Mal Thursday

Daily Hampshire Gazette

Tuned In: Ken Maiuri on Valley music April 14-20

“YEA-YUH!”

Only true characters have catchphrases, and the above rock-and-roll exclamation belongs to Mal Thursday, the local legend responsible for bringing top local and international indie rock bands to the Bay State Hotel back in the ‘90s. All these years that booking agents have been “Re-animating the Bay State” — Thursday was the one who animated it in the first place.

He’s been away from the Valley for some time, living in Austin for the past decade, but Thursday is revisiting the onetime nucleus of Northampton’s indie scene to perform a set of his garage rock originals and covers, backed by an all-star ensemble, at the Sierra Grille in Northampton on Thursday at 10 p.m. Sharing the bill are The Immolators and Chicopee Moose Project (one of the many projects from Eric Gaffney, co-founder of Sebadoh).

Thursday didn’t just book bands at the Bay State during his time in town. He also ran his own record label, Chunk Records (responsible for the “Hotel Massachusetts” compilation as well as releases by the Scud Mountain Boys, Silver Jews, New Radiant Storm King, DMZ, Lyres and others), and fronted the garage-rocking bands The Malarians and The Cheetahs.

At Thursday’s local gig (his first since 2010), he’ll be fronting the “Mal Thursday Quintet” (“the greatest six-piece quintet in the history of rock,” he said), which includes former Cheetah Frank Padellaro on ripping lead guitar, former Malarian Bob Medley on flourish-filled organ, tambourine and vocals, guitarist Greg Saulmon, bassist Patrick Timmons, and drummer Brian Marchese. The show will be recorded for a live album.

Thursday’s a lifelong lover of garage rock (for decades he’s been hosting the internationally syndicated radio show/podcast “The Mal Thursday Show”), so expect to hear some underground numbers by The Pretty Things, The Warlocks, The Outsiders (the Dutch band, not the Cleveland outfit who sang “Time Won’t Let Me”), and of course Thursday’s own self-penned manic show-stoppers with wailing harmonica, like his classic “Get Outta Dallas!”

And if you can’t get enough of Thursday on Thursday, you can see him and the band again on Friday at Ralph’s Rock Diner in Worcester with Muck and the Mires, The Sonomatics, and The Immolators, starting at 9 p.m.

Ugly Things Magazine

THE MALARIANS: In the Cool Room, Know/Finished in This Town (Chunk Archives) CDs

The Malarians were a "garage punk" band from Northampton, Massachusetts, formed in 1984 by future GaragePunk.com podcast regular Mal Thursday. In the Cool Room (1986) is their first album, the other disc gathering their 1988 Know EP with their final 1989 long-player Finished in This Town (recorded live but sounding pretty much like a studio project). Their sound and look were not retro '60s. The first album is closer to the Fleshtones/Slickee Boys schools, often looking in the rear view mirror, yet belonging to the (non-mainstream) pop rock sound of its time. It doesn't always work, like on "Lone Star Surfer" (Joe King Carrasco wanna be the Untamed Youth), "Old Enough to Know," or "Mopar." Luckily, they also had good songs to offer, like the opening track "Tuesday's Child" (neat fuzz and similarities with the Tell-Tale Hearts), "Gilligans Wake" (punk R&B not unlike the Cannibals), and "One Time Only" (like the Fleshtones meet the Raiders) or "Up to No Good" (an original take on '80s garage). And they do a decent version of Donovan's "Super Lungs (My Supergirl)." A patchy but pleasant album. The band had a lot of different influences yet managed to come up with their own sound.

The second CD is unfortunately less original, the Malarians going for a heavier, louder psych/punk sound. Again, not retro – even less so, in a way. Not that it's a bad disc, it's just dated. If you've got a taste for the heavy psych side of the '80s garage scene, you should nevertheless give it a try. If not, this will probably leave you cold. Only a few songs did it for me, like their fun, loud, and drunken version of "What's New, Pussycat?," their Fleshtones-on-speed take on DMZ's "Mighty Idy," or a handful of wilder heavy psych tunes ("Sky Wild," "This," Get Outta Dallas," plus their versions, live and studio, of Nobody's Children's "Good Times").  All tracks from the live album are separated by audio snippets from old B-movies, which is a nice touch.

 

 

Daily Hampshire Gazette

LOCAL LEGEND MAL THURSDAY RETURNS TO REANIMATE VALLEY

The Sierra Grille has its "Reanimate the Bay State" concert series every Thursday night, and the guy who animated the building in the first place is headed back to the same address to play his first area shows in over a decade.

His name is Mal Thursday, a colorful character (on stage usually clad in a black turtleneck and sunglasses) who needs no introduction to local music fans of a certain age bracket.

He was the creator and booker of Northampton's beloved Bay State Cabaret in the early/mid-'90s, the force behind legendary local record label Chunk Records, and the founder of garage-rockers the Malarians (in the '80s) and Mal Thursday and the Cheetahs (in the '90s), a huge fan and historian of garaqge/freakbeat/mod music and self-described "onetime Valley impresario" and "legend in his own mind." He was given the Dynamic Impact Award by the Northampton Arts Council in 1995.

Thursday left the area around 2001, moved to Florida, got married, had two kids, and moved the family to Austin, Texas, but some things never change. He's still a keeper of the flame for his favorite sounds ("As far as I'm concerned, music has been going downhill since 1966," he told a newspaper last year) hosting "The Mal Thursday Show" and "Mal Thursday's Texas Tyme Machine" podcasts on GaragePunk Pirate Radio, as well as writing a film column, even working part-time for the Round Rock Express, AAA franchise of the Houston Astros.

And for the next two Thursdays, Mr. Thursday himself will play shows at the Sierra Grille that reunite both of his biggest Valley bands. Thursday and the Cheetahs perform tonight at 10 p.m., The Malarians a week from tonight on June 10; it will be the band's first area appearance in more than 20 years.

In addition to the Northampton gigs, the groups also have gigs in Boston, Worcester, and even Hampshire, where the Malarians (most of whom are Hampshire alumni) will perform a set at the college's 40th Anniversary celebration on Saturday June 12.

Thursday has described this whirlwind trip north as "The Comeback Tour of the Commonwealth" and also "The 2010 Reunion Tour of Route 9." And he's been making preparations. A recent Facebok update announced, "Just got my hair cut for the tour. After growing out my hair for five months, I've managed to achieve full-on 1965. It would have taken another two months at least to achieve full-on '66."

With Thursday living thousands of miles away from his former bandmates, the lead vocalist, organ and harmonica player has had to get ready for the shows and back in the groove by himself. "I've been singing along with the songs in the car, and trying to to re-learn the keyboard parts I used to play, " he said. "I'm counting on muscle memory and lead sheets. I bought a new harmonica. I'm also trying to get a lot of aerobic exercise, and this week I'm going to start drinking beer again, to get in shape for the tour."

Thursday's schedule is so tight that he will have zero rehearsal with the Cheetahs before tonight's show -- his plane arrives just a few hours before the gig.

Meanwhile, his fellow Malarians --- lead guitarist Johnny Tomorrow (John Lebhar), guitarist/keyboardist/vocalist Bob Medley (Robert Sherwood). drummer Lyme Rickey (Eric Payne), and new bassist Les Fillin (Les LeBarge); original bassist and founding member Slater Awn (Kent Garver) passed away in 1994) --- have been rehearsing as a group and enjoying the freshness of playing together again, though there are some reminders of the passage of time.

"A 20 year reunion makes you feel a bit old. I pulled a muscle playing a ripping solo the other night," said Lebhar/Tomorrow, one of the original members of the Malarians, who made their debut at the Hampshire College Spring Jam in 1984. Lebhar has since played with many other Valley bands, as well as being an avid engineer/recorder; he's responsible for remixing and remastering the Malarians' 1986 debut album "In the Cool Room" for a recent CD reissue which, he said, "kind of got all of our Malarian blood flowing."

Thursday said he's honored by what Sierra Grille booker Mark Sheehan has done with the "Reanimate the Bay State" concert series; Sheehan returned the compliment, saying he was honored to be able to bring back someone I look up to." Indeed, Sheehan pointed out that the only hero listed on the venue's MySpace page is Mal Thursday.

"I'm stoked that I get to play two weeks in a row," said Thursday, his promotional prowess kicking into full gear. "The 'Bay State '68' show on the 3rd is going to be cool. The Cheetah's line-up is stellar: Frank Padellaro and David Trenholm from King Radio, Bob Medley from the Malarians, and Paul Pelis pounding the drums. We're playing with the Egos [from Boston], Evil Bill, and [poet/writer/UMass Professor] Conolly Ryan is hosting, for even more old Bay State flavor."

"The Malarians' reunion concert on the 10th --- two sets, all the hits and the greatest misses --- is more like Sheehan's reanimated," he said, name-checking the long-gone Pleasant Street bar that was a favorite haunt for his band, many other local acts, and the patrons who often packed the place.

Thursday promises the Malarians set will be "a time machine: we're wearing the black turtlenecks, doing all of our best originals, as well as mixing in many an obscure garage nugget. It will be withering and feverish in the old school way."

And tonight's Cheetahs show? "It will have more fuzz and a lot less rehearsal," he said, revealing that the set will include songs from his rock opera, plus covers of '60s rockers by the Creation, Kim Fowley, the Kinks, and more.

Surely both shows will also include Thursday's trademark exclamation "YEA-YUH!"

"I've played one gig in the last decade," he said, "I just hope my voice holds up for the whole tour." Thursday's way with microphone usually does include pushing his voice into a snotty, punky, throat-ravaging holler --- even on a cover of "What's New, Pussycat?"

"I look forward to the shows, and getting to spend time with old friends," Thursday said, "But I gotta tell you, it's gonna be weird, not only to be performing again, but to be on the hallowed carpet of the Bay State. It's going to be tough to be away from my family for 10 days. And to think of how much more money I would make if I stayed in Austin...but as Ian Hunter once said, 'Rock n' roll's a loser's game/It mesmerizes and I can't explain..."

The Valley Advocate

Not Quite Finished in This Town
The rise and fall and rise of Mal Thursday

Countless area bands have been conceived, lived and disappeared since former local impresario Mal Thursday (pictured above, second from right, with The Malarians, 1985) also known, equally enigmatically, as J.M. Dobies last stepped off an area stage.

Thursday's heyday was concurrent with a very active time in local music lore. Any night in the '90s could find him all over Northampton, somehow simultaneously booking shows at the Baystate Hotel, leading a band of garage rockers through a rousing rendition of The Standell's "Dirty Water," and shaking hands with someone on a deal to release a 7-inch single on his own Chunk Records.

After vanishing from the scene under hazy circumstances and leaving music altogether, Thursday is currently in the midst of a prodigal Massachusetts reunion run, playing shows with two of his former Valley bands, The Malarians and The Cheetahs. He checked in by phone from his current home in Austin, Texas to talk about his bands, his disappearance, and his spate of impending area gigs.

The Heyday

Mal Thursday's first band, The Malarians, was born in 1984 and lasted until 1990. The group was a rave-up garage band known for rollicking live shows and matching black turtlenecks.

The group produced three releases, 'In the Cool Room' (1986), 'Know' (1988), and 'Finished in this Town' (1990), and reached a respectable level of success in their day, receiving good airplay and cracking the CMJ Top 20.

Thursday transitioned to a new project, The Cheetahs, following the breakup of the Malarians. They released a holiday single in 1992, followed up in 1993 by a split 7-inch with Angry Johnny, featuring the band's version of the Johnny Cash classic "Ring of Fire" with guest vocals and pig squeals from Angry Johnny himself.

Around this time, Thursday was cranking out releases on his own Chunk Records, an imprint that quickly became known for releasing solid singles by national acts and for producing some of the area's finest recordings before or since. His roster included seminal acts like Guided By Voices, Sebadoh, DMZ, the Lyres, New Radiant Storm King, Scud Mountain Boys, and Silver Jews.

All the while, he was booking gigs around town, producing rock videos, and writing for publications like VMag and the Boston Phoenix.

Then things fell apart.

The Departure

"In the late '90s, I sort of crashed and burned like a Shakespearean tragic-comic figure," Thursday recalls. "God, you know, I left my entire back catalogue—all the Chunk Records backstock—I left that at Frank Padellaro's and then he moved out and it got swiped by the cleaning crew and turned up at the Hadley Flea Market and on eBay, and I ended up having to buy a bunch of my stuff back, just to have one copy of the DMZ record or whatever. I lost all those records. I had a Vox [organ], three Farfisas—it was a vintage organ holocaust, I tell you. And I have no one to blame but myself. I really fucking blew it in some regards, you know?"

Thursday became disillusioned with rock, and a promising job elsewhere in the Commonwealth fell through. He says his behavior and decision-making were going south in a hurry.

"Well, you know, I burned my bridges," he says. "I was like, 'Damn, I'm finished in this town.' And I burned some bridges  I did some uncharacteristic things and was like, 'Man, I've got to get out of here. I've stayed too long at the dance,' you know?"

Thursday unsuccessfully tried to find work in New York before retreating to a beachfront condo in Florida. Feeling the music itch, he launched a radio show, 'Florida Rocks Again!,' chronicling the state's music history from '50s R&B to garage to obscure rockabilly singles.

"The show is still online and still gets thousands of downloads," Thursday says. "I wanted to get it syndicated, but I found commercial radio to be a rigidly formatted, vast wasteland."

But getting back into music rejuvenated Thursday, who was further pulled out of his funk by the news that he was to become a father for the first time. 

The Redemption

Thursday and family relocated to Austin, Texas. He took a corporate job with Microsoft before getting laid off last summer. "It's probably the best thing that's happened to me since I got to Austin, because now I've been more able to do a lot of creative stuff," he says. "Ultimately, I have to go take another corporate gig COBRA doesn't last forever. But I'm doing a film column now. I've gotten more involved with the film scene, and I'm working for the local minor league team, the Round Rock Express, the Triple-A affiliate of the [Houston] Astros." In the early '90s, Mal served as Head Baseball Coach at Hampshire College.

And the timing allowed for thoughts of a Malarians reunion to creep into his mind. Thursday says the other members had been pushing for it for years.

"Kent Garver, our original bass player, died in '94, and it makes it hard to have a reunion. He was a great singer, and was really rock solid—he had his issues, obviously. Then I sort of came around to the idea. I figured it would be fun, and we got the offer to play this Hampshire reunion thing, and I said, 'If we're going to do that, there's going to be no money involved, so we're going to have to do some paying shows.'"

Adding further fuel to the reunion and journey back to New England is the reissuing of the entirety of the Mal Thursday-related back catalogue. Over the last year, Malarian Johnny Tomorrow (aka John Lebhar) has been working with the original master recordings of the band's first LP 'In the Cool Room,' tweaking the sound, making edits and attempting to, in Thursday's words, bring the recorded quality up to par with the band's live prowess. The band's second and third releases, 'Know' and 'Finished In This Town' (a ragged live album recorded at Zone Art Center with only Thursday and bassist Slater Awn remaining from the original line-up) have also been reissued as a two-fer on Chunk Archives, the millennial variation on Thursday's old label. Some unreleased Malarians material may well see the light of day, along with a complete compilation of Cheetahs' material.

"I hadn't listened to any of this stuff for years and years," Thursday says. "And listening to it again, I was like, 'Hey, this is pretty good.'" 

The Return

Thursday lined up a slew of reunion shows for a compact time period—a fact not lost on someone who's been out of the game for awhile. "Six gigs in 10 days is a lot to ask of someone who hasn't been on a stage for 10 years," he says. "But I think I'm up for it. I've got to sing more — I don't know if I can scream like I used to."

He's equally excited to play with both acts, and promises that neither one has lost a step, perhaps even gaining in quality over time thanks to the top-flight musicians surrounding him who have allowed him to focus less on playing keys and more on singing.

"I could just be the village idiot, you know," he says, "the marionette, the clown up front."

The lineup for the Malarians is the same as the one that recorded In the Cool Room and Know, with Thursday on vocals, harmonica and organ, Tomorrow on lead guitar and vocals, Bob Medley (Robert Sherwood) on keys, guitar and vocals, and drummer Lime Ricky (Eric Payne). Les LeBarge—playing pseudonymously as Les Fillin—plays bass in place of the departed Garber (Slater Awn).

Mal Thursday & the Cheetahs return with their 13th lineup, featuring drummer Paul Pelis, bassist Dave Trenholm, and Frank Padellaro and Bob Medley on guitar and vocals.

Thursday has jokingly dubbed his return trip The Route 9 Tour, as the group's travels will take them from Amherst to Northampton to Worcester to Boston.

Is he nervous about not only remounting local stages but returning to a place where so many bridges were burned?

"It's a mix of anticipation and dread," he says. "I know that I can perform. I'm hoping my voice holds out. I'm thinking that time heals all wounds, so anybody that I told to fuck off or was a jerk to, you know, will have forgiven and forgotten, or they just won't go to the show and still think I'm an asshole."

Examiner.com

MAL THURSDAY'S VICTORY LAP

Once upon a time in the early ‘90s, the western Mass. indie music scene was a vibrant, buzzing place to be. Rumors floated through the air (and in the “industry” thanks to a Billboard article in 1992) constantly that the next big scene after Seattle was Northampton, Mass.

To a degree, that hype was well-founded: Bands like Sebadoh, New Radiant Storm King, and Scud Mountain Boys were attracting the attention of the music business. All of those bands (or their collective members) were widely hailed by the critics and hugely influential on a new crop of artists.

But there was a great local music scene prior to those halcyon days, and one individual who both participated in it, and then later promoted it, is returning to Massachusetts to get his due.

In 1984, a Hampshire College student on the seven-year plan, formed a garage-rock band heavily steeped in the music of The Seeds, The Sonics, DMZ, Lyres, and Roky Erickson, that decades later would be influential on a whole new generation of like-minded musicians. The band was The Malarians, and that guy was the snappily-monikered Mal Thursday. In 1986, the group released its seminal recording In the Cool Room (Chunk Records) and the rest as they say, is history.

While not a huge record in its time, In the Cool Room (remixed and remastered in 2009) defines an era, a genre, and ultimately The Malarians. The band recorded a CMJ charting EP, Know, in 1988, and recorded an unreleased LP, Malarians for Mothers and Daughters a/k/a Heavy Hits during that time. In 1989, after a series of line-up defections, the latest incarnation of the band recorded a live LP, Finished in This Town. And a year later, the band was indeed done.

Life After The Malarians

Mal Thursday went on to form The Cheetahs in the ‘90s, working in the same vein as The Malarians.

What really cemented Thursday’s stature in the local scene was the label that he ran, Chunk Records, and the Bay State Hotel (in Northampton, Mass.) where he booked bands from 1992-1995.

Chunk Records released more than two dozen records (mostly 45s and compilations on vinyl), many of them by local bands such as Zeke Fiddler, Steve Westfield, Tizzy, Queer, and The Veronica Cartwrights. The complete story of the label is lovingly re-created by Thursday in "The Chunk Records Story."

Thursday was partly responsible for growing a music scene in Northampton while booking the Bay State Hotel with local and national indie music groups. The Bay State Hotel had a comfy “living room” atmosphere that was both intimate and conducive to experiencing up-and-coming bands or bands that were breaking. For all that’s exciting about Northampton’s current music scene, nothing compares to those times.

Mal Thursday Returns

On June 3rd, Mal Thursday & The Cheetahs return to the Bay State (or the Sierra Grille, in Northampton, if you prefer), and The Malarians as well on June 10th. A sort of victory lap, The Cheetahs and The Malarians will also play a date each in Boston, while the Malarians play Worcester and Amherst (part of Hampshire College’s 40th anniversary).

Never one to be inactive, Thursday, now a family man living in Austin, TX, has been busy with numerous musical projects, most recently overseeing the re-releases of both of his old bands’ recording output, hosting a show on GaragePunk Podcast Network and writing a film column.

In a recent e-mail exchange with Hartford Indie Music Examiner, Thursday (real name: J.M. Dobies) talks retrospectively about his career, the Bay State Hotel, and why he’s touring again.

Examiner: How did a kid from Massena, NY, of all backwater ‘burgs, turn out like you?

MT: Growing up in Massena was sort of like growing up in Canada, in that it was 10 miles from the border, and an hour from Montreal. We got to enjoy the cultural benefits of Canadian television and radio. My parents were pretty cosmopolitan, my father being the young doctor who moved to the North Country because of the area’s Eisenhower-era boom economy with the St. Lawrence Seaway and the aluminum industry.

I always read a lot. I loved rock ‘n’ roll. I went to boarding school in 1977, where I first dabbled in music, and tried to sing with a band. In the Fall of 1980, I went to Hampshire College which was where I really got into music, much to the detriment of my studies (although I did eventually graduate seven years later).

Examiner: Tell me about your relationship with Jeff “Monoman” Connolly (of the band, Lyres). I remember vividly a show you did at the Bay State with him.

MT: First of all, Lyres rule. They are one of my all-time favorite bands. The first show I ever did with them was with The Malarians in the big room at Pearl Street to about 50 paying customers in a room that held 800 or something. It got better from there, with some great shows at the Rat, T.T. the Bear’s, Green St. Station, Sheehan’s and later the Bay State. I think they even played L’Oasis.

Some nights were not as epic, like the “Man or Monoman” show at the Northampton Bowl during Northampton Music Fest of 1999, where Mono was backed by members of The Unband, but most rocked, and rocked hard. Jeff is one of a kind, and his work with Lyres and DMZ deserves greater acclaim. That’s been my mission with doing the “Songs the Lyres Taught Us” series on The Mal Thursday Show, to recognize their greatness.

On the Bay State Hotel and Chunk Records

Examiner: The Bay State Hotel was an oasis in the desert that was the Valley. What are your fondest recollections of that period? Who were your favorite performers that came through?

MT: There’s a book to be written about the ‘92 -’95 Bay State-era, if only I could remember it. Just as those years represent one of the peaks of the live music scene in Northampton, they were also, not coincidentally, the peak years of my label, Chunk Records.

With Chunk and the Bay State, I tried to do too much and too soon. I booked too many shows and made too many records. If I’d had a plan, or a clue, things might have worked out better. They certainly couldn’t have worked out worse!

If I had it to do all over again, I would have done more of a 50-50 arrangement between the indie rock and the garage stuff. I gambled and lost on too many indie rock bands, but every piece of garage vinyl I ever released — Lyres, DMZ, The Cheetahs, all the way back to The Malarians, sold out of its pressing. Lesson learned, 15 years late.

As far as the greatest shows of that period, I remember the second show with Arthur Lee and Love in 1994, which was a Sunday night at the Bay State. The Pixies at Sheehan’s in ‘87, as well as Alex Chilton at the Iron Horse … Pavement at Pearl Street was a good one as well.

At the Bay State, there were so many great nights and great bands: Sebadoh, Royal Trux, The Grifters, Polvo, Flat Duo Jets, The Figgs, The Chesterfield Kings, and Lyres, of course. And then there was all the great local bands — The Unband, New Radiant Storm King, Supreme Dicks, The Veronica Cartwrights, Drunk Stuntmen, Tag Sale, Angry Johnny & The Killbillys, Ray Mason, Zeke Fiddler, Scud Mountain Boys, Gobblehoof, and so many more. I know I’m forgetting some big ones.

Radio Days

Examiner: Your days at the old WRSI in Greenfield, MA. were also a boon for the Valley. You did creative stuff on the “oldies show.” Do you think that you could get away with that stuff now, on a triple-A format radio station?

MT: I started out in college radio after I got out of college. “The Mal Thursday Show” started in 1987, and ran on WMUA (University of Massachusetts/Amherst) until 1990, at which point I got the “oldies” gig (on WRSI) replacing the late, great Buddy Rubbish. When the Bay State blew up in the spring of 1993, I was also coaching baseball at Hampshire College.

I lost both the radio show and the coaching gig that year.

Life in Austin

Examiner: You’re based in Austin, TX now. What has that been like, being so close to your own heroes like say, Roky Erickson? What do you think of the ongoing resurgence of Roky? Also, some folk from the Valley have migrated there: Matt Hebert (Ware River Club) in particular, what’s your thought on how things have come full-circle in terms of the music and the players? Does Austin feel like Northampton, or is that a pipe dream?

MT: Well, Austin is a city. There's two million people in the metro area. The problem I ran into with the scene in western Massachusetts is that we had more talent than we had an audience.

Ultimately, you’re playing to a variation on the same few hundred people every night.

Austin has great shows all the time, plus you’ve got Ian McLagan of the Small Faces playing for free at happy hour at the Lucky Lounge. Also, there’s a good garage scene with the Ugly Beats and Sons of Hercules — it’s my kind of town.

We love Roky, and it’s great to see him get recognition for his genius. It doesn’t always happen that way.

It’s cool that somebody like Matt Hebert would move here. We had some beers at Opal Divine’s, and talked about Austin and the Valley. I missed their last show at the Ghost Room — unfortunately, I had to watch the kids.

The Tour

Examiner: How do you have the time to do all the projects, promotions and creative endeavors that you do, as a family man?

MT: It’s not easy, nor is it smooth. My wife flat out wants me to cancel the tour. She thinks I won’t make any money, that I’m just playing rock star. I don’t want to be away from my family for ten days. It was supposed to be five, but I got the offer from Church for the Friday night in Boston, and I took it. Now it’s two weekends, two bands, and six gigs in ten days. She’s not happy about it, and I don’t blame her.

Despite the fact that it’s not a popular move, I am committed to do it. Contracts have been signed, advance tickets have been sold. I have to do the tour.

Examiner: What are your thoughts on returning to Massachusetts to recreate a facsimile of a certain period in your life? What are your expectations, if any? And furthermore, why do it now?

MT: I have to do it now, because we’ll all be too old and feeble to do it later! My expectations are that that both bands will sound good, but The Malarians will blow people’s minds because it’s the classic show band — in black turtlenecks, playing all the greatest hits and more. It will be the real deal.

As for recreating bygone days, I wouldn’t want to live through all that again. I just want to play some music, and I’m hoping enough time has passed that people will say, “Hey, maybe he’s not such an asshole, after all.”

Texas Psych Blog


Last month, I sat down for an interview with Kiloh Smith of the Texas Psych blog. Now that SXSW is over, and I've recovered for the most part, I finally remembered to re-post it here.

How did you get involved in radio?
I started doing college radio at WMUA in Amherst, Mass., back in '87, after I got out of college. I was the lead singer in a local band, the Malarians, and got invited to do a guest DJ thing where I brought in a bunch of garage records, and said stupid things on the air. After that, they gave me my own show, which was the original incarnation of "The Mal Thursday Show." I would mix it up, playing new releases as well as the old buried shit that was my bread and butter, and segue from a Sinatra record to Iggy & the Stooges doing "Louie Louie." By the way, both of my old bands, the Malarians and Mal Thursday & the Cheetahs, are reuniting in June to do a tour of Massachusetts to support the CD reissues of our LP catalog. It's pretty much of tour of Route 9: Boston, Worcester, Northampton, and Amherst. We're doing Boston and Worcester with Lyres, who have done some great Texas covers in their day: "We Sell Soul," "Enough of What I Need," etc.

Where does your interest in sixties psych stem from?
I was a little kid in the '60s, but thanks to AM radio and my older sisters, I got early exposure to not only the Beatles and Paul Revere & the Raiders, but also the Doors, Hendrix, and Vanilla Fudge, as the decade wore on. Like I said in an interview with The Miami Herald last year, "As far as I'm concerned, music's been going downhill since 1966." As John Lennon said, referring to Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis, "That's my period and I'll never leave it."

Sixties psych doesn’t seem like a great career move. Why?
Neither is radio, for that matter. And when I was working in commercial radio, I found it pretty much impossible to divorce myself from what I was playing. If I couldn't get off on it, it seemed dishonest to pretend that I did for the benefit of the listening audience. With the podcasts on GaragePunk Pirate Radio, I may be preaching to the choir, but I know the audience is digging it. One reason that '60s garage and psych isn't a great career move is that the records were made over 40 years ago, which is to the present day what the roaring '20s were to the '60s. While the baby boomers' death grip on pop culture, combined with the fact that there was more great rock 'n roll made between '64 and '69 than there has been in the four decades since, has kept the music alive, there's no getting around the fact that it's ancient history. Pretty soon it'll be like Doo-Wop, totally marginalized. But not yet, thankfully.

Why Texas Psych?
I don't know if there was something in the water here, or what, but there was more good music coming out of Texas in the '60s than almost every other state in the U.S. Sure, New York and California had the major record companies, and San Francisco got all the hype, but the Texas psychedelic bands not only had a certain purity, they also rocked. Hard. Listen to the 13th Floor Elevators 1966 show at the Avalon Ballroom - none of the San Francisco bands could come close to that intensity. Of course, Janis and Chet Helms gave that scene the Texan flavor that helped put it over the top.

How did the "Texas Tyme Machine" come about? Is the show going to enter into syndication?
When I moved down to Florida in the fall of 2001, I created the "Florida Rocks Again!" radio show. It was my way of giving back to the culture, to show Floridians that so much great music had come from there, that Florida was more than just a national joke about rednecks, retirees, and hanging chads. It also allowed me to play a bunch of great garage and psychedelic records along with the Skynyrd, Tom Petty, and Sam & Dave stuff. Although we had a couple of lengthy runs on commercial radio, there was resistance on the part of most programmers to the overall obscurity of the show. There's also the unavoidable fact that a large percentage of the population wasn't even there in the '60s and '70s. They were in New York or Cuba.


In Texas, it's a different story. People take pride in their culture here, especially in Austin. I wanted to do a Texas version of "Florida Rocks Again!" even though there are already a couple of all-Texas music shows on the local airwaves ("Lone Star State of Mind" on KGSR and "Texas Music Matters" on KUT), I figured there was room for a more rockin' variation on the formula. Again, I could play all those great local '60s records, and give airtime to people like George Kinney, Roky Erickson, and others. I came up with the title "Texas Time Machine," and I even had some investors and a host, Dickie Lee Erwin, who had the right persona. I encountered difficulty in the fact that corporate-controlled commercial radio is not at all receptive to new ideas or specialty programming, which they consider to be an "audience-killer." So if you manage to get your show on the air, you're stuck with a late-night time slot or Sunday mornings, which is not going to attract much in the way in the way of sponsorship. Then I found out that the University of Texas has the trademark on the name "Texas Time Machine," which is some kind of a geographical mapping project. What a waste of a great title! So I changed it to "Tyme" with a Y, like Kenny & the Kasuals' "Journey to Tyme," and rather than wasting a year of my life trying to get the show syndicated for chump change, I decided to make it a regular part of "The Mal Thursday Show," which already has a built-in worldwide audience. And unlike a radio show or streaming internet show, a podcast is available indefinitely, 24/7, and it's free on iTunes.

What has the feedback been like so far?
There have been two all-Texas episodes so far, and I've gotten great feedback not only from the listeners, but from bands and labels here in Texas. The promo CDs have been pouring in, which is great. Also, I'm reaching out to the guys in the '60s bands, and giving them an opportunity to tell their stories. On Volume 3, it will be Jesse Sublett from the Skunks, and I'll be interviewing Roy Head, George Kinney, and the surviving members of the Wig [lead singer/drummer Rusty Wier passed away in 2009].


If no syndication, are any individual stations interested in broadcasting "Texas Tyme Machine." Has there been any interest from the University of Texas at Austin’s student radio station?
I'd like to take a shot at it, but what's more likely is that I'll do "The Mal Thursday Show" on KOOP, the local community FM station, which shares a frequency with the UT student radio station. The UT station is limited to enrolled students, and going to grad school isn't in the cards at the moment! Part of the problem is that I've got a family to support, including two little kids, Liam, 5, and Lola, who's almost 4. I've got to hustle every day just to pay the rent. And I got laid off from my hated Microsoft job last July, so it's not easy. I take whatever gigs I can get. For instance, I'm writing a Classic Movies column for the Austin Examiner, in addition to my blog, and I'm up for a featured extra role in the Coen Brothers' remake of True Grit. Luckily, I can ride a horse and I'm growing my hair out for the Malarians reunion tour, so I've got properly Wild West sideburns going on.

Are you going to focus on cities/regions per show? That could be cool.
Oh yeah. The current episode has a segment on the Dallas/Fort Worth area circa '65-'67, taken from Norton Records' great Fort Worth Teen Scene series. Of the new bands I'm playing on the "Texas Tyme Machine" shows, I'm showing a huge bias towards Austin and San Antonio bands, but those are the bands I've seen and heard, and more importantly, that I've gotten promos on. If any bands from the rest of Texas are reading this, send me your stuff. LPs, CDs, mp3s, whatever you've got.

Ten years ago hardly anybody, outside Texas, had heard about this genre on music. What do you attribute the (late) rise in popularity to?
Well, the first renaissance in the genre was in the '80s, when you had all those semi-legit garage and psych comps, and people like Doug Hanners, David Shutt, and Dave Baldwin doing those vinyl releases like Texas Flashbacks, Fire in My Bones and Houston Hallucinations. In the early 2000s, there was a revival of interest in the music when garage rock was declared the Next Big Thing, and Little Steven started doing his "Underground Garage" show, and later his Sirius channel. There have been some great documentaries, like You're Gonna Miss Me and Dirt Road to Psychedelia, and all the fine work of the Roky CD club. There's also the undeniable fact that good music is good music, and people will listen to it if they get the chance. And thanks to the internet, that's easier than it was back in the days of scouring the Goodwills in hopes of finding some obscure psych 45 or waiting around for Pebbles, Vol. 69.

Are you uncovering any new gems? If so, tell us about it.
While most of the records from that era that haven't been completely lost have already been documented, there's still a lot of stuff that remains unheard, that was unissued, or only exists on acetates collecting dust in someone's attic. Researching the show, I'm always hearing great stuff for the first time. Or stuff I haven't listened to in 25 years. And although I'm something of a dinosaur, I'm hearing a lot of new bands that are really incredible. Austin has the Ugly Beats, the Jungle Rockers, Love Collector, the Black Angels, and I'm trying to put a new band together to do some live shows. There's a great band from the UK, the Higher State, who do a killer version of the Golden Dawn's "My Time" on the new episode.

What’s the future of Texas Tyme Machine?
It's going to be more or less a quarterly feature on "The Mal Thursday Show," and if I can get it on the airwaves here in Texas, that will be a bonus. In the meantime, I just want it to be heard by as many as people as possible, especially fans of Texas music, like your readers.

Live Review

The Malarians
Sierra Grille, Northampton, MA
June 10, 2010

The alarm went off for a half an hour before the soundtrack of my current dream slowly but surely became the soundtrack of my confused bedroom surroundings. CRAP. I was a half hour late for The Malarians gig at Sierra Grille, so I threw ons some clothes, a hat, grabbed my water bottle, and stumbled out the door mumbling some loud repeated phrase designed to wake me up out of my sleepy stupor.

When I arrived at Sierra, The Malarians were on. I peeked into the window to watch for a minute, in the same way I watched some of The Unband's infamous gig 16 years prior back in the early Bay State days that Mal Thursday started when he became booking agent in 1993. Only this time, Mal (his real name is J.M. Dobies) was fronting his band from WAY back in the day (they were active from 1984-1990, and began at Hampshire College, I believe).

When I walked in, I first saw my friend Greg, said hello, and then immediately noticed Dancing Larry. I knew then that this was an old-school Northampton freakfest shakedown of the highest order, and a cheshire cat grin replaced my semi-drooling tired pie-hole.

The Malarians were ROCKING. I kept telling people all night it was as if they were a working band, as if they'd never stopped. It was COHESIVE. This was not the sound of old friends getting together for a couple practices and a couple gigs. THIS BAND HAD A VIBE, an energy of urgency that the best bands produce.

Mal throughout the night timed his classic 'YEA-YUHs' at just the right moments, which was like a band mantra.

These guys were purveyors of classic surf and garage rock replete with farfisa keyboard sounds, backing vocal harmonies, and Mal's classic stutter dance, with his hands thrown in the air like a rock and roll boozy cockatoo, fingers and arms flailing every which way.

Eric Payne (aka 'Lime Rickey') rode the drums with total rock abandon, yet complete control. It was a push-pull balance that he conjured all night long and it drove the tunes, along with Les Lebarge (aka 'Les Fillin') on bass, who was THUNDEROUS with his big ass Gibson Thunderbird cranking away.

The combination of guitarists John Lebhar (aka 'Johnny Tomorrow') and Robert Sherwood (aka 'Bob Medley') was potent. These guys are both total pros, one would lead while the other comped, they'd both riff together, it was just spot on axe-slinging, and the left-handed and right-handed symmetry was cool visually, I thought. Great singers too, can you tell I had fun?!

You could see why these guys were so popular back in the day. It had a retro vibe, but was played with an energy that just felt important and FRESH. Near the end of the night they did a slow-tempo version of 'Stepping Stone,' that was grinding and had many a booty shaking.

I only wish they would play more. A killer night of original valley rock and roll that began 25 years ago, and may have finished up (in terms of live performances) on this night (although as of this writing there is rumor of more potential live dates). I am grateful I was there to witness it, and gave my bones a good shaking.

The Immolators closed out the night, and while I had to split due to my insane work schedule, I did catch a couple of turns, and the band is aptly named. Mike Dumont was on bass and lead vocals, and Chris LaPlante was on keys and background vocals, and a couple of younger musicians who were ripping it to bits. It was straight ahead rock and roll, and there is no question these guys have their own vibe, and should be paid attention to. It also didn't hurt that Dumont's bass cabinet is the size of a single wide trailer.

Long live rock and roll in the CT River Valley.