Interview with 10,000 Maniacs
NoiseTrade One-on-10,000? For our newest NoiseTrade One-on-One interview we got to chat with 10,000 Maniacs as they celebrate 35 years of making some of the best college rock, alt-folk, melodic gold around. We got lead singer Mary Ramsey and founding member Dennis Drew to reflect on the band's enduring legacy, to detail their upcoming Greatest Hits Live album, and to give us a little background on the previously unreleased track "Go Song Go" from 1986, a song only available on their exclusive NoiseTrade sampler For Crying Out Loud.
NoiseTrade: First off, congratulations on celebrating 35 years as a band! During your time in the band, what have you seen as some of the driving attributes of the enduring legacy of 10,000 Maniacs?
Mary Ramsey: One of the main reasons the band has continued on is our collective love of music. We all enjoying performing and making music. The enthusiasm of our fans and audiences is a major factor in our drive to continue composing and playing together.
Dennis Drew: Clearly we love each other and treat each other with respect. I suppose the same goes for our audience. We love them and respect them. In the end, we've lasted this long because the songs are really good. We certainly play them well, enjoy playing them, and it shows. We also don't sound like any other band. We have a somewhat unique sound. We are not a blues-based, rock and roll band and not really a tender folk band. We all bring different influences to the table: Joy Division, The Cure, Fairport Convention, The Heptones, REM, Graham Parsons, Patti Smith, we blend it all.
NT: This year the band will be releasing Greatest Hits Live, from which “These Are Days” and “Love Among the Ruins” are taken for your NoiseTrade sampler For Crying Out Loud. How does it feel to be able to still get such an enthusiastic audience response decades after the original release of these songs?
Drew: Yeah, it's humbling. The songs still go over really well. We are actually a pretty dynamic band in a live setting and our engineer does a great job. So the music is physically very powerful. We have seven people up there. The rhythm is intense. There is really nothing like a live rock band at the top of it's game. We are on top of it for sure.
Ramsey: It is rather remarkable that the response to the bands songs are genuine and so intense. There seems to be a magical chemistry when these songs are performed. The audience makes it work!
NT: For Crying Out Loud also contains a couple of tracks from your last few releases, including “She Moved Through the Fair” from last year’s Twice Told Tales. What was the initial inspiration behind recording an album of traditional English folk tunes and how was the band’s overall experience going the direct-to-fan route with PledgeMusic?
Ramsey: We had always wanted to do a cd of traditional Celtic music. My viola-violin playing and voice seemed a good fit with these traditional songs from centuries ago. Twice Told Tales was a pleasure to make.
Drew: Mary was the inspiration for that. She sings and plays that traditional music so well. John Lombardo turned us on to that kind of music back in '81, right from the very beginning. but it was Mary's singing and playing that inspired the whole effort.
NT: Long-time 10,000 Maniacs fans will be absolutely ecstatic to hear the For Crying Out Loud exclusive track “Go Song Go” - a previously unreleased instrumental track that you guys uncovered from a 1986 rehearsal recording. What can you tell us about the song and what else do you guys have hiding back there in that vault?
Drew: That one just feels hell bent for leather. It's a bass driven song in the mold of "My Mother The War" or "Death of Manolete". Steve [Gustafson] had a great bass riff and we just ran with it. It's a one chord thing that's more sonic than melodic. Lots of fun to play. There is so much stuff in that vault, I can't begin to imagine.
NT: Finally, along with the release of Greatest Hits Live, what else can 10,000 Maniacs fans look forward to from the band in 2016?
Ramsey: We are always working on new song ideas and revisiting some of catalog of work. We also enjoying experimenting and trying covers that work with our sound. So you never know what might pop up in our set list for 2016 shows.
Drew: We'll be out there playing as much as we can. A little bit of everything, from a whisper to a roar. I think we'll take the '16-'17 winter months to put together new material. I'd like to do something expansive. We have songs ideas now that run everywhere from jazz fusion, to singer-songwriter introspection, and back through piano-pop and dance music. I can't wait.