HIT CHANNEL EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: September 2019. We had the honour to talk again with a legendary guitarist: Frank Marino. He just released his long-awaited “Live at the Agora Theatre” DVD containing 1 Blu-Ray Disk, 3 DVD’s and a 180-page book. You can also read Frank’s previous in-depth interviews with Hit Channel from 2012 and 2014 . Read below the very interesting things Frank told us:
Are you satisfied with the response you got so far for the “Live at the Agora Theatre” DVD?
Yeah, it’s been better than I thought! I’m very-very happy with it. Yeah, the response has been really good. I’ve got a lot of emails and people are calling me and stuff… I can’t be happier. It’s really-really good.
You spent 8 years fixing the drum sound of the DVD. How do you feel today about the final result?
I think it really turned out good. Not just because it’s mine, I think it really does sound quite good, really realistic, really natural, sounding very-very good. A lot of people have remarked already that the sound of this particular DVD is better than any other sound I ‘ve ever had and some people say it’s better than any DVD they ‘ve ever heard, so yeah, it turned out really good.
Was it a brave decision to release it without a record deal?
I just think: “You have to ask yourself why would do anything with a record company today?” because really they are not doing much for an artist. I just believe that artists have the ability now to connect with their fans directly. One of the problems with releasing with a record label is that they will take a piece of work and they will say: “OK, here’s the big release” and in a few months later they’ll go: “OK, now we’ve done with that. Let’s do something different”, whereas when you do it yourself there is no time limit on it. You interact directly with fans -that I think it’s the most important thing- and it doesn’t have a life of only two or three or four months. You could do it for quite a while, so I think it’s a really good idea to not use a record company.
Are you available for tour dates?
I want to tour… but generally bands don’t choose to tour. What happens is promoters will make offers to bands to come to a city or to go on a tour and then if they make it possible, then you go. If promoters call me and say: “Do you want to tour?”, of course I’m going to say: “Yes”. But you always have to wait until that happens. No band is in control where they go or when they go or how long they go. It’s always going to be up to the promoters. So, we are hoping that the DVD captures some people’s ears and if the public likes it enough, these promoters are going to say: “Hey, let’s get this guy on the road” and they’ll call us and say: “Do you want to go on the road?” and we will say: “Yes”. If they don’t, then the only thing that you can do is you could hope that you can sell enough DVD’s and you can do it yourself, just like we did with the record and if that happens, if I was to sell enough DVD’s to make enough money to go on a tour, because it’s very expensive, then I’ll totally do that. But time is gonna tell us if we will be able to do that. So, I just hope people buy it and one way or the other, if it’s successful either a promoter will like us and tell us: “Come and play” or we’ll have the money to do it ourselves.
Zakk Wylde gave you a fantastic gift in August 2018! Were you surprised?
Oh, wow! Was I surprised? Yes, amazingly surprised! It’s so beautiful, the guitar is so nice and Zakk was so nice to do that. He used one of my album covers, my third album (“Strange Universe” – 1975) as the painting on the guitar. It’s a very-very beautiful job. It’s a beautiful guitar from a very-very beautiful guy. I can’t be more thankful. As a matter of fact, I used a picture of it as the background of the menu in the DVD! So, you need a background for the buttons and I used a picture of that guitar.
Can you please tell us a few words about the song “Land of 1000 Nights” (from “Strange Universe” -1975)?
“Land of 1000 Nights” was a song very early in my career, when I was trying to describe a very bad experience that I had and that put me in the hospital and made me become a musician, to do the psychedelic experience. That’s basically all it is. It’s almost about a dream or a nightmare.
Do you have any memories of the guitar battle with Ted Nugent one night in Detroit?
Oh, yeah. I remember that very-very well. I was very young and I was playing one of my first gigs in America. I never really played all that much, I think it was maybe my second or third gig, but for some reason we were well-liked in Detroit, Michigan and we came to play and there was a band that was opening for us, which was Ted Nugent and he had asked my managers if he could come and do a guitar battle and I said: “No, I’m not gonna do something like that. That’s not the way I look at music”. I don’t look at it as a sport. Anyway, I forgot about it and then while we were playing, his crew pushed out his amplifiers and he started doing it, anyway. I really didn’t know what to do at the time, I was very new to that kind of thing. I was very young. I must have been 16 or 17 years old, maybe 18 -I don’t remember- I think 17 and this guy was coming on the stage and trying to play like as if we were dueling with guitars. So, I was very surprised but I didn’t want to tell him: “Get off the stage”, because there were 5.000 people there where would have been a daring thing, so I just played along as I could with it and it turned out very well in the end. I think he did something he realized later that maybe he shouldn’t have done, because it didn’t look very good for him when it was over.
Did you enjoy your performance on Midnight Special TV show (1978) and the introduction by Dickey Betts (Allman Brothers)?
I did. I mean, I didn’t actually enjoy the experience because when you play on television, the public sees it very different. What you see on the television, as you see a dark stage and lighting and it looks like a real show, but when you are in the television studio that’s all fake. So, really in the studio you got a few people sitting around on a floor, the lights are very bright and the sound it’s not very loud. It’s a very-very different experience. So, from the actual playing point of view it’s very hard to feel like it’s a real gig. So, no I didn’t enjoy the actual experience of doing it, but I loved the idea that I’d be in the same place with Dickey Betts and people like that. For me, it was a really-really great thing because I happen to really like Dickey Betts (laughs).
There’s no person alive who plays Hendrix songs better than you! Do you feel a lot of responsibility carrying the true spirit of Hendrix music in the 21st century?
I don’t really feel that, but I do think that if you are going to play the music of anybody, not just Hendrix, but anybody, especially an artist that is such an important changemaker for musicians, you have to make sure that you don’t do anything to that music to not have the best honour and respect that has to have. I think the way to do that is not to try to be better, not to try to make it as if you are better than that, but just to present it to people in the way that you think he might like it to be presented and that he would be glad to hear it presented that way. I think if you do that, not just with Jimi, but even if you were to do with The Beatles or any other great changemaking artists, Bob Dylan or you name it, you have to do that. You have to do that in a way that honours it and respects it and treats it like the way you’ll do with a great painting by Michelangelo or any great painter artist.
I watched a video of you on Youtube playing “Strawberry Fields Forever” in your home studio. Is it possible to play it live or record it as you did with “Norwegian Wood” on “Tales of the Unexpected (1979)?
Look, it’s very possible. I’ll tell you this: When we are on tour, one of the things that I like about being on tour is that in the daytime at every show, we do a very long soundcheck. We don’t just come in for 5 minutes, check and then leave. We sometimes play for 3 or 4 hours in the afternoon when people are not there and during those soundchecks we have the most fun because we play those songs. We play Beatles songs and “Strawberry Fields” and “Penny Lane” and all of the stuff that I loved growing up and yes it’s entirely possible that I would record something like that. Again, if I do it, I have to do it in a way that respects the song and it doesn’t make a joke out of it, because sometimes people cover songs and they don’t respect them very well. What I did with “Norwegian Wood” is different than the original “Norwegian Wood” but I think it respects the feeling of the song and The Beatles themselves.
Guitar World Magazine did an interview with you in 2015. Did it help younger listeners to learn about your music?
I don’t know. I mean, I hope so. I do have some younger listeners that write me letters, that come to www.mahoganyrush.com and they would talk to me on my website, because on my website I interact with people. I don’t do it on Facebook, I don’t talk a lot on social media, but on my own website I have a place where I chat with people, I talk, I answer questions and it’s very personal. In that place, yes we do get some younger people, sometimes they are the children of the older people who were already fans and sometimes they came because they read an article in something like Guitar World or Guitar Player. So, I ‘m always happy to deal with them. I think that one of the mistakes that equipment companies make is that they make really good equipment and then they make it too expensive for young people and by doing that we are taking the best equipment out of the hands of who would make the next generation of music, because they can’t afford it. So, I tell my friends who do that -all the time- who sell amplifiers and pedals, I say: “You really shouldn’t sell themselves so expensive because young people can’t afford it, that the only people who are using it are people who are really not going to make any new music with it”. That’s the way I look at it. I think young people are the heart and soul of rock ‘n’ roll, they always have been, they always will be and I just wish that we have more of them.
Did you enjoy your performance at Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon at Long Beach Arena in 1980 with Humble Pie, Mother’s Finest and Angel?
I had a great time on that tour. First of all, I was very good friends with all of the bands. Steve Marriott (Small Faces, Humble Pie) and me hanged around a lot, we lasted a lot and we had a lot of fun. I loved all the people that played in all of the bands. We had a really good time on that whole touring, including the Long Beach show. Yes, I remember it very well. It was a very nice memory for me.
I’ve seen a photo of you with Rick Derringer and a fan. Did you get to know him? Did you talk about his jam sessions with Jimi Hendrix?
I never spoke with Rick about that, but we did speak about other things. We became friendly, we ‘ve done some gigs together at certain times and I always loved the idea that he had played with my other favourite guitar player who it was Johnny Winter. I think I asked Rick more about Johnny Winter than anything else.
Keith Emerson told me that there was a huge discussion when The Beatles had a new album out. You should listen to George Harrison’s guitar, you should listen to Paul McCartney’s bass playing and the lyrics that John Lennon has written with. These days, you don’t get that at all. Nobody is bothered about who the guitar soloist is on a Lady Gaga album. Nobody gives a shit! Do you agree with this statement?
Well, look, there is no doubt that music has changed. The way people look at music has completely changed, especially the young people now they are listening to songs for 30 seconds on a phone, so the appreciation level is not quite the same and as widespread. As I said before, there will always be and have always been certain musicians that come along and really make a huge difference to music. Not just to the fame or to the selling. To music. They influenced generations of people that create really a lot of music after that. So, some of these names you are mentioning, those are the guys to do that. They are not that many, but they do come along and things have really changed now in 2019. It’s certainly not the same.
You played at the Heavy Metal Holocaust Festival in Port Vale, UK in ‘81 with Motorhead, Ozzy, Riot, Vardis and Triumph. Did you feel comfortable playing in front of a heavy metal audience?
I have always felt comfortable with a heavy metal audience and even though I don’t do primarily heavy metal music, some of my best fans are heavy metal fans. I think the reason for that is not so much because of the music, but because of all the types of music fans in rock, heavy metal bands and heavy metal fans are very normal people. They are very down-to-earth. I’m very much like them. I’m a normal guy, we talk about normal things. It’s not just like a big show to them, it’s just people having a good time. I really like heavy metal fans and I really like heavy metal bands, not for the music, but for the personalities that they are. They are just really realistic, honest people.
Any future plans?
Certainly, I would like to come and play a gig where you are (ed: Greece). Time will tell.
A huge “THANK YOU” to Mr. Frank Marino for his time!
Buy the “Live at the Agora Theatre” DVD here: https://www.mahoganyrush.net/dvd/
Official Frank Marino & Mahogany Rush website: https://www.mahoganyrush.com/
Official Frank Marino Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/OfficialFrankMarino/