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Frank Marino

Interviewed by Greg Olma
Interview with Frank Marino from 2005
MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

You have been touring consistently for the past 5 years but only put out one studio album. Any plans for another studio album?
Well, there are obligations to do a blues record and there is an obligation to do a DVD. Plans is another story. I'd like to do a jazz album. I don't have any obligation to do that and I certainly don't have any plans, but it is something I would like to do. But as for a Mahogany Rush studio record, this is the kind of thing that has to sort of happen. It is just the way I do things. Really, none of the Mahogany Rush records, particularly after a certain point in my career, were really planned. They just happened. Even Eye of the Storm was one of those records that just happened.
MSJ: The fans on the internet helped that one come out.
I had already done the record. The Mahogany Rush record was done just to do it. Then I found the fans. But it was never really intended to be out as a record. Then it came out because the fans really wanted it. But to do another Mahogany Rush record? Yeah, I could see, God willing, I would like to be able to do it. But I wouldn't put myself in a position of "well, it's time for a new Mahogany Rush record; time to go into the studio and write some tunes". It's just not me to plan that type of stuff. Hell, I don't even like using a set list. For me to plan it that way would be real strange. It really just has to happen. We have to be hanging out in the studio, playing, and then it just happens to sound good; so, it becomes an album of stuff. And that's basically how I do it. I try to keep it really, sort of, let's say, natural, simple. It's really not about selling something to someone. A lot of times a band goes into the studio because they have to. Either they have to because they have a record deal that forces them to come up with material or they have to because if they don't, they won't get any gigs. Or there is some reason that forces them to put out this record. I don't think you make the most satisfying records when you do it that way. I know I certainly didn't like it when I had to do those things in the 70's. With Eye of the Storm, I didn't have to do anything. I was out of the business; I had quit. I just did a record that was fun, felt good with the guys, didn't have to come out, didn't have a deadline, and it turned into an album that did come out. For that reason, I like it pretty much better than most of them.
MSJ: I read in an interview that you never really planned on putting it out.
It's so true. I suppose, as the producer side of me knew, the practical, pragmatic producer side of me that's not an artist, that does the production and the editing, looking at it from a distance. I suppose that I am a little remiss in allowing myself to do tunes that are 18 minutes long. You know, obviously never get on the radio. What good is that if no one hears your music, just because it's too long? I should be a little more pragmatic that way and say "this is an album; people have to hear it, therefore, do this or do that". Although I know I should, I just never can. Maybe I should take the career part of it a little more seriously, but I don't. I don't take myself very seriously. I don't believe press clippings. Music is something I do that is almost a hobby. It's become a professional hobby.
MSJ: You put out Real Live about a year ago. What prompted you to put out another live album now?
We had 27 recordings. I built this live recorder system; dedicated live digital work station. Basically, this thing was coming with us, like a 5th member of the band. Whenever we play a gig, it's got this one big power switch, you put it on and it records. So we just turn it on at every gig. We were supposed to do some more gigs that year, but then 9/11 happened that very weekend that we did the record that became Real Live. We played on the Saturday and then Tuesday, the world changed. Then all of a sudden, we weren't going on the road and there was just nothing to do. I said "why don't we look at these recordings that we have 27 hard drives full of. So, I reached into the pile and the last one was on top of the pile. It was that Saturday show; it just happened to be that night of Montreal. I stuck in on the machine, started listening to it, and then I said to Peter "it's hard to listen to it in its raw form. Why don't I just mix it quickly, to see what it's like?" So I did a quick mix on it and found that there was 10 minutes missing on the end. Then I decided that I'd get into the whole thing and fix it. Go find the 10 minutes and fix it. It became a half a year, then a year. While all of this was going on, Jim West, who runs the label that the record is now on, who's been a friend of mine since Maxoom, he was in my crew in the 70's. Basically, he has a record label and he said "Frank, I was at the show and now I hear the record that you are mixing. Let me put it out. Let me put it out on my label". He loved Red House so much because he has a blues label. I said "ok". And that's how that ended up coming out.
MSJ: You had mentioned a DVD.
That was the obligation. That was to Jim. He's been trying to get me to do a blues album since the 70's, 'cause he knows I like to play blues. He's a blues aficionado. He has 400 jazz and blues titles on his label. He's always telling me, as a friend, "when you gonna do a blues album, when you gonna do a blues album, you play great blues". I'm like "we'll get around to it". So he puts the Real Live record out. He says "Frank, look, I'll do a great job on this, I'll do a great cover, I'll do the packaging for you, and I'll put the record out. All I want you to do for me is, just promise me that you'll do a blues album and a DVD, at some point, when you feel like it". So I've got this kind of obligation to do this blues album and DVD.
MSJ: I have a 10 minute video clip of your show at the Colony Theater near Chicago. I have heard that the whole show was taped. Are there any plans on releasing that on DVD?
Well, that's not mine. That wasn't me who video taped that. There were these guys that were running the show. I don't even really know who they were, and they were doing this whole video number. I think what ended up happening was, those tapes became the property of somebody else. Then some lawyer. These things just end up all over the place. So if your asking me if I have any plans putting that out; absolutely not. But if they were to someday, somehow come into my possession, yeah, I would take a look at them and see what I could do with them.
MSJ: You just re-released Full Circle, From the Hip, and Double Live. How did that come about?
It was Jim that did that again. He said "I'm going to take your old stuff, if you'll remaster it for me". Which I did, I did the remastering myself. And he said "give me a couple of tracks that I can add on to them and remaster them, and I'll put them out too". I said "yeah, hey, whatever."
MSJ: He did a nice job on them.
You know, that's what people are telling me. People are telling me he did a great job. He's got great covers for them. I didn't do the covers; he did. He did great artwork. They're saying, it's clean, it's nice, and it's classy. He's a classy guy. He was voted into the Canadian Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; as a builder. He has so much respect in the industry from jazz and blues artists. He signed Diana Krall actually. He had her on his label then made a deal to get her on a bigger label later. He's a really, really good person.
MSJ: You can tell there was a lot of care put into the remasters.
What I like most of all about that is that I saw comments from people who had gotten them. They really liked the remastering. That speaks to me as a producer. I'm not looking now as the guitar player, Frank Marino, who has an album out there. I'm looking at it purely as an editor and producer. I love editing and producing. For people to come back and say these things sound really, really good; that's sort of a feather in my cap. It's sort of another aspect of what I do. When I remastered those records, I really looked at them kind of like they weren't even mine. I have a record, here it was, it belongs to some band named Mahogany Rush, and what am I supposed to do with this mix. How am I going to make it sound better? That's basically the care that I took on them; to look at them that way, from a very, very objective standpoint.
MSJ: I bought Full Circle and the sound difference was like night and day.
That's what people are telling me. Here's the interesting thing. When I got those recording to remaster them, I did not listen to the originals. They are my records but I never listen to my records once they are done. Every single album I've ever done, the day that it was finished, that's the last time I hear it. Unless somebody plays it to me or I need to know the lyrics because we are going to cover this tune and I forgot the words. Somebody in the band will bring a copy. For instance, if we were going to cover one of our tunes "Strange Dreams," I can't even remember the words, so somebody is going to bring me the record. Now, having them online, I can just go online and click on the song. I never listened to them again. The interesting thing was to bring up those records and remaster them, as if they weren't mine, and say what's wrong with these records. And I found plenty wrong with those records. Not that I'm trying to be a perfectionist but I thought, my God, the bass is all over the place, the highs were too sharp, everything was peaky. It just didn't sound nice. So I mastered them so they would sound better, bring things out, and sound more even. I figured, there's the job. I gave it to Jim, he puts it out, and then all of sudden, bingo, I'm getting a lot of comments from people, including other engineers and producers. They're saying "how did you do that"? I don't know how I did it. It's just my ears.
MSJ: Are there any plans to re-release your Columbia catalog?
Well, I wish I could get them. Listen, if I could get them, if those people would just give me back my stuff, I'd put them all out. Hell, if they'd give me my stuff back, I'd put it out for free. Like on my site. The songs are freely listenable on the player. Every song. It's not like we put 30 seconds of a tune. You can go through our entire catalog and listen to whatever you want. I really believe music is something that people should be able to hear. That's what it's for. And yes, I would love to be able to sell records and have money and stuff, but I've never been a rich guy. I've never really had money. I live poorly and I'm used to it. I'm gonna be 51 in November so it's not all of a sudden I'm going to be some rich guy. So I think for those albums to sit there and languish, and nobody can get them, nobody can hear them, just because this corporation can hold onto them like some kind of investment; I think that's kind of criminal. That's the problem with corporations. They look at it like, yes, there is a core market, however, it does not preclude the costs it takes to put this into production and blah, blah, blah. That's the way they are looking at it. They are looking at it like selling beans. This is the problem with having corporations own this kind of material. Corporations should never own art. They really shouldn't. I mean, we're stupid and young, we're musicians, we sell out the rights to this stuff for a buck. And then they get it, they hold onto it, and then they're hoping that one day you die and become famous, like Jimi Hendrix or something. It's a shame. If I could ever get those people to say "look, we're not doing anything with those records, they're all in the back room, shelved; go ahead, here they are" or even "buy them from us, give us X amount of money and buy them from us". I'd buy them but they won't sell them. I'm an anarchist of my industry. I'm a music industry anarchist in a sense. I believe that business has no business in the music business. I think that record labels, large record labels not small mom and pop stuff; stuff like Jim or many, many others that do stuff for the love of it, but those big companies have become largely irrelevant at this point in the customer/artist relationship. They really don't bring anything to the table. They are largely unnecessary. You've got artists who are creating their art or creating their work. And you've got the public who if only given the chance to know where to go and get it, will go get it. Largely, that sets up the possibility that the public could deal one on one with the artist. Now why can't that be? Because if it could be, a CD would not cost $20 or $30 or even $14. It would probably cost something like $6, so the difference between that CD costing $6 and $20 is the industry that injects itself into the middle of the equation. When you go into the store and lay down $20 or $15 for your favorite record, and you bring it home, you've got what you want but the artist is still only getting the same $2 that he would have gotten if you bought it for $6. So all of that extra money is going to the record companies, the stores, the packers, all the people in-between the artist and the consumer. They are all getting paid but they don't bring anything to the table. The record companies aren't really putting the bands in the studio; they're not paying for anything. Nobody is really doing anything for these records to get them to the public except pick them up, put them on shelves, and hope people come to look at them. No one is buying ads, no one is promoting most of the time, except the top 10. Why do we need these people? Artists don't need them. Artists are making their records at home in their basements; on their PCs, with equipment just as good as any multi-million dollar studio used in the 70's; sounds just as good, too. Consumers are still consumers and they still have the ability buy direct. I think what we need is to have a kind of paradigm shift where the consumers simply think that the way you get music is direct from the artist. Like, that's just the way it's done. Right now, people think the way it's done is to go to the store and buy it. But that's just an illusion, it's just a paradigm. It's like that's the way it is because that's the way it is. It doesn't have to be that way. So what would happen if large bands that have huge followings, the bands that sell 15-20 million records, like the Rolling Stones, Celine Dion, all those people; what would happen if these people said "here's my record, you can only get it directly, and it costs $6". As soon as they do that, well, their competitor artists would do the same. And then 2 more, and then 2 more, and then 2 more, and that would become the new way of people interacting with the music that they want. They would go get it.
MSJ: It would definitely have to start with one of the big artists.
It would have to start with a monster. But it would shift the paradigm. And all of a sudden there would be no record industry. There would be the music, the artist, and the buyer. Now, the industry would start taxing the internet. They would do things to try and get their money back. But largely what would happen is people would have shifted their way of thinking. Because it's an illusion that you have to buy this stuff from a store or from a record label. It's an illusion, when you're in a band, that you have to be on a label to make records or get signed to somebody. That's an illusion just the same way it became an illusion to people that they have to put their money in a bank. Banks, when they started, they basically had to convince people to put their money in a bank. Many people said "I'm not giving them my money; I don't even know those people". But it became the kind of way that you did things. People today are under the impression that if you earn money from your job or whatever, that you have to put it in a bank; you have a legal obligation to bank it. You don't. You can take the cash and put it in a mattress as long as you tell the government what you made and pay the tax. But it's an illusion that people think that that's the way it has to be done; that it has to go into the bank. What I'm really saying here is, change the illusion. The record company has been the Svengali of the young. That they could sort of hypnotize many, many young people into thinking that the way things are done is this way. If you're an artist, you have to do this route, if you're a buyer, you have to do that route. This is an amazing magic trick that has made them very, very rich and now that their losing money and control, they're losing grip on that, the public is saying "we're not going to take it anymore. You're selling us crap or a record with one good song and 14 bad ones, and we're not even allowed to hear or download it. We're not allowed to listen to the MP3s or RealAudio before we make a decision. We're not stupid." And so they end up downloading and downloading and what they call P2P stuff. And now the record companies want to sue these people. Like, where are you coming from? How greedy can you get?
MSJ: Do you prefer downloading music or buying CDs?
I haven't bought a CD or a record in my life but I have this thing called a wife of 25 years. It seems to be like I just happen to say I like or heard this thing that I thought was really cool, and it just magically appears in my house. Not as a gift, it just appears there. It's almost like dinner; it just magically appears everyday. I don't know why but when you have a wonderful person like that , these things happen. In fact, she's buying them. I'm a big believer that people should be able to try things before they buy them. I think that the customer is really always right when it comes to business or selling something. I also believe that there will be a contingency of people who will take the free thing, live with it, and not pay. The greater majority will actually rather buy the item if they like what they see. People do it all the time. They see stuff on 1-800 numbers on TV that they know is junk but they buy it anyway because they think it would be cool to have it. They go to all the trouble of getting out their credit card and doing it. I know that I do that. When I use software, for instance, I'll just go get the shareware version. There is usually a demo, shareware, WinZip, or whatever. If I find it useful, I'm happy to buy it. It's not a big problem. I think people are like that too. If you let them hear what you've got, and if what you got is good, I believe they will buy it. I believe that they will want to have the actual package. Maybe I'm idealistic or maybe wrong but I think I'm right.
MSJ: There are a large group of people like me. I buy the items for the packaging. I'm a sucker for packaging. I've bought the Iron Maiden catalog 3 times now because of different version.
They are masters at packaging. I think you're like many people because look at how companies like Coca-Cola market themselves like a brand. You have Coca-Cola shirts, you have Coca-Cola everything, and all kinds of Coca-Cola stuff. If you know somebody who likes Coca-Cola, you buy them a Coca-Cola clock and a Coca-Cola shirt. You go "you know, he's gonna get a kick out of this". People are basically collectors. When it comes to music, what do we want from music? We used to have radio where there was diversity and, I have to sound like an old fart, there was good stuff on the radio at one point. You can't say that anymore. Even the young people don't think that anymore. So, radio is largely irrelevant at this point. It doesn't mean a thing. The music on radio is background for the ads. That's what it is. Whereas, it used to be the ads were the background for the music. It's gone completely backwards so now you don't have radio. You have to go to XM, you go online, you share some songs, P2P, you hear something, you find it, you check it out, you Google it, there's where I can buy it, bang, you buy it. That's the way it should be. If you ever really want to see that take off and work properly; people buying it off the web, here's the way it has to be done. Everybody who's on the web has an ISP. If the ISP, Internet Service Provider, or the telephone company or whoever they are, video company, if they would simply allow purchases to be part of your monthly bill, without you having to go through all of the crappy filling out the forms, credit cards, and whatever, more people would buy more things and click on more items. They would get them instantly and pay for them at the end of the month when their bill came in. If they even get the internet to that point, it's really, really going to sell a lot more stuff over the internet. Because people are security conscious too. I know I don't like to fill out those forms. When I go the net to buy something; name, address, credit card number. But if you only do that once with your phone company, and every time you want to buy something, you just click "BUY," and there is a secret password so nobody could steal it, I would be buying tons of stuff. I would probably be going broke. It needs to be easy to do but it needs to be fair priced. I think records, I call them records, I'm like a throw back here, I think music recordings are way, way, way overpriced. Believe me, if you pay me the cost of my CD, plastic, and my booklet, and the cost of my royalty that I would get, you wouldn't be paying more than $5 or $6 for my CD. And I would still get the same amount of money from having done it. So where is the rest of the money going? How much is the public supporting this greedy industry who turns around and sues them for listening in advance? Why have they got such a problem letting people listen in advance, when if someone had told those company guys in the 70's, "hey, we've got a radio station that will play your artist 24/7 for free". You think they would have sued the radio station. They would have kissed their a** in Macy's window at noon. They would have bought that kind of coverage. They would have payola-ed it. They would have bought it if they could of. That's all the internet really is. It's a 24/7 radio of the artist. What would it be like if every single place you could go; artist, record labels, store, you could click on a streaming full version and listen, maybe not download, but listen to the entire thing before buying? That would be amazing.
MSJ: The movie industry is the same. You pay for a movie and if it's not good, there is no recourse.
Here's the thing, at least the movie industry, they're a big monster too, a least they have outlets where you can rent movies. This record industry is greedy beyond belief. Because they won't allow that. Can you tell me the difference between renting a movie and renting a record? People can copy a movie as easily as they can copy a record. It's still a copyright risk. And people don't have to copy the movie from DVD to DVD, even if there are protections, they can copy it on tape. And they could do that since the 80's. But the movie industry doesn't turn around and say "we better not let people rent these movies". They figured out a way to make a royalty on the rental. They're smarter. But these record people, my goodness, they squeeze a nickel so hard that the face on it screams bloody murder. It's gone out of whack. I really wouldn't care so much if the people running this industry were musicians. But they don't even know music from their a** or their elbow. When you go to buy a pair of pants or a car, you want to go buy it from someone who knows a little bit about what they're selling you. But most of these people who are selling this music to the public, they don't know an A from a B, or a song from another. They don't even like music, a lot of them. It's scary because it's a product they don't even know. Are you going to buy your tools from a guy that is selling food? It doesn't make any sense.
MSJ: You're right. The music industry should be run by musicians.
We need a paradigm shift. We need a real paradigm shift. We need people to think differently about the way this is done.
MSJ: 'm one of those people who will buy the real CD because I know the artist will get something out of it. There are a lot of people who view music as disposable. I still listen to the same music as I did in the 70's but we have become a fast food nation.
I never saw that wonderful movie but I heard it was good. The guy that eats all the burgers.
MSJ: I think the movie was called "Super Size Me."
Yeah, I was gonna watch it but all of a sudden it wasn't on anymore. But it's true, we have become a nation of very, very "we want it now, we want it fast, we want it today, not tomorrow" people. This is what happened. OK, that's fine, there's gonna be a faction of our nations that is going to be like that. But there is still something to be said for quality. Maybe because I come from a European culture and background, my family has it's roots in artisanship, you know, in craftsmanship. I believe it's really worth it to do a job and to do it well. If someone calls me and asks me to help fix their wallboard, I shouldn't be going out and getting Ready-Wall. I should go and do a good job on this, make sure that the wood looks nice. Put time into it and it looks nice. That's what quality is. Quality is just time put into something. Anybody can make quality if they take the time. Everything that's quick is not quality and that goes for music as well as anything. But the other arts seem to understand what we're talking about here. The other arts like paint, and oil, sculptures, all of these other kinds of arts; they understand the value of the art. It's not just a commodity to them. But in the music field, and particularly in the pop and rock music field, I don't know what the hell happened but somebody forgot something somewhere. It needs to stop and I think it will stop because you can see the companies have gone from being like 7 or 8 to 6 of them, to 5 of them, to 4 of them, to 3 of them, and one's eating up the other one. What it's going to be is one big company in the end that's going to start suing everybody because they're not making as much money as they used to. Corporations are the bane of our existence. And corporations, I'll tell you something, in my opinion, it's going to sound very strange, the corporate idea is very un-American. It's become American but essentially that's not what our 2 countries were founded on. The idea that a corporation is a person, entitled to certain rights, that allows that corporation to get around protecting consumers because they're a corporation and they are hosted by some people off-shore. Look at the nation, Detroit, and the car boom, and all of the stuff, when America was making the '63 split window Corvette. Back then, when people were really working at stuff. Now it's all exporting. The jobs in America and Canada are exported to other countries. And the people in the other countries, what do they care. They're getting paid a nickel an hour, working in sweat shops, making inferior products which are then sold back to Americans. We take the oil situation. I live in Canada. We have Alberta which is a huge oil exporter. We are the United States' number one oil importer. The United States imports number one from Canada before anywhere else. And I'm thinking here's a weird thing. We're only 30 million people in Canada. That's a tenth the size of the United States. We have exactly the same size of land, so we're like a really empty USA. We have huge resources of oil and we sell it and then buy it back at retail prices. This is corporations that do this. You've got guys rubbing their hands together because Rita and Katrina are hitting the Gulf coast.
MSJ: And it's not even causing a problem yet because the prices they paid for the oil has already been paid.
That's right. They jack it up the minute they see that it's gonna happen but they never jack it down. And they do all this to gouge. You need regulation of this. Consumers need to be protected by regulations that do not allow these corporations to do this to hard working Americans and Canadians. Somebody's got to stand up and say "OK, enough". They did that with the telephone companies because if they didn't, you would be paying $50 an hour for a phone call today. Because you need to use the phone. Well, guess what, you need gas. You need oil, just like you need water. For those companies to say "if you want to drive your car, ha-ha, come and pay me for it." Do you realize I was watching a thing about a guy who liked to go out on his little pleasure boat but he had to stop because it was costing him $300 an hour to go on his boat. Because of the fuel? Wait a second, he could go hire a boat for less; from some other corporation. This gas thing has got me really freaking out and I don't really drive that much. I drive a motorcycle. But it's not a question that it's costing me the money; it doesn't cost me the money because I don't go out. I'm a hermit. But what's galling me; what's really irking me is that it's these same corporations, they're the same like the music business corporations; these are the same kind of people that ruin the music industry and they are ruining every industry because by and large, Americans and Canadians, have to stand up and say "no, we're not going to pay that anymore; we're just not gonna do it. You're gonna give it to us for a fair price." They're gouging the hell out us. And you have it the easiest in the world, in America. It's actually lowest price right now. You should see what I saw yesterday here in Canada. We pay by the liter. So it translates to a US gallon at 4 times a liter. Imagine, multiply the liter by 4. So it went over a dollar a liter, which is $4 a gallon. When it went over a dollar a liter, People went "oh, my goodness, we've never seen it break the dollar mark." It was always hovering about the 80-90 cent mark. All of sudden it broke the dollar. So everyone said "oh well". They saw nobody was freaking out. All of a sudden, it was a $1.15, then it was a $1.30, then it was $1.40. We're talking $6.00 a gallon of gas. And now, it's going to be $8.00. Yesterday, because of Rita, one of the Petro-Canada stations mistakenly put up $1.70 a liter. That's almost $8.00 a gallon for gas. People were saying "oh no, he wasn't supposed to do that," so he took the price down. You can see what's coming; a $1.70, like in the next week. You have to see the line up at the stations. I swear to God, it looks like they're trying to get into a ballgame. It's insane. Why? Because no one stands up and says "whoa, whoa, put the brakes on here!" What's next? Are you gonna tell people you have to raise the price of gas because people are going bald. Hurricanes have been happening in our country for hundreds of years. We never saw this before? Have you ever seen the hurricanes in the south affect the gas prices? Why all of a sudden? Is the gas any different today than when we had hurricanes 10 years ago? No. They're just picking every reason they can to say it affects the gas prices. So this has got to stop. Stop exporting the jobs. Stop giving away the store. Let honest working Americans make a living. Stop taking everything they have. Because that is what America is all about; it's about honest hard working Americans making a living. That's what it's supposed to be about. You can't make a living if you're getting robbed. Even income tax. It was originally, in our country anyway, installed as a temporary measure to help the war effort. It didn't exist before that. Before World War II.
MSJ: Once they get it, they don't want to give it up.
They don't want to give it up and they look at you like you're a criminal if you protest. I don't know how we got on this topic but it is so relevant to the music industry, which is taking a page out of the governmental books or corporate books and they're trying to do exactly the same thing. They are laughing at us. They're thinking we're idiots and stupid. People are gonna have to say "no, there's another way to do this." Let's not buy from one fuel company for a whole year. Let's say, we get 300 million Americans to not buy from Gulf or Texaco until they lower their price. Then you buy from them and not the others until they lower their prices. But in order to do that you need great organization. You need someone to call the shots or you'll never get that to happen. It's a big ideal dream.
MSJ: Back in the 70's, the journalists didn't really give you a fair shake.
No kidding.
MSJ: They either put words in your mouth or didn't give you fair reviews. Have you seen a change in the way the press is treating you now?
Yeah, for sure. Yes, for sure, with all the new journalists but occasionally, we get journalists that were around then and are still journalists, they're exactly the same. The jadedness is still there and they still have the same gripes and they still tell the same tall tales. But the new breed of journalists is extremely different; more research, more honest, less poison pen. You know what I'm saying; less tabloid-ism. I'd like to see that happen. I really respect journalism itself; as a profession. But I respect like Edward R. Murrow or Walter Cronkite, or even Woodward and Berstein. Guys that really did their homework; really went out there and did a fair job and truly presented the facts to the people. But tabloid journalism, which is unfortunately, is probably the majority, this I think brings a really bad, bad name on journalism. True journalists today, you know what it's become today? It's the guys out there who are covering Afghanistan and the war. They are out there getting bullets flying over their head. They are out there to get pictures and stories. You still sort of see that happening. But what has ended up happening is we've come into two camps now; we've got the younger guys that want to be journalists for journalism sake and we've got these other guys that either want to be cheerleaders for a cause or they want to use a poison pen to be regaled as being clever with words. It's really sort of split up now. There's not one focus in journalism and I think journalism should simply be telling the truth. You know, being the social conscience of a people. And whether your journalism is music, history, or politics, I think that journalist who simply get the facts right, get the facts right and report the facts; those are the good journalists. People who don't get caught believing their own press clipping.
MSJ: Let people decide for themselves.
Get the facts right. It doesn't take much to get the facts right. When you are reporting on something, you can research the person, you can ask for comments, you can get the truth, you can do the research. It's not hard to get the facts. I bet you a lot of journalists today, maybe not the newer ones, but some of the older guys, are still simply Googling for the facts. "Well if I read it on Google, it must me true." Nobody is really confirming. Do you remember those old movies like All the President's Men? Do you remember every time they would get some kind of fact, they would say "do we have confirmation, do we have corroboration?" They would always be going out all looking for that 2nd and 3rd guy to corroborate the facts, or else they wouldn't print it even though they knew it was true. That's gone. I don't know if you guys are doing that anymore but I don't see that a whole lot in politics.
MSJ: You have a lot of people believing what's on the internet. Just cause it's there doesn't mean it's true.
My sister, who is only 38 years old, contracted a rare form of cancer. Even though it is deadly, deadly cancer, the truth of the matter is, it is treatable. It is not curable but it is treatable. She can live a long time being treated. But she went and read the internet and started making plans to die. The internet can be a dangerous thing. I'm not saying the information shouldn't be there but, you know, get a lot of sources, look it, look at it reasonably. And that is what journalists should do. Often, I think the best thing is to go to the source. The guys that didn't give me a fair shake; they never called me. They made things up, they plagiarized from some other article, or they got it off the wire service. They never called me. Those guys that invented all those stories that kept propagating over and over again about reincarnation, Jimi Hendrix, and all that stuff, never spoke to me. They never called me.
MSJ: But it made for an interesting story.
It was a very interesting story; good copy. That's tabloid journalism but it was masquerading as rock journalism. You'll pick up the Rolling Stone, you know how Rolling Stone had the name at one time as being "the" thing about music; Rolling Stone magazine. Pick up the Rolling Stone Music Bible and go look up Frank Marino's origins. I was born , according to them, in El Paso, TX in 1932. You know, like it's completely wrong. I'm 90 years old and I'm American. That's supposed to be their journalist bible of the music business. It's the dictionary of the music business and I'm just one guy. I only know about my mistakes; there's probably 500 others. Did anyone call me? No. Where did they get this stuff? It ranks right up there with the guys who wrote for Midnight magazine, Enquirer, and who wrote stories like "boy swallows nickel and five pennies come out." Urban legends.
MSJ: I'm from Chicago. What are your earliest memories of playing Chicago and what do you think of when you come to our town?
Aragon Ballroom pops into my mind. And the amazing ribs. These people would all go out and get me ribs in Chicago. I love Chicago. I think it's a vibrant city. It's a very cool city and it's not for everybody, that's for sure. You kinda gotta know where to go because you can go to parts that you shouldn't go to. I love the city and I love the Blackhawks, I love the White Sox and I love the Cubs. I love Chicago but my favorite city in the world, to go and hang around in, is probably New York. But that's because it's New York. It's got that allure and everyone has weird accents. It's like being in a movie when you're in New York. But Chicago is probably right up there because it's a really historical place. It's a cool, cool place. How historical can you get, Al Capone for crying out loud. It's a real historical city.
MSJ: There's a theater in Chicago that's called the Riviera Theater. There are doors in the backstage area that let out to the alley so when Al Capone was there, there would be an escape route.
What a town! You know it's because those guys were so in with like the mayor and all of those guys. They would have this whole racket going. You've also got the legacy of the speakeasies. The whole idea of the speakeasy and stuff; that came out of Chicago. I mean, Chicago, the blues thing in Chicago, the music thing in Chicago. Chicago, as the man says, my kind of town. But I remember the Aragon Ballroom, great ribs, and going to blues clubs. And eating great pizza. The pizza is like amazing. As you can tell, I like eating. Obviously, I like eating. Chicago's a great town. I love to do it. I'm so happy that we're there like on 2 different occasions; two gigs in the area.
MSJ: Yeah, you've got Mr Kelly's, Chicago City Limits, which I'm going to be at, and in Milwaukee at Shank Hall.
Shank I know too. We've played that a few times. And there's a great amusement park between Chicago and Milwaukee.
MSJ: It's funny you should mention that. It's literally 3 minutes from my house.
Really. My kids, cause they come on with me on the road, are saying "please dad", like we did the last time. Whenever we have a day off, we usually go there. I'm hoping it's not too cold and I'm hoping we have some time to check it out. I see the White Sox are folding up. What's going on? This is not possible. Is this like another episode of Mrs. Leary's cow? What's going on? Is this like the dropped ball; the fan interference? This is weird. This is getting into Red Sox territory in terms of curses. Where are they at? Are they like one ahead?
MSJ: They are one ahead. You don't really purchase CDs so what was the…
I shouldn't say that. I do purchase them, it's just that my wife goes out gets them. For instance, Paul McCartney's DVD of Back in the US; I thought was a great DVD. The Eagles in Australia, I think it was called the Farwell One Tour; great DVD. I love Tony Bennett, so I'll see Tony Bennett records showing up in my house. I love jazz. I love Bill Evans. I usually get those records from friends. Friends that say "have you heard this? Have you heard that?" I couldn't tell you what they are. But when it comes to my music, the music that I like, if I was going to go to the store let's say, and buy stuff, I would be looking in the 60's and 70's stuff. I wouldn't be looking in the 80's and 90's. I would be looking at everything from Hendrix to Joplin to The Doors and Allman Brothers. Even new Allman Brothers stuff. I like that stuff; jam bands. I like jam bands. I used to be a big Dead head a long, long time ago but, my older brother remained one, but it just became too country for me. Stuff like that. I like a good song. I'm not necessarily into a record for the playing. I'll never go get a record because the player is an amazing player; and they are very rarely guitar. Very rarely guitar. I figure if you like Jimi Hendrix, why would you want to be into any other kind of guitar type of thing. So they're very rarely guitar, unless it's jazz guitar, in which case I really do like it. That's about it. I just leave the music to her.
MSJ: What was the last concert you attended for fun?
Other than the ones I play at, cause when I play at them, I watch the other bands. I always watch the other bands. I even watch the opening acts when I play. I think the last one I attended as a concert goer, rock, would be Bruce Springsteen. That was a long, long time ago. But if McCartney showed up, I'd go.
MSJ: I know your favorite band is the Beatles.
If McCartney showed up, I would definitely go. That is something I would go and listen to.
MSJ: Have you ever been asked to go out on a G3 type of tour?
Well I wouldn't do it first of all. Have I been asked? No. But I wouldn't do it anyway so I'm kind of glad they didn't ask because I would have to say "no." And the reason I wouldn't do it is because I think that it is too much of a guitar showcase. I'd do it if you could play your set. If you could go out there with two other groups like that and you all did your thing, that's great, then I'd do it. But to go out and play 25-30 minutes of speed guitar, it just seems almost like "see what I can do". "Look ma, no hands." To me, that's not a concert. That's more like a clinic. I might participate in something like that if it was 3 guys like Satriani, Vai, and myself running around to music stores giving clinics. You know, all together, playing together, jamming together. Then I'd do it. When Uli Roth asked me to go to England and do the Legends of Rock thing, that's sort of what it was. Jack Bruce, Glenn Hughes, myself, and we were sort of doing our thing but playing together too. So it was a little bit different. The G3 thing just seems to me more of like a kind of showcase for licks or something. I've never been to one but I imagine you get a lot of guys in the audience with their arms folded. You know what I'm talking about.
MSJ: I've been to two of them and it is pretty much what you said. It is a lot of "let me do something and see if they can outdo it" performing..
Yeah, talk about self indulgence. Journalists used to say "too many solos, self indulgence, wanking out", and other words that they would use. Putting a show on like that is pretty much asking for comments like that. Not that it is that but it's almost like asking for that because that's what it sort of ends up looking like. Music should never be competitive. It really shouldn't. It's not sports. There is no such thing as better except to a person. I like that better. I like sugar better than I like saccharine. I like butter better than margarine. I doesn't mean butter is better than margarine, I just like it better. Some guys like chocolate, some guys like vanilla. So if we're going to say chocolate is better than vanilla, I can't really make that distinction. Music shouldn't be competitive. The whole way that people looked at music for a while; that created the excess and the problems. It's this kind of taking art and presenting it in a wrong way so people forget what it was really all about. Picture this. You go down to the Chicago Stadium, or something, and you walk in. the guy comes out on stage and he paints. He paints on a canvas. 20,000 people sit there and he does a few strokes, there's like a big screen of him painting and does a few strokes and he gets a huge applause. Then he gets the red out, then he goes for the fuschia, and the purple. And then they really applaud. Wow, what a stroke! How ridiculous is that? It is so ridiculous to think of it that way. And that's basically what's happening with music. There was this point when it was "watch how good this is" but no one was listening. Isn't it really about listening? Where I came from, we never called them "shows." In the early days, we called them concerts. Come on, think back. I don't know how old you are but back then it was "are you going to The Doors concert?" or "are you going to the Hendrix concert?" You know, it was a concert and you went to listen to it. But then it became "are you going to the show?". Then it became a spectacle. Then it was like, which band had more lights, which band's truss floated around the stage, another guy had a juggler, this guy was lighting himself on fire. It became a circus act. These guys are painted up with weird faces. This guy hangs himself from a tree. It was like, where's the music at that point? It's not a concert anymore. It's a spectacle. It's cheap psychiatry. You go and stand on your chair. You go and pay your $5, now I guess it's $50, you pay your $50 to stand on your chair and scream your head off. You could go down to the railway yard and scream at the trains and get the same kind of feeling. It's cheap psychiatry.
MSJ: I agree. I have to say , I'm a tape trader. When it's something I want, I'll trade.
I'm a trader too. I've got some Quicksilver from the 60's; 1968 Fillmore Auditorium. People give me that stuff because they say, "Frank will love this, he loves Quicksilver". They'll ask me "Frank, what do you have?", well, I have some Jimi Hendrix tape or whatever. I'll do that too but making money on it, when I see it on Ebay, it drives me f***in' crazy. I can't stand that. You see "check out my other auctions." You go to the guy's page and he's got like 400,000 titles.
MSJ: It's become a commodity at that point. The things I have in my collection are there because I listen to them and I like them. I don't have 300 Great White shows just so someday someone will pay me $10 for it.
Why do you think that I have on my very front page a player that has every single song I've ever done. You can listen to them in their entirety for free. You can float the player and go browse somewhere else if you want. I put that there so people can have the music. I'm not afraid they won't buy it. If they like it, they'll buy it. I believe people want the package if you give them quality. They'll say "I would like to have this" and they'll go out and buy it. But to hoard it or to hide it, or worse yet, what really gets me is, these people that have this 8 second sample of what you could buy. That's not even enough time to hear the intro. It's like no one even listened to that sample, they just grabbed the first 8 seconds of each tune, or 8 seconds from the middle. No producer actually sat down and said "ok, let's give them this," you know, I built a sampler like that for the Real Live album, but it's 11 minutes long. And it's called the trailer on the front page of my site. People can click on the trailer. When I go to my website, I check out the downloads. The biggest downloads of all is that trailer. People are downloading the trailer to hear what the record is and guess what, they turn around and they buy the record, because it's a good trailer. They're under no obligation to buy it. People should have enough faith in their work that they could present it to someone and say "do you like it?", and if they like it, they'll buy it. I think what the record companies do is they don't want to present it because they know you won't buy it, when they hear how bad it is.
MSJ: Like when you get it and there's only one good song on it.
We've just come through the age of what I call, "the chick female singer thing:" like the last, God knows, 10 years. These companies go out there, they find a pretty girl, they find a songwriter, they overdub the voice, and they auto-tune to make her sound good. They tune-up everything so it sounds perfect and then they go and sell it as a kind of, it's almost like selling a Hollywood starlet. But when you go to these shows, how is it any different from when we used to tour around the country in the 70's, after the show, we would go to a strip club and see someone half naked pretending they were singing a Diana Ross song. Miming to it. I mean, it's no different. You go and see these chick shows and that's exactly what it is. Everyone is half naked; it's all about her butt or her whatever. It's all samples and no one is really singing. It's all fake. We're back to that fast food movie.
MSJ: My last questions is; do you have a favorite Spinal Tap moment?
No, not really. There is something that always goes on at these gigs that is considered Spinal Tap. Everyone looks at each other and goes "oh my God, that really happened." It will happen again. We'll go out there and more than likely, it will happen again. There are some things that weren't so funny. We played with ZZ Top in Quebec City a little while ago. We got out on stage. Half way into the first song, my entire amp rig shuts off. We ended up trying to fix it. So for the whole time we shut it off, we had our violinist, it was his first gig with us, and so he was left alone with the drummer. He had to play a violin solo for 12 minutes with the drummer. Well, what a baptism of fire for a 23 year old doing his first gig in front of 65,000 people. But it was good. That was fun. I gave him a big kiss on the cheek after, and they got a photo of it. So that's very good.
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