Mahogany Frog interview
Thanks for taking your time for this interview! Your latest album is a few years old. What are you currently up to?
Scott: We have just album art details to finish working out, and our new release SENNA will be done.
So it should be out soon.
Graham: We’ve got a brand new full length record poised for release this summer on MoonJune Records. We started recording it exactly one year ago and now we’re just finishing the artwork. The record uses our previous record, DO5, as a launch pad and then rockets even further out before giving you fuzzy but smooth landing back on one of Saturn’s moons. Is it drug music? You’ll have to hear for yourself. Each of the guys in the band are involved with other projects at the moment so we haven’t been performing much since our shows in Sao Paulo, Brazil this past February. Besides working on new music for this fall’s tour, I’m busy organizing the tour and release of the new record. I’m pretty excited about the next phase of the band.
Otherwise I bought a scooter for commuting to work, and the weather in Winnipeg has been just great this year so far.
Your first album is titled »Plays the Blues«. Back then you were a four piece band. Later your line-up changed to 7 piece member and you recorded The Living Sounds, which is somehow a presentation of this new line-up with additional instruments like wind instrument etc.
Tell us, how did you all came together back in 2001 and what’s the story behind first two releases and line-up changes?
Graham: Jesse and I had been making music together for a few years and had a bunch of songs that we wanted to play with a band. Our bassist was an old friend of Jesse’s and we met JP through the Saskatoon music scene. We recorded Plays The Blues with this lineup and soon found our musical tastes gravitating toward jazz, not the standards (yet) but Miles’ electric era, especially In A Silent Way and Bitches Brew. Jesse went traveling for several months while I was holed up in a one room apartment with an old electric piano and an acoustic guitar and worked on what would become “The Living Sounds.” I was listening to a lot of Miles Davis and John Coltrane and really wanted to get away from solely guitar based melodies. When Jesse returned from his travels we spent a solid month working everything out on acoustic guitars and then spent another month working it out with our new bassist. When the three of us had it together we added JP (drums) and had some grueling all day long rehearsals. We performed “The Living Sounds” once and realized we needed more voices playing all these parts so we added a keyboardist, a saxophonist (who owned the local record/head shop), and a trumpeter. We then performed the opus only two more times and then recorded it live in studio. Then it was time to move on so Jesse, JP, and I moved to Winnipeg and started another chapter of Mahogany Frog.
You moved to Winnipeg as quartet with Scott Ellenberger on bass. »VS Mabus« is the result of this. Sounds of »Canterbury scene« are very familiar for you. What can you say about it?
Scott: Personally, Thick as a Brick is my most listened to and loved record, since I was 8 or so. Graham, Jesse and J.P. brought some great record collections and played me Soft 3rd, and Mahivishnu Orchestra. I think around this time vast digital music libraries were becoming really easy to share and so many great records became accessable, which made it quite easy to be swimming in new musical influences. Those songs from Vs Mabus were very very very fun for us.
Graham: We really didn’t know about any sort of Canterbury sound at the time. It wasn’t until much later that prog rockers would tell us we sounded “Canterbury”. I was really impressed by the Soft Machine Third record but didn’t know that they belonged to any particular scene. I first found out about them because I had read that they toured with Jimi Hendrix so I figured I’d give them a listen. At the time of “…Vs Mabus” I was really influenced by Mike Ratledge and his fuzzy organ sound, but as far as Canterbury goes I’m still not sure what that means. Wasn’t it a bunch of crazy young dudes in the 60’s listening to jazz music and then banging it out on guitars and LSD?
In 2005 you released another really interesting album called »On Blue« and then in 2008 you got signed up with MoonJune Records and released your most interesting work called DO5. What would you say is a concept behind the album?
Scott: I think the concept of On Blue came from Grahams trip to Morraco with his wife, or was it a play from ‘on glue’, I can’t really remember. I’m not sure if Mahogany Frog deals in concepts with our records. We focus on the songs individually and are very concerned with the tone of the piece, how it works and why. our albums may be more like collections of our music, rather than a grand scheme of an album.
Graham: DO5 is a collection of the music that we wrote and then honed on tour over several years. T-Tigers & Toasters was a regular number in our set lists for at least 2 years before the record came out. With the exception of Last Stand… and Loveset all the songs were worked out on the road for before we recorded them. Though the songs often run into one another on the record they are all separate ideas. Our live shows at the time would generally be 45 minutes to an hour of straight music. We would blend the songs together so if there is a singular theme to DO5 it’s a document of the band from 2006-2008 and of course those songs became even better once we toured the record.
The thing I respect the most on the album is your ability to produce many different ideas and mixing all of them together and the result is amazing! Everything kind of goes well together. How did you manage to join so many styles into album?
Scott: Again this relates to how we treat our songs individually, we have never stopped trying to do something different, and each song we add has some new elements, or a more refined updated version of a combination of elements.
Graham: All of the guys in the band listen to a wide variety of music and when we play together, no matter what style the songs starts out as, it ends up sounding like Mahogany Frog. There are many songs that I’ve written that I thought I should save for another project because I want it to sound a certain way but then I end up bringing it to the band and it turns into something quite different from my original idea. The use of so many instruments on stage allows us to shift the overall sound from song to song. We can go from a standard setup of guitar/keys/bass/drums to all four of us playing synths and then maybe two trumpets an organ and glitchy electronic beats. We’ve never set out to be a certain type of band. We play what we like and that’s what keeps things interesting. I love Ennio Morricone soundtracks and want to make music like that but when it comes down to it, if someone wants to listen to Morricone then they should listen to him and not somebody trying to emulate his sound. There’s definitely a tip of the hat to Morricone on DO5 but I think we were true to our band philosophy in that we created a piece of music that, while it certainly bares it’s influence, it is presented it in an original way with different instrumentation and arrangement. The sound of DO5 also leans toward the use of more electronics, something we’ve continued on with the next record to an even greater degree.
How about concerts? What are some plans for that?
Scott: Not much set in stone yet, we are hoping to get around a bit in Canada in September.
Graham: We’ll be doing some Canadian dates this fall and then we’re working on getting over to Europe and South America sometime in the winter. The biggest challenge for overseas touring has been the issue of gear. We have relied on our old organs and synths for so many years that we felt that we couldn’t travel without them. It’s impractical to try and ship all of that gear all over the world so we’ve been slowly altering our live setup to accommodate the use of rented instruments. It’s quite frightening but we take it as yet another challenge.
Thanks again! Would you like to send a message for It’s Psychedelic Baby readers?
Scott: Thank you Klemen, Mahogany Frog definitely is psychedelic baby!
If you readers want to here all our tracks online there is MF on Soundcloud and Bandcamp.
Graham: Get your hands on a vinyl copy of our new record later this summer. We’re only pressing 500 copies. It’s Psychedelic Baby readers can say they read it here first – the new record is titled SENNA. And yes it sure is psychedelic, baby.
Interview made by Klemen Breznikar / 2012
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