a c h a t w i t h r o b e r t
Interview Date - October 16 1997
Firstly, I’m always secure about the core sound of The Mavericks, and the core influence or nucleus of what we’re about - that doesn’t change. That’s always there and at the centre of it you have Raul’s voice, as long as he’s singing, it’s going to sound like Raul of The Mavericks. Then we can always colour and/or create textures around that. That’s what we’ve done this time. We’ve actually gone beyond, or gone in a different direction than any previous work. We’ve got some textures and feels to this record that we’ve never really had before. I also think we’re mature, a better recording group now..
I think an understanding of what it is that you’re good at, you can focus on that and not expose yourself to things that don’t suit you as well. That’s what we’ve done here we’ve really focused on what we do best and then put some great things around it.
Recorded ‘live’ in the studio with additional musicians, Raul is quoted as saying "recorded like the old motown days". Is that with big string and horn sections?
Yeah, we brought in strings and horns for those places that really called for it. As for performing live in the studio, it was something we felt we were finally prepared to do. Where you weren’t going to be wasting anybody’s time. If you’ve got 20 additional string and horn players standing on one side of the studio, ready to go and do their part, you certainly don’t want to doddle.
The Mavericks went in for a weeks worth of rehearsals,
then we went in the studio to actually record. All along we had been developing
some of these songs. Raul had done lots of demos at home, he would bring
along a tape, ‘Here’s what’s on my mind, what do you think about
When we went with the down-beat in the studio, everything was in place. We didn’t record as a five piece group and add layers. Instead, we recorded everything at once and it was phenomenal!
Yeah, it was filmed as part of our overall budget, and until The Mavericks decide what to do with it, it’s open to all sorts of developments. We could make a documentary for country music television, or we could do a ‘Making of The Album‘ special. But also, while we were doing it , we shot enough footage, that a number of the songs could be turned into music videos. So inevitably, the ‘live’ performance in the studio, will at least be exposed in our music videos.
As with most of The Mavericks videos you have chosen the classic ‘black and white’ look. Is the new film the same format and is it a conscious decision by the band to use this format?
We shot a number of different formats, from video
to actual film, black and white, and colour. I think black and white
is still probably one of the strongest photographic mediums. Black and
white, whether still photographs or film has something very, very magical.
I don’t want to say that everything we’ve done, we’ve done by ourselves. Occasionally we would find a director we would like to work with, we would get his input. If you bring a director on board, you have to have some respect and understand that you’ve also asked him to express himself artistically. So if a director wants to do something in colour then we would usually listen to reason, that’s why we’ve brought them there.
Black and white also gives them that timeless quality.
Yeah, I think probably the best example you could cite for the power of black and white footage, when it comes to music, is to watch ‘A Hard Days Night’. When you see it today, you can see that it’s a blueprint for the music videos of the future, it’s still one of the best examples of music on film.
Similarly, Roy Orbison’s‘ Black and White Night’!
Yeah, beautiful, absolutely beautiful!. Roy and everybody involved in that particular performance will always look locked in time, it’s hard to tell age, as you say ‘timeless’, that pretty much captures it.
Let’s be careful, if we do, I don’t know what
we’d do with all that power.
For me it’s very difficult to comprehend any more success than we have had. It’s been so good, that I think only of really being able to perpetuate what we’ve got; not ‘Oh! I won’t be satisfied unless we sell 6 million records!’ For me, for each new record, we make a record that we feel is our very best at that time. And very new year we need to do something that is fresh and exciting.
If we could at least bring our music and expose ourselves to an Australian audience, that would in itself be progress, regardless of whether 5000 records or a million records are sold. And of course our record company would opt for the larger number.
With respect to Australia, do you have a idea of your success at this point in time?
Numbers aside, I can only say that the tone here, considering that we’ve not been down here and we’re not an international ‘pop’ phenomena, our success has been pretty substantial. The company feel that if we’ve been able to garner this much momentum without having the group here to support. Imagine we had the group down here to a tour, imagine if we had a brand new album. With the 1998 new record release and tour, it is the first time where there will be a concerted time-line for the promotion of our new record. That’s exciting to me, everything else has been ‘toes in the water- it feels kind of warm, feels good - now we’re coming down to jump in the bath’.
Does your wife Trisha appear on the new album?
No, it’s funny. It would seem in many places on the record, appropriate for her to sing, but she was on a 7 week tour while we were doing the record. We got really focused from within, we didn’t have a lot of guest players on the record, other than strings and some odd instruments that none of us play. We mostly pooled from the resources within the group itself. I do feel for that, we have the most concise ‘band’ record ever and I think that Raul has written and been singing some of his best material.
With your own declared affection for The Beatles, if you were to ‘relate’ Trampoline to a Beatles album, which one would it be?
May I say this before I give that answer. First of all, what came to mind while we were working in the studio, while we made the record. I was imagining that for each of us, there’s a different interpretation, and I think of Raul citing ‘Motown’ or a Frank Sinatra. We had this huge room, open mikes everywhere, live drums, live horns where they were called for, and strings and so forth. Everything was in this big room.
My interpretation was, I kept fantasising
an Abbey Road session. I kept thinking, this had to be what a good day
in Abbey Road felt like, very creative, everything was there, all the bells
At any rate, the music itself - I think, because we certainly didn’t hit The Mavericks‘ ‘Sgt Pepper’ yet, but we might have come close to our ‘Revolver’. There’s a fair amount of experimenting going on - somewhere between ‘Rubber Soul’ and ‘Revolver’.
Prior to the Trampoline album there was a live mini-CD called ‘It’s Here, It’s Live’ released in October 1997, but in Canada only. Why Canada?
For us, this was a project that started in Canada,
was recorded and completed there, which gave it a small scale, hand-made
feel. It didn’t feel like we were trying to do a double LP, The Mavericks
‘Comes Alive’. We were trying to do this little specialty thing, more of
The ‘live’ thing from The Mavericks perspective; it can be a little self-indulgent if you’re not careful. We were really worried about putting something out that just seemed like we were getting ‘our own rocks off’. Instead, why not do an EP that becomes more of a collectors piece. There was no compromise on the packaging, it looks good, it sounds good, we didn’t cheat on the live stuff at all. We weren’t tempted to go in and over-dub stuff. Instead we played the stuff back and laughed at how there’s some real human feel, some tempos or a guitar lick that are slightly funky. But it feels really live!
Raul Mentioned it was going to be a ‘club’ tour. Is this the case? Will it extend to overseas? Will it include Australia?
If you’re speaking of back home, that’s part of a big picture. When Raul said that it’s because we had this renewed spirit for the club feel. We had played two or three of them at the end of the 96 tour. We played Tramps, New York City, which is a great little club. That followed a previous NY show where we played the Beacon Theatre. What inspired the ‘club’ return was that at the Beacon Theatre, as great as the show came off, and as full as the production and presentation of the group was, it didn’t have the feel that a club gives you. It doesn’t have the spirit of somebody standing there, spilling a tequila down the other guys back while they’re grooving to the band. It felt like a theatre. We had done about 2 straight years of theatres, seated venues. We decided we’d like to get back to the clubs.
1998 will have to be a combination of things because we have some economic considerations to deal with. What we’d like to do is have a year of pot-pouri of venues for The Mavericks. In a perfect world I’d like to open for some straight-ahead country audiences, so we can show ourselves to this country market again and renew or strength with them. Then I’d like to go from there to some odd shows with John Fogerty (I’m making this up - but this is a picture perfect world). From there I’d like to play a handful of clubs, a handful of theatres, play some of the summer festivals, it pays you and helps you support your tour.
In terms of touring Australia, I think the best way to start our career down here is to play in venues that make the group very accessible. That's the way we began in Europe. To me the best way to do it is, give me a place that holds 500 people, promote it well and get the place full of bodies that are ready to rock, go in there, play hard for them, hang out with them afterwards. That's the way we’ve done our whole career. If we could do that, it would be very groovy.
The concept of 'Meet and Greets', it is not something the average rock'n'roll band normally does?
It's a natural for us, we came out of a club environment
down in Miami, which was basically alternative or original music clubs.
You’d be playing and when you were done, you got of the stage and the next
band went on. You were hanging out. We realised when we started touring
the country, if you could play some real accessible venues, places
where people could feel like they were part of the whole project - that’s
It worked for us in Europe, even when we were playing a few theatres for example, where people could rock with you, and we had enough freedom to do about two-two and a half hour shows.
You used ‘lava lamps’ on the last tour, circus props for the studio while recording Trampoline, what’s for the next tour? Go-Go girls in cages?
Not to sound too important about it all, because it's with a sense of humour that we did some of those things. When we were touring in mainstream country venues, to a mainstream country audience, we felt like we needed to at least bring a fair amount of humour to it all. It's the way we would sometimes dress, the way we would set the stage. We had very much on the last tour, an ‘Ed Sullivan Show’ kind of set. The lights were very kind of 60’s, an element of psychedelia . But the reason we would do that, was to try and dial-off a little bit of the imaging and posturing that you find running through the genre - that sameness.
Without getting into a major thing that sounds like sour grapes, or some disregard for our form, our genre - country music specifically, what happens though, you get this feeling it gets predictable. We didn’t want to fall into that category, though sometimes it cost us the pure connection with the audience. The people would go - ‘What is this?’. But mostly we felt, by continually exposing our audience to our differences, that they would come to understand us for those very differences, and they would expect them. We were anchored deeply in our belief that the music was happening and it was us - it was real.
But then what we did was, as seriously as we might take one bit of music, we might go out there and completely ‘cheese-off’ on the lava-lamp thing. And Jerry Dale, our unofficial-official fifth Maverick, would come out in some outrageous suit and do a fabulous dance; and then go running back to the keyboards and play a set of real vibes. We would do an encore with an instrumental that was something people weren’t used to and it wasn’t a country instrumental - so it was like a departure.
Another example was when we did a handful of shows
several years ago with Alan Jackson. We would end the show with something
like ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ - we would do it as a shuffle, played with
a rather traditional feel to the drums and bass and rhythm section.
That’s kind of what were about. This tour, when we’re doing our night, it should have some reflection of this whole new record. We're going to tour, even abroad and even though it's expensive and it's not going to be easy, we’ll most definitely have at least 4 pieces of horn . It's going to be a real splashy night, and hopefully we’ll walk a line between the old and the new.
Will Jerry Dale McFadden be with you?
Absolutely! He’s all over the new record, we wrote one song all together, he's involved in the writing of that. He's going to be all over it.
One thing that sets The Mavericks sound apart from many other ‘country’ bands is the up-front and often robust, ‘bass and drum’ sound. From ‘I’ll Give you Back’ on the first album to the single version of ‘IDCIYLMA’, there is a distinct “mavericks’ feel. Is this a conscious effort between you and Paul, do the two of you practise or is it something that has evolved?
Fantastic question. I like working with questions that make me think about what were doing. I don’t think about some of what it is we’re doing. I don't think about some of this. And when you speak in terms of the rhythm section between Paul and I, it wasn’t perhaps until this past year, and the making of the new album, that I finally took even an ounce of confidence in what it was that I personally did. I always felt like Paul was this fantastic rock-solid drummer to play with. But I felt like I was always fighting for my little piece of that. But all along people have said, ‘Say what you will about yourself, but you and Paul make a great rhythm section.’ It took me a long time to actually believe it.
It doesn’t come from ‘rehearsal-rehearsal’. We don't sit around and talk about the way we'll move musically. We're best friends, though the band is a group of brothers in spirit. But Paul and I are truly best friends, from before the band was formed. I feel like in a way we have rhythm. If it was he and I sitting here right now talking to you, that same rhythm would be evident in the way we communicate. It's almost a sub-conscious kind of breathing rhythm that we have. And I think it's evident on the new record quite a bit, because it's the first time when some of the people that played with us, some of the string and horn people were complimenting the rhythm section saying ‘God! It feels so good, it feels like a real band.’
I’m not a great technical player. If you ask me to sit in, I’m liable to blow the hell out of the song. People always say, ‘Do you ever play with your wife?’. I say ‘Hell, those songs are so complicated, I couldn’t play them. I don't know where they begin or end.’ It's funny because I only do what I’ve done with The Mavericks, and that's my strength. Beyond that I’m kind of lost.
Speaking of rhythm sections, your bass and drums feel and sound, on many of The Mavericks songs, remind me of Elvis Costello’s long-time band The Attractions or Dave Edmunds/Nick Lowe’s Rockpile?
Paul and I, when we came together as friends, and talked about putting a band together, and we hooked up with Raul, one of the things that we always thought - we wanted the spirit of the band to be aggressive. Knowing when to lay back and play subtle parts. But we wanted it to be like The Attractions, and also the early Pretenders. I always felt that Martin Chambers and Pete Farndon were like, ‘Forget it - it felt so cool!’ Still today, when you hear ‘Kid’, that bass and drums is so sweet.
I think there is something about a rhythm section, of bass and drum players, that understand the strength of their lead singer that makes a whole difference in the world. Paul is a schooled musician. He could sit in on a jazz session, or write a chart and play on an album of otherwise unfamiliar music. He's got that capability - I don't. But what we've always learned between the two of us is, the best thing we can do, is stay out of the way of Raul’s voice.
And people always used to make fun. It wasn’t until last year that Paul even carried a rack tom with him. He didn’t have a tom-tom, other than a floor tom. He was just a snare, a kick and a floor tom. He used laugh when people would say ‘When are you going to afford a real set?’ But it's more like - ‘No! Wait until you see how I'm approaching this set!’
Speaking of the Pretenders, they had some things produced by Nick Lowe. You recorded two cover songs with Nick Lowe. How did that collaboration come about?
We chose Nick and he accepted, based I think on
a mutual respect of what we were doing. In other word he had a history
of things that won our respect, and we had a more current history of things
that had perhaps perked his ears. Dave Edmunds was originally approached,
but he was somewhat pre-occupied at the time.
We wanted to get somebody completely outside of Nashville. I am very glad that life gives you things the way it does, because with hindsight, I would never have preferred to do those recordings with anyone except Nick. Nick became a member of the group for those couple of days.
Nick definitely had an influence on your sound on those two songs.
Yes he did - and to his credit. He came in, we talked about the approach and we set up in a big room. It was the first experience that would lead us to the recording of this new album. We used less mikes on the drums, than at any other time before, it was an overhead mike vibe. I used an acoustic Guild bass. I put a mike on the actual instrument itself, and a line out to an amp. We ran them live as a group, we didn't over-sync them.
Nick and the band were in the studio before Raul got there, and we ran this track of ‘True Love Ways’ with Nick singing. When Raul got there, we played back the tape to show him the feel we had achieved. He loved it and said, ‘Let me sing to that’. We said, ‘No, let’s do another take.’ He said, ‘We could do that, that would be fine, but let me sing to that first.’ So we took the track we’d done 20 minutes earlier, with Nick singing, and let Raul sing to it. He said, ‘I think it's got the spirit.’ Nick said, ‘I think you’re right too, I think it’s there.’ So there’s a version of the same exact instrumental track with Nick singing!
Something for The Mavericks ‘Anthology’ series in 20 years time?
The ‘Archaeology’ series, or whatever it will be? I have no idea what we could ever do with it, except that I wouldn’t mind somebody having it. It's a very cool bootleg anyway.
Nick’s last album, The Impossible Bird was tremendous, he’s a vastly under-rated songwriter.
His last album completely killed me, slayed me. Working with Nick led to Raul and he writing together a little bit. They wrote one that we recorded for the new album, but right now I don't think it will be on the LP, but will probably be a non-album B-side . It's called ‘All I Get’, and was written a couple of years ago. Again Nick’s approach was, ‘Let’s not over-think this, let’s not turn this into something that was never intended.’ Those songs are very simple, we recorded them that way, but they sound good.
Speaking of B-sides, of all Mavericks single releases, only one the 7” vinyl of ‘All You Ever Do Is Bring Me Down’, had an additional un-released track Volver, Volver. Why don’t more of your singles feature bonus tracks?
Though not really a conscious decision on The
Mavericks end, I think it stems from the fact that MCA-Nashville was never
a big singles driven label. Singles were not huge with country music, still
are not huge. Sales on singles are almost low enough they don’t warrant
proper commercial release. The few singles we've been able to put out there
and succeed with, were often because the band urged the company to do them,
based on our belief that we were kind of a band that went beyond the normal
We had collectors that were akin to the ‘dead-head’ type of collector. I've seen that with The Mavericks fans, the way they collect stuff. They seem to want to get un-released material or something. Even if it meant duplicating an album track, they would buy the single just to have the packaging differences.
But surely if the singles have previously un-released
songs, they can often help in attracting an wider
audience and serve as a useful marketing tool.
But it's through time that you learn that; no, you can often actually express yourselves as much as you like and often get the things you wished for, by simply asking. We've done that with the new album. There’s 13 songs on there. A traditional country music album out of Nashville today is 10 songs. We were able to get 13 on there and feel like we had a nice well-rounded record. We have 4 tracks that were recorded at the same sessions that are going to be saved for non-album B-sides. All our singles will have something you couldn’t otherwise get. We intend to get singles out there, even do some vinyl.
As an avid collector yourself, do you personally go for vinyl or CD?
I don’t do a lot of vinyl myself, but I have a
great deal of respect for those people that do. I actually admire
people who have made room in their house, their world, their life for a
vast vinyl collection. I have bought more vinyl though in 96-97 than in
the previous 5 years. As a kid that's all I had of course, and I collected
Was that why Volver, Volver was released on vinyl?
No, the true reason that you find that only on vinyl is because it was on the B-side of a juke-box single. It never ended up on cassette or CD single. So people were buying it from jukebox distributors. Almost everything we've released as a single has been produced on vinyl. A lot of people don't realise that the jukebox industry is still producing vinyl.
Do you feel that the having this ‘country’ tag, that it has restricted the acceptance of the band on the whole.
Yes, in many ways I do. It's with a slight amount,
or better, of regret that things are that way. It's one thing that a label
likes to categorise, for marketing and so forth. But when you get to a
record buying public, a demographic that gets prejudiced. You know the
old, ‘ There’s two types of music - country and western’. I used to laugh
at that, and probably told that joke a few times myself.
But it's since become a reality in my world and I don't really care for the snobbishness of so-called ‘music lovers’. To me , if you love music, you’ll keep an open mind, and you’ll see that even the most unlikely of musicians or sources can become very interesting to you.
When we got into country music there was one big
reason. That it felt really, really good to us. It was that in 1990-91,
it felt like it was one of the most roots-oriented, commercially successful
avenues going. There was Dwight Yoakam, The Kentucky Head-Hunters, Rodney
Crowell, Steve Earle.
You could rock hard, you could really rock like your favourite old rock’n’roll band, be very rootsy, and understand what country and blues music meant to it all. But rock’n’roll at that time, if you weren’t grunge, you weren’t shit!.
So it felt like the only place for us. I have no regrets, except that now there are people who try to keep us from presenting ourselves to a broad and vast audience.
You’re absolutely right. I sometimes feel a little bit guilty, because if I make an excuse for the genre that we are most commonly presented in, if I say, ‘Well we’re kind of country, but listen, don't hold that against us. Because if you heard it, you might like it.’ Instead , I feel like it's almost blasphemy or something against the great country artists that came along and did so much for music.
You know there wasn’t rock’n’roll when Hank Williams
was doing his thing. But I think he had everything to do with the formation
of rock’n’roll. And I think Johnny Cash is a great torch carrier for rock’n’roll.
Even today, I think he's an amazing poet and figure in what was, is, and
will be, rock’n’roll. Period!
So I'm very cautious about apologising for our genre, but I’ll be honest. Today, when you look at what’s going on in country music, there’s a lot of things to apologise for, a lot of really cheesy ass-shaking going on!
The first two albums featured several songs with social/political commentaries. Is there still a place in the music of the Mavericks for these types of songs? Was it a conscious decision not to continue to write those?
I might split the difference whether it was conscious. Raul penned those tunes and a lot after that. I know him well enough to feel confident to interview pretty accurately on his behalf here. We came out of Miami, where life in Miami was a real good dose of reality. Miami was in many ways a great city, but in many ways a tough city. Like anything today in a modern world, challenging. We were exposed to a lot of things that could inspire some social commentary. We never felt by any means that we were poised to be the next politically active kind of group. We weren’t about to take up the soapbox and try and compete with U2 for idealism expressed through the music. We always felt like those were just natural songs that came out of that environment.
When we got to Nashville, and really got involved with the commercial presentation of the group, nobody said don’t do them. As a matter of fact, I think quite often the label loved the stuff, it was the stuff that got us signed to MCA. But what did happen, we were suddenly exposed to the very rich heritage of Nashville. It is Harlan Howard writing songs about a different kind of social commentary, which is getting your heart broken. And writing it in the most universal terms. So the commentary is there, its just not necessarily about children or some of the other.
And I don’t think Raul ever intended to try and re-write the family history, ‘From Hell To Paradise’ has done a great job at that. If I might draw some parallel here. ‘From Hell To Paradise’ was an early song by The Mavericks, and we got it on our first MCA record, it became the title track. We have never stopped playing it live, its one of the most consistently played live songs. We always made room for it, because of the content of the song it always became a centrepiece. I feel as connected to it. Even though its not my family story, I feel like I know that story and I understand the truth to it. I’m very close to Raul’s family.
And just to bring this up to the current situation. That song, we had taken the original version that appears on ‘From Hell To Paradise’ the album, and changed the interpretation live, it had become an acoustic Latin ballad. We decided to use it as one of the tracks on the new live CD. It’s the first time the Latin ballad version of that song will be commercially available. So it makes it brand new again.
That song in many ways typifies The Mavericks style. If someone were to ask what makes The Mavericks different, then that certainly be one of the songs that I would play to them.
I really do agree. Back home, going back to using
country music as a home base. They call that in the line-dancing world,
‘cha-cha’. That's the country music’s line-dancing term for ‘The Mavericks’,
or anyone who does that feel. But as Tony Brown from MCA would say, ‘The
Mavericks have almost got the licence on that cha-cha feel in country music.’
It's just subtle enough because we are not a pure Latin jazz group or dance
band. We are still a melting pot type of group. Paul and I are playing
our interpretation of something that Raul may know even better, certainly
than myself. So that's what happens sometimes, when you get 2 or 3 steps
removed from the pure source of something, you get something that starts
to become original.
Also the song Children from the Hell To Paradise album has a definite Irish ballad feel. Do The Mavericks listen to much Irish music, or does it stem from that Irish component inherited by country music?
I think that's pretty interesting, because I wonder sometimes when I think about that. Raul really nailed something pretty special in that one. I sometimes like to listen to his music and step away from it and critique it myself. In ‘Children’ you do hear that, he probably drew first from a simple waltz. The waltz kind of feel might have originally come over from Ireland and become part of folk and country music in America. So I don't know he was listening to an Irish record, but more likely hearing it from a Crowell or Emmy-Lou Harris point of view. But then the melody itself harkens back to an Irish melody. Raul has a great understanding of melody. That's the thing. I think his strength overall is his melodic sense.
I imagine writing a good melody is a difficult thing to do, especially one that sustains repeated listenings?
Again, to get a little distance and critique Raul’s talents and strengths. Knowing from trying myself, to be as good a writer as I can possibly be, I realise that melody is one of the most difficult things to come up with. Particularly a melody that is accessible, that you hear again and again, one that almost feels familiar from the first listening. That's always a nice thing. With Raul, he gets so close to certain things that feel familiar to you, but he's right there, just on the other side of it all, and it's completely original. So it's really cool.
That's something, from working with him on a song for the new album, that if I had some ideas and I knew that if I wanted the best of Raul, what I should leave out is commitment to melody. If I had a song going in my head, maybe other than a hint of melody, I would be better of saying, ‘Heres the progression I've got, what do you think about this’, and letting him create a melody. And after that, lyrically, I have no problem with getting in there with anybody and working out a lyric. But melody with Raul, you’d be ashamed to commit truly to a melody, then to have him come in and write with you, because you’d be missing out on one of his strengths.
You mentioned writing one song on Trampoline, you’ve written two songs for a Cheap Trick album? Is song-writing something you’ve just started doing and are there any more on the new album?
No, we did just one on the new album. I’ll be completely honest here, I think it's the best thing to do. It's one of the biggest hurdles for me to jump, that is, getting out of just being a member of the group that does a couple of certain set things. For example, being a bass player and spokesman, the most outspoken member of the group. I love what I’ve been doing for the past eight years, but at the same time, it doesn't fulfil every need I have. So I began to rely on my earliest ideas and beliefs in myself that said, ’You know, I need to get back to writing, I need to not subscribe purely to this idea that Raul will be the only one who writes, even if my writing has to go elsewhere.’
And that's what it ended up with Cheap Trick.
I allowed my friendship and my desire to write, to go other places. Tom
Peterson, Jerry Dale and myself, we began writing and enjoyed it so much
that Robin Zander heard some stuff and liked it and said, ‘Let me come
to Nashville and write with you all.’
I think it was through that experience that Raul said, ‘You know, we should get together. Why have we not been together, why don’t we do something’. I think we broke some patterns by writing together, and I think that even if we don't write another song together for The Mavericks, maybe we'll write something for a children’s show or something. But if we never write one for The Mavericks we did something we needed to do. But there’s every possibility that we would write for a future The Mavericks project.
Raul suggested in ‘The Road’ program, that The Mavericks were ‘The Remodeling Team’. Do you feel this description is a throw-away line and does it compliment or distract from The Mavericks music?
Raul comes up with some doozeys. I think it appears very spontaneous, then I'm thinking, “Maybe he's really got something on his mind there.’ This is something Raul and I, we work together in interview as often as it comes about, but I always find that he and I are very different, completely different. I feel like that sometimes he goes in there with a few things, little catch-phrases, or little things that he has thought up, not 100% spontaneous.
I am not saying that line is not spontaneous. I'm not certain. But the point is, in all fairness, that's one of the differences in every individual in the group, we don't always believe 100% in what the other feels. Are we the Remodelling team , I don't know?
But with the number of covers you have performed live over the years, your superb interpretations on the tributes you have been involved in, I can possibly see where Raul is coming from.
Maybe so, I at one time felt like we inherited this position as the group that would come in and bring something back to country. They, being the industry people, fans, music-hip types from LA and NY, talked in those terms. At any rate, it's never something I really wanted. Hell, there’s always this talk about tradition and shit, I thought, ‘We're gonna blow that, we're not going to handle everything with such great tradition and such reverence for tradition.’ BR-549 is better at that than we are.
We were always monkeying around half the time, somehow re-writing or screwing up an old song. Raul might not learn every verse of it, and we might redo a song without all it's parts. I don’t know. Amputees in our music. I never cared for the idea that there was some agenda, whether it was the band adopting it, or someone passing it to you like a torch. I think it’s too damn much to think about. I think the best thing you can do is to make music and forget about it.
With Raul as singer/main songwriter who chooses what covers the band will record?
When ever you have a lead singer you’ve got to
make sure your suggestion really does suit him. Otherwise he is either
not going to do it, or he's going to do it and do it poorly. Raul has such
a good sense of what he likes to sing. But everything we've done, every
cover we've ever done has been one the band felt unanimous about, whether
it started with Raul or otherwise.
The Letterman and Conan OBrien shows are releasing live CDs - do any of The Mavericks performances appear on either of these?
You know that's weird, I've not heard were on either of them. I’ve not seen a list. But when I first saw Conan hold a copy and talk about it the other night, I thought. ‘Hell, we've not heard anything about that, that must mean we're not on it.’ I thought we’d be a pretty cool candidate to be on one of those records. We've appeared on the Austin City Limits compilation, so I hope if were not on the first volumes, were on a future volumes.
The Mavericks have appeared on several soundtracks, is this an effort to reach a wider audience?
Again, split it down the middle. Anything we've done for soundtracks this far, none of it has been done with some incredible pursuit of a career in film music. The experiences we've had have all been good . There is very few things we've done with regret. Sometimes the outcome is with some regret.
I thought there might be some cool opportunity
with ‘Apollo 13’, it just never came to be. ‘From Dusk Til Dawn’ featured
the music beautifully on the film, but it turned out into one of his (Tarantino)
least popular films. I enjoyed the film though, for some odd reason, but
it is a little out there. So we have not been paired properly with film
yet. We do have something coming up with ‘The Horse Whisperer’. That maybe
the big one.
What are you listening to at the moment?
A record that I've consistently listened to since I got it is, The Jayhawks, ‘Sound of Lies’. I didn't mind they lost a member, I didn't feel like it took away from the group. I think they’re slightly more focused. I don't mind if there not the country rock band they might have earlier been. It's more psychedelic 70’s rock - Big Star etc. It doesn't twang as much as the earlier stuff. To me they don't fit that ‘No-Depression/ Son Volt’ thing as they once did, but I think they’re better for it. It's a fantastic record.
I also can’t stop listening to Ron Sexsmith. I think he's the most fabulous writer going, in terms of a new talent. Blowing peoples minds, and I'm one of those people. I just got a record where I haven’t listened to a single note, but I'm almost salivating as I get ready to play it. I've got it here while I travel. The new Mike Scott (ex-Waterboys) album. His last solo record was this amazing kind of spiritual personal record, but I think it transcended his own feelings into feelings that anybody should be able to pick up on and relate to.
Do you listen to much Irish music?
I think if it's all I listened to, the burn out would be pretty quick. But I like what I have of English and Irish rock and folk-rock.
What do you think of the Dwight covers album, especially The Clash’s ‘Train in Vain’?
Overall the record was a hit and miss thing for
me. ‘Train In Vain’, to be honest didn't blow me away, unfortunately. Maybe
I didn't get it - it's one of my favourite songs by ‘The Clash’. I thought
it was a cool interpretation, but the whole record didn't inspire with
me repeated listens.
I listened to it a couple of times and put it away, I don’t know why. It’s in my Dwight collection, because I keep everything on him. I love what he does but isn’t that strange, it's slightly uneven and that comes off.
When recording a song is there a moment when you feel the chill down the spine and say ‘yes this is it!’?
I think a couple of songs felt pretty strong. Like ‘What A Crying Shame’. I always felt like we hit something there and it proved to that. It was never a No #1 hit I know of. It did make the No #1 request, certain weeks across America. It didn't crack the Top 10, but instead it lasted and lasted. And today, I always felt like it had this sound, The Mavericks thing. Rauls voice, the melody. It’s also on the new Live CD.
You also do a minor-key version of that ‘What A Crying Shame’, is it that one on the new live CD?
We didn’t do the minor-key version. We thought about it. We think somewhere down the line, we'll probably release some bizarre version of it, like a ‘minor-key’, a ‘raga’, a ‘spinal tap’ Mavericks.
Have The Mavericks thought of playing Womad?
In 1998 we want to try and get on some of the
festivals that don't always recognise so-called country music and try to
express a sense of difference and turn people on to it. We put these things
on our wish list and tell our manager to make it happen or we'll pull the
"Thank you Mr Reynolds!" © 1997 chris swann