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
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.
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
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
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.
ATN: How old are you now?
Dr. Frank: I'm
ATN: No, I mean at this point in your life?
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
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
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
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.