Monday, November 14, 2022

A Mike Mariconda interview, a legendary route in rock'n'roll.

It is quite hard to listen to this kind of music, reading this blog space and still not recognize his name, isnt' it? The original A-Bones guitarist, then in The Raunch Hands and The Devil Dogs. He has produced hundreds of records since 1984 and has recorded countless garage-punk and rhythm & blues outfits around the world (USA, Canada, Mexico, Japan, Australia and Europe). He was a student of electronic music pioneer Reynold Weidenaar and one of the first producers to graduate with a  Bachelor of Science in Music Technology from New York University. He currently lives in Spain. Mike Mariconda is a living legend of the underground rock'n'roll scene globally as you might already know or guess. 

Many thanks Mike for taking a few moments to answer my questions. I usually start with this: What actually got you involved with rock'n'roll? I'd like to know if there was anything before The Raunch Hands.

Well, thanks for asking as I have been a fan of your writing and the White Trash Soul website for many years. I had been playing in bands since 1977, I started when I was 15 years old with friends from High School..We started out doing covers of The Who then we heard the first The Damned record and The Victims (NOT the Australian band,) the one from NJ near where I grew up who did one LP called "Real Wild Child", for or Golden Disc )-a label from a Doo Wop record store in Greenwich Village where Lenny Kaye worked) and we got into a more punk style. I joined the Raunch Hands in winter of 1984 after seeing them play their first gig at some funky illegal after hours club called No Se No. Shortly before that they were just a duo called Tchang and Chandler so we put a full band behind them. They played as a duo at Tim Warren's wedding in late 1983 and Club 57 on St, Marks place a few times.

Is it true that you stole Mike Chandler from Outta Place in order to create a band similar to Peter Greenberg's original Barrence Whitfield and the Savages?

No, not true, Chandler was in both bands but playing more with The Outta Place and the other 3 members of The Raunch Hands were frustrated and jealous and  approached me to do an instrumental band without a singer called The Slaymen as Chandler got busy when The Outta Place LP came out on Midnight Records in 1984... After a few weeks we integrated The Raunch Hands and The Slaymen into one group and we had 10 songs total, 5 originals and 5 instrumental covers, enough to play a full show. We learned "What I Say" and " I Got a Woman" (The Maddox Brothers and Rose's version) to make it 12 although the group was better writing originals as they weren't at the musical level to do cover versions very well. We only saw The Savages about a year later when we played with them at Irving Plaza and they made us look like fools. We had to have a special band meeting the next day and we decided to play faster with more R and B screaming and sax and promised we would never let a band step all over us like they did that night.

What's the story behind Raunch Hands appearance on Back From the Grave Vol. 3? Was it a Tim Warren's joke or an attempt for making the Hands more known?

Well Tim loved us and knew Tchang and Chandler for years and I guess he was hungry for new bands and we fit the bill. We had just recorded our first 3 songs and he flipped out. I owe a lot to him, he really changed my life.

Did the Raunch Hands borrowed their name from Link Wray?

No. Vince came up with that as PJ Proby did a single under the pseudonym Jett Powers with Vince Parle and The Raunch Hands called " Go, Girl, Go" so he named us after that one-off single.

I'd like to know any worth mentioning untold stories from the Hands and Devil Dogs life. By the way, on the Dogs fist LP you've been credited as additional musician, when you officially joined the band? 

There are too many stories to tell and with time it gets difficult to remember..What happened was when Tim did The Bad Music Seminar "Music Festival" in NYC he was the first to bring Billy Childish to the USA... Billy  agreed to record the Double Naught Spies, The Gravediggers and The Rat Bastards at Coyote Studios out in Brooklyn, Those 2 records came out but The Rat Bastards (who later transformed into The Devil Dogs),thought the recording was too trashy and lo-fi sounding, Tim got me to try to remix it, but they still hated it. So I went into the studio with them to re-record the LP and after a few days the group split into 2 as Pete didn't think Andy saying "Fuck" on the songs would get played on the radio. This was my first real production job after a few songs by the Raunch Hands and we were all in a panic. As guitarist Pete Ciccone left the group but the drummer, Paul Corrio, (the group always had Italian/Americans or Jewish guys in it. Sometimes we disagree, haha) stayed on just to finish the recording and me and Andy overdubbed the 2nd guitar parts as Pete didn't want to be on the record. They had a gig booked the following week at The Pyramid Club as The Rat Bastards and they were going to cancel as they didn't have a drummer or second guitarist- but as the engineer Albert Caiati from Coyote Studios was a great drummer and I was a guitarist we said "Hey- keep the show, me and Albert can play with you (Steve and Andy)" as we had been listening to the songs all week. So that was the first Devil Dogs gig after they changed the name from The Rat Bastards. As I was a member of The Raunch Hands I didn't want to be in the photos or credited as guitarist to avoid confusion, but I did do all the gigs with them and several European and a Japanese tour with them and played on most of the Crypt records up until they did "Saturday Night Fever" as a trio. I stayed in the band but Albert didn't so after trying out a few drummers we took on David Turetsky who was previously in The Headless Horsemen and Justin Trouble.

Are they any unreleased recordings from both bands with you playing in (or not)?

Yes, but as we can't get authorization from the other  group members to release them they remain on cassettes I have at home and there are some great moments that unfortunately the public will probably never hear it. Tim paid for the sessions, maybe someday he will release them, if he gets permission from the "artists" haha...

So you're telling me that there are somewhere Rat Bastards recordings still sitting unreleased in some drawer or something that been produced by Billy Childish and remixed by you? Wow! I thought that session never took place.

Yes-Billy wrote Suck The Dog, Hosebag and Pussywhipped on the spot. The titles came from American slang he heard as it was his first time in the USA. The group played them a few times and record them a few hours later.

I guess I’ll have to ask someone from The Mummies about it, but you know why you’ve been immortalized on these loonies song? Has anything to do with the rejected recording by Tim Warren?

Tim flew me out to San Francisco to record them. I guess they were a little disappointed as they wanted Billy Childish but Tim wasn't paying to fly him from the UK. I had never met them and they weren't particularly friendly when I did. They wasted a lot of time and said their guitarist Larry was in Utah on vacation, so we didn't get much done except recording on 8 track in a cold warehouse a couple of days. We really didn't get beyond recording about 10-12 songs which I didn't have time to mix. Tim paid for a finished LP, which he didn't get and wanted a more guitar oriented punk record with less organ and less 60s retro garage sound which they didn't seem to agree on. As much as their fans really love them I thought they were extremely unwelcoming, gimmicky and didn't really have any anything but stupid costumes and a lot of show. I don't think Tim rejected them so much because he didn't like the songs, which were OK. He felt they were problematic to work with which was my impression. I'm not sure if I was "immortalized" but happy someone disliked me enough to write about me. Good or bad response to something is always better than being ignored.

Speaking of your work as a producer, you’ve been behind the desk for countless garage punk and R&B/Soul outfits; tell me the main reason that got you choosing this as a post-musician job. Tell me also the recordings you enjoyed the most working as an engineer or a producer.

Well, after The Raunch Hands split up I had already started moving more towards producing... I was tired of the touring and being in 2 groups that were always on the road. Plus I started to develop a problem with the nerves in my hand and had difficulty playing.

The most memorable sessions and groups were The Phantom Keys (done in a house in Galicia), all of The Limboos stuff I did. Recording Sonny Burgess in Spain, live in the studio in one day. New Bomb Turks was a great 2 day session. Los Assdraggers another fast, fun and really drunk session and The Devil Dogs sessions were always a blast, I like when we are all having fun and laughing in the studio and working without any doubts... Recently Nervous Shakes from Brussels was a great session.. Fun and laughs all day and an excellent record. The best sessions always are the groups that do their job well as musicians and let me do my job as a producer and we can all relax, drink and have a good time without it feeling like work... stuff that just comes together fast and naturally. I don't show up with an attitude, so I don't expect to get that in return from anyone I work with-don't care if you are a "star" or a 15 year old kid making his first record. I treat anyone who is not full of shit with respect and would like the same. I currently moved to Valencia and am starting to play live again with a group called O.J.O. after swearing I never would get on stage again. But like smoking or eating, playing music is a tough habit to quit. And why should you quit something  if it gives you pleasure no matter how bad it is for you? Haha.

I know you’re hipped as me to the idea of different pressings with different mixes by bands. Which are the most interesting you ever crashed on? Are you a Mono or Stereo pressings fan btw and what's the reason behind this?

When I was working at Venus Records in NYC in 1984, I remember record collectors discussing mid 60s mono pressings had different mixes than the stereo pressings. For a few years records were mixed completely differently for the 2 formats and in some cases sounded quite different.Later we started realizing that European pressings of USA bands USA pressings of UK bands were also very different as the EQ curve standard (RIAA/Teldec/IEC) was different. You must remember that the master tape had to be sent by mail across the Atlantic, then they would be mastered and pressed in their respective country. These masters were often 2nd or 3rd generation analog "safety masters" 1/4" tapes (it was too risky to send the first generation mix tapes by mail-they could get lost or damaged) that could also sound different depending on what machine they were recorded and what machine they were played back on. With all of these variables pressings in various countries sound different. "I Can See For Miles" by The Who is a good example. It was pressed as a 45 (which also sounds different from the 33 RPM LP version) in about 8 different countries and they all sound a bit different and also sometimes the speed is slightly different. And the quality of the vinyl also accounts for a different sound. Chess LP vinyl was not that great so sometimes Chuck Berry records sound better on the French pressings.Also of course the artwork and photos differ from county to country, along with the track sequence. The Rolling Stones "Between The Buttons" US has different songs than the original UK version, and there are stereo and mono copies from both countries that sound very different. The vinyl made today, 60% of like sounds like shit and better in digital if you listen with the right equipment.

I need to know your thoughts on Tim Warren and Billy Miller. I believe they are as important to rock'n'roll as many artists and bands.

That's true. Their impact on bringing unknown artists and obscure styles of rock and roll is overwhelming. Not only as fantastic people and great friends they educated a lot of bands after they started putting out compilation records in the 1980s. They turned the unknown  losers into the heroes. Their endless search for the weird, the different, the craziest records every recorded that no one seemed to have known about certainly changed my life along with many others. Being close to both of them, also in a band with Billy and being Tim's "technical and production support," haha, was a blessing. I am very lucky to have been around them and still talk to Tim all the time.

Tell me a few bands that you wish had you as a producer.

Most of the bands that are currently active that I like I have worked with already but new groups are coming all the time. I am currently talking to Barrence Whitfield and The Savages and The Peewees about doing some records in the future and I like and respect both bands. I would have loved to do The Deadly Snakes or 68 Comeback when they were around but never got the chance. I wanted to do The Rolling Stones but without Charlie, I wouldn't do. I would maybe work with Keith on a solo record but not on Mick's next solo record. Now you tell me a few bands that would wish they had me as a producer! I bet you can't.

Haha, The Sonics are the first that comes in me mind. They're still great fuckin' dirty oldmen, aren't they? I'll definitely handed you the tape of L.A.M.F. also for a possible upgrade sounding reissue if I was sitting on the band's rights. The Coyote Men or Teengenerate were some bands taylor made for you also. There are many man. So, any recordings with you as a guitarist in The A-Bones?

No, I left before they recorded the first EP. I gave the job to my college friend Bruce Bennett who stayed with the group the whole time. I was getting busy as the Raunch Hands started making records and touring I couldn't be in both bands.

I'm sitting on an unreleased LP by Los Primos, Andy gave it to The Thing fanzine editor back then and Demetrius passed it to me too - he knew I was such a big fan. What happened and this one stayed in the can? I believe it's still one of your best productions. Tell me more about this band, they're definitely underrated. 

During the last Devil Dogs tour of the USA (I had already left the band) Andy met Candy Del Mar in L.A. Steve and Andy were having huge fights and Steve left to play with The Vikings and some other projects. Joe stayed with Andy and Candy came in then they used Pete Linzell as sax player as he was free, The Raunch Hands had already split up. They came down to Austin to record with me at Sweatbox and left me to mix it after they went back to New York. After they heard the dry rough mixes I did for a month they hated the final mix i did, they said it had too much reverb and effects and wanted it to sound dry like The Ramones (?), which was weird because they were moving away from punk into almost Brill Building/Bert Berns /Raspberries/Glam kinds of songs, so they remixed that at Coyote in Brooklyn... A few of the songs came out on 2 singles then Andy and Candy started fighting with Mighty Joe and threw him out of the group. They brought in Ron Salvo on Drums and Steve Greenfield on second sax and called it Andy G and The Roller Kings and a 10" was released. As far as I know, these are Andy's last recordings before he disappeared.

Are you still in touch with the other surviving Raunch Hands guys? 

We wrote to each other after Michael Chandler died, then we kinda lost contact.

Have you ever met Johnny Thunders or any other form the Dolls/Heartbreakers gang? 

Yeah, only Johnny and Walter. Walter was very nice, cultured and funny, he a a Wall Street job during the day and enjoyed going to the opera. A real gentleman. Johnny on the other hand was funny but somewhat dangerous. Me and Stevie Baise saw the last show he ever played shortly before he moved to New Orleans and died. He was hanging out at the Pyramid club after he had gotten back from playing in Europe. Jack Tragic was working there and talked him into playing an unannounced show (surely for drug money)... I think there were less than 30 people there, It was on a Tuesday, unannounced. He played good but physically he looked terrible, really sickly with almost green skin. Johnny loved The Senders (and why not? they were one of NYC's finest) and he would usually turn up at their gigs and play "Daddy Rolling Stone" with them. One night around 1990 it was a freezing winter night with snow and he showed up at the Continental Club near St. Marks and played with them. The "backstage" of The Continental was in the basement, where they kept the stuff for the restaurant which they tried to serve some kind of "food" in order to avoid paying the bar tax or something. Anyway we went backstage after the show to say Hi  and Johnny was doing cocaine of the top of a guitar. He asked us if we had a joint and Stevie did so we smoked a joint with him then it was getting late like 6 AM and we were getting ready to leave. Johnny had on this big vintage overcoat and as he stumbled up the stairs he bumped into the bouncer and 2 frozen chickens fell out which he stole from the freezer. The bouncer grabbed him and threw him out the door into the snow. Pretty typical Johnny. David Jo and Sylvain were always nice guys, David was cleaning up with his Buster Poindexter lounge thing at the time. He was playing a lot at Tramps and being somewhat professional, avoiding the rock and roll scene.

A last one, what's your thoughts on the so-called 80s garage revival? Any bands you dug except of The Outta Place?

There were pretty good groups playing at The Dive near Midnight Records at the time. The Tryfles, Vipers and Optic Nerve were both OK, but a little soft. Fuzztones always bad and silly, Lyres always great. Chesterfield Kings didnt move me too much...

Cheers mate!

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