Our friend John B.Moore recently spoke with prolific musician Mark Lind of The Ducky Boys and his own eponymous solo projects. Mark discussed his new album, The Truth Can Be Brutal which is due out on June 24, 2008 and features his band The Unlocked which includes Jay Messina (Ducky Boys, Dirty Water) on drums, Jeff Morris (the Bruisers, Death and Taxes) on guitar and Mike Savitkas (Death and Taxes) on bass.
The record promises to "walk the line between the raw emotion of punk rock and classic rock's pop sensibility in a way very few have since Paul Westerberg left the Replacements. "
By John B. Moore
In the annals of punk rock history, the Ducky Boys will likely be filed under the heading of "Criminally Underrated".
For more than a decade now, the Boston punks have churned out brilliant, thinking man's punk rock in the vein of everyone from Springsteen to Social Distortion.
On his own, for his third solo outing (backed, however by a stellar group of friends and former band mates) Ducky Boys front man Mark Lind spoke recently about his new record, flying solo and the future of his old band.
Who do you have playing with you on the new record?
Well the record is called "The Truth Can Be Brutal" and it's being released on June 24, on Sailor's Grave Records. This time out I have Jeff Morris playing lead guitar, Mike Savitkas playing bass, Jason Messina playing drums and Marc Cannata sang a lot of the back-up vocals. I played the guitar, - electric and acoustic- sang the lead vocals and some of the backing vocals with Marc.
Did you meet most of these folks around the Boston music scene?
Well I've known Jay forever. He's played with me since Day 1 in the Ducky Boys. And he played on the "Death or Jail" CD. We work really well together. We both know our roles and everything is second nature to us when working on new material. I'm sure I could play with another drummer and he could play in another band but it would require thought for both of us. It's really a marriage of convenience (Laughs).
Jeff is a guy I've known of since I was a kid. He was the lead guitarist/songwriter for the Bruisers up until 1996. And the Bruisers were a huge influence on my music over the years - especially in the early days of the Ducky Boys as most people can tell. So I've known of Jeff but I didn't actually meet him until the Bruisers reunion show in 2005. That was pretty intimidating because he's this giant of a guy and I'm socially awkward to begin with so I had to thank him for having us on the show and it was like "I've known who this guy is for about 12 years and I've never talked to him and now I am about to make a fool of myself" but he was really cool. Jeff's just the most down to earth guy out there.
Mike plays bass with Jeff in their band, Death & Taxes. And that band is far and away one of the best bands out there both from Jeff's songwriting and from the performances. And Mike's bass playing is a huge part of those performances. He's probably the best bass player I've ever seen play in the New England area. He isn't out there playing chops and trying to impress people; he's just playing the most tasteful and musical parts you can imagine. Everything he does is there to enhance the song and I think a lot of bass players miss that point. You'd expect that I met Mike through Jeff but I actually met Mike independently of Jeff through a girl I know. Both of us were trying to use our magical powers to charm her. I won that one, for the record.
Marc Cannata is a friend of mine that plays drums in Far From Finished. I met him a few years ago because his band reached out to me to play bass on their debut CD for GMM Records. I had known of them at that point from being around town but I didn't know them personally at the time. They sent me a cassette of the songs and they were just fantastic songs so I signed on to do that with them. And I've since played a bunch of live shows with them and played again on their second record.
It's funny because Jeff and Marc are my two favorite songwriters in Boston. And I really wanted to make a record that blended my favorite elements of Death & Taxes with my favorite elements of Far From Finished since those are the two best Boston based records of the past few years in my opinion. And what better way to do that then to get the captain of each of those ships involved? The relationship I have with those two bands reminds me a lot of the relationships I had with other bands in Boston when we were just starting out. And that feeling has been gone for a long time. It feels like some sort of "all for one" spirit in a way. And that sort of positivity often slips away as you get older so it's nice to revisit that and see it live again.
What can you tell me about the record? What kind of sound can people expect?
I consider everything I do to be relatively similar. Now the songs can be faster or slower, layered or sparse but it's all the same at the root. And I'd like to think that people know what they're getting to an extent when they buy one of my records. I guess what I'm saying is that I'd like to think that I have a defined sound. Maybe that's wishful thinking but if I didn't see it that way then I may as well quit. So there is that sound at the root of it. There's pretty awesome musicianship on this record. And there are some great backing vocals to add the frosting to the cake. We recorded the CD at the Outpost where we did "Three Chords and the Truth" and "The War Back Home" so you know you're getting a huge sounding record from the best studio in Boston. For those that are unaware, the Outpost is the studio that has produced all of the Dropkick Murphys records and the best of Ramallah, The Unseen, Far From Finished, Death & Taxes and a million other great records. So it sounds really pro for the cost and association of an underground band.
You mentioned on your blog that this is probably the best thing you've ever done. Why do you think that is? Is it that you feel you've matured as a songwriter or that you have more say in how the songs are shaped?
This is another one of those things that I have to push for or else give it all up. I always see the newest as being the best. When I stop seeing it that way then I'll gladly give it up and retire from making records. But I feel that my best has yet to be heard. And I also pride myself on the fact that I've steadily improved over the years while a lot of bands out there blow their wad on their first record and just spend the remainder of their careers chasing their former glory. In a lot of ways I feel like I still have something to prove.
As far as this record goes, it just has a lot of hooks. Each song is free standing on its own and yet it works well as a group. A lot of CD's get released these days and they have one, maybe two, decent songs on them and a lot of filler. We worked hard to assemble a record that had no filler on it. And I believe we've been successful with that. Its eleven songs that all have a life of their own, they all have something to say to your average person, and they're all memorable. And that's really why I back this one as saying it's the best thing I've ever done.
A lot of times bands are rushed to make records. Maybe they are rushed by a label or have some self imposed timeline where they need to get it done and out in stores so they can resume touring or playing shows. I've been restricted by those sorts of timelines before and now I've been free of any obligations and I can say with complete certainty that the lack of a deadline makes a better record. I was able to amass a ton of songs for this CD and then choose the best of the best. We had rehearsed all of the songs before we even set a recording date. And from there we recorded incrementally leaving time for new ideas to come forward that could be added. It sure beats the idea of a band having a rigorous touring schedule with only a month off to write and record a CD. So many bands deal with that sort of arrangement and that's half the reason why so many of us spend money on CD's that are less than what they could be. I'd like to think we avoided that here and that's what makes this the best record I've been a part of. And that's what makes this a record worth people's hard earned money. I want to always strive for the best that I can do at any given time. I don't want to shit out a CD and have people waste their money. After all, I'm a music fan too so I know how important that can be to people.
I was reading online that you had written around 50 songs for this record - how tough is it to decide which ones make the cut?
In hindsight it didn't seem like a hard decision. But I'm trying to get my mind focused on the next record now and I'm having a lot of difficulty choosing the stand out songs that I'd like to pursue for the next one. When we started putting this record together I basically looked for the songs that had the maximum hook potential. And that's what we followed. For the next one I'm looking to create a mood for the CD and that may be a little tougher. But who knows where I'll be in a few months when its time to start rehearsing new material.
There is always the chance that the song people would really love got overlooked. I guess you just gotta trust your judgment when you're making a record. They say that Springsteen recorded 75 songs for "Born in the USA". There were seven singles off that album and it sold like 15 million copies. Who will ever know if there were more hits that he overlooked? Same is said for Rancid with "Life Won't Wait". Supposedly they did 100 songs for that record and I think there were 23 in the end. We're not about to get famous like those bands but maybe there were some that would make the CD even better. Who knows? That's where people get to judge it I guess.
Will many of those other songs see the light of day?
I suppose it depends. I had come up with a lot of songs for "Three Chords and the Truth" when Ducky Boys came back to life. Some of those turned up on "The War Back Home" or "Death of Jail" so I suppose it could happen. I don't plan to quit any time soon. But the songs that are leftover could potentially be passed over again if better ones come along between now and then so I guess we'll have to wait and see.
So did the Ducky Boys officially break up or just taking some time off?
I don't think we'll ever break up. But we're older now and the other 2 guys are pretty much married and starting families. I'm the only one that is still living like I'm 21. So we'll play or record when we can but it will be a bit different than it was in the past when we'd be out playing every weekend and practicing a couple of nights per week. We just have to be more practical about it. We do still itch to make new music so that's a possibility for the future.
You put out your first solo record a couple of years ago after decades of playing in bands. Why did you decide to try and go it alone?
I think there is a certain confidence required to do that. You have to be willing to accept the blame and criticism as much as the praise. A friend of mine was advising me to move forward with a solo career in lieu of having the Ducky Boys comeback in 2003. But I'm glad that I've taken each step along the way. I wasn't ready for that then. Each step has been a learning experience and it's helped me focus my vision of what I want to do… and in some cases it's helped me learn what I don't want to do. This is just the next phase of growing up on record.
Do you plan on doing any touring behind the new record?
That's really hard to do. There are limitations imposed on people as they get older and have bills to pay. I'll never be a full time touring band. I see it as having a negative impact on the music. But I'd still like to get out there once in a while for a good time. I guess we'll have to see how things go. We have decided to make some videos for this record in place of touring. Of course we still want to promote the record. The first video, "New Years Day", is up on BlankTV and it's been watched 40,000 times already. You'd have to play 200 shows to get in front of that many people in this business so we're eager to explore other options in addition to live shows.
Anything else you'd like to add?
I guess I'd just like to thank people for reading. Thank you for doing this interview. And thank everyone that has checked out my releases over the past 10+ years. I really appreciate it and I hope they continue to stick around. You can hit up my website at www.mark-lind.com and hear some songs there and see some videos there.