Having survived the punk revolution of the late ’70s and early ’80s, I can attest to the magic that surrounded the era. Seeing the Hoods at Cantone’s, the Rat and Chet’s Last Call gives me the credibility to pronounce this trio as one of the most influential audible architects of their time as well. Who amongst us doesn’t have a great memory involving this band? A generation later, Minehan reminds us all about the timelessness of attitude, creativity, and talent. His recollections are fascinating and just as important and captivating today.
Noise: The current lineup of the Neighborhoods is you on guitar and vocals, Lee Harrington on bass and vocals, and John Lynch on drums. Former members include Mike Quaglia, John Hartcorn, Carl Coletti, Tim Green, Dan Batal, and Jim Bowman. How has the dynamic of the band changed with the lineup changes.
David: First off there is the original line-up that is sacred DNA—Jimmy B, Careful Mike, and I had all the spirit, hunger and “habits” to make it up as we went along, and those will always be the best times as far as reckless rock ’n’ roll lust and blood-sport goes. After that it’s all about the changes in the music and people who seem to be crazy enough to enter the dragon that is the Neighborhoods. I’ve been spoiled by those killers who’ve shared all those tours, stages, vans, hotels, radio shows, TV shows, in stores, flights, fights, cities, states, countries, and subsequent gravy-trains of perks. I love them all and am indebted to their incredible dedication and talents. We always played for keeps at every show.
Noise: The Hoods won the WBCN Rumble 34 years ago, in 1978. Is there really a Rumble Winner’s Curse?
David: 34 years ago? No farqing way! That was 33 years ago, there’s a big difference. We won the year before WBCN started sponsoring the event. No big payday like the years following. Cursed? Not this guy. That was just the beginning of 15 years of living the dream of a working musician, singer, songwriter, performer. If anyone told me when I was 13 practicing guitar in my basement that I’d be traveling with Bowie, Aerosmith, Cheap Trick someday, I’d piss myself. Met and played with so many of my heroes I can die very happy. Of course there are nightmares along the way but any band is quite capable of cursing themselves regardless of their lottery ticket chances of really making it.
Noise: Is “Prettiest Girl” still the local single with the greatest sales?
David: I can’t believe it could still be after all this time. I have no idea who could verify this, but in that era it was huge. It also shows you what local commercial radio could do when they had their own freedom and power to throw some local music on the playlists. Never mind that today DJ’s don’t even get to choose what music to play. Deep respect for the legendary Carmelita and Angelle’s local shows. Thank Satan for WMBR, WERS, WZBC, WFNX et al! Corporate syndicated radio and music don’t mix—don’t get me going! I don’t know what’s worse, the top 40 hyped Hip Hop Fop or the remnants of Rock Radio Alternative Commercial Radio. Do we really need to keep hearing the Foo Fighters, Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots trinity of “rock” as the default setting ad nauseum? I guess radio is obsolete now, YouTube and Pandora is the new radio! All said, we still have the best radio and clubs in such a small concentration of our fair city.
Noise: You’ve been the ears at Woolly Mammoth Studios for a long time. What are some of the successes you’ve experienced and some of the failures where you didn’t achieve what you were trying to get? How about a wild story about a situation that occurred there?
David: Yup, I opened Woolly Mammoth Sound in January 1998, and it’s been a fantastic success for me and our clients. A couple of credos in the Woolly Mammoth Manifesto would be something along the lines of having such great rooms and gear that nothing “technical” should get in the way of a band setting up and killing it. Another big one is to take the collective experience of mine in the trenches all those years and help bands and songwriters not shoot themselves in the foot making a great record. There are so many snakes in the grass building a band and writing songs that many bands’ and songwriters’ vision can fall woefully short if not skillfully (diplomatically) attended to. So that’s where my producer’s hat comes on, and we get into the nitty gritty of the process. Usually a band is a much better “band” after working through a project at Woolly Mammoth. I’d also like to stress that unlike a lot of producers out there who seem to produce records in their “whatever it takes” mode of over-production and dishonest machinations, I really try to keep a reality check on what may be perceived as a band or songwriter’s human capabilities bringing it live to a show. Of course I’ll offer extra melodic ideas, especially counter melodies, but when I hear recordings that sound more like a producer than a band, I’m not as intrigued and the mystique is ruined. Other than that there is the usual insanity which tends to keeps us all amused. If I do see a troubling situation emerging in our sonic utopia I usually head it off at the pass. The “tell all” Woolly Mammoth exposé may come out in some blog sort of way someday, sort of like Mixerman, but without the mean-spiritedness because there are many many madcap capers to recount for sure! And when the time is right I will name names—ha!
Noise: What’s the story on Paul Westerberg and you playing the Monkees’ “Daydream Believer”? Why did you choose that song over, say, “Stepping Stone” or “Pleasant Valley Sunday”?
David: Suffice to say it was Paul’s tour and I was happy to play anything he wanted to play. Of course his taste in music is all-encompassing as well as impeccable. We are the same age anyway, and I probably bought that Monkees album the same week he did back in the day. The Hoods used to cover “She” back in the day as well. Godspeed Davy J.
Noise: Any regrets you have during your career?
David: Of course there will be the perfect 20/20 hindsight and woulda, coulda, shoulda’s to consider but it’s a waste of time to replay that stuff. If anything, I can almost entertain myself with some of my more glorious career implosions in full view of the industry. If I didn’t have teenage daughters who might read about such tawdry transgressions then maybe I’d divulge the dirt. Hmmm, maybe not…
Noise: What do you think your legacy on the local music scene is, and is it different from what you would like it to be?
David: I’d be an idiot to answer that… except to say that there are still great bands out there every week in clubland.
Noise: Could you write “Arrogance,” “Salt,” or “King of Rats” today?
David: Lee wrote the tough-love bare-knuckles Cad Rock epic “King of Rats,” but regarding the other tunes mentioned would be a yes, I could write them again as they are about real people who gave me such inspiration to do so.
Noise: How has the local music scene changed over the years?
David: It’s got to change or else—drag city. This is a good thing. The trouble today seems everyone goes to their particular musical church denominations and houses of worship that not much cross-pollination of bands and fans in clubs is happening. I also think we are due for another big shake-up. I’ve been lucky to see a few in the last three decades and that energy released in such explosions is very exciting. Sorry, steam punk doesn’t count and DJ’s will never be rock stars in my book. Gotta play, sing, write, and perform banging noises made from human hands. Otherwise it’s a headphone or disco trip. Not saying I don’t like some of the heavys out there, but there is a big difference. Live music rules. There’s more sex in it.
Noise: What is the greatest difficulty a band has today trying to get their music heard?
David: The sheer tsunami of mediocrity is like cholesterol choking the blood vessels of music right now. There are a lot of Garage Band hobbyists out there with slick websites, Facebook friends, and Twitter self-hype, but no real-world chops or stage experience. It’s a lot harder to comb through the chaff and find the real deals. Ironically these same tools can help bands with the right stuff get out into the world so much easier than 20 years ago. And yet it’s the same old song and dance after all this time in terms of money buying press, playlists, and prestige. Everyone seems to have to pay to play. From the Big Takeover to Rolling Stone—the quid pro quo money game is ON! But hey, you don’t start a band to make it in the first place, right?