Mad Dog Mcrea are an award winning British folk band from Plymouth, Devon, their music blends a unique mixture of folk rock, pop, gypsy jazz and bluegrass.
We saw that they are set to play in Exeter in March and prior to the show, we thought we'd hook up with Michael Mathieson to have a chat about a multitude of topics such as tales from the road, approaches to recording and the bands bucket list, here's how we got on....
So, Mad Dog Mcrea, you play a blend of folk rock, pop, gypsy jazz, bluegrass and music to ‘shake your ass’ to, please tell us a fascinating fact about a band member….
Not exactly a band member but our driver Paul Hooton used to drive all the big bands of the day in the 70s and 80s. He has driven for names such as Sting, Metallica, Bon Jovi, Van Morrison to name but a few. We brought him out of retirement and he reckons that we have more fun on the road than some of the bands mentioned although our tour bus isn’t as posh as theirs.
Tell me a bit about how the band formed? When, where etc…
We started as a busking band in Plymouth and traveled extensively around Europe and when we added a full drum kit into the mix we became a gigging band around the South West of England and beyond.
I read the tale of your beloved tour bus disappearing into the Atlantic Ocean in Donegal, do you always take a designated driver with you these days and know where you’re parking before settling down for the night?
Oh Yes, as mentioned above we have Paul who navigates us around the country both geographically and spiritually!
I see you’re playing at Carnglaze Caverns on March 6th, have you ever played here before and how did the gig come about? Whilst you’re there, ask the lady to take you to where Echo and the Bunnymen took the image for the cover of their ‘Oceans Rain’ album….it’s quite a sight!
We have played there before about 7 years ago and yes it is an amazing venue. We have been down to the lake where Echo and the Bunnymen took the photo. We know the lady who runs the Cave so she invited us back and we are really looking forward to that gig.
You announced on December 1st that your new album ‘Almost Home’ was in the can and ready for its March release, if it was done and ready at the start of December, why have you decided to wait until March to release it?
The recording was done in December but we had to get it packaged and promoted and as we are not doing many gigs in January or February it made sense to release it whilst on a UK tour in March
You tour relentlessly; tell me an amusing tale about being on the road….
There are many tales, most of which are very vague in our memories but when we were in Scotland once we hit a major traffic delay on a country road. We knew we were in for a long delay so we pumped up the music in the van and got a little drunk and by the time we got the go ahead to move on about an hour later none of us were sober enough to drive. We had forgotten who the designated driver was. Needless to say we were very late for that gig. We spent 6 hours at that traffic jam but in hindsight it was great fun and we made the gig by the skin of our teeth.
Your ‘Longer Road Tour’ towards the end of 2014 took in pretty much the entire country from Aberdeen to Penzance, which gig stands out as the best on the tour?
They were all amazing gigs and we are forever humbled by the constant support of our audience but playing at Dingwalls in Camden London was a highlight as we have always wanted to play that legendary venue and we had an amazing night there.
I see that you played at Glasto in 2014 on the The Croisent Neuf stage at 1am, what was it like playing so late (or early)?
The later the better as far as we are concerned because the audience were in very high spirits by that time and it’s always amazing performing at Glastonbury day or night. The magical vibe is constant throughout the weekend and every band I saw big or small had amazing receptions.
On your ‘Alive’ EP, there’s a track called ‘Pikey Killed my Goldfish’, please explain how this song came about?
We are massive fans of a band called ‘Los Albertos’ from Brighton and it is an old song of theirs that they no longer play. We became friends with them but whenever we went to a gig and asked them to play that song they insisted they had forgotten it and was no longer part of their set. I asked if we could do a version and they were more than happy so we get to play and hear it every night now. I love the sentiment in this song and if you haven’t already heard ‘Los Albertos’ you gotta check them out.
Ferocious Dog played alongside you in Plymouth in 2013, we are seeing them in April, are the audience as rowdy as they look in the videos I have seen of them playing live?
They create an amazing vibe at their gigs and yes it gets rowdy, which is awesome. They have a real tribal following around the country now and on the festival circuit, which is great to watch. We are huge fans of them.
Do you all share similar tastes in music or does each member bring something different to the table?
Everyone in the band has completely different tastes in music, which can cause lots of arguments on long journeys when the playlists go on. The Musical tastes vary from Folk, Bluegrass, Punk, Rock, Funk and cheesy dance music. I think it is healthy for a band to come from different angles in music as when it comes to writings and arranging songs lots of different flavours get thrown into the mix, which can create a unique sound for a band.
Are you planning on attending any overseas festivals during 2015? If yes, which ones?
So far we are booked at a big festival in Belgium (Dranouter Fest) On 6th August. It’s an awesome festival. Hopefully we will score some more gigs abroad as we love to travel.
‘Almost Home’ will be your third album, how has your approach to recording changed along the way?
Our first 2 albums were very studio layered albums and Almost Home has a very live studio edge to it, which suits our style greatly.
Which studio and producer did you use to record the album? Why this studio and producer?
We used Cube studios in Cornwall because it was available when we needed it and it has a great live room. We got Sean Lakeman to produce the album because he is both a friend and a great producer. He has produced the last couple of Levellers albums and is very sympathetic to folk instruments. It was a real learning curve for the whole band working with him. He also got very involved in pre-production over a 10-month period and was with us every step of the way.
Who would you say are your biggest influences?
At the moment I would say bands like the Levellers, Los Albertos, Gogol Bordello, Dance music and most styles of folk old and new.
Have you, as a band, achieved everything that you originally set out to do? If not, what is there left on the list?
I think we have achieved more than we set out to do as we started just making music for the fun of it. It started as a vehicle to party and travel around Europe all at the same time. We don’t take ourselves too seriously although we find great importance in putting on the best live show we can. The only thing we would like to do now is travel further afield and play in places like Australia and the USA and beyond if possible.
Prior to letting him back into civilisation, we threw a few quickfire questions his way....
Robert de Niro or Al Pacino?
Car or Motorbike?
Indian or Chinese food?
Ozzy or Lemmy?
Tattoos or Piercings?
Acoustic or Electric?
Regular gig or Festival?
Skiing or Sunbathing?
Fry up or Sunday Roast?
Wine or Beer?
Camping or Camper Van?
Je Suis Charlie or Je ne suis pas Charlie?
Je ne suis pas Charlie
God or Google?
We'd like to thank Mike for taking time out to chat to us and we wish the band every success for their forthcoming tour and festival dates throughout 2015.
As I mentioned earlier, we'll be at the Exeter show to review the show and grab some killer pictures that will be uploaded soon after the gig.
You can purchase tickets for any Md Dog Mcrea gig HERE