Home > Music Articles > Q & A With… Gavin McGuire – Mike Got Spiked

Q & A With… Gavin McGuire – Mike Got Spiked

How was the year’s touring?

Gav: ‘Twas only marvelous. I love touring. It’s my favourite part of being in a band. I think it’s also the ultimate test of a band, both individually and collectively.

2009 was a weird year though. We didn’t tour incessantly as in previous years, as we felt we needed to concentrate on the business end of things a bit more. So we based ourselves in Los Angeles from April to October 2009 and did our best to get our name and music in front of people who matter in the industry.

What have been the best/worst moments so far?

Gav: The worst moment of the year was probably when our beloved Dodge Ram Van died on us, a mere 130 miles from Los Angeles last April. We had been all over America in that monster of a van and we were really sad to part ways with it. But alas, it was giving us too much grief, we had some issues with the ownership of the van and ultimately it was gonna cost more to repair than to just jettison it and get another vehicle. That incident was also the first time we had paid for a hotel room in all our time in America.

The best moment of the year? Hmm…tough one. Making it through tour without killing each other is always special! But personally the best moment of the year thus far was the night we recorded our live acoustic album in Hollywood last October [due for release Fri 23rd April].

The place was packed with friends, fans and just randomers alike. Such a great atmosphere and a great night. The fact that we could record a live album, so far from home and still have a crowd in attendance, really made me realise how far we have come since we started out on this adventure.

Speaking of recording, how is your management  ATM treating yis?

Gav: 2009 has been a really tough year for the music industry. The global recession has impacted on everyone including entertainers. As such, the bottomless pit of money that hitherto was being thrown at bands just doesn’t exist anymore. Labels, venues, promoters, bands – are being really cautious right now and are only working with guaranteed money-making ventures.

To that end, our management company have had their hands tied to a great extent.

Moving on, I noticed that ye are living with the lads in Jekyl, how did that one come about?

Gav: Ireland is such a small country that even if you don’t know a band personally, you probably have heard of them. That was kinda how it was with Jekyl. We’ve known Dave [Jekyl’s bassist] since before he was in Jekyl and I think we even played a few shows with them in Ireland back in the day. But I think the first time we met the lads properly was when they approached us for advice on how to relocate to America, the pitfalls to avoid and any other information or knowledge we could impart. That was about 18 months ago now.

It’s been five years since Caveat Emptor, when should we be expecting to hear a new album drop?

Gav: My guess: June 2010. We are doing pre-production right now. Demo-ing songs, deciding which ones should go on the album and what order – all that fun stuff. But we start the recording process a proper in March 2010. We have a studio booked in Los Angeles and hope to have it all tracked in a few weeks. From there, it’s just a matter of getting it mixed, mastered and duplicated before we release it in time for a major tour next June.

And what styles will we be hearing, more of Caveat Emptor or a heavier MGS, angrier after nearly three years of sleeping on people’s floor?

Gav: I think the new album will sound very different from Caveat Emptor. Our first album was written and recorded when we were only in our relative infancy as a band. We were still figuring out what the mike got spiked sound was.

Of course that ‘mike got spiked’ sound is constantly changing and evolving but back then we had 13 songs and all 13 went on Caveat Emptor. We had our hands tied to an extent and didn’t have the luxury of picking our best set of songs. We just used everything we had.

Now we’re older, better musicians, better songwriters and have had three years of life in America. We have had to sacrifice friends, family and loved ones to do what we do, and all those experiences are reflected in the music that we are writing now and which will appear on the album.

Ostensibly we are an angrier band – but it has nothing to do with sleeping on people’s floors! The older you get, the more you realise how fucked up the world is and how each and everyone of us is being fucked by big business every single day of our lives.

I think the lyrical content of our songs is angrier, and reflects what is going on around us. Every musicians says this but I think the music we are writing now, far exceeds anything we have done in the past.

And will it be released both sides of the Atlantic?
Gav: We’re not signed to any label right now, but our plan is to set up our own label and release it ourselves. The album will definitely be on sale both sides of the Atlantic. Ireland is our home and we have great support there but our fanbase is far greater in America after three years of constant touring and promotion.
Speaking of new tracks, ye mentioned ye were asked to do a track for a tribute album to Kerdog, any further progress with it?
Gav: We were approached last June to record a song for ‘Pledge: A Tribute To Kerbdog’ and being the big Kerbdog fanboys that we are, we jumped at the chance. We bagged the only song we really wanted to do ‘Dry Riser’ and recorded it in one day last July in Los Angeles.

As far as I know, the album is being released next February and also features Jamie Lenman formerly of Reuben and Frank Turner formerly of Million Dead, so I expect it to get a lot of attention.

Am I right in saying with this years Charm Offensive tour, ye didn’t play as many dates as previous tours, was this a band decision or ATM’s?
Gav: 100 per cent correct. We played maybe 70 shows in America this year – which is a fraction of what we would normally play. However, the touring this year was far more coordinated and properly booked and scheduled. On our first American tour, we just took anything that was thrown at us, no matter how far we had to drive, or how little we got paid.

This year, we were far pickier with what we booked and it paid off. The Charm Offensive Tour was our best run, best planned and most profitable American tour to date. We did shorter touring runs but we played almost every night, returned to markets we hadn’t been to in over a year and also made inroads in to previously untapped markets. I am a big believer in quality over quantity – in everything I do. Touring is no different.

Moving onwards, am I right in saying there’s a major difference in the Irish and American scenes? how do ye find it, is it a case of Irish bands grouping together which they arrive?
Gav: I don’t know if I would say there is that big a difference between America and Ireland in terms of the scene, other than to say America has one!

America is a vast country, and within that country there are numerous sub-scenes.

In Ireland we have something resembling an alternative scene, but again America has multiple scenes: punk, rock, metal, pop, indie, singer-songwriter. The country can accommodate all these scenes. And even then the big cities have their own scene independent to the rest of the country.

We spent six months living in Los Angeles, and I guess being part of the LA-scene. But like any big city, it sucks for an unknown or relatively unknown band to get a break. So what did we do? Well we did what an Irish person would do – we sought out any and all Irish people we could find and started to make our own scene. In a few short months, we befriended Jekyl, We Should Be Dead, Lorraine Maher, Eject, Seneca, Sirocco as well as all the solo musicians, artists, sound engineers and photographers from Ireland living in the City of Angels.

We never felt part of the LA scene as it’s all glam rock or shitty 80s style metal but we definitely started to make in-roads with our own mini-scene and I know for a fact many of the venues, promoters, agents etc all started to pay attention when any mention of the Irish scene came up.

You mentioned in the my spaces tour diary, that ye started to do a lot more acoustic gigs in the last 6 months, is it something we should get used to? Which way do you personally prefer playing?
Gav: Yeah. I would say get used to seeing us do more acoustic shows. It just showcases a very different side to us and I like to challenge people’s expectations when they come to see a mike got spiked show. We’re all fans of quieter music but the acoustic side first came out when we released ‘All You Need’ back in 2004. We had been booked to play a number of instores around the country and knew we couldn’t set up our full backline to play, so we arranged an acoustic version of the song. From there it’s just grown a life of its own, so much so that we recorded a live show at The Cat Club in Hollywood last October. It’s being worked on right now and should be available to buy in time for Christmas.

The live acoustic album was our manager’s idea. We were adamant that we had to release a new CD this year as it had been years since we released anything and initially thought about just releasing an EP. However, our manager was against the EP idea and suggested recording a live acoustic show and releasing it. We instantly liked this idea as we have a pile of songs that only work in an acoustic setting. We are very proud of those songs but knew they probably wouldn’t make the next album. This way we get those songs out there and also showcase the subtler side of our songwriting and performance.

Also, ye mentioned that there were nights when you would be just playing to the bar staff, or venues cancelling gigs on ye, did at any point you feel like jacking it all in and applying for a job in Walmart?
Gav: In the early days of touring America we would regularly play to just the venue staff. That hasn’t happened in a long time now. And yeah venues still cancel shows – it happens on every single tour. And no matter how big a band is, there will always be disasters. It’s all in how you react to them. There is always a solution to every problem. No matter how tired, sick, annoyed or whatever any of us get on tour, we’re not gonna call it a day anytime soon. It’s an honour and a privilege to be able to do what we do. Perseverance is the name of this game.
Well done on getting the article in the Sunday independent, must bepretty chuffed about that?…
Gav: Yeah the article was cool. A little one-sided but sure that’s the angle that the editor wanted so fuck it, we’re not complaining. Virtually no such thing as bad press! However, I was surprised about the amount of profanity they printed – particularly the remark about Hot Press.
Tell us a bit about getting in with Flashrock…
Gav: We have the Jekyl lads to thank for the Flashrock introduction. They brought us along one night to the studio and we just clicked with the folks there. We played a song or two acoustic for them and they just seemed to love us from then on.

They involved us in all their plans – live performances, studio sessions and radio interviews. We felt very welcome and very much at home. The organisers were all cool people who just love music and are trying their best to promote and support underground music and we appreciated and understood their ethos – reminded me very much of Gigsmart [who basically gave us our break] and we wanted to help in any way we could.

and roading for Alice in Chains must have been great craic?…
Gav: It was tough fucking work is what it was! But yeah it was a great day and will live long in all our memories. Dave [our drummer] is the biggest Alice in Chains fan of the four of us, and getting to set up Sean Kinney’s drum kit and later meet him, was a very special moment for him.

I had never seen AIC perform live and it was a major kick to see them in such an intimate venue as The Whisky A Go-Go. They were amazing and something to aspire to. We also bumped into Chino Moreno from Deftones and John Dolmayan from System Of A Down [two other major influences on MGS] at the show so it was a great day all round.

*****

Download “Mike Got Spiked Live and Acoustic” here

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