Producing The Big Picture: Mad Painter
Mad Painter is a new band in the Boston area, deeply rooted in the melodic rock tradition of the 1970s. They play mostly original music, ranging from Woodstock-era psychedelic rock to glam tinged rock'n'roll a-la Mott the Hoople and the Faces and to epic heavy anthems in the vein of Uriah Heep. It consists of four individuals with widely ranging backgrounds. At the center of Mad Painter is Alex Gitlin, the songwriter and creator of the concept. He is backed capably by Julie Gee on vocals, drummer Al Hendry (Bubba Loaf, Tokyo Tramps), as well as bassist Kenne Highland, a true veteran of the Boston rock scene (ex-Gizmos, Hopelessly Obscure, Johnny & The Jumper Cables, Africa Corps.) and the newest addition is guitarist Al Naha (Thighscrapers), who plays with Kenne in Kenne Highland Airforce. They've played, in different line-ups and guises, many venues around the Boston area, such as the MIT, Out of the Blue Gallery, McGann's, Hennessy's, Club Bohemia, The Jungle Community Music Club and C Note in Hull, as well as the Winter Tanglefest in the Poconos. It's always a good time when you come to their shows, and you know what to expect - nostalgic 70s rock vibes and stage gear to match, great musicianship and songs that will make you get up and bop around, singing and clapping along. A party.
When you look at all the music you have made, what is the big picture for how you want your artistry to be seen?
Our music is an escape route from reality, specifically today's reality. Classic British and American rock with top-notch musicianship and taste seems to be a forgotten artform. We're not copying anybody, although collectively we have plenty of favorites from the years gone by. In the golden era of the Isle of Wight, Glastonbury, Reading and Knebworth, things were so different. So were the quality standards. You had to be really great to make it in the biz. Whether in the studio or playing live at a club, we challenge ourselves with this question: if we were opening up for Humble Pie in '72, would we have cut the mustard? If the answer is no, why bother?
You challenge the status quo, how did you identify your purpose for the music you wanted to put out?
Our music is unique in that it sounds like a time capsule. The older generations of gig goers are only used to hearing what they've known for decades, and since a lot of classic bands aren't around anymore, they go for the "next best thing" – tribute bands. And the youngsters aren't exposed to this type of rock at all – for the most part. So for the 50+ crowd, who may be tired of hearing the same old Bad Co./Aerosmith/C.C.R. covers, we offer something unique, melodic, energetic and original that sounds like it's straight from that era, yet nothing like anyone in particular, except Mad Painter. And for the college crowd we offer a chance to discover rock the way it was meant to be – with hooks, licks, solos, and, above all, fun.
When you create your body of work, are there boxes you must check or does everything evolve as it should be and you allow for the checklist to not be completely checked?
Check lists are so pedantic. It takes the fun and spontaneity out of the whole experience. Sometimes we get together and jam on the covers we like, just for the hell of it. But it's important too, cause that's how you know the chemistry is there, when you're enjoying rockin' out with your bandmates, doing the songs we all love. When it comes to originals – first there's the germ of an idea. It develops gradually and takes shape in my head. When the lyrics and the chord changes are fleshed out and the basic structure is complete, I bring it to the group practice, and we take it from there. We run through the new number a few times and learn it together. But we also give it the Painter treatment. So the end product can sound very different to what was originally brought to the table. Tempos can change, for instance. A modulation may get introduced. Solos swapped (keyboard vs. guitar). Harmony vocals added, stuff like that. At the end of the day, the only checkbox that matters is "quality". If it passes the Mad Painter quality check, it's ready to roll.
Could you give us some insight of what your checklist does look like if you have one?
If I were to really think about it… Have I expressed everything I wanted to in the song? Is the thought complete logically? Is the message meaningful and informative? Is it able to move the listener, engage the audience? Is there enough space in the song for each instrument? On the flipside, is there enough breathing room? And, above all, it can't be boring. Mentally I put myself in the shoes of someone in the imaginary audience and ask myself, would I have fun if the band launched into this number? Would it at least get my feet tapping? Would I feel like letting loose and singing along?
Who are you paying homage to for your vision as an artist?
A bunch of groups and individuals. Above all, and the name that gets mentioned the most is Uriah Heep. On the second album that's about to be released, we cover "Stealin'". Sometimes our bass player will mention Trevor Bolder (of David Bowie fame) or Grand Funk. Deep Purple also comes up a lot, not just in the internal conversations but now in the reviews for our first single, "Illusion". Sometimes I think of Rod & The Faces, Mott the Hoople, Sweet and Status Quo when I write. And we have a few "French" flavored numbers like "Jacques" and "San Michel", so the French beat and chanson tradition is important.
You are a visionary, please keep us in the loop of what your plans are for more music and WHERE you are headed next for your fans to connect with you?
Since engaging BSquared Mgmt, we're awaiting some cool gigs to come our way in 2023. We’re also keeping an eye on the upcoming festivals. We're based in the Boston area but would like to branch out and expand to all of New England and possibly New York (city and state). The one thing that's definitely on the books for next year is the "Celebration of Michael Weddle" at the C Note in Hull. That's scheduled for the Spring. Please keep an eye on us via the links provided below…