INTERVIEW WITH MAD MARGRITT SINGER AND FOUNDER EDDIE SMITH
Date: October 31, 2016
IF YOU’RE NOT FAMILIAR WITH THE GROUP MAD MARGRITT, IT MIGHT WELL BE HIGH TIME THAT YOU DO BECAUSE THEY ARE ONE OF THE MOST UNDERRATED BANDS OUT THERE. WITH SIX STUDIO ALBUMS UNDER THEIR BELT SINCE 1997 INCLUDING THE STELLAR NEW ALBUM ‘LOVE, HATE AND DECEPTION’ WHICH WAS RELEASED TEN DAYS AGO. MAD MARGRITT ARE PROVING THAT THEIR BEST DAYS ARE STILL AHEAD OF THEM. SLEAZE ROXX CAUGHT UP WITH MAD MARGRITT’S FRONTMAN EDDIE SMITH TO DISCUSS THE BAND’S NEW ALBUM AS WELL AS ITS RICH HISTORY.
Sleaze Roxx: Congratulations on Mad Margritt’s new album ‘Love, Hate And Deception’ which is really good! You have a brand new line-up for this album compared to the last album ‘Show No Mercy’ that was released in 2013. What led to the changes in the line-up and how did you find or hook up with the new guys?
Eddie Smith: Our previous guitar player left the band a few months after ‘Show No Mercy’ came out. He left the band on good terms and I am still close friends with him but he was just burnt out and needed a little break. We keep a brutal schedule as being in Mad Margritt is pretty much a full time job. After he left, I started putting out feelers for a new guitarist and someone recommended a guy in town named Mark Cook. We got together and jammed a little and we knew immediately that he was the right guy. Mark is an amazing player and an animal on stage! Our drummer and bass player were both let go for different reasons. I don’t really want to air any dirty laundry but it was just something that needed to be done in both cases. We got our current drummer Tod Williford shortly after Mark joined. Just like Mark, we knew right away that he was a perfect fit for the band. The newest guy in the band is Matt Aebi. He has been with us a little over a year now. I had known Matt for almost 10 years and he actually did some shows with us in the past that our previous bass player couldn’t do so he was already familiar with our setlist. He was the first guy I called when the position became available. I am super happy with the current line-up. We all get along really well and musically we have great chemistry together.
Sleaze Roxx: I was really impressed with the songs on ‘Love, Hate And Deception.’ The hard rocking ones just seem to have an easily likeable quality to them. Was this intentional?
Eddie Smith: I’ve always liked songs that have a good strong hook to them so I’m very conscious of that when I write. Most of the songs on the new album are really hard driving with really heavy guitar riffs so I think it’s a cool contrast to have all these really intense high energy songs but still have melodic vocals and hooks in the chorus. To me, the songs don’t sound dated, which is something that we have been guilty of in the past. They are very fresh sounding yet they still have all the elements of the classic sounding stuff that we all grew up listening to.
Sleaze Roxx: I agree! What’s the idea or story behind the title ‘Love, Hate And Deception’?
Eddie Smith: When I was writing the lyrics, there were a lot of things going on around me to draw inspiration from. There are songs that deal with betrayal, anger, jealousy and a few other topics that I haven’t really touched upon before. It’s a little darker than what I usually write but I wanted the lyrics to be honest and reflect what I was going through and the things that I was witnessing around me. All of the songs have a common theme to them, which is how I came up with the title ‘Love, Hate and Deception.’ Every song in one way or another deals with one or more of those three topics.
Sleaze Roxx: Mad Margritt and Perris Records have had a long standing relationship. How did Mad Margritt hook up with Perris Records in the first place and what has it meant to Mad Margritt to have Perris Records behind the band?
Eddie Smith: We started working with Perris way back in 1997 when we released our first album ‘Cold Sweat.’ We were not signed to the label at that point. They were one of many distributors that we were working with at the time. A few years later, we were performing in Las Vegas at a club called Pink E’s and Tom Mathers, the president of Perris Records, was at the show. We got to talking that night and he asked me how we would feel about releasing our next album on Perris. We jumped at the chance to work with them. They had just picked up the ‘Under The Influence’ album by Warrant and they were also working with L.A. Guns, Enuff Z’Nuff and Helix so we were really excited to be on a label with that kind of roster. They really took the band to a whole new level. We started getting some radio airplay and we were featured several times in Metal Edge Magazine who were the top magazine in the USA for hard rock back then. They got our CDs distributed all over the world and got us in all the major music stores in the USA including Sears, Best Buy and Target to name a few. We have had a great relationship with them throughout the years so we definitely made the right choice by signing with them.
Sleaze Roxx: Many people don’t realize that Mad Margritt have been around for a long time with the debut album dating back to 1997. Hopefully, you will indulge me on this but I would love for you to take me through the band’s various albums, and provide your thoughts on each record and where the band was at during that point in time.
Eddie Smith: Sure! Sounds good.
Sleaze Roxx: So let’s start with the debut album ‘Cold Sweat’ in 1997. What do you think of the album and who was in the initial line-up?
Eddie Smith: ‘Cold Sweat’ was a five song EP and I absolutely love the songs on that disc. It was Mike Teeter on guitar, Steve Dietrich on bass, Danny Belli on drums and myself on vocals. It came out during the whole grunge thing and we were the exact opposite of all that. We were really glammed out with the big hair and make-up. We had the whole ’80s vibe going on and we were proud of it! Musically, we sounded like a mix between Poison, Warrant and Black ‘N Blue. A lot of fun songs on that disc!
Sleaze Roxx: The next album was ‘In The Name Of Rock’ which was released in 1999 via Delinquent Records. What do you think of that album and what was the state of the band at that point?
Eddie Smith: Delinquent Records was the first label that we had ever signed with. They were based in the southeast where we are from. Our original idea was to record four or five new songs and re-release ‘Cold Sweat’ as a full-length album. Right before the album was going to be pressed, the label had a meeting with us and told us that they were renaming the album ‘In The Name Of Rock’ and that they already had a new cover and new artwork. It took us a little by shock but we reluctantly went along with it. I really didn’t like the idea because five of the songs were the same songs that appeared on ‘Cold Sweat’ so it was a little deceiving to the public who might be thinking that because of the new album title and artwork, it was going to be an album of all new songs. It ended up doing pretty well and we went out on our first US tour after that. The new songs on the album were very similar in style to the songs from the ‘Cold Sweat’ EP — old school ’80s Sunset Strip type of stuff.
Sleaze Roxx: ‘New Sensation’ is next in 2002. What are your thoughts on that album and the state of the band?
Eddie Smith: We changed guitar players at that point. The new guy was Davay Ray and he joined us around June of 2001. This album was our first release on Perris Records. It was similar in style to our previous stuff but I wasn’t completely happy with this album. We had a few really strong songs on this one but I felt that most of it didn’t stand up to what we had put out in the past. We did another tour after this album came out. It sold really well and momentum kept building for the band but if I’m being honest, it wasn’t our best work and it left a bad taste in my mouth.
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] Sleaze Roxx always likes honest answers! Mad Margritt released a best of collection entitled ‘Straight Through The Heart’ in 2005. Why did you end up doing that?
Eddie Smith: Since I wasn’t real crazy about the ‘New Sensation’ album and there were actually a few songs off ‘In The Name Of Rock’ that I wasn’t too crazy about as well, I decided to more or less hit the re-set button. I took the strongest songs from all of our albums plus a few new songs that we had just recorded and put out an album that I felt really captured Mad Margritt at its best. I really like every song on this album and I feel it really represents the best of the early years of Mad Margritt. It marked the end of that era for us because our sound changed a lot after that.
Sleaze Roxx: The next album was ‘Animal’ which was released in 2007 and which represented a five-year gap from the last studio album. What do you think of the ‘Animal’ album and what was the state of the band at that point?
Eddie Smith: We changed guitar players again after the release of ‘Straight Through The Heart.’ Scott Banks joined up with us in 2005 and he had a much heavier style to his playing compared to the previous two guys. Also joining us on bass was Skip Mullis. He had actually been our touring bass player since 1999. Our original bassist, Steve Dietrich, didn’t like being on the road so Skip ended up doing most of our live shows. When Steve left the band, it just made sense to hire Skip full-time. The reason it took so long in between albums was because we were playing so many shows, we all had to quit our days jobs and become full-time musicians. It was awesome to finally be making a living playing music but the downside was we were afraid to take time off to record an album because not playing shows meant no money was coming in. We finally managed to take a break and record a new album in the summer of 2007. ‘Animal’ was a really big change in style for us. It’s almost like we reinvented ourselves. Our sound had a much harder edge to it and I feel that I really grew vocally and became a much better singer. I have to say that I absolutely love this album, every song on it is an ass kicker!! We did a bunch more touring after this album came out and played at a lot of the big summer festivals.
Sleaze Roxx: Next up was ‘Show No Mercy’ which was released in 2013 with a six year gap since the previous album. Why did it take so long for ‘Show No Mercy’ to come out, and what are your thoughts on the album and the state of the band?
Eddie Smith: We did not plan on taking so long to put out a new album but we had so many setbacks. We started working on new songs in 2010 but then our drummer Danny had to leave the band due to health reasons. We got a new drummer by the name of Chad Wedlake but shortly after he joined, our guitarist Scott Banks decided to leave the band. We hired a new guitarist named Carl Culpepper but a few months after he joined, our drummer Chad had to step down due to a new job opportunity that interfered with the band’s performance schedule. We then hired another drummer by the name of Brandon Faulkner. We finally started work on the ‘Show No Mercy’ album in 2012 and got it finished and released in the summer of 2013.
Sleaze Roxx: Mad Margritt’s new album ‘Love, Hate And Deception’ was just released. What are Mad Margritt’s plans going forward?
Eddie Smith: As I mentioned earlier, I love the current line-up featuring Mark, Matt and Tod. The band is super tight and the new album ‘Love, Hate And Deception’ is by far the best album we have ever put out. We are so excited for everyone to hear what we’ve come up with this time around. We definitely took everything to a whole new level. It’s Mad Margritt on steroids and I promise it will definitely get your adrenaline pumping! We just released a new video for the song ‘Liar’ that everyone can check out on YouTube. We also plan to release a few more videos over the course of the next year. As far as touring, we have only been playing in the southeast the past five or six years so we want to get back out on the road in 2017 and play some of the big summer festivals again. We are booked in February to play at the Pre-Grammy Rockfest at The Viper Room in Los Angeles and we are also booking a show in Vegas while we are out there. It’s been a while since we have been out west so we are really excited about playing out there again.
Sleaze Roxx: Another thing that many people may not realize is that your band has shared the stage with — or open for — tons of great bands including Ratt, KISS, Whitesnake, etc. Can you please share Mad Margritt’s best and worse experiences in terms of touring and/or opening for one of these bands?
Eddie Smith: One of the highlights of my musical career is that we have been able to open up shows for so many of the bands that I grew up listening to and who inspired me to become a musician. From 1999 until around 2010, we toured non-stop and if we were not on the road, we were playing shows here in our home town of Atlanta. We opened up shows for everyone back then. We were playing with bands like Ratt, Cinderella, Skid Row and Warrant. There is just an endless list of bands that we played with. Around 2005 or 2006, we changed our strategy a little. Instead of driving non-stop all over the country, we decided to focus more on doing all the big summer festivals. Even though it was only for a few months out of the year, doing the festivals put us in front of thousands of people every show so it was a good trade off. As far as my best experiences, performing at all those big shows was definitely the highlight and getting to meet so many of my musical influences was really cool as well. Probably the three coolest people I met from playing all those gigs were Bret Michaels, Steven Adler and the late Jani Lane. Really super cool guys with no rock star attitudes at all. I can’t really think of any negatives except that I hated driving for endless hours in a van. That part of the experience was not a lot of fun! The shows were awesome and getting to visit different parts of the country was great too but the hours and hours of driving sucked!
Sleaze Roxx: One more thing that many people may not know is that Mad Margritt have received their share of accolades over the years. What is your favorite award or recognition that Mad Margritt received?
Eddie Smith: We won ‘Best Rock Band’ several years back at the Atlanta Music Awards and we also won some awards at the South Florida Music Awards where the band originated. Another cool thing was that our video for the song “Loaded Gun” was named Video Of The Year by Rock Nation TV. I think the coolest thing for me wasn’t an actual award but it was seeing us getting write-ups in Metal Edge Magazine. I bought that magazine every month when I was growing up so to see articles about Mad Margritt in there was really cool!
Sleaze Roxx: Last question for you — what are your top three favorite albums of all-time and why?
Eddie Smith: That is a tough question because there are so many amazing albums that I love. I’m gonna do this in chronological order. The first one would be ‘Double Live Gonzo’ by Ted Nugent because that is the album that made me want to become a musician. Next would be ‘Heaven & Hell’ by Black Sabbath. That album to me is a masterpiece and Ronnie James Dio is one of the greatest singers in the history of metal. My last pick is the first Skid Row album. I actually love ‘Slave To The Grind’ just as much but I’ll pick the first album just because it was the one that introduced me to the band. There are about 1,000 or more albums that I love just as much as those three but those are the first ones that came to mind.