DIRT MALL – “Got The Goat By The Horns” CD ’07 (Daykamp, US) – I’m a Baltimore Orioles fan. Kind of a tough admission for the last, oh say 11 years or so, but they’re the hometown guys and I’ve always followed ‘em. And, this year, I have to admit having been caught up in Rays Mania…hard to resist that ol’ “worst-to-first” appeal. So, given that DIRT MALL is from Boston, home of the Red Sox, I’d usually meet them in a spate of aggression that would involve bared teeth, shouted invectives and gunfire. The problem I’m having in summoning up such ire based DM’s point of origin is the fact that on this disc, they’ve somehow channeled the collective spirits of Angus Young circa. ’77, Tony Iommi and Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser. The results of all that have been taken, lovingly shoved in a meat grinder seasoned with their own charm & style and come out the other side with one of the best rock albums I never heard last year (2007). True enough, Maynard, the minute “Hello Los Angeles” comes thundering out of the speakers, driven as it is with it’s super-panned AC/DC riffs & snotty-cool vox, you just know you’ve got a winner. Not hurting their chances one bit for Heroes Of The ‘Realm status are the further-reaching nuggets that pop up. See, while the album is chock full of more straight-ahead, bash-your-face rawk, some oddities crop up that raise it to the next level. For instance, how ‘bout that driving yet vocally-eerie BOC-styled “Rows?” Or pause to consider the lengthy, nearly doom-laden epic “The Demons & The Damned.” And then, listen as the disc finishes with it’s strongest song, the massive “Ghosts Descend,” in which Johnny Anguish and Jason “Jay” Murray let loose a riff mid-song that Mr. Iommi would have given his left hand for in 1972. Good stuff? Oh yeah, this is that & then some. The only thing I can add to the “buy now” recommendation is read the following interview with Johnny and Jay to learn more about rawk and laugh a little. Do ya good, son. (DIRT MALL is rounded out by: Jamie Griffith – bass & Derek Madeiros (drums). 9.0
RAY - What are the origins of DIRT MALL? Did someone just roll up one day with a huge dump truck and unload your sorry asses like a pile of potting soil on steroids or was there something vaguely musical, concerning influences, trying to impress women, stuff like that?
JOHNNY - It was a better band name than 'Beep Beep I'm A Shiny Blue Car'. Marginally.
JAY - 'Shit Truck' was already taken by some dudes in Worcester.
RAY - There was an edict handed down in the early '90's that guitar solos were no longer allowed in rock music. Didn't you guys get that memo?
JOHNNY - Metallica dared us to do a record with lots of guitar solos, so we did. The success of "Got The Goat By The Horns" is the whole reason Metallica went back to having guitar solos on "Death Magnetic".
JAY - We're not playing these solos for us, or even our children or their children. We're playing them for our children's nieces & nephews, but only the cool ones, and only on Wednesdays.
RAY - Is "Got The Goat By The Horns" the first album you've done? How quick did the songs come together? Is your writing a natural, smooth flowing process or did Angus Young come in and, at gunpoint, say "Show me what a good album is! Now!"
JAY - Actually, that's exactly what happened. Dude is tiny.
RAY - Do you guys use all Gibsons thru Marshalls? If so, where did you get such a novel idea? If not, what kinds of equipment do you generally beat the shit out of?
JOHNNY - Pretty close. We use Gibsons through oddball Mesa Boogie amps that don't have the typical high-gain sound you think of with Mesa amps. The secret to our sound is Jamie's Gibson Les Paul Triumph bass. Don't tell anyone.
RAY - RED LIGHT CHALLENGE! What is the difference between a woman's adam's apple and the number 51? Don't be bashful, even though this one addresses tough issues.
JAY - One is caused by unicorn bites, the other is the year (A.D.) that governor Publius Ostorius Scapula defeats Caratacus and the Silures in the territory of the Ordovices in central Wales.
RAY - "Got The Goat." provides an interesting dichotomy, in that on one hand you've got the straight-ahead rock cuts like "Hello Los Angeles" & "Medicate Today." Then, you've got the more left-field stuff like "Rows" (I'm reminded of Blue Oyster Cult here, lyrically), "The Demons & The Damned" (surely your epic!) & "Ghosts Descend" (Tony Iommi would have killed for the riff that comes up part the way thru this in 1972). What can you tell me about the lyrics of these couple, they are quite intriguing! But remember, I found the movie "American Pie" intriguing. Just kidding. I think.
JOHNNY - I almost always write lyrics that are very personal to me. The weird thing is that the more specific I think I'm getting, the more abstract the lyrics become. I guess it's a defense mechanism. It's also the reason I hate talking about the lyrics I write. "Ghosts Descend" is one of the few exceptions. We had the other songs finished, but we wanted a new tune to close out the record. Something a little different. As we were kicking around some ideas, I pulled out this poem that I never thought would become a song. I liked the way the music complimented the visuals of the poem. It seemed to fit, so we used it.
RAY - Did you finance "Got The Goat." yourselves? I take it that it's a private, self-release? What do you think is going to happen in the music industry? Are CD's themselves going the way of the Edsel? Is downloading the future? Or, are there plans to release your next album as a box set of 5 vinyl 7-inchers?
JOHNNY - Yeah, it's a DIY release. With the technology that's out there today, I think dedicated well organized bands are re-inventing the business of music. It's even changing for those of us that do this more recreationally. There are sites out there that impact just about every aspect of band life. Social networking sites provide communication and discovery outlets that didn't exist before. Blogs are a great way to get reviews. Digital distribution can cut down on manufacturing costs and make your music available to just about anyone. Personally? I like physical music products. I like browsing at record stores. I like reading liner notes and checking out the artwork. These things somehow make the music less disposable to me. It makes a connection. That's what scares me about downloads. I feel like they may be creating an environment where music is a disposable commodity.
RAY - What is the climate like in your area for live gigs? I don't mean that if you play outside is it freezing, but are there clubs that allow you to play? Furthermore, are there any that actually pay you? How far outside your general locale have you ventured to bring the auditory pain?
JOHNNY - Boston is a tough place to book shows because there are about two million bands in this town. There are some really good clubs, but all of those other bands are trying to get the same nights you are. Most of those bands will bribe the local booking agents with gifts of baked goods and designer sunglasses. We're above that. We haven't played outside of the Boston area due to Derek's over-developed sense of smell. It's crippling.
RAY - Do you any of you guys have kids (my wife & I have 5)? How does a family life affect what you might be willing to consider in terms of touring? (I'll have you know I just won a bet that I could ask an entirely serious ? with that one!)
JOHNNY - Derek and I each have a kid. Not together. Two different kids - one each. It was easy to tour when they fit in the kick drum, but it's getting harder now.
JAY - I have a dog that kills small animals.
RAY - RED LIGHT CHALLENGE! What is the phone number of the finest looking woman who ever attended a DIRT MALL gig? Describe her in agonizing detail.
JOHNNY - The gag-order for Jay's upcoming trial doesn't really allow us to talk about this.
RAY - Any new songs happening in the DIRT MALL pipeline? What "dirt" (ouch!) can you give us on any new stuff? Should we expect a concept piece called something like "2113" in the future?
JAY - Lots of new songs, if only we could play them well.
JOHNNY - Jay doesn't play them well better than any of us.
RAY - In the long and storied history of this band we call DIRT MALL, what is the most odd, bizarre, stupid or disturbing event that has ever taken place? Be careful, my mother is reading this. (Not really)
JOHNNY - Again, the gag-order for Jay's upcoming trial doesn't really allow us to talk about this.
RAY - Any final words, phrases or even complete sentences for the RAYSREALM world?
JAY - Plastics.
So you say you like rawk?! Well, I say your collection would be a little more legitimate if it included the spanker of shiny circular media by DIRT MALL called “Got The Goat By The Horns.” Like AC/DC with a dash of doom, like COBRETTI with a pinch of BOC, hell maybe like Red Sox fans if they didn’t smell funny. This is a good ‘un.