Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Music is My Savior

by Gary Schwind (writer), Laguna Niguel, November 03, 2007


Three punk rockers start a jam band. It's hardly the beginning of a joke. It's six-piece Orange County band, Mama Hagglin.

Describe your sound for someone who has never heard the band.

It reflects that late 60s/early 70s jam style rock. With three new band members, we’re not jamming like we used to, but we are a jam band and we love to sustain songs. It’s very late 60s/early 70s jam sound, kind of affected by the delivery of the core of the band, we’re three punk rockers. And I think that we are trying our best to make this our own thing. It’s not deliberate with any genre or style, but I think it sneaks through because I’ve had people comment on it, so I guess it needs to be included.

How did three punk rockers come to this late 60s/early 70s jam sound?

We’re gonna date ourselves, but it’s what we cut our teeth on as far as music. All of us were into rock n roll on the radio at the time. We had that installed on our hard drives as children and then as we grew up, as kids do, they follow their own path. They sort of split away from what they had going with their parents. It’s almost a prerequisite. Ya gotta do it as a kid. The parents are the enemy, and you gotta find your own way because they’re idiots.

Their music is square.

They don’t understand. Yeah, their music is square. We did that. We all went our own ways and our generation was the punk rock generation. That’s what we did. Then we, I guess, for lack of a better way to phrase it, we grew up and got older. My body can’t take the punishment of punk rock shows anymore. All that running around and destruction. I can’t be who I used to be. I have to do something lamer. Quite honestly, my tastes started to change and I felt all this music come back up that I have liked so much in my childhood. When I started writing songs, and they weren’t punk rock songs, this is what they were. Sandy and Mitch are basically the same. They’re not writing songs, but their tastes developed in the same manner. Sandy our drummer, he’s a virtual music dictionary as far as sound and lyrics. He remembers everything. He can play just about anything at will, and he knows all the lyrics. It’s photographic for him. And then Jimmy our new keyboardist, he’s the same age. The guys in the band are older than the backup singers. They’re in their early twenties, twenty-three and twenty-five, and the rest of us are in our mid-forties. Mitch is fifty. They drastically changed our sound. I can’t wait for you to hear it. You’ve heard the three-piece stuff. Oh my God, I can’t wait for you to hear how it’s changed. Same sound, just bigger and badder. It’s still coming from the same place.

What were some of the records you were spinning when you were a kid?

Well, my first two records were Alice Cooper Goes to Hell and Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon. And I played the hell out of them, all the time. I played a lot of Aerosmith. I was a huge KISS fan, still am. They just kick ass. What a circus. Zeppelin, Black Sabbath. I was listening to Jimi Hendrix, Black Sabbath, all the punk rock stuff when it came out. I just listened to all the classic rock bands. I didn’t have a big music collection as a kid. I didn’t have a stereo or anything until I was about thirteen or fourteen. I got an amplifier and a tuner. Then I got a cassette player the next year for Christmas. I ran away when I was fifteen. So then I was kind of starting over. But as a kid growing up, I didn’t have a big music collection. By the time I got a turntable, I might have had maybe twenty records. Not a lot. Not like now.

It becomes an obsession, doesn’t it?

If I could afford it, I’d buy music weekly.

I’m with you there.

It’s getting cheaper now.

Only thing is, in Orange County it’s getting hard to find a record store.

I really freaked out when Tower closed. What an institution. Now, you go to Target, Borders, or Wal-Mart. I don’t go to Wal-Mart. They treat people shitty.

Borders is one of the last record stores in Orange County, aside from the punk stores like Black Hole.

Yeah, the small ones. It’s a bummer for the record stores and right now it’s a weird time for the consumer. For musicians, I think it’s a new era. I don’t know what’s gonna happen, because it could go so many different directions at this point. Musicians have been getting reamed by the record labels forever. The record label, they get half your money, at least. That’s insane. It didn’t used to be like that. It evolved into that. It’s just gotten out of hand. Now I think I would have not had a shot if none of this ever happened. You’d never have seen me. This whole internet thing. I’m my own record label right now. I record my own stuff in my own studio, put it online, sell it online. Legally. I got a bar code. I can sell it all over the world. Any record store in the world can order it without any effort at all. Never before have we been able to do that. So it’s good for the musician, for the small musician. We definitely need to hear more small musicians, because that’s where all the big musicians come from.

I noticed that you recorded a live album before you recorded a studio album. How did that come about?

Opportunity. That’s when the band was brand new, first incarnation of the band. That live album has the original bass player, Johnny Fish, who wasn’t even a bass player. He used to come over, and there was a drum kit in the room that a mutual friend of ours asked if he could store there because I had a big music room in the studio. He liked to play them every now and then but had no place to set them up. Johnny would noodle on the drums a little bit, and he was pretty good. He was picking it up. We started developing song ideas. I had a bass and I let him use it. Anyway, I started to develop these songs. I wanted to make a record so we could play shows and have things to sell. I couldn’t afford to make a record with all the overdubs, and then do artwork and mass production on it. I didn’t have any money. I didn’t even have a hundred dollars at the time. I thought “I’ll try to get this whole thing done in a day.” We invited thirty friends to sit in the room. We had all the amps facing each other. When you record you really want separation so you can adjust levels. How can you do that when my amp is blaring at the bass amp and that’s got a mic in front of it. There’s a PA in the room, and there’s people. It came out good. And we made a DVD of it too. So I have those available but now they’re obsolete.

That whole spirit is very old-time too. Go into the studio and knock out an album in four days.

That’s how we wanted to do it too. Honestly, I went back and I was going to try to make a studio production recording of those songs. I realized that unless I just go do it live, I don’t know what I’m playing on guitar. So if I just sing it, I’m singing it wrong. I had to tailor them both [singing and playing] to be done together. You can only do so much with the vocals because you’re doing this with the guitar. So whatever comes out, comes out. When I tried to do it separately, it was coming out all wrong and it was messing with me. I’m sure it was all good. It was just different and I wasn’t ready for it. I realized I don’t know what I’m doing. Now when I go do my guitar parts, I sing in the room. And when I’m singing, sometimes I wear my guitar.

It’s all a mental construction.

Yeah, I just run with it. It gets messy sometimes.

Everything’s an adventure, right?

Yeah, I need to think about it like that more often. That is the right way to think about it. Sometimes, I think of it as a mess. And it should be an adventure, a new adventure.

Listening to your stuff, I think you must be great live. Tell me about your best show.

I think this our best show was a three-piece lineup. We had Mitch, our current bass player and we opened for .38 Special at The Coach House. It was sold out in advance. You know The Coach House, the tables are right off the stage. You could do a catwalk off the stage. We got the best response. They were on their feet every song. There was a group of women standing in front of me, howling at me. It was just awesome. They were older women, older than me. We just had that place really wound up. I think that was our best show. We’ve had some really fun ones. The Galaxy, we’ve played a couple good shows there. We did a Johnny Winter show and Eric Burdon was probably the best Galaxy show. Both of those shows were packed to the walls, oversold. There was probably a thousand people there. I think .38 Special was the best.

What would you be doing if you weren’t playing music?

The answer is ugly, really ugly. I don’t think I’d be OK if I wasn’t. I’ve done it before. When my sons were born, I started to slow down. That’s not true. When my second son was born, I was kind of busy with music. But with my first son, I really did slow down a lot. I didn’t do it for a year, a whole year. But I noticed that I don’t feel good when I’m not doing it. I get depressed, angry. That’s my vent. That’s how I meditate. That’s how I got through my whole childhood. My mom taught me to play when I was seven. My dad was really hardcore with punishments and stuff. I went through it, and that’s how I got through it. Honestly, it’s my savior. If I didn’t do it, I’d be dead. If I weren’t dead, it would be because people around me that love me didn’t allow that to happen. I need to do it.

About the Writer

Gary Schwind is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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