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ARCHIVE INTERVIEW – Paul Mahon, The Answer, November 2013

| 25 March 2015 | Reply

ARCHIVE INTERVIEW – Paul Mahon, The Answer, November 2013
By Shane Pinnegar

After the release of The Answer’s fourth album New Horizon in September 2013, we got guitarist Paul Mahon on the blower for a chinwag.

The Answer 2013 Paul Mahon

100% ROCK: How was the recording process for you this time round?

Paul: It was kind of… it’s a little bit different from start to finish, this album, from the writing process to the final mixing stage. It was the quickest album we’ve ever made. With Toby Jepson coming on board [as producer], the main thing he wanted to do was record the band live. We’ve done that in the studio before. On the second record, all the written tracks were done live together but this time he took it a bit farther and he challenged me to do solos from the live tracks and it meant doing maybe 15-20 takes with guitar bass and drums until we all had something that we were happy with.

We’re not afraid of putting work in – he was kind of pushing us to the nth degree. It meant the guitar tracks had to have a bit more attitude. You had to be committed to it straight away. I think that brought an edge to it and it may be a bit more raw than our previous albums. We covered that.

100% ROCK: You can definitely hear the energy in the tracks. It’s really full on and it sort of leaps out of the speaker at you. I didn’t realize that was how you recorded it. That might account for that.

Paul: Yeah. We put a lot of time in pre-production so the songs were becoming second nature. It’s always very frustrating when songs are new and then you go on tour you kind of work out how to play them properly. Last time we worked hard at that so it became second nature. It still took maybe 15-20 takes but I think we found the best way to play them. Better than usual.

100% ROCK: You mentioned Toby from Little Angels, it is helpful to work with a producer who’s also a singer and a songwriter and a recording artist in his own right?

Paul: Definitely so, yeah. I think all the people since the first record that we worked with like John Travis had a musical background, Chris Frenchie Smith was in Young Heart Attack so he was very much a producer that saw things from my point of view as a guitar player. And then this time Toby was… you know Toby had been a singer and a songwriter. He brought that to the table. It definitely helped and I think Toby had his own frustrations with Little Angels and knew what pitfalls to look out for, to be avoided.

Yeah it was great to have him on board that way and he still has that fresh in his mind. With Toby it’s the first time, outside the four guys of the band, first time we’ve ever written with somebody else. It was quite hard to let go of that but we spent a lot of time with him and got to really trust him and he came over and hung out for a couple of months and almost became a fifth member of the band. I think that even though it was hard to let go of those reins, it was in our best interest. I think we ended up coming up with better material.

The Answer 2013

100% ROCK: You went up to the next level?

Paul: Yeah, I guess. He certainly pushed us to be more direct. Not just musically but also lyrically as well. Cormac’s [lyrics] – [he didn’t want people to] have to decipher too many metaphors and things like that. He wanted it to be a bit more… the man on the street can hear it straight away and go, ‘that’s what that guy is saying’.

100% ROCK: Now talking about your lyrics, since the first album, there’s been a lot of uplifting and positive things – spiritually in some respects, coming right up through to the name of the latest album. Are you a glass half-full bunch of guys?

Paul: Toby and the other 3 are. I’m a bit more of a realist than the glass half-full but no we’ve always been [positive], I think, since the early days. We always had to fight to get our music heard and we worked really hard to get our environment and we found out pretty early on that in this business, you always have to be positive because if you dwelled on the bad things too long, you would give up. I think you have to be positive to survive in this game.

100% ROCK: I read that you got into playing the guitar through AC/DC and then got into a lot of hair metal bands and from there you went backwards to the Led Zeps and Deep Purples and from then back to the blues. Do you hear all those influences in filming your own playing now?

Paul: Yeah, definitely. It was DC that got me into thinking I wanted to play guitar. I think the record at that time was Blow Up Your Video. From there yeah, I got into all the hair metal stuff and yeah I definitely hear things like… as a big Mötley Crüe fan as a kid, people probably don’t hear or realise what a great player Mick Mars was. And I’ll hear things from Too Fast For Love – his playing on that album kind of straddles the line between Steve Jones and Jimmy Page. It’s a bit ragged and rough in places but also you can tell he knows what he’s doing. I can hear a little bit of that from the guitar on the new record.

That kind of guitar sound he has in Too Fast For Love. There’s other tracks you can still hear, things like Call Yourself A Friend. You can still hear the Zeppelin influence. Some of the heavier things you can hear the metal in it as well. Some of that comes into it too. For me I can hear it all.

100% ROCK: Well that soulful 70’s had rock vibes are at the root of The Answer’s music. I love that about the band. When you first started jamming together, did that sound happen naturally or did it take a bit of working through to develop your own sound as a band?

Paul: It happened completely naturally. The first day Cormac came out to rehearsal he asked, ‘what songs do you know? What songs do we all know?’, so we played All Right Now by Free. I’ve don’t that song with other guys in other bands and stuff and he nailed it from the get go. The groove, James and Mickey, they just fell right into the pocket and I remember getting to the solo on that and it all just… the combination… it was so easy for me to play on top. We wrote two songs together that first rehearsal and it… yeah that part of it was always easy. The groove and the way things fell together. It came very naturally to us.

100% ROCK: That sounds like a real hair on the back of your neck sort of moment, when you just instantly feel that it’s right.

Paul: It really was, yeah. I kind of dabbled in cover bands briefly but The Answer is still kind of… it’s my first band in a way. It’s a band I’ll always… I had it in my head as the band I wanted to put together since I was a teenager; it just took a bit of time. When it did finally happen it was kind of like… oh finally, it’s happened! The hairs were standing up in back of the neck.

100% ROCK: You mentioned already getting into music because of AC/DC. You mentioned Free. You guys have supported AC/DC, Paul Rogers, Whitesnake, Deep Purple, Rolling Stones, The Who, loads of others. There can’t be too many teenage idols out there that you haven’t had a chance to play a gig with yet.

Paul: No… well maybe Mötley Crüe. I guess Mötley Crüe and Van Halen are the only bands feature highly in my record collection that we haven’t crossed paths with yet but I think our hopes anyway are that our days as the opening act are over and we’re… well, even if we’re not, we’re working very hard to become a headline band in our own right and take that up to the next level. Playing with AC/DC opened up a lot of doors and got a lot of people to become aware of the band and that’s something we’re all thankful for and those 13 months are memories I’ll never forget but it’s time for us to do our own thing now.

The Answer 2013 2

100% ROCK: A recent feature in Classic Rock Magazine wasn’t particularly complimentary about where the band is at the moment. How do you feel about that article in hindsight?

Paul: It left a bad taste in the mouth, that article. I remember the guy at the time seemed pretty cool but he… the thing with those kind of things is you can look at it in two ways and he certainly looked at it from the glass half-empty rather than the glass half-full. It is what it is. I don’t agree with everything he said… he ,ade some good points, but I don’t think it was a very fair article – but they still wanted to talk to us so all publicity is good in some way.

100% ROCK: Yeah, I thought it was a bit harsh, actually. Do you think the band’s fallen short of expectations, or at least of your own expectations?

Paul: I guess in commercial terms, yes we certainly have. I know after the AC/DC tour our aim was very high and we expected a lot. It maybe didn’t quite… Revival’s sales didn’t really live up to what we hoped for. Creatively, I think we have lived up to our potential.

So with Revival, what went wrong? A couple of things… we took too much time off after the AC/DC tour. We kind of were out of the game for a year and that’s a real long time these days. It’s not like the ‘70s anymore when you can get away with that. These days peoples’ attention spans are so short. They forget about a band next week so that wasn’t quite the best plan.

The way the record label dealt with the album wasn’t too great. I think the promotional and marketing [side] certainly fell very short of what we needed. The album didn’t come out in America which was… we were hoping that was going to be our primary market after playing all those shows with AC/DC. We were hoping to get back there and they kind of pulled the plug on that. We had to quickly come up with a plan B and straight away we went and got a new label, got straight to work on New Horizon with Toby and that got us back in the game so we’re making up for lost time at the moment. We know we’ve got to work extra hard to get back in peoples’ minds and get the band up where it should be.

100% ROCK: Well the music’s good enough. The hard part, I think, is that rock music in general seems like a hard sell right around the world at the moment. Do you think anything can be done to get kids buying rock records again?

Paul: I guess you’ve got to go to the grassroots and get kids into it a bit younger. The best way of doing that is to get them a gig and get them involved, get them to see it first time up close and personal and I know that’s something that always left a big impression on me. I remember hearing AC/DC – just hearing the record got me really interested, but then when things like Nirvana and Rage Against The Machine started happening in the ‘90s and I would go to my first shows, that’s a whole different, much more visceral experience. I think if we get kids to experience that a bit younger, they’ll understand the power of rock and roll and want to get more involved. That’s where it starts.

The Answer Live 2013

Apart from that I think it’s too hard to get rock on the radio right now for many reasons. For commercial reasons and the people controlling it aren’t… it’s not the right time for it, right now. You’ve got to get out and tour. That seems to be how people are finding out about rock bands these days which is a shame but there’s always some band will come along and hopefully blow the whole thing open. The Darkness kind of did it for a while. I guess going way, way back Nirvana were the last band to really change people’s perception at radio and commercial terms. Hopefully something like that will happen again but other than that, I think it’s getting kids involved earlier is a way forward.

100% ROCK: Absolutely. Being an Irish band, do you ever get sick of people endlessly comparing you to the likes of Thin Lizzy or Rory Gallagher?

Paul: No, we’re really proud of our heritage and it’s more of an honour to be mentioned in the same breath. Certain times in a way, when people mention us with those guys it’s seemed as we’ve earned it to be compared to them in a little way so it’s nice. I’ve grown up with Lizzy as well as AC/DC and Rory Gallagher is one of my real early influences. I started playing probably just before he died… he was very much an influence, being a fellow countryman that makes it extra special too.

100% ROCK: After having spent so much time travelling together with each other over the last 10 years, is it easy to not get on each other’s nerves during a long tour?

Paul: It’s impossible not to. It’s gotten easier with time though. The secret is we were friends before the band started. With Micky, I’ve known him since I was 11. We’ve grown up like brothers in a way. Brothers fight on a daily basis but they make up on a daily basis too. That’s kind of been something that’s a common bond in the band with all four of us because we all write together which takes a long time.

Sometimes you can knock a song out… you know: guitar and vocal, and it’s done. But we take our stuff and run it around the block with input from all four guys. The end product of that is that everyone is equally passionate about the song and the creative process and we fight for it. Sometimes that means you’ve got to hold your tongue. Sometimes that means you got a little bit more understanding. And sometimes you just get on each other’s nerves but we’ll go out and have a tinny the next day and everything’s fine.

100% ROCK: Excellent. I’ve got a hypothetical one to finish up. If you could magically go back in time and be a part of the recording of any one record in history, which would you choose?

Paul: That’s a tough one. Let me think… I guess I’m going to go back to Are You Experienced by Jimi Hendrix just to see how that came together. I think if you listen to the other albums around that time, it sound like he was ahead and it’s still kind of fresh to me but how they get it – I’m guessing they cut most the basic tracks live – and just to see his ideas. You know, the extra special stuff that went on there. I’ve read about that album. At times they don’t know the way it came together. It kind of just happened. It wasn’t brought out too much. It sounds like a very special time in the ‘60s and that’s when they were making it but maybe didn’t know quite what they had. It’s an album that’s been through the test of time so I’d love to be in there on that one.

100% ROCK: Excellent, mate. Look, thanks again for your time, it’s much appreciated.

Paul: Any time.

Category: Interviews

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Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE

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