So three ex-high school buddies walk into a bar. One of them has moved away
Brooklyn neighborhood and now lives in Michigan, so his visit requires a round
Or five. As the night goes on, talk turns to music, and somehow or another they
be fun to record a few songs. Wait! How about... no wait, wait, how about
THIS! A band...
that only plays one day every year, records it and releases that recording. No
matter how old
and crippled they get, no matter how far afield they get from one another, they
one day every year, and they must only record for an hour, and they must
is reached, some of it enthusiastic, some murmured cautiously, but the drinks
keep coming, as
does dawn, eventually, and after sleep and discovery of hangovers, the newly
Power Trio wake to meet the afternoon.
So three ex-high school buddies walk into a basement. They have a boom box,
instruments and very little musical ability, but they are determined to do...
Dan "Deadhand" Richardson is playing guitar. His nickname is said to be a dual
obvious one being a reference to Eric "Slowhand" Clapton, the other refering to
the concept of an unmanned "button"
mechanically pushed in the event of nuclear war if no Americans were left to
push it, known as
the "deadhand button." In his bio, Richardson's playing is described as being
and pointless as that deadhand button.
Drums weren't available at that first session. Mark Maynard, who is also the
wasn't slowed down a bit by such a trivial detail. "I just yelled and beat on
a couple sticks," says Mark in a universal description of the DIY attitude. "I
there were some old gas cans in the basement and a piece of a metal ladder, the
of a heater and some kind of cement mixer." The third member of the trio, Matt
is the one with musical training on his chosen instrument, the saxophone. He is
the only one who wasn't sure about that DIY/improv thing.
"Matt hates playing the way we play," sighs Mark. "He hates having to improvise.
I wouldn't say he's a perfectionist, but it's something like that. He doesn't
fucking around. He wants to have everything mapped out." Listening to The
one suspects Matt was having fits. There surely weren't any charts for
You Like-a The Cheese? or "Kling Klang Bang Bang Pop."
his out-of-tune recorder had a lot to do with the classic punk appeal of
Baby Eyes. All through the record Mark sang strange
smacked the various objects before him at random intervals as Deadhand Dan
whacked away at the
guitar without regard for its safety. "Dan's guitar, as I recall, only had a
couple strings by
the time we were done," says Mark Maynard now, eight years later. "It was
un thought-out and we had fun."
In the years since that first hour, the trio have become a quintet, but why
change a good name?
First came the mystery bandmate who is appropriately known as Number Four. As a
recorded "You've Got To Have Hope" for their 1998 EP, Things Get Ugly,
and that song
would soon pay surprising dividends. 1999's Chasing Monsters With Our Love
more change as Mark turned the drumming duties over to Dave Miller, who also
plays bass both
in and outside the MPT. "Dave is the most musical of us," allows Mark, "and he's
on board for the last four or five years. He's with us forever now, though."
There it is again:
once you're a Jet you're a Jet all the way from your first cigarette 'till your
last dying day.
Or words to that effect.
The MPT web site is
claims, by the band themselves, that they never improve as players, and yet
their music chronologically proves otherwise. While nobody will ever mistake
The Beatles or even The New York Dolls, something's there. Something that grabs
you and keeps you interested, and it's something that gets better all the time.
difference between 1995's MPT and 1999's MPT is the addition of Number Four and
Mark readily admits, "there's a huge difference between me hitting a furnace
with a stick
on the the first record and Dave playing drums on the most recent ones. He can
keep time and
And then there's that business with Fox Sports Network. Remember the commercial
guys watching the baseball game on Fox? Shown in slow motion, you see the
tension on their faces, and then you see someone blast a home run. The guys
jump up from
the couch in celebration. Throughout this whole scene an a-tonal punkish tune,
You've Gotta Have Hope, has been playing at high volume.
the volume down it sounds loud because Matt's recorder is piercing and not
exactly in tune.
Now how did a band that meets once a year wind up with a song on a national
It started as a practical joke. "The way I understand it," Mark begins, "a
mine in Chicago recorded one of our songs from vinyl onto his computer. He then
it to another guy I know, a guy I used to make pizzas with in Ann Arbor back in
At this point you're thinking hey, it made more sense that this one hour per
got a Fox commercial; how did a PIZZA guy get one? Yeah, I was confused too,
in there. It starts to make sense in a second. Really.
[Artwork by Mark Maynard]
"The guy, I think, is was a creative assistant at an ad agency in San
Francisco," reveals Mark just in time to save me from utter confusion. Aha, AD
Gotcha! "The way I heard the story, his boss was looking for some kind
of song for a Fox Sports ad spot. He was choosing songs and sending them
to his boss. His boss had the flu and was feeling really bad one day. The
guy thought it would be funny to send him this loud, awful song with
piercing horns as a joke. So, he sends it to the guy and the guy likes it."
And to think I was fired for playing my Black Sabbath CDs too loud. But that's
story. Back to the ad agency sales pitch.
"He tags it onto a CD with 20 other songs and takes it to his clients." Mark
moment to let me catch up, then says the words that could sustain any musician
rest of his life: "They then proceed to pick our song over Marvin Gaye and 19
It was weird. It was good luck."
And the money wasn't too bad, either. The Monkey Power Trio have stretched
earnings to pay for subsequent recordings and the construction of a website. On
of which, "It made us want to keep selling songs, even though that's probably a
bit difficult," Mark admits. "We got used to not having to pay to record and
press vinyl every year. It paid for everything for two years, except for our
It was great. We just took money out of the account to pay for stuff." A luxury
bands with contracts don't even have, by the way. The downside? "We got
that, we split all the expenses. In the wake of that though, we got to thinking
we'd get another big break that would bring in some more money." But it hasn't
yet, despite blatant fishing by the band that would have fans screaming
"SELLOUT" if a) the
band wasn't gleefully admitting to the crime up front and b) we all didn't want
another MPT song on another commercial so bad. Selling out isn't a sin in the
"That's what our 2001 song, When I save time (I save money)
is all about," says Mark.
"We wrote that one in hopes that we could sell it to an advertiser."
And yet they just don't have the Madison Avenue killer's instinct to be true
"We haven't really tried yet though. We aren't terribly motivated. We hope that
seek us out."
Meanwhile, they continue to gather fans. Radio stations continue to add them to
playlists. Articles (besides this one) and reviews are written on a regular
without the band having ever taken the stage before a live audience.
"I have thought about the idea of one day doing a tour, though," confesses Mark,
so that Matt can't hear. "We wouldn't play live, but we'd sit on stage and play
and discuss the songs and stuff. Or we'd lip-sync." It sounds strange now, but
would be there in a flash. After thinking about it for a few more moments, Mark
to the reality of the situation. "No matter what though, MPT will not play more
day a year. It's not an option. Matt would kill us."
I am never going to sit around recording for a whole week
Let me repeat this once again. I hate 'jamming.' I hate improvising. I hate the
MPT modus operandi as a means for creating music. I'll tolerate it one day a
That's it. -- Matt, personal e-mail to other MPT members, 7/11/00
Matt showed up again for Future Past Present, the latest offering from
Power Trio, and once again his contribution was significant. The opening tune,
masterpiece called Black Fulton, explodes from the git
the nuclear meltdown occurs when Matt has a sax tantrum for the ages. There's a
psychedelia to Future Past Present that is instantly addictive. Fall into the
confusion of The Land Of MPT. The EP concludes with more
a simple continuation of the "The Land Of MPT" theme called
that just cycles the lyrics "Hey Matt, whatcha doin', Matt?" 950 bands would
suck. 950 bands with Les Pauls and Marshalls and a ton of musical ability. One
makes it stick in your head. Sure, MPT has a drum set and a bass now, and it's
on a boom box anymore, but "The Land Of MPT" would sound good in that old
out on ladders and cement mixers.
"I'm convinced that no matter what we do, it will be interesting," says Mark,
assessing the situation. "It really wouldn't worry me if we had to do it without
We'd still have fun and it would still be better and more honest than most of
stuff out there in the world."
But will it continue? What if everyone gets tired of traveling once a year? No
Monkey Power? The end of hope?
"I think that we're all intending to keep our promise," says Mark reassuringly,
that is to keep going until the last one of us is dead." But how can such a
be enforced? "I personally will haunt the fuck out of anyone who doesn't keep
once I'm dead," claims the still alive and kicking Mark Maynard. "I think the
the guys will do the same too. I'd hate to be the last one on earth and to have
pass without recording. Four ghosts would be kicking some elderly Monkey Power