MAHOGANY FROG
Senna
(Moonjune)

 

Aside from John Lennon and The Beatles, before groups such as Soft Machine, Caravan and Wigwam, there was nothing in pre-progressive rock that you could call completely authentic. So great were these sonic pioneers that just about everything that came after in both rock, instro and prog, sounded derivative of the original. I would say those groups still have a vast influence-subliminal and otherwise on a multitude of groups still recording music in 2012 so, thinking about 21st century music trendsetters, you can count Canadian prog-instrumental band Mahogany Frog high on that list. With the release of their fourth or fifth Mahogany Frog studio album, entitled Senna, that statement rings even more true then ever, while also noting their much lauded 2006 album entitled DO5. Like a modern day sonic guitar squadron, Graham Epp and Jesse Warkentin sound truly possessed, driven to new heights by the rhythm section of Andy Rudolph (drums) and Scott Elenberger (bass). Each of the these players also adds in a wealth of wild sounding electronic keyboard effects that would make Edgard Varese proud. Imagine Pekka Pohjola, the now late great Finnish music and composer recording with Soft Machine during their fabled Volume 2 era in late 1968 and you come close to the wild subliminal sonic soundscapes in play on Senna. Progressive rock-rock fans and avant-garde experimental music fans are strongly advised to pick up on this instrumental classic. www.mahoganyfrog.com


mwe3.com presents an interview with
Graham Epp of MAHOGANY FROG



mwe3: Congratulations on the new Senna CD. It's a brilliant amalgam of 21st century music. What were some of the events that led up to the CD release? Where and when was the music written and recorded and what's been the reaction so far?

GE: Senna serves as a document of the band over the past couple of years. With the exception of the soundscape section at the closing of the record all of the songs were performed at shows before we entered the studio. We even recorded our own scratch tracks for the entire album (to serve as a map in the studio) before we stepped foot in the recording studio. This provided us and our engineer with a map of the entire record. The bulk of the album was recorded at Private Ear Studios in Winnipeg, Canada. We worked with a wonderful engineer and human being by the name of John Paul Peters. He coaxed out a lot of the sounds we were after. We had a wall of guitar amplifiers in the studio that had their tubes glowing white hot. We'd plug in for a particular guitar or keyboard part and John paul would capture it with an array of microphones. It really was a dream to record there. These Private Ear sessions took place in the spring of 2011. We took the summer off to let things stew and then in the fall we recorded some overdubs with Andy Rudolph (also our drummer) at a couple of different studios before heading back to Private Ear for mixing.

The record has been out for a few weeks now and the response has been very positive. Reviews are trickling in and some writers have made welcome revelations about what it is that we're doing.

mwe3: How does Senna compare soundwise with the other Mahogany Frog albums? How has the Mahogany Frog sound changed over the years and can you say something about your other albums? Are they all in print and when did the earlier Mahogany Frog albums come out?

GE: Senna is the first Mahogany Frog record with Andy Rudolph on drums. Prior to Andy joining the band Jean Paul Perron handled drumming duties. These two drummers have a very different approach to their craft. I think the change in drummers is a very distinct difference between Senna and our previous records.

With each album we make we get closer to capturing the sounds of our live show. Mahogany Frog is a band and there has always been an emphasis on performance. SENNA is a better representation of our live sound than our previous records.

The entire Mahogany Frog catalogue is:
SENNA - 2012 CD/LP
Do5 - 2008 CD/LP
On Blue - 2005 CD/LP
VS Mabus - 2004 CD
The Living Sounds of Mahogany Frog - 2003 out of print
Plays The Blues - 2002 out of print

mwe3: Can you say something about the chemistry of the four members of Mahogany Frog and how long has this lineup been recording? How about live performances?

GE: The current lineup has been together for about four years. As mentioned before, this is the first record with Andy on the kit, though he has guested on both Do5 and On Blue. Our chemistry is different than what you might expect. Gone are the days of us living together in the band house (as with VS Mabus and On Blue). We all live very different lives and might not see each other for a few weeks so when we get together it is a very focused meeting of music. We convene in the rehearsal space either to prepare for a tour or to put together a new piece. After finishing the last song at a rehearsal for our latest tour, instead of packing up and going home, without a word we dove into an improvisation, something we rarely have the time to do anymore. This little jam was like a ski resort holiday for four. We had gone through the grueling process of perfecting our songs and without a word were whisked away to the backside of an alpine slope.

mwe3: I hear a lot of different musical influences on the Senna album including Soft Machine and even some of European instrumental prog-rock of the 1970s. How important are musical influences to the Mahogany Frog sound and who are the biggest influences on the group sound?

GE: Mahogany Frog has become an entity that is beyond our control. Whatever our intentions are with a particular song it ends up sounding like a Mahogany Frog composition. The songs often start with a melody and then that melody is auditioned by the various instruments in our arsenal. Depending on the winning instrument, the color or mood of the song will then come forth. So the biggest influence on the group would be the instruments themselves. I'm still surprised what a fuzz box can do and if all else fails a nice Phase 90 will do wonders. Not that it's by any means new, the use of MIDI has moved us in a new direction. We now have the keyboard rig connected with the Scott's synth and Andy's laptop through miles of wire. Our sequencers can communicate giving us more control on stage and the ability to use more sounds simultaneously. But as for records anything by Stravinsky, the Sadies, or Daft Punk will keep our sails full and the boat afloat.

mwe3: The guitar chemistry of you and Jesse Warkentin is phenomenal. How do you combine the two guitar sound especially balancing with all the electronic sounds on the CD? What guitars are featured on the Senna album and also can you describe your approach to the great electronics and other special effects you achieve on the CD?

GE: Jesse and I share the guitar and keyboard duties about 50/50. Generally if I'm on guitar, Jesse will be on the keys and vice versa with the exception of “Message From Uncle Stan: Grey Shirt” where we both play guitar. I think there may be some keyboard parts on the record that are mistaken for guitar parts. We use some of the same effects and amplifiers for both guitar and keys.

We've been touring with a coupe of SGs over the past few years. I've recently picked up an Epiphone Sheraton that Jesse and I have both been playing in our sets. We used both SGs, a Stratocaster, and a Les Paul on Senna but ended up using a borrowed Sheraton for a lot of it. The staples of rock n roll, I guess.

Every member of Mahogany Frog enjoys a nice bit of electronic mischief. If you can plug it in we'll try it out and if it has a knob we'll twist it. Scott has a little battery powered gadget called the "tampoura box" that he picked up in India. I think it's on “Grey Shirt”. Andy's piece at the end of “Aqua Love” includes tape loops, tone generators, and beluga whales. All of this is really icing on the cake.

mwe3: Lastly, can you give the reader some history into how you came up with the Mahogany Frog name for the group and what is the plan moving forward into the ungodly year of 2013?

GE: You'll have to be in our inner circle for at least 5 years to learn that one. As for 2013, look out for a Senna re-mix album, I'm thinking it might become the psychedelic hip hop record of the year, a 7" of some bombastic surf rock, a 10" of our electronic musings, and more touring by airplane. Yeah, 2013 looks good to me.

Thanks to Graham Epp @ www.MahoganyFrog.com

 

 
   
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