For a limey blues writer brought up on tales of the fabled US South, Mississippi is the promised land. Pierre Moore feels differently. “Don’t go,” he warns us. “Me and our drummer Mike [Gardner] grew up in Jackson in the pre-internet era, and it was very insular. We had a tough upbringing. Mike’s mum was a strict Christian lady, and my mother is a very strict person too, so we got our asses beat quite a bit. We knew growing up we had to leave Mississippi, but it took a bit of work to get our asses outta there.”
Bluesbreakers: John The Conqueror
Philadelphia’s genre-hopping heroes are out to plant their flag.
Moore and Gardner relocated to Philadelphia, where they met bassist Ryan Lynn and played their first show as John The Conqueror on March 21, 2011. “That was my first time singing in front of people,” says the frontman. “I’ve only been a singer for three years, man.”
Some might conclude that things have moved fast since then, with the trio signing to the Alive label and releasing a self-titled debut in 2012. But when The Blues phones Moore, the singer is shucking bags of debris into the city dump. “Me and Mike are contractors, so we renovate houses as our day job,” he explains. “For us to have one of our songs [featured] in Rolling Stone this year was a big deal, but a week before that, we were playing shows to 20 people. It’s because there’s a glut of music. There’s too much of it.”
Awarded 8 out of 10 in The Blues Issue 12, second album The Good Life is anything but landfill blues. “I love that fuckin’ album,” agrees Moore. “I worked my ass off on it. To be honest, it was a very hard album to make. When we started out it was supposed to be produced by Swamp Dogg, but I kept changing songs and ran over ten different deadlines. I remember putting the shit in the mail to Jim Diamond for mixing an hour after I finished.”
The result is Moore’s diary set to music. “Most of the radio stations in Jackson were classic rock stations,” recalls the singer of his eclectic influences. “Then, in our teenage years, just like every teenager does, we started listening to punk. The songs are specific stories from my life. So in Get Em’, each of the verses is a different vignette. The first verse is about the time I got arrested for doing something stupid. Second verse is about a time I was sitting outside my house and this guy started yelling at me – and I ended up having to beat the shit out of him.”
Likewise, The Good Life sleeve is a snapshot from the band’s day-to-day existence, picturing the trio necking beer on a tumbledown porch on the street where they live. For John The Conqueror, clarifies Moore, the good life doesn’t mean material wealth. “That’s the point of the album. All these songs are about bad times or good times, but it doesn’t involve having anything. That doesn’t matter. You don’t really need anything.”
The Good Life is available now, via Alive Records.
“Lyrically, I’d say Skip James. I cry every time I hear Washington DC Hospital Center Blues. It’s funny, because I don’t play any slide, but I love the repetition of Son House’s playing, and also that he reused lyrics in every other song. Muddy Waters is a daily requirement for us, too.”