Interview with Mad Painter
Mad Painter is a group in the Boston area, deeply rooted in the rock tradition of the 1970s.
What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
It goes back to my early childhood. Between the ages of 5 and 7 I heard some French chansonniers and fell in love with those songs instantly. In the Summer of 1980, I discovered ABBA, ELO and other bands that were popular at the time. My first rock'n'roll was "Get On" by the Hurriganes. Aged 11, I heard "Ballroom Blitz" by Sweet and also my first Uriah Heep album. It was a mind-altering experience. I knew I wanted to get into music and perform when I grow up. If I weren't into music, I suppose I'd still be doing what I do today for a day job, which is data analysis.
What do you like to do when you are not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
In my spare time, I like to collect music and organize my collection. I also like to "surprise" myself with an album from a left-field genre, as inspiration can come from the most unexpected of sources. More often than not, I listen to an album or two from long ago and then a song comes to my head. If I take the time to write it out, I'm in luck, otherwise it escapes.
How long has music been your career?
I've never done it full time. But I've played around the Boston rock circuit for close to 25 years. First, in Silver Star in the mid-90s, then Mantis, Shakey Deal, Uprise (hard rock and metal, blues, and funk, respectively), in the late 90s and up to 2000 - in these three I was just a keyboard player. Various blues jams in the greater Boston area. Mad Painter was always a dream of mine, but it came to fruition only in late 2015, when the first line-up got together. The current line-up is totally different, it's changed through the years, but I'm still keeping it going and it's the best line-up yet!
Where are you based out of and how did that influence your music?
I live in Weymouth, MA, on the South Shore, but we rehearse in Arlington, on the second floor of the famous Regent Theatre. Arlington is a musical town, and the neighboring ones, Cambridge and Somerville, are chock full of clubs, it really is a vibrant scene these days, but the competition's super tight.
Tell me about the best and worst shows you have played.
The very first show Mad Painter did, in October 2016, was the worst one. No one had nearly enough experience, and to start out playing two 1-hour sets with a break was a recipe for disaster. Also not proud of my vocals there. The whole thing, despite months of rehearsals, just didn't feel right, there was no chemistry.
The best show is probably February 2022 at the Winter Tanglefest (our second one) in Kingston, NY. The crowd reception was nothing short of amazing, they were roaring, dancing, jumping around, just going nuts. Not bad, I thought, for an all-original rock'n'roll band! We didn't do even one cover! Our bass player, looking at the audience reaction, especially after the show, called it Painter-mania.
Tell me about your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you have not already?
We'd like to get into larger venues like the Brighton Music Hall, even as an opening act. Also, Middle East Downstairs, which we're playing November 17th, it's a four-band bill. Here's the link!
Playing at the Jungle in Somerville, although it's on the smaller side, we always seem to get a rousing reception. So to date this has got to be our favorite one.
If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the ticket?
Realistically, we're confined to the New England area and maybe New York state. It's hard for me to answer this. A dream come true would probably be opening for Wishbone Ash at the Bull Run in Shirley. Or Michael Schenker Group at the Narrows Center. My guys will undoubtedly say Vanilla Fudge, but they, too, have recently played the Narrows Center.
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into music?
Don't get discouraged, stick with it, and if you keep the faith, good things will happen. Perseverance pays off in the end.
If you could go back in time and give yourself advice, what would it be?
Don't waste your time on people who have their own personal agenda and those who bring nothing but negativity to the table. You need allies on your side, not a group of individuals who like to bicker non-stop.
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
"Kindness". I wrote and recorded it in 1994. For very personal reasons, it's in the lyrics.
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
Never Mind and Beware of the Dream seem to be great crowd pleasers, so is Smile, a fun singalong with audience participation.
My favorites are the newer tracks, which will be part of the second album we're about to release, called Splashed. They're Jacques and Parting Line, and they herald this current line-up and the band's new, solidified and more focused stylistic approach and direction. But also Empty Bottles, which we have yet to record in the studio.
What is the creative process for you, and what inspires you to write your music?
As I mentioned above it's listening to albums by my favorite bands or replaying in my head the songs that are forever etched in my conscience. It makes me think of my own original melodies. Then the lyrics come secondary.
What kinds of messages do you like to get across in your music?
It can't be overtly political, else it's a killjoy. It can't be too rooted in reality, as the reality of today is quite toxic, so we, as musicians, and our audience are seeking an escape route to get away from it, at least for a while. I try to keep it era-neutral, because the band is "70s retro" in the way we look on stage and sound. So I can't sing about Facebook or smartphones. Nor would I want to anyway. But historical events aren't off the table. It's whatever comes to mind, really. It could be a social message – the eternal search for peace, harmony and tranquility. Or personal relationships.
We do have one political song, Never Mind, and still play it live. I wrote it in 2015. No, I don't want to write another one.
Do you ever have disagreements when collaborating and how do you get past them?
Because Mad Painter is not the only group my guys are in – Kenne Highland's Air Force is another one, and it's loud and rambunctious – I sometimes have to really demand that they tone it down, volume and distortion-wise. It's a hard switch from the overwhelming wall of sound in Airforce to the more nuanced, contrasted and refined approach of Mad Painter. But in the end, we always manage.
I feel we cooperate and collaborate much more than we argue. This is simply because there's such great synergy and chemistry, it just feels organic. We listen to each other's suggestions, we discuss everything, and the end product is all the better for it.
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming up?
We have one important gig in the Middle East mentioned above, and of course the new album, Splashed.
All tracks except just 1 are ready and available here. We'll get a quantity of CDs pressed, to be sold online and at our shows.
In anticipation, we have three promo videos on YouTube:
Let Him Go - lyric video:
In addition, I'd like to add that Splashed is a "schizo" album, a mélange of styles so different, they don't really belong on a single album – pop, disco, blues, hard rock, you name it. We've done it anyway!
I have a feeling the direction we are to pursue in the future will be more in line with Illusion and Samurai. Melodic hard rock with a definite nod to our favourite decade in rock, the 1970s.
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