"It is pure human emotion boiled down to the simplest and basic musical terms. Everybody has the blues in one way or another and the blues is the soundtrack to our lives."
The Muggs: Motor City Overdrive
The Muggs is a blues-rock band from Detroit, Michigan. Formed in February 2000 by guitarist Danny Methric, bassist Tony DeNardo and drummer Matt Rost. They won several awards including the Best Blues Artist and the Best Rock Band for 2007. Danny and Tony got together and decided to form a bluesier band than their previous bands had been. In October 2000, the band recorded their first EP to play to help get gigs.
Following an adventure with his health, Tony, decided to try his bass lines on a Rhodes keyboards after a suggestion from the Muggs' old friend Matt Smith, from the band Outrageous Cherry. They released their self-titled album in 2005, after having their songs on the documentary rockumentary. In 2008 they won "Best Rock Band of 2007" and, at the 2008 Detroit Music Awards, won "Outstanding Rock Artist/Group" award. Danny won the "Outstanding Rock/Pop Instrumentalist" award as a guitarist.
On May 2008, the band released On With the Show, their second CD. The band then opened for a variety of rock bands including Mountain, Robin Trower, Cactus, Savoy Brown, Ten Years After, Glenn Hughes, North Mississippi Allstars, Electric Six, and the Detroit Cobras. In 2009, Todd Glass, one of the most sought after drummers in Detroit replaced Rost.
In late 2010, the band, now with Glass on drums, entered the studio to begin recording their third CD, entitled Born Ugly. The band also recorded a live show at Cadieux Cafe in Detroit, MI. in late 2012 which they released in April 2013 entitled Full Tilt At the 2013 Detroit Music Awards, the Muggs won once again for 'Outstanding Rock Artist/Group' & 'Outstanding Rock/Pop Instrumentalist' for the Fender Rhodes bassist, Tonymuggs.
What do you learn about yourself from the blues rock culture and what does the blues mean to you?
Tony: The blues rock culture means allot to me. From the very beginning, learning how to play the blues and then marry that into blues rock has been a joy and a great challenge. I get frustrated with today's popular music because it has no foundation. The blues is the foundation to all music. From the start, I involved myself in blues bands AND rock bands to get a firm grasp of how to play my instrument, the bass guitar, and how to write. So if kids are reading this, involve yourselves with the blues and then blues rock is the logical progression if that's your thing.
Danny: To me, the blues is the ultimate form of self expression. It can be sad, joyous, soft, heavy...basically anything under the sun. But the blues is so different from person to person. Everybody that plays it shares their various experiences in different ways. That’s what makes the blues a unique art form. It is pure human emotion boiled down to the simplest and basic musical terms. Everybody has the blues in one way or another and the blues is the soundtrack to our lives.
How do you describe you sound and what characterize The Muggs philosophy?
Tony: Raw, gritty, ugly at times, powerful, bombastic and heavy! The Muggs has always been about songwriting and live performance. Dannymuggs is an amazing songwriter. He gets credit for his guitar playing, which is great but I think people don't realize his true strength, his imagination in songwriting! He has written 3 amazing LP's The Muggs (2005), On With The Show (2008) & Born Ugly (2011). Each full length LP showing maturation from the last release. It takes all 3 of us to realize his vision sometimes, but he is our fearless captain! Then our live show is how we enjoy the songwriting. I have to say, we play with ferocity and intrepid determination on stage. With the edition of drummer Todd Glass in October 2009 (who replaced Matt Rost), Todd has complimented the Muggs sound perfectly. Stretching songs out and improvising where appropriate has become our signature at live shows. So much so, we released our double live LP, Full Tilt: Live at Cadieux Cafe in 2013.
Danny: Our philosophy is to write progressive music that is based on the basic blues structure. Our goal from the beginning was to create a band that could mix the progressive blues of Led Zeppelin and Cactus with the pop sensibility and creativity of the Beatles. Our songs almost always start with a bluesy riff. And from there we like to put an interesting melody and lyrics over it. But it always starts with the riff because I believe in the greatness and holiness of the riff.
How did you choose the name?
Tony: Back in the year 2000, we were rehearsing like mad. We weren't playing out yet as the Muggs, just rehearsing and writing. Matt Rost was our original drummer back then and is still a great friend. Dannymuggs and I had this generic saying for any place or thing we talked about. For instance, if the Cadieux Cafe, our favorite bar & restaurant in Detroit, were full of people, we might say, "It's packed up in this mugg!" or if I wanted to see the Led Zeppelin CD Danny was holding, I'd say, "Hey man, pass me that mugg." So at this time, we were saying 'mugg' at rehearsal all the time. So one day, Matt Rost walks down stairs in to my basement for rehearsal and proclaims, "We should call ourselves 'The Mugs'. That was great but we had to add a 'G' to make it 'The Muggs' so we weren't compared with coffee mugs. So Matt came up with the name!
Why did you think that the Blues music continues to generate such a devoted following?
Tony: Every one can relate to the blues. You can dance to it, it makes you happy, or you can reflect on life with a minor blues ballad. The lyrics are simple yet prophetic. The blues is a great teacher. Also, the blues is the foundation of all modern music. If you, as a musician, understand the blues, you can play country, rock, prog, jazz etc. I'm so glad I was introduced to the blues at 18 years old. The two main guys that did that were my dad, Frankie DeNardo, who is by coincidence, childhood buddies with the legendary, Jimmy McCarty (Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels, Cactus, The Rockets) and Dannymuggs stepfather, Mike Milne. My dad used to take me and Danny to see Jimmy when he had his blues band, The Detroit Blues Band. We were underage, only 18, but because my dad was a police officer, we were allowed in bars to see them play. Additionally, Mike turned me and Danny on to great British and American blues bands like Savoy Brown, Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac, John Mayall, Freddie King, etc. He was always jamming the blues at Danny's house.
Danny: Blues music is one of the rare forms of music that you can get up on stage and improvise with a complete stranger. Yet you two can still be musically compatible having never played together before. That’s what makes the blues so universal. It’s so simple yet so complex to truly express yourself. It’s that challenge that makes people yearn to play the blues and why it will always be popular in the future.
What’s the best jam you ever played in?
Tony: The Muggs have a side project called Rattlesnake Shake, a tribute to Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac and on January 8th 2010 I was privileged to share the stage with Jeremy Spencer on "It Hurts Me Too"!
That has to be one of THE MOST memorable jams for me personally. It brought the blues full circle in my life. He is one of my heroes of the blues and I'm playing bass and we're jamming "It Hurts Me Too", an essential blues song of the 21st century. I never thought when Danny and I were in his basement learning the blues, probably listening to that very song back when we were 20 years old and green as hell, we'd one day get to meet Jeremy and jam with him!
Danny: Me and the boys were stranded in Barcelona three years ago because of a volcano in Iceland that erupted and grounded all the flights that were supposed to leave that day. Lucky for us, Bob Margolin, from muddy waters' band, was stranded too in the same city and we heard that he was going to a blues jam that night. We all went up there and got to play with bob which was amazing. He was so gracious and talented. All I could think of was this was the closest I’ll ever get to muddy waters. This awesome jam would have never happened without that volcano erupting.
What are some of the most memorable gigs you've had?
Tony: One of my favorite moments came when the Muggs were asked to open for Robin Trower back in October 2006 at the Royal Oak Music Theater, in Royal Oak MI. (a suburb of Detroit). We had 45 minutes to play and when our last note rang out, the audience, all 1,700 of them, gave us a standing ovation. That was when I realized the Muggs could hang with any world class band in the world!
Danny: there are so many. We are such a lucky band that we've been able to open up for so many of our favorite bands...Cactus, Savoy Brown, the North Mississippi All-Stars, Mountain, Ten Years After, Robin Trower...all of these shows are so memorable and important to me.
What is the best advice ever given you?
Tony: Bob Dylan gave it to me in the song "Buckets Of Rain" off his amazing LP Blood On The Tracks. He told me, "You Do What You Must Do, And You Do It Well, I'll Do It For You, Honey Baby Can't You Tell". I take it to mean that whatever you do in this life, do it 110%, "do it well"! When you see a Muggs concert, you understand that about us. We play like it's our last concert every time.
Danny: "fuck 'em if they can't take a joke." I don't know where I heard that but it is still my mantra to this day.
Are there any memories from recording and show time which you’d like to share with us?
Tony: I tend to remember and embrace all of our recording sessions, from the very first LP, The Muggs at Rustbelt Studios in Royal Oak, MI. to our last live LP, Full Tilt, recorded at the Cadieux Cafe in October of 2012. I'm especially proud of the boys for stepping up and performing their asses off that night. Todd, our drummer, mentioned that for a standard live LP, a band usually does 3 nights in a row and takes the best of those recordings. The Muggs did roughly two- one hour sets in one night. So what you hear is what you got and man, we were hot that night! We sold out the Cadieux Cafe and our Detroit fans lifted our spirits and fed us tons of energy that we gave right back to them. Initially, we had planned to release only 11 songs or so. Dannymuggs came up with the great idea to release the entire 22 songs on a double CD! We just couldn't get rid of one song; the performances were that good to our ears. Of course, on vinyl, we only had 18 minutes per side so the double vinyl LP doesn't have the entire concert, but you can download the others if need be.
Danny: I’m a huge fan of horror movies. I even made a couple of bad horror movies called 'Bite of the Weredog' and ‘Bite of the Weredog 2' and 'the man week massacre.' You can find them all on you tube. There are actual pictures of me in a weredog mask trying to record vocals for our 'Bite of the Weredog' song. I needed the mask to get into character and the engineer thought I was crazy. It was a hilarious session but the vocals came out evil and great. I love the occult and this was one of my favorite sessions.
Make an account of the case of the blues in Detroit. What are the differences between Motor City and other local scenes?
Tony: The Blues in Detroit is alive and well. There are blues bands and blues jams all over metro Detroit. At Nancy Whiskey's in Corktown (a blues venue where me and Danny cut are teeth in the mid 90's with our first legitimate blues band, the Detroit Underground Blues Band), the Harbour House in Greektown, the Blue Goose in a north east suburb of Detroit and then Dannymuggs and his buddy Dylan Dunbar host a blues jam at the Cadieux Cafe every third Tuesday of each month. I'd say there is no difference between our scene and any other blues scene in the world actually. When the Muggs toured Spain in 2010, we were prevented from returning to the US because of the Icelandic volcano. Do you recall? So we were stuck in Barcelona Spain. I mean, WE WERE STUCK IN BARCELONA SPAIN!!! Our promoters were very kind and on a particular Sunday at the rock venue Rocksound, they had a blues jam so our promoter Edu, took us up there! Todd and Danny got to sit in and as luck would have it, blues legend Bob Margolin, Muddy Waters guitarist, was stuck in Barcelona too. Mr. Margolin came to the Rocksound to jam the blues. Danny and Todd had the pleasure to play with him!
Danny: A lot of people ask me that and the answer is very elusive. For some reason, the music and blues and rock in Detroit just has this gritty, nasty feel. I can’t explain it. It’s like trying to look at your own eyeball. There must be something in the water here to make us so crazy.
What do you miss most nowadays from the music of past?
Tony: Popular radio. Is it me or does popular radio suck? But there for the grace of god goes the internet. Popular radio was deregulated in the mid 90's under the Clinton presidency and ever since there has been a steady decline in eclectic, imaginative music. I say this with a heavy heart because in the 80's and early 90's, popular radio inspired me to pick up a guitar and start playing. There was the grunge movement going on everywhere, young people like me started growing their hair out, experimenting with drugs and you could sense the excitement in the air that a music revolution was in full swing. People cared so much about music. Sadly, I would say that was the last music revolution to this very day. I want music to challenge me and inspire me. I'm very proud to be in the Muggs for that reason.
Danny: There are just as many innovative and talented bands now as we had back in the 1960s. What I miss is the ability to hear them on the radio so they can reach a mass audience like they did in the '60s.
What are your hopes and fears for the future of music?
Tony: My hope is that young people start demanding change for more eclectic, meaningful music on mainstream, popular radio. Maybe just mainstream period. My fear is that big corporations like Clear Channel and Live Nation have too powerful a grip already on what is being said and a how laws are being crafted to benefit only their interests as a for profit company and not the good of the people. These are strange times in the world today. People in the US are divided and no one is listening to each other. They just wait for their turn to spout out their opinion and there doesn't seem to be any compromise going on. I blame both sides. Music shouldn't be so rigid that the ONLY concern is making profit. I also hope blues rock and rock in general makes a popular come back. We'll see. Europe seems to lead the way on such matters. The US follows....
Danny: I fear that bad modern country music will take over the earth and that Toby Keith will be president. I really hope that doesn't happen.
What has made you laugh lately and what touched (emotionally) you from the music circuits?
Tony: Do you mean what music makes me laugh? I wouldn't go there but lately My Morning Jacket, the LP Circuital has been inspiring me. Led Zeppelin's LP Presence, the Beatles LP Revolver, Savoy Brown's LP, Raw Sienna & their first LP, Shakedown. What else? Beck's 2006 LP, The Information... Muddy Waters LP After The Rain, I could go on & on.
Danny: I just saw the movie 'The Great Race' with Jack Lemmon, Natalie Wood, and Tony Curtis recently. I laughed my ass off... it is a comedic masterpiece. Other than that, I try not to get depressed. That’s why I play the blues. It is my release from the terrible situations life can put you in.
"Our philosophy is to write progressive music that is based on the basic blues structure. Our goal from the beginning was to create a band that could mix the progressive blues of Led Zeppelin and Cactus with the pop sensibility and creativity of the Beatles."
Which memories from Mountain, Robin Trower, Cactus, Savoy Brown, Ten Years After, and Jack Bruce makes you smile?
Tony: Just knowing that the Muggs can hang with these legendary rock bands puts a smile on my face. We still have not reached our goal of being a national band yet. I often think to the future and wonder if we, like Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf, will get our due only after our prime like they did. But for our fans, we just want to continue writing good, inspiring blues rock music and with a little luck, we could make a living doing what the Muggs do best!
Danny: We opened up for Mountain and I was so excited to meet Leslie West. I went backstage at the Magic Bag during their drum solo. Suddenly, there was Leslie West, right in front of me. I didn't know what to say. He walks up and says...'uh, can you please leave?!" He wanted the backstage to himself so he kicked me out. Too funny. I left, of course giggling. That’s how I met Leslie West.
What are the lines that connect the legacy of Motor City from Motown to Hooker, MC5, Grand Funk, Muggs and beyond?
Tony: In think its Detroit itself. The landscape hasn't changed that much from the late 50's moving forward and certainly the economic strife has been a common thread throughout. Now more so than ever with our 18 billion dollar bankruptcy. Yet, Detroit is my home and always will be. There is this sense of pride being born and raised in Detroit. The bands you mentioned all have a palpable sense of grit and grim to their music. The Muggs are no exception. And all the bands, the Muggs included, have a great, raw live show. I think that also speaks to your point of Detroit being a great blues town. Allot of hours were spent in those seedy blues joints discovering bass and guitar lines for the first time and then hitting those venues week in and week out, honing what would be the Muggs music in the years to come. Detroit has tremendous spirit and soul and I'm proud the Muggs have tapped into that.
Danny: I don't know what those lines are but they are filthy, dirty, grimy, bluesy and dripping in bourbon barbecue sauce. That’s the only way I can explain it.
Let’s take a trip with a time machine for the next 24 hours, so where and why would you really wanna go for a whole day..?
Tony: I am and the Muggs are, both Danny and Todd, the biggest Beatles fans on the planet. That being said, I would set my time machine to go back to 1965 during the recordings of Rubber Soul and Revolver. I think I could have been friends with John and George. I would have very much liked to have been in that scene they were in, smoking pot, making friends and writing music. Tall order for 24 hours, but hey, I'm in the Muggs. Miracles happen all the time! Thanks for this wonderful interview guys! I hope that the Muggs can get into our time machine and tour beautiful Athens Greece in the near future.
Danny: Actually, as I’m now, at the Christmas/ birthday party for Tony at his house in Detroit. All of our best friends, musicians, and cohorts are gonna come by and get completely silly for the night. It’s gonna be a blast of epic proportions. But as for tomorrow, I would go to San Diego to deep sea fish all night with a crazy sea captain who wants to kill me. Good times!
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