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Topic: Mclagan Interview (NSC) Return to archive
November 3rd, 2004 09:16 PM
Ten Thousand Motels The Faces' Ian McLagen Rises, Shines and Speaks His Mind

Mick Skidmore

Of all the rocking bands to come out of England in the early 70s the Faces are often overlooked. Sure, they had some big hits but the band was often overshadowed by the solo career of lead singer Rod Stewart. The recently released box-set Five Guys Walk into a Bar... compiled by Faces keyboardist Ian McLagen goes a long way to vindicating that perception. Sure, anyone that saw the Faces live in their hey-day will remember them as a raucous, hard-drinking, hard rocking good-time band that was often sloppy. But the truth is they were a truly great group with a much deeper musical repertoire than they are given credit for. Soul, R&B, blues, country, English music hall and of course good old rock and roll all merged together especially on their recorded output. The band only released four studio albums and one live disc but this new compilation box set includes numerous rarities and live material that make it a must listen for die-hard fans and the casual listener alike.

Of course since the Faces disbanded in 1975 Rod Stewart has had success after success (he currently thinks he is Frank Sinatra) while the late Ronnie Lane left in 1973 and formed the excellent Slim Chance as well as recording Rough Mix with Pete Townsend. Ronnie Wood, of course joined the Rolling Stones, Kenney Jones played in the Who for a while McLagen went on to have the most varied, if lower-keyed career playing sessions with everyone from the Stones to Bob Dylan and from Bruce Springsteen to Patty Griffin. McLagen also wrote an interesting book on his 60s experiences and has recorded a number of solo CDs with his Bump Band, the latest being the joyous Rise and Shine on Gaff Music."

These days the affable and outspoken (not to mention downright funny) McLagen lives in Austin where he plays regularly with his band. In the following interview McLagen put forth that same openness and sense of fun that permeated so much of the Faces music. After four decades in the business the guy still has no pretensions and obviously loves what he does. If you missed out on the Faces or perceive them to be nothing more than a good time rock and roll band (which they most certainly were at times) this new box set is laced with great music that crosses musical genres with ease and conviction, not to mention a sense of sincerity and fun.

M.S. First let me to compliment you on the wonderful job that you've done on the Faces box set. One of the things that pleases me is your decision not to present the set chronologically because generally that's what compilers do...

I.M. Yes, and it is very boring.

M.S. What gave you the idea to do it that way?

I.M. Well, I started to do it chronologically at first, I had wanted to do it that way, but it didn't work. I had the four albums on three CDs and if take "Jerusalem" off which is an instrumental it fits, but who cares. It just wasn't interesting to listen to. I listen to too many fans. I get a lot of emails from Faces fans and Bump Band fans and they had definite ideas on what should go on. People would say "man you got put the b-sides and the instrumentals on." I said that's it all the A-sides and B-sides and all the album tracks, and Eric James at Warner's in London said "Oh no, Mac I'm a Faces fan we want the alternates, and rare tracks, what have you got in your vaults." And I'm like, okay what a good idea. Then all of a sudden it became much more interesting and it kind of developed from there. Basically it was like playing DJ with the Faces. I had all the stuff you know and I could put anything on there that I wanted, so it became more and more fun.

M.S. I've been a Faces fan for years, and I have all the albums, but what it has done for me is make me realize the diversity that the band put forth. You weren't just a straight rock and roll band.

I.M. Yeah I know. I think everything seems to be set off pretty good in the running order. I tried a few different ways but each disc is a little story of its own. It begins and ends well. I figured as long as it finishes good and starts good people will want to listen so I tried to make the tracks contrast. I mean I do this on a regular basis with my band. I never write the same set list twice. We usually play two sets a night and what I'd do recently is switch them. What you think would be the opener for the second half isn't always an you now what I mean and it changes the dynamic depending on what you put on after or before it. I'm fascinated by it and I save all these set lists so that I never use them again. Last night, we play a regular gig here in Austin every Thursday, I thought fucking hell, I want to hear "Green Onions" and the guys have never played it with me. I jam with it, when I check my organ at sound check – when I get a sound check, I always get that "Green Onions" sound and play a few bars of it and if the organ doesn't sound good on that it isn't going to sound good anywhere. So that's by basis, so I though fuck it, I'm going to do "Green Onions" and it went down great and it really got us in, and I said "Here's a song that I haven't written any lyrics for yet" and I did "Green Onions" and it got a little ripple and then they really cheered at the end. It was nice.

M.S. Another interesting aspect of the box set, and I don't know if it deliberately was meant to be, but it serves as a tribute to Ronnie Lane.

I.M. Well, it is.

M.S. Listening to the box set as it is, it becomes very evident that Ronnie was such a big and important part of the band and that a lot of things got overshadowed because Rod Stewart was so popular.

I.M. Yes, and Ronnie got overshadowed because he couldn't perform the songs he wrote.

M.S. Why was that?

I.M. At one point, a little later Ron Wood would do "I Can Feel the Fire" because that's on there but Rod wouldn't give Ronnie Lane that... I don't thing we ever did "Ooh La, La." Ain't that funny? We were just used to having a singer there and he just sang. I think the idea may have been mentioned once but Rod would be "what am I going to do?" Get the fuck off the stage and pick up a guitar!

M.S. Bang a tambourine!

I.M. Rod did play banjo on one song, I think on Ronnie Lane's "Stone."

M.S. Actually that is my favorite Ronnie Lane song. I just love that.

I.M. It's my least favorite. It just goes on and on and on... (Ian goes into an ad lib of the song). But you are not on your own. A lot of people have emailed me said where's "Stone" and other people have asked where's "Memphis" and that's the worst track on the record. Nod would be a perfect album without that track, but some people like that. One person emailed and said "what, "No Looking Out the Window?" which is a 5/4 instrumental. There's a couple of instrumentals and I'm not sure which is which, but I got all the A and B-sides.

M.S. Why did it take so long for something to happen, does this mean that more things might happen in the future?

I.M. Yes. Now we, even Rod is talking about a reunion gig or a few gigs, I don't know for sure. I'm working on a DVD or will be quite shortly I'm waiting for the first stuff to arrive. And also the separate albums will come out with extra bit by bit with extra tracks and they will be chronological.

M.S. Right, well the CDs to date appear to have been put on CD just for the hell of it. They don't sound any different than playing your old records.

I.M. That's right. I'll add A sides and B sides that were released around the same time and some other stuff. I have more rehearsal stuff, but that would probably only go on the first album. One day I want to put out a whole rehearsal tapes CD, I've probably got two or three CDs of them.

M.S. What about complete live shows where there any that were good enough to put out in their entirety?

I.M. No, I don't think so. One of the things is we don't have the rights to these things which is a bugger too. We don't have the rights to any of the video stuff. Our ex-manager probably does. Our accountant signed away the rights in the 80's for a hundred pounds to what is called the last concert with Keith Richards, which isn't at all the last concert, but Rhino is on it. They are helping us sort it all out because they want to put a DVD out. They'll do it somehow.

M.S. If you've been working on this for four years you must have gone through a mountain of stuff?

I.M. Oh yeah, fans have been so great. I have bootlegs from them. Until just before it came out we were actually going to use some of the bootlegs because we couldn't get the source tapes, but some of them were boots of BBC sessions that we didn't know existed and thanks to Bill Inglot who mastered this, he got in touch with the producer, Jeff Griffin and he went through his vaults and bang there it is!

M.S. It's amazing how much good music is just sitting in someone's vaults. Was there any stuff that was musically great but the sound just wasn't good enough?

I.M. Well, "Come See Me Baby" is off of a cassette. We know the tape exists because we made the cassette from the tape but it couldn't be found. Eventually it will be found and maybe we'll put it out on the Ooh La La sessions album when that comes out.

M.S. There's quite a bit of material on the set that is listed as being from "the last Faces" sessions. What were those sessions intended for because there's some pretty good stuff there?

I.M. We were trying to make an album. We were trying to get Rod in studio for a start, but we didn't really have many songs so did "Getting' Hungry," "High Heel Sneakers" "Open to Ideas," "Rock Me" and a couple more I think but nothing was ever finished. In fact, it's funny I notice that I put them all on disc three, it wasn't intentional, but went in for a few days and never went back and then we went on tour. It was supposed to have continued but it never happened.

M.S. Is there anything that you regret with regards to the Faces career?

I.M. Well, it would have been nice if they had more hits but I think this is the hit we have been waiting for.

M.S. Like I said earlier listening to the album is really does show that there was much more depth than one think based on the hits.

I.M. Right, especially when we'd get in the studio because Ronnie (Lane) would have more songs and that was a side of the Faces that people didn't see live. It got forgotten, well not forgotten but overlooked. Fans love "Debris" and other stuff.

M.S. Well, since your Faces days you've a pretty decent writer yourself. I really like your new CD Rise and Shine. To me it's kind of the Faces meets Ronnie Lane's Slim Chance at least in feel.

I.M. Well, you know that Mark Andes (ex- Spirit and Jo Jo Gunne) has joined the band and he has added something. Live we are a force. We are having the best fucking time. We are trying to set up a little tour up the East Coast. Me and Scrap were talking about it last night. I didn't know his availability. I'm going to tour with Patty Griffin in October so I'm checking to see what her dates are but if I can get a tour going and she is not working at the time, I'd like to do that.

M.S. Going back to the new album there's one track, "Been a Long Time" and there's a riff in it that reminds me of the Sutherland Brothers. It has similar riff/changes to their song "Dream Kid." And I thought that was funny because I know Rod Stewart was a big Sutherland Brothers fan (he covered "Sailing") and one time I went to see them in 1974 and Ronnie Wood and Rod Stewart were in the audience in the row in front of me, and I thought, "I wonder if Ian was a fan too?"

I.M. That's funny. I went to seem them once as well. I don't know the song though. I wrote that track in a pub in London. It was basically about being on the road and not knowing where you live anymore, and that came from a song I used to sing to my dogs...buddy, bo, kim and mac....(at this point Mac goes off into another ad lib of the song). But I swear if I sing that song my Cocker Spaniel gets all excited.

M.S. Well, it's only that infectious riff nothing more. I just thought it was cool. I remember that it was the Shaw Theater in London when this guy with big hair was in front of me.

I.M. Right, that's where I saw them. Yeah, we all went that night.

M.S. They were a great band.

I.M. They were and the slimmer one...

M.S. Gavin.

I.M. Yes, he played on some demos of mine.

M.S. Of all the sessions you've done are there any that really stands out.

I.M. Oh yeah, most of the people I've played with. I'm really a fan of Patty Griffin. I played on her new record. She sings on Rise and Shine. I did an album with Shannon McNally last year in Lafayette and it hasn't bee released yet. She had an album out a couple of years ago that was held up by her record company for six years, now they are holding up this one. I had a lot of fun doing that record. I have been really blessed, Bonnie Raitt, she's no slouch.

M.S. In closing can you tell us what you plan on doing with your solo band?

I.M. Well, it's my main concern. It is what I think of night and day. Writing for the band, we have already started recording the next record. We cut one track with Mark the other day. We've been playing one that we haven't cut yet but it is going to be a killer. I love this band.
November 3rd, 2004 09:26 PM
Soldatti Great reading, thanks.
November 3rd, 2004 10:05 PM
Ten Thousand Motels
Soldatti wrote:
Great reading, thanks.

Well ... it sure beats reading about politics
November 3rd, 2004 10:55 PM
Sir Stonesalot I'm going to see Mac in a couple of weeks. Tiny little club in Baltimore. I know some of the folks in the opening band, and they promised me some face time(pun intended) with Mac. I'm jazzed.
November 3rd, 2004 11:29 PM
gypsy Can't wait to see you there.
November 4th, 2004 06:30 AM
Stonesdoug It would be nice if the author could spell his name right!!!!

See you in Baltimore Sir Stonesalot!!!!
November 4th, 2004 08:04 AM
Factory Girl What is the name of the B'more club?
November 4th, 2004 08:22 AM
Sir Stonesalot FG...The Mojo Room. It's owned by Andy Bopp of Lovenut/Myrical Brah fame. Holds about 135 people. Tix are only $10.00!

Doug...I'll have hair by the time of the show.

November 4th, 2004 08:44 AM
Nellcote You guys will have a blast with Mac.
He's got IT.
His band is tight.
Have fun!
Looking forward to seeing him in Austin
during SXSW in March...
November 4th, 2004 09:02 AM
Factory Girl You all have fun at the show and please report back!!

Bal'more is a great city, btw.
November 4th, 2004 10:29 AM
Saint Sway I'll be seeing Mac in NY in 2 weeks. What songs can I expect to hear?

thanks also for the interview. Never realized that Mac was the keeper of the flame - so to speak - for The Faces, their legacy and all their recordings
November 10th, 2004 08:28 AM
Rags Greg Lewis interviews Mac as he gears up for the Bump’s tour of the Midwest and East Coast USA.

Thursday, November 11th
91.9 WNTI - Hackettstown, NJ
Rock-It Science (8 - 10 pm EST)

Listen online:

Tune in:
91.9 FM in NW New Jersey and NE Pennsylvania

Watch this space for more Bump broadcasts:
November 10th, 2004 09:14 AM

Mac & the Bump Band will perform LIVE on WFUV in NYC!

Wednesday, November 17th
90.7 WFUV - NYC
City Folk with Dennis Elsas (*2 - 6 pm EST)

Listen online:

Tune in: 90.7 WFUV - NYC

*Bumps are scheduled for 3 pm
November 10th, 2004 01:05 PM
Ten Thousand Motels Thanks Rags.

Good, it looks like someone corrected my misspelling of McLagan's name in the headline. That's a good thing.
November 11th, 2004 01:59 PM
Ten Thousand Motels Ex-Faces member keeps having a real good time

November 11, 2004

It's hard to define a singular spirit in the Faces, who from 1969 to 1973 were the greatest band in rock 'n' roll. Rod Stewart, Ron Wood, Ronnie Lane, Kenny Jones and Ian McLagan were an adorable concoction of anarchy, booze and a Chicago blues backbeat.

The Faces began their downhill slide when Lane left the band in May 1973. No need to go into what has since transpired; although Lane died of multiple sclerosis in May 1997. His melodic bass lines are as missed as the soul of Rod Stewart -- who is now an ersatz Johnny Mathis.

But keyboardist McLagan keeps a stiff upper lip. In recent years he has been a member of Billy Bragg's band and he has played on records by Ryan Adams and Patti Griffin. He has also released Faces-influenced solo albums like his latest "Rise and Shine!" (Gaff), where the honky-tonking "Been a Long Time" brings up the question of how to explain baseball to eskimos.

McLagan appears with his excellent band ("Scrappy" Jud Newcomb on guitar, former Canned Heat bassist Mark Andes and drummer Don Harvey) at 10 p.m. Saturday at FitzGerald's in Berwyn. At McLagan's insistence, the cover charge is a mere $10. "I want people to be there," McLagan laughed in a conversation from his home in Austin, Texas. "You can charge $100 and play to four people. Let's face it, these are miserable times."

Any conversation with McLagan, the effervescent co-founder of the Small Faces ("Itchycoo Park") and the Faces, is sure to bring a big smile. McLagan helped assemble and annotate the wonderful four-CD box set "Five Guys Walk Into a Bar ...," released earlier this year on Rhino Records. He's more than willing to revisit the Faces.

"I didn't think there would be such an emotional tug," McLagan said. "I had been collecting [Faces] bootlegs, fans' suggestions. Since the box set came out, I found four cassettes and I think I'll put out Faces rehearsal tapes."

The "Five Guys" box set features the band's early rehearsal takes on "Shake, Shudder, Shiver" and Howlin' Wolf's "Evil." McLagan said, "It shows how we all want to be together. Rod is singing for his supper -- he ain't taking it casually like he does with 'The Great American Songbook.' God bless him, but for all the money he's making, it's not his best singing."

Yet, Rod the Mod was feeling nostalgic and flew McLagan to the Hollywood Bowl at the end of his previous "Great American Songbook" tour.

McLagan sat in to surprise Wood, who played "Maggie May" with Stewart. "Woody played so great," McLagan said. "Much better than he does with the Stones. I told him he should dump that silly band. They were great in the '60s." Wood played rhythm and lead guitar with the Faces. McLagan elaborated, "Keith hogs that part of the stage, so Woody just ends up with dribs and drabs of lead."

Since the Faces, McLagan has gone on the Great American Road Trip. He played on Buddy Guy's "Feels Like Rain," Carly Simon's "Spy" and was a member of Bob Dylan's band circa 1984 when Dylan cut his "Real Live" album, which documented his European tour.

"I had given up music and drugs," McLagan said. "The last thing I wanted to do was play music. Then I got a call to work with him. After two days of rehearsals he said I had the gig [for the tour]. I'm in awe of Dylan. I walked over to the table where he was sitting and said, 'Bob, it's a thrill to be working with you.' He looked up and said [McLagan did a dead-on Dylan gnarl], 'See how you feel at the end of the tour.'

"Boy, he knew what he was talking about. He kept himself distant, but he was sweet. I asked him a couple of times during the tour to come have a drink with us and be one of the lads, and he did.

"One of the first nights of the tour somewhere in Italy, he came in the bar and asked what I was drinking. It was port and lemon, something like that. He drank one for one with me. He'd say, 'What do you want to ask me?' He answered every question. But I got so drunk, I can't remember anything he said."

Of course, other remembrances can be found in McLagan's critically acclaimed 1998 memoir All the Rage, which is out of print but will be available (with updated chapters) at Saturday's show for $25.

[Edited by Ten Thousand Motels]