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Guitarist Dave Malone Talks NOLA Crawfish Fest, The Radiators, Masquerades & More

first_imgNew Orleans has produced some of the most memorable groups in a variety of genres, and for decades the reigning hometown rock band was The Radiators. Word of mouth and traded cassette tapes spread the legend of a band that blew the roof off every time they played a gig.Guitarist Dave Malone, of The Radiators, is part of the all-star team of local musicians closing out the NOLA Crawfish Festival next Monday through Wednesday at the NOLA Brewing Company, alongside George Porter Jr., Anders Osborne, Billy Iuso and Terrence Higgins during the “Daze Between” Jazz Fest.  Our own Rex Thomson had a chance to chat with Malone about the mayhem the band witnessed from the stage over the years, the art of proper crawfish eating, and the ups and downs of a decades-long career in the music business.L4LM: How packed is your Jazz Fest schedule?Dave Malone: Probably seven or eight gigs in eight or nine days. (Laughs) It’s not as crazy as some people’s…but some things came I just couldn’t pass up after I’d already booked other things. So I’m gonna be scramblin’ around. It’s a really special time in New Orleans, and a lot of friends and really talented musicians are coming to town. So I’ll put in a lot of time during the fest but come that first Monday after I’ll take a rest.L4LM: Speaking of gigs you couldn’t pass up, you’re headlining the last night of the NOLA Crawfish Fest with an incredible krewe like George Porter Jr., Anders Osborne, Terrence Higgins, Billy Iuso. That seems like a pretty amazing amount of New Orleans guitar on one stage at one time.DM: Yeah, it’s pretty concentrated and powerful, and with a rhythm section like George Porter on bass, who’s, well…just the best, and Terrence Higgins on drums who is also the best, it’s gonna be “Guitartastic!”L4LM: In jam sessions like this, do you guys work out an outline of the material in advance, or do you just go on musical muscle memory built up by years of doing guitar curls?DM: This will be the third time we’re doing this, with me and George and Terry and Billy. In years past, we didn’t even get together and talk about it. It was literally just 100% jamming. This year, I’m probably gonna get together with Billy, and work out a couple things like some guitar harmonies, then we’ll just get up there and go, and George and Terry can just follow along like they do so well. I hope I don’t jinx myself by planning a little bit. (Chuckles) These jams can go anywhere with these guys, and that’s as cool as it can be.L4LM: Besides all the great music, Shaggy, The Crawfish King, is going to be serving up the massive, scrumptious boil that he’s legendary for. all throughout the show. There’s gonna be a lot of visitors in town who’ve never eaten a crawfish. Any tips for them?DM: Yeah…don’t eat the shells. (Laughs) I’ve been doing this my whole life. Taking the head off, sucking the juice out…pinching the tail, grabbing it lightly with your teeth and pulling the meat out if they’ve been boned correctly…I do it so fast people look at me like I’m from Mars or something. I don’t care though…”I’m eating crawfish, leave me alone.”People, out-of-towners who didn’t grow up doing this they’ll pull the heads off and not suck the juices out…which is just a shame in my book. Then they’ll start peeling the spiny things off the tail not knowing that if you just squeeze them together then the ribs on the underside crack and you can just gently tug it out with your teeth. It comes out as one tail. I go nuts on them, I tell you what and Shaggy’s are some of the absolute best.Here’s The Radiators giving their best musical crawfish tip of all…”Suck The Head”NOLA’s Crawfish King Is Cooking Up A Whole New FestivalL4LM: One of the ways that The Radiators built their dedicated following was as the house band for the infamous masquerade themed MOMs Balls. Can you describe a few of the more memorable outfits you saw from your perch onstage?DM: Well some of the most memorable outfits were hardly anything on really beautiful girls. Y’know, the thing is with all those events, especially the MOMs Ball, is that you really don’t remember it at all. You know that it happened, and that you were there because there are pictures that prove it. But if you do it right, it’s all kinda hazy. But you know it was the greatest Mardi Gras party every year. We would play it at a place and they would ask us not to come back. We finally found a couple of places that actually put up with our shenanigans.The whole idea behind masking yourself during carnival was to let your hair down and not be noticed as who you are. You were free to do whatever you wanted to do, provided you didn’t hurt anyone or break the law or anything. At MOMs Ball they carried that mindset to the extreme. People were just there to have fun. The early ones, man, there were people performing sex acts on the side of the stage. It was an “Anything Goes” kinda party.L4LM: Did you ever find yourself so distracted you forgot to keep playing?DM: (Laughs) I think my head probably forgot to play, but my fingers didn’t. Yeah I’m sure something like that a couple times. It was interesting to see, but you weren’t really shocked by anything. It’s New Orleans. That sorta thing happened even if it wasn’t Mardi Gras.L4LM: How did your involvement with the Balls begin?DM: The band that came before The Radiators had three Radiators and was called The Rhapsodizers. We inherited the MOMs Balls, which is a krewe of misfits, literally the Mystic Orphans & Misfits…MOMs. That all centered around a regular gig we had at a pizza place near the University of New Orleans called Luigi’s. So when the Radiators came into being after the demise of The Rhapsodizers, we inherited the MOMs Ball and the Luigi’s gig every Wednesday night, which was basically a paid rehearsal for us. Our fans would show up every week and encourage us to do whatever the hell we wanted to do.Not only that, but we allowed people to tape our shows, on cassette in those days, from the very beginning. Our fan base was from the fact that we were affiliated with Tulane University pretty strongly and all the different krewes like the MOMs krewe and people at the Dream Palace and Luigi’s. Tulane students that went back home would take these tapes to their brothers and sisters who would be coming to Tulane the next year. So we had new fans showing up who already knew our songs and us, before we started travelling all over the country.It was really beneficial for us to have an affiliation with Tulane. I was just in New York playing a benefit for a cause related to Tulane, and our relationship with the university, and Loyola to a lesser extent was built by what I tell people is us being “Accidentally brilliant.” We let people tape our shows and then these cassettes ended up all over the place. Friends had family in every part of the country. When we started touring, we had fans waiting for us all across the country.It’s pretty remarkable…in the days before social media. We signed with Epic Records a few years later, but it was the tapes that really made us well known. It sounds ridiculous but it’s true. We had, and still do, the tape traders who take this stuff very seriously. It’s not just every song and every show we played that’s been documented, but things guys said on the mic between songs. Crazy.There’s a whole website that lists every song The Radiators ever played and who did it originally. We didn’t really do…I have a problem even calling them covers, because covers implies you’re trying to make it sound like the original. We just called them “Songs that other people wrote.” We took them and did our own thing to them. Frankly, more than half of the time we had people thinking WE wrote the songs, because the ones we used were so obscure.Our fan base is really musically knowledgeable about this stuff. They dig back into who really wrote and recorded some the songs. We used to do a song called “Turn On Your Love Light” that the Grateful Dead used to do. The writer of that song is Deadric Malone, and on the record it said “D.Malone.” The song is older than me, but people thought I wrote it.L4LM: One last question about the MOMs Balls. Each event had a tag line or a theme, and The Radiators would write a new song for each one using the theme as inspiration. Is there any chance we can entice The Radiators back into the studio one last time to record those party theme songs you composed for each event?DM: Hey…that’s not a bad idea! I’ve gone over every angle I could think of, but that’s one that never crossed my mind, I can tell ya. That was what made MOMs Ball so special to me, I gotta tell you. Every year Ed and I would write that song for the theme…the bands that took over for us don’t do that anymore. That was a really special thing I looked forward to each year.I need to go back and figure out what they were. See…we really only ever played them that one time.L4LM: It would be a shame if all that music and history got lost.DM: That’s a really good idea. I’m writing it down now, to tell the truth. I never thought about that. It’s been so long though. I know there are people out there who can find the answers to this question a lot faster than I can…what all those theme songs were. It was thrity-three years.I’m gonna issue a challenge to our fans, to come up with a list of all the MOMs Ball themes played during Mardi Gras for those thirty-three years. I have no idea what they are. So please, someone out there…help!Check out one of The Radiators annual reunion sets from Jazz Fest below:L4LM: It sounds like the friendships forged over the years playing together in The Radiators are still fruitful. You even continue working with a couple of them in your new band, Raw Oyster Cult. You’ve also got Papa Gros in there with you.DM: That was put together as my main post-Rads band. I wanted to get a bass player and a keyboard player who could also sing. I wanted to take some of the Rads songs that I had always kind of in the back of my head hoped could have vocal harmonies. Ed and I harmonized sometimes but The Radiators were never known for our harmonies. I wanted to take some of those songs and try them that way. That was my intent with that.I’m older now, so I’m playing a bit less. I’ve got grand kids and all of that. (Chuckles) So I pick and choose what I want to do, and the main thing I do these days is Raw Oyster Cult. But it’s three Radiators, myself, Camile Baudoin and Frank Bua and John Gros from Papa Grows Funk on keys vocals and Dave Pomello from Johnny Sketch And The Dirty Notes on bass and vocals. And sometimes when Dave can’t make it Graham Robertson sits in on bass and vocals.L4LM: With that level of history and talent among the players, that has to be pretty comfortable for you onstage.DM: It is. We can do anything we choose to do, really. The only limitation is us. We need to write some new songs…but I’m lazy. We’ve been saying but it’s all really because of me not getting things done, frankly.L4LM: Another reason to just do the next album of the theme songs we were talking about earlier.DM: Yeah. One of the guys who was really into this, who passed away recently, was a guy named Eric Vandercar. He helped us early on with setting up our website, got us online, and helped document all this stuff for us. Thanks to him and people like him this stuff is out there, and hopefully we can pull it all together. Thanks to him and others like him, all this music lives on.L4LM: Well sir thanks for taking a few minutes to chat with us. Good luck during the Jazz Fest craziness and the NOLA Crawfish Festival!DM: The pleasure was mine. Thanks!If all this talk about music and food has you ready to feed your mind and your body, you can get information and tickets to the NOLA Crawfish Festival and three amazing days of the finest in New Orleans music, food and culture HERE. More info can also be seen on the poster below:last_img

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