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Austin Daze:  So are you excited? This is going to be your last go round with the Awards show.

Margaret Moser: It is, I am excited and it’s also starting to kick in that this is the last time that I’m going to be doing a lot of this stuff, so there’s a little bittersweet quality to all of it.

AD: What are you excited about with this year’s show, do you have a favorite performer or winner?

MM: Well, as far as the performers go, we always pick them because we want a really wide variety and array of sounds that come out of Austin in any given year, and so if you look at the five, or really six, because “Minor Mishap Marching Band” is doing an opening set for us this pre-show. But each of them represent some sort of value to Austin music with ‘The Young Bloods Choir’ you have the present and definitely the future with all of these young teenagers, with Elias Haslanger and Ephraim Owens in “Church on Monday.” You have Dr. James Polk in there, who’s tenure in Austin music dates back decades. Francis Preve brings to us the burgeoning EDM sound of Austin, which has often kind of slid under the sort of, less respected title of disco, but he’s really come into his own in the last two years. Certainly the presence of people like Paul Oakenfold living here in Austin makes that so. But now you’ve got somebody like Frances who’s got his “Academik” label and he’s really charting with all of his stuff right now, and it’s really something to look forward to. And of course I asked my old friend Lucinda Williams to be on the bill because for me she represents so much of what Austin is about, not only in terms of the kind of music she does, but what kind of a place that offered her somewhere to develop that music that’s made her so popular over the years. And then I’m going to close with the “Texas Tornadoes” who are going to do the finale. As I understand it, they’re going to be doing kind of a San Antonio-centric set of their music that you can expect from them, but then I think there are going to be some surprises, that are going to be happening at the end of the show, which because it’s sort of a tribute to me, I’m not supposed to be privy to this.

AD: Very cool, and so the Austin Music Awards have been really important to the Austin music scene, for instance, Gary Clark Jr. won Artist of the year and then his career took off. Do you see that happening for anyone this year?

MM: Yeah, I hope so. I mean, one of the things about this year’s winners, I can’t really get my hand on them but they are probably the most broad spectrum, wild card, diverse, gender friendly, list that I’ve ever seen happen in 32 years of it. Sometimes it’s a long time coming for these, but when I look at the winners as a whole I can go, ‘yeah! Austin’s really rockin’ these days!’ Because they really do go from the old diehard greybeards, up to the youngest hippest bands out there. They reach into the teen ranks and they certainly acknowledge the retirees, as well as those who use their experience as an Austin musician to go on to greater and more national profiles.

AD: So you’re saying it’s developed and evolved, and the winners this year are something you’ve never seen before?

MM: Definitely so. I always love to look at the Hall of Fame line up, and when you see it this year it too reflects an awful lot of that widespread of generations and sounds out there, and it’s really gratifying to see this kind of thing come through that way because, to me it means we’re on the right track with it. This is as good a measure of what’s going on in Austin. It’s almost like being able to pick up a high school annual and go, this is what happened this year.

AD: On that same note, how has your experience with the show changed over the years?

MM: Well, ya know, you don’t have any handbooks for how to put together a show, and being female, I was never really privy to the kind of business end of promotion and putting together concerts, that a lot of guys tend to. So I just sort of imitated what I saw on TV and used my natural organizational skills to wrap stuff up. The first year that Bob Simmons produced our Austin Music Awards, which was back in 1983, that was at Club Foot, and it was kind of a very loose organization back stage and yet it clearly called for somebody to crack the whip on it. So I sort of self appointed myself as that person. The next year The Chronicle just came to me and said, can you do this, and I said ‘sure!’

AD: So you got into it just by being that ‘whip cracker’ that had that organization they needed back stage?

MM: I also knew most of the musicians around town because I’d been a big fan, and that’s always been kind of the basis of who I am and what I was on the scene, I was a fan. Not so much in the last 10-15 years or so, but back in my younger days I was out at 3 or 4 clubs a night, I’d be at Soap Creek, I’d be at Raul’s, I’d be at Antone’s. These were scenes that didn’t necessarily cross over the way people think they do now, there wasn’t a whole lot of camaraderie between these places, there was actually a great deal of rivalry between them. That’s something else that’s changed over the years, you kind of have more even ground, and yet at the same time the kids always kind of want to reject the old folk’s stuff and do things on their own, and they should because that’s the way they’ll learn about it, just like I learned how to put together music award shows just by trial and error.

AD: Well you’ve done a good job. So what are some of your favorite memories from the past award shows?

MM: Gosh, there’s so many of them and they all sort of each have their own significance, but very early one year, I guess it was 92’ or 93’, Gibby Haynes called me, and he said, “hey, I want you to hire my band to play the music awards, our name is ‘P,’” and I said, “Well Gibby…” because you know Gibby had been sort of unreliable a little bit at that period of time, what with the Butthole Surfers and he was doing a lot of side projects, and I said, “what kind of band is this?” and he said, “Johnny Depp is in the band.” Now at the time Johnny Depp was not that far out of ’21 Jump Street,’ so I said, “you know Gibby, I hire bands with musicians in them,” and he paused for a minute and said, “Bill Carter’s in the band,” and I said, “you’re hired!” So literally it was Gibby selling me on Bill Carter being in the band over Johnny Depp, but as it turned out, you know, there’s plenty of Youtube videos of them doing their really kind of labored droning set on there. But nonetheless this was the time they were filming the ‘Gilbert Grape’ film out in Wimberley or Dripping Springs or wherever they filmed it, and so all the stars were in town so, I walked backstage and there was Johnny Depp and Mary Stuart Masterson and some of the other stars, and Ruth Carter said to Johnny, “this is Margaret Moser who’s directing the music awards,” and he just jumped up and stuck out his hand he was the nicest young man like, “hi, I’m Johnny Depp, thanks for letting me do your show!” I was like, how cool, then of course years later he’s, the pirate! Then I remember one year somebody whispered to me that ‘Little Steven’ was standing backstage and I said, “you’re kidding me!” I just loved him, and this was a year before he went on The Sopranos, and he was just sort of being low profile ‘Little Steven’ from the ‘Underground Garage,’ you know, former Bruce Springsteen cohort and stuff like that, but I knew who he was and I’d always admired his work. So he and I ended up paling around after that, and I took him out to see Tim Stegall’s ‘The Hormones’ play at their gig, I remember Tim looking down and realizing that Little Steven was in the audience, standing right in front of him. So, those are fun things that not only happen at the music awards but they connect with what happens at SXSW too.

AD: So you still find yourself being a fan?

MM: Absolutely. Fan? I was a groupie! There’s a certain level of that that’s a part of my excitement about doing this kind of thing. Because, there’s a part of me that’s always going to be the teenager who loves going to these shows and seeing this kind of magic happen and now I get to be one of the magicians. It’s been fun, you know, to put on that top hat and make the rabbit come out.

AD: So for this year’s show, is there one thing you’re most excited about? I guess there will be all sorts of surprises that you don’t even know about.

MM: Yeah, there are a ton of folks who just really want to participate and say farewell and I guess this is sort of my swan song. It’s going to be really nice to see what kind of atmosphere is created out of this, probably a lot of sentiment and stuff, I’m starting to get the sense that, wow, this is really a huge chapter in my life coming to a close because not only am I stepping down from the music awards but I’ll be retiring from The Chronicle in May.

AD: So will the show continue? It’s kind of like sending your child off to college, putting it in someone else’s hands.

MM: Yeah, I think that’s a very apt analogy with it, and what I’m really hoping is that it will be taken over by somebody who can kind of give it a face lift and, this particular format has served us well for all this time, but Austin has a very new music scene out there. And by new, I mean that people get their music in a very different way than they did when we started out at the time when this award show developed, and these days your stars or even your winners at the music awards may well come from television and Youtube, as much as somebody who’s got the coveted Monday night residency at The Saxon, or always a local favorite who’s done really well nationally.

AD: Very true. So this year the show is going to be at The Austin Ballroom at the Convention Center?

MM: It is, that’s also known as Ballroom D where the Day Stage is. And it provides us with the ability to be literally right in the heart of what’s happening for SXSW, which for me is a really great place to be because, if people ever wondered what the value of the music awards is, to someone who’s coming in from out of town, well this way they have the most convenient way possible to just come in and see what we’re all about. SXSW is in Austin because Austin has a reputation for music, we represent that music that made Austin so special.

AD: So what is one of your favorite venues for the award show?

MM: I have a soft spot in my heart for Club Foot, which is where we did our first one even though I didn’t really direct the show, because Club Foot was kind of my stomping grounds. But I also really loved the Opera House back in its hay day then because it was still kind of Willie Land and it sort of represented that old Austin feel about everything and those were back in the days when we were just finding what the music awards was all about and what it could do, and how people reacted to it, it was pretty great. On the other hand, the one year that we were at the Coliseum, it was great because there was only one huge backstage room, and so whenever I wanted to find anybody, all I had to do was stand on a chair and look around. It was one of the easiest ways I ever got to locate people.

AD: Now is the ballroom pretty big?

MM: Yeah, I believe it holds about 1,500 to 2,000. So that, given all the space that’s around it too, with the large hallways, you’ve got a huge smoking balcony right across from it, and things like that should give us a lot of room to spread out and have a very successful event.

AD: Well I’m excited!

MM: Me too!

AD: This will be my first year, and I’m going with Russ, who is also really excited. Russ and I are reviving the Austin Daze website. So we started the “Shots of the Daze,” where we go out and take pictures of the bands we’re seeing. We also noticed our interviews get the most views, so we’re just working on reviving all that. Russ just wants to say how much he respects you and he’s really happy we could interview you.

MM: Russ is a great guy, and I mean Austin Daze is just one of those publications that I always loved having around because, it really does remind me of the heart of what Austin is, the Austin that I came here for. So tell Russ, keep it funky for me.

 

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