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Ten Questions with...

FRANK MARINO (Mahogany Rush)

Frank Marino has been playing guitar since the 60's, mainly with his band Mahogany Rush. He achieved notoriety in the seventies for claiming to be infested with the spirit of Jimi Hendrix but in retrospect - suitably distanced from that great guitar player's passing - Marino's work repays attention in its own right.A real legend and you can see him in the UK for the first time in twenty years on the forthcoming Legends of Rock tour. (Special thanks to Batttttty over at Strangers in the Night for passing these questions on!)

1. What are you currently up to?

Well, I'm back on the road more and more these days, although I'd like to do even more gigs. I've only done about ten or twelve per year since 1998, but it's getting better all the time. I also completed a Double Live CD which was recorded in Montreal on Sept. 8th, 2001. Actually, the show was 4 hours and we had to reduce it somewhat to get it to fit two CD's. The tentative title is "All Access", but that could change. There's a few people interested in putting it out, but if it doesn't come to that we'll just put it out ourselves through our webpage. As a live record goes, I feel it's the best one I've ever done, and I record all of my shows.

2. Who was/is your biggest influence on your career?

Well, musically one would think it was Jimi Hendrix, but the truth is I've been just as influenced by many of the other bands I grew up with. Those would be The Beatles, Quicksilver Messenger Service, The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Johnny Winter, The Cream, The Grateful Dead, The Allman Brothers, Santana, and a few others. But as an influence on my career, rather than on my music, I'd have to say it was my religious Christian roots and my deep pursuit of that throughout the ensuing years. It's what kept me going through the tough times, and keeps me in it today more than ever. Of course, the single biggest influence on the fact that I even had a career in the first place would be the fact that at 13 years old I went to a hospital due to an overdose of psychedelic drugs (LSD), and in there I learned to play guitar (as a means of therapy, really). Had that not happened, I never would have been a professional musician, that's pretty certain.

3. What has been the highlight(s) and lowpoints(s) of your career to date?

There have been so many, it's hard to tell. It's all quite a blur now, mainly because I don't usually look back at anything in life. I've been blessed with great friends and great gigs and opportunities, and I've been just as saddled with harmful situations (bad record companies, being ripped off, etc.). But all in all who can really complain? There are millions of people who would like to have a tenth of what we, in the music business, have, even if it comes with disappointments. You've got to admit we usually have it pretty good compared to the average labourer, but most of my confreres are not so quick to admit that.

One notable highlight would be the large rock shows we did for Bill Graham in San Francisco, but the lowest point would probably be the day I found out that every one of my 2 inch Master tapes (from my whole first decade) was destroyed. There is no record, other than the vinyl and some 1/4 inch mixes, of anything I've ever done, not to mention the stuff that was on those tapes that didn't get released. They're gone forever, and I can't think of a single artist in history to which that happened.

4. You are on the Legends of Rock tour. What songs are you most looking forward to playing? Will you play your own set as well as playing in the all star jam sessions?

I really don't know what I'll play. Usually, Mahogany Rush plays a 3 to 4 hour show, but on this tour I can only get to play for about 1/2 an hour or maybe a bit longer, plus I'll be doing it as a 3 piece (I haven't done THAT in 20 years), and with a bass player I'll only meet when I get to England (my rhythm player and bass player couldn't make it on such short notice). So, my own set will consist of whatever songs I can put together quickly under these circumstances. Obviously it will be vastly different than if we were playing under normal conditions, but I really hope the fans like it anyway. Afterwards, I believe I'll be invited to participate in the jam sessions. As for those, I don't know what I'll play until Uli tells me what the plan is, and I'll only know that when I see him next week. .

5. When was the last time you played the UK? Why have you been away from the UK for so long?

I believe I played Port Vale with Ozzy and Motorhead (and a few others) at Stoke-On-Trent sometime in the early 80's, but as for doing many U.K. dates, I don't think I've been back there since the late 70's or so. The last thing I remember was attending the giant ceremony at Hyde Park for the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana (I stood pretty close to them!). The only reason we haven't come back is simply because nobody ever asks us. I've tried on numerous occasions to get some promoter interested in giving us some gigs, but they usually decline. And so, it's become 2 decades since. If Uli hadn't called me, I'm pretty certain we would not have come for quite a long time, if ever, because nobody in the business end seems to want to take a chance on us, being that we don't have "hits" and stuff like that. I sincerely hope that this tour will help me get someone interested in bringing us back to do our own tour (of smaller places, no doubt) and that it will be extensive. But it's never up to me.

Frank Marino and Mahogany Rush

Those were the days,
Mahogany Rush in 1977

6. What are your views on the current state of rock music? How easy/hard is it to get gigs now? Has the Internet helped spread your music or has it stolen away some of your sales?

As I said, the gigs are harder and harder to come by. If you're not a "hit" band, and particularly if you're older, the promoters really don't care how good you might be. They're usually only interested in how many seats you can fill. And that should answer your question on the state of rock music today. Nobody is blazing any trails, so to speak.

While the Internet has helped immensely in the spreading of our notoriety, it has hurt as much in the sales end. I invariably see the ratios of my music being downloaded outnumbering the sales by over 30 to 1. While I believe that it's nice for music to be free to listen to, people should understand that for smaller guys like myself it will soon become impossible to continue to make music because we'll just go broke doing it. It still costs alot of money to make and put out a record, and if we don't sell any (or sell relatively few) because of downloading, well, the only result will be that we literally won't be able to continue, whether we'd like to or not. I say that we should support the guys like myself who so obviously need it if we really are fans of a particular band or genre. But the reality is that most people, even the diehard fan, will simply download it while fully intending to buy it, and then just forget about buying it at all in most cases. These downloads don't really "hurt" the larger, richer bands (except technically), but for the smaller ones they are a death sentence.

7. What were the early days of Mahogany Rush like? How did the band manage to break out into the limelight? Do you still keep in contact with former band members at all?

The early days were the most fun days, because it was never about business. It was simply about playing and having fun. The band broke out because certain business people saw an opportunity to exploit the group. The result was that we became very well-known, but these individuals managed to convince the very "young and naive musicians" that "money wasn't important", and succeeded in making us believe that we never sold records, in spite of the fact that we were selling out arenas. Quite a trick, don't you think?

As for the other guys, I see them from time to time, but there's no great camraderie there. I mean, you could say we're friends, but we have very different interests these days and have had such for over 20 years now.

8. Who would you like to work with in the future? Any goals, musical or otherwise you would like to achieve?

Well, I'd like to do some more stuff with Uli, and guys like him that are serious about music being good. But I have three young daughters now (8, 6 and 3), and my primary goal in life is to give them some form of security. If my music can provide that I'll gladly continue, but if it becomes too hard to square that circle, I'll go on to do something else, like I did when I quit in 1993 for 5 years), and I'll never look back or regret it.

9. Outside of the business, what do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I enjoy spending time with the 3 girls. I've been with them practically 24/7 since each of them was born, including on the road. As a matter of fact, they're coming with me to the gigs in the U.K. Other than that, I like to watch and play Ice Hockey, I like to read the Bible and study scripture (I write Theology papers and give them to those who want to read them), and I like to invent things (I'm into electronics and mechanical engineering). Everything from guitar devices and amplifiers to robots and improved windshield wipers.

10. Message for your fans?

My message to my fans is this: Believe that you can be all you were meant to be. Don't let people dissuade you from your goals or from your tasks. Have faith in God at all times, and trust Him to help you when you need it. But be worthy of that friendship by being a friend yourself, to all around you. That's how you honour God, by respecting and loving those he made... not just by rituals. You'll see that it will never fail you, once you believe it. Nothing is impossible.

Josh Trager interview

Interview © 2002 Jason Ritchie/
Format and edit: The Music Index.

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