Hard work and fighting spirit, not to mention determination, has been a trade mark alongside their outstanding punk/metal sounds of US band Mongrel, a quartet which has thrilled and ignited passions through their dynamic live shows and equally impactful releases. Shows with major rock names such as Misfits, Korn, Otep, Sepultura, Mindless Self Indulgence, Wednesday13, and Prong to name just a few has brought the band to the fore of attention for masses of fans, as well as their albums and EPs, but there has been plenty of obstacles to overcome at the same time. With the release of their excellent new album Reclamation, a definite contender for album of the year, Mongrel have emerged again as one of the most impressive rock n roll bands around. The band has been a permanent feature of The Reputation radio Show and Bone Orchard podcast for many years so we just had to grab some time of guitarist and band founder Adam Savage to find out about the band, their album, and their new refreshing onslaught on rock music.
Hi Adam and many thanks for taking time out to chat with us.
It is probably fair to say the last few years has been a battle for the band so how does it feel to finally be unleashing your new album in a stable and powerful situation, band wise and support wise with the label?
I’d be lying if I didn’t say it felt great!! It’s definitely been a struggle the last few years for sure, and fighting to get this album done and released has been a huge amount of time, stress, energy, frustration, etc since the initial start of the process over 3 1/2 years ago. Not to say there wasn’t good stuff going on and lots of fun these last 2 years but finally putting this album out and being able to do so with a great team of people both in and around the band (label, publicist, radio promotion, etc) feels great!! It’s a huge relief and certainly really exciting to see where things will go now.
Before we get in to certain aspects of that time can you give for newcomers to Mongrel some early background to the band, its beginnings and early successes?
Sure, I started the band in 2003 with our original singer after pulling the plug and imploding my prior band. We went through a lot of early transitions of band members and within 6 months I was the only survivor of the original line-up but we found new people and carried on. We eventually found some longer term members, put out our 1st full length album in 2006 which was then picked up by Screaming Ferret Wreckords/ Locomotive Records and re-released in 2008. In 2009 we put out another EP in association with Screaming Ferret. After some revamping of the band (new drummer and now a female singer) we released “The New Breed of Old School” EP in September 2010, “Declamation” EP in May 2011, and now the “Reclamation” album on September 25th 2012 on THC-X. Some of the early successes were getting to play at CBGB’s before they closed, tours with Blitzkid, Trashlight Vision, and FEAR; getting called “the hardest working band in Boston” in Metal Edge, some really cool sponsorships; playing with bands like the Misfits, Otep, Korn, Prong, etc. Getting played on Sirius/XM and Music Choice; and seeing support from people around the world from us has always been amazing to me.
You have played with many of the major names in rock and metal as you just referred to; did that bring any direct positive impact and openings for the band outside of your home state other than making your Resume look rather special?
Hah hah. Well a good resume doesn’t hurt but yeah, it definitely helped get our name out, and it got us into some places in other markets for sure.
2010 saw the departure of your long time vocalist and drummer, obviously a major setback for any band, but how did it affect you as people and your determination to keep fighting as a band?
It was a setback in the sense that we had actually just finished up a new album (mixed/mastered/etc) at that time which was then promptly scrapped. But in all honesty it was actually the best thing possible for me as a person and for the band. Tensions in the band were horrible and negativity was continually getting worse. It wasn’t at all fun anymore dealing with it. So as odd as it may sound, I was far less stressed out when it was myself and Rev (our former bassist) left in the band than I had been for a good number of months with a full line-up. I was then even more determined to rebuild, regroup, and re-record the album and to make the band better than ever. It was definitely a blessing in disguise for sure!
After trying a few vocalists I believe as you kept gigging as a band throughout the period and you called on your friend Jessica Sierra to fill in some dates. We know she was a great presence and vocalist back from her days with Affliction and may I say even more impressive now fronting Mongrel, but as initially it was for just a few shows to help out why did you look at a female vocalist for such an initially planned brief moment in the band’s life, or was there a secret plan at work? :)
I wish I could take credit for some super diabolical master plan in that regard but essentially we’d been auditioning male singers, we got a new full time male singer (Scott Campbell, ex-Graveyard BBQ), but due to other issues in his life it didn’t work out and he had to drop out. We had 3 days notice to cover a show we had booked months prior in Boston and the only singer I could think of who’d potentially be ready in 3 days like that was Jessica….she did it, and she did a great job with the situation and continued covering shows… lo-and-behold she sounded great on the tunes, we were having a lot of fun again and she threw her name in the hat to audition for the band (and yes, she insisted on going through the formal audition process despite having done like 6-8 shows with us at that point). It was just too perfect and worked too well for it not to go forward like that.
At what point did you make the decision to make her a permanent member and I assume there was no persuasion needed to convince her?
Shortly after her “audition” we made her official at a show we did in her hometown right around her birthday (early August 2010) actually so it worked out pretty cool like that. Other than promising her that we would eventually get her a pony for the tour bus Dethklok reference> it didn’t take a lot of persuasion.
We know what we feel she offers the band which has brought a new strength to your sound but what for you has she brought which has helped evolve and shape your music now?
Jess brings a whole lot of personality and fun to the band as well as a new sense of melodicism and aggression (she’s gotten even fiercer since she came back from her hiatus!), plus having a female singer brings a different level of meaning to some of the songs (for example, the kind of sultry melodic singing she brought to “Zombies of War” on the new album to me brought a layer of meaning cause of how they try to sell the military as sexy and glamorous in order to recruit people).
Drummer Dave Kazukiewicz joined just before Jessica, and most recently bassist Micah Maltais joined the band as replacement for the departing Rev. How did you come across the guys and can you give a word about the legend which is Rev?
Dave was actually introduced to us by his girlfriend who was a fan of the band and it worked out perfectly at the time (he’s actually just recently been replaced by new drummer Mike Hogan as Dave stepped down in order to focus on his painting and his band Polluted Remains). Micah we knew from shows we played over the last few years with his band Tell It To The Dead. Micah was a big fan of the band and we always had a great time hanging out with him when we’d do shows together so it was really cool cause he had so much enthusiasm about the songs and getting into the band since he was a fan first. As for Rev, he’s a hell of a bassist and a fun person to have around. Very witty and a very unique character (in a good way). Definitely not a bad word to say about “responsible rockstar #1″ – he’s currently playing in several projects but primarily in a band called The Evil Streaks (female fronted surf-garage-rock-horror punk) and in a Rob Zombie tribute band called American Hellbilly.
Would you say Rev leaving was a bigger jolt than anything before, just for personal feelings?
Yeah, I was personally more bummed about Rev leaving than the others before him cause he is such a good guy to have around and it was a bummer we wouldn’t get to see him/hang out as often but he put a lot into the band over the years and was such a class act (even recording 2 EPs and an album with us knowing he was going to be stepping down so as to make sure we didn’t get sidelined again with this album). He seems really happy with what he’s doing musically these days and will on occasion do a guest spot with us so it’s all good. Thankfully we have a great group of people with us still though and Micah has worked out great for us, not necessarily filling Rev’s shoes but bringing an equally cool pair of his own to the party if you know what I mean.
Let’s come to the main reason we grabbed you, your new album Reclamation. A mighty, rampaging, and thrilling release which dare we say is your best yet by far? There must have been a real buzz brewing as the songs and release came together for you?
Thank you! I definitely agree that this is the best release yet for us. Part of the frustration with the delays and sidelines over the last few years has been that I truly believe in these songs and felt that they had to be recorded and released properly come hell or high water. It’s great to see in the really early reviews we’ve gotten for it (your own included) that other people really are connecting with the songs too. It’s definitely been exciting seeing it all coming together finally and who knows, maybe the timing is finally “right”, the stars aligned, etc and this was the time it was right for it to come out. Who am I to argue that is so, we’re just super excited that it’s all finally happening.
Did the songs find their first breath around the time of the Declamation EP of last year or were recorded later? I ask as the EP feels like a lead in to the album, a teaser of what was to come.
So you did catch that. Well played Ringmaster! Yeah, we actually recorded all 17 tracks at the same time. Our then management consultant (and later label boss, Thom Hazaert) suggested splitting it into an EP and a full album. So we figured out what we thought made for the best full album and what songs worked best as the EP and “Declamation” and “Reclamation” were born. The similar names and artwork were definitely intentional since the EP was meant as both a teaser for the full length album and as a companion piece to it. Originally we expected to release “Reclamation” much sooner after the EP but when we found out that Jessica needed to step down it got put on hold again until her return this past spring.
How long did the album take to record, one senses you are a band which is explosive in all aspects and just gets down to it and to the point in all aspects.
We recorded it (and Declamation simultaneously) over the span of 2 months I believe (we were playing shows and such still as well) and then mixing/mastering/etc was another couple months span or so. We definitely don’t screw around in the studio though. We’re not a band who goes into the studio to write songs while the clock is ticking and we know we’re not there to slack so things definitely do get done pretty quickly when the time comes to hit the studio.
Tell us about the writing process within Mongrel.
Historically I’ve been the main songwriter in the band. Typically I’d have lyrics and the basic outline of the song and bring it in and we’d jam on it then decide if it needs anything else, if it works, etc. With the new line up though, I expect we’ll have some more collaboration on the next album as both Jessica and Micah have been songwriters in their prior bands and will be able to contribute the next time around.
The album is released through THC: X, but I gather there was plenty of hard work and again battles behind the album, in getting it to this point (though not within the band), certainly with labels and things?
When Jessica came back and we were going to start figuring out the release plans for Reclamation, I had approached our on again/off again management consultant about putting it out through his label. After some discussion we worked it out and then it was time to set a release date and get the game plan in order. so definitely work was taking place and since then in the getting the full team together, coordinating, etc but Thom (Hazaert) and I have been talking for years now so that process was actually pretty smooth.
It is so hard to pick out favourite tracks, everyone a blistering slice of essential punk/metal/rock n roll. Twist our arm and maybe we would pump, today, for Pseudocide, C and a Half, Crucifiction and Revisionist. Is there any moment, song, or element of the album which gives you the deepest glow personally inside?
Honestly it’s really hard to say, I’m really happy with all of them personally…. I dig Tarnished Halo and Zombies of War a lot cause I think they kind of branch out style wise a bit, Revisionist like you said cause of the story/message of the song, No Gods No Masters is kind of our anthem… like you said, it probably varies day to day here too.
Mongrel is a band which has never not been flat out gigging, so one assumes there is a feast of dates coming up to support the album?
Yeah, we’ve been doing a run of cd release party shows and we’re playing the Rock & Shock Festival (rockandshock.com) with the Misfits, Shadows Fall, God Forbid, and Vision of Disorder in Worcester MA on October 12th which we’re psyched for, we’ll even be at the convention all that weekend where they’ve got stars like Danny Trejo, the guy who played Dante in Clerks, Bill Mosley, Sid Haig, Peter Criss, Dee Snider, etc all doing meet and greets and such. It’s gonna be amazing!
Where do you get the deepest pleasure as a band, live or in the creating and studio times?
At the core we’re a live band. That’s what we do all of this for is that thrill and energy of getting on stage and connecting with people. Obviously we get excited about creating new music, and while perhaps more tedious at times the studio is exciting too but it’s that time on stage that is truly what it’s all about.
Listening to the album one senses a freedom to the band again, is that how it feels and what is on the horizon for us from the band?
Can’t agree more! It’s fun, it’s exciting for us, having Jess back with the band, and the enthusiasm we have going right now is awesome. We’re hoping to work on writing towards the next EP or album over the winter when the show schedule slows down a bit just cause of the unpredictability weather wise it’s incredibly frustrating getting a show snowed out or something so we’ll prolly keep a lighter show schedule but spend more time writing over the winter months. I’d like to see a second video from the album happen as well so hopefully that will fall into place as well. We’re also working on releasing the album in the UK as well later this fall (physical CDs, not just iTunes since it’s already on there and Amazon, etc)…. a lot will depend on how things take off and play out with the new album though. Fingers are definitely crossed though!
Lastly tell us about the new video for Bored To Death, the first song on the album.
We did the new video with Red13Media, who happen to also be the people we recorded the new album with and who did our photo shoot as well. They really “get” us there and have a good sense of what we’re about and work well with us so it’s very low stress and a lot of fun working with them. The video itself was shot in one day at a couple of locations, and in our traditional “keep it in the family” way of doing things, actually features 2 people who at different times covered some shows on vocals for us (Blu Jess and Scott Campbell) so it was a cool family reunion type thing doing the video. The response on YouTube for the video has been really cool to see with over 2,000 views in just about a week so far. It’s been awesome and we’ve definitely seen the impact at shows where people who don’t have the album yet since it JUST came out, are already singing along with that tune which is the greatest feeling as a performer. If any of the readers haven’t seen it yet, here’s the link:
Thanks for talking with us, really appreciate it and good luck with the album…any final words?
My pleasure! Thank you for all the support, the great review of the album on your site, and for really doing your homework on these questions!! You rock!! If people want to hit us up directly they can reach us at http://www.mongrelband.com and http://www.facebook.com/mongrelofficial or http://www.twitter.com and I hope everyone will check out the new album Reclamation on iTunes, Amazon, etc. Thanks again!!! –
Read the review of Reclamation @ https://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2012/09/18/mongrel-reclamation/
RingMaster Review 02/10/2012
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