By Andrew Bansal
Nashville, Tennessee based singer, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and producer Mitch Malloy has carved out a successful solo career for himself in the past 25 years. His latest album ‘Making Noise’, released August 26th 2016, presents his musicality in full, as he has written, recorded and produced all of it on his own, unlike on past albums wherein he collaborated with guest musicians. Malloy recently came into the mainstream spotlight like never before when a mini-documentary video surfaced in 2013, in which he revealed that he got the gig as Sammy Hagar’s replacement in Van Halen but eventually did not join the band. From rejecting a place in Van Halen to ‘Making Noise’, Malloy has come a long way but as he always has, he still lets his music speak for his talent. Metal Assault recently caught up with Mitch Malloy to discuss the new album, his adopted hometown of Nashville, the Van Halen association and more. Enjoy the chat below and get a taste of ‘Making Noise’.
Your new album ‘Making Noise’ has just come out, and I believe it’s something you worked on a little differently as compared to before, and for this one you just did everything on your own. Tell me about that.
What happened with that was, I’d been producing so many other acts and I’d been doing quite a few things while I was producing those acts. Whatever needs to be done, I do it. If they’re not around I just do it myself, you know. So, I realized in the process of doing so, that I can probably make a record all by myself, which I’d never done. I thought, let me just try this, so I did a couple of songs and I was really happy with the way it sounded. ‘Life Has Just Begun’ was the first song I wrote and recorded by myself and I thought it sounded pretty good, and I got really excited when I finished ‘My Therapy’ because it’s one of the strongest things I’ve ever done. So, then I decided that I can do this by myself and I can just forge on and keep going. So, that’s how it happened. I’ve been a multi-instrumentalist my whole career but I’ve just never been that adventurous to take on that kind of a task.
Right, that’s interesting. Starting with these two songs and finishing up the whole album, how long did it take you?
Well, I had just come off producing a few other bands, so I was really exhausted and I wasn’t sure how I was going to do this (laughs). But I started, and I was kind of watching myself which I don’t normally do, but towards the end of it, I got pretty proficient and I was wondering how long it would take me to go from starting to write a song to finishing the mastering of it. At the end I got it down to three days, which is pretty fast. So, the last two songs were ‘Shook’ and ‘Rock N’ Roll’, and from start to finish I did those in three days each. I’m terrible at math (laughs) but if you calculate all that up for ten songs, I guess it took me about a month or may be 5-6 weeks to do the album.
As opposed to working with other people in the past, was this kind of easier and more enjoyable because it was just your own expression in that sense?
I love producing other people, I absolutely love it. I love writing songs for and with them and kind of getting the best out of them in the studio, and just the whole process of satisfying their creative needs, because you have to put on a different hat and you have to go with what they need. You might want something but they might not like that. So you’re always thinking about the artist when you’re working with them, about what they’re going to like as well as what you like, because as a producer with the final say and everything, you have to like it, obviously. But there are times when they don’t like something that you like, so you have to change it. And I had done that so much, I was like, OK, I need some alone time (laughs). That was part of it too. I was sort of exhausted from producing other people and I thought it would be fun to just be alone, just have some chill time. And then you make all the calls yourself, obviously. You don’t have to please anybody but yourself. So in that way it was more fun, but I wouldn’t say one or the other is better. It’s just that in the frame of mind I was in, it was awesome because I really needed to be alone. So yeah, the process was fast, easy and pleasant, and there were only a few times when I was kind of like, I wish I had so-and-so to play this solo. It always comes with the solo. I’m pretty proficient at everything but when it comes down to lead playing I’m always a little bit insecure, for some reason. I don’t why, I just am, and I usually bring somebody in for that. But on this one I didn’t, because I was going to do this all by myself and figure it out. So that was the only part which was a little bit scary, but the rest was like gliding. It was really fast and fun.
That’s awesome. You did an LA show recently and you’re going to start out with a Nashville show in September and then go to Europe and the UK. Is that going to be with a backing band that you’re going to perform these tunes?
Yeah, I’m taking a band from here. I’m headed to England where most of the dates are booked, and then I’m playing one in Scotland and then we go to Norway, Sweden and Denmark. Then I fly home in October and I’m producing another act. In November I go to Europe for shows in Greece, Portugal, Spain, Germany and Italy. So that’ll be a shorter second leg but more traveling and jumping from country to country.
I was reading your biography and it seems like you grew up in the New York scene but you live in Nashville now, correct?
Yeah, I grew up in North Dakota, went to Seattle for a year of music school, then back to North Dakota for a year, saved up money, bought a Volkswagen van and moved to Northern New Jersey, so just outside of New York. I was in that scene for 13 years, got signed to RCA while I was there, and decided to move to Nashville in 1995. Van Halen called in 1996, somewhere around that. It was pretty shortly after I had arrived in Nashville. And I’ve been here ever since.
Right, of course Nashville is well-known as a musical town. I’m sure it has inspired you to keep going and stay there for all these years.
Yeah, it’s a fun town, and it’s inspiring in the way that there’s so much music here and you always go out and see somebody who’s just great and inspires you to be better. Plus, just the talent pool to choose from here is so rich, which makes it even more ironic that I made a record without any of them (laughs). But there’s so many people here that are so talented, like ‘Wow!’ talented. I used them often on projects, but on this one I didn’t. I’m sure I’ll go back to bringing in friends on the next one.
When you go out around Nashville, is there a lot of hard rock and bluesy hard rock happening there, or is that something you’re kind of trying to bring back?
You know, it’s not like it used to be, but there’s a lot of rock and a lot of it is here because quite a few of us have ended up here. So, there’s a lot of guys out there playing rock every night in Nashville.
Good to hear. So, I listened to this album a few times and I would describe its general style as melodic bluesy hard rock. I think that’s a timeless style and it’ll probably never go away because it’s just so classic. There’s other styles that have their trends and ups and downs, but not with this one. Would you agree with that?
You know, I just like it and I do what I like. I don’t really look at things in that way. But I hope it stays around forever and I hope people like this record. But yeah, that’s a real accurate description of what it is, melodic hard rock with some definite blues influences. For me it’s all about the songs though. It’s about the songs and the sound, because I’m the engineer, I do all the recording, mixing, mastering and everything. So obviously I’m really into the sonics of things but where I start first and foremost is the song. If the song for me isn’t really, really strong, there’s no point recording it. So, that’s really the first step, making sure that the song is worthy of being on the record, then make the performances and the sonics as great as you can. So it’s kind of a simple recipe but it’s not an easy one for sure.
Right, and when it comes to the sound engineering aspect, specially in hard rock, I think people either try to make it too polished to get on the radio or something, or they’re trying to go back to an older sound by using analog stuff. The right to do is to find that middle ground, and based on what I heard, your album does that.
Well, I think that’s really astute of you and it’s really what I’m doing. On this record I did not want to try to fit into anything. I wasn’t trying to be liked by anyone, to fit in any genre, or to sound modern and current. In fact, I really shunned that stuff. There’s a couple of classic-rock-ish new bands out there that are close, but they add a modern element so they can be current-sounding, and it completely ruins it for me. It’s like, why did you just do that? May be the producer thought it was a good idea or may be the band did, I don’t know. But I don’t like that. I’m sort of a purist and I want music to not sound like it’s trying too hard to be something. What you said is something that I’m trying to achieve, and I’m trying not to sound like I’m trying to sound current (laughs). But at the same time, because I’m a mixing engineer, I’m very familiar with modern techniques of making sounds fly out of the speakers, if you will. So, I know how to do that and I know those techniques. Some of them are vintage retro techniques and some are modern. The key is to combine the two. So, I am doing that technically, but artistically and musically, absolutely not. I’m trying to keep things as pure as possible.
You mentioned the Van Halen call-up in the mid-90s, and I’m sure it’s hard to not be asked about that all the time. You’ve had a long solo career now and the brief association with Van Halen is definitely not your only claim to fame. But is that something you’re proud of, or would you rather people forget it?
See, the thing is, I’ve been around for a long, long time and most of my fans have been with me for over 20 years. So, I’m getting new fans because of Van Halen but those fans are way fewer than the ones that have been with me all these years …
And just to clarify, I’m only doing this interview because I like your new album.
Right, you discovered me because of Van Halen and I’ve been legitimized in your eyes because of what I’m doing now, which is fantastic, and that’s what I hope will happen. So the Van Halen question is not really relevant to me because it’s only a new thing that’s been out. I only decided recently to agree to do that documentary. They’d been asking me for ten years to do it and I kept saying No, and then I just thought, I’m a dad, my little girl is growing up and this could be a really cool way to document this pretty major event in my life. So, I said Yes to it, it came out, and it has helped in the way that it has people interested in me. It helped just for people to find out about me, and that’s a great thing. Are all of them going to come on board and like what I do on my own? No, they’re not. I don’t know for sure what’s going on out there, but a lot of people come to me from Van Halen and stay. So, I love the Van Halen question, I love the association, and it’s all positive for me. It was a positive experience, for the most part, and continues to be. So I don’t mind those questions at all.
I’m glad you think that way. I didn’t know how you felt about it, whether it was bothering you or what the deal was.
No, it’s all good, man. Van Halen is Van Halen. What a fantastic association to have! I’ve been asked by many, many acts that are big, big names I won’t mention, but none of them are as cool as Van Halen (laughs).
For Mitch Malloy press inquiries, contact Noelle Kim at MitchMalloyPR@gmail.com
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