DAVID ADDISON SMALL
& THE BORDERLINE SAINTS
by DJ Mätthew Griffin
While Thai dining on the back deck of the home of Borderline Saints frontman David Addison Small, a thunderstorm over Boston’s South End serves up as the perfect backdrop for an evening interview with a new band comprised of veteran players. Mid pad thai, the phone rings—it’s Fritz Erickson. Chip “Taylor” Smith takes the call and exclaims: “I am out on the veranda with the Bowie.” It’s an evening of wine, mythologies, and rehearsal.
Noise: Who are the Borderline Saints?
David Addison Small: A group of friends who have played together in Boston for the past 40 years. The main band members are me, Chip “Taylor” Smith, Jay Orsi, David Yates, and Rick McCarthy.
Noise: All of you are veteran players. What groups have you been involved in?
DAS: I sang and played guitar with the Slugs from Boston, and also with the Refrigerators. Jay Orsi was an original Slug and a Westborough fixture. Chip “Taylor” Smith played with Ground Zero, from Westborough, and myriad of folk, rock, and Americana bands, including his current project—a partnership with Spider John Korner.
Noise: How did you guys originally hook up?
Chip: We all grew up together in Westborough. We were all in the neighborhood just west of Westborough center. Dave wrote his song “A Mile Outside of Town” about that area and how chock full of talent it was. We still play at Mulligan’s, at the Westborough Country Club, which is right in that neighborhood.
Noise: David Yates, where do you fit into this puzzle?
David Yates: What makes being part of the Saints such a joy is the shared history we have. Chip and I actually met in preschool, and were best friends for many years growing up. Together, with Jay, we were in many of the same grade school classes, and we started hanging out with Rick and David S. in high school. The music scene in those days was exploding in the late ’60s, and everyone wanted to be part of a band.
The music we play together now is the result not just of our grown up sensibilities and technical skill, but also of the formative life experiences we’ve shared over these many years. This is all the more rewarding when performing David’s originals—which have such an amazing ability to be both of the moment and eternal. Most important of all, we always have a blast together.
Noise: Why did you pick the name Borderline Saints?
DAS: At first, it was mainly solo vehicles that I used the name Borderline Saints. Now the Borderline Saints is a working band with four singers. We do material from the CDs because Chip and David Yates played on some things, but we also do a lot of classic rock songs that we have always loved: “Turned Down Day” by the the Cyrkle for one! The first CD was called Cryptic. The second was Pajamaland. The third was called 3rd(original, ay?), and the fourth was A Mile Outside of Town. The new CD will be titled Ship of Fools.
Noise: Tell us about Ship of Fools.
DAS: Ship of Fools was recorded at Black Cat Crossing in Harvard, MA., by producer Roger Christie. On the CD, Fritz Erickson of Gang Green and the Future Dads played guitar and encrusted it with his brilliance! This CD has taken two years to create. More care went into this album than any other album. Currently we have four CDs that are available on CD Baby.
Noise: David, you are also a Wormtown original. Tell me about the genesis of Wormtown.
DAS: The Slugs used to play Circe’s a lot. I was the one who came upon the fire at Circe’s that burned the club down, while I was on my way to take a piss. I saw the smoke rolling down the stairwell, so I ran up to John (the owner) and screamed: “There’s a fire!” The Thrills were playing that night. All of the Worcester folk helped them take their equipment out. Unfortunately, two people perished that night.
We would also play at the Rat, Cantone’s, Sir Morgan’s Cove, and the Rusty Nail in the Pioneer Valley. We always did original material. I also played lead guitar on “Ed King”—the famous song by the Vejtabils, produced by Ray Boy Fernandez from that Atlantics. It was a #1 hit on WBCN in 1978.
Noise: Rick, do you also drum for the band the Coyotes?
Rick: I have been their drummer for the past five years. Donnie Bullens is the lead singer. He has kept the band together for many, many years.
Noise: Chip, David tells us that while he was working the punk clubs in the ’80s, you were playing in Americana bands. What was that about?
Chip: I played acoustic guitar in a band based in Cambridge called the Chicken Chokers. We played old time mountain hillbilly music with fiddle and banjo but tried to incorporate the feel of the Ramones. We recorded two albums on Rounder Records and played at the Newport Folk Festival in 1986. Pretty much every review described us as irreverent because so many people playing that music thought it should be played like the old guys did. The purists didn’t care for our approach, but everyone else seemed to.
Noise: Chip, I understand that one of your Westborough bands caused a riot in Elm Park in the early ’70s. What happened?
Chip: Yeah, that’s when I played with Ground Zero. We were scheduled to go on last and the band before us ended their set with a song that went “I’m too fucked up to know and I’m just too stoned to care.” The cops were ready to pull the plug after that, which they literally did during our first song. The crowd was pissed and screaming. Our managers were all over this one cop and convinced him to let the show go on. On went the lights and sound, and we finished the night a triumphant set.
Noise: Tell me about the recording sessions for the first two albums, Cryptic and Pajamaland.
DAS: The sessions for Pajamaland, our second CD, were recorded at Black Cat Crossing Studio in Harvard, MA., and produced and engineered by Roger Christie. Cryptic was the first release. It was recorded with the help and talents of Dave Kenney and Henry Nigro, who I had been playing on and off with for years. Dave passed away a few years back and Henry still plays all over the area with various people. The first tracks were usually just me and an acoustic guitar with a drum track, then we layered more instruments. Dave K. and Henry were on guitars ,but Dave also played bagpipes. Fritz Erickson played more and more on the last two records and also did some singing. Our most recent CD, Ship of Fools, has Fritz playing on every number.
Noise: How did it come about that you’ve gotten together at this stage of your lives?
Chip: About six years ago, I had an inspiration to call our home town guitar guru, Dave Kenney, who was a member of Ground Zero, to start up a band again. We played regularly as the Black Cats, then Dave Kenney was diagnosed with lung cancer and given a year to live. At that point, we went right into recording mode so that we could capture him playing the blues. The recording came out great and we were able to show it to Dave just days before he died.
Now, with that same momentum, we’ve made it a project to feature the songwriting of David Addison Small. He’s got such a large catalogue of great songs at this point. I’ve spent a lot of time going through the tapes in my attic and have found a lot of great lost songs from his Refrigerator days. David Addison Small is one of the most creative guys I know. When he’s not writing songs, he’s doing his Renaissance style paintings for which he’s better known around the world.
Noise: Describe the cover art for the Borderline Saints’ CDs.
DAS: The covers on all four CDs are by me. For Pajamaland, I used a painting that was in my Haunted Monastery show at the Bromfield Gallery. It seemed to fit the title song. For our last CD, A Mile Outside of Town, I did the drawing especially for the record—kind of a take on our hometown of Westborough—sort of a small town pastoral.
The band’s CD release party for Ship Of Fools is on Saturday, July 13 at the Raven, located at 258 Pleasant Street in Worcester, MA.