Monday, February 16, 2009

Detroit Blues Rock, Reality TV And Peter Green : An Exclusive Interview With Guitarist Danny Methric Of The Muggs

To say that Detroit, Michigan has an extremely rich musical history would be a vast understatement. The city has spawned many gritty hard rockers throughout the years, from Iggy & The Stooges, Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels, Ted Nugent's Amboy Dukes, Bob Seger, Grand Funk Railroad, The MC5, The Alice Cooper Band (who although from Arizona, never got their mojo working until moving to Michigan) all the way to The White Stripes. Add in Berry Gordy's Motown, with its staggering amount of classic soul and r&b hits and the city's blues pedigree (John Lee Hooker was from Detroit) and you get one proud rock and blues tradition. One which continues in the present day, exemplified by one of the most exciting bands to come from the area in quite some time, The Muggs.

Formed in March 2000, the trio made up of guitarist/vocalist Danny Methric, bassist Tony DeNardo and drummer Matt Rost came together with a mutual love of the hard driving blues rock of the 1970's. Drawing from a deep well of influences which included not only classic heavyweight boogie bands such as Led Zeppelin, Cactus, Humble Pie and The James Gang, but also a deep rooted appreciation of traditional blues, the band went through the usual garage band rituals before finally debuting at the 2001 Mussel Beach Party held at their favorite local hangout, the Cadieux Cafe.

Then, in September 2001, two days after their debut gig, that all changed. After a hemorrhagic stroke - thought to be the result of an undetected birth defect - DeNardo spent a month and a half in the hospital. Completely losing the power of speech and suffering what, for anyone, let alone a bassist, would be devastating - complete paralysis of his right side - the then 28 year old faced the situation head on with great courage. Through intensive rehab, he battled back through the next couple of years. Unable to play bass conventionally, he took inspiration from the advice of fellow Michiganite, Outrageous Cherry's Matthew Smith and took up the keyboard.

By hooking a Fender Rhodes piano up to a bass amp, he was able, through much learning and relearning, to get a sound very close to his old electric bass. Meanwhile, in a rare case of camaraderie, the rest of the Muggs waited while he regained his strength and health. Not wanting to replace DeNardo on bass guitar, Methric and Rost decided to get involved in different bands and other projects while he was recovering, until finally in 2003 they made a triumphant return to the stage where it all began, at the Cardieux Cafe. It's a powerful human drama the three wish they could change, albeit one which shows clearly the sheer determination, perseverance and the close knit bond between the talented blue collar, working class musicians.

Finally, after extensive gigging around the area, in 2005 the self titled "Ugliest Band In The World" released their critically acclaimed self titled debut album. Showcasing essentially their live repertoire, it soon captured the ears of discerning heavy blues rockers all over the globe, receiving rave reviews from critics and fans alike. Featuring guitar god worthy riffs and stratospheric lead work courtesy of Methric that seemed more suited to being played in spacious, astroturfed arenas than small clubs, the music captured on disc was highly reminiscent of a collusion between classic English rockers ala Zeppelin, the earthiness of Muddy Waters, combined with the elegance and synergy of Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac. Pure power trio rock delivered with passion, fury and skill worthy of the greats of the genre, it announced to the world quite convincingly that these Muggs were the real deal.

In the fall of 2007, Hollywood came knocking on their door. Amazingly for a blues rock trio, out of over 6000 bands who sent in audition tapes, they were chosen to audition for Fox TV's reality series 'The Next Great American Band.' Wowing the panel of judges ( which included Johnny Reznick of The Goo Goo Dolls) in California, the three soon found themselves on their way to the desert sands, neon and heat of Las Vegas, where they were tabbed from the 60 hopefuls as one of the final 12 semifinalists. Performing live in front of millions of viewers nationwide each week, they managed to last from the preliminaries until the second round before being voted off after an ill advised, admittedly calamitous rendition of Elton John's "I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues." A puzzling choice by the producers of the show to pick for a power trio, like a fish out of water they never stood a chance - any more than if Motörhead had been saddled with the same song. Returning to Michigan they began recording sessions for what would be their next offering.

In 2008 the band finally released the long-awaited full length follow-up 'On With The Show.' The 11 self penned tracks which comprise this offering range from the opening slow, moody deep urban blues "Motown Blues," long extended guitar workouts such as the 8 minute plus "Never Know Why," hints of classic psychedelia on the title track, to hard driving riff rockers like "Slow Curve" and "Get It On." It's safe to call this a diverse, remarkably cohesive collection of songs which show the trio building upon and expanding their core sound to add elements of mid-period Beatles both compositionally and in terms of studio effects. A heady, intoxicating brew, it easily ranked among the finest offerings of the past year, and if you're a fan of classic blues based guitar rock it comes highly recommended.

Recently I caught up with Methric at home in downtown Detroit, where we discussed the band's new album 'On With The Show,' the blues, life after reality TV and much more. Read on as we have an exclusive conversation with one of the rising guitar stars of blues-based rock, guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Danny Methric of the Motor City's hard rockin' Muggs....Click here for the exclusive interview.

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