Sitting at the bar of the Hi & Dry one late afternoon, Chuck Mosley has some decisions to make. How many oysters should he order? What's on the menu that needs to be changed? Is there enough meatloaf to last the week? As the executive chef at the Tremont eatery, it's his responsibility to keep the cupboards full. His life now is a far cry from what it used to be like when he was a teenager and more concerned with trying to find a sofa to crash on, a punk band to front, and some coke to snort.
"Life was a big party for a long time, and I came out of it unscathed," Mosley says, raising his arms in the air in a mock victory pose. "Except for my broken back [suffered in an auto accident that happened on tour]. But I never got any diseases or anything like that, even though I was a total slut."
Since moving to Cleveland five years ago, Mosley, the former singer for the alternative rock band Faith No More and the hardcore group Bad Brains, has focused on two things -- holding down a job and raising a family. With his short dreadlocks shaved into a mohawk, both ears double-pierced, and his long-sleeved shirt barely covering the tattoos on his arms, Mosley still looks the part of a punk rocker. And even though he just turned 41, he's starting to get that itch again.
Two months ago, he promised himself that he would have at least one of the songs he recorded with his new band Vandals Ugainst Alliteracy posted on the Internet as a downloadable MP3. He's also preparing a five-song demo tape that he plans to take with him to California in the hope of getting interest from a label. And the group, which has performed only a handful of times since its inception three years ago, will play on January 6 at the Blind Lemon. Mosley's even talking about going on tour.
"When I moved out here, I promised that our second daughter would be three or four before I started getting back into music," he says. "I took jobs and made my way up to chef at this place -- which doesn't seem like much, but it's actually a decent place. This week, we're making red snapper on top of mashed potatoes with red wine. It's really fancy and stuff."
Born in Echo Park, California, a mostly Hispanic community in East Hollywood, Mosley was adopted as a child by parents whose ethnic identity mirrored that of his natural parents. His father was African American and Native American, and his mother was Jewish. He says he's only recently learned that his natural mom owned a record store and his dad was a musician. During the late '70s, as a teenager, he started playing in the Animated, a Dickies-style pop punk band. That's when he met bassist Billy Gould, who would later move to Berkeley, California, and start Faith No More. When Faith No More got rid of its original singer, Mosley joined and sang on the band's first two albums (he sang the hit "We Care a Lot"). He was fired in 1988; after his departure, the group recruited Mike Patton and went on to even more fame.
"Every day there's a certain amount of bitterness," Mosley says, of his premature dismissal. "But for a good part of the time I was with them, I was pretty miserable. We were always fighting, and they always had to have someone to pick on -- and that person was me. It all started when we were on our first tour, and I told them they needed to do more variety. I grew up listening to Motown stuff, the Stones, the Beatles, Billie Holiday -- and when punk rock came along, I was into that, too."
After working as a roadie for the L.A. glam punk band Celebrity Skin in the late '80s, Mosley fronted Bad Brains for a year and started another band called Cement. He moved to Cleveland because he had a few friends here and figured it would be a better place to raise his family. When drummer Doug Duffy, a friend of his, moved to Chicago, Mosley figured he'd be close enough to merit working with and recruited Cleveland-based guitarist Tim Parnin, bassist Ed Stevens, and guitarist Matthew Hahn to join him and Duffy. He christened the new group Vandals Ugainst Alliteracy, after a piece of graffiti.
"When I first moved here, it was the first thing I saw on a bathroom wall," Mosley says of the name. "I was in Edison's peeing, and that's what I saw. It was spelled all fucked up like that. I thought it was funny. It cracked me up, coming from the most powerful and most stupid country in the world -- I thought it kinda applies and made sense to me."
The five songs on the demo have that funk punk sound that bands such as Jane's Addiction, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Fishbone concocted in L.A. in the early '80s. While mixing different styles doesn't sound as fresh now as it once did (especially since the dumbed-down rap-metal hybrid has tainted the entire notion of combining black and white musical styles), VUA does it well. After all, few singers can both shout and croon like Mosley, who admits he isn't sure if VUA has a place in today's modern rock scene.
"I don't know if we do fit in," Mosley says. "But it's my life. I have this chef thing to fall back on, but I'll still always be playing. I don't really know what's vital to these times."