We Get to Know The Band And Also Chat About The Bands Album
Interviewed By Duzzy Clayton
Mad Painter is a rock group in the Boston area. Deeply rooted in the rock tradition of the 1970s, the influences range from heavy melodic rock to classy pop and classic British rock and roll. We love Uriah Heep, Deep Purple, Mott the Hoople, Mountain, Grand Funk, MC5, Blue Cheer, Procol Harum, Spooky Tooth and Aphrodite’s Child.
The band has just released a pronominal album namely Splashed. We chat to the band and find out about the band existence and their new album
Enjoy the Read
Welcome to Fanbase Music Magazine, can you tell us how long the band has been going for?
The band’s been around, under different guises, since December 2015. That’s when we first got together as a trio, just after Christmas. None of the people who played in Mad Painter then or worked with the band, are involved now, except for me. This present lineup has been around since late 2019. Kenne, the bass player, and I met a couple of years prior, he attended one of our gigs (and compared us to Aphrodite’s Child). Then he just started bringing his friends in and we’ve thus wound up with the best lineup this band’s ever had.
Who is in the band and what does each band member do?
Kenne Highland, bass, Alan Hendry, drums, Al Naha, guitar, Gee Julie, backing vocals, and yours truly on keyboards and vocals.
Kenne works in the mailroom at Mass General Hospital and has been since 1987! Alan is a retired teacher and a Berklee grad; he taught drumming professionally for over 20 years. Al is a former software engineer. Julie’s studying to be a mortician. And I analyze data for living and write and perform music for fun!
How would you describe your sound and genre?
We are definitely in the “heavy melodic rock” realm, especially if you go by our two latest singles, “Illusion” and “Rock’n’roll Samurai”. It’s very much picking up where the likes of Rainbow, Deep Purple and Uriah Heep left off (I am referring to the classic lineups). The heavy guitar-organ interplay is part of our signature sound both live and on record. But the “Splashed” album, which has just come out today, is so diverse, there’s gentle balladry, blues, pop, heavy and psychedelic rock, it’s sure to please the most varied of palettes.
Who are some of the band’s influences?
We share a lot of them in common. Definitely the aforementioned Rainbow, Deep Purple and Uriah Heep. Also, perhaps inevitably, Procol Harum, Spooky Tooth, Mountain, Grand Funk, The Who, Vanilla Fudge, MC5, Blue Cheer and Cream. On the other hand, we’re into The Sweet, Slade, Suzi Quatro and Status Quo. Also Jethro Tull, Rod Stewart & The Faces, Mott the Hoople. Those are the main ones.
So anything that was happening in music between 1968 and 1975, it’s fair to say, has influenced our writing and playing one way or another. But we have our own signature sound, which is hard to confuse with anything else, I am pleased to say. This is what makes rehearsing with this lineup so much fun. Once we get down to it and start jamming, it’s just… Painter!
What is the story behind the band name Mad Painter?
If you listen to the song on “Splashed” called “Let Him Go” you will know the answer in an instant. So I’d like to leave a little bit of mystery to this question. But it’s also true that we’ve always viewed ourselves as artists, and whereas visual artists express themselves with colors and paint on canvas (for example), we do it with notes, chords and rhythms. It’s sonic painting, but painting nonetheless, and it is just as expressive and emotional. Let’s say the audience is our blank canvas in the beginning of each gig, and by the time we’re done, hopefully we’ve splashed plenty of color on them (hence the album title, incidentally!)
Ok, let’s talk about the new album, what is the name of the album, and what made you come to that album title?
Splashed. We’ve always had this idea, fusing visual and sonic expressions. You may need a few buckets of paint of different colors. Or sometimes fine brushes, it all depends. And on the album cover, we’ve actually brought that vision to materialization. The guitarist brought a bagful of old vinyl records which had been through a flood and were no longer playable. We spread them around on the floor, and, with the help of ace photographer and designer Dmitriy Gushchin, who squeezed acrylic paint of various colors onto them, created this wonderful collage that became our album cover. I’m proud of it beyond words.
How many tracks are on the album?
17, would you believe? It took an entire year to record and one more year to mix and master, but we’re finally there. Today is one of the happiest days for Mad Painter, truly. The release of our second album. There’s a mixture of covers and originals. Uriah Heep’s “Stealin'” needs no introduction. Perhaps significantly more obscure is Randy Pie’s brilliant “Highway Driver”. It was a hit in Germany in 1974 and the original version was more funky disco, ours is hard rock, Painter style. We’ve also half-covered John Sloman’s “Parting Line”. We cheekily took his lyrics and put them to a new melody, but we have his blessing to do this. John was in Uriah Heep for one album and also in Lone Star.
Where was the album recorded and who worked on the album?
We did the entire thing at Tom Hamilton’s home studio in Peabody, MA, and for a while it felt like a full-time job, coming in, singing, playing, different takes, then mixing. Serious business! But he’s such an incredible producer and he’s exactly right for our style and sound, so we wouldn’t ever trust anyone else with our material.
What was the recording process like?
It all starts with rough takes. The first 4-5 are “junk”, the band jamming and warming up, but the producer keeps rolling the tape in case if there are bits he can save or salvage. The drum tracks usually wind up being kept; our drummer’s very professional and has a keen ear (as does Tom), so usually the drum parts are nailed in just a few takes. All the other tracks are scrapped except maybe bass. Kenne plays bass with gusto, fervor and emotion, which means more takes and more what we call “track surgery”. It’s all being done in Pro Tools. Punch-ins, overdubs, retakes. The guitarist would usually pop in separately to lay down his tracks, rhythm and solos, as would I with my vocals. Once the lead vocals are done, we work on the backups, harmonies and so forth. What you hear on the album for backups for the most part is Julie or her and I singing together. Last but not least – the keyboard tracks. I would do those at home and upload them for Tom to mix in. That’s how I did the keys for most of the album, except ‘San Michel’. The polyphony you hear on songs like ‘I Live For Love’, ‘I’ve Been A Fool’ and ‘Love Is Gold’ are faux string arrangements done on my Juno synthesizer. Same with the “sax” on ‘A Friend In France’.
Can you tell us about your writing process, does the lyrics or the music come first when you write songs?
It depends on the occasion. Sometimes I have a solid melody and structure in my head and the lyrics come secondary to that. I try to write them in such a way that they’d fit the mood of the song. But our best lyrics to date are written by our friend in Canada, Dmitry Epstein: ‘I’ve Been A Fool’, ‘Rock and Roll Samurai’, ‘Illusion’. He usually has a poem ready and we just put it to music, so the song kind of writes itself. When I read one of his poems for the first time, the melody already manifests itself in my brain, so I just follow that lead.
Do you play live and if so what is the experience like at one of your gigs?
We’ve played different gigs at clubs around the Boston area in the last few years. It all depends on the audience, how receptive they are, and also how many people are in the room. Just before the lockdown, March 2020, we played a stormer of a gig at the Jungle in Somerville. The place was red hot and the energy and enthusiasm were palpable. The reception – riotous. Then a festival one year ago in Upstate New York called Winter Tangle Fest. This was Painter’s second time playing it but first time with the current lineup. And we debuted our new song there too, ‘Empty Bottles’. Again, a pandemonium broke out, or, as Kenne likes to refer to it affectionately, Paintermania. Those are the gigs we’d like to remember, not the ones where we played to three drunken college girls who hijacked the stage for a 15-minute “American Woman” jam.
No matter what happens, it’s always fun, a party. We have pretty zany numbers which get the audience going, even if they’ve never heard our stuff before. So on the right night, simply put, magic happens, and people walk away with broad smiles on their faces. Then we also have “regulars”, folks that show up for every one of our gigs, the uber-fans. Those are of course friends of the band or members of the extended Painter family, which is much more than any one band. We’re all interrelated, Alan plays drums in Tokyo Tramps, Al plays guitar in The Thigh Scrapers, Kenne’s got his own Airforce and is also reviving his old band, Johnny And The Jumper Cables. Airforce is pretty much Painter with Captain Easychord on keys instead of me, and a sax player. But Captain’s also got his own band, in which Al plays guitar as well. It’s just about as complex as Hawkwind, I suppose.
Can you explain what the band room is like when you rehearse and write music?
It’s the same room Painter’s always been in, give or take, since early 2016, on the second floor of the legendary Regent Theatre in Arlington. No doubt it has some magic vibes. We usually just bring ideas in and try them out for size. If an idea works – great. If not, we’ll move on to something else. We mostly practice our originals for the live show and newer ones for the studio. But sometimes we just like to jam on covers for fun. Kenne’s a huge fan of Cream and The Small Faces. So we do a bit of that. A few Deep Purple and Uriah Heep classics. We’ve even tried The Sweet “Little Willie” and Suzi Quatro “Can The Can”. And South African band Clout – “Save Me”, which is fun to jam on, but hard to pull off live due to the difference in vocal ranges. Sometimes we catch a show downstairs after hours, the venue has hosted many famous bands, like Brand X, Blackmore’s Night and the Yardbirds. Not to mention various and sundry local tribute acts.
Can you give us your social media links?
– Facebook: www.facebook.com/madpainter1
– Instagram: madpainterband
– Twitter: @painter_mad
– YouTube: www.youtube.com/@madpainter4010
Thank you for doing this interview, do you have any last messages for your fans and our readers?
Come see us in Manhattan if you’re in the area the Memorial Day weekend, Saturday, May 27 @ 9:30PM Chelsea Table & Stage, New York, NY Info and tickets here: madpainter.co.uk/shows