In a time where Tame Impala is ruling the world, rainbows are slowly getting into fashion again, and everybody is either dusting off their old vinyl records or buying expensive re-pressings at boutique record stores, you can say MondoDrag couldn’t have picked a better moment to release their new album The Occultation Of Light. The cool thing is, they know this themselves too. This is a band that does not want to be caught retro-rehashing, and yes, they would rather play Roadburn today than Woodstock in ’69 thank you very much! We talked to vocalist/organ wizard John Gamino about The Occultation Of Light and what a good time it is to be alive.
We are doing great and keeping busy. It is not nerve-racking at all because we are so excited to get our new sounds to the world!
What’s the process like between the time when the a new album is done and waiting for it to come out?
After hearing and playing the new songs hundreds of times during recording and mixing, you don’t want to hear those damned songs ever again… at least not for awhile. During the interim period, there is a lot of behind the scenes work dealing with artwork, layout, promotion, tour planning, and of course writing for the next release.
The time between albums is much shorter this time around. Tell us about what motivated the band to get the new album out so quickly and why you decided to record it live.
The fact that it did take so long to release our Self-Titled album is what really motivated us to move quickly for The Occultation Of Light. Mondo Drag – Mondo Drag was cathartic and us redefining ourselves after our original singer/drummer and bassist left the group. It was us saying “Hey! This is who we’ve become and now that we’ve got your attention again there’s a bigger, better, more sonically-expansive record just around the corner!”
We entered the studio just coming off of a month-long tour and wanted to capture that raw, live energy. We recorded The Occultation Of Light mostly live, meaning that we performed as a full band and recorded entire performances straight to tape. However, we did record vocals, some solos, and little flourishes in post-production.
Ha! I would rather not bring up those projects. We definitely played in angry, angst-filled bands in high school, but let’s not dwell on those. Next question.
What was the first record you ever bought? What is the last record you bought?
Hmm… I think the first record I bought was Iron Maiden – Maiden Japan. The last record I bought was Birth Control – Operation which is some organ-heavy krautrock.
You are probably too young to have lived in the glory days of Pink Floyd, Deep Purple, etc. So how did this type of psychedelic music cross your path, and who put you on to it?
We’re all in our mid-20’s to early-30’s so our parents grew up on that era of music. Although, none of them are too hip to bands that were outside of the mainstream. Obviously, you have your “gateway bands” like Pink Floyd, Yes, Deep Purple, and Black Sabbath that are essential stepping stones at the beginning of an endless path of mind-expanding music. Should one choose to explore, the journey never ends. Growing up in a smaller town in the Midwest, we had to dig a little deeper, but publications like Shindig!, Galactic Zoo Dossier, and Arthur were indispensable sources of psychedelia and prog for our young, malleable minds.
Do you sometimes wish you were born in a different time?
Be born at a different time and not be able to do this interview with you? No thanks! The present-day is fine with me.
If you were offered the choice: Mondo Drag at Woodstock in the late-sixties or Mondo Drag at Roadburn today, what would you pick?
I would stay in the present. I think we would have fit in well with the bands of the Woodstock-era, but despite our sound, we are NOT 70’s revivalists. We are very much influenced by the world we live in today and have had the privilege of learning from the decades of music that have transpired since Woodstock. There was a rebellious, anti-establishment, pro-human sentiment in the air during Woodstock, or so I’ve heard, that seemed to dissipate as the winds of popular culture shifted towards the excess and superfluity of the mid/late 70’s and 80’s. However, that discontent and frustration is back in a big way with income inequality worse than it was at the time of The French Revolution! Times are strange and we need radical, independent thinkers today more than ever. Making music and turning on people around the world is our way of working against the establishment.
There was a time when a Hammond organ was present in nearly every rock band. This is not so much the case nowadays, unfortunately. Before we released New Rituals in 2010, I was working for Hammond Organ Co outside of Chicago, and working with these organs/keyboards day after day really put a fire in me. A heavy Hammond sound, with its grittiness and snarling overdrive, is possibly the only keyboard instrument that can stand up to the guitarists in a rock ensemble. I would say the holy trinity of rock organ pioneers would be: Vincent Crane (Atomic Rooster, Arthur Brown), Jon Lord (Deep Purple), and Ken Hensley (Uriah Heep). There are many more names I could rattle off, but these, I think, are the big ones.
As far your dreams for the band go, I bet you’ve made some come true already. Can you tell me some things that you would still like to accomplish with Mondo Drag?
I think the biggest accomplishment for a band that has a longer lifespan is to maintain relevancy without compromising the core essence of what defines and differentiates that band. A more tangible accomplishment would be for us to be able to quit our day jobs and solely make music as a living.
You’ll be touring Europe soon. What is your favorite place to play and why? And do you get any time to experience the different countries / cities?
This will be our first tour outside of the states!
Is there any story or secret about Mondo Drag that we would never expect?
We are the most punctual band ever. We usually arrive at venues before the staff. Timing is everything.
Full Review of The Occultation Of Light here.