Thursday, November 19, 2015
A SHORT CHAT WITH MUFFIN MAN RODDIE GILLIARD
The Muffin Men are celebrating their 25th anniversary.
Celebrate it with them and join them on one of these dates:
Nov 20 at The Continental in Preston;
Nov 27 at The Box in Crewe
Nov 28 at Greystones in Sheffield
Dec 20 at The Cavern in Liverpool
Presumably very occupied baking the birthday cake, Chief Muffin Roddie could be convinced to answer some questions.
UniMuta : Roddie, please let me congratulate you with 25 years of Muffin Madness.
I'm happy to hear that you will be doing a couple of gigs to celebrate the 25th anniversary of The Muffin Men.
Tell us a bit about these upcoming gigs.
Roddie : Thank you Peter. We never thought that things would go so far! There have been many ups and downs over the years, but somehow we have managed to keep things moving. The best thing is, we are playing a gig exactly 25 years to the day of that very first gig. There will be at least 13 Muffins at The Cavern Gig, including all of the original line-up except for Roy Stringer who sadly passed away almost 15 years ago. Everyone involved is living in or around the Liverpool area, sadly we can’t have any of our friends from the US with us, due to the expense of flights etc., so this will be very much a home grown event.
We couldn’t be sure that everyone would be available, or want to do it, but we are pleased that everyone has agreed to turn up. For the last 4 years the core band has been a quartet, consisting of 3 original members, Rhino, Jumpy and me, along with Phil Hearn on keyboards. It will be great to extend the band, especially with horns, and different guitars, drummers and bass.
When we asked Mike Kidson if he was available to play, we were happy to learn that he has a few months off from his real job with The Australian Pink Floyd. He has agreed to join us in the 3 November gigs, so they will be as a quintet. It is 20 years since he played with us, so anyone who has never seen him will be in for a suprise, he is a one off and one of the true spirits of the original band.
As for the Cavern gig, we will be joined by Bammo, our original singer/guitarist, Naraish on bass and Waco on keyboards, then we will have Steve Belger who played drums on the 1993 tour, Friz on bass, then Carl, Tilo and Martin will also be joining in. Mike Smith is also coming. So we are trying to plan some sort of evolving line-up. No doubt there will be some sort of massed big band chaos towards the end. The gig will take place in the afternoon between 3-6pm.
UniMuta : Sounds great. I also heard / read somewhere that you're considering a tour in Germany early next year.
Roddie : We had Ulli look at the possibility of doing a short German tour next May, but so far nothing arrange.
UniMuta : Too bad. But if it does happen, just be sure to add some dates in Belgium and in The Netherlands.
During your latest German tour, you had a female guest vocalist. How did that come about?
Roddie : The last short German tour was very interesting, especially having Silke Gonska singing with us, the first female Muffin! Silke is from Thuringia, she is a voice tutor at Erfurt University. She had previously sang Zappa with Ensemble Creativ. Ulli has known her for many years, so he suggested it might be an interesting collaboration. We found out the she had seen us several times back in the old days, when she was studying in Weimar in 1992. She used to see us playing in the old East German student clubs. ...
UniMuta : You've done numerous concerts with The Muffin Men, recorded an impressive lot of albums and toured and recorded with Jimmy Carl Black, and Denny Walley, just to name two.
Roddie : Well, do you know, Jimmy actually played with the Muffin Men for longer than he played in The Mothers, he is a big part of our history, and a dear friend, we missed him so much. We have been fortunate to play with many of the Zappa guys, some of them many times. Jimmy was always in contact with Denny and often told him about the Muffin Men. So when Denny started coming back to England with The Magic Band we got together.
UniMuta : You even drove the Magic Band around in the UK, right? Pretty incredible. Is there something that you still have on you bucket list, music-wise?
Roddie : Yep, I drove The Magic Band around for 6 weeks in 2005, it was great spending time with those guys, we became good friends and I got to see and hear the music up close. It was a joy to watch Rockette and Drumbo each night. Who knows what’s around the next corner, let’s just wait and see.
UniMuta : One of my fondest MMM (Muffin Men memories) is the concert that you guys did with Ike Willis at 'De Wollewei' in my home town Turnhout somewhere in the ninetees. Hard to believe, but I recently got a copy of the poster from that gig from one of my friends. Out of the blue. After 20 years...
Roddie : Ike Willis played a 9 week tour with us in 1994, that was the first time he had been on the road since the 1988 Zappa tour. It was a long hard tour, the weather was bad and we travelled many miles. Ike got sick and missed a few gigs, but we did have a great tour, with that real voice at the front. That was probably the line-up that sounded most like a Zappa band, we had 2 keyboard players, 3 guitars and horns.
UniMuta : The good old days...
20 years ago, The Muffin Men were the only band to perform the music of Frank Zappa.
Nowadays, you've got Zappa Plays Zappa, the Banned From Utopia, The Grandmothers, and lots of other bands.
Roddie : Well, there were several bands who played Zappa music before we did, if fact 2 of them were Dutch, Gruppo Sportivo did a bunch of Zappa/Mothers songs, then there was Bleeding Romeo from Eindhoven led by Marco, they were fun guys. I suppose we were the first band to cross borders in Europe, certainly before most of the ex-Zappa guys started performing the music again.
The Band from Utopia actually came together through Reinhard Preuss, who arranged the Jazz Open gig in Stuttgart in 1994, that came about after we had done the tour with Ike. Originally the plan was for the Muffins to be the house band, with various ex-Zappa guests playing with us, but it soon grew into something bigger and before we knew it, there was a full band of alumni.
UniMuta : Do you have the impression that there's more interest in Zappa's music now than 20 years ago? Did time finally catch up with Zappa's music?
Roddie : Obviously when we first started out, the majority of the audience were 1st and 2nd generation Zappa followers, but over the years there have been younger people turning up as well as the original audience. Younger musicians who search for interesting sounds and harmony come to see and hear it live. Although the audience is not massive, there is a small appreciative audience for it. The fact that there are so many bands playing the music live now is living proof that Good Music will always stand the test of time.
We are currently finalising the details of a 2 week UK tour with Denny for April 2016. It is great to have Denny in the band, his unique slide guitar sound is a joy to have in the band, and he is a fine person to spend time with.
UniMuta : Something to look forward to !!
Thank you for your time, Roddie. We have to do this again real soon.
Music is the best !!