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Monkey Power Trio - Interview

  by Mark Rowland

published: 22 / 5 / 2006

Monkey Power Trio - Interview


The Monkey Power Trio only play together for one afternoon a year, but have released an EP a year since 1995. Mark Rowland speaks to them about their latest EP 'Spiders in the Blood Supply' which has been released on their own Monkey Power Trio label

The Monkey Power Trio are flying the flag for amateurism in the indie music world, and we should thank them for that. They have day jobs and families like everyone else, and make music purely for the fun of it. They have been steadily getting better as the years have gone by, but they’ve never lost their shambolic charm, and hopefully they never will. So far since their first record, they’ve had a song used on a Fox Sports advert, been played on Radio One and threatened with legal action by the estate of Fatty Arbuckle over the content of one of their songs – not bad for a band that plays songs about Johnny Cash buying screwdrivers. The band was started by high school friends Mark Maynard (vocals), guitarist Dan ‘deadhand’ Richardson and Matt Krizowsky (horns, banjos and woodwind instruments) in New York as a way for them to keep in contact and play music together while still getting on with their every day lives for the rest of the year. They had played together previously in Prehensile Monkey-Tailed Skink, a more conventional band, though they still peddled a similar anarchistic sound. That band released a few records in the early 90's and got some pretty good press. There is still a cult Prehensile Monkey-Tailed Skink fan base on the web. The day after the band’s concept was born, they recorded their first EP, ‘The First Hour’, on a boombox in a basement. The band vowed never to play live. All their songs would be jammed out on the day of recording. They will only ever play for one day a year, partly because of the rules of the drunken pact they made 11 years ago, and partly because Matt absolutely hates improvising. Drummer/bassist Dave Miller and multi-instrumentalist Mike Bell joined the band for later sessions, making the Trio a quintet. Since then, the band has stuck to their pact, and has released some cracking lo-fi indie records in that time. Their latest record, ‘Spiders in the Blood Supply’, is great, featuring four clattering, chaotic gems; from the early-Pavement style catchiness of the title track, the sloppy punk of ‘When Fuzzy Met Jenkins’ and quiet loud dynamics of ‘JC Buys a Screwdriver’ to the garage fuzz of ‘River’s Edge’. Unlike previous records, however, it wasn’t released to the very end of this year, which worried some fans (well, me and my brother Jamie) that something may have caused problems within the band. Luckily, the pact is still strong. PB : Your new record didn't come out until the end of last year - what delayed its release? MB : We did. I think collectively we have to be the 5 most procrastination laden individuals the world has ever seen. MM : The more condoms you wear, the longer it takes. At least that has been my experience. DM : Sometimes it takes us a long time to get the mix just right. It may not sound like it (and really that's our goal) but all of our stuff is highly produced. Mixers. Compressors. Transducers. Phasers. Lasers. We use it all to make our signature sound. Some things, you just can't put out in a day. DR : The question is, can people in their mid-30's with careers and families do this? It's getting harder every year. Harder to think of songs, harder to get together, harder to get the product out there, and harder to promote the albums at all. It'll take more energy and effot than we thought it would when we made a pledge 10 years ago. MK :I had other priorities. PB - The new songs are some of your best yet - How easy was it for you to write and record? MB : As easy as microwave mac andcheese. It's not like we "write" music or have to remember anything for longer than 15 minutes. Now if you asked us how easy it would be to play any of those songs again, the answer would be more like "as difficult as jamming your cock into a nun's ass." Can you print that? MM : I don't know what to tell you. Maybe it was luck. Some days just work and some don't. A lot of different factors are in play. This year I guess things were just all lined up right. We were all pretty in tune with each other. That's not always the case. DM : As much fun as it sounds, there is an element of pain in the process every year. The sessions are hot, stinky, and gruelling. And all we eat is junk food the whole day. I want to puke afterwards. DR : I don't recall huge fights this year. I don't recall feeling terrible about the session afterwards. So, yeah, this was an easy year. Oh, I do remember that several of us were quite sick and run-down. But the songs came rolling out, somehow, and we knew we had enough for an album - that seems less true for our 2005 session which was full of fighting and uninspiration. MK : It's not easy for me to write and record. That's why I drink so much during the session. PB : A particular favourite of mine is the title track -How did that song come together? MB : Mark started saying "spiders in the blood supply" repeatedly as we found some chords to play. Basically, the same way all of our songs come together (although some in the reverse order). We like to call that the "riff to a ramble" technique. It works for us. MM : I don't think I've ever heard the phrase "riff to ramble". I'd also never heard that other "nun's ass" phrase that Mike used earlier. It makes me sad when Mike speaks for the band. DM : As usual, our behind-the-scenes song writers, who work throughout the year between sessions, had it all charted out for us when we got to the studio. We looked it over, corrected a few mistakes in the notation, and nailed it on the first take! MK : I hardly remember how any of the songs we write come together. PB : The lyrical content on this record (and the others) is pretty surreal. Where do you get your lyrical inspirations? MB : Mark comes up with most of the lyrics although I believe they initiate from me via my mad chops. And by "comes up" I really mean "shits out". MM : The way I think about it, it's like our brains are crammed full of stuff 364 days a year, and, when we walk into the studio, it's like vomiting it all back out. All the advertising messages, all the articles we'd read, all the crap. It just comes exploding out. And it allows us, or at least me, to reset my brain. It's cathartic. DM : I have kept a notebook of ideas> Well, actually, its one piece of paper--during the year between sessions and bring it in. It has phrases on it. Like 'Velvet Snake Wine', for example. DR : Yeah, that's all Mark. I'm pretty sure no one else sang this year, but I could be wrong. PB - The Artwork for the record breaks the tradition of the hand drawn pictures that usually make up the art for your records - Where did that design come from? MB : It came up from Mark becoming even more lazy and none of the others participating. MM : I agree with Mike. DM : What does it look like? Did anyone send me a copy? DR : From now on, let's create all of our covers from "art" recovered from the garbage can with added scribbles, like we did this one. MK : Mark has done all of our covers except for 1998 which I did. I think the new cover is neat. It took me a while to notice that the spiders have 6 legs. Oh, well, 100mph isn't the speed of sound, either. PB : What can fans expect from the 2005 session? When is it likely to be released? MB : More of the same except worse. At this point, I don't see it being released. It could be our worst effort yet. Think of listening to our song 'Systematic Problem' for one hour straight. There you have it. MM : Imagine your ears as a nun's ass. DM : Happiness. IIRC, you can look forward to "Happy". DR : What fans? Truthfully, this is the first session that had an overall bad vibe to it, for unknown reasons (besides exhaustion, junk food, panic attacks, claustrophobic basements, gin, deep-seated personal resentments, and gin). We really hope to get this done before our August 2006 recording session. Good luck to us. MK : Eh, the 2005 session was the usual ordeal. Hopefully the record will be out before the end of 2006. PB : What was the atmosphere like in the studio for the 2005 session? Where did you record it? MB : Hot, stinky, sweaty, and dark. Mark fell against the door because he was drunk, Dan and Mark were fighting, Matt was trying to get drunk as fast as possible so he didn't have to listen to the fighting, Dave was trying to throw around music terms like "bridge" and "chorus" to show that he was a big shot music man, everyone was having trouble with their headphones, I couldn't play a decent solo on guitar for the umpteenth straight year and there was an air of disappointment after the session ended......just like every year. MM : There was an small, ugly, evil person hiding in the recording studio, watching us and taking notes. It freaked me, and possibly others, out. It was a weird dynamic. I got angry about it... There was some anger this session... Actually, come to think of it, there was also anger a few years ago, the last time we recorded in Michigan. Maybe the lesson is that I shouldn't record near home. DM : We recorded it in Minnesapolis. Right? The hard drive we brought wasn't formatted correctly. Who still uses Mac OS 9!? Great as it was ! So I had break it open with a screwdriver and reset roughly 10^7 bits of the platter in the right order using a needle and broken speaker magnet so that it was recognized properly as HFS. Once I finally got to the drumset, I was fried. There was a large dog. And a man in the booth. MK : I must correct Mike. I try to get drunk as fast as possible at every session. I was unaware that there was any fighting going on. I was recording in the booth. It works better if I'm isolated from the rest of the band since my woodwinds tend to get overpowered by amps and drums. PB : You have a lot of songs that never made it onto your records. Do you have any plans to release them? MB : You mean on the web like here: http://www.mptrio.tzo.com/discography/unreleased.php Also we have talked about a compilation on CD for years now. I am sure that unreleased songs like 'Devilman' and 'Cupcake Fistfight' and 'Wormwood' and maybe even 'Hondo' will make there way to disc. MM : It would be completely unethical, and Matt would never go for it, but I'm thinking that we could release some of them at our 2005 session. DM : Why would it be unethical? DR : No plans, really. We've talked about a 10 year retrospective CD that had some unreleased stuff on it, but we can barely get the regular project done each year, and pay for it, so extras seem doubtful at this point, unless I quit my job, which seems appealing right about now. MK : It would be unethical to release them at our 2005 session because that session already happened in June 2005, and messing with the past via time travel is unethical according to every TV show I've ever watched. Monkey Power Trio rules are that we put out a 7" record from each session. Putting unreleased tracks from previous years on the 2005 record would be against the rules, if not unethical. We'll do a CD sometime, but don't hold your breath. PB : When will you be doing the next session and where? MB : That's too easy of a question. Any of us could answer that one. MM : Again, I agree with Mike. We'll let one of the dumber members of that band answer that one. DM : 45° 22' 45.376, -122° 1' -122.018, 1158580800 DR : Deep in the woods. Unplugged. MK : Too soon and too far away. PB : Thank you

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Monkey Power Trio - Interview

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Interview (2004)
Monkey Power Trio - Interview
The Monkey Power Trio play together one day a year, but since 1995 have released a vinyl EP each year on their own Bulb label, With their latest EP just out , Mark Rowland talks to all five members about the unique concept of their band and label

digital downloads


Who Cares What the Vultures Want? (2011)
Fantastic lo-fi punk on latest release from the Monkey Power Trio, who have got together for one afternoon a year for the last sixteen years to record an EP
Spiders In The Blood Supply (2005)
Hacking Through the Tentacles of Despair (2004)

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