The instant the debut solo album from Mike Paradine puts the first of the muscular slices of rock n roll that impressively make up its generous and undemanding glory through the ear, there is nothing but eager enthusiasm, respect and downright joy going back in return. Death In The Family is simply rock n roll at its very best and brought with an enterprise and honesty that makes the pleasure it gives deeper and long lasting each and every time. Eagerly wanting to know more about the man and his release we asked Mike if he would tell us more. As generous with his time and words as with his music Mike Paradine tells us about the man, his life, and the music that has made his album one of the highlights of the year so far at The Ringmaster Review.
Hello and welcome to The RingMaster Review. Many thanks for taking time to talk with us.
Thank you for the opportunity.
Would you start of by telling us about the man who is Mike Paradine?
Well there’s not much…hahah! I just try and go through life with blinders on, not to take things too seriously. Basically I try and find the humour or inject humour into anything I do or see. The reason is that sometimes there are things in life where situations have to be taken seriously, so all of the other times I try to have a good laugh at life and just lighten things up. I take pride in everything I do but not to the point where it consumes my life. There are just too many things in this world to do and experience.
You were introduced to music at an early age in the shape of the Beatles, and I noticed you give Ray Davies as a major influence for you too. As a child growing up in Bayonne, New Jersey these are slightly unexpected flavours from the UK, what was it about them that really took hold with you?
My father’s brother, my Uncle Billy , gave me the Kinks 45 record “Father Christmas” as Christmas present one year and loved the humour in it. It opened my eye that songs could be written well and be funny at the same time. The following year he gave me the “Muswell Hillbillies” album and just saw how well Ray could tell a human story. From then on in, I started looking at songs a different way, where lyrics actually could mean something. I mean, when I was a little kid, maybe 8 or 9 years old, music was something that was heard and felt, not explored. That is, until then.
Music was a constant in your household and life growing up?
Sure thing. My parents did not play any instruments but music was always played in the house. They had a great 45 collection, packed in record cases. Unfortunately as a 2 year old, I broke a lot of them, hahah. At age 3, my parents gave me a “close and play” record player and gave me some records to play on it. The Beatles became a favourite of mine. Of course I couldn’t read but I could figure out the Beatles records because at the time they were all on the Capital Records label. The label itself had an orange and yellow swirl and I figured that out. Problem was the Beach Boys were also on that label. So sometime I got the Beatles, sometimes the Beach Boys which I immediately took off the player. My father showed me that the Beach Boys had 2 b’s in their name and the Beatles only one. Things got better after that.
When did you begin to venture into making music itself?
I always wanted to be in a band, even as a little kid. I had pictured myself playing in the Beatles. But I actually started fooling around with the drums around 6th or 7th grade. I bought a starter kit from Sears and started playing to some of the records that I had. My best friend at the time, Mike, had a guitar and he would come over and we would do the riff from “Smoke on the Water” over and over again. We named the group “Moonwind” but nothing ever became of it. It wasn’t till a few years later that I actually got a real band together.
You also developed a love for comic books and horror movies as a child, was this also your gate way into rock music or just a blossoming love that grew at the same time?
At the time they were separate interests. Another uncle, this time my mother’s brother, Ronnie, was the one who got me into this. He was also partly responsible for me getting in the Beatles. He would come over once or twice a week and he would draw all these comic book and movie monsters for me. This is the time were I was schooled in not only the pop culture at the time but how to draw and illustrate. As time went on, music was pushed into the background and I took a real interest in drawing. By the time I was in Kindergarten, my skill at drawing was that at a fifth grade level. This was when my imagination grew and it was a great time for myself. You could just submerge yourself into different realities and you controlled the outcome.
You were a child discovering the wonders of music and comics as mentioned and also baseball but then was hit with the nightmare of cancer and the loss of your left leg below the knee. It is said that children are the most adaptable and resilient to this kind of life changing thing and are able to look beyond for positives and new directions. Was it that ‘easy’ for you?
Very cool question. Actually, the amputation was above the knee. But absolutely… baseball came very natural for me and I was very good at it. Just playing on the field, in front of a crowd was very exhilarating. It’s from these days that I found that I liked playing in front of an audience. When I was diagnosed with cancer, it seemed the whole world was coming down. I knew that if I couldn’t give it 100% and play like I did before, that it wasn’t worth doing. You find out immediately that your body is naturally balanced and when one of those things is taken out of the equation, your whole body is off. It just isn’t the same even with some adjustments. But as luck would have it, I had rock n roll. I was still playing drums and I was really into Alice Cooper at the time. I saw the spectacle in his show. I saw that rock and roll didn’t care about your deformities. It just cared that you were into the music. Alice, David Bowie, they all taught me that freaks, misfits and degenerates, as well as everyone else were all accepted in this society. I immediately embraced that. This was a place where as long as you were entertaining, you were accepted.
Was this the point the defiance and fight within you as apparent on your new solo album which we will move on to shortly, stepped forth?
Back then, I just took one day at a time. There were those that didn’t think I could play drums in a band because of the cancer thing. I never confronted them, I never got into fights because of it, never argued about it. I just kept playing. The best way to shut somebody’s mouth is to just do it. The real fight was within myself. It wasn’t for anyone else. It was for me to prove that I could do it. No matter how, I was determined to play. It was hard at first. I had chemotherapy treatment every other week and that would knock me out for that time. The following week was to keep up with school work that I missed for that week and for the week that I was there. I always found the time to practice though.
You turned to music even more from this point, and obviously became a drummer. Why the drums and was there any particular musician or band that inspired that choice?
I found that the drums were easier to play and I caught on pretty fast. At this time I was hanging out with people who, though were just beginners, could actually play guitar. We would jam at my house and started our first band, Cerberus. KISS really pushed me into putting a band together and playing out. The excitement of their shows were so inspirational, I had to try it. Neil Smith of Alice Cooper and Peter Criss of KISS at the time were the guys I tried to emulate.
When did you begin writing your own songs?
That was during my time in my first band. Though we were a cover band I did start writing my own lyrics on the side with hopes that we would start writing our own material. For the most part, it never happened though we did have maybe 2 or 3 originals which never made it out to the public performances.
As I am writing these questions by coincidence a news report has come on TV about a new exhibition in London dedicated to Phil Lynott who also was a big influence to you. What was it about his music and lyrics that struck you the deepest?
Oh yes…I love Thin Lizzy. My biggest influences lyrically are Alice Cooper, Ray Davies and Phil. Ray had the social commentary thing going,Alice took horrific situations and twisted them slightly to where he put a sense of humour to them and Phil wrote about his beliefs, family and basically personal insights. That’s what attracted me to his writings. He wasn’t afraid to sing about his inner thoughts. I’ve always been interested in the “human” aspect of things and this was something I took to right away.
You have been part of Balistik Kick and are the rhythm master and song writer in ArticFlame but do you mind if we move straight to Death In The Family your great new solo album. My first question is how has it taken you so long to make one haha?
I never had the thought of doing one until after ArcticFlame finished the “Guardian at the Gate” album. I built a small recording studio in my yard and contacted some musician friends of mine to see if they would be interested in doing this project together. Initially, I worked with a guitarist from the band Bloodfeast but it didn’t last too long. We did manage to have about 4 songs done musically but then his schedule changed and it became impossible to continue. It wasn’t until I reconnected with producer, Dave Manheim (he did ArcticFlame’s “Declaration” CD) on Facebook that I told him about my idea. He was totally interested and we struck a deal where he would do my solo album and the next AF album.
Death In The Family is made up of a deeply impressive collection of songs that come from your personal experiences and heart, how easy have the songs been to bring forth?
Honestly, very easy. Writing personal songs has never been a problem for me and I really have to thank my influences for that. I’ll never be as good as those guys but they taught how to get a story across, what type of phrasing to use, how to use syllables as a rhythm and just be honest with your thoughts. The only thing that I can bring to the table is my own experiences and with that, I have plenty.
How long has the album been in the making from first seed until release?
The writing process was down very quickly. Dave wrote the music the first week, I wrote the melody and lyrics the second. By the third week the album was completely recorded and we spent about 4 days after that mixing the album. It took more to get released. Right after the mixing sessions were done, ArcticFlame went in and started the “Shake the Earth” album” which took about 4 months to do. So I didn’t get around to putting the artwork and layout for my solo album until after that, which was, I think, October. I got the actual physical copies done around January and it was after that, that I started sitting down and figuring out how to do the promo work for it.
The songs as the lyrics are varied and diverse, some tracks rock and hard rock in flavour and others metal borne. Was this intentional to encompass your own tastes and influences or they just evolved as you began writing them this way?
Yes…I wanted it to reflect all of the music that I enjoyed throughout my life, starting with straight rock and roll to the traditional metal. It was Dave’s idea to include the Guns N Rose style punk that is heard in “Suzi with an Uzi”. That was just a really fun song to do. I had to write something on the humorous side for that. The first time I heard the music. it immediately reminded me of GnR’s punkier side which is really gritty and I love all of that. It was a good but different ingredient to add to the album.
How do you approach your songwriting?
I don’t have one way of doing it. Usually I’ll have an idea for a song and then put it to paper. If someone comes up with music that I think would fit those set of lyrics, I’ll sit down and work at it. Sometimes the lyrics will fit right from the start but mostly I have to tinker with parts so that it makes sense as a whole. Once in a while I’ll have the music, melody and lyrics all at the same time. It’s always good to have a few beers though. That’s the one constant..hahahah!!!!!!
Has Death In The Family given you a freedom and wider scope of expression than writing for ArticFlame allows?
The solo was the reason for this. I could of written a traditional metal sounding album for the solo album but why do that? I already do that with AF and enjoy that. This gave me a broader horizon and to use all of my musically influences. I look at Phil Lynott’s solo albums as a model. Some of that music I can’t get into but I understand what he was trying to do. He didn’t care. It was what he wanted to do to combine the music with the lyrical content and mould it into one expression. That’s the kind of approach I wanted to take.
As mentioned earlier you have worked alongside Dave Manheim (Supernatiral, Society Killers) on the album, how did you guys originally meet?
Jack Frost (Seven Witches) produced the first ArcticFlame album and had Dave as the engineer. He asked to produce the second album “Declaration” and since he worked with Overkill and Symphony X before, we agreed. We’ve been in contact on and off over the years.
There feels a perfect and natural understanding between you two as one listens to the album.
Glad you noticed. We both had that conversation and is why he’ll do my next couple of albums. I have to tell you that everything was smooth sailing on this project. It was a real fun album to do because everything seemed to fit so naturally. If I described what type of style I was looking for, he would nail it on the first draft. Plus we had a lot of laughs in the studio.
You also have many other artists added their fine touches including Richard Holmgren (Wolf) and Michael Clayton Moore (ArcticFlame). Did you always have them in mind for certain songs as Death In The Family evolved?
Not really. It wasn’t until I heard the actual completed music that I tried to place the voice with the song. With Richard, I had no idea what he was going to sound like. I had his solo album called “Blackworld” and loved the sound of his voice. He had this Dio like quality to it and when he sent back the songs, I was amazed. Dave had a concern before we got them because he never heard him before but as soon as he heard it, he agreed that he was a great choice for those two songs. With Mike we already had an idea what he was going to sound like so we had it planned out what we wanted him to do.
As mentioned lyrically the songs are strongly personal at times, the likes of Rise Up from the Grave dealing with your time with cancer and Bow Down To The Queen referring to an on-going family feud? There is though also some wonderful dark humour throughout especially in the wonderful Cooperesque Monster’s Ball and our favourite song Suzie with an Uzi. Humour is an important and powerful tool in your character one suspects.
Absolutely and it all comes from my father’s side of the family. They are insanely funny and all they do is laugh. My father and I would watch Monty Python religiously every Sunday as I was growing up. We would listen to his Rodney Dangerfield albums and watch the local comedy show, The Uncle Floyd Show. I found out the humour also broke the ice with people. When I was sick, people wouldn’t know how to approach me but by my sense of humour it immediately let people know that I wasn’t an angry person. It was also a good tool to use when other kids would make fun of me. Once I made fun of myself, it automatically disarmed them. They saw that by making fun of myself and laughing about it, there was nothing they could say or do to hurt my feelings. These types of situations didn’t last long because of this.
Is there any particular part of the album that you are proudest of or means the most in your heart?
That is actually a hard question. When I heard “On A Tuesday Morning” for the first time, it knocked me to the floor. I never, ever pictured myself writing a commercial sounding song. Plus it was about an actual event that happened that most people don’t know about. Dave did such a great job on it. I was amazed and still am. “Monsters Ball” is cool because it came out exactly what I had in mind. It’s not the best song on the album but I wanted to give a nod to Alice Cooper and I think I accomplished that. He was the inspiration for that song and I’m glad you pointed that out [in our review of the album]. The best I can say is that I like this album a lot and I actually listen to it regularly. It came out better than I ever expected.
In our review we said Death In The Family has no intention of breaking down barriers or trying to set new directions, it is just rock n roll at its best, a celebration of the sounds and music we all grew up with, is that a fair comment?
You nailed it and that’s the way I’m going to continue. I’m not looking to re-invent the wheel. I’m not looking to be the best or look for the next big sound. I just want to write things that I know about. You can listen for the deeper meaning of the songs, if that’s what you’re into or you can sit down, have a beer and just listen to the music. That’s good enough for me. It all comes down to having fun.
So we are to be blessed with more solo work from you in the future?
Blessed?!?!?!? I don’t know about that but…Yes, in fact Dave and I have discussed this a few weeks back. Lyric wise, I have the next 2 albums done. The next album is planned to be written this year with a Guns N Roses style to it. I love Steve Jones “Fire and Gasoline” album and want to travel in that direction also. So hopefully we’ll try and mix those styles together. The 3rd album is a story I had written a few years ago and will probably be more in the traditional metal sound.
And live shows for The Mike Paradine Group?
This week I put out a few calls to some musicians I know and looks like we’ll play a handful of shows toward the end of the summer. Kilroy, the guitarist form the album will be joining us as well as Michael Clayton-Moore of ArcticFlame. We’ll both be sharing the front of the stage for this, with some visuals to be added and just have some fun.
I also wanted to ask about your book King of Toys. Could you tell us about that?
Sure, I wrote that a few years back. It is a horror/poetry type book. Almost like one long set of song lyrics. It tells the story of a 8 year old boy who is abused by his parents and their friends. One night after a horrific episode of abuse his toys come to life and take revenge. The boy also finds out about a lie that the father had told him about a family pet. That fabrication comes back to bite the parents in the ass….
What is its inspiration?
It came from a true story. When my oldest son was in the first grade, he had a friend who used to come over the house, a very hyper kid. We found out that when this boy was a few months old he was severely abused by his mother. So much in fact, that she broke his arm. The sister was granted guardianship and that’s where this boy was living. Just the thought of that happening was upsetting to me. I thought to myself, when you are a very young kid and your parents, abuse and hurt you, where do you turn to? Parents are gods to children and if god is hurting you, where can you go, who do you talk to? My first thought was, your toys, your playthings. Kids talk to the toys and if you’re that age, it makes sense. So I took that approach and added the revenge part of it. Here is a kid from a lower economic background with a bunch of broken down toys but he loves them to death. They in turn return that feeling and protect this kid no matter what. If only things like that could truly happen though….
What comes next for Mike Paradine?
I don’t know…a nice cold beer maybe???? I’m doing an old school thrash recording project with my son Erik. We plan on recording possibly May/June at Michael Clayton-Moore’s studio. Other than that, ArcticFlame releases the new album in June.
Once more a great thanks for sharing your time to talk with us, it has been a pleasure.
The pleasure was all mine! Thanks for the cool questions…
Would you like to end with a last comment or thought?
If anyone would like to book the band, contact me. Will try and figure something out.
Other than that….I’ll be in Mansfield, England at the Intake Club with ArcticFlame on Saturday, May 26th at the Metalgods Festival. So, if anyone’s not doing anything, stop by and we’ll hang and have a couple of beers!!!
Read the Death In The Family review @ http://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2012/03/27/mike-paradine-group-death-in-the-family/
The RingMaster Review 11/04/2012
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