Derek ‘Mo’ Moore of Nektar: The ClassicRockHistory.com Interview

Derek ‘Mo’ Moore of Nektar Interview

Feature Photo courtesy of Glass Onyon PR.

As far as prog rock goes, you’ll often hear names like Pink Floyd, Genesis, King Crimson, and Jethro Tull—as you should. That said, there’s no telling the story of prog rock proper without digging into the history of Hamburg, Germany-formed outfit Nektar.

For the uninitiated, albums such as Journey to the Centre of the Eye (1971) and A Tab in the Ocean (1972) are critical prog odysseys. And, of course, if you’re one for the genre, you’ve most likely dug on Remember the Future (1973), which is about as good as it gets. But don’t sleep on records like Down to Earth (1974), Recycled (1975), or Magic Is a Child (1977), too. Hell, even Nektar’s early ’80s and later-era 2000s stuff is truly enlightening.

At the core of it all since day one (with a few spells in-between) has been bassist Derek ‘Mo’ Moore, who, via a combination of Gibson, Fender, and most notably, Rickenbacker basses, has defined Nekatar’s low end since 1969. Even more inspiring is that Moore put his bass down in the late ’70s and didn’t play for over a quarter century, only to pick it up again and be better than ever. And so, when we talk about all-time bassists, to be sure, Moore should be in the conversation.

As for Nektar, they dropped the outstanding The Other Side in 2020 and have yet another great record on the way in Mission to Mars in 2024. There’s no sign of stopping in sight for Moore and Nektar, which is just fine. In support of Nektar’s latest happenings, Derek Moore dialed in with ClassicRockHistory.com to dig into the ins and outs of his long career.

What inspired you to pick up the bass, and what keeps you inspired?

I was originally a piano player, and the bass player of our band left. I either had to play bass, or we didn’t have a band. I have loved playing bass since I was 16.

Tell me about coming up as a young bassist. What was the scene like?

The Sheffield [England] scene was incredible. Lots of top musicians; Joe Cocker was known as Vance Arnold, always dynamite. Terry Thornton, Joe’s manager, told me they had changed his name to Joe Cocker [his real name] because of my band Jon Conqueroo, which he liked.

Chris Stainton, top sessions musician now, was with the Knives and Forks and, later, with Joe. Dave Berry and The Cruisers, Scott William Combo, Frankenstein, Screaming Lord Sutch passing through, and the list goes on. It was a great time to be in music in Sheffield.

What were some of your favorite spots to take in shows as a kid?

Probably the Empress Ballroom; great bands every Friday. The first time I saw Screaming Lord Sutch there, his guitarist was none other than Ritchie Blackmore of Deep Purple fame as a young lad. And The Esquire Club in Sheffield had great acts all the time.

One night, when Scott William’s bass player didn’t show up, I played for both Scott William and my band, Jon Conqueroo. I just stayed on stage when the bands changed. We were playing rhythm and blues at the time. Our sets were similar to The Rolling Stones in 1964 when I saw them at Sheffield City Hall, one of the all-time great music venues—still is, I think.

Did any local musicians inspire you as you were coming up?

Not really. My sister taught me to play piano, and I just took off. It’s easier to play bass when you know the notes in the chords.

How did Nektar form, and what was the scene like then?

We were the Prophecy: myself, Ron Howden, and Taff Freeman. Our guitarist Colin Edwards decided to go home to England. We were living in Hamburg, Germany. We discussed what to do. Ron had been jamming with Roye [Albrighton], and we knew the band Rainbow, so I sent him a telegram and asked him to join us, which he did. The scene in Hamburg was always hot and musical, a great place to start a new band.

Which of Nektar’s classic records means the most to you, and why? What’s the story behind that record?

I like them all, but in particular, Remember the Future, which had a life of its own. We did it in five days, working around the clock. The album grew right in front of us. Fantastic feeling we were writing the words as we recorded them, which was often the case. We had a few of the words done and the concept when we went to the studio at Chipping Norton, but we had all the music. It was very exciting, and I knew it would be a special album.

What was your bass rig like back in the day? What went into those choices?

In the early days, I had four Vox speakers and a Vox amp. By the time we were Nektar, I went through varying amps: Orange, Marshall, Hiwatt, etc. I always used a guitar amp with either 2x 15 speakers or 4x 12 speakers.

On tour here in the States, I doubled the cabinets, sometimes using two 4x 12 cabinets, with one leaning back at 45 degrees, or two 2x 15 cabinets, with one leaning back at 45 degrees, so I could hear it clearer. Today, I use a Galleon Kruger 600-watt amp with 1 GK 4x 10 cabinet. We have an in-ear monitor system so we can hear what we want.

Was there a bass you had then that meant a lot to you? Do you still have it?

In the early years, I played a Gibson EB2, which I bought new in 1964. It is a beautiful instrument and plays Cello parts rather well as it sings on feedback. In 1971, it fell over after I leaned it on a table and knocked the head off. I sent it to Hagstrom, the guitar company in Germany, and they replaced the neck. I still have it, and they did a fantastic job.

I bought a Rickenbacker stereo, I think a 2000, to replace it and have played that ever since. So, Journey to the Center of the Eye and Tab in the Ocean were the Gibson EB2, Sounds Like This was a Gibson Les Paul, and Remember the Future was the Rickenbacker, which became my staple.

I still use that today, though it’s a little modified. I added two Fender Precision pickups and a mixer to enhance the sound. Down to Earth was my Rick, and most of Recycled was my old Fender jazz. It had great sound, with Marvelous Moses being the only track on which I used the Rick.

Which song or songs best shows the player you were? What’s the story behind it?

I think “Remember the Future” is my favorite bass track—lots of melodic Cello work, which I really like. I like my bass to be musical and melodic. Not unlike Paul McCartney, who has great melodic sense.

How do you view the way you play bass today versus the past? What has changed most? 

It has not changed much; I play what I hear in my head, which is not always the root note.

Have there been any other new additions to your bass rig live or on Nektar’s most recent records, The Other Side and Mission to Mars?

As I said above, a GK 600-watt amp with a 4x 10 GK cabinet. I use a wireless system by Sony, and we use in-ears instead of monitors. On The Other Side, I used one of my old 2x 15 cabinets with a Sunn amp, and I used my Fender Jazz on all but “Drifting,” which was my Rick. On Mission to Mars, I only used my Rick, with a GK 4x 10 cabinet and a GK amp, both from Shorefire Studios in Long Branch, NJ.

What’s the secret to your tone? Is there a piece of gear you can’t live without?

My Rick. Anything else I can do without. I use Rotosound piano bass strings, which have been discontinued. I bought all the strings I could find, which was about ten sets to keep me going. They are amazing strings with an awesome life to them. When I stopped playing in 1978, I put my bass away, and when I took it out for Near Fest 26 years later, the strings still had life and tone. Any other string would have been dead as doornails.

What’s one thing about the importance of Nektar that you’d like people to understand?

We play the music as we feel it and do not necessarily go in any one direction musically. It is tough not to play with [drummer] Ron Howden; we played together for 60 years.

What are your short and long-term goals? How will you achieve them?

Long and short-term goals would be to write music with [guitarist] Ryche Chlanda. We are two peas out of the same pond and musically driven in the same direction. I think the new album Mission to Mars will have its place in the great music category, and I can’t wait for everyone to hear it. I am also proud of the work we did with The Other Side.

Derek ‘Mo’ Moore of Nektar article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2024

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