deli: That's beyond awesome! But what's more, I hear you aren't just a drummer. A little bird told me you recently joined The Sexy Accident on bass? 

SM: Since I moved to Kansas City, I've played mostly drums. But my instrument in college was bass. I played bass in my school's jazz band and in a world beat band with my sister and some other friends. As much as I love drumming, sometimes I just really miss contributing melodically and when I learned Jesse [Kates] was looking for a bassist, we got to talking. I've been very impressed with his songwriting and arranging, and everybody else in the band is super talented and super nice. Plus, The Sexy Accident's latest album is fantastic. I haven't debuted with them yet, that'll be later in the summer, but I'm really excited.

   

 

   

 

   

 

The Deli: And as if you aren't busy enough, you're involved with a production for Fringe Festival too? 

SM: Yes, it's Sexing Hitler, a play by Bryan Colley and Tara Varney. Christian Hankel wrote the music for it and asked me to join the band, with Kyle Dahlquist on accordion and Richard Walker on keyboard. I hadn't done anything like this since college, and I have enjoyed it so very much. The writing is funny, smart and captivating; and the cast is talented beyond words. Musically speaking, it's a very different experience for me as I'm doing incidental percussion and underscoring, rather than keeping time and driving the band. I just feel lucky being associated with so many talented people in this production and getting to see the magic happen on stage night after night. I know I'm biased, but I cannot emphasize enough how much everybody needs to come out and see this play. We have only two shows left in the run.

The Deli:

 So, how do you balance playing in several bands and projects, having a family (and a new addition on the way...congrats!), a full-time job, and whatever else it is that you do?

SM: I'm very fortunate to have the most supportive partner I could ever wish for. She understands how important music-making is to me and I don't take that for granted, not for a minute. In fact, I can honestly say I wouldn't be doing all this if it weren't for her. I was ready to quit and sell all my gear about 2 years ago - when my band at the time broke up - and she kept me from going through with it. And now, I'm involved in some of the best and most fun music projects I've ever been in!

You can follow Sergio around from Thursday through Sunday: Sexing Hitler has two shows left, Thursday at 8:00 pm and Saturday at 10:00 pm at Off Center Stage. The Hillary Watts Riot is playing Friday at The Brick with The Sexy Accident and Howard Iceberg and The Titanics, and Sunday at Jerry's Bait Shop at 8:00 pm. 

-Michelle Bacon

Michelle is editor-in-chief of The Deli - Kansas City. She also has a weekly column with The Kansas City Star and reviews music for Ink. She plays with Deco AutoDrew Black and Dirty Electric, and Dolls on Fire. Her favorite things to do are eat, beat on random things, and nap.

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Sergio Moreno

 

The Hillary Watts Riot 

 
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Album review: The Hillary Watts Riot - A/S/L

If you haven’t figured it out by now, you might as well dance. I mean, you can try to avoid it if you want, but for your own sake I suggest you get down. As the overused meme states, do it like no one is watching. Might I also suggest you do so to the retro rampage sounds of The Hillary Watts Riot. With equal parts Prince, Blondie, and Devo, the band’s own sultry brand of freak pop is sure to get your hips moving. 

Straight out of some sort of half-swank/half-skank dive bar of late ’20s Chicago, the only thing A/S/L is missing is a 16-piece big band and an untimely bust by the prohibition police. Couple that with the tendency to thematically slip toward R-rated cheekiness. I bet Quentin Tarantino would love to take a stab at writing an accompanying movie for these songs. It could be the tale of the slightly nerdy girl from high school, the one with mussed stockings; her thick-rimmed, cat-eyed glasses always buried in a romance novel. Later, you’ll find out online that she eventually made it big on the East Coast as a burlesque dancer. I think balcony tickets for her show are still available.

The songs are most certainly driven by the siren wailing of Hillary Watts. Though purposefully goofy sometimes, her performance is bold, brazen, and oozes with sensuality, at times bordering on humor porn. If you can take your attention off her long enough—a totally intended circumstance, I believe—you’ll find tasteful instrumentation painting the floor sticky with yesterday’s Maker’s Mark. The band does its part to perfection, keeping the groove alive and spunky for Watts to perform upon. The musical interludes and solo sections provide a nice, contrasting energy to her almost-paroxysmal vocal performance.

Although Morris Day and the mutha fuckin’ Time might want their “Jungle Love” riff back from the middle of “Killer Kind,” I see this as an appropriate homage to an often too forgotten legendary funk and dance outfit.

If you get a chance, check out these cats, especially Asia the ragdoll, live. Their high-energy performances pack in just as much bombastic sensuality as the record. This seems like the kind of music that is best listened to bouncing off your body at just a hair too many decibels.

The latest single from A/S/L, "Slap Slap," is available for download today. Check it out below.

Shake your hips on Friday, July 27 at The Brick. Hillary and her jumpsuited Drones will be playing with The Sexy Accident and Howard Iceberg & The Titanics.

--Zach Hodson

Zach is a lifetime Kansas City resident who plays multiple instruments and sings in Dolls on Fire, as well as contributing to many other Kansas City music, art, and comedy projects.  He is very fond of edamame, treats his cat Wiley better than he treats himself, and doesn't want to see pictures of your newborn child (seriously, it looks like a potato).