Babylon, P.Q.: Not in a rush at all

Not in a rush at all

Frank is nothing if not frank

There’s something that Frank Marino really wants to talk about. More than founding and fronting pioneering Montreal psychedelic hard rock band Mahogany Rush, more than being what many have called Canada’s answer to Jimi Hendrix, more than his 16-or-so live and studio albums, and more than the four decades he’s spent wowing fans with lengthy, largely improvised concerts the world over…

It’s hockey. He’s an intense, hugely knowledgeable, lifelong hockey fan, though not necessarily the kind his fellow Montrealers might expect.

"I’m more of a hockey fan than a Habs fan," Marino admits. "I grew up as a super Habs fan – my next door neighbour was Dickie Moore – and I became a really insane Habs fan in the ’70s. I’d be on the road, and if I had a day off I’d either fly home to watch a game and then go back out, or I’d call my dad and have him put the phone next to the radio and I’d sit in my hotel room and listen to Dick Irvin call the play-by-play for three hours, that’s how much of a fan I was."

But as was the case for many who followed the team zealously throughout their glory years, the Canadiens slowly lost their allure for Marino over the course of the ’80s. "In some ways I came to resent the fact that they had lost some of the tradition that they had before, as they became more of a business, became like every other hockey team. So now I’m a hockey fan without a team."

When I try to steer Marino back to music, he’s detectably disappointed. But that’s why we’re here, and hell, it’s been a long time…

Mahogany Rush’s last real gig here was at Club Soda in 2001, a curious live hiatus considering that the still fully-firing Frank Marino and Mahogany Rush are some of the first names to drop off people’s lips when you talk about Montreal, and Montreal’s place in, rock’n'roll.

"That’s true. When you go back to when we started here in ’70," he says, chuckling softly as he considers the length of the backward glance, "we were pretty much the first hard rock band to come out of here. But even in the ’70s we only played Montreal, like, once a year. A promoter like Donald [K. Donald] would book us and we’d do reasonably well.

"Today it’s a bit of a different business. I think if you want to be playing a lot, you have to have agents and managers and publicists and people that’ll make the phone calls to keep you in the public eye. And because my philosophy is pretty much not that, that’s probably why it ends up being years between concerts."

That changes this Friday, Dec. 3, as Frank Marino & Mahogany Rush take to the Corona Theatre stage in advance of a two-day, 12-hour concert/live DVD shoot – the band’s first – at the famed Agora Theater and Ballroom in Cleveland, Ohio, Dec. 10 and 11.

"I really didn’t want to go there cold," says Marino, reluctant to characterize the Montreal show as a warm-up show. "But it was basically like, ‘Hey, [we're here rehearsing anyway so] let’s play Montreal. Nobody’s going to ask us to do it, but let’s do it ourselves.’ Now I didn’t really have the time or the inclination to run around organizing it, so we hired a promoter who does a lot of metal shows, and he’s putting it on and," he laughs, sounding surprised, "it looks like it’s going really good!"

Sometimes the wind blows the right way.

"Yeah, God bless! And the Corona’s a beautiful place," he enthuses. "I thought, ‘This is perfect,’ because we use this 1960s liquid light show…"

I was born in the ’60s, but that’s where it ends.

"A liquid light show is when you have a projector that’s shooting on a screen while the band is playing," he explains patiently. "The earliest liquid light shows simply had soap bubbles between two glass dishes and you’d see these psychedelic patterns on the screen, right? But the later liquid light shows became a kind of art form, and it’s more than just little bubbles… they actually add film images as well, so you have this really amazing kaleidoscope of stuff going on that’s absolutely intense."

I think people like it when they see sincere attempts at authenticity.

"Authenticity is a good word because, as a band that’s been jamming since ’69, for over 40 years, it’s pretty authentic," he jokes. "It’s not like we’re doing it because of the latest fad."

One might consider all of this very a propos considering that Cleveland is, in many ways, the symbolic (and also satirical) heart of rock’n'roll. "Yeah, they’ve got the Hall of Fame there, and we all certainly remember Spinal Tap: ‘Hello Cleveland!”

Please tell me you’re going to say that? Please?

"Yeah probably," Marino says laughing, affecting a faux British accent, "’Hello, Cleveland!’ And then we’ll bring down our 18-inch Stonehenge monument. No, I’m just kidding – but Cleveland will probably end up being the right place [to shoot the DVD]."

The last time Mahogany Rush played in Montreal, they played for four hours. This time out Marino promises two-and-a-half-hours of "not just psychedelic hard rock" but also jazz, blues, fusion and pop "that’ll feel like 40 minutes." And is there anything else people should know?

"Well," he says, brightening up. "I think they probably didn’t make a mistake by not trading Carey Price…"

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