CM : Your first single was never on an album at the time : “Little Olive” and “Ain’t It Hard.”
MT : The reason was that we had a one-record deal with Warner Brothers, with Reprise. “Ain’t It Hard” went exactly nowhere. The parents had a lot of copies. They were bar mitzvah presents for many many years to my family. So then they dropped us. We went independently and cut “Too Much to Dream” and Dave went back to Warner’s and they said “We want you back.” I’m kind of glad. “Ain’t It Hard” didn’t fit. “Little Olive” was close but “Ain’t It Hard” didn’t, and “Ain’t It Hard” wasn’t our song anyway.
CM : It’s fun to listen to now.
MT : We play it. I love the way we do it now. If we had done it that way I would have put it on any album but we didn’t.
CM : It was a little earlier stylistically too. You can hear a little more of the folk rock.
MT : Yes. That was our first real studio work so we were just doing whatever. We had a 12-string, and on that record I’m playing the guitar and James is playing the bass. Because we played whatever we could, whatever you could play. The 12-string part was my job, yeah, because I could play it.
CM : Is that a balalaika on “Sold to the Highest Bidder” ?
MT : No. We probably spent more time on “Sold to the Highest Bidder” than any track we worked on, for two sounds. The sound nobody appreciates is this spinning sound. We wanted to simulate a coin spinning. It’s a tape reel. We spent hours spinning this freaking tape reel trying to get it to fall right. What you think is a balalaika—some people think it’s a mandolin—is a guitar. We slowed the track down, played the guitar up high, speed the track up to normal, and the guitar’s like double or triple.
CM : Usually when you hear that, it’s quite evident that it’s double speed but on this the speed was not doubled.
MT : No, it was taken down and it was whatever it was. It was not doubled. It was maybe a third, enough to tweak the guitar sound. Some of the handclaps were done that way. If you listen to them, they’re pretty high [claps rapidly and brightly].
CM : There’s another piece with a very unusual keyboard sound and I assume that would be you. Did you play any odd, unusual keyboards ?
MT : If it was unusual it was only because it came out unusual. I’m severely limited in to my abilities.
CM : In a television clip, I saw James playing an Autoharp. Where did that come from ?
MT : An interesting question. Somebody sent it to us. It was an electric Autoharp. Otto Schmidt, who makes Autoharps, made this electric Autoharp and it just seemed to fit. We didn’t use it a lot because we’re not [John] Sebastian.
CM : Very few people were using it.
MT : The Lovin’ Spoonful was the only other band I knew that actually used it.
CM : Previous to that, in country music, the Carter Family used one.
MT : Oh everybody, yes. It’s used in elementary schools in “Froggie Went A- Courtin’.” Everybody played it in elementary school. It was hard to miss ; if you can read the letter ‘C’ you can play it. We used it because it was a miniature version of something we would always attempt to do, which is use the strings of an acoustic piano, of a baby grand or grand piano.
CM : Inside the piano.
MT : Yeah. An Autoharp was easier to handle than that. Plus the electric one—he’s going to have an Autoharp Saturday—gave it a sheen that’s hard to describe and it seemed to fit.
CM : That sheen has been called the ‘big jingle-jangle’ by one writer [John Covach] in describing the characteristics of folk rock.
MT : I call it Roger McGuinn’s 12-string.
CM : That term was coined to describe Roger McGuinn’s guitar.
MT : Is that from “Tambourine Man” ?
CM : Of course, he sings…
MT : “In the jingle jangle morning, I’ll come followin’ you.”
CM : I have heard it in all kinds of recordings, especially from LA, not just the 12-string but other instruments that give that sheen, as you called it. It’s the Autoharp over here. It’s the harpsichord on some of The Mamas and The Papas’ songs. There’s a certain sound color that people are going for.
MT : It’s magical to me, the Rickenbacker 12-string.
CM : Is it that you heard the 12-string, said “That’s a great sound” and realized that the Autoharp the same kind of sheen to it ?
MT : I don’t think it was that, because if we wanted the 12-string sound we would have used the 12-string. I think it was just that when we were working on things you just knew this is what you needed. I think it was a texture. In that sense you’re right. It was a texture we were going for but it may not have been the 12-string texture.
CM : But it is reminiscent of that color.
MT : There’s this need. There’s a majesty to that sound, still. We used the 12-string recently, played by Peter Lewis from Moby Grape.
CM : I did a beautiful interview with Peter. online here
MT : Cool. Peter plays with us and he lives up near James. When Peter plays it, it fills, it’s a spectacular instrument. The Autoharp did the same thing, except that hitting a 12-string open or just running down the strings doesn’t give you that wash that an Autoharp does.
CM : Because you have more strings.
MT : Exactly, and it fills it. But there is something to that jingle jangle concept : it’s almost a primal feeling.
CM : Multiple strings ringing at the same time. Those upper four sets of strings on a 12-string are octaves.
MT : And that Rickenbacker had a compressor on it, pushes it in [the sound]. I just don’t like tuning them.
CM : In the song “Train for Tomorrow” there’s a very jazzy section with a jazzy guitar solo with some octave playing.
MT : Yes. Ken plays a Wes Montgomery style. It wasn’t by accident. Ken had been listening to Wes Montgomery so we played Wes Montgomery.
CM : Was there much of a jazz influence aside from “Hey that’s a good guitar sound. Let’s try that” ?
MT : As I [jokingly] told you before, I just found out a couple of years ago that Miles Davis cut records. So not on my part. My idea of jazz was Ramsey Lewis which shows how bizarre. James had listened to some jazz. There was some, not a lot. I think that with jazz, either you have that musical aesthetic or it comes to you, but it’s not an easy one if you’re into three chord rock and roll. It was the guitar stuff. It wasn’t the jazz per se.
CM : David Cohen, who played keyboards and guitar for Country Joe and the Fish, said, “I don’t get jazz and I never have.”
MT : I didn’t until a couple of years ago, and then suddenly it was astounding. Now I listen to jazz. I’m blown away by the musicianship of it. It’s amazing to me. Same thing with classical music, suddenly if you see it, you get it. Otherwise you don’t get it. I had the same experience as earlier with jazz where I went, “Wow, man. Beethoven !”
CM : I’m curious about the LA scene and the community interactions. I’ve talked to some of the other guys that were around then, including one of the fellows from the Music Machine.
MT : It was probably Sean [Bonniwell].
CM : No, Doug Rhodes, the keyboard player, who’s actually living in my old hometown, in Victoria. I asked him, “Did you guys feel a part of the community ?” He said, “We had a hit record and we left. We were on the road. We hardly saw anybody.”
MT : Yeah, basically true. It’s funny. Talking to Peter about the difference between San Francisco and LA, there are some dramatic differences between the two areas.
CM : He would know both.
MT : Yes, he would. There was very little rock and roll community in Los Angeles. There were a couple of places. There was a place whose name I don’t remember – they had this all night show where we played and the Doors would play then the Buffalo Springfield would play. This is before everybody was really that successful. You’ve got to tie in LA as a town with the LA music community. Meaning : San Francisco’s a city. You go to places. People have their local bars. You hang out. There’s community to it, there’s community feeling in the city. LA’s a private city. If you don’t know where the party is, you’re not there. That’s the way it was with the music too. Also, the idea was if you had a hit record, “get ’em on the road” because that sells records. So he’s right. The minute your record broke we’d go out and do, like, 45 towns in 30 days and then come back and do a little recording. Then you’re in the studio. Then you go back out again. So there was not a lot of hanging out together. We’d saw more of local LA bands on the road than we did in Los Angeles. Some of the guys in the Turtles lived about three, four miles from us and we’d see them in Birmingham, Alabama.
CM : You didn’t have much interaction with, say, Iron Butterfly.
MT : No, very little.
CM : So there wasn’t a lot of musical interchange other than you’d hear them on records or on the radio.
MT : That was about it. It wasn’t bands getting together and playing together or saying, “This is what we’re doing” or showing up in the studio with each other. It didn’t happen a lot.
CM : The bands were like little family units.
MT : Yeah, little enclaves of their own. That’s the way it was for us. Plus Peter’s take is that LA music was more cutthroat.
CM : Competition.
MT : Not just competition. It was city music. San Francisco was about loving everybody and all that. LA wasn’t so much about loving everybody. It was more about you gotta make it. It’s always been a different place so we were a little harder edged, I think.
CM : Both in sound and in attitude.
MT : Yeah. I think so, although I’m not so sure how much everybody loved each other in San Francisco either.
CM : The San Francisco community was very much based on the folk revival.
MT : Yes, much more than LA was. LA was more of about blues and that stuff.
CM : I think the San Francisco guys got into folk because there were folk clubs and they could go down the street and see Odetta, or whoever.
MT : We could have too. We had the same basic clubs. Odetta played a lot at certain places. I’m not sure what caused it ; I think it may be the freeways. There were no center points. There were certain clubs but there were not center points until the ’60s when the club scene really started happening. A lot of it would be records. I don’t know why, but I know most of the bands that we liked were more blues oriented. It’s hard to imagine the Airplane coming from folk but I know they did.
CM : They did. In every major San Francisco band—counting five or ten bands—you can find at least one member who was totally into the folk revival.
MT : You see we had none. We would have probably shot anybody who came into the band who wanted to play folk music. Bored the crap out of me. We didn’t have that. We didn’t even know people who were into that. It was big and there was a folk scene in LA. It was just we weren’t in it.
CM : Then there was folk rock, but folk rock was always the electric version.
MT : Absolutely, but McGuinn and Barry McGuire and all those guys came out of that New York folk thing. They took it west when they came to LA. It was electric, and electric allows you to forgive the sin of it being folk music. Electric also took some of the boring message out. They were going for songs. They could take “turn, turn, turn,” which can be endless, and made it two minute 18 seconds or whatever.
CM : They kept chopping verses in “Mr. Tambourine Man.”
MT : Exactly. You listened to the 12-string with those spectacular harmonies going, “I like this folk stuff. Maybe there’s something to it.”
CM : Harmony singing is very prevalent in most LA bands, such as the Byrds, Three Dog Night, The Beach Boys…
MT : They sing their butts off, real harmonies too.
CM : Was it because the Beach Boys had made it big earlier that people said, “That’s the way we’re going to go” ? What is it about the harmony thing in LA.? You guys didn’t do it so much.
MT : We didn’t. We actually do more now because we can. I don’t know, it may have something to do with sun and surf and the atmosphere because San Francisco has the fog and…
CM : You’ve got to wear your sweater.
MT : Well, it leads you to sit around coffee houses. LA leads you to get out. We always wore fewer clothes than everybody and those harmonies express that sunshine, the general mood of it, I think.
CM : An expansive openness.
MT : We did a tour with the Beach Boys and when decided to sing – oh, God.
CM : They’re still like that. I saw them this summer and everybody’s asking, “Who’s in the band ?” I say, “Who cares ? It’s the Beach Boys !”
MT : These were the guys except Brian. Brian wasn’t touring.
CM : Their six part harmonies were thrilling.
MT : Yeah, when they hit that note in “Good Vibrations,” it’s like heaven opens up. That D chord, you just go, “Wow !” Of course, they got their derivation from the Four Aces and the Four Preps, the “26 Miles across the sea” guys.
CM : You know who was in that—“26 Miles to Santa Catalina,” the Four Preps—one of the members was a guy named Ed Cobb.
MT : Sure, I know Ed Cobb. He produced the Standells. We used to come into the studio when they were leaving with Dick Dodd [Standells’ drummer and vocalist]. They were leaving American Recording when we recorded and Ed Cobb was their producer. I didn’t know he was in the Four Preps.
CM : He also wrote the song “Tainted Love.” When you hear that, imagine it as done by an LA band in the sixties and it’s the kind of chords that people were using.
MT : That makes a lot of sense. That’s funny, I didn’t know that. I’ll have to tell James that.
CM : Can you tell me anything about “Hey Joe” ? LA and "Hey Joe" seem to be married. Every band seemed to do that.
MT : I remember the Leaves doing it. I think a couple of Leaves guys ended up in the Turtles later on.
CM : You’re right.
MT : It’s something about the chord change. Love did 90 percent of their songs with a “Hey Joe” chord change. Then Hendrix ruined it for everybody because he owned it. We were used to “Hey Joe” like this [sing and claps at a fast tempo]. I don’t know. It may just be that the song was popular at dances, or people wanted to hear it, so bands learned to play it. We never did “Hey Joe.”
CM : What I’ve noticed, and maybe you can relate this to some of the songs that you did do, is that there was a period, basically 1966, and a little before and a little after, when the idea that you can make a song with nothing but major chords, lots of them, becomes very popular.
MT : Yes, yes.
CM : “In the Midnight Hour” is earlier, but I think the fad starts with “Hey Joe.” People go, “Wow : A, D, E, G, C.”
MT : That’s not bad. There’s something real positive about major chords. It may be that it was positive. God knows, “Hey Joe” is not that positive a song, but it feels good. We used minor chords, though, on the other hand. We still have some minor chords in us. “Too Much to Dream” is all minor chords. There may be something to that, an unspoken feeling. I think a lot of times, like I said earlier, you do what you do and then somebody tells you what it meant and what the motivation was behind it, but you somehow know it. Really great artists, and I’m not talking about us necessarily, but really great artists inherently, intuitively know that this does something. They may not know what it is. That could very well possibly be it, because I know one of my favorite things from that period always was “Little Red Book” by Love and how they took that from the Burt Bacharach [composition]. We still see him [Arthur Lee] play at this little dive, weirdest place in Los Angeles. When they started playing “Little Red Book,” they did this Indian war dance throughout the whole building. Everybody would just lock arms. It’s like a samba but it was just bouncing up and down throughout this whole building.
CM : Had you heard the Manfred Mann version ?
MT : No. I was stunned to know it was from a movie, What’s New Pussycat. I thought what they [Love] did was great, just brilliant. They were one of my favorite bands.
CM : There are other brilliant examples using lots of major chords, like “Little Girl” by the Syndicate of Sound.
MT : Same as "Hey Joe."
CM : Yeah, but they shifted around.
MT : The song drove me up a wall, by the way. Just the sound of it. It’s so tinny, to me, that I didn’t appreciate it.
CM : One of the greatest expressions of “Let’s do it all in major chords” is “Talk Talk” by the Music Machine. It’s like a little symphony.
MT : Absolutely, but that to me is a wonderful record. That they can stay with it and don’t have the song leave them somewhere and go “Where the hell are we ?” and they hit all that [sings a bit] and he does that vocal against it. Marvelous stuff.
CM : When I spoke with the keyboard player Doug Rhodes—he’s now a sax player and a piano repair technician—we were in his backroom where he had dozens of pianos all apart. I asked, “Would you play me a little bit of ‘Talk Talk’ ?” And he said, “God, what works around here ? They’re all in pieces.” We went over to a pump organ, maybe the only working keyboard in his shop, and he played me the organ part. He was voicing all of the chords with a third on the top so it’s very much a major chord. There’s nothing hidden. It’s not like the power chord with a missing third that can sound ambiguous. It’s right on the top.
MT : It’s a very cool record. I always liked that. And they wore one glove.
CM : He told me that they wore one glove on stage and when they went off stage they switched gloves and wore the other glove, just to be weird !
MT : There you go.
CM : Can you tell me more about the evolution of the band ? We made it up to the second record.
MT : The band started as just a bunch of guys getting together to play and do some recording. When we cut our first record, we really learned that we had some power in the studio and could do some things. In between that we were touring. Touring was not that healthy for us ultimately. It’s a different motivation, a different process. We didn’t have a lot of songs that we liked from our first album, so we didn’t play a lot of them. We had to do the hit records but we didn’t play most of the songs off the first album. We’re doing more of our old stuff now than we did then. We would do Muddy Waters songs, a lot of older songs in person. Then we did Underground, where we were just starting to figure out who we were. Then Dave Hassinger along with Dave Axelrod and our manager Lenny Poncher came up with what may have been a brilliant idea but was the death knell of our band : Mass in F Minor. It killed us. It just destroyed our band totally.
CM : What happened ?
MT : Basically it wasn’t ours. You have to understand something else about Dave Hassinger. For us to get a song done by us, we had to tell him somebody else wrote it. We’d go in and record demos on our own, pay for them and bring them in and tell him somebody else wrote this song. He’d say, “I really like it.” Then we could cut it. Then we could tell him it was ours after we cut it. He was trapped. The trouble with Mass in F Minor is that it was no different than somebody saying, “I have an idea. We’re going to hire these guys to play.” So there was none of us in it. It’s funny because they just had this thing in Mojo magazine where Dave Axelrod said that we dissed him and basically we could go fuck ourselves. I always loved David. I’m really hurt by that actually. But not that hurt.
CM : You weren’t on that record ?
MT : Yeah, I was on it. But it wasn’t my soul. I played as hard as I could but the way we always worked was we went to my garage or James’s backyard, and we’d sit and work things up and we’d get together with the band and we’d rehearse and say, “Maybe we can do this, and maybe we can do this, and what if we did this ?” We’d massage it, and we’d say, “That chord’s not working. Let’s change it.” We walked into charts [at the Mass in F Minor sessions]. We were a viable entity that had a strange enough reputation that we could do this without anybody saying anything. The Beach Boys couldn’t have done it, because what the hell are the Beach Boys doing on acid ? It really let us know that nobody was on our side.
CM : You were pawns in the game.
MT : Yeah, we were just a product and it didn’t feel good. I played on Mass and I take credit for what I played. I used to go to David Axelrod’s house and he’d play me what he’d heard. I admired the hell out of what he was thinking musically, but it wasn’t us. All the guys didn’t play on everything. I played on all the songs and our drummer Quint did. The rest of it, not all the guys. It was destructive in that way. We never quite recovered from that.
CM : Is it true that some guys from a Vancouver band called the Collectors are
on that ?
MT : Yes, it is true.
CM : I went to see the Collectors many times. They were fantastic.
MT : They’re nice guys. Man, they could play their butts off. They were a great band. One of them smoked a pipe, Bill.
CM : Henderson.
MT : They were a good, good band that deserved more notoriety than they got. David Hassinger was producing them for Warner’s, on the Warner’s label. They didn’t play on Mass ; they did some vocals with James. James is doing all the lead. They’re singing behind it. Maybe Bill did play some, he may have played some guitar. We went to see them a couple of times when they were playing in LA. Who else is on it ? Don Randi’s playing some. Richie Podolor who engineered our stuff and plays world class flamenco Spanish guitar, also played. But it wasn’t our band, it was a project, and it took such energy away from us. Being in a band is like being married without the sex. Well, at least in our band without the sex. Once you start getting problems you have a tendency to really beat the crap out of each other, and that’s what happened. We stopped talking to each other. It turned really, really nasty, so then we weren’t a band anymore.
CM : Then there was another record of David Axelrod’s under the Electric Prunes name, Release of an Oath.
MT : We didn’t have anything to do with it. Never even heard it. It’s not us. What happened was James quit first. We did one tour without James. Kenny Loggins was in the band for that tour. I came home and quit. Ken quit. Basically the band quit because we were it at that point. Then they called up and said, “We want to use the name.” We said, “You can do anything. Use the name. We own it but use it. If you want to put a band together to do some stuff, we don’t really give a damn.” And so, Oath, I’ve never even heard it.
CM : There’s even one after that.
MT : Yeah. Just Good Old Rock and Roll. I’ve never heard that either, by the way. We just had some issues : suddenly people were defining who the band actually was. That band, I don’t know the guys who were in it, I’m sure they’re nice guys and they’re probably really good musicians and all those wonderful things you can say about people, but they weren’t us and they didn’t create it. I’ve never heard anything good about the Good Old Rock and Roll album, so I’m assuming I don’t need to hear it. Then we self destructed with a little help from the people, you see. The other problem is when the people who are helping you destruct are the people who are supposed to be on your side and you are 18 years old.
CM : Who do you trust ?
MT : And where do you go ? You just quit. I played studio sessions for a while. I played on a bunch of Motown stuff. A lot of ABC-Dunhill records. I played a fair amount but I didn’t have the temperament to be a good studio musician. I came from a group environment where you actually said what you were thinking and it wasn’t just “Thank you very much. That’s really a good record.” “Can I go home now ?” Emotionally, I don’t think I was real popular with some producers because I hadn’t learned to curb my mouth. Then I went back to school.
CM : How did the band get back together ?
MT : Oh, it’s funny. We got a call from a man at Warner Brothers and he wanted to do a compilation CD of our stuff, for reasons that truthfully totally stunned us : we’re this seminal band, particularly in Europe, that everybody is really interested in. We were blown away. We were absolutely unprepared for it. He wanted to do a compilation and wanted to know if we wanted to come in to help re-mix it for CD. Re-mix in our terms is really weird because most of it’s on four track. We couldn’t do a hell of a lot, but we wanted to. We got in the studio : “can we bring, I always wanted to bring…” “No, you can’t do that, no you gotta replicate it.” We went in with the engineer who does all the Rhino releases. I got a call from James, about four years ago, right about the time when Simon Edwards was doing the Stockholm ’67 CD that he did. I got a call from James and I hadn’t spoken to him in 20 years, 15 years.
CM : Had you been in touch with any of the guys ?
MT : No. I’d see James on and off for a while and then we just didn’t. He said, “Do you want to come in and do this ?” “Sure, I think it’d be fun.” Through that we found out that after the time had passed and we weren’t that angry anymore, that we really cared about each other as people. We’d been through a war together. Then we decided that it would be funny to see who we could find. The Internet allows us to find Ken. We thought, “Wouldn’t it be fun if we just got together over New Year’s up at James’s house ?” He has this beautiful house up in the hills, up in Santa Ynez. We had fun and reminisced and talked because we hadn’t done it. I hadn’t talked about it. He hadn’t talked about it. We hadn’t done a lot of “I used to be in this band.” There was nothing in my house that would let you know it.
CM : Neighbors didn’t know.
MT : Nobody knew. I was married and divorced and she knew I played but she had never seen me play or anything. Then Ken came up and we played a bit. It was fun again, and it sounded good. We thought, “Let’s just do some stuff for the hell of it.” As we did it, we got more serious about it and we looked at it in this manner : we found that we were not getting back together again to just play some good time music, throw some crap down on tape, and here we are and everybody should just rejoice. Because we never thought anybody cared so that wasn’t our reason for doing it. We weren’t coming back like, “We’re back and everybody should be real happy about it.” It’s not our mindset. We thought that we had an opportunity that you don’t get often in life. You don’t get do-overs often, so we figured we had a chance to at least, for our own sake and that’s the way it started out, to do our third album because we never got to do it. The Mass wasn’t it.
CM : It wasn’t yours.
MT : No. It was a third album because it had our name on it. So we set out to record a third album so we could have it. All we wanted to do was finish it and be able to play it one night sitting in a room together and smile, and know it was really good. That was our goal. Then it turned out that, to our surprise, it was actually working out better than we thought it was going to, and we ended up with something that we’re really proud of. We also think that in what we did there’s another message behind it : that everybody our age and around this generation—not everybody, but a lot of people—seemed to have forgotten that they dreamed of being x, y, or z. They’re caught up in house payments, in car payments. They’re caught up, like I am. My daughter’s going to a private college, so college payments. We just wanted to say, “Man, you can still do it. It’s about the emotion. Go to your closets, go to your garage, and get that piece of crap guitar that you haven’t seen in 20 years. Plug in that dust covered amplifier and play away, and whether it’s good or bad, enjoy doing it.” That’s what we’re attempting to do now. We think we have a new product that’s the best thing we’ve done. I’ll give you a copy.
CM : Oh, it’s out already ?
MT : Yeah, it’s brand new. We just got it. It’s called Artifact. It’s all new stuff. We discovered something else : that no matter what we do, we’re us. In other words, it’s true to who we are without attempting to do “Too Much to Dream 2001.” Our aesthetic, fortunately or unfortunately, hasn’t changed that much. We did it all analog. We didn’t do any digital effects to it whatsoever. We did it in James’ guest house which we turned into a recording studio. I am more proud of this product than I am of anything we’ve done before.
CM : Fantastic !
MT : You never have to give up on a dream if you don’t choose to, and if you like it, that’s the most important thing. If you want to be a painter, grab some brushes and some paint and go paint, and love doing it. This one we loved making. There’s still band stuff. Bands are bands and you argue and all that. But we loved making it and we’re really proud of it.
CM : I think that’s just fabulous.
MT : This took us three years.
CM : You wanted to do it right.
MT : Not only did we want to do it right but we did it when we had the time to do it. It wasn’t as if we said, “We’re going to do this in a week. Everybody give me four days, we’re going to record it.” We’d spend all night putting on a guitar track. James, bless his soul, I thought that I was precision-oriented ; he makes me look like a lackadaisical person. Even at this Cavestomp thing, it’s not that you want to go back and re-live what you were. Cherish it.
CM : It’s the foundation.
MT : Absolutely, but then take that foundation and go, “But now, because this is when we’re mature.” We don’t attempt to be 18 anymore.
CM : Lost cause, anyway.
MT : Can’t do it. I can’t wear tight jeans anymore, either. It’s us in our present state and it’s something. We got what we wanted. This is us, we’re having a good time with it and we’re proud of it. That’s why we can go out and we’re playing better than we ever played in person. We have a maturity now and with music that makes a difference. We’re still as pissed off as we always were, so the anger’s still in the music. Because we were always an angry band.
CM : You were angry with the way you were handled in the music business.
MT : Well, about a lot of stuff. Instead of Jewish guilt I had Jewish anger for some reason. I can’t figure that out. James is still who James is and we’re ready to have some fun with this. But we don’t want to go back. I’ve been there. We don’t want to just play old songs for people. We won’t do that. If we can’t go forward with something, we’ll go back to James’s house and do more recording because we could always do that.
CM : Had you found the other two guys ?
MT : Couldn’t find them. Weasel, whose real name is James Spagnola, we can’t find him. We’ve tried everything we could. Our first drummer, Preston [Ritter], didn’t want to play with us. Being in a band is tough, and believe it or not, 30 odd years later, there’s residual anger that’s still is hanging on. He’s still as angry, and we can’t go back and revisit the anger. He just came with a different attitude. He and a couple of other people we’ve had come up and play were too busy relishing who we were to join in who where we are. We don’t need to have somebody like that. We had a couple of hit records ; we didn’t find a cure for polio. In the pantheon of records, there are better records and there are records that meant more. I’m not demeaning what we did. It’s just that in reality…
CM : You have a perspective on what it is and what it isn’t.
MT : Yeah. We fit into a certain time zone and I’m not saying that time zone really needs to be gone. We can re-create it, sort of. But we really want to do it in present day. We’re not going to be wearing paisley when we play. We’re not going to attempt to pretend that it’s anything except what it is, particularly in this city at this time you can’t pretend. Artifact, the new album, is our statement that you’re not dead until you decide you’re dead. It could be 30 years. It can be a 100 years. Go for it. That’s our message. Not, “We had a hit record.”
left to right : Mark Tulin, Ken Williams, James Lowe, in front : Quint (formerly known as Mike Weakley) - photo by Pamela Lowe
CM : Who are we going to see tomorrow night ?
MT : Of the original band, you’re going to see me, James, and Ken Williams, the guitar player. Preston was one of our drummers, but he didn’t play on all of our records ; we had a guy named Quint play also. The drummer playing with us [tomorrow] played with us in ’68. But at that point we were no longer basically talking to each other, so we weren’t recording real well either. So four of the six guys on stage actually were from that period. James’s son Cameron is playing keyboards with us now, and we have a new guitar player named Mark Moulin who we met in LA. He’s really cool. Aside from Cameron, who obviously can’t be our age because he’s Jim’s son, everybody’s about the same age too.
Mark Tulin died of a heart attack in 2011, aged 62. Rest in peace, Mark. See an obituary here.
comments from readers :
Nice to have this. Thank you for this interview being posted Craig ... very complete and deep as was needed .... you Rock ! - James Lowe
I have posted interviews with members of the Doors, Electric Prunes, Iron Butterfly, Jefferson Airplane, Moby Grape, Music Machine, Quickislver Messenger Service, and Strawbery Alarm Clock. To go to the index page, click here.
you may be interested to read Psychedelic Music in San Francisco : Style, Context, and Evolution by Craig Morrison, available as a download from lulu.com for less than $5