Over the years I’ve reviewed everything from films, books, and conventions, but tis my very first review of a CD! It’s really been fun and different, but I was up for the challenge. The CD comes from someone that is not only a musician, but in the film industry as well. Director Mick Garris, has been bringing us films for decades, and is an icon in the horror genre.
Mick’s known for such films as Critters 2, Psycho 4, Hocus Pocus, and many others (including several television series). Mick is also widely known for directing more Stephen King films than any other director. The Stand, The Shining (both television mini-series), Desperation, Bag of Bones, Sleepwalkers, and Riding the Bullet, have all been adaptations that have been very successful.
Mick is also a best-selling author. However, before he went behind the camera, and before getting his start in the film industry, Mick was an accomplished singer/musician. That’s right, in 1970 his love of music came to fruition with the forming of the band, Horsefeathers.
The 1970s was a decade with a wide variety of music. There was everything from Hard Rock, Soft Hits, Glam and Punk, and a little thing called, Disco. However, in between all of that was Progressive Rock, which is heavily influenced by classical music. Bands such as, Emerson, Lake, & Palmer, YES, RUSH, Genesis, Jethro Tull and others, were all considered progressive bands. With its deep lyrics, long guitar solos, and a serious take on music, these bands began to dominate the charts. Horsefeathers falls into that category, yet they were a progressive band like no other.
When I listened to the new Horsefeathers CD, which is a collection of remastered songs from their career (featuring extended songs, and remixes),I felt transported right back to the glory of that era. The songs are melodic, and the music is truly progressive, however, this bands approach with lyrics is very different and unique for its time. Being that the early 70s was a time of great political unrest, extremely changing times, Horsefeathers, took a tongue in cheek approach with some of its music. Nonetheless, they clearly got their message across. This music is fun, silly at times, and is a fusion of great progressive style music. In fact, the complexities of the music is definitely a great background for the lyrics and antics of lead singer Mick Garris. You just sit back and enjoy the ride and have fun with it.
Horsefeathers played many venues, and toured for seven years, but this is the first time they actually put an album together. Its a fun CD, and a great compilation of what Horsefeathers was, and still is, saying with their music. The band split after seven years on the road, all going their own separate ways, taking different paths in life. Now after many years, bandmates and lifelong friends have reunited to put their favorite music on CD for all of us to enjoy.
I’ve recently had the honor and privilege of interviewing the lead singer of Horsefeathers (better known to many of us as film director), Mick Garris, about the history of the band, life on the road, and the making of this new album. I hope you will enjoy reading this as much as I did writing it.
Anthony Northrup – Lets start at the beginning, when and how did the members of band first meet?
Mick Garris – We first met when Bill Birney and I were going to Grossmont College outside San Diego. We were both taking TV production classes, and he had a recording studio set up in his grandmother’s living room, where he and a bunch of musician friends would record the oddball songs he wrote. The other three members, Mark Wittenberg, Andy Robinson, and Bill Manning, had all known each other since they were i grade school, and they would pop in on occasion to record with him. I was the only one without a history with them. In production class, Birney asked me if I played an instrument, and I just said, well, I can carry a tune. And that was enough for then. We transformed into an actual band and played gigs, starting as a country rock band, and morphing over time into a much more adventurous progressive rock band.
AN – Who came up with the name for the band?
MG – Maybe our late guitarist, Mark Wittenberg. He was incredibly witty, and a huge Marx Brothers fan. It was the name of one of their movies, and just seemed to fit especially when we were more a country rock band. A little less so when we went prog… but… what the hell?
AN – Who were your musical influences when you first began the album?
MG – Well, we never really made this as an album. It’s a bunch of our best demos from the Seventies which we refined, and added some new vocals and instrumentation. The band broke up in 1977/78. But we were influenced, like everybody, by the Beatles, some Poco and Buffalo Springfield in our country rock days, and then, more appropriately for what you will hear from this album, Gentle Giant, Yes, King Crimson, even Frank Zappa. But we did everything we could do to be as original and unique as we could. So original that we never got a record company deal!
AN – Share with us your thoughts on the bands first gig?
MG – I was going to Grossmont College, like I said, and I was tasked with booking and operating a concert in the gymnasium. There was a handful of recording acts who were booking college tours, so I booked us as the opening act. I had been a music journalist and all, but had never performed in public before in my life! And it was a full house, maybe 2,500 people there, all waiting to be entertained. I was terrified, my guts were churning, I just wanted to throw up! But once we got up there, and we started playing, everyone began cheering. An audience wants to like what’s performing onstage, that’s why they’re there! So once they showed they were on our side, all those nerves melted away, and we all became our unhinged selves.
AN – What was the wildest show the band performed at?
MG – Maybe in front of the Pussycat Theater on Santa Monica Blvd. in West Hollywood, where we played at the world premiere of a porno movie called DESIRES WITHIN YOUNG GIRLS. One of the stars, Georgina Spelvin, was a friend, and she booked us there. Then we played by a pool for the after party at some rich person’s mansion, surrounded by naked porn stars. That was a weird one… but fun!
AN – Did Horsefeathers ever open up for any musical acts we may know now?
MG – We opened for The Kinks, Flash, Foghat, Renaissance, Tim Weissberg, Mike Bloomfield, a bunch of others that were popular at the time, but you would probably not recognize now..
AN – What was the rock scene like in the 70′s when Horsefeathers were together? Did you play at famous clubs, such as The Whiskey, The Troubadour, or Rainbow?
MG – We played the Troub a couple of times, and that was weird but great. They were used to more folkie and folk rock acts, and there we were, doing our rock symphonies, clowning about. I don’t think they expected anything like us.
AN – What were your band mates like? And what was it like reuniting with them after 30 years?
MG – Well, Mark passed away in the nineties, which was a real blow. But we’ve all remained best of friends over the decades. We had a blast getting together in our different homes to lay down the new overlay tracks, and it was like a week had passed, not decades.
AN – At what point did you decide to go from rocker to director?
MG – Well, I’d always been writing, doing it seriously from the time I was 12. I was still in Horsefeathers when I started answering phones at STAR WARS, but when we broke up for all the usual reasons, I never joined another band. Horsefeathers was my one and only time out there; though I was a very showy performer, I’m actually much more comfortable behind the scenes. I committed to writing, and finally got that opportunity, and that led to directing. So I’m where I never imagined I could get, but always dreamed of being: telling stories for a living in the most amazing medium on earth.
AN – Which is harder: being a rock star or a film director?
MG – Well, I was never a rock star. We never really made it to the point where we made a living at it. So I wouldn’t know. But it was a LOT easier singing in a band than directing movies.
AN – Lastly, what’s next for the band, Horsefeathers?
MG – We may dredge up some other recordings that we think people might like. But we are doing this for fun. You won’t see a Horsefeathers tour anytime soon!
I want to thank musician, writer, and director Mr. Mick Garris, for taking the time to give me this interview to bring to all of you. Although he is very modest in his opinion of being a ‘rock star’, I think all of us know, he not only ascends music as a star, but he is a true star in the film industry as well. And we’re lucky to have him!