Frank Marino of Mahogany Rush
Fall 1999 - On the phone from Canada
There have been plenty of legends in rock 'n' roll since its inception with a good portion of which being guitar heroes. Most names we remember, some occasionally get overshadowed by the "next big thing", but their legacies remain none the less. One of the greats from the 70s is Frank Marino. Frank may be better remembered by his band's full name of Frank Marino & Mahogany Rush, but his playing is strictly his own.
Although Frank's guitar prowess is legendary to the legions of fans, unfortunately some myths about his beginnings have overshadowed his career and could possibly have had a negative impact on his popularity. The stories of his drug-induced institutionalization which supposedly had resulted in his "seeing the spirit of Hendrix" and suddenly learning guitar overnight or about "channeling Hendrix" while playing have done nothing short of keep many people at a distance and not giving him the chance to let his guitar do his talking for him. These stories were incredible fabrications by "journalists" who couldn't do the math enough to figure out that Jimi Hendrix was still alive until just about the release of Frank Marino's first album. Not to mention that, unlike many drug casualties from the 1960s and 70s, Mr. Marino had actually overcome the odds to become a very well-read, knowledgeable and verbally expressive person who loves nothing more than to discuss anything relating to music, world religions, history, or whatnot, so long as it is intelligent conversation. After several years of self-imposed exile, due mainly to his disgust for the "machine", the industry of the music business, we were able to track him down and find out what this humble musician has to say, in his own words, about who he is, where he came from and where he is going.
To fill you in on the past six years of his life, Frank Marino has been working with new technologies, playing with computers and keeping abreast of all the new workings going on. He got married, had three daughters and is a doting husband, father and domestic guy. He has performed on rare occasion in the Montreal area, been on TV and radio, and has been working on a new album (yes, for six years!) that is due out any time now. Along with these things, he has worked as a producer, most recently for Barbara Andretti, the daughter of famed race car driver Mario Andretti. Barbara's musical choice gave Frank an opportunity to learn some new styles and techniques in the studio as they produced an album of romantic big band songs with orchestration and all.
Now that this catches you up on the current events, let's set the record straight about Mr. Marino's past and career. Let's go and...

K2K: First off, to set the story straight, what really happened about the hospital stay and how you came to play guitar.
FM: In 1968, I had been doing LSD and psychedelic drugs for a few years then. I was going to be 14, I was 13 years old. That summer, I had indulged in quite a bit of it. Over the course of a couple of months, it's uncountable how much I took in. By the end of the summer I had a really bad, we used to call them "bummers" in those days, I had a really bad experience with that. It actually happened three times. The first time it wore off after a few days. The second time it lasted a little longer. The third time it nearly blew my mind. It all happened within the space of a month.
To make a long story short, the third time I ended up having to go to the hospital. In those days, in 1968, they didn't know what that was all about, even the doctors didn't know what it was all about. I was just a young kid. I ended up in this hospital on one hell of an acid trip. In the hospital, I sort of needed a catharsis of some kind. I needed some kind of way to keep my mind off of what was going on with me because it was a terrifying experience, the trip I mean. Inside that hospital, I would take the time, all the time I could, to try to do anything but think about what was happening to me. One of the things that I started doing was playing guitar.
K2K: Is that normal that someone could have control over their thinking while tripping like that on acid?
FM: It's not even a question of thinking. It's like a state of panic. You're in a constant state of panic. You know that what you're experiencing is not really reality, that's why you're panicking. Otherwise you wouldn't be panicking.
K2K: So, you're anxious about your anxiety.
FM: Yes, and you're anxious because it's such a hallucinogenic experience, and you know this can't be. It's very much like having a bad dream. When you have a bad dream and things are very odd in that dream, but you know that it's not normal. You may not know that you're dreaming, sometimes you do, but the fact is that in the dream it's part of the script to be scared of whatever you're scared of. That's basically what it was was part of the trip to be scared of whatever it was I was scared of, which was the whole Mahogany Rush thing, this experience where I felt like I was becoming kind of a tree, I say. That's where the name came from. As a matter of fact, it used to be the words that I would use to the doctors to describe what was happening to me. It had nothing to do with the band. "I'm having a Mahogany Rush" is basically what I would say.
Anyway, I started playing the guitar because there was a guitar in there, there was a piano, there were "pick up sticks", there were things to do to amuse yourself in there.
K2K: You already had a musical background?
FM: I had a drumming background. As a kid I had played drums since I was about 5 or 6 years old. I had a musical ear to a great degree because when I was a kid, my parents had bought me a tiny "chord" organ, you know, 6-chord buttons and a 20-key keyboard. I used to make up "Silent Night" and stuff like that. So, yeah, I had a musical background but not a guitar background. The guitar was a musical instrument that was there, so I would pick up this acoustic guitar and I would, as much as I could, incessantly play it and just invent things. I'd be thinking of tunes, like Grateful Dead tunes and stuff like that, which is the culture that I was brought up in, and I would start playing those lines. You go in and out of this thinking state and I was thinking that I was writing the tunes. I'd be thinking like, "Oh, I have to go work on my tune." Then I'd realize I wasn't, but then I'd think I was again.
It started like that, playing guitar, and when I finally left the hospital - actually I left twice and went back twice - when I finally left the hospital, my mother took me to her house to try to nurse me back to health. Over the course of that next year, which was how long it took before I was able to leave her house. In the course of that year, all that I could do was play and play and play and play. I don't know if they gave me the guitar when I left or if she gave it to me, but it was an acoustic guitar, not a real electric guitar.
K2K: Were you a real rebel before all that?
FM: Yes, I was quite rebellious as a kid. Yeah, yeah. Super. Super much.
So, I played the guitar and started to identify, in much the same way as I had identified with those Grateful Dead tunes, I began to identify with Jimi Hendrix tunes. You have to understand that Hendrix was still alive...
K2K: Which goes into the next question...
FM: Which I know what it's going to be...
K2K: Why do people believe the stories [about you seeing Hendrix's spirit, etc.]?
FM: I don't know. It's because when I went to the park, I would sit around playing these Hendrix tunes. Maybe it was because nobody was playing Hendrix tunes, and nobody was playing Hendrix tunes. For years nobody was playing Hendrix. It was 1968 or '69. Who was playing Hendrix tunes in '68, '69? He was popular but it's not something anyone did. Anybody who lived through that would agree, "You know, that's true. I hadn't thought of it before, but nobody played Hendrix tunes in the 60s." They'd play Johnny Winter tunes or they'd play Santana tunes or they'd play all kinds of tunes, but guitarists just didn't do Hendrix stuff. Maybe they thought it was too hard to do or just something that you're not supposed to do. Who knows why. When Hendrix died, I kept on playing Hendrix stuff. I played other stuff too, but most of it was Hendrix tunes and Beatles tunes and Quicksilver tunes. Quicksilver Messenger Service.
K2K: What was your biggest influence at the time?
FM: Influences at the time, not knowing that I had any influences? These days, guitarists know that they're influenced, they know why they're playing, they know they want to be in a band, they know they want to make a record. This had nothing to do with that. I was just playing to get away from my acid trip, that's basically what it was. In retrospect, I can tell you that my influences were Jimi Hendrix, the Beatles, John Cippolina - more importantly Quicksilver, not necessarily Cippolina because I wasn't thinking about the guitarist, it was the music I liked - the Grateful Dead and Santana. And Johnny Winter, which came a little later. If you add into that mix a little bit of Allman Brothers and the Doors, I forgot the Doors, if you put all of that together, everything I've mentioned, you probably have 99% of what influenced me.
K2K: So how did you not end up in the San Francisco [music] scene?
FM: I was only 15. I was 14 year old coming out of a hospital with a mental problem on LSD and for the next seven years I was pretty much an invalid. Not an invalid physically, but I was pretty fucked up.
K2K: How did you get so knowledgeable and coherent after all of that?
FM: A lot of reading. In the seven years that followed, the period that I call my 'descent into hell' if you want to call it that, during that seven years was part of the career I was having as Mahogany Rush. Mahogany Rush came around '69, '70. It was just a bunch of kids playing the music that I liked to play. They said, "Well, what are we going to call it?". I said, "Well, I'm going to call it Mahogany Rush." Not that it was a band name. It wasn't meant to be the band name. It was kind of like naming the project so to speak. Like an artist will take a painting and give it a name. It was a different reasoning why I did what I did. We were doing it to have fun. Why do kids get together to play video games with one another. They don't do it to be programmers.
K2K: So, actually, your background of music is just a legitimate 'want' of just to play.
FM: Oh, definitely. Even to the point where two years had passed, two years had gone by and we were doing it with other friends. It didn't matter who was sitting in, it wasn't a perceived band, per se. When later on it became a perceived band and that band was offered the ability to record, we refused. We said no. We said no because in the thinking of the day, people who did that [recorded music] were 'selling out'. And for the longest time we were persued to do recording and we said no. The only reason that I finally recorded something was that Jimi Hendrix died and it bothered me that this guy who I'd just gotten into and liked - and I didn't like him because of guitar but because the music so fit my acid trip - I wanted to do this song about him and I wrote this song called "Buddy". I recorded that tune when I was 16. I turned 17 in November and I had recorded it that fall. It ended up being the first track that people ever played. It was a single. We went down into the basement and recorded it on a 4-track tape recorder. Later on when we got this record thing for "Maxoom", they said "Let's take those two songs that you did as a single and put them on this record." "Buddy" and the other one were put on the record that was done on an 8-track recorder. The songs that we did were "Buddy" and "Funky Woman." I kept on doing that kind of music, that Hendrix style music. Psychedelic style rock. The song "Blues" on the Maxoom album was a token tune to try to do a blues number. It wasn't really part of my roots. I had to try to teach myself blues.
K2K: Here's something that I read in a bio on you. You "channeled" the spirit of Hendrix when you played. (chuckling) It said that three years after the release of Maxoom, you "believed yourself" to be the reincarnation of Hendrix.
FM: It's so stupid. No. This is where I really take issue with that. Not only does that attack the truth, but it attacks my corset of beliefs about that subject. It's not even something that I would consider if someone proved it to me because it's against my core beliefs.
K2K: Even so, your playing isn't "just" Hendrix influenced.
FM: No, it's very Beatles influenced and Quicksilver influenced. I think that there is more Quicksilver influence in my playing than Hendrix.
K2K: And in looking at that, you have some jazz in there too with minor chords and such.
FM: Yeah, if you listen to "Gold And Silver" from the first Quicksilver Messenger Service album and you listen to my "Finish Line" tune on one of my later albums, which "Finish Line" I wrote in those days, in '69/70. I didn't do it until much later. I wrote it then. It wasn't called "Finish Line" then, it didn't have words, it was just the music track. I never did songs with lyrics until I recorded them. I never put a lyric on a tune until the music was finished. Everything I ever wrote was an instrumental.
K2K: So, what was the purpose of lyrics for you then - just to add something on or any meaning?
FM: Oh no. We had to put lyrics, so I had to think of what I wanted to say with the music that I wrote.
K2K: Did you ever write anything [lyrically] before the music?
FM: No, not until the last year or so, now. Not until I was in my 40s.
K2K: What about "World Anthem"? That was written for the Olympics?
FM: The story of that one is that someone said that they were looking for an anthem for the 1976 Olympics. They were listening to people's anthems and I never submitted it. I just thought, "Oh, there's an idea. Let's write an anthem that fits the Olympics. Let's make it a 'World' anthem and make it sound really anthemish." Once I had that, I thought I should put words to it. Then I thought, if I put words to it, then it's not really a 'World' anthem, is it. It's an American anthem or Canadian anthem. So, I thought, "I'll tell you what. I'll write words that can be translated into other languages and include the text of those words in all the languages." If they want to sing them, let them sing them. That's how it came about.
K2K: And the record company said...
FM: The record company said, "You can't put Russian on there." They took the Russian off and said, "Well, you can't have all the languages."
K2K: You were on Columbia at the time?
FM: Yeah. They said, "You can't have them." I said, "Why?". They said, "Because it costs too much for paper." I said, "F***, make it small print." They just did what they wanted. In fact, they released "World Anthem" without any insert. The record was sitting in the cardboard. They said, "Oh, we forgot the sleeves." In the next run, all of the words weren't there. It was one mountain after another with those people. Look at what they did to the "Power Of Rock And Roll" cover. What the fuck is that? It was the worst cover I ever saw.
Back to the guitar thing, in the early days, it was simply a question of a kid loving what he loved and honestly putting it out. You have to remember that nobody minded then. They only minded later when it started becoming commercial. You wanna know something? My first impressions were right. My first inklings that if I got into this from a recording point of view and a gigging point of view that it would start to become not what I wanted turned out to be very true. And very rapidly. It wasn't like I had to wait ten years to find that out. From the first time they put the album out, the first reviews that started coming in from journalists were full of these bullshit stories about reincarnation and me claiming 'this' and me claiming 'that'. It was horrible.
K2K: It seems pretty obvious, do you think that what people had heard about you about your "Hendrix connection" and the acid tripper and the mental hospital, do you think that that prevented other journalists from talking to you in depth about musical things - thus you didn't get the bigger press to tell your story?
FM: Absolutely. But if you think about it, it was already the most popular journalists who were writing this shit anyway so where else was there to go. It was Rolling Stone and Cream Magazine and all of the popular rock 'n' roll magazines.
K2K: Didn't they ever interview you and have the chance to get it straight?
FM: Many times I've told the story that I'm telling you, on tape.
K2K: What did they do then?
FM: It would never come out or it would come out twisted again.
K2K: So the guitarist who just plays was boring and that was more interesting.
FM: Yeah, or you'd see "I had an opportunity to talk to Frank Marino about all of this and he denies it all, of course, tongue in cheek." You know?
K2K: So, someone did a joke bio about you and then Rolling Stone actually included that as your verbatim bio in their encyclopedia?
FM: It was a writer from the Montreal Star or the Montreal Gazette did that joke bio.
K2K: What was the bio? You were born in 1920 and stuff...
FM: Yeah, and Jimi was born in Hawaii. It was so obviously a joke. It would say stuff like that we were outlaws who rode horses over the mesa. You know what I'm saying? It was obviously a joke. It even had drawings of us with cowboy hats.
K2K: So, someone took it literally?
FM: Literal, journalists put it out. Didn't even ask. [They] put it out.
K2K: And they put it in the encyclopedia?
FM: Well, it ended up in the encyclopedia. It ended up in Cream and Circus and everything else. To top it off, when Rolling Stone was putting the encyclopedia together, where did they go? They went to that magazine and plagerized the work of the other journalist, which wasn't even journalism anyway.
K2K: So, they [Rolling Stone] plagerized a magazine to print a lie about you?
FM: Yes! That is absolutely a fact.
K2K: Don't ya love it? (laughs)
FM: It's fitting. I'd like to sum it up. A kid that was too young, took too much drugs, learned to play an instrument so that he didn't have to think about the drugs. Loved Hendrix and played his tunes and then everything got twisted into something else. That's basically the long and short of it. Whatever you thought it would be is what it is.
K2K: After your experiences with the trip, would you condone or talk people out of doing drugs?
FM: I would tell as many kids as I can not to take LSD. I don't do it. I've never touched a drug since then. People [have] thought that I've been drugged throughout my whole career since I was 13 years old. I can't do it. If I smell it, it all comes back. Would I say "don't smoke"? No. I can't. For me, I can't and for anyone like me I would say "don't." I don't know what the situation is with marijuana today. If someone asked me "should I do it?", I would say "no" because I believe in having a clear head. If someone said, "I do do it. Is that wrong?" I would say "no" because I don't think it's wrong. But if someone said, "I do do the acid and stuff." I would say, "you should be careful because you don't know where it can take you." They don't realize how far it can go. I didn't realize how far it can go until it was too late.
K2K: What's interesting is that you became a near-casualty and then ended up stronger than most and yet you hear about all these other people becoming total waste-cases.
FM: Well, it was the study that got me out of that. (In reference to his theological studies - ed.) It was the study of that. All the religious stuff. Before I got into the religious study and all, I was a casualty. When I was on the road doing gigs in the early days, I really was a wreck. I'd be afraid to go out onstage. I'd be afraid to leave the room. It was the theological study that brought me out of all of the stuff. It took about five, six, seven years.
K2K: Here's a question then... how come you didn't join a cult, as so many people do?
FM: Maybe I might have. Luck. Fortunately I didn't. I did go up every road. You name it. The whole thing. Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, even Crowley. I looked at all of it.
K2K: How long did the Crowley thing last, about two weeks? (laughs)
FM: About two seconds.
K2K: Oh, when did you get married?
FM: In 1993.
K2K: And you have three daughters now? So you're the straight and narrow domestic guy?
FM: Well, I've always been, actually. I mean, even throughout all the years of the playing. I mean, we had our parties and that, there's no doubt about that. For the most part, I was the guy who did the least of that. Very much I was reclusive, you know, always in my room. For the first few years I was always in my room because I was too terrified to leave it and in the next few years I just got accustomed to being by myself.
K2K: How did you feel about fan idolation?
FM: I hated it! I fucking hated it.
K2K: So why play then live?
FM: Well, I loved playing?
K2K: So, it was like forgetting they were there and just playing?
FM: Yeah, yeah. It was like the rehersal hall. Exact same thing. It's not so much that if they liked it I hated that. I loved that, if they're smiling and clapping and everyone's having a good time. It's the words, the adulation, the "you're this" and "you're that."
K2K: "Frank is a god."
FM: Oh my goodness. It would scare the shit out of me when people would tell me that. I was religiously inclined. Religion was saving my life and then people were coming up telling me that, that was so antithetical to my beliefs. It was like, "Please. Don't do that. You're going to fuck me up." I hated it for that reason.
K2K: What other bands have you played in?
FM: No one. I've jammed with guys here and there but not been in any other bands.
K2K: You've jammed with Steve Marriott [Humble Pie]?
FM: Yeah, Stevie was a good friend of mine. We had a lot of fun together. Aynsley Dunbar also. Actually I was in another band for about 5 minutes. It was a band put together by a bunch of lawyers and they needed a producer. They asked me if I'd produced it. I said, "OK." Then, when I was producing it, they asked me if I'd play guitar while producing it. I said, "Well, OK." Then I did the guitar and produced it. Then when that was done they asked if I'd mind doing the showcase with them in L.A. because there was seven showcases for record people and they were going to get a deal. "Well, OK, but I don't really want to be in the band." It was getting deeper and deeper. It was called the Fire Project. Aynsley Dunbar on drums, piano by Michael Bodecker, and the bass player for Starship, Pete Sears. I was the guitar player. It was Foreigner meets Toto. The high vocals and the whole deal, right? Just totally what I'm not, right? But the guitar is me. They wrote the tunes and I arranged them. By putting the guitar in it kind of gave it an original sound that they didn't have on the original tape. They almost got a deal. John Kalodner was at the showcase and really wanted to do a deal with them. A couple of other guys wanted to do deals with them. I think what happened was, luckily, for me, that they couldn't agree on whose manager was going to run the show. Basically, I was very happy about that because I spent ten days in L.A. going to these rehersals and to the showcase and just coming home every night and telling my wife, who wasn't my wife at the time, "Oh man. They're going to accept this damn thing. Oh no! What do I do? I'm going to be like Simon Legree when I say I'm not going to play in the band." I didn't want to do it. I didn't want to be in the band. They were all really nice guys.
(We then got to talking about some other bands and musicians whom Frank had played with or known when we got onto the subject of being shunned by people in the industry.)
FM: Most of these groups did not talk to me. Aerosmith, for years, they weren't friendly. Finally they were friendly in the end. Queen, for the whole tour, did not talk to me, except for Brian May. It was that fucking story that preceeded me, man. (The Hendrix/acid trip story - ed.)
K2K: What about the image? You had the biker / outlaw look. You had that long, straight hair with the suede/leather fringed jacket. I pictured you and [Motörhead's] Lemmy going out on Harley's and beating the crap out of little old ladies or something like that. (laughs)
FM: No, not at all. I never rode a bike until ten years ago.
K2K: So, where'd you get that look then?
FM: That's just the way it was. It was the 'hippie' look. It's hard to explain. Nobody ever knew that I came from Canada either.
K2K: Did you have a chance to join [Paul McCartney's] Wings?
FM: In the early days, the record company people who had signed me to 20th Century, some people were putting Wings together for Paul McCartney and there were auditions for a guitar player. Somebody in the company said to me, "You can get the gig." They seemed to intimate to me that I would get the gig. All that I had to do was say yes and I would get the gig. I don't know why, whether they thought I was good enough or they had played something for McCartney or what. All that I know is that they told me to put the whole thing on hold because they could get me into Wings. I said, "No way!" I wasn't going to leave my guys behind. It would have been an interesting thing for me to have said yes just to find out if they were telling the truth. I really think that they were telling the truth.
K2K: In your opinion, what's the single biggest difference in music between the 70s and today?
FM: Money. Yeah. All driven by money. All driven by desire. Desire of fame, desire of money, desire of being noticed. I hate to say ego. It's always been driven by ego. It's always driven by alterior motives and has nothing to do with really playing, unless you're talking about 13 or 14 year old kids, then it's OK. Everbody today who is like 19, 20, 24, it's all driven by let's be a band so that we can be a band, so that we can get famous, so that we can have hit records. "Signed." That always get's me. What does that mean? The whole "signed" thing is so stupid because it's almost celebrating going to jail. You know? "We just got 'signed'"? OK.
K2K: Would you agree that there is more availability in music today than before?
FM: Yeah, but not as varied.
K2K: Really? I see more people into more styles of music these days.
FM: Maybe privately, but commercially speaking it's not as varied. Look at the original Woodstock. There was no two bands alike. Look at the Woodstocks today. There was no two bands different. Most of the it's the same, "roll out the Marshalls", you know what I'm saying. Look at the original Woodstock - Crosby Stills Nash & Young, Sha Na Na, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix. It was so varied. It was like a variety show. Pop festivals, remember that term, they were like huge variety shows.
K2K: Do you think that that would go over today with doing a show of completely varied bands?
FM: If somebody actually put on a single night of people with well-written tunes, like those old bands used to do, they'd probably make a fortune. There was no formula rock back then. You listen to the cheesiest tunes, that you didn't even like, back then. Listen to it now and listen to the work that went into the song, the structure. "Oh, here's a Minor with a 6th and now we're going to augment this to a 5th." It was all very musical. It's like hard to believe that there was that much work put into it. From the Bee Gees to CSN&Y, all of that stuff was so structured musically. Even the three-chord rock bands were five-chord rock bands. Only when you had Blue Cheer did you have the three chord thing. For the most part, the radio back then and the non-radio bands back then, everything from It's A Beautiful Day to Quicksilver. Listen to the first Quicksilver album. Listen to the song structures and try to figure them out. Remember the Airplane and all those bands. I wasn't into them, but look at the structures. Songs like "White Rabbit", OK. Just the whole idea of using that Mexican sort of idea of guitar in E and F or A and A sharp. The structure of the tunes was creatively done and I could just see these bands sit there and say, "Let's not use that chord. This one is better." Then it went too far. After a while it went too far. You had Yes and you had the bands that tried to put just as many chords as you could. It went too far. Jethro Tull. I like to call it Robin Hood music. Wizards and Kings and Minors and Majors. The difinitive one of all of them would be a Beatles tune. If you look at it, they didn't just say E, A, B. They said E6, A7, B9, you know. You don't get that now.
K2K: How many albums have you done total?
FM: I did seven for Columbia, three for 20th Century, then I did "Full Circle", "Double Live", "From The Hip". Then if you count compilations that I did. I've seen albums that I'm on that I didn't know I'm on. I've seen albums that I didn't even know existed. I've seen compilations of tunes. I've seen songs that I've never realized that I've released that someone had gotten a hold of and released. Someone once told me that I'm on 27 different records.
K2K: Do you get any royalty checks?
FM: I've never seen a royalty check in my life. I don't know what one looks like. I've seen royalty checks for publishing and songwriting.
K2K: What was the story about your Gibson SG guitar at the Day On The Green [Oakland, CA around 1978] with the box strapped onto the front face of the guitar?
FM: Ken Schaeffer made the first wireless guitar. It was the first one that he made. He gave it to me. It was like a prototype. I was afraid to use it because I thought people would think that I was playing to a tape, you know. They wouldn't see a chord, "Oh, he's playing to a tape. That's not really him." So I basically took the wireless transmitter and taped it to the front of my guitar. There's a lot of pictures of me with that. It looks like a cigarette pack taped on with gaffer's tape, right on the finish. So that people would see it and not think that I was playing to tapes.
K2K: Yeah, we had always heard these other stories about that. I was told that you were this eccentric guitarist who taped all of his foot pedals to the front of his guitar and then you would pound them on and off with your fist. We thought, "Gee. That sounds pretty violent."
FM: (laughs) It's so funny to hear a perspective of what people thought of that. I had 22 pedals on the board. What people didn't understand was that all these effects on the board were like the same pedals over and over again. It's like, I had a Wah-Wah then after the Wah-Wah I had a Fuzz, then another Wah-Wah because the Wah-Wah sounded different after the Fuzz than it did before the Fuzz. It was always the same crap. I ended up with 22 things. The pedal board was 6 feet long, 3 feet wide and took four guys to lift and bring it on stage. If you take a Wah-Wah pedal and plug it right after your guitar, plug it into the Fuzztone, use it with the Fuzz on. Now put it after the Fuzztone. It will sound totally different, and I mean different. Not just a little. What did I really use? A Wah-Wah, a Fuzz, an Octave thing, an Echo and a Reverb.
K2K: I had read that, for a long time, you were accused of using so many effects that you really "weren't a good guitar player." Is that true that people actually thought that way?
FM: Oh yeah. I've heard that lots of times. Journalists said that. Kids didn't say that. It wasn't the true thing. It wasn't that I was no good without the pedals. More enough, after about eight years, everybody started using those pedals. I could tell you exactly what I used. I used a Cry Baby, I used a Muff, I used an Octivider, I used an EchoPlex and I used the Reverb. Once in a while I used an Eventide Flanger. I still have the Mini-Moog.
It's funny, eh. Every song that I ever did where I used the Mini-Moog as a bass became a radio hit. The three or four songs that I had on the radio incessantly, I didn't have that many songs on the radio, all had Mini-Moog bass on them.
K2K: What were your hits?
FM: "Dragonfly", "Strange Dreams", "Sister Change" and "Strange Universe." I would say that those were the four tunes that anyone played on the radio. Now, they played "Johnny B. Goode" quite a bit. It was funny because I always found that the radio played what they thought was a safe thing by me. They always played the cover tunes. "Frank Marino did 'King Bee', let's play that." "Frank Marino played 'Roadhouse Blues'. Let's play that." "Frank Marino did 'All Along The Watchtower'. Let's do that." Think about it. You rarely ever hear Mahogany Rush tunes that aren't covers. Out of my 90 or 150 tunes that I've got out there, 10 of them are covers. They'd go for the safe thing. Consequently, I never got a publishing royalty for all the airplay. I've spent my entire career making other guys rich by playing their songs. I would be interested to know how many Jimi Hendrix albums were sold after a concert.
K2K: Do you ever wonder if this is all a big conspiracy? (laughing)
FM: Yeah, it's all one big X-File.
K2K: The record companies are conspiring with the Grey Aliens to get you.
FM: (laughing) Exactly. I'm very stoical about it today. I don't care. I'd like to move on. You know what's going to happen? I'm making a prediction. One day, hopefully in the long, far future, I'm going to be no more. When I'm no more, my kids are going to be older and then someone's going to say, "Hey, what about this guy's royalties?" And then someone else is going to go fight that battle and they're going to get that money. So, the way I look at it is, it's all money in the bank anyway. Whoever has it is going to pay them interest. What would I do except give it to them anyway. It really doesn't matter.
(We got to talking about the latest industry with MP3's and other technologies for duping and copying.)
FM: I would never condone someone copying other people's stuff. I wouldn't say, "Go out and get that stuff." But, for my records, I don't care if they copy my records. The more they copy them, the more people are going to hear them. Maybe I'll get a gig.
K2K: That's getting into the punker mentality now. All the punk rock bands share their music so that more people can hear them.
FM: If you go on my site, there's a bulletin board []. Go read the bulletin board. They're all trading Frank Marino videos on my site. There's probably in the order of 60 bootleg videos of me.
K2K: You don't have anything yourself.
FM: Oh no. I don't keep anything. Imagine that. They are trading bootlegs on my own site. "I've got Marion at such and such place..."
K2K: If you got signed right now to a major deal and they said that you can't do anymore MP3 stuff. What would you say?
FM: I'd tell them to go fuck themselves. They're not going to sign me to a deal and then tell me that I can't talk to my fans. As a matter of fact, one of my prerequisites of me signing with anybody, even if they're small or big, is that I'm allowed to disseminate my material to my fans on my site. If they want a piece of that, that's fine. I'll reverse the deal. I don't care. I'll say, "You sign me to a deal and pay me a royalty and everything that I sell on my site, I'll send you a royalty. How's that?" It's fair when it's the other way. It doesn't realy make any difference to me. All that I want to do is get my stuff out there so that people hear it. Why? Not so that I make money on records. I'm not going to make money on records. I want to be able to tour. That's what I really like doing. You can't tour if you don't have records out there.
K2K: This brings it around to this... Why did you become a recluse and disappear from the general public eye?
FM: Because I got totally fed up and it was the same old Merry-Go-Round all the time. My wife was pregnant with my first girl and it was October of 1993. I was in my gig in Montreal at the end of another tour that went in another circle doing the same shit. I said, "This is just not going anywhere. It's just not fun anymore and I'm going to stop." I stopped. I came home and thought I would be home for a year and ended up home for six. I started playing with computers and then I had another daughter and then another daughter and there was so much estrogen in the house, I couldn't believe it. I did the whole computer thing with hard disk recorders and graphic machines, trying to stay near the arts.
K2K: After all your tinkering in the studio and all the stuff that you've learned over the years and your expertise in sounds and all...
FM: Yeah, I'd like to write a column for you about that.
K2K: I was going to ask if you would ever write a book on proper recording techniques?
FM: I would love to do that. I want to do that. I'm just a terrible writer in terms of the actual typing. It takes me three hours just to write a letter. I'd love to do a whole book on recording techniques. I'd love to do a video on recording techniques. Someone said, "Why don't you do a 'Teach People On Guitar'." Why do I want to teach people guitar? I can't even define what I'm doing, so how can I teach them shit? If I could do a video on rock 'n' roll recording technique, an actual video in the studio - Here's how you mic it and why and what it sounds like - that would be a great video. I'd do that in a minute.
K2K: You had told me before about how people mix sound wrong.
FM: I'm saying that they do it wrong because they do [during sound checks] drums first and they do kick drum first. Everything is bassackwards. You start with whatever the dominant instrument is. If you're doing soundcheck for a vocalist, you bring the vocalist out there and let her sing acapella and you make her sound fantastic. Then you bring up all these other instruments in and end up with a great sounding record or great sounding show. When it's the bass drum and snare drum, they work up from the low stuff to the high stuff. Man's desire to reach for Heaven or something. Really it's the other way around. You should start with the cymbals, the high frequencies so that they're not too bright and don't get in your ears and kill you. Then when they sound natural, then you bring in the bass drum and the lower stuff. It just makes everything sound more natural.
K2K: Oh, I wanted to ask you, in looking back to the "hair bands" of the 80s and the super "speed freak" guitarists, do you think that the super fast guitar virtuosos killed 'guitar rock'?
FM: Totally. You know, I don't call them 'speed guitarists', I call them 'Nintendo guitarists' because it sounds like Nintendo music. There's no taste in that kind of playing. There can't possibly be. There's no time to taste it. It's like swallowing Mercury. Then what happened with these guitarists is that they'd get into the over-bending. All these notes would vibrate and bend. It was like these old, fat opera singers who would get on your nerves.
K2K: OK, some quick views of yours on some players. Yngwie Malmsteen.
FM: Good technical player.
K2K: Do you think he overplays?
FM: Ah, yes. To put it mildly. But ask me if he does it well. Yes. Whatever he does, he overdoes it, but he does it well. It's hard to do it. You have to be technically proficient to do it. But, I think my friend James Byrd is better. After you've seen [Allan] Holdsworth do that technical stuff well, what is the point of Yngwie Malmsteen or anyone else doing that technical stuff well?
K2K: When I saw Holdsworth, he had this look of "I'm so bored. Will somebody please kill me?"
FM: Yeah, but he does it well. Somebody once said that his wife dressed him up, put him in a chair and said "Play."
K2K: Eddie Van Halen.
FM: (ponders for a moment) Honest or politically correct? What do I think? I think he's OK. He isn't anything new. It's not anything new and it's not anything that nobody's done before. You know what I think about Eddie Van Halen? I think he's famous because of David Lee Roth. I think that that's largely true. Eddie could've played in a lot of bands with a lot of guys. Had he not played with David Lee Roth, he never would have been as noticed because David Lee Roth took the point. He was point man. He went out there and became the clown to get the people to come to the circus. The rest is history. I don't think Eddie Van Halen really plays anything that would make me take notice. Technically, he plays good. It's funny because you're asking a person who, when I tell you that someone is really good it's because they play stuff that I can't picture in my mind when they play it. "I can't see it in my mind, that guy's good." If I can immediately see the riffs in my mind as he plays it, then "He's OK."
K2K: Jimi Hendrix.
FM: Hendrix? I still can't see his riffs in my mind.
K2K: Michael Schenker.
FM: Good. Very good.
K2K: Jimmy Page.
FM: I don't think he's a guitarist. I never liked Jimmy Page. Even when I was a kid, I was like, "What's that?"
K2K: Vinnie Moore or anyone like him? Any of the Schrapnel [Records] guys.
FM: It's like I say, my friend James Byrd he really does play better than any of them. He's a neo-classical guitarist. James really plays that stuff well. I don't like that stuff and I tell him, "James, I don't like that stuff, but for chrissakes, you do it well."
K2K: Santana.
FM: I've always liked him.
K2K: What do you think of music in general that is not guitar solo driven? No solos.
FM: Can't beat the Beatles. Love it. I often think that you don't need solos.
K2K: Would you ever be willing to play minimalist?
FM: Let's put it this way, the biggest hit I had had no solo in it. "Strange Dreams." It didn't even have a guitar line. It has one little guitar lick. It was the biggest hit that I ever had.
K2K: So, after you're done with this album, you're doing a blues album?
FM: Yes, I'm doing a blues album. I plan to do it in two weeks, not like one of these three month extravaganzas. A real blues album. I'm going to get a real blues band to come in and play with me and do a blues album in about two weeks.

Thus ends our chat with Frank Marino - the man who had the punk mentality before there were any punks and the fingers that fly. After the release of his latest album (six years in the making), tentitively entitled "Eye Of The Storm", we'll be talking to Frank some more about what his plans for this summer are - a tour and more, hopefully. So, from now on, be sure to stifle any more of the myths about one of the coolest legends in guitar and stay tuned to hear the new sounds by Frank Marino and his Mahogany Rush.
Written by Philip Anderson and all photos © 1980 Philip Anderson 

Philip Anderson is a musician, in addition to being a writer/photographer. He has performed as a guitarist/vocalist, as well as songwriter, in several bands over the past 20 years. As a writer and photographer, he has been published by several magazines and in several books, and had his works appear on television.

For more information about Frank Marino & Mahogany Rush, visit his website:

All rights reserved © KAOS2000™. No portion contained herein, either text or graphics, may be reproduced anywhere or reposted on any other website for any purpose without the expressed permission of the publisher. All violations shall be punished as the law allows.

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