UniMuta: Hello Roddie. Let me congratulate you with 20 years of Muffin Men.
It seems like Eindhoven and Guus' Zappadays happened only a couple of years ago...
Roddie / The Muffin Men: Well, who would have thought we would be here 20 years later, phew!
UniMuta: You founded The Muffin Men in 1990. At that time there were only a handful of bands performing the music of FZ. Could you ever imagine that, 20 years later, we would have big bands, baroque, classical and jazz ensembles, and of course, numerous rock bands, that would devote all their time and efforts into Zappa's music?
Roddie / The Muffin Men: Yes, there were only a few bands playing Zapper stuff back then: Marco's Bleeding Romeo in Holland, one in sweden and a few others. Back then I think we all just played Zapper because we loved the music and it was more of a challenge than a lot of other rock type stuff. We were just a rock band, with a few guys who had also a jazz background. But ultimately we were guys who liked playing in bars and having a good time. Later we developed and got a little more advanced with the material we played. Things progressed and we ended up working with people we never dreamed we could play with.
UniMuta: The Muffin Men performed at the second and at the third edition of the Zappanale Festival (1991 and 1992). You came back in 2003 and did two concerts on two days: the first one with Jimmy Carl Black and Eugene Chadbourne, the second one with Napoleon Murphy Brock and Ike Willis (released on DVD!!).
Can you share some of your recollections / favourite moments with us?
Roddie / The Muffin Men: That first european tour was a great learning curve for us. We got to meet a lot of great people who would become very important to the band development. The very first trip was put together with a few hardcore fans (Guus Veldhuis, Peter Gors and Harald Koob) on a shoestring budget. In fact, all the band paid a couple of hundred pounds each to do it - we had to hire a bus and a van for all the equipment, I think 11 people travelled.
Back in those days things were very different: no mobile phones or internet, and all the arranging and communication was by post. The itinery was ridiculous. Our first gig was near Frankfurt, then we went back to Eindhoven, then across to Weimar, back to Belgium and then all the way over to Stralsund to play for the Arfs, finally finishing with a two day drive back to England! The travelling was horrific but the gigs were great. I remember there was practically no infrastructure in the old east germany. It was a very interesting time. Over the following years we saw many changes in germany.
We kept getting asked back to europe, so over the following years we built a following and the tours got longer, the band got tighter and we got to play with some fantastic musicians who became great friends. We did play other shows for the Arf Society guys, although these weren't "Zappanale" shows: we played around Rostock, Berlin and quite a few towns in that region during the mid/late 1990's.
Our return to "Zappanale" in 2003 was a great time. We got to re-unite with Ike after 9 years, played with Nappy and Mike Keneally for the first time, as well as a nice set with Jimmy Carl.
There are so many good memories, along with a few low times from over the years. It would need a lot of time and space to tell it all. (maybe you should do a full interview to hear more details!)
UniMuta: The Muffin Men website says that Denny Walley will be joining you on stage at Zappanale. That's great. How did you talk him into it?
Roddie / The Muffin Men: Yes, Denny is joining us for Zappanale this year, and we are really looking forward to that! Denny is a fantastic person and a dynamite guitarist/singer. I worked with him for 5 weeks on the Magic Band tour and we became great mates. He is a dear old friend of Jimmy Carl too, so that made things so easy. We have wanted to play together for ages, but this is the first real opportunity we've had. We are discussing what to play, and Denny is in touch with all the other guys (Ike, Ray, Robert) to plan the set. We will have two days to rehearse our set. It should be a wonderful time!
UniMuta: What are the future plans for The Muffin Men? You said that you were recording original material. How is this evolving? Will you include any of this at the Zappanale gig, or will it be strictly Zappa?
Roddie / The Muffin Men: Since Jimmy passed away things have been quiet for us. We wanted time out to think about ways forward. Jimmy became a big part of The Muffins. He was with us longer than he was in The Mothers. We didn't feel like playing live for a while, but we did spend some time recording some original stuff. We have about 6 songs finished. They will be available in the next few months, probably for free from our website. The website a now very old and out of date. The guy who built it went away, so all we get to do is update the news page occasionally. We need a new site building. That is one of the many things we need to sort out.
The internet has changed things drastically in the last few years. You play a gig and half of it is up on YouTube within a few days.
This year we have played a couple of gigs. Lots of video from them has been posted up on youtube, so you can see what kind of vibe the band has with this line-up. We will be playing a few more, but don't expect long tours like the old days. We are enjoying playing together. It's great to have most of the original band together again. The old spirit is back. We'll leave all the complicated chamber music to the "real" musicians. We are happy to be playing what we love best - good, honest, straight ahead rock/jazz/blues versions of Zappa stuff, played the way we like it.
UniMuta: My kinda band.
Thank you for your time and see you at Zappanale!
The Muffin Men will be performing the main stage on Friday, the 13th of August at the Zappanale festival.
Their set will be featuring a couple of Zappa sidemen. This will be fun.
If you want to learn more about The Muffin Men, their Muffin Moovies is a great place to start. It's a DVD trio with concert fragments, interviews, and much, much more.
And here's one of those YouTube movies that Roddie mentioned: Live in Larvik 2010.