A road tested powerhouse of tenacious American blues throttled with grit and volume, the 61 Ghosts album, …to the edge, is a collection of half a dozen songs possessing a tradition all their own. Think of it as Mississippi hill country meets streetwise punk, creating a singular guitar-driven brand of music. With Joe Mazzari on lead guitar and vocals, Dixie Deadwood playing drums, percussion and adding backing vocals and bassist J.D. Snipe, get ready for the 61 Ghosts.
The Band’s Spectral Core
Who is your favorite guitar player? Any 61 Ghosts fan will tell you Joe Mazzari and with good reason. Flanked by professionals Dixie and J.D., Mazzari, who recorded and toured with legendary New York Dolls axe slinger Johnny Thunders is clearly the heart and soul of 61 Ghosts. If there is any question, take a listen to “Heartbeat,” the opening track from the album and you can hear how the trio functions as a tightly knit crew with Joe at the helm. In between the guitar leads, rhythmic fretboard fills and lyrics, a Rolling Stones R&B-type of groove sets the pace. But there is more from …to the edge.
While “World Gone Crazy” begins with a plugged-in almost stop-time swagger, “Show Me Your Scars” is an aggressively strummed acoustic cut of musical sincerity. “Passion Tipped Arrow,” the only other acoustic song on the album, is no less compelling. “If Tears Were Dirt” delivers a similar expressive edginess. Unplugged or electric, live and in the studio, Joe Mazzari and the Ghosts have the situation well covered. Surely …to the edge is among 2017’s best indie album picks. Available as a download or CD, the Ghosts next release will include vinyl.
A Totally Domestic Sound
From Joe’s weathered Gibson® and Dixie’s Peridore Custom Sticks drumsticks to the vintage Danelectro basses J.D. often handles, 61 Ghosts truly is an American band. That being said, the group has been likened to “being dragged behind an old Harley through the Americana Badlands.” Even the name makes you think of Bob Dylan’s famous “Highway 61 Revisited,” a street in the US, no doubt. In fact, 61 Ghosts will be bringing its show on the road for a European tour during 2018.
We caught up with Joe Mazzari where he talks about the 61 Ghosts and other matters.
Interview with Joe Mazzari of 61 Ghosts
You’ve described the music of 61 Ghosts as “primal” and “indie blues.” How so?
The indie blues label is coming from a number of people in the blues world who have seen the music going in this direction for quite a while. The newer fans of blues are coming from the indie rock scene, which we’re pleased about since that’s primarily my background. Having been in various rock bands over the years my music has always had blues at the root. Even my acoustics are drawn from the older blues greats and also the Dylans and Lightfoots though with a bit more of a rougher edge.
Dixie, who plays drums and sings backup, is very much blues influenced. She plays Mississippi hill country style. I really love the mix of the two styles that we’ve blended together. The primal part of our description is simply not over complicating the music. Strip down the songs; say a lot with a little. Think Howlin Wolf meets Link Wray meets Rory Gallagher with songs that hopefully pull you into the lyrics. The words are not all ‘baby, baby, moon in June, left my girl’ and all that. Instead, they tried to dig into a story and get to the marrow of the subject and paint a picture, but not preach. I really loved how the old blues guys could say so much with a handful of words and a moan or a howl.
With songs like “Heartbeat,” “World Gone Crazy” and “Show Me Your Scars,” the debut album from 61 Ghosts surely is guitar-driven music, both acoustic and electric. Do you play all of the guitars?
As far as the guitar playing on our CD, yes, I play the electric and acoustic. I’m the only guitar player in the band. J.D. Sipe plays bass on this album and Dixie plays drums, though she and I are primarily a duo.
Can you tell us a little about the European tour in 2018?
We’re very fortunate to have folks working with us and a part of the plan in securing a European tour for 2018. Our publicist has done a great job getting us air play and press overseas, as well as in the states. We also have our booking agent working on dates, as well as festivals here in the US. Hoping to have everything firmed up before too long.
Being a bandmate of the legendary Johnny Thunders, do you think he could have reached the same creative highs without his notoriously addictive behavior?
I feel he would have reached his cult status without drugs. I had the good fortune of playing and recording with Johnny for a few years in the early 80s.Life was definitely in Technicolor for that period of time with lots of stories to be sure. But one thing I can say about the drug use is I firmly believe it held him back. He wasn’t addicted in the New York Dolls and he wouldn’t have had the attitude and great freewheeling style he had if he were messed up. He [Johnny] told me on many occasions he wouldn’t wish his addiction on his worst enemy. The time he spent trying to get healthy he could have put into his music and a normal life. He didn’t need to use to be creative. No doubt it shapes a personality and those times were the toughest to deal with. The drugs were a total waste. Lots of life lessons learned in those days. My bands saw firsthand what the results could be. Too many people learned the hard lessons.
We have to ask about the blond semi-hollow body guitar you play in several videos. Is that the guitar you used on …to the edge?
The blond guitar I play is a 73 or 74 Gibson® Les Paul Signature model. I use it on stage and in the studio and have had it for decades. The original pickups rotted out from sweat a few years back. I had them replaced and a few other items, from being worn out, but so lucky to still have it. Definitely been a close friend over the years.
Is it true the band will release the next album on vinyl? What do you like about wax recordings?
We’re thinking about vinyl and a download for the next release as well as CDs. Vinyl has that warm sound and I love the old days of looking at the art work and reading the liner notes.
Where can fans see and hear 61 Ghosts?
Fans can find us at http://www.61ghosts.com and Facebook. We’re presently on between 100 -200 radio stations and still working on our CD. Dixie and I play quite a bit with lots of time on the road. We’re heading back to Texas in January. We’re just back from Florida, setting up the southern tour, which will end up on the west coast. And of course, there is the overseas trip next year and the festivals. We truly appreciate the interest.
Special thanks to Scott Hankosky from Hanks Americana Radio at HanksAmericana.com.