Interview courtesy of Mitch Lafon May 2007
Mick Mashbir who got his "start" playing with Alice Cooper has recently released a new solo album called 'Keeping The Vibe Alive" -- I spoke to Mick about the new album and his days with Alice....
1) Tell me about the new album 'Keeping The Vibe Alive' - who plays on the CD with you? How did the music come about? Have the tracks been lying around for a while or are these all new?
Donald Lindley, my friend and favorite drummer, and I had been playing together on and off for over 20 years. The first thing we did in 1968 was “Joshua”, my first original band power trio. After that ran down, I left and went to England and Donald went off to do other things musically. We came together again in the late 70’s for a project called “Tesla”(We used that name about 5 years before the other band came on the scene). Anyway, that project didn’t get a deal, so we went our separate ways again. We came back together in the early 80’s for the “Yarbles”, a fun project covering all our favorite British Invasion bands. Then Donald went off to play country music 5 nights a week. He made a name for himself in the Cali Roots Rock scene, and was tapped for John Forgery’s comeback band. We came together again in the early 90’s for the Andy Savage project. When that self-destructed, Donald moved to Austin to play with Joe Ely.
It was at this point that he suggested we make an album together. It seemed like a great idea. So, whenever he would come to L.A., we would work up tunes for our record. When Donald returned to Austin he began shopping our rehearsal tape trying to get a studio spec deal. Well, he didn’t find a spec deal but a great studio lockout price for 12 days. So, we gathered our cash and lined up the studio dates. Donald had been working with bassist John Ciambotti for at least 10 years. John liked the tunes and signed on to the project. When we were working up the tunes, our intention was to be able to perform as a trio. We wanted to make a record that sounded like it came from the 60’s, not the piled on guitar sounds of the 90’s. Donald and I agreed to let our British Invasion influences shine through. Not consciously by saying, “Let’s make this sound like a Who song”, but by letting it happen as we went along. We wanted to keep the 60’s vibe alive. We were fortunate enough to be able to bring Ian McLagan (Small Faces, Rolling Stones) in to play B3 organ on a couple of songs.
The album was recorded on 24 track 2” tape, which was successful in capturing the vibe and sound of a vinyl record. In Austin, we recorded all of the basic tracks and guitar overdubs and a few vocals. When our 12 days were up, I went back to Malibu and John to L.A. Donald and I were gonna raise a little more cash then finish the vocals and mix the record. That was not to be. Three months later, Donald was diagnosed with cancer and was gone by Feb.3, 1998. Of course Donald picked a famous date in the history of Rock N’ Roll to leave...
Well, needless to say, this brought the project to a resounding halt. I was so bummed out that I couldn’t even listen to the tracks for a year. At this point, it became a D.I.Y. thing. It took until September of 2006 to actually finish the project. When all is said and done, this record would have never happened if it hadn’t been for Donald’s efforts to get it started. Thank you, Brother!
All of the tracks had been written for the album the year before we recorded with the exception of “American Weirdo”, which I wrote while on the road with Alice Cooper’s B$B tour. It was updated in the 90’s. But as with any good blues song, it is still relevant today.(Laughs) I also want to mention Curt Phillips, who wrote the lyrics to “Gods Gotta Gun”, “She’s a Hell of a Man” and “Heartache Train”.
2) Will you be touring to support the new CD? If so, what are your plans?
Not unless the Stones need an opening act and are willing to pay me. (laughs). But truthfully, without the chemistry between Donald and I it would be a risky deal. All the tracks on the album but one were first takes. Just drums and guitar. Because we did so much playing/rehearsing as a duo, we used to make jokes about being the “Hard Rock Wham!” I had the cool hair and he had the cool clothes. We would have predated the White Stripes by... Let’s just say they were probably playing with “Leggos” when we considered the idea.(Laughs) Someone asked me the same question recently and I said the odds were one in a million...But hey, crazier things have happened.
3) Tell me about working with Alice Cooper? How did you feel when you were recruited to play on Billion Dollar Babies? Were you hesitant?
In May of 1972, I drove across America on my way to London and ended up staying at the Cooper mansion for a couple of weeks. I knew Michael Bruce and Neal Smith from playing together at parties, etc in high school. Later when I lived in the desert with “Joshua”, Mike or Neal would come by and we’d jam on Kinks or Yardbirds songs. Are you getting a picture of the influence of the British Invasion on musicians in Phoenix? (Laughs) After a couple of weeks I went off to London. The Coopers followed a few weeks later to promote “School’s Out”. We hung out some more, and then they left. I had been living in a tiny studio for about three months when I got the telegram to “Come back to work on the new album”. I was stoked. London was starting to happen for me musically but I personally didn’t understand the warm beer concept (Laughs) so, it was time to go. I felt no hesitation at all. In fact, I felt it was destiny being fulfilled.
About 2 years earlier I went to see the band in Tucson, Arizona for the “Killer” tour. I bought some really good street acid, don’t try this at home, kids!, and had a great time. Rock security wasn’t what it is now. I looked like one of the band so I headed backstage after the show. The guard opened the door for me, no questions asked!! Anyway, while taking in the backstage scene I had this very strong feeling that at some point I would have a real reason to be there. I could have been a guitar roadie, but fortunately for the roadies, it didn’t turn out that way. (Laughs)
On my flight back to America, I thought about Glen, since he was a lead guitar player and so was I, and wondered how he felt about me coming in to play. The first thing I did when I arrived back at the Cooper mansion was go directly to Glen’s room. I knocked on his door. He opened it and said “Mick! What are you doing here?” I said “I came back to play on the new album.” He said “Cool!” and that was it.
4) Billion Dollar Babies is a Cooper classic - Tell me about your time in the studio recording for that album and did you get a sense then that you were participating on something special? And what makes the album so great?
After a couple weeks of rehearsal at the Cooper mansion the Record Plant mobile truck showed up and we began recording Billion Dollar Babies. We had a pretty difficult time getting any decent takes. Part of it was probably the new chemistry. This was the first record that Glen hadn't shown up for. I'm sure that weighed heavy on their minds. By the end of the second week things were going so poorly that Bob Erzin wanted to pull the plug..but it was decided to press on once the band got to London. We arrived in London and started recording at Morgan Studios the next day. Name any famous English artist and they all recorded at Morgan. The change of studios made a big difference, and things started to come together. We started listening to rough mixes in London and you could hear the magic in the tracks. Morgan was the site of the infamous SuperStar jam with Mick Mashbir, Alice Cooper, Neal Smith, Keith Moon, Marc Bolan, Harry Neilson and Rick Grech. Even though I started that jam, as usual I am in none of the pics or articles. It began during a break while I was talking with Marc. I started playing a riff similar to his hit "Bang a Gong" and he asked if could play Michael Bruces guitar I said yes and off we went. Rick Grech ate a couple of my Peyote buttons, picked up Dennis Dunaways bass and Neal sat down at his drums. We had been playing for about an hour when a highly inebriated Keith, Harry and Alice showed up. Bob Ezrin was very excited! This was the era of SuperGroup jam records and he figured he had one of his own beginning to form.. Well, he set up a mic for the three singers, started rolling the tape. Here comes GENIUS!! Well, the first thing out of Keith Moons mouth as a singer, (I was bummed he wanted sing instead of playing drums. I think Neal would have given up the drum chair for Keith.. No problem...) was "I blew a dog"!! It all went down hill from there. Ezrin got pissed off, stopped the tape and threw everyone out of the studio! So much for that SuperDuper Session..
After a couple of more weeks we went back to New York and finished the album at the Record Plant. As far as what makes the album so great? It must have been my involvement. (Laughs) I think a fan could give you a better answer than I can. I do know though, that the record was a victory lap for the band and our playing skills were well honed, and our overall confidence was up, which contributes greatly to the vibe of any record. My favorite tracks are “No More Mister Nice Guy”, “Billion Dollar Babies” and “Raped and Freezing”.
5) Muscle of Love, however, wasn't as well received - in your opinion why not or what went wrong? Also, please tell me about recording that album and what do you think of the album.
I think that after all those years together the chemistry was changing because of the lack of Glen’s involvement and Bob Ezrin's decision not to produce the album. Up to the time of “Muscle of Love” the band had always lived together in a band house. After the success of B$B, everyone could afford their own place. This meant no more meeting downstairs to practice. That changed the chemistry as well. I was not involved during the writing rehearsals, but Mike Bruce and I shared a house and we wrote “Hard Hearted Alice” together in our studio.
We went to L.A. to record at Sunset Sound with Jack Richardson and Jack Douglas at the helm. They were much easier to work with than Bob. They had a much more rock n’ roll vibe...whereas Bob had more of a perfectionist, taskmaster, conductor vibe, so the sessions were looser and more fun. As far as the acceptance by the fans, that is a tough one. I personally, with the exception of “Crazy Little Child”... a clarinet solo!?!..dont get me started... liked the album better than B$B. I thought it had a better collection of uptempo rock songs and sonically was much more to my liking. My best tracks are “Never Been Sold Before”, “Woman Machine” and “Hard Hearted Alice”.
6) Are there any other Cooper songs or albums you played on that the general public is not aware of? If so, tell me about it.
There was a flexi-disc insert in England’s “New Musical Express” magazine of the song “Slick Black Limousine”. I played slide guitar on that one. Of course everyone assumed that it was Glen. He was compared to Clapton and given a “Golden Microphone Award” for it. It was at that point I startedwondering.. .”What does a publisher cost?” (Laughs)
I also played on Michael Bruce’s solo records, “In My Own Way” and “As Rock Rolls On” and I have a guest appearance with Neal and Dennis on “Platinum God”.
7) When Alice moved on to the Welcome To My Nightmare band - you weren't part of the band. Were you disappointed?
I’m sure not as much as Mike, Neal, Dennis and Glen. I was disappointed to see Alice leave the band. The original Alice Cooper Group was really confident musically during that “Muscle of Love” holiday tour and in Brazil. We were playing the best the band ever played while I was with them. After Brazil everyone agreed to take some time off. During this “vacation”, Mike Bruce and I made a record. Neal and Dennis made a record, and Alice did “Nightmare”. We were under the impression that everyone was doing these solo projects to recharge and then come back together and continue on. I do not recall even one conversation with Mike, Neal, Glen or Dennis about leaving the Alice Cooper Group. Well, you know the rest...as far as the “Nightmare” band, that was Bob Ezrin’s dream band. By that time, none of us were a part of Bob’s universe.
8) How was it touring with Alice? How did you feel about Glen?
The tour was a great experience. For me, it was like taking the express elevator to the penthouse and paying for your own room. That’s a whole other story! (Laughs)
I had only been playing in bars and clubs and in the middle of the Phoenix desert before that. Having said that, I was more than ready to take that ride. At first the band wanted me to wear a gorilla costume! I was having none of that! But, looking back on it, I probably would have gotten more publicity out of it, but no one would have known what I looked like.(Laughs)
The first night was a humbling experience. The crotch of my pants split as I climbed up to the stage. I played my first coliseum show with my balls hanging out. Glad I didn’t get arrested! Maybe that’s where the term “Balls Out Rockn’Roll” came from!(Laughs)
As far as Glen was concerned, he was secure in his place in the band. I was just a supplemental player to him. We got along just fine.
I remember once we got to the gig and everyone piled out of the limo and went in the back door. Glen and I went to the trunk of the limo to get our guitars out. We both had the same workingman approach. We carried our own guitars. Anyway, the limo driver starts to drive off!! We’re screaming and chasing him. Finally he backs up, opens the trunk and we get our guitars. He drives off again. Glen and I get to the back door, it’s locked and no one is there! It’s one of those glass doors. We look at each other and start banging the glass with our guitar cases, hoping someone would hear us. OOPS!!! The glass shatters, we open the door and just as we step in, someone comes around the corner...”What Happened to the door?!!?” “It must have been some fans,” we said as we shuffled off to the dressing room, laughing the whole way.
9) What have you been doing since the Alice days?
Playing, producing and writing music, living with the woman of my dreams, doing the survival dance, and keepin’ the vibe alive.
10) Please plug everything -- your web site, your new CD and how to get it, tour news, upcoming projects, etc...
My new album “Keepin’ the Vibe Alive” is out now. It is packaged to look like a miniature vinyl record. The disc is black and has grooves, just like a record. Because of the packaging, I put all the photos, lyrics and credits on my website: www.Mickmashbir.com. There is much more there than could ever be put on a Cd package. The album is available at: www.cdbaby.com/cd/mickmashbir.