“A black heart is a dead heart,” punk-rocker Chuck Mosley explains over the phone last week. “A blue heart has just been stomped and beaten, stabbed, chewed up and spit out—but it’s still beating. It’s bruised but it’s not dead.”
Mosley, formerly of Faith No More, is musing over one of his latest songs, “Blue Heart.” It’s one of a series of new tunes he’s penned for his first solo record coming out near the close of 2017. It’s a personal reflection of lost love and relationships, which can leave folks battered but not completely broken. He’s also mulling over “Chuck Fuckin’ Mosley” as its title; though, he’s still taking suggestions at live shows. “Give me a good title for this album and I’ll give you credit for it!” Mosley promises.
He is currently road-testing his solo work, mixed in with “distorted acoustic” versions of his back catalog. It spans from the early ‘80s, with his first band, Hair Punk Psychedelic, to Faith No More, Bad Brains to Cement, on through today.
“Technically, it’s an acoustic show, but the thing is, I was hesitant of starting [a tour] last year because I’m a terrible acoustic guitar player,” he quips. “When I play electric guitar, I’m OK. I can pass because I still have my pedals and stuff. I kind of just do background noise, psychedelic stuff—which I like anyway, that’s what I hear and make it sound like I know what I’m doing—even though I really don’t.”
As Mosley continues mixing older tunes with newer work, he and his band are continuously learning to play them as a four-piece. Mosley most recently added another guitarist and bass player to back him. His next stopover is set for The Calico Room in downtown Wilmington on Sept. 6.
Of Mosley’s first album, most songs are only a few months old. They’re still going through a period of adolescence even if many came out with ease. “Mr. Smith” was written in dedication to a friend who died in December. After it was released, it opened a floodgate of emotional and psychedelic material.
“One of them, ‘Relocation,’ is like an opus,” he describes, “because it starts here and winds up in a place completely different. It starts really mellow and melodic and ends up psychedelic. It’s like 10 minutes long, and upward of 15 minutes live. That one was difficult and had to work itself out.”
While Mosley’s work is rooted in hard-hitting punk rock, he describes a much more mellow show than what some might envision. “When you hear ‘acoustic set,’ people think of folk songs,” he says. “And there’s a little folksiness in there and country-punk, almost, but the attitude is punk. Anything could happen.”
Like a weather report, Mosley likes to give predictions of his set. “This one’s going to be a little down but around 11:45, we’ll pick back up with some raise and hope,” Mosely notes with a laugh. “We tell everybody when we play them that they are ‘maybies’: This one’s walking, this one’s just crawling and this one’s crowning. And they go over really well.”
He also likes to keep his shows casual and remain at the audience’s level. In fact, he’ll stop in the middle of a song and chat with listeners. It all stems from a seemingly unlikely place for a performer of 35-plus years.
“I’m so stricken with stage fright I have to tell everybody at the gig,” he divulges. “I’ll literally be shaking because I’m not drinking and stuff to calm my nerves. It turns out, I think, I play way better when I’m not drinking. What we do is tear down that wall between audience and performer for one big love fest.”
Mosley thinks his fear stems from childhood. When he was about 8 years old, he found out he was adopted. It made him angry at the time, he says, but on the other hand he always knew something felt different.
“I felt like an outcast—and super shy,” he continues. “I had a super protective mom, so I was kind of coddled and protected. I had a couple of friends around my block, but, outside of that, I couldn’t talk to anybody. And girls? Forget about it. . . . Even now, if I like somebody, I’m totally awkward.”
To have the ability to overcome his anxiety without drinking or self-medicating is a great personal achievement for Mosley. Even while thriving in the world of punk rock, he struggled with being an outcast among outcasts. After parting ways with Faith No More, he said there was an unfair image portrayed to the world—one full of erratic and destructive behavior.
“I’m totally capable of all that stuff,” he quips. “But the details and facts were off. . . . I’ve learned how to redirect that energy, shut everyone out and go into a zone.”
Mosley grew up playing classical piano and keyboard. Music has always been a safe haven of sorts. He melts back into a memory or his center—a healthy addiction he’s rediscovered.
“I’m an escapist,” he adds. “I’ve been known to self-medicate, but music is something I always come back to. I don’t need anything else, it just takes me somewhere where everything is alright.”