Saturday, April 06, 2013

Mick Collins interview - talks Gories, opening for Rob Tyner

Here's an old 2009 interview I did with Mick Collins of The Dirtbombs and The Gories. For some reason (likely a low paying job) it was forgotten and I'm just now posting it - four years later. This was right before The Gories first reunion tour, the one with The Oblivians.

Reading back through what Mick had to say, it seems like he wasn't too stoked about the reunion idea - at first. Since then the band has played many other shows - so I guess it wasn't so band? Right, Mick? Anyway, here's a long overdue interview with Mick - circa 2009. Be sure to check out what he remembers about The Gories' first show with fellow performer, Rob Tyner of the MC5.

By Rich Tupica


Why didn’t you guys play a reunion show sooner?

We didn’t want to, and plenty of other reasons.

Did people harass you about reuniting the Gories quite often?
People never quit asking, ‘When are The Gories going to get back together?’ I’d always answer, ‘Never!’ So apparently hell froze over.

So what made you agree to an actual tour then?
Momentary lapse of reason. I don’t know why. Everyone else said OK, so I was like, ‘Uhhh, maybe I’ll do it.' It’s only a few shows. I hope I don’t sound like an asshole.

I heard a couple years ago The Gories were thinking of playing Coachella, is that true?
We were contacted by Coachella in 2007 about playing the 2008 festival, but that fell through. So doing a reunion show of some sort has been on the back burner since then. When we got asked by The Oblivians we thought, ‘Well, sure.’

Are there going to be new Gories songs on this tour?
We’ve talked about writing new songs. Dan and I kept most of the stuff from when we were actually together. There were some half finished things that we’ve looked at, song ideas we knocked around at the time and never did anything with. We might actually do some of those. There is a possibility. Part of the reason we are practicing with Peg is to maybe do some new material.

We have lyrics for some and guitar parts for others. It’s just stuff laying around. We have one where we remember how the song goes, but none of us can remember what the words are. And there is another one where we got the lyrics, but nobody can remember the music. We’ll work something out.

Are you nervous about playing The Gories reunion?
I worry about my voice. That stuff was really hard on my voice even then. Other than that, I don’t foresee any other issues - I won’t be jumping around as much, but stuff will probably still get broken.
My amps are a lot more durable now. My amps are doctored before they go onstage so they’re able to take the abuse I dish out on them.

How did you, Peg and Dan get along as a band?
We didn’t, that’s why we broke up when we did. We actually broke up four times. During the six year run of the band we broke up three times. They were serious, full-on breakups. We broke up in March of 1990 after we’d cut a bunch singles for all these people. We did a Sub Pop single, and Estrus single - we cut all of those singles and we broke up. About six months later they (the labels) started calling and saying, ‘Where is our record?’ We were like, ‘Oh, yeah. We forgot about that. Didn’t you hear that we broke up?’ Then we had to go back in and mix them. I think we mixed all four of those singles in an hour and a half. We sent them out and forgot about them for another four months. We didn’t talk to each other. I got a call from Dan saying, ‘We have to cut those singles. They called in March, now it’s September.’ I was like, ‘Oh, yeah, I forgot about that.’

So what was the reason for the final break up?
We stopped liking each other. That was all, like every other band, you stop liking each other. The European tour was in ‘92, after that we broke up for the final time.

How did you first meet Dan Kroha?
We were introduced by a mutual friend. We had known each other for a while before we started the band, like a year before we started the band. It was more of an after thought than anything, we had just been hanging out. The band kept happening because it developed an inertia of its own. It wasn’t the beginning of our friendship by any stretch of the imagination.

What did you guys expect to get out of the band?
We figured we’d have a 45 record before the whole thing was over and that would have been our musical legacy. I don’t know how it kept going from there.

The Gories had a cool look, with the suits and all, where did that idea come from?
We all met because we were mods. We all had suits. I just stuck with the one suit all the time. I got a suit jacket I liked and there was a dry cleaner near by that didn’t mind taking care of it. We’d go out and play a show Friday night and I’d show up Monday morning at the dry cleaners with the thing covered in sweat and the guy would take care of it. I just kept wearing it and it became kind of a trademark, which is why I don’t wear it anymore, because it was a pain to keep clean. I stopped wearing it during the Black Top tour, I didn’t have a chance to get it clean over a 35-city tour, by the end of it the jacket was just wrecked.

What was your first Gories show like, wasn't it at a church or something?
It was at St. Andrews Church down on the campus of Wayne State. I have no idea how the show went, but the act immediately before us was Rob Tyner. This was, again, a kind of community concert series. Basically you come in and sign up, and he went on before us, that’s all, it wasn’t like he opened for us. He was just there, he got to the sign-up sheet before we did.

How was Rob Tyner's performance?
It was alright, you know. He did two hours of Vietnam protest songs on auto harp. The guy before him played Santana songs on a big analog synthesizer, that was pretty cool. He played a great, nine minute, version of ‘Black Magic Woman’ that I wish I had on tape because it was really intense. I never forgot it, that’s how good it was. It’s been over 20 years and I never forgot because it was brilliant.

Where did The Gories play at in Detroit?
Paychecks in Hamtramck and Reruns, which was just across the border into Dearborn. We also played a lot of house parties. Anyone that gave us $25, and/or beer got a show. The picture on the back of ‘House Rockin’ was taken at somebody’s party. The picture on the front of ‘Outta Here’ was taken at a community concert series at Dally in the Alley.

How would you describe a typical Gories show?
We were drunken messes. We would show up completely out of our heads. We had maybe eight or 10 songs, we would knock out the songs, but we just sounded ridiculous, really. It reached a point where we realized we either had to learn how to play or stop drinking before the shows. We could either keep drinking or learn how to play, but we couldn’t do both.

Back in ‘80s, how did you hear the rare records that influenced The Gories?
It wasn’t rare in Detroit. Everyone talks about that stuff being rare, they weren’t in Detroit. Those records cost a quarter. Everyone you knew had all those records. What would happen would be someone would discover a record that they paid a dime or quarter for somewhere. Within 10 days they had played it for everyone, and everyone could buy one because they were so cheap and easily available. Then we go to a different city and find out these records were impossible to get and cost a fortune.

Have things changed? Because Detroit doesn’t seem to be overflowing with cheap, rare records anymore.
It doesn’t really happen anymore. Detroit has gotten pretty much picked over. All the stores that used to have all the really good stuff for low prices aren’t there anymore. You can still occasionally find something really cool, but you won’t be paying a quarter for it anymore - you may pay six bucks for it. That’s extortion.

Were you into Fortune Records when you first started The Gories?
I didn’t discover all of that stuff until I was in my twenties - now I’m 43. A lot of that late ‘60s soul was just coming out when I was a kid, it was on the radio it was all around. I listened to a lot of Stax and later, a lot of Philly soul. Of course, I’m in Detroit so everybody knew somebody who worked at Motown so that stuff was just everywhere. There was no escaping it. That’s just how it was, you grew up listening to Motown records. It was everywhere, that was the music I listened to.

I read that your dad had a huge record collection that influenced you, is that true?
All the early rock’n’roll stuff, it wasn’t my dad’s collection, well, my dad got it, but my sisters took care of it until I inherited it all. All that ‘50s rock’n’roll and the early ‘60s stuff, those were records in the basement. I listened to them and I loved them all. It was only an influence as far as that’s what I listened to. It’s hard to say I discovered it, because it was already there. I was always listening to it, I never discovered Fats Domino or Sam Cooke, or any of the ‘50s. Anything rock’n’roll, we got a copy. I can’t say I discovered Little Richard or Chuck Berry, I just grew up listening to it, from before I could walk.

Did other area bands go see The Gories at shows ?
Once we started playing, other musicians are always going to go check you out. People would come to see us, we met other bands like that. We’d play gigs with bands we never heard of and bands that never heard of us. We just became a part of a scene at that point. Bands are pretty easy to come by in Detroit, we were just another one of them.

What bands did you play with the most back then?
We played with a band the 3D Invisibles quite a bit. Another band, The Hysteric Narcotics, we played with a lot. Oh, who else …. (laughs). I don’t know, that’s pretty much it. I guess there were the only two bands in town that’d let us play, everybody else thought we were horrible.

Did the band ever do a proper tour of the United States?
Not really. We did a couple cities on the Ozark Plateau with Cordell Jackson. We played in Memphis, we did a bunch of New York shows and a couple of shows in Windsor, Ontario and that was pretty much it. Literally, the only tour we ever did that was American was the shows with Cordell Jackson.

Did you actually record the ‘House Rockin’” LP in a tin shack?
Yeah, pretty much. It was recorded at Wang Head studios, which was really a Quonset hut that was a machine shop, it’s made out of corrugated steel, this one had a dirt floor. He had the studio, but we didn’t like it. He had a recording studio, but the studio was at the back of this machine shop and we liked the sound of the machine shop better than the sound of the studio. He set up all the mics out in the machine shop and that’s where we actually did the recording at. He just ran all the cables to the control room.

How did the second LP, "I Know You Fine, But How You Doin'" come together?
The second album was cut in Memphis at Easley Recordings. We recorded in a place before the one that burned down. Before he was in that big, nice studio, he was out in a garage behind his sister’s house.

Why did you choose Memphis?
We didn’t. Alex Chilton produced it and that’s where he wanted to cut it at.

What is your favorite Gories album?
Our singles, if they were on an album, that’d be my favorite. There is actually a fifth unreleased single that never came out and may finally see the light of day. That would be my favorite Gories record if it was an album.

Are you going to have the black cat Gories T-shirts for sale again?
We have to find the screens. The only reason we haven’t been doing them over the years is because one of the screens got busted. When we went to do the second run of that, we found out one of the screens got busted. They turned out with a partial discoloration, we weren’t happy with them so we stopped making them.

Looking back, what was more fun, playing with The Gories, or now with The Dirtbombs?
It’s always been fun. Making records, for me, is the fun part. That’s the part I like, being in the studio. When I look back, and we were cutting all of those singles in Dan’s bedroom, that was a really fun time. Being in the studio with Alex Chilton, that was really fun. I can’t remember a time I was in the studio where I had a shitty time. I prefer recording to the live shows. A lot of shows are fun an all, once you finally get on the stage for the 45 minutes to an hour that you’re actually doing the show, that part is fine, it’s the other 23 hours that stink.

How much did the ‘Back From the Grave’ LP compilations influence the band?
If anything was an influence on The Gories, the ‘Back From the Grave’ series was. We thought, ‘Finally! This is our crowd. Once we heard them we were like, ‘Now we know what to do, this is us.’ Until ‘Back From the Grave’ you couldn’t hear that stuff unless you were a serious, nerdy collector. The only thing you had were ‘Nuggets’ kind of things - even that was way more complicated than what we played. By then we had already been listening to the music that influenced those bands. We weren’t really imitating the bands from ‘Back From the Grave,’ we went back, found out what those (Nuggets-era) bands were listening to and we tried to play like that. By the time 'Back from the Grave' came out, we sounded like we belonged on it (laughs).

All those (more popular Nuggets bands) bands were trying to sound like Chess blues. And the band’s on ‘Back From the Grave’ were trying to sound like The Yardbirds and The Pretty Things, which were bands we had already known from being mods. We knew The Yard Birds and The Pretty Things were trying to sound like Chess Blues records. All those Chess blues guys, like Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, J.B. Lenoir, and anything Lafayette Leake played on; or was written by Willie Dixon, we learned to play ... but because of the musical level we had, which was zero, the end results sounded like ‘Back From the Grave.’

There was that garage rock revival, but you guys didn’t sound like them, did you avoid that on purpose?
There had been one. We figured we were way late and we didn’t sound like any of those bands. All of the Ugly Things type bands had the bowl cut and paisley thing going on. That really wasn’t us at all. There garage rock was totally different from the garage rock that we liked. When ‘Back From the Grave’ came out, we were like, ‘These are our people! This is the garage rock we like.’

I heard you used to break the guitars, and Dan would fix them?
That’s partially true. I smashed up a few guitars and Dan fixed them. The guitar that I play now has been broken so many times. I still have it, but I don’t smash it up anymore. It’s not as if I smashed them on purpose like some sort of art rock thing, they just got broken. There is a difference between deliberately smashing a guitar, and flailing around until you fall on your amp and things get broken. We were definitely a flailing around band. We’d break the guitars, break the amps, the mics, the mic stands; on a couple of occasions we broke a stage. Stuff just got broken. It wasn’t on purpose.
Unless we got angry, which did happen once or twice, where we got mad and decided to stop the show.

What used to piss The Gories off at shows?
One thing we couldn’t abide was when an out of town band came in to town and thought they were better than Detroit. We just couldn’t abide it. On a couple of occasions, that happened. We were like, ‘Alright, we’re going to teach you a lesson tonight!’ There was one occasion where we ended with my amp on fire and the stage in pieces. We got so mad that the actual show was a blank. All I remember was crawling out of a hole that was in the stage.

What were you up to after The Gories ended?
There was Blacktop, which lasted for 14 months. The Screws, which happened during the Dirtbombs. The Dirtbombs isn’t really a band like that. It’s really a brand that I make records under - these days, that’s what all these bands I play with is. The Dirtbombs have lasted longer than most with the same lineup.

Has playing in a band in Detroit changed over the years?
I get asked that a lot, and it hasn’t. The only thing that has changed is the music that influences people and in Detroit, even that hasn’t changed much because it’s still a lot of the same influences. It’s just interpreted differently these days. It’s the same and vibrant as it ever was, there is just no one looking right now, that’s all. There’s no huge media attention, but there is still a million bands and bars and art galleries all across town that will let you play. It’s all still there.

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