Welcome to another Throwback Thursday, everyone! Happy spring! Along with a variety of schizophrenic weather, the last week of March brings us some awesome birthdays to celebrate: Dr. Spock, Elton John, Lady Gaga, Salt, Eric Clapton, that other guy from INXS, Angus Young, Al Gore, and Peyton freakin’ Manning!! We can’t let the month go by without mentioning another awesome March birthday, the 1995 release of “A Boy Named Goo” – the Goo Goo Dolls “breakthrough” album – which is, indeed, FINALLY old enough to vote!
“A Boy Named Goo” ushered in the Mike Malinin era, so we’ve dusted off this awesome interview Mike was kind enough to give the Absolute Goo site, circa 2009…
Mike Malinin, drummer extraordinaire, recently took time out of his busy schedule to sit down with the Absolute Goo site and answer some questions about CMH’s upcoming Goo Goo Dolls tribute album, “A Boy Named Blue,” his upcoming plans for Forty Marshas, and what he thinks about “redneck blues.”
AbsoluteGoo.com: “A Boy Named Blue” is set for a July 28 release. How did the idea for a Goo Goo Dolls’ bluegrass tribute CD come about?
Mike: We were just hanging out in Buffalo, doing an iTunes search to see which singles people were listening to, and it just showed up on a Goo Goo Dolls search – a cover of “Before It’s Too Late.” It was on a soundtrack compilation by this bluegrass label CMH. It was this killer, killer bluegrass version of it and we thought it was really funny. I did a search on the label and noticed they’d done tributes of all these great bands, from like Van Halen and Metallica to bands like the Shins and Modest Mouse. They’d covered all this ground. I sent them an email, just basically saying that we loved the song, and I sort of jokingly said, “you have all these tributes from a million different bands but you don’t have one of us yet, I’m kind of offended” (laughs). They contacted me and said they’d love to do one of us, it just hasn’t happened yet. I just basically got involved from there on out. They said they loved when an artist takes part. David Lee Roth sang a couple one of the CDs, and I said I’d be happy to help out. I had lunch with them one day, we discussed it, and they asked for my input and what songs would work I gave them a list of songs – I told them essentially to just follow the greatest hits record. They hire a bunch of bands to do these things and they hired the band that did the tribute to Modest Mouse, because I’d been a fan of that one. It just slowly came together. I told them I’d write liner notes and then they asked me if I wanted to do anything. I said I could play some percussion, but there really isn’t percussion on bluegrass most of the time, so when I heard the final tracks I just picked the three that I thought would work the best.
AbsoluteGoo.com: What’s the difference between playing drums on these and playing on the original cuts?
Mike: Well, I just played some shaker and tambourine, you know, there are no drums on it (laughs). The band is great, it’s just fun to hear it back, it almost doesn’t sound like a tribute record, it just sounds like their version of the song, it’s great.
AbsoluteGoo.com: But no cowbell right?
Mike: No, no cowbell, I don’t think there’s any cowbell on it. Might have been some triangle in there though, not sure (laughs).
AbsoluteGoo.com: Did you just lay a track or did you go on in and meet Iron Horse and jam with them?
Mike: No, I never met them, I recorded my part in Buffalo. You can do that these days, so we just recorded the mp3s and sent them out.
AbsoluteGoo.com: Is bluegrass a genre of music you’ve listened to for a long time? Do you have a favorite bluegrass artist?
Mike: I do, actually, really like it, which is strange, because I don’t really like country. I’ve always thought of bluegrass as more redneck blues, rather than country, and most of the stuff I like is really old, like Bill Monroe and Flatt and Scruggs, and going all the way back to the Carter family in the 30s, because it was just… Appalachian folk music, you know? The same way people like old blues artists, like Charlie Patton and Robert Johnson, is kind of the same reason I like bluegrass. Bluegrass always got a bad rap, it’s rare that it’s taken seriously, which is funny to me because some of it is really moving music. Like I said, it was a bunch of rednecks hanging around playing banjo, singing their religious songs, the same thing that was happening with Robert Johnson and the black blues guys in Mississippi.
AbsoluteGoo.com: Do you think it was some sort of class thing?
Mike: Yeah, I think it was, just like anything else. When country music started and became a big genre they put bluegrass in the backseat because it was deemed uncultured or whatever. I remember I wrote in the liner notes that Flatt and Scruggs at Carnegie Hall was one of the greatest records ever made. If I remember correctly, it was like 1962, and it was the first bluegrass concert ever allowed at Carnegie Hall, and again, the music was never really taken seriously. I don’t think it ever really got out of where it came from, like Alabama to Kentucky.
Bill Monroe is one of the legends, but there are a few guys still alive that are in their 70’s and 80’s that were the pioneers of bluegrass. It’s sort of funny because, as with anything else, you think of bluegrass and you immediately think of joke music, you think of the Beverly Hillbillies, but when you delve into it there’s some pretty seriously good music. I think I sort of got to it by listening to old blues records, because I used to love just listening to the precursors of rock. I was never even a really big blues fan, but when I hear old 78s and recordings, that’s just so great. It’s intriguing. It’s like Robert Johnson’s stuff , it’s dark scary music, you know? Some of that old bluegrass is too. CMH sent me this huge care package of some CDs when I got involved in this project and one of them is called “American Gothic”, and I think the subtitle is ‘bluegrass songs about sorrow and death” and it plays like a Robert Johnson record. It’s weird, you know?
AbsoluteGoo.com: If you were going to cover a pop or rock record, what do you think you’d do?
Mike: I think I’d find the guy that takes himself the most seriously, and cover his song just to piss him off (laughs). That’s always been one of my beefs, you’ve heard me say before in interviews, is self-important musicians, I mean really, give it a break. It’s like music is supposed to be fun, if you don’t have a sense of humor, then I don’t know why you do it in the first place.
AbsoluteGoo.com: What’s going on right now with Forty Marshas?
Mike: I’m actually in the process of making a new record right now. I just recorded 2 songs for a friend of mine who is doing a movie. He’s actually finished with the movie and basically I did most of the soundtrack. He used songs from the Forty Marshas record, and then he contacted me and said there were 2 spots that needed original songs and I was like ok, I can come up with 2 songs.
AbsoluteGoo.com: Then you guys are going to record a Forty Marshas CD?
Mike: Well, we don’t know if we’re going to do a CD or not, we might just do the iTunes thing. The band seems to have changed, since the last record, it’s a much more straight ahead project, not so many different people. It’s mostly become me, Brad and Jason, who’s one of our techs, and that seems to have become the core band. The three of us will be getting together and hopefully whip up some songs.
AbsoluteGoo.com: Aside from Forty Marshas, you’ve worked with other artists playing and producing. Do you like it?
Mike: I actually love it, I really do. It’s an outlet for other music. This month in LA I’m playing a few gigs with Susan Marshall, she’s amazing. She used to sing backup for the Afghan Whigs so I used to see her when she was out on tour with them. We’re trying to get Greg Dulli to come out and play– then I could say I jammed with an Afghan Whig, which would be so cool. I feel lucky that I can pick and choose a bit, that I don’t really have to do it. When someone asks me to play a gig or record on a project that I like, it’s like absolutely. Obviously the Goo Goo Dolls are my priority. I have to stay open for that stuff, when we’re out there in the studio for all those months, I’m not going to take away from that project, so I have to make sure those dates are open. But yeah it’s fun.
AbsoluteGoo.com: That’s really cool, some artists are locked into contracts that don’t let them do sidework .
Mike: Yeah well, those people are in bands with pricks. I’m not. I’ve never understood that, I mean what does it matter. You know?
AbsoluteGoo.com: Really, so you mean you don’t tell them you have a heavy shaker gig coming up and you can’t make it?
Mike: Well, yeah, that’s just common sense (laughs).
AbsoluteGoo.com: Thanks for your time, Mike. Have a great night!
Mike: You too, later.