Photo courtesy of Dirt Mall and Nicole Anguish
Metal Minute: Dirt Mall took an extended break between your first album Got the Goat By the Horns from 2007 and this year’s Pacifuego to do your daddy duties. Tell us about being new fathers playing in a rock ‘n roll band that’s gaining momentum. You hear of so many musicians dropping out altogether when they have children, but you guys are back now after a couple years’ separation from the business. Do you feel any time was lost as a band to focus on your family obligations?
Johnny Anguish: The only reason Dirt Mall exists is to have fun playing some loud rock n' roll. Having two awesome little boys at home doesn't make me want to have less fun! The day of the big Pacifuego record release show, my 3 1/2 year old son was walking around the house singing "You've Got The Whole Thing Wrong." That was the best feeling. Better than the first time I heard one of my songs on the radio--and that feeling never gets old, either. We're not kidding ourselves thinking we're going to be huge rock stars. We just enjoy getting together and making music.
Obviously, things get a little more difficult when you've got kids. Time is the big issue. We didn't play any shows for just over a year around the time my second son was born. We recorded the record during that time, working off and on as our schedules allowed. The guy we recorded the record with had his second child during that timeframe. Our drummer, Derek, got married. It was a busy time. In the end I think the time off did us some good. You get a renewed excitement for things when you've been away from them for a while. We're really happy with the way the record came out and the shows we've been playing have been a lot of fun.
MM: When I think of a dirt mall, I’m thinking of a flea market or one of those farmers markets which were hip in the eighties and you still see now and then in some pockets of the country. Give us a tour of your dirt mall which gave the band its moniker.
JA: No single mall inspired the name. You can always tell when your at the dirt mall, though. If a cigar shop or a locksmith has prime retail space, it's probably a dirt mall. "As Seen On TV" stores, fabric and sewing shops, beauty supply discount stores and dollar stores all take up residence at the dirt mall. If you're walking around and you see any of those, you know what's up. If there's a Frederick's of Hollywood instead of a Victoria's Secret that's usually a dead giveaway.
MM: (laughs) Between both albums, I’d say Dirt Mall is representative in sound of years soaking up bar bands, rock bands, metal bands, plus punk and glam bands. You guys are all over the board on Pacifuego. For instance, “Pearl” has a bit of AC/DC, Rose Tattoo and Faster Pussycat. “Building a Case” has a little bit of Foo Fighters, as does “Rats,” though to a dirtier New York Dolls effect. “Buried By You” shows some Stooges and Dead Boys in there. “I Am the One and Only” is part White Stripes to me as well as Social Distortion. What are some of the coolest live gigs you’ve witnessed over the years which have helped mold Dirt Mall’s widespread fundamentals?
JA: That's tough because I love seeing bands live. Growing up it was mostly metal shows. Guns n' Roses played one of the best and one of the worst shows I've ever seen. Soundgarden opening one of those Gn'R shows was amazing. Metallica was always right there. Faith No More put on the best show during the ill fated Gn'R/Metallica tour. GWAR shows are always a blast. Faster Pussycat and Little Caesar--Ron Young is such and underrated singer--did great sets opening for Kiss.
Since then, my tastes have gone all over the map. The Hellacopters and The Soundtrack of Our Lives are unbelievable live. The very first songs I wrote for Dirt Mall were all about aping the sound of the kick ass rock bands from Sweden. The Dictators and X are two legendary bands that always blow me away. Dinosaur Jr. was easily the loudest show I ever saw. Seeing a Superdrag show always feels like you're hanging out drinking beers with some good friends. Priestess just played here with High On Fire and they were awesome. Don't get me started on all the local Boston bands that have floored me over the years.
MM: Who are the titular clowns in the greased-up “Calling All Clowns?” What are some of the characters in society you’ve seen who might’ve contributed to this sarcastic jam?
JA: Boston has a fantastic music scene. Most of the bands around here are supportive of each other. Heck, most of the people that go to shows these days are the people that are in bands. Every once in a while, however, people forget the old adage "a rising tide lifts all boats."
"Calling All Clowns" was written about an incident on a local music message board where one band that was getting a pretty good national following started getting slagged mercilessly by a few bad apples. Instead of hoping that their success would rub off on some other local bands, these clowns were on a crusade to let everyone know they didn't want said band representing Boston. It wasn't the first time someone acted like an ass on the internet, and it certainly won't be the last.
MM: Amen, brother. You and I had a side discussion earlier this year about music and comic stores, namely their malleability in today’s tech-driven society which is helping driving many to the grave, music stores especially. In your area, you have the Newbury Comics store, which is both for the comics medium as well as music. Not everyone had the foresight to diversify, yet the writing seems on the wall for hard copy music sales if trends continue as they are now. What are your thoughts to these stores being able to hold on today?
JA: Well, it sure does seem like hard copy music is all but dead. It really bums me out, too. Obviously, the music is the most important thing. In that regard, the ability to download just about anything at a moments notice is incredible. It's instant gratification. Plus, it doesn't take up any room on my shelf. The downside is that there is so much new music out there that it's hard for anything to rise above the noise.
Personally, I love having a tangible music product--storage issues aside. Holding the album in my hands and reading through the liner notes is all part of the experience for me. I think the recent resurgence of vinyl is partly because of this. There's just something about seeing a 12" record cover that's infinitely cooler than a 500 pixel image on your computer screen.
A truly great record store would help on both of these fronts. A store with a friendly and knowledgeable staff to shoot the shit with would be fantastic. Ideally, they'd have a great selection of music on hand to browse through as well. I love to flip through CD and record racks. Even then, I'm not sure that would be enough. Newbury Comics is great, but their music selection keeps getting marginalized as they diversify their products to stay in business. They sell just about every knick-knack under the sun these days. I applaud them for doing what it takes to stay alive. I hope independent record stores everywhere can figure out creative ways to meet the needs of music fans.
Copyright 2010 Ray Van Horn, Jr. / The Metal Minute