Joe McMahon (from one of my fav bands Smoke Or Fire) just released his debut solo album, it's called Another Life and it's fucking amazing.
He just got off the road with Yotam Ben Horin (Useless ID) and Mike Noegraf and is about to embark on another tour with Joey Balls (Old Man Markley) through Europe, yet he still took the time to answer some e-questions for me about the album, touring, jerking off... you know, the usual. Check it out!
How do you prepare for these long runs away from home, mentally and physically?
JM: A lot of touring musicians share a bit of the same motto...when you're at home you want to be on tour, and when you're on tour you want to be home. I love being on the road, and now that I am in Europe a lot of it is very new to me. I'm playing new cities and countries and meeting new people every day so that keeps it interesting. Getting everything done before you go is the hard part. I know once I'm on the road it's difficult for me to be productive, and before I leave I just want to relax in my own bed and cook in my own kitchen. But when you're planning out the next 5 months of your life you really have to push yourself to get things in order before you go.
Do you have any ‘tour tips’ to share with new bands out there that might be hitting the road for the first time?
JM: Don't be afraid of the struggle. It's good for you. It's what will determine what kind of band you are. The bands that put the time in and "eat shit", as we say, are the bands that will last. Not only that but you will appreciate it later on when you have a good sound system on a proper stage and some food and beer back stage. You'll remember what you went through to get there. The bands that are on the bus their first tour I've noticed are the ones that break up the first time they get a flat tire.
How did the first leg of the tour go with Yotam and Mike!? How was the secret house show?
JM: The first leg of this tour was amazing. Mike Noegraf is so talented and fun to tour with. It was my first time out with Yotam from Useless ID and I think he will be a friend for life. The 3 of us were a good match. Mike starts off all sweet and quiet with his beautiful guitar picking and amazing voice (he's French...go figure) and then I play next with a mix of slower and more aggressive stuff, and then Yotam would come up and have the crowd in a frenzy. We would end the night with the 3 of us in the crowd or up on tables doing a huge song along of "Where Is My Mind" by the Pixies. I don't think I've ever had so many promoters from one tour come up to me and say it was one of the best shows they had ever put on.
Did I see that you played the Ramones Museum in Berlin? How cool is that!?
JM: It's my 3rd time playing there and it never gets any less special. To be playing there surrounded by all of that history. And then you sign the wall along with all of these legends. My name is right next to Milo from the Descendents.
I noticed you shared my One Week Records feature when I was perving your Facebook page for dirt, thank you so much for that! So you’re joining the One Week family!? Tell me more! When are you doing it, how did it come about, what can we expect from it, new songs orrr Smoke or Fire songs orrrr ?
JM: Yes! I am so honored to be part of it. I had sent my new album to Joey Cape and we hung out a few weeks later when he was playing in Bielefeld Germany. He said he really liked the record. He asked me to come up and play a song during his set. Two weeks after I got this really long email from him saying how much he loved the record and can't stop listening to it. He asked me to do a One Week record. I'm not sure what songs it will be. Some old, some new. Joey is all about the song selection and he's an amazing producer. We will record at the end of November after my west coast tour.
Has there ever been any confusion where somebody mistook you or a booking of yours or something for the producer of that show Deadliest Catch who with the same name as you who was murdered last year? I can just imagine you performing somewhere in Florida (shout out to Lauren Mills) and someone thinking that you’re him but like back from the dead or having faked his own death, especially with the title of the solo album, Another Life….
JM: Haha, I had no idea about that guy. He was murdered? Lauren this is a publicists dream!
Speaking of Lauren, how has your experience with Mills On Wheels PR been so far!?
JM: It's great. I love Lauren and I know she is going to be great at this. My record is a learning experience for her but I'm happy to be test subject. She'll make contacts and get better and better. I can't wait to see where she's at in a few years.
And speaking of the solo album (which really should be the topic of this interview right?!) hearing the title track felt like somebody shoved a hand into my chest and ripped out my burnt out heart bulb and left me empty for a second before replacing it with a new working heart bulb and turned it on leaving me bright and happy again. So thank you for that. What’s the story behind that tune and the reason you named the album after it?
JM: Damn. I would say I'm sorry but that is such a cool reaction to the song. The song and album title are kind of literal to me. My life was completely different 6 years ago. It all sort of went away one day. A 7 year relationship ended and along with it went the house, the business...everything. I was at the lowest point in my life. 6 years later and I live in Germany, I play music full time, and I'm the happiest I've ever been. It's almost hard for me to recognize the person who wrote these songs.
The chorus of the song comes from an incident from when I was young. I was in a car accident and my back and neck were in bad shape. I was in physical therapy with this lady who also did weird stuff like cell release for trauma and chakra's and all that. I didn't believe in it until she shot me 5 feet off of a table. Twice. My mom came home one day in a very strange mood and said this woman had been asking all these strange questions about me and about how I was as a child. She told my mom that before we move on we live many lifetimes until we figure out the true meaning of life. She told my mom that this was my last time here. I always found that really interesting.
Although this is your solo album it’s not just you performing each song, you have help from other musicians including Chris Wollard who actually wasn’t part of the original recording right? What happened with him and who else plays on the album with you?
JM: Besides the drums Tim Van Doorn and I played almost every instrument on the record. He's a great musician and so fun to work with and many days and nights we would just sit there passing instruments back and forth and putting whatever we thought was needed into the songs. My friend Thomas played some piano. Lucinda Legaspi added her beautiful voice to a song.
The record was done, I thought, and I was hanging out with Kaleb from as friends rust in Gainesville last year after FEST. We were up late working on a jar of moonshine and he wanted to hear the record. When it got to "chained to ghosts" he made me stop the song and said very confidently "Wollard (Chris) needs to play on this song". Chris agreed and a few weeks later they were in the studio adding some guitars and backing vocals to two of the songs.
What was the solo recording process like vs recording with the band.. like are you harder on yourself to get everything perfect when it’s songs like this that are so personal to you or when you have an entire band that is relying on you? How different is that experience?
JM: It's different for sure. With this project I really took my time and made every decision myself. It's nice to be able to do that, but at the same time you don't have 3 other people you trust there giving you their opinion and making sure it's the right one. Jeremy from Smoke or Fire is my best friend. We bought our first guitars together when we were 15. I remember writing to him when I was going into the studio and saying "this feels weird dude. I can't believe you're not gonna be here". So that's the bummer of it. You've really got to trust that you're making the right decisions on your own. There's a lot more beer in the fridge though. That's cool.
When you’re in a touring band it must be hard to find some quiet you time on the road… have you ever ended up in any weird places while looking for a spot to jerk off or, I guess if you want to be less awkward about it, just find some peace?
JM: Haha, that is one cool thing about traveling solo. I like to wander and get lost and find cool places. We were playing this show with Nothington in the middle of nowhere Germany a few years ago and I wandered off into a field with my guitar. This little old man yelled from his home and at first I thought he was telling me to go away, but he was inviting me in. I went into his house and he gave me beer and lit cigarettes. He didn't speak a word of English but I gathered from his hand motions that it was his birthday and he wanted me to sing for him. I played a show for him and he cried and hugged me. I left thinking how much I love these strange random things and people that come across my path.
I hope you didn't think that story was going to end with someone jerking off.
Speaking of jerking off you’re going to be touring the West Coast sometime soon ish as well aren’t you?
JM: Yes, I will fly out and begin touring in LA on November 11. I haven't been out to the west coast in years. I can't wait.
Come to Canada!?
JM: I would love to. I promise I will.
Anything else coming up that you want to promote before signing off?
JM: Keep an eye out for records from Billy Liar (Edinburgh Scotland) and Dead Neck (UK). I produced Billy's record and I'll be heading to Rome at the end of September to work with Dead Neck. Very very good stuff from these guys.
Grab Joe's solo album Another Life now through Smartpunk Records (US) or Gunner Records!