We were fortunate enough to catch up with Mad Painter following the release of the brilliant single, ‘Rock And Roll Samurai’. Enjoy today!
Hi Mad Painter, How did you get together as a band?
It all started in early 2015 when we were rehearsing at my friend’s place, who’s an amateur producer with a home studio. The other guys that joined us at the time weren’t fitting in well, so we wound up as a duo after a few very frustrating sessions trying to make things gel.
That’s how our first song, ‘Gone Gone Gone’, was recorded. It’s a sombre, moody ballad, fairly progressive in nature. It became part of our subsequent debut album, which you can find on YouTube. The music was written back in 1994, but the lyrics were only added in 2015!
We also rehearsed other songs that became part of the debut album, ‘Letter’ (again, written all the way back in 1994), ‘Soldier Boy’, ‘Never Mind’, and ‘Beware of the Dream’, to name a few. Then I tried gathering a new lineup in late 2015, after Christmas. It became a guitar-less trio with another friend of mine on bass who brought along a friend of his on drums. We gigged and recorded the aforementioned album together in this lineup.
It wasn’t until a certain Kenneth Highland, a veteran of the Mid-Western and Boston rock scenes, attended our gig at the Out of the Blue Gallery (we shared a bill, he was in Club Linehan A Go Go at the time) that things began in earnest for Mad Painter. That is also the moment he likes to call a “corporate takeover”.
The current lineup’s guitarist and drummer, Al Naha and Alan Hendry, are also part of Kenne’s Airforce. Occasionally, I sit in on keys in Airforce as well. So really, Airforce is Painter, only with Kenne’s lead vocals instead of mine, plus an additional keyboard player, Captain Easychord, and a sax player, John Keegan. The two bands have shared many a bill in recent years.
Who influenced your brilliant latest release, ‘Rock And Roll Samurai’?
One listens, and it becomes painfully obvious, Uriah Heep and Deep Purple.
‘Rock And Roll Samurai’ is taken from your forthcoming album ‘Splashed’. Can you tell us any more?
It’s very diverse, to the point of being “schizo”! You might call it our “identity crisis” album, although we’re extremely proud of it and can’t wait for the finished product. Not long to go at this point. Everything is mixed and mastered and ready for the CD plant to start pressing copies and printing the digipaks. It is indeed an eclectic mixture of old and new, covers and originals, 17 tracks in all.
The “heavy” side is obviously represented by our two singles, ‘Illusion’ and ‘Rock’n’Roll Samurai’. The lyrics to both were written by my friend in Canada, Dmitry Epstein. That is likely our direction in the foreseeable future – melodic heavy rock with an authentic flavour. Like aged wine, it can only get better with years.
Let’s start with the covers. ‘River’ was written by Dicken (aka Jeff Pain of Mr. Big fame, the British band), a brooding bluesy number, but we’ve given it a gospel treatment. Then there’s Uriah Heep’s ‘Stealin’ bookending the disc; Kenne likes to call our version ‘Uriah Cheap’.
And, last but not least, ‘Highway Driver’ by German band Randy Pie, a minor hit in 1974. The original was disco-funk; ours is heavy rock. I can also mention “Parting Line”, but it’s a hybrid: John Sloman (Uriah Heep, Lone Star) wrote the lyrics, and the song came out on his late 80s solo album, ‘Disappearances Can Be Deceptive’, but we’ve written the music anew, and it became a boogie shuffle.
There are a few numbers on it that were first written and recorded by me as demos in 1997: ‘I Don’t Know’, ‘A Friend In France’ and ‘Lie To Me’. But we’ve completely overhauled and breathed new life into them. It was therapeutic to bring them back to life, actually, after almost a quarter of a century.
The newer numbers, ‘San Michel’, ‘You Nearly Stole My Heart Away’, ‘I’ve Been A Fool’, ‘I Live For Love’, and ‘The Moon’, aren’t entirely new, having been written between 2011 and 2017. There’s lushly orchestrated balladry, sophisticated pop and plenty of melancholic romanticism, not something you would immediately expect from the same band that’s making waves now with ‘Illusion’ and ‘Samurai’.
The truly new ones are ‘Jacques’ (an R&B number reminiscent of the 1960s Paris Yé-Yé scene), the aforementioned ‘Parting Line’ and ‘River’, ‘Let Him Go’ (a bluesy ballad inspired by Freddie Mercury and Frank Sinatra), and ‘Love Is Gold’, which starts with an ABBA-Esque piano intro and does ‘four on the floor’ a-la Elton John & Kiki Dee’s ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’.
Produced by Tom Hamilton (the only man we will ever trust our music with), photo credits – group shots and album cover art – Dmitriy Gushchin. He is also a doctor of homoeopathy and a licensed massage therapist. And obviously, a professional photographer.
Who would you most like to collaborate with?
Everyone I’m already collaborating with. Dmitry Epstein, the lyricist, is like Keith Reid (Procol Harum). And this current lineup is the best one Mad Painter’s ever had. I’m blessed to have Kenne, Alan, Al and Julie in my band. Superb musicians and friends.
What’s your dream venue to play?
The hallowed ground, the Hammersmith Odeon in London, although now I hear it’s called Eventim Apollo.
What’s the live music scene like in Arlington post covid?
There’s only the Regent Theatre, which hosts veteran British bands like Brand X and the Yardbirds on occasion, and mostly tribute acts. We practice on the second floor of that building, by the way.
But the rest of the “scene” is really in the next two towns over, Cambridge and Somerville. These days, if it’s happening in the Boston area, club-wise, it’s happening in Somerville. Too many clubs to mention here, but The Jungle has become our regular “stomping ground” in the last few years.
Other than music, what are you passionate about?
1970s fashion. Bell bottoms, colourful shirts and jackets with huge collars, platform shoes, and stuff like that.
What changes would you like to see in the music business?
Or what’s left of it, right? I’d love to see venues take more responsibility in terms of marketing the gigs they host and not shift that burden entirely onto the bands. Sadly, very few of them agree to participate in the promotion of upcoming gigs.
How do you feel about how the internet plays a role in today’s music business?
It’s a positive change. Nothing is the way it was in the last century/millennium. The internet’s become a total game changer. It’s a good thing because now you have a chance to become known instantly in any corner of the world at a click of a button. If your music is strong enough, it’ll speak for itself. Also, the rules of marketing and promotion, with the advent of streaming media and social media, are 100% different. It’s a brave new world.
To me, as a music collector, it’s also become a blessing because obtaining even the most obscure band’s recorded output is as easy as a Google search. And it was a struggle back in the 90s.
To give you one example, have you ever heard of The Fourmyula from New Zealand? They were around between 1967 and 71 and released three albums. I wouldn’t have been aware of them had it not been for the internet.
What would it be if you could choose one thing for fans to take away from your music?
Joy. The feeling of euphoria, elation, and spiritual elevation. Our music should ideally serve as a temporary escape route from reality, the grimness of daily routine and doldrums.
What is your favourite song to play live?
‘Empty Bottles’. It’s so new it’s not even been recorded in the studio. But we do have a live version recorded at Boston Wave Radio. It’s simple, catchy, upbeat, and has a memorable synth intro; we’re hoping to get it recorded in a studio for the eventual follow-up to ‘Splashed’.
FVMusicBlog January 2023