Studio Visit appears first in print, in Sunday editions of The News-Gazette. Here, Melissa Merli visits with musician Scott Moore. In the July 15 newspaper, we'll have a visit with Bill Longfellow, a sculptor and artist who also helped design Big Grove Tavern.
Q: What do you call that instrument you built and that I saw you playing last week in the parking garage in Urbana?
A: I call it a PVC instrument or tubulum.
Q: When did you make it?
A: A couple of years ago after I saw a Blue Man Group show — that was basically the first thing I did when I got out of the Army. I went to the drawing board and sketched something out. There are some mathematics involved in achieving your overall tube length. I'm self-taught as far as putting it together in the shop and as far as percussion.
Q: You told me you play the tubulum in parking garages, including the one at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. How often — and have you ever been chased away?
A: I try to do it at least two or three times a week if the weather is nice. I've actually played for a number of university, city and county cops. They see me and pull up and inquire about it. As long as I'm not in a neighborhood at midnight, they say go ahead and do it; have fun. They like the music. I've never been chased away. I really try to be choosy about when I do it and what time of the day or night it is so I don't wake anybody up or create a disturbance.
Q: How long were you in the Army?
A: Almost eight years, with four years in Iraq.
Q: Were you ever injured?
A: I was injured a couple of times, but I never had to be taken out by a helicopter. Fortunately I'm one who came back with all his fingers and toes. Basically once you get deployed, you're pretty much in infantry. They put you in a neighborhood in Baghdad or Mosul — that's where I was — and you basically cover it. We had to cover the first election. There were a lot of voting boxes and polls getting blown up, a lot of suicide bombers and improvised explosive devices.
Q: Did being in Iraq influence your art or your instrument building?
A: I would say seeing the Blue Man Group show was something that kicked it off. Being in Iraq influences me in everything I do on a daily basis. I do everything for my buddies who didn't get back. I had two or three guys who were really close to me who didn't come back alive.
Q: You told me you're studying graphic design at Parkland College. How long have you been into that?
A: Ever since high school. After high school I was enrolled in Parkland for just a semester. I figured out I wanted to work rather than go to school. I worked for a couple of years before I joined the Army. I joined because I had a small child and a wife — an ex-wife now. In 2002, I got married and had a son two days after I got out of basic training.
Q: Where did you grow up?
A: I grew up here. I graduated high school in Mahomet in 1999, and after that I moved to Champaign with my parents and started working.
Q: Didn't you audition for the Blue Man Group?
A: I did, last year in the spring. It turned out that they had so many people come out for the casting call that if you didn't have basic experience in drumming or acting they wouldn't put you through the acting and drumming parts of the call. So I just had an interview and gave them a couple of pictures of my instruments. The bottom line is there were people there with master's degrees in acting or who have been drumming for 10 years.
Q: What other instruments have you built?
A: I built a paint drum. It's basically a deep floor tom. I put it in a cabinet on wheels, and it's got LED lights mounted underneath it. It has a pump underneath that pumps paint onto the head of the drum when you play it. You can hang canvases on it and do a series of rhythms, and it will pump the paint up 10 feet off the head of the drum. It's stunning to watch.
And I've got two smaller tubulums that are circular, with smaller and fewer tubes. I've got ideas for a lot of things, but I don't have the necessary storage room. If I had time and the space, I would build all day long.