THE RETRO-FITTED FUTURE OF ROCK: AN INTERVIEW WITH MIKE FITZ OF BAD MARRIAGE
Interview by Michael McCarthy
I love going to see bands I grew up with like Tesla, Poison, Warrant, Firehouse, Lynch Mob and so many others who’ve reunited during the last several years. Or just plain never went splitsville. These guys still kick as much ass as they ever did and some sound even better than they did back in the day. The frustrating thing about the scene, though, is that you don’t have many new bands playing that kind of music anymore. When you do find one, they tend to seem more like a heavy metal parody band than anything.
Well, the guys in Bad Marriage are the genuine article and they do an excellent job of pairing their classic rock influences like Aerosmith, Boston, and Led Zeppelin with that of the heavy metal I grew up with. As I said in my recent review of Bad Marriage’s show with Tesla, Tesla is the band the Boston outfit most reminds me of. Just by coincidence. But I can hear many other metal bands in their sound like Skid Row and Cinderella. Maybe a bit of Dokken and Motley Crue. That said, Bad Marriage has combined all of this into their own brand of hard rock and heavy metal and their anthems and fist-pumpers sound as vital and spirited as anything other contemporary rock bands are churning out. Does Bad Marriage sound like the past? Sure. But they also sound like the future. Songs like “Old School Stereo” and “Knock 3 More Times” should be all over rock radio today, given that they’re punchy, addictive tunes that would surely inspire listeners of all generations to sing along. It’s like when you hear Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love A Bad Name” or AC/DC’s “Back in Black.” You can’t listen to those and not want to sing, regardless of how old you are.
Stations that are playing or streaming Whitesnake, Thin Lizzy and Quiet Riot would be wise to play Bad Marriage once or twice and see how their listeners react. I’d be willing to bet that people will love this marriage. They’ll be calling up and asking who the band is and if you can play more. But, hey, I can still see these guys making a name for themselves and going places even if they never get the radio or streaming service support they should. They’re doing pretty well already without radio or even a record label. Damn near everyone who sees them open for national bands ends up telling people how spectacular they were for days after the show. People even say that that they were better than the headliners in many instances.
Seeing Bad Marriage changes a lot of people because they’re going to see bands like Tesla and Enuff Z’Nuff to hear the old stuff. It’s purely a nostalgia trip for them. They don’t care about the bands’ new tunes except for the fact that they provide them with opportunities to visit the bar or restroom and not miss anything they’re present to hear. However, these same sentimentality freaks hear Bad Marriage’s music and they’re mesmerized by how powerful and charismatic they are. How they overflow with seemingly boundless energy, leaving flames gushing behind them. And how damn infectious their hook-packed tunes are. For the first time in ages, these old school fans find themselves digging a new band with new songs, blowing their minds. It’s my hope that you’ll listen to the tunes while reading the following interview and end up falling madly in love with them, too. I know I certainly haven’t come across another new band that’s doing classic rock and heavy metal as flawlessly as Bad Marriage does.
BAD MARRIAGE LINE UP:
Mike Fitz– Guitar, lead
Jon Paquin– Vocals
Michael Delaney– Drums
Ian Haggerty– Guitar, rhythm
Todd Boisvert– Bass
MM: First of all, do you come from a musical family?
MF: As far as coming from a musical family, no, the only two people that I can remember being associated with music or musical instruments was my grandfather. I have a short or little memory of him always playing a harmonica. Taking that out on holidays and stuff. But that was it, and I think he did it just recreationally, and I know he was just self-taught. Rumor has it my dad, when he was young, played the accordion. But he never spoke of that when he was alive to me. Whether he owned one or actually played it, we’ll never know.
MM: How did you get into playing guitar?
MF: I was fortunate enough to have a group of friends who were a year older than me who had played. I remember first hearing it. Obviously, you go to concerts and you see people playing it on MTV, and you hear jukeboxes, and you hear loud, rock music and you’re fascinated, but I think what fascinated me was seeing one of my friends, and his friends, playing it live. I remember having a half day at school and actually, we went down to my drummer now in Bad Marriage’s basement, and I did not know him then, I just heard there was a half day party, a kind of rock ‘n’ roll performance party. And we all grabbed some beer if we could, and we went down to his basement, and one of my friends was playing guitar. That was eye-opening to me. That’s when I’m like, wow. These are kids that I walk the hallways with. And they’re doing it. That kind of put it into perspective to me. That, wow, I can do this. When you see it on TV you think it’s some sort of wizardry, you know? You look at a poster of Jimmy Page on the wall and you think he’s otherworldly. This kind of brought a realness to it by seeing my friends and schoolmates performing live rock ‘n’ roll. And it was actually really good for our age. That’s when it first hit me that I wanted to buy a guitar. It was around Freshmen year of high school. That’s when my grandmother bought me my first guitar. It was a 200 dollar Peavey electric guitar.
MM: Did you take lessons at that point or did your friends show you how to play?
MF: Initially, I had three friends that were really advanced at that time. And I was very much a beginner. But I got to bother them. I would hang around them all the time, and I always brought my guitar, and would be a pain and just kind of beg them to show me this, and show me that, and show me this again, and show me that again. And then I’d go home and just hammer away at it. I’d practice for hours and hours and hours. Baby steps. I’d get a little better, do a little Led Zeppelin riff a little better or whatever it was then I would continue to ask them. It takes off from there. Throughout the years I’ve taken lessons here and there, but unfortunately, for financial reasons, I’ve always had to stop after a couple months. Lessons aren’t cheap, especially being a kid, you know?
MM: What era was it when you were in high school? What was the popular music?
MF: Amongst my group of friends, the ’70s classic rock was always king. Zeppelin, Floyd, The Doors. I had a lot of friends that were into the Grateful Dead. You have Allman Brothers. You have all those. AC/DC, I guess, but it was more the classic rock. And then we also loved the ’80s. The Guns ‘N’ Roses, the Aerosmith – I know Aerosmith is ’70s as well – but we liked Guns, AC/DC, we loved Skid Row and the whole hair band era. Hair metal, hair bands, was very popular. But when we were in high school, it was the start of grunge. So, it was bands like Soundgarden and Alice in Chains and Pearl Jam. So, I kind of had the best of all of those worlds. Growing up, listening to stuff when I was really young like Zeppelin and all those ’70s bands. I remember in fourth grade I had a Guns ‘N’ Roses themed jean jacket. I don’t think you can even wear that stuff to school anymore. I had the Appetite for Destruction patch on my denim jacket that my grandmother, who recently passed away, sewed – she sewed all those patches on it. It was really cool.
MM: Was the big patch the one with the cross with them on it?
MF: Yup. Yeah, yeah, the big one with the cross was on the back.
MM: OK, I was just curious because I did see patches of the rape scene on some jackets back then.
MF: I was so young. I didn’t even know how to process anything like that. I looked at it. I looked at Guns ‘N’ Roses and things like that, and had posters and magazines, and I thought they were aliens because they looked so cool. And then, like I was saying, the grunge scene, they were still very much prolific guitarists in those bands. Whether you consider Alice in Chains or Soundgarden grunge, I don’t really care to be that specific, but I remember the time when you had Nirvana and Pearl Jam and all those bands were out and I loved that guitar work. And what really, really sent me to guitar heaven was when I heard the first Rage Against the Machine album. That guy, Tom Morello, had some amazing riffs that kind of spoke to me and he’s another one of my big influences.
MM: Were you in many bands prior to Bad Marriage?
MF: I wasn’t that kid who was in a bunch of bands at the same time. Whenever I was in a band, it was all I knew. It was all I focused on. I never wanted to be in two, three bands at a time. I was like, this is it, this is my band, I’m gonna focus on making this band the best that it can possibly be. Putting 100% into this band. So, I think I was in four solid [bands] for at least for a couple of years a piece. We kind of gave it our all and disbanded for whatever reason.
MM: Do you remember what the bands were called?
MF: Oh, yeah. The first one was actually with the drummer who’s in Bad Marriage still, and we were called Drinkfist, one word, Drinkfist. We were together for around approximately six years, I believe. I think we ended around 2005. So, we started in 1999. After that I did a short stint in a band called Love Weapon and then a band called The L.A. Mob and then that kind of changed. The same band members changed [their name to] Empire Street. We changed up our sound a little bit, so we figured we’d change the name to give ourselves new branding or imaging or whatever. After Empire Street is when I took a break and started learning the art of recording. I bought a lot of recording gear. Because I said, you know, if I’m gonna do another band, it’s gonna be my vision of what I’ve always wanted. I took all the bands I was in and took a deep breath and said, now I think I have a vision of what I want my last band to be. And what I mean by last is when you do it for 20, 22 years, you put so much time and money invested into it. I wanted to make what I thought would be my last band at the time the best it could be. So, I kind of hand-picked the members from there and said, give it a go.
MM: Did you also come up with the name Bad Marriage?
MF: I did. We already had four of the five members in place and we were looking for the elusive bass player until we finally found Todd. We had a few songs written and we didn’t have a name. So, I remembered an old friend in conversation telling me how hard it was just to keep a band together. You have four members or five members in the band. And you have all of their lives. If they’re married or they have significant others, girlfriends, boyfriends, if they have kids, if they have full-time jobs, anything that could get in the way of being in a successful band. So, I remember a friend saying that being in a band is like having five girlfriends. I always remembered that and I kind of just spun it in a way that being in a band can be like being in a bad marriage. Being in an unsuccessful band can be like being in a bad marriage. So, that’s where it was born just because it’s hard enough to keep five people in line but then you have to think of their lives. So, then it multiplies and triples – it’s a really tough thing to do. A lot of people don’t realize it and a lot of these bands break up and I can understand it because I know how much is involved. How much time and dedication goes into trying to be a successful, original band.
MM: That’s like all the heavy metal bands that have been getting back together during recent years. Usually, there’s one or two new guys because some people found good jobs in IT or whatever. One of the last hair bands to come out was called Roxy Blue and I was just reading that one of the guys isn’t doing the reunion because he has his own dental practice.
MF: Right. Yeah. And, you know, that’s understandable. It’s just what your vision is at that time. Some people lose the love. Some people can’t afford it. Some people don’t prioritize – some people’s families or children are first or their job is first because that pays the bills. There’s a certain fear, being in a band, because it’s a fear of the unknown. You never know where you’re gonna be in a month or six months or a year. Are you still gonna be climbing and rising, or are you gonna be leveled, or are you gonna be angry at every other band member, or is the band still gonna be together. Again, it’s a tough business. Not even bringing into the conversation the music business and how hard that is. It’s keeping the band together on the same page as what your vision is when the industry gets involved. There are a lot of strikes against you and a lot of roadblocks to try and be successful. So, it’s definitely not for the faint of heart, being in an original rock band.
MM: What year was Bad Marriage founded?
MF: I believe, 2015. So, we’re going on four years now.
MM: Are you and Ian co-lead guitarists or does one of you do rhythm and the other lead?
MF: I guess I’m the lead guitar player. There are some spots live where he’ll do some lead stuff. But as far as soloing and riff stuff, it’s me. And he kind of compliments me. Very similar to the Aerosmith duo where Joe Perry’s pegged as the lead, but Brad Whitford is just as important and just as talented. To answer your question, I’m the lead guitar player and Ian is the rhythm.
MM: Who handles the songwriting in the band?
MF: Most of – the backbone – stems from me. I’ll have an idea. It mostly starts with a couple of guitar riffs and I’ll pair them together and I’ll call it verse and a chorus maybe. Just a couple guitar riffs that I know go together. And then I go from there. If I think it’s refined enough, I’ll bring it to the band. A lot of times I’ll even have a theme to the song. I’ll have a title or a couple words that I envision being in the chorus. It’s a lot easier for me to express my vision for the songs that way. I can approach our singer, Jonny, and say, you know, this song I have is called “Old School Stereo” and I want it to be about how you might have problems in life but you always have that record player or that one bar down the street that you can go and put some tunes on the jukebox. Or your one music room that you have in your house where you can go in and put some vinyl on. You have that safe place. That’s just an example. And Jonny can take it from there and craft his lyrics around my lyric. We both bounce ideas off each other, but it’s usually me that starts the initial process of the song.
MM: I understand that you’ve already recorded your debut album, which you produced. Where was it recorded and when?
MF: We haven’t actually released a full-length album yet. We have a six song EP that is available online on all the digital media outlets. Spotify and Google Play and Amazon – all that stuff. So, that was released I want to say in 2017. We did actually do a limited run of 100 CDs that we posted online. We have a VIP mailing list and we made it solely available to them and sold all 100 copies within an hour or so. It was a cool thing to do for people that wanted a hardcopy of it. I think we’ll reprint that on vinyl at some point. Like a remastered version on vinyl so people can have it. I produced that. I do all the recording and mixing and producing in Bad Marriage right now and I have a studio called Studio Kujo, like the dog, but with a K. It’s out of my house. It’s not really a public studio. I don’t advertise it. But I do record some bands that I like here and there.
MM: What point are you at with the debut album?
MF: Oh, yeah, so the debut album is very, very close to being done. I think there’s gonna be 12 songs on it. Don’t quote me on that. It could be 11. It could be 13. But it’s safe to say there will be at least 12, I guess. But they’re mostly done as far as the tracking [goes]. I’m just doing a couple final mixes. I think I have five songs that still need some love on the mixing end and then after that they’ll be sent off for mastering. We use this guy Maor Applebomb. He’s out on the West Coast. He’s in L.A. And he’s done some great stuff. I think he’s done a lot of the remastered stuff for Faith No More. He did Rob Halford’s solo album. He’s done a bunch of great stuff and he’s such an easy guy to work with. So, he’s the guy that’s gonna be mastering this. It should be done late summer.
MM: Do you have any song titles or anything you can tell us about it?
MF: Well, yeah, let’s see. We just released a video a few months ago for a single that is gonna be on that record. It’s called “Diablo” –
MM: – That’s my favorite of your songs.
MF: Thank you. We love that song, man. It’s very edgy. It’s a hard-hitting one. It’s great to play live and it’s just a high energy song. That will definitely be on the album. We’re gonna bring “Old School Stereo” from the EP because it’s a very popular one and we also have a great music video for that. We have a song called “Electric Emerald Eyes” that will be on the record. We have a song called “Long Way Down,” that’ll be on there. There’s a song called “Tail Chaser.” So, yeah, and we’ve got six or seven more that we’ll put on there.
MM: Can you tell me the title yet or is it secret?
MF: We think we’re gonna just keep it as self-titled, Bad Marriage.
MM: Do you guys have a record deal?
MF: Nope. We’re unsigned at the moment. I’m doing all the booking. I’m doing all the managing. And the producing and recording and mixing. My plate’s full. But, again, I don’t mind it right now. I enjoy doing it. But we’re open to any offers that are on the table. Right now we’re doing pretty well keeping everything in house.
MM: Are you familiar with Frontiers Records?
MF: I am. We’ve had a few different people mention that they would be a good fit for us, but I haven’t been in any contact with them yet.
MM: They’ve got everybody from Def Leppard to Whitesnake to Journey and every band that could be considered a hair band is on the label as well. And they’ve got new bands doing classic rock and hair metal. There’s a really good one called Inglorious. So, I think they’d be the perfect label for you guys.
MF: Again, we’re open to what comes across us on the table. We’re just trucking along either way. We’re gonna hope to be discovered. It’s one of those things where we’ve just got to do it ourselves and build an army. And see where it takes us.
MM: I read on your Facebook page that you’re going to California to write with Brian Wheat of Tesla. Will anything you hope to write there possibly end up on your debut album or is that for a different project?
MF: That will be for a different project. But it’s very exciting. We just did three shows with Tesla. We jumped on a leg of their east coast tour and Brian had pulled us aside after the first show at the House of Blues in Boston and expressed interest in us. He said he really liked the band. He liked the way we carry ourselves. Our image. Our sound. He was really into it and said we should write some songs together and see where it goes. So, we’ve booked some dates in early July when we’re gonna go to his studio in Sacramento and see what we come up with. The goal is to at least write one song, an original, and obviously it’ll be produced by Brian Wheat. And, hopefully, that will gain us some traction, too, and it’ll help further our relationship with him. And the whole Tesla camp. We’re all excited about it.
MM: Have you written songs for Bad Marriage with anyone outside of the band in the past?
MF: Not really, no. The band I was in before, we wrote with this guy Marti Fredricksen, who’s a pretty well-known songwriter, but not in Bad Marriage. It’s mainly been kept in house.
MM: Is the whole band going out to write with Brian or is it just you and Jon?
MF: No, we’re all gonna go. I think that’s very important, actually. That’s a great question. Because just because I write initially the backbone or the core of the song, the kind of meat and potatoes, we all put our finishing touches on it. And it’s a great experience. I think everyone should be around someone different than me because I’m usually the one who’s recording everybody and getting everyone to do their parts in the studio. So, it’s gonna be good with someone as renowned as Brian Wheat at the helm. We’re all gonna go.
MM: I believe you’ve re-recorded “Nay Sayin’ Blues” and “Old School Stereo.” Did you do that? I noticed that there seemed to be two versions of them on there with different lengths.
MF: We didn’t re-record any of them. Let’s see. I’m trying to think. I’ve been through so many versions of these songs. “Old School Stereo,” I believe the earlier version had a little intro in it with some voices I did in the studio. I think on the EP version that intro was gone. So, that’s probably the discrepancy in length. “Nay Sayin’ Blues” on the EP version it has a guitar solo that I did at the end of the track, which would be the discrepancy with the version that we just had remastered for the Fanatics Sports Company. Nothing happened with the arrangements of the songs. It was just something at the beginning of “Old School Stereo” that was there initially that is not in the newest version. And in the early version of “Nay Sayin’ Blues” there was a guitar solo at the end. Kind of like the guitar solo outro on Zeppelin’s “Heartbreaker.” For sync purposes for the sports company, I just cut that out.
MM: How did you get in touch with the sports company?
MF: Our bass player, Todd, came into contact with someone who was affiliated with them. And he kind of cracked the window or door for us. We were able to submit some music. We knew that they had some commercial spots for the NHL, Stanley Cup and the NBA finals coming up. And it was coming up quick and they were looking for a song to use in that because they had a one year term with the Greta Van Fleet song “Highway Tune” and that was up. We were fortunate to have the accessibility to submit some music. Honestly, I didn’t send “Nay Sayin’ Blues.” I sent some newer stuff that I thought would be good for sports style thinking. And I didn’t hear back. So, I just figured they were passing on our stuff and I got an e-mail asking if I could send the full version of “Nay Sayin’ Blues” then I remember saying, I didn’t send that to them. So, that’s gotta be good news because they must have been listening to our other stuff. And that probably sparked some interest. And it went from there.
MM: What do you think of Greta Van Fleet?
MF: I like them. Yeah. I think now, number one, I think they’re young, and I think they’re very, very talented. And I think they’re a breath of fresh air to what’s out there on the radio now. You can turn on any radio station and either hear non-rock ‘n’ roll or, if you put on the rock station, you hear the same rock ‘n’ roll you’ve been hearing for 30 years. So, whether you love Greta Van Fleet or hate Greta Van Fleet – or are on the fence about them – credit is definitely due because they’re bringing the term rock ‘n’ roll almost into the public ear again. I love that. And it’s only gonna benefit bands like Bad Marriage and other up and coming, original rock ‘n’ roll bands because if one band is huge then it can only help. Because people who are listening to Greta Van Fleet are hopefully gonna find us somehow. Or find all the other original rock bands that are trying to get some more fans.
MM: Do you like the band Wolfmother, by any chance? Greta Van Fleet reminds me of them.
MF: It’s funny, I’ve seen them a couple of times, but I haven’t heard that name in a long time. I remember really digging them and they had that similar throwback kind of sound and I love that stuff.
MM: So, what do you have coming up for shows?
MF: Well, in a couple weeks we’re doing two shows in Laconia, New Hampshire, which is that famous bike rally. We’re doing two shows June 13th and 14th at a bar called The Looney Bin. We played there once last year and it was a blast. We’re excited to be back for two nights in a row. And we mix in a lot of covers with those type of gigs because we’ll probably play for three hours straight. If we play a show with Tesla where we get half an hour and we get to do seven or eight songs, we don’t do many covers, but then there’s this type of show where we’re playing in a bar environment where we have three hours to fill and we’ll play about 40 songs. So, it’s much different. We rehearse for it and we’re prepared for it.
MM: What are some of the songs you cover?
MF: We do early Aerosmith songs. We do some Zeppelin. We do some early AC/DC. Some Tom Petty. We’ll do Black Crowes. We try to pick obscure ones. We try not to do the ones that every cover band does. Some of them are just such crowd pleasers that they’re almost unavoidable. And then we’re supporting a band called XYZ in July and we haven’t announced it yet but we’re supporting Faster Pussycat and Bang Tango at The Vault in New Bedford. And the XYZ show is also at The Vault in New Bedford. And then we just announced Steel Panther and Bad Marriage at the Webster Theatre in Hartford, Connecticut July 26th. So, that will be awesome.
MM: Who should people contact about booking you?
MF: Well, I do the booking. And my e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org. It’s on our website.
Special thanks to Mike Fitz for taking the time to chat with us! And to Bad Marriage in general for putting out such contagious tunes! Keep up the good work!
Tags: '70's rock, 80s rock, Aerosmith, Bad Marriage, hair bands, hair metal, hard rock, heavy metal, independent, Indie, Led Zeppelin, Mike Fitz, new rock, retro, rock 'n' roll
WRITTEN BY PARIS365
An entertainment journalist for 20 years, Michael McCarthy was a columnist and contributing editor for the magazines Lollipop and LiveWire. He co-created and wrote for Cinezine, one of the '90's most popular movie E-zines. The only time he's not listening to music is when he's watching television shows and movies or reading, usually music magazines.