Inside The Mr. T Experience

Cover art from latest MTX album.

ATN Philadelphia correspondent Chris Nelson met with the

leader of The Mr. T Experience, some guy who calls himself Dr. Frank last Sat.

(Feb. 17). From what Nelson tells us, Frank is the only original member of MTX.

He plays guitar, sings and writes the songs. Now he talks to us. a few days

ago.

Addicted To Noise: How long has the Mr. T Experience

officially been together?

Dr. Frank: The band started in 1986

basically, late '85, early '86. You can't really say it's been together all

that time, you know. There've been sometimes that it's more together, sometimes

when it's less together, a lot of break ups and getting back together, and

everything. But the duration's been about ten years.

ATN: Is that

the impetus for the "MTX Starship" moniker?

Dr. Frank: Well, that's

a little joke. There's only one original member ­­ uh, me. It's like

when the Jefferson Airplane became Starship. It went Jefferson Airplane,

Jefferson Starship, and then just Starship.

ATN: Is that what you're

working towards, just "Starship?"

Dr. Frank: The ultimate would be

to have a band with no original members, and that will eventually, probably

happen. I don't have much further to go. I was told that there was a time when

there were five different Steppenwolfs touring around at the same time. Each

member of Steppenwolf had their own version of Steppenwolf...and then when a

couple of members of Steppenwolf No. 3 and Steppenwolf No. 4 quit, then they

got new people, so then there were two Steppenwolfs that didn't have any

original members...you can see the possibilities...I know it's gonna happen [to

the Mr. T Experience]. It's a dream. Maybe not in our lifetime.

ATN:

Since you've been on Lookout, you've worked with Kevin Army on everything. What

does Kevin bring to the records that you're consistently looking

for?

Dr. Frank: Well, one thing, Kevin's a really good friend of

mine. He did the first record that we ever did, just because we called the

studio and he was the guy who happened to answer the phone, that's how we met

him. He's actually a quite brilliant guy. And out of everybody, I'd say he is

the only person who never gave up on the Mr. T Experience. There were times I

think when Lookout was thinking of packing it up on us, and he was always

saying, "No, you have to keep doing it because no one else is doing exactly

this kind of thing." He'd give you a pep talk every now and then. He really

believes in this stuff. He's more than just an engineer, he's like an extra

member of the band. On the records he's a collaborator rather than just a

producer. I think he's great.

There was a time when we were gonna record

Love Is Dead, and it wasn't certain if he was gonna be available because

he was working on the Green Day record that he engineered [Insomniac].

The prospect of recording with someone else totally scared me. I really don't

want to record with anyone else. It just seemed like a horrible prospect, so I

hope I never have to.

At this point, I explained to Frank that the Mr. T

Experience was the first punk show I ever went to, in 1989, in a small town in

Virginia. It opened my eyes to a lot of what was possible outside of mainstream

rock. I asked him if he had ever had a similar experience with a particular

show or record.

Dr. Frank: That's a good question in a couple of

ways. One is that the situation that you just described is almost identical to

the way our current bass player tells it. His first show was the record release

party for [MTX's fourth album] Milk Milk Lemonade. He was 11 or 13, I

don't know. I think any time you first come in contact with something like

that, it kind of makes you see...you know, if all you have, if all you see, is

whatever mainstream music there is, it's sort of a shock to see something

that's different.

For me, I was kind of a weird kid. I was, unlike all my

peers, I didn't like rock music at all. I had this carefully cultivated nerd

persona that I had developed and honed to a fine art. And part of that went

along with rejecting anything that was in any way redolent of the status quo.

So all the kids around me were listening to whatever the top 40 rock records

were. I just said, "You know what, all that stuff sucks".... When I was a kid,

I listened to, almost exclusively, show tunes, and like the '30s Tin Pan Alley

kind of songwriter kind of things, like Noel Coward and Cole Porter, and

Gilbert and Sullivan....

The first rock record I ever liked was the

Stooges' Metallic K.O..... It's a horrible recording, and the band isn't

paling very well, and it's stupid songs, basically. I was just impressed that

there was this guy who was just doing this. It was crazy what he was doing and

he was getting away with it.... I just thought, this was at least interesting,

and then that's when I started to become more familiar with, and of course be

interested in punk rock. I had already had a little taste of punk rock from Dr.

Demento.

ATN: How old are you now?

Dr. Frank: I'm

31.

ATN: No, I mean at this point in your life?

Dr.

Frank: Oh, we're talking about 1976, '77, so I was 12. Dr. Demento used to

play, I know, "Cherry Bomb," by the Runaways, and things like that. And there

were other specialty radio shows I used to hear. I knew "Gary Gilmore's Eyes,"

that was a big thing by the Adverts....

ATN: Where were you living

then?

Dr. Frank: In the San Francisco Bay area. Basically, by the

time I saw my first punk rock show, through listening to the radio and

everything, I had a very thorough knowledge of it. I researched the history. I

was like a geeky kid, you know.... I would say that at 11 years old, my musical

taste and appreciation was a lot more sophisticated than it is now, and it's

been in a steady decline ever since. And punk rock played a part in

that....

Already at that point, I knew that I was gonna have a punk rock

band, it just took me a while to get it together. It wasn't like a whiz kid,

who at the age of 16 puts together his band. It wasn't possible to do in

suburban Northern California in those days....

Just generally my idea of

punk rock was, I had this sort of like, "Oh, this is revolutionizing not just

music, but life. And you know, that was a silly thing to think, but I was a

kid.

ATN: And kids still think that.

Dr. Frank: Kids

still think that, and I have an appreciation of that. I mean really, it's a

revolution in the literal sense of revolution, you know, reviving what happened

before, which is good.

To be

continued...