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A Dirty Dozen with MARK McCARTY from RATROD – November 2023

| 20 November 2023 | Reply

According to a recent press release: “Never gonna happen…. How many times does a band hear this? Knowledgeable people in the business say it all the time about bands that sound too much like someone else, are too much this, too little that, are either too young or old, etc. Well Rat Rod are a tenacious lot that have never been the kind of band to take “no” for an answer. Rat Rod have been fortunate enough to play alongside east coast legends Starz, Angel, Bang Tango, Faster Pussycat and Tantric as well as many other nationally touring acts on different occasions in such places as the famed Trocadero Theater in Philadelphia, Pa. RAT ROD is the father/son duo of Mark and Brice McCarty on lead and rhythm guitars respectively, Mike Smith on vocals, LJ on Bass. and Harry Rosa on drums. Formed in the fall of 2016 when a brokered meeting of 2 like-minded musicians, Mark McCarty and Mike Smith culminated in an extremely productive writing session. You will find in RAT ROD a band of individuals who pay homage to the music by staying true to the formula yet adding their own twist and sensibilities.  If you are looking for soft, heartfelt ballads, look elsewhere because with titles like the opener of their debut, the fast boogie “Rat Like Me”, the crowd favorite “Ride It (Like Ya Stole It)’, and the upstart “Memphis Belle” you won’t find them here! The boys in RAT ROD have big plans and a strong work ethic so If you have an itch for rock and roll the way it’s meant to be, RAT ROD is the cure.” We get lead guitarist Mark to discuss new music, influences, and more.

1. Tell us a little about your latest release.  What might a fan or listener not grab the first or second time they listen through?  Are there any hidden nuggets you put in the material or that only diehard fans might find?

Cool question! Our latest album Four on the Floor is an homage of sorts. From the title to the 10 tunes within. One might think the title is a car reference and on the surface, it is but it goes deeper. It’s really referring to the 4 kick drums per measure that bands like AC/DC, The Angels, and Rose Tattoo (among others) would often use to really drive home the beat. We are all huge fans of those bands plus we all have Kiss as a major influence. So yes, there are some little “easter eggs” (as we like to call them) throughout the album. But I’m not going to say what they are—that would spoil the fun 😊

2. What got you into music, and can you tell us about the moment you realized you wanted to be a musician?

It’s a bit odd because growing up no one in my family were musical or even actively artistic. My mom drew a little when she was younger but never when I was around. I never had a father around but here recently just learned who he was and as it turns out he was quite creative, so I guess I got it from his side. I have always been interested in music and just gravitated toward guitar and drums. I always wanted to play drums but wasn’t allowed to because of the noise, so I went after guitar. My grandmother took care of me a lot when I was little and she was a huge fan of Merle Haggard, Ray Price, and many other classic country musicians. She actually took me to see Ernest Tubb and Johnny Cash in concert when I was maybe 4 or 5 years old.  That surely made an impression on me.

3. Building on that, is there a specific song, album, performer, or live show that guided your musical taste?

For me it comes down to 2 artists. First it was Johnny Cash and the second was AC/DC. Before I could ever play the guitar I had one, and would sit intently and watch Johnny on TV and try to emulate him. But it wasn’t until I heard AC/DC for the first time that I actually tried to play the guitar and I went full force. I went so far as to trade a motor cycle for my first electric guitar…an old Harmony. Back in Black is the album, song, and moment when it all changed for me and set me off in the direction that I have now been on for a long time.

4. If you could call in any one collaborator to do a song with, who would it be, and why?

Oh man there are so many! From the obvious Brian Johnson and Angus Young to someone like Tom Waits or Bob Seger. I would love to spend a day writing with these people who have created such great music. But the ultimate wish list impossible but why not dream answer would be Bon Scott. He was such a brilliant lyric writer I would just love to hear what he would do with my riffs!

5. What is your favorite activity when out of the studio and/or not on tour?  What do you like to do to unwind?

Well, I’m a car nut. I have a few old cars that I cruise around in, work on and keep maintained. I am basically a tinkerer. If there is something that I can fix or improve I am apt to dig into it. About 10 years ago I decided I wanted to build a guitar amp… I succeeded and it is actually my main head that I use to this day. It’s based on the Marshall JCM800. The guitars that I play – vintage Gretsch Anniversary models, I have put together from bare wood. I got my main one (1961 model 6124) for $50 left for scrap. I resurrected it and found 2 more that were stripped of all parts. I put them back together just enough to make them playable… like I said, I’m a tinkerer.

6. How would you describe your music to someone who’d never listened to you before? What is the one comparison a reviewer or fan has made that made you cringe or you disagreed with?

I describe our music as good time 3 chord rock and roll. We often get compared to Dirty Looks or Rhino Bucket and while I get it, we are in the same vein, I really don’t hear it.  Admittedly much of the comparison comes from the fact that our singer Mike Smith has a voice reminiscent of Bon Scott as do those bands.  But there is Kiss, Metallica, The Angels, Rose Tattoo, and many others that influence our sound also.

7. When your band is hanging out together, who cooks, who gets the drinks in, and who is first to crack out the acoustic guitars for a singalong?

Harry Rosa our drummer is the cook. He’s a brilliant with the spices and a grill and being Italian, of course the pasta and gravy! LJ our bass player will bring the drinks undoubtedly from New Orleans—his favorite place on earth. Mike, Brice (rhythm guitar) and I will collective get together with the acoustics and write the next Rat Rod tune after a few drinks and dinner.

8. When was the last time you were starstruck and who was it?

If I am being completely honest, I haven’t been starstruck by anyone in person. I guess because the interactions I’ve had with famous or formerly famous people, they have all been just real people. Where I was starstruck so to speak was when I went to Graceland. That place had a profound affect on me, and I still think about it. I couldn’t believe I was actually in Elvis’ home! Sadly, Lisa Marie Presley’s passing brought that back to front of mind.

9. What is the best part of being a musician? If you could no longer be a musician for whatever reason, what would be your dream job?

The dream job if I could not play music would be in the studio engineering and producing. I have always enjoyed that end of the business. In fact, I have been intimately involved in all 4 Rat Rod albums either directly or indirectly recording/engineering/producing each.

10. What is one question you have always wanted an interviewer to ask – and what is the answer? Conversely, what question are you tired of answering?

Last one first; I never get tired of answering questions about our music and Rat Rod in general. I am happy that people want to get to know us!  The question I’ve wanted to be asked? What would your grandmother think of you if she were alive today? I think she’d be pretty proud and impressed that I was able to go as far as I have with that guitar. She’d also get a real kick out of the fact that not only is her grandson in a band but also here great grandson is in that same band.

11. Looking back over your career, is there a single moment or situation you feel was a misstep or you would like to have a “do over,” even if it didn’t change your current situation?

A long time ago Harry and I were in a different band together, a progressive metal band and we had a phenomenal vocalist working with us and the five of us were very slowly building it up. Unfortunately, something happened (I don’t recall the particulars) but we were contemplating and ultimately decided to separate from the vocalist. I feel that was a mistake because the band never attained the success it could have, we floundered along for another year or two before calling it quits. Had we stayed the course and worked through the issue who knows where it would have gone.  The lesson: the hardest part about being in a band is keeping it together…

12. If you could magically go back in time and be a part of the recording sessions for any one record in history, which would you choose – and what does that record mean to you?

I am going to circle back to the beginning of our conversation. Back in Black was what started it all for me. I just read Brian Johnson’s new book and I have a sense of what it was like, but I would love to have been a fly on the wall during those sessions. I could learn so much about crafting a masterpiece.






Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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