Mother Hips Time Machine: An Interview with Greg Loiacono
DNA: But back then you had no reference point to draw comparison.
GREG: I grew up in Marin County and I was listening to The Grateful Dead Europe ‘72 when I was in 7th and 8th grade, but by the time I got to high school I was a skate punk and hated the Grateful Dead on principle—I felt like I had to do it. All the chicks in their Beemers with Grateful Dead stickers—then “Touch of Grey” came out and I became hardcore anti! (laughs) Now I’ve made a huge transition. In fact on the new record that comes out in June there is a song called “Freed from a Prison.” I wrote it and Tim sings it on the record. It’s about becoming free from a prison that you didn’t know you were in. Like when you put cages around certain ideas and then realize that they don’t have to be there and that there is a whole other way to think about things—realizing that you have been missing something because you did not make yourself available to it.
“The face of past appeared to stare me down until my eyes went wild.”
DNA: I went from being a Grateful Dead snob to being a Mother Hips snob. (Laughs) I think it’s difficult to draw a lot of comparisons between both bands and I can see why you resisted, initially. Both bands are rugged individualists—and the thing about individualists is that they don’t want to be compared to anybody. So the fact that the media was saying that you were “the next Grateful Dead” was missing the entire point. I think one thing you could say is that like the Grateful Dead every record you release is very different from the previous one. Back to the Grotto is nothing like Green Hills of Earth.
GREG: I would say Later Days and Green Hills are the most different to me. Everybody has their own take on what the band sounds like. I was talking to Tim in Texas the other day and remarked that we were getting to play in front of a lot of people that have never heard us. And the audience liked us but there trying to figure us out. They would ask us what we were like and we would have no answer. We don’t know. If we knew, maybe we would be more successful. (laughs) People just ache to compartmentalize us—“it’s like this…but…”.
DNA: As a music journalist, some editors are very uncomfortable with broad, colorful descriptions. They believe the reading audience wants a peg to hang their hat on—and they are probably right. I would prefer to tell people “The Mother Hips are like the Flying Burrito Brothers and Bach—does that help?”
GREG: On a scale of one to ten, how much do they sound like Radiohead, or the Black Keys or whatever the new thing is? (laughs)
“The sounds I feared to hear were never gone they were always just near enough to remind me that music is the one thing I cannot live without.”
DNA: As you get older and the blinders come down and you embrace new ways of perceiving things, how does that translate to the band being on the road? Have you guys changed the ways you do things on tour? I would imagine after 20 years that you have perfected the art of touring.
GREG: It’s very specific, particularly when we go out of the state. Usually it’s just the four of us and we’ll fly in, we’ll rent a car, we’ll go the venue to check the gear. We usually have to borrow gear, or rent gear from another band or from the backline and we’ll do 2-4 shows. Sometimes it’s a Wednesday through Saturday and we’re in this mini-van all together. No crew. I do all the tour managing on the road and set-up and the merch. I do everything on the road except write the setlist. And then we leave. Go to the airport, return the car and then go. It always feels like we’re parachuting into a region where we spray our rock and roll on as many people as we can and then leave and hope they liked it. California is more tour-y. We still cut out for 3-4 days at a time and occasionally like when we went to Europe over the summer, 10 days.
DNA: This was your second trip to Europe?
GREG: I had gone with Tim and done a handful of shows previously. A couple with Rodrigo y Gabriela, we opened for them in Camden in London and Paris. Acoustic shows, you know, old school style, Tim & Greg, pre-Ballpoint Birds. We had to play upbeat rock songs when we played with Rodrigo y Gabriela because they dwell in the flamenco realm although they don’t consider themselves flamenco players—but it’s hardcore music, you can dance the entire time. The first time we played with them we were trying to do “Daisy & Joaquin” and people were dozing off.
DNA: There was an interview with you and Tim in Bill DeBlonk’s documentary This is the Sound where you guys talk about how you would like to do an entire evening of slow ballads but the fans wouldn’t let you. Do you still find this to be true?
GREG: Yes, as far as the dynamic of the music, a lot of the places we play we cannot get away with it. Even “This is a Man” begins so quiet and slow. Lately Tim has been getting really pissed because he’s trying to sing. In Austin the other night, it was pretty funny and it kind of worked too, he said, “This song starts off kind of slow, so let’s raise our glasses and before the song starts let’s have a big drink of shut the fuck up.” At first I was like “uh-oh” and they were quieter at first—it doesn’t feel good for us when people are yapping. We just had one of those “every once in a while” shows at Mystic Hot Springs in Monroe, Utah, trippy place. They didn’t have alcohol at the venue although people were drinking at their campsites. It wasn’t a bar scene, it was dead quiet. We played a full show and able to bring the dynamics down. But we really don’t play any of our melody songs live because people will talk right over them. It’s not worth it to us and it’s kind of a bummer.
DNA: Tim’s turning into Andrew Dice Clay.
GREG: No holds barred.
Lyrics to “Freed from a Prison” courtesy of The Mother Hips and Greg Loiacono.
DNA is a Deadhead/Hiphead and has been contributing to jambands for a long time. You can find out more about his stand-up comedy and stuff at www.votedna.com