Moe Berg: Always in Pursuit of Happiness

by Mike Devlin, Victoria Times Colonist, August 16, 1998

As he closes in on his 40th birthday, The Pursuit of Happiness' Moe Berg is getting philosophical.

"I think when you get older you acquire even more wisdom and perspective," Berg said. "I'm hoping that will be the case with me." Berg, on the phone from a tour stop in Alberta, is currently on the road to support Summer's Over, his first foray into the music business as a solo performer. But don't worry TPOH fans -- Berg maintained that his solo debut doesn't spell the end of TPOH. The songs, he explained, simply found a home that wasn't on a TPOH record.

"I started writing these songs that didn't require a whole lot of musical backdrop," Berg explained. "That's the whole thing about writing for a band -- everyone needs something to do. I wasn't sure that it was going to happen with these songs."

Although it is void of the full rock sound that fans have come to expect from Berg and TPOH, Summer's Over is strewn with Berg's trademark sarcasm. It is an odd little album, though, one that has more in common with '80's synth-pop than with past TPOH hits like Two Girls in One and I'm An Adult Now. The album seemingly came out of left field, surprising even its author.

"I think it's been a bit odd for a lot of people to hear it," Berg said with a laugh. "Most people are kind of perplexed when they hear it. I guess I sort of was, too. But there wouldn't have been much value of me doing a solo record that sounded exactly like The Pursuit of Happiness. That was the one criticism that I wasn't looking forward to having."

TPOH's brief hiatus has given Berg time to embark on a tour of solo performances, an undertaking he has wanted to try ever since he was introduced to the form two years ago.

"I played the Edmonton Folk Festival a few years ago and I really got off on the experience. I thought, 'Wow, this is great. People are listening and I can see the response on their faces.' That part of it was really exciting for me and something that I wanted to explore." Berg, who just finished his second Edmonton Folk Festival this week, is excited about his current mini-tour of Western Canada. And even though many will ultimately appreciate Berg's new material, he's quite aware of their affection for TPOH.

"Most of the people who come to the shows are TPOH fans. That's probably where their ultimate allegiance is. But what I'm doing now is a completely different thing -- it's more of a pure performance. You don't have to be a Pursuit of Happiness fan to like this show. It's a totally different thing; it doesn't sound like one and it's not nearly as loud. It's more like a one-man show."

Contrary to other artists' solo show performances, where fans are asked to sit quietly and clap like they just witnessed a great golf putt, Berg's one-man show welcomes cat-calls from the peanut gallery. If there is a TPOH tune that a fan wants to hear during the performance, Berg wants to hear about it.

"Assuming it's a TPOH tune, I'd rather they chose it. I sort of allow the audience to call out Pursuit of Happiness songs when they feel like hearing one."

Displays of said affection for his fans have been evident ever since his band's debut in 1988. And to his credit, Berg has never stopped blurring the line between audience and performer. "The rock star hyper-commercial aspect of it was something that wore off on me almost immediately," Berg said. "I just wanted to write some songs, perform them and have a few laughs. That's always been my motivation more than anything else."

Copyright © 1998 Times Colonist, a division of Hollinger Canadian Newspapers LP

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