Interview: Mike Malinin of Forty Marshas

posted July 24, 2007

by Linda

Mike Malinin of Forty Marshas

What made you decide to start a side project?

It was kind of something I had in my mind for a few years. Probably because I’ve been doing the same band for so long and I have a bunch of ideas, other things that I wanted to do. About three or four years ago I was hanging out with Mark from Beatville Records talking about a record that I had an idea for. He seemed interested in it; he kept pushing me on it ‘til I had some time and we finally got together and did it. Mostly something fun to do that was completely separate from our day jobs. [laughs]

Where'd the name come from?

It’s kind of an inside joke between a bunch of people, well not a bunch of people, a few people. And it just sort of came up in conversation once and a friend of mine looked at me and he goes, “Forty Marshas, that’s an amazing band name.” And it stuck with me. And we used to always joke, one of the guys who ended up being in the band, we used to joke about what was going to happen to the Forty Marshas record, not really ever knowing it was going to become a reality. And when it did I just kept the name.

Inside joke, keep people wondering.

You got a lot of famous friends [including Efrem Schulz (Death By Stereo), John Avila, Jason Freese (Green Day)] to help you contribute to the album.  How did you get everyone involved?

‘Cause I live in LA. I live in LA and play in a band so I know a lot of guys in bands.

It was pretty easy to get everyone involved?

I felt really lucky that I was able to make some phone calls, find out who was in town when I wanted to do it. I was able to convince them to come down and to dedicate their time, which was great. ‘Cause you never know how a project’s going to come along; I think there’s 18 total people on the record, about eight or nine in a relatively regular contribution spot that did a lot of stuff. I had a lot of friends who thought it was an exciting project and they all wanted to contribute. That’s when you feel blessed with your life. “Oh yeah, I live in LA and I do this for a living and these unbelievable musicians that I can call up and they can come up to the studio and play.” We had a lot of fun, getting to do it that way.

So is it difficult with this kicking off and promoting it, balancing this and your other band [Goo Goo Dolls]?

No, not at all because we’re not touring right now. I don’t know if we ever will. [laughs] If the need arises we will.

Do you have any plans on touring with The Forty Marshas? If you did, would you bring all 18 people with you?

[laughs] Yeah, that’s the big question. If you listen to the record, it’s all over the map. So the big question is, if we toured, yeah, which lineup would we bring along with me? That’s the possible future. Right now I don’t have any plans on it. But you always have a lot of downtime, it’s not out of the question – at least short tours, especially, around California and things like that.

I look at the Flaming Lips as a model for that, too. Because they’ve been around since, 1985 was their first record and I went to college in Texas so I was close to them -- they were in Oklahoma. I’d see them play a lot of their early shows. Their records were just all over the place and you’d see them play a live show – they’d play that one song off the album and everything else would be something completely different.

And I think if Forty Marshas toured, it would be sort of the same thing in we’d pick which way we were gonna go. Play a couple of songs off the record and do a lot of other stuff, things that might end up on the second record, who knows?

Who are some underrated bands that you think deserve more attention?

I think the greatest band on the planet is a band called The Weakerthans. They’re a band from Winnipeg and they’re on Epitaph, I believe. I saw them play about a year ago in Cleveland and they were as unbelievable as I expected them to be and they have a new record coming out in the next month or two. They’re definitely a band that I think should be getting a lot more attention. They’re just unbelievable; some of the best songwriting I’ve heard in years and an amazing live band.

There’s a few others. There’s a band called Now It’s Overhead that I love. But I don’t know much about Now It’s Overhead. I know that the main guy in the band had something to do with Bright Eyes -- I think he’s one of the touring musicians in Bright Eyes. But they’re another band on the same label as Bright Eyes, Saddle Creek, and have put out three unbelievable albums that nobody seems to have heard which is a shame. [laughs]

So as far as the indie rockers, those are definitely the two big bands in my world right now.

Along with those two, is there anything else you’ve been listening to recently?

All sorts of stuff. Since I’m on tour with the Goo Goo Dolls right now, I’m actually in Baltimore more right now. I tend to listen to a lot of stuff that really doesn’t have anything to do with our world. [laughs] A lot of jazz records, mostly a lot of classical recently.

Polka music?

I haven’t got into any polka yet but, yeah, it’s probably in there eventually. I’m constantly listening to all sorts of stuff.

I just bought a bunch of records the other day, actually. I bought the new Black Rebel Motorcycle Club record. What is it, BRMC, right? Is it Black Rebel Motorcycle Club or Black Motorcycle Rebel Club? I’m gonna go look at it right now. They put out three albums, they’re a huge band right now.

How is it?

I haven’t heard it yet, I just bought it. Yeah, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. And since I have that, I have this whole stack of CDs I just bought. I bought an old Patti Smith record, new Snow Patrol record I actually like a whole lot.

I saw them back in the fall or a couple months ago.

They’re an amazing band.

I bought a new Nick Drake record which is a bunch of bootlegs recorded back in the late ‘60s, early ‘70s. So just stuff all over the place but I tend to spend most of my time buying indie records with the occasional exception of stuff like Snow Patrol.

I loved that “Eyes Open” record. As far as major label sort of pop rock records go, I think that was the best record of last year. I was guilty of loving that song.

“Chasing Cars?”

Yeah, “Chasing Cars,” that’s an amazing song. I love that song.

Since you listen to so much different stuff, if you could have written any song, in any time period, anywhere, what song do you wish you had written and why?

You know the band the Waterboys? Who are, again, one of my favorite bands ever. They wrote a song called “Say Hello To Heaven.” Wait, sorry, it’s called “Too Close To Heaven.” And it was one of those songs that they only released years later on an outtakes record because it was about 12 minutes long. And it’s just one of the most amazing songs ever written lyrically and musically. I listened to it the first time thinking to myself, “Wow, if there’s ever a song I wish I’d played drums on, this is it.” Later I thought, in the same vein, if there’s ever been a song I’d written, this would be it.

Yeah, if you haven’t heard that, go check it out. It’s 12 minutes long and it won’t bore you. That’s hard to do. It’s called “Too Close To Heaven” and it was on a Waterboys record, an outtakes record in Europe called “Too Close To Heaven” and then they released it in the States as “Fisherman’s Blues, Part 2.” It’s an unbelievable song lyrically and everything. One of those songs you never get bored of. I find myself, many late nights, just cranking it in my hotel room.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I hope that people enjoy the record. I think that it’s an eclectic mix of people. It’s kind of all over the map.

I think that’s cool because it’s different.

Yeah, that was the goal. The goal was to do something a little bit different. I wasn’t trying to go out there and make a pop record and things like that. I just hope it gets some attention, I hope people enjoy it. But I was really proud of the way it came out and I was really lucky I was able to get some of these amazing musicians in there to help make the record. It was such a fun process doing it and I hope to make another one.

Thanks for your time!