Saturday, September 08, 2007

Interview: MINK Talks About Their Music and Goals

I had recently had the privilege of reviewing MINK’s self-titled debut album, and I loved it so much I couldn’t stop singing their praises to everyone I met. As luck would have it, I had the opportunity to interview them and find out more about this up and coming band. MINK consists of singer Neal Carlson, drummer Stella Mozgawa, guitarists Nick Maybury and David Lowy, and bassist Grant Fitzpatrick. They graciously took time out of their busy schedules to allow me to interview them, and here is the result.

Hi everyone! Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. I absolutely loved your album, and I'm thrilled to have this opportunity to interview you. Tell me about the birth of MINK. How did it all start?

NEAL: Nick, Grant and I met through a friend who was living in NYC at the time. Our first few jams were very loose and informal, but there was definitely something exciting there because we wrote about nine songs over the course of the seven or eight days. Shortly after that I moved to Australia for awhile to do some touring. It was there that I met Stella (an old friend of Nick's). There was an instant connection and it's been moving very fast since.

Nick comes from a jazz background, and the rest of you from very different backgrounds that include Broadway, garage-rock, punk, and experimental backgrounds. How have your various backgrounds influenced your music in MINK?

NICK: ‘Sonic’, ‘tones’ and ‘emotion’ are my main approach to playing electric guitar. My background and approach has influenced Mink to the extent where I've use a wide range of tones to create my own signature sound - most commonly noticed is the octave fuzz sound, which is really a trick I stole from Hendrix. It's this gnarly, growl-y octave-up effect I use, combined with an overdrive unit to create a distinct lead sound that always cuts through the mix. It can be heard in the "Madame Chung" solo, the "Pressure Pressure" lead parts, and the "Dematerialse" chorus and outro lead parts. Another key element is the use of delay, which processes the guitar signal to repeat and echo. I use it for certain parts to stick out and sound bigger than they are. The Edge is a pure genius at this and a big influence - feedback combined with delay effects is one of my favorite live tricks.

My jazz studies have also become handy in my writing parts for Mink, where I've used passing tones and scale tones around the chords to create my riffs, like in the "Sweeter" chorus, or using the mixolydian mode in the "Pressure Pressure" solo, or building a very basic chord melody approach in "Will Not Let You Down", used before the bridge and outro.

My blues background is also very strong in my approach and the way I play live. I use a clean non-master volume valve amp that needs to be turned up loud to get ‘The Tone’, which has strong roots in blues music even dating back to the African tribes, before modern music had evolved. They would try to distort their instruments by adding shells and beads to create buzz tones and added vibration. To get a good tone you need to get the frequency to respond at a certain level to get enough ‘juice’ to sing…and it sounds more exciting and nasty. That's why we play so loud and why Stella hits so hard on the drums. It's also about feel and attitude and letting your emotions out on the instrument.

Stella, you’ve been called “the female John Bonham” because of your awesome power and speed. John Bonham was the drummer in Led Zeppelin, and is one of modern rock’s most influential and respected drummers. Does that make you feel like you have a reputation to live up to?

STELLA: It's very flattering to be compared to drummers that I have endless respect for. I learnt a great deal from Bonham and a lot of the 60's/70's rock drummers but I wouldn't say I feel pressured to allude to their drumming style. I'm just another music geek!

Neal, I love you...I mean, your voice. Are you married or involved with anyone? Seriously though, you have a unique voice that I really admire, and I love how you get so involved in the songs.

NEAL: Thanks a lot! I love singing. Letting out a good scream is such a great vent for me. Frank Black of the Pixies is one of my heroes and he can scream like a demon.

I thought “Madame Chung” was unique, and “Dematerialize” and “Jodi” had some interesting lyrics. Are there any real life stories or personal experiences that inspired these songs or any of the other songs on your album?

NEAL: I'd say that the most personal songs are “Dematerialize”, “Crazy World” and “Will Not Let You Down”. I wrote the lyrics to “Dematerialize” when I was on the show Rockstar: INXS and the music for the song came together with the band in November 2006. “Crazy World” is one of my favorite tracks on the album.

Sylvia Massy is the noted producer of Tool and Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Chris Shaw is a two-time Grammy winner who worked with Bob Dylan and Wilco. How does it feel to be working with them?

NEAL: It was such an honor to work with Sylvia and Chris. The thing I loved most about working with them was their willingness to experiment and make the experience fun. Sylvia has an incredible studio in Weed, California. For any Twin Peaks fans out there, being in Weed felt like being in the show.

STELLA: Both recording endeavors were really different but both were amazing. We recorded with Chris in New York at Avatar studios; one of the city's most revered studios and we were placed in the ghost town of Weed with Sylvia. She had restored a vaudevillian theatre into a studio, very unique and made for interesting sounds on the record. It was an honor to work with both of them!

NICK: I feel honored to be associated with such well known and talented producer/engineers such as Sylvia Massey and Chris Shaw. I mean, how cool is it to have the opportunity to work with people of that caliber. Sylvia and Chris are very different though: Chris pulls amazing sounds, as does Sylvia, and was more hands on with pre-production, where as Sylvia is a vibe guru and liked to get us pumped every take, ala school of Rick Rubin. None of them are better or worse, just different. Both have outstanding credits. I'm very proud to have heard the last Dylan record form the monitors off the pro tools session at Avatar; that was just a rare special experience (thanks, Chris!). Hopefully we will be in their proud list of credits one day!

You've gone on tour with Saliva and KISS. Tell us about your experience rocking with them.

GRANT: It felt great. They both were a lot of fun to work with and helped us immensely in terms of getting some of our songs in better shape and sonically also.

What are your immediate goals and what do you ultimately want to achieve with MINK?

NEAL: Currently we're on tour with Perry Farrell's Satellite Party. One of the most important things I've learned from Perry is to have fun on stage and be yourself. We're always trying to put on a great show and show our appreciation to everyone who watches us play.

STELLA: Immediate goals: more touring! We love touring the states, can't wait to venture into other territories…check out Europe and Asia. Ultimately we'd like to produce plenty of super albums and build a catalogue that we're really proud of.

GRANT: To keep touring and being a better player and person and to have a career with longevity.

NICK: My immediate goal with Mink is to get as much positive recognition as possible, and sell as many records and shows possible, and be big enough to have people working our myspace for us because we are too busy, get to Japan Europe and kick ass in Australia, do a second album, move the band to LA to write the next album - I think we could revive a rock scene over there - and be bi-coastal. I want to buy some property and build a studio so I can continue to pursue my musical goals in writing new music and to challenge listeners on a commercial level. MULTI-platinum!!! To gain an O-1 Visa and or citizenship in the USA, so I can keep it much more real than what Australia has to offer. KEEP TOURING THE USA - I love it! Make the MINK brand as huge as KISS! And I think we should get a big FUCK OFF neon MINK logo behind us when we start doing headline shows!


Visit MINK's website!

MINK's self-titled debut album is available from


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