Ahhh. The Monkey Power Trio-- what can I say? So you've read this site and wondered
what all the hoopla was about. You've wondered what the big deal was. You've
wondered why you've never heard that name before. You've thought to yourself,
"I wish Cary would explain all this Monkey Power Trio stuff."
Well, damn it you should have clicked
on the links to their site! I only linked them about ten freakin'
times in the last two and a half weeks. It's not like the words on the
page don't change colors when there's something to click on. Geez!
For those of you who have stumbled upon this website for the first time,
let me explain and apologize for that outburst. The Monkey Power Trio are
a very real band with a very real mission and a very clear vision of what
they want in this world. It all started in Ann Arbor, MI, the breeding ground
of so many other great bands like uh shit! Wasn't the Verve Pipe from Kalamazoo
or some shit?
Anyway, three friends who had played in bands together in Ann Arbor all moved
to different parts of the U.S. They soon began talking about how much they
missed playing, but none were about to go back to Michigan to keep the band
going. Instead, a novel idea sprang forth. "Mark (Maynard) and I were on the
phone complaining about how we never play," explained "Deadhand" Dan, guitarist
for the MPT, "So we decided we should just get together with Matt one day
a year and rent some studio time. Then we decided that if we did that, we'd
have to put a record out because we'd only do it once a year so we'd have
to make that time count. It's been seven years now."
Seven years, less than 24 hours together in a studio, and what have they
accomplished so far? For starters they've put out six records. They've been
sued by the estate of Fatty Arbuckle over the lyrics to the song "Fatty Rocks"
(a sentimental ballad about the trials and tribulations of the late, great
comedian). They've gained two members to help flesh out their sound and they've
sold a song to the Fox Sports Network called "You Gotta Have Hope".
All this, and yet no one even talks about what music will be played and recorded
until they step into the studio, start the tape rolling and let it all fly
out. They've accomplished more than most bands ever dream of after applying
only about one tenth of the effort.
March 16th, 2001, the band made their annual trip to the studio, this time
in Austin, TX. I got the privilege of talking to them the day after. Although
none of our phones seemed to live up to their "speaker phone" reputation,
I did manage to get a word with each of them:
Cary: So tell me about the session this
year. How did it go?
"Deadhand" Dan: Actually, it went really well
this year. The studio was great but it smelled.
Cary: Did you have an engineer again?
Dan: Yeah. He was really good to. We don't like
people in the room while we do our thing. It's usually eight solid hours
of us in a room and we don't want the outside influences. This guy just
came in, set the levels, hit record and left.
Cary: Man! That's my kind of engineer!
Dan: It was cheap too!
Cary: So, Mark, Matt and yourself started the
Dan: Originally we really were a trio. Then
came Number Four and Dave W. Miller started in 1999. The first album was
on black vinyl and then each of the others have been a different color.
You know, we'll let anyone in the band but they have to pay $1000.00.
Cary: $1000.00 and they are a member?
Dan (conferring with others about the rules):
$1000.00 and you get to sing all the songs and you get your face on the
Cary: Will it be a photograph or the artist
interpretation like past albums?
Dan: No, it will be a photograph. A really sexy
Cary: When I talked to you last, you said you
were inspired to pick up the guitar by hearing the Ramones and the Stooges.
Can you play any of that yet?
Dan: No. I know a few chords and I can make
some stuff up, but I don't know many songs that I can just jam with people.
I usually just play my own stuff.
Cary: You told me there was someone in the band
who buys a new instrument for every session.
Dan: Yeah, that's Matt.
Cary: Let me talk to him.
Cary: Hi, Matt. I hear you buy a different instrument
for each session.
Matt: No, that's actually not true. I bought
a banjo a few years back for the session because I wanted to teach myself
a stringed instrument. I play sax and the recorder on the records. I ended
up not being able to use the banjo because I didn't have a case so I couldn't
Cary: Well, Dan told me you were buying a Crumhorn
for this year's session.
Matt: I ordered one but the whole plot was sabotaged
by the U.S. Postal Service. By the way, for the record a Crumhorn is not
the horn of some endangered animal. It is simply a curved horn that is
a medieval instrument. I'm a vegetarian. Some of the other members of
the band were vegetarians, but they all reverted. I'm the only one left.
Cary: You know, looking at the MPT site, it
looks like you were having a pretty bad day on July 11th. That's when
you sort of laid down the law.
Matt: Well, when the idea was first pitched
to me it sounded good. We get together once a year and that's it. But
it's grown to be so much more than that now. We have the website to maintain,
we spend time deciding what cuts go on the record and listening to mixes.
Also, I'm one of only two members of the band that was in High School
Band and I don't improvise well. I need to be able to read from sheet
music, so I'm always self-conscious about what sounds good. It's kind
Cary: Tell me how the Fox Sports thing came
Matt: Actually, Mark could probably explain
that one better.
Cary: Hi. Tell me about the Fox Sports contract.
Mark: There's a guy in Chicago who's a friend
from Ann Arbor. He was taking our records, recording MP3's and sending
them to people, which at the time we had no interest in. He sent one to
a friend at an ad agency in San Francisco. They were putting together
some songs for possible backgrounds to promos and stuff. The boss had
a hangover and this guy was going to annoy him with the song. Have you
Mark: It's got that really high recorder part
in it and the guy thought it would be funny if the boss had to hear it.
They ended up tacking it on the end of the CD to send to Fox Sports. Next
thing we know, Fox bought it. We beat out Marvin Gaye and some other well
known artists on that CD. We used the money from the contract to fund
Cary: That's cool.
Mark: Yeah, so now we have a taste of success
and we've decided we have a new motto. It's "More Brand Than Band". All
the songs from this year's session are geared toward being used for advertisements.
Some of the titles we're kicking around are "We Love This Product" and
"Save Time and Money With This Product".
Cary: So you've completely sold out.
Mark: We also wrote a song for the Tobacco industry.
We know they are being hit pretty hard and are having to run all those
public service announcements. Right now the working title for that song
is "Black Lung".
Cary: So they're all around thirty seconds?
Mark: Yeah we geared them completely for commercials.
You know, pound for pound this is our best year ever as in all the stuff
is mediocre. We're really happy about this year.
Cary: So it was pretty consistent?
Mark: Yeah. I think you could play through every
song and each would be mediocre. That's a good thing. You know, now we
finally have a vision. We're doing whatever we can do to make money. We
are more brand than band. We want to have a clothing line. We want to
be bigger than McDonalds all off of one day a year.
Cary: That's a great vision. I've had a similar
one but it never seems to materialize for me.
Mark: Well we have a theory. You use no creativity
in your day job. You just hold it all inside, all year long and just let
it fester. Then we all walk in the studio and we shit it all out in one
explosive mess. You know if you think of it, that's better than Van Gogh.
He used to do a painting every two or three weeks and it got him nowhere.
Besides, he was just one guy and he wasn't even American. We've got five
guys and they are all American.
Cary: Very true. Hey is Number Four there?
Mark: Yeah, you want to talk to him?
Cary: Yeah put him on and then I'll talk to
(During the next few minutes, I asked some probing questions about Number
Four's past which have allowed me to determine his true identity and that
I can get approximately $6.00 for his card on the current market. I did however
say that I would not divulge any details of his past.)
Cary: So, are there any favorites from this
Number Four: No. We listened to some of the
tapes, but the mixes are raw and you can't hear all of the instruments.
We'll get rough mixes in a few weeks and then we'll start the process
of deciding what will make the record. It's hard to say right now. There
was one song though that was pretty good.
(asks others the name of the song)
Four: It's called "Come to My Garage Sale",
but that title could change.
Cary: So what about your guitar style. What
are your influences and do you play outside the Monkey Power Trio?
Four: No I don't play for anyone else. I play
every once in a while on my own. Maybe once a week. As far as influences
that's a tough one I like everything from Britney Spears to N'Sync and
everything in between! No, really there's just too many.
Cary: So where does your style come from?
Four: Well last time I bought a bottle of Jack
Daniels, drank it and tried to play but that really didn't work out that
well. This year it was Powerbars.
Four: Yeah. Lots and lots of Powerbars.
Four: You want to talk to Dave?
Cary: Yeah, put him on.
Dave: Hello. This is all B.S. Something very,
very bad happened and we are cursed to do this once a year. It's our penance.
I would be cursed even more if I told you what it was.
Cary: Okay. So how did you hook up with these
Dave: I was in NYC with another band and sat
in on their recording session. I was sucked in but now I know the secret
and can't get out.
Cary: Rumor has it that you are the only real
musician in the band. Do you play outside the MPT?
Dave: Yeah. I play with a swing band as my day
job. I don't play my normal instrument when I'm playing in the MPT though.
I play drums and bass for these guys and even though I only do it once
a year, I'm getting damn good.
Cary: So you're saying that playing drums isn't
Dave: No. I'm saying I'm a genius. The rest
of the band is getting good too. They're picking up on the genius I'm
Cary: Is that a good thing? I'd think that you
wouldn't want to be too proficient because it would get in the way of
Dave: Twenty years from now we'll long for the
days when we couldn't play at all.
Cary: If you're getting so good have these guys
let you take a drum solo yet? I'd think that would be a cool addition
to the MPT record.
Dave: I think there's one recording where there's
a little one. Actually though, it's all really just drum solos. The other
instruments are just kind of there.
Cary: So, with all the money you guys are looking
to make off the advertising industry, can you finally quit your other
Dave: Well, you know, I don't really want to
say anything that might hurt the feelings of the guys in my other band.
The MPT is really my long term gig. It's kind of like the other band is
my day job but the MPT is for the future.
Cary: Sort of like a 401K then?
Dave: Yeah, that's it. It's a 401K for the soul
and the pocketbook. You know why I'm in this band? Because it has the
one thing that always sells. Do you know what that is?
Cary: Enlighten me.
Dave: Longevity. If you do something and you
keep fucking doing it, year after year, eventually someone will buy one.
Cary: So where is your record being played?
Dave: WXYC in Chapel Hill, N.C. had us at number
five recently. We beat out Steely Dan right after they won their Grammy.
We also beat out Dolly Parton, who is making a comeback in that area.
WFMU in Ann Arbor is playing us and also some station in San Luis Obispo,
CA. Hold on, Mark wants to talk to you again.
Mark: Dan made T-shirts with some of the Fox
Sports money and we'll be selling them on the site. They'll be about $11.00
or something like that.
Cary: Cool. We'll give it a mention. I'll put
this on all on my site. I don't think you said anything too controversial
Mark: You want me to say something controversial?
Cary: No, you don't really need to. I was just saying
Mark: You know, there are a lot of people out there who are
very jealous of the success we've accomplished in such a
short time. There are a lot of petty, jealous, weak-minded people who
hate us. I want to kill them. We don't give a shit about any other band
on the planet. (talks to the other guys) Except the King Brothers from
(The rest of the interview was garbled. I did make out that Mark says the
MPT is basically kind to others, especially their "legions of fans". He also
wanted to know if his last statement was "controversial enough". He said the
only way that the MPT would perform live is if Matt died and he himself could
perform behind a two way mirror since he can't sing in front of anyone but
the other band members. Abduction of Matt was not an option, he had to be
dead. Mark then suggested I name this article "Matt K. Must Die" and he finished
up by telling me he loved me.)
All in all one damn good interview.
Here, click on these downloads and see what Dave means when he says "genius".