Shai Hulud’s Maurice “mOe” Watson: “Learning Songs Is Always an Adventure”

Shai Hulud are one of the most innovative and unique bands in the hardcore scene. With Matt Fox at the helm, the band has put together some of the most influential records of the past 20 years, including Hearts Once Nourished With Hope and Compassion and 2013’s excellent Reach Beyond the Sun. However, aside from Fox and bassist Matthew Fletcher, Shai Hulud has seen a rotating cast of band members. Still, their current drummer has been with them since 2015 and seems to be enjoying the ride, having just completed a jaunt through Europe.

Maurice “Moe” Watson plays in a number of bands and has a fantastic YouTube channel displaying his drumming expertise. But in addition to his skills behind the kit, he also teaches young musicians at School of Rock’s Montclair, NJ, location. Part of the school’s mission statement is to create “a legacy of music by helping your kids succeed in music and beyond.” Being taught by the current drummer of Shai Hulud would make me giddy enough as an adult, let alone my teenage self! Moe was cool enough to answer some questions for me, allowing us to geek out over Shai Hulud, and learn more about School of Rock.

Shai Hulud has had a lot of line-up changes over the years, including many different drummers. How did you and Matt Fox getting in contact?

I’m a working drummer in New Jersey, on top of being in a few bands. One band is a hardcore band named Anguish. Its through that band, that I met Paul, the drummer from Suburban Scum, as we shared members. Matt originally asked Paul if he could play a couple dates with Hulud on their Summer Tour in 2015. Paul was unable to do it, but recommended me. At the time, I was kinda dying to get out on the road for a while so it worked out perfectly. From then on I’ve done 3 tours, with one more starting in a couple days that has US, Canadian, and Japanese dates. 

You guys recently toured Europe, what were some of your favorite moments of that tour?

The European tour was wild for me, because I had never been that far from home. It was my first time being everywhere we went. Some standout moments were the boat we played in Doulai, France. Kids went nuts for us that show! In Cardiff, Wales, our touring guitarist Stefan and I went walking and ended up in Crane’s guitar shop. We were talking with the gentleman running the guitar shop and it turned out that he was good friends with my buddy Matt Wicklund at Caparison Guitars, was the guitarist in Metal legends Onslaught, and he insisted we sign a wall in the back that some of the most incredible musicians had signed. I’m talkin Greg Bissonette, Pino Palladino, Phil Campbell, Lemmy….I could go on! Really, being able to travel with such awesome bands in Funeral for a Friend and Zoax made every day pretty special. 

A lot of Shai Hulud songs follow an unorthodox structure that stray from the verse-chorus-verse-chorus format. As a drummer, do you like the challenge this brings you?

Shai Hulud songs all have their own life and learning them is ALWAYS an adventure. I’ve been in some pretty technical bands before, so its not out of my wheelhouse, completely. But the Hulud songs are all written by feel, as opposed to by the numbers, so a lot of listening and more importantly, QUESTIONS, are the only way to really internalize them. There’s definitely been certain transitions that I have to ask Matt about to have a clearer vision of whats happening. Whats more awesome is that after I’ve learned the songs, I can begin figuring out how I’m going to impart my own style into the parts, which Matt is always cool with. 

Tell me about School of Rock Montclair and your role there. Does it inspire you to see these young musicians learning and getting up on stage?

School of Rock Montclair is without a doubt the reason I’m able to do all of this. We are a music school hell bent on making sure our students get a true education in music. All of our instructors are gigging working musicians, and the vibe there is SO real. I give private instruction as well as group ensemble instruction. We have a big student body (usually up over 200) of diverse age groups so it really is a blast directing and teaching our students because you never know what you’re gonna get. I’ve seen 5 year old kids exhibit more drive and motivation than kids 10 years older and 2 feet taller than them. Our performance program groups are the bread and butter and the most fun part of my job. Our owner allows us to suggest programs and themes for the kids to learn from, so I personally have done all sorts of shows from the work of Dave Grohl to Gods of Metal to Black Sabbath to Iron Maiden to Hip Hop and R&B. We try to keep things as diverse as possible to make sure our students are ready for the world. 

How do you balance drumming for Shai Hulud with teaching at School of Rock? 

Our owner Matt Sandoski is Front of House Sound Engineer for Citizen Cope and our General Manager (Kevin March) is the drummer for Guided By Voices and has been in so many bands that have influenced me over the years. So, its easy to go to them and tell them you have a tour and need some time off. The best part of it all is that my students and their parents are always so supportive of my touring. As long as I come back, of course! I see SoR as my home, and as long as they’ll have me I will return there when I’m not drumming across the world. 

What’s your favorite Shai Hulud song to play live?

The setlist changes a little every tour that we do. With such a deep discography, Matt always wants to shake things up every tour and play a few different songs to keep fans on their toes. In terms of my favorite song, it’s a tie between two of them; the first being “Misanthropy Pure.” This song has a very on edge arrangement that just hits you upside the head the whole time until you get hit with the end which is a big wide open part in 6. I take a lot of liberties with the outro, opting to go back to my Gospel roots and do some funkier stuff. The second song would be “A Human Failing.” A lot of solid rock grooves and a big half time closed hi hat groove section in the bridge. There’s a lot of space in that one to do my own thing and keep things exciting. There’s live drum cam videos of these tunes on my YouTube page, just search my name!

Go here for more information about School of Rock.

If you get the chance, I highly recommend you see Shai Hulud live. They’re doing some dates in the US and Canada soon, including one in New York City. So get over there, and try to start a pile-on during “Set Your Body Ablaze!”