MuzikMan: You have returned in a big way with Real Live! Frank, which is an incredible album, one of the best live recordings I have ever heard. I understand what brought you back into music after a self-imposed exile were your fans, can you go into detail what prompted you to leave music and how the live recording took shape?
Frank Marino: I left in 1993 because I had been in it for so long and had seen the music business go from bad to worse. I just couldn’t stand the fact that the thing I had set my hopes on, music, had become something that was all about sales, popularity, and spectacles and the like. Nobody cared anymore about the music… even the bands themselves seemed to not care about what they were playing or why they were doing it. It just became a mess. So, I quit to go home to have kids. After having three of them, I was surfing the Net one night in search of my father’s family history (looking up the name Marino) and came upon a website called Strange Universe.
A guy named Willy Parsons had taken it upon himself to create this magnificent website ( www.mahoganyrush.com) devoted to my band. And, when I saw the level of interest there, I was pretty shocked and flattered. I had never even known that there were still any fans left, especially not that many. I got in touch, started participating in chats and message board conversations, and before I knew it I was being asked to put out an album, play a gig, keep in it… whatever. I gradually did this until I found myself back in it full-time.
The RealLIVE! Album took place as a part of a tour we were doing. We record every show in multi-track, and it was the last show in that series that year. We have another 27 hard-drives full of material, but I looked at the last one (which was done in Montreal, my hometown) and started mixing that one. As it turned out, it was a pretty good night. But it was never actually intended from the start to be a recording that was meant to be put out as an actual live album, when we were doing the show. Things just turned out that way.
MuzikMan: You do not have a large catalog of recordings for someone that has been in business so long, is there a particular reason for that? Are there many recordings that have not reached the light of day yet? I am sure some of those unreleased tracks will turn up on the remastered series released next year on your new label Justin Time?
Frank Marino: Well, I’m not sure you could call my catalog small, though perhaps it isn’t as voluminous as some others. I did 3 albums for 20th Century Fox, 7 more for Columbia, and about 5 other ones for different labels. That’s about one every two years on average. That’s apart from the special package records or appearances on other records. I think I’m on something like 27 albums in all. But I don’t like to make records on a year-by-year basis like I was forced to do when on Columbia. I prefer to take whatever time I want and only make an album when I feel like I have something I’d like to record. My old manager, David Krebs, used to tell me that he thought I was more like a novelist than a rock-musician, and I agree with that. There are things that no one has heard, and perhaps one day they’ll see the light of day.
MuzikMan: You can talk about your equipment-what kind of guitars you prefer and what kind of recording process there was with the live album?
Frank Marino: I build my own amps, based on Fender amplifiers. But in the studio I use Marshall as well. Live, I almost never use the Marshalls. I did get a few modified Marshalls from a guy in Sweden named Tommy Folkesson, and he does the best mods I’ve ever heard, if you want the Marshall sound. I will only use his Marshalls, but I also have an original slightly modded one from the 70′s that I will also use from time to time. My guitars are primarily Gibson SG Les Paul’s, 1961-1/2. I’ve got a few other models of SG, but they’re all modded to play like the 61′s. I use the occasional Strat and Telecaster, but I prefer the feel of the Gibson.
It’s funny, but so many people hear my sound and think I’m playing on a Strat through a Marshall, but most of the time I’m not. As a matter of fact, most of the time I don’t even use tubes… I use transistor-based power amps, like Crown. Even in the 70′s, they thought I was using Marshalls for my live album when I was using Acoustic 270′s, head and bottom. But now my modded pre-amp (which I do myself) is tube-based, and my power amp is still transistor. My pedals are less in number than they were in the old days… I used to have 22 of them on my board, and everybody used to give me grief over playing with pedals… now everyone plays with pedals and I hardly ever turn them on. But I mod each one of them myself… they just sound like crap out of the box, no matter which one you buy, it seems.
MuzikMan: Who was Frank Marino before he became an international rock star? You certainly did not let any of your success over the years go to your head or allow it to ruin your life like so many have, what is your secret to happiness and staying humble?
Frank Marino: I don’t know if you could call it a secret… I’m just a guy who’s very religious in my life, in everything I do. I’m a pretty committed Orthodox Christian, and I try to live it rather than talk about it or show it off. As for happiness, well, I get that from my children (3 little girls), my wife and my religion. I wasn’t always very happy… I had alot of suffering when I was very young, and it lasted a long time. But, through the Grace of God I got through it. I still have disappointments and troubles like anybody else, but I try to tell myself that if life is a book, then the page I’m on hasn’t turned yet. I always wait for the next page.
MuzikMan: I remember hearing about you back in the 70’s here in the U.S. but you never broke it big like other bands, although certainly plenty of people certainly knew who Frank Marino and Mahogany Rush were. All the cool kids did back in the day when I was discovering bands like yours Frank. What stopped it all from happening on a level like Black Sabbath, Kiss, Deep Purple and other popular acts of that time? Was it a conscious choice not to get that popular?
Frank Marino: It was very much a conscious choice, because I understood very early on that the way to make that choice to be “more famous” was to also choose to do some things that went against my personality, my music and my faith. No amount of money or fame is worth a man compromising his values or abandoning his principles. It was clearly put to me that, in order to exceed the level that the band was at, I would have had to do certain things in certain ways that would have necessitated compromising at least some of those values. I simply refused, and really didn’t care what the business people thought of me. I didn’t think very much of them anyway and, with very few exceptions (Jim West being one for sure), I still don’t.
I’m still, mentally, an old anti-establishment-type of holdover from 1969. My peers at that time had no problem with that ideology, when “the establishment” meant guys in three-piece-suits out to make a buck through corporations and governments, or going to war in Vietnam, but they balk today when I remind them that most of them (my peers) have now become the establishment… and it’s not that they’ve become those same types with the same designs, but that they’ve created a new type of establishment which virtually tries to market and sell the old ideals, while calling them “cool” and “underground”. But most of it is a sham. In some ways, the new “establishment”, the “music-business”, is far worse than the old. My good friend, Liz Vandall (Uli Roth’s wife, and a fabulous singer), calls me the “anti” man!
MuzikMan: What are you listening to these days? Whom would you consider as the most enjoyable acts actively recording today?
Frank Marino: I truly don’t listen to a lot of today’s music… I’m still stuck in the older stuff, if I listen at all. But I do like to listen to jazz (not fusion) and blues, a lot more than I used to. But if you ever catch me putting music on, it’ll probably be the Beatles, Hendrix, The Doors, Quicksilver, The Allman Brothers, George Benson, Larry Carlton or early Santana, Johnny Winter… or even Tony Bennett, whom I just love!
MuzikMan: What are you thoughts on using the Internet as a tool to distribute and market your music? Do you spend much time in cyberspace
Frank Marino: I spend a whole lot of time on the Net. I’m always on my site, talking to folks and getting involved in the chats and stuff. I think that music should be freely “streamed” from the artists’ sites. I’m not necessarily saying “downloading”, I’m saying streaming. You can listen to everything I’ve ever done right on my site… you’re not downloading it, but you don’t have to. Just click the tune and it plays. As a matter of fact, why would you want to download it and fill up your hard drive when it’s instantly available with a mouse-click at any time? If everybody offered this, bands AND companies alike, there would be no more downloading at all. It would be like a giant radio with a million channels where you could hear whatever you want whenever you want. If, then, you like it and want to buy it, by all means go ahead. If not, listen anyway… just like the radio.
I don’t think there would have been too many record companies or bands in the past who would have refused if some radio station said they’d play nothing but a certain artist 24/7 on a specific channel. They’d have been positively giddy about it. That’s what live streaming will accomplish… instant access at no cost, which trusts the listener to support the act if he so chooses. But I suspect that the people who are most against allowing this are people who have no faith in the listener nor in their own music’s ability to get that listener to want to own it in the first place.
MuzikMan: What are you looking forward to now with the release of the live set and the forthcoming reissues? Do you plan on recording a new album or touring?
Frank Marino: Oh, I hope to tour. I much prefer to tour than to record, really. We are supposed to be doing a DVD and a Blues album and a few other things, but that’s down the road and I’ll rely on God’s Grace to make that happen. In the meantime, I’d like to go out and do some gigs, get to know more people and generally have a grand old time playing music. That’s why I picked up a guitar in the first place… no?