The Major Stars are a psychedelic tidal wave of sonic wizardry crashing down on the shores of your eardrum without any signs of relief efforts on the way. Unrelenting and without a trace of irony, Major Stars wield an arsenal of in-your-face rock songs that cripple those who cower from the intensity and reward those who revel in the volume of their unleashed force.
Major Stars started as a four-piece, rising out of the ashes of Magic Hour in 1997 and transforming into a sextet eight years later. The band was started by Wayne Rogers and Kate Village who run Twisted Village, a record store/label in Harvard Square that caters to music fanatics with tastes that exist on the outskirts of the popular palette. Though the band is obviously an extension of this aesthetic, do not confuse Major Stars for something experimental or hard to follow. This is a loud-as-fuck rock and roll band that is looking to implode your inner ear through sky cracking improvisation and bloody up their knuckles in the process.
Q&A w/ Dave Dougan bassist of Major Stars
Q: You joined Major Stars about 4 years into the bands career. What was it like acclimating yourself into the fold?
A: It was more like 8 years into the bands existence, actually. This band has gone ON AND ON AND ON. Major Stars started in 1997, and their first gig was the 1st Terrastock Festival in Providence, and the first Major Stars recording, TW-1042 Major Stars Rock Sounds Of People, a one sided 12″ came out that year, too. I actually first played with the band at the 1st Terrastock, the Boston one, in 2002. Tom Leonard, the original bassist, who has since switched to guitar in the band, had a family emergency and couldn’t do the show. So I stepped in at the last second had 2 rehearsals with the band the week of the show, and then suddenly found myself playing bass with Major Stars in front of about 400 people at Axis. At some point not long after that, Kate broke her arm and couldn’t play some show in Providence with L.A. Drugs, a band headed by our eventual vocalist Sandra Barrett. So I ended up playing bass with the band again for that show, and Tom played Kate’s parts on guitar. So the seeds of what would end up being the sextet version of Major Stars were sort of already being sewn. One of Wayne’s solo records was picked up by Drag City and reissued on cd. So he formed another band “Wayne Rogers Unit” to tour for that album which had Wayne, Kate, & Tom on guitar and myself on bass, and Wayne’s old band mate from Crystalized Movements, Terry Morris, on drums. Anyways, eventually all pretty much at the same time, Terry quit that band, Dave Lynch, the original Major Stars drummer quit Major Stars, and Tom told Wayne he was done playing bass. And Wayne decided he didn’t really want to sing live anymore. So suddenly he basically had 2 bands, with 3 guitarists and one bassist between them, and no drummers or singers.
Casey came in on drums and Sandra on vocals and then we were just one big band. For me, this version of Major Stars always seemed like more of a continuation of the Wayne Rogers unit, than the quartet verison of Major Stars, and the songs with the sextet version have tended to be slightly shorter with more vocals, like the Wayne Rogers Unit songs were. Whereas the Major Stars of old would play a 3 song, 35 minute set, we might actually cram in 6 songs into that time period. But yeah, the transition on my end was fairly seamless, as the Wayne Rogers unit went on for a bit over a year I think, and then suddenly one member was out, and two new people i was already friends with appeared. We actually played our first show as the six piece as Wayne Rogers Unit since it was booked that way, then played our second show a week later as Major Stars. So the acclimation was pretty easy. I very quickly learned to add at least a half an hour to whenever practice was theroretically scheduled for, and to assume we’d probably miss sound check at shows where they had sound check. My bandmates in turn, learned to suffer my persistent catch phrases.
Q: Describe the song writing in the band. How do you go from a riff idea to completed song? How democratic is the process?
A: The songwriting process is this: Wayne sends us an e-mail with mp3s of with 4-track recordings he’s made where he plays all the parts. We listen to it and come into the rehearsal space and try to replicate it. Casey will ask him a question about a drum part and Wayne gets behind the kit with a giant shit-eating grin and bashes out something on the drums. Then he shows some guitar part to Kate. I noodle around until I find something close to what
Wayne played then add a bunch of unnecessary additional notes because I’m a noodler. Occasionally Wayne has to tell me to play less on a particular part. Tom pretty much figures everything out instantly. He’s sort of the backbone of the band. At shows hen everyone else is flopping around and trying to plug their cables back into their instruments after knocking them out during an ill advised tumble on the ground, Tom is standing there impassively in his baseball cap shredding away and keeping the sonic chaos from being entirely formless. But yeah, a lot of songs will have a built in “solo” section where we can play more or less freely, and after we practice the songs a few times and get the hang of them, that section might get longer or shorter depending on how things are sounding. But the songs themselves are always written out beforehand by Wayne. This version of the band at least has never had a song that simply evolved entirely out of a jam. Though recently this repeating bass line I played during one rehearsal that starts and finishes a jam session to one song has been integrated into the structure of a new song of ours, and we now use it to signal the start and finish of the freely improvised section of the song. But this sort of thing is actually surprisingly rare for us, given how much improvisation occurs in our music.
Q: What is the most flattering/sickening musician/band comparisons you have received from fans, friends, family, press etc…?
A: Mary, aka Donna Parker, has given me the nickname “Noodles.” It’s not the most flattering nickname, but it’s pretty accurate. I think once we might have gotten compared to the Mothers of Invention and Wayne almost had a heart attack. But I might be making that up. I can’t remember any other particularly flattering or unflattering comparisons, though.
Q: You’re last album Mirror/Messenger was released on legendary indie label Drag City. How did this experience differ from self-releasing an album? What are the plans for the next release by Major Stars?
A: It wasn’t a whole lot different having the record come out on Drag City. I mean, Wayne’s label Twisted Village may not be as well known as Drag City, but its got 65 releases to their name, and people who listen to contemporary heavy psych rock & noise know his label. It was really nice seeing that photo I took of Casey in the Catacombs printed on a 12″ record jacket for sure; I know Wayne probably wouldn’t have splurged to print that had he done the vinyl! I think maybe it’s helped us get a slightly wider audience, but it’s hard to tell. We’ve toured twice since that record came out, and both tours were great, but we had also played a couple of festivals in Europe prior to ending up on Drag City. As of yet, no sparkling new doors have really been opened by the change in label, but we’re looking forward to co-headlining with Kelly Clarkson when her new record drops. I LOVE YOU KELLY!!!
As far as a next release, an album’s worth of songs have been already been recorded and just need to be mixed and mastered and all that. So sometime later this year we should have something new available.
Q: If you could play a show in Boston with 3 other local bands who would they be and at what Boston venue would you play?
A: I’m not exactly crazy about playing shows at bars, I actually quit drinking over a year ago. But my favorite legitimate venue in Boston is definitely Charlie’s Kitchen. The only do shows on Mondays, capacity is like 90 people, I think,they have a tiny pa that’s only used for the vocals, no sound person, and no stage. And the fries are great. Our shows there always end up being brutally loud and chaotic and cramped. Inevitably my bass will get caught in Kate’s hair or something, or at some point I will have to stand on my amp to avoid all the guitarists diving around on the floor. Singers get lost in the crowd, eventually reappearing, drummers bust their knuckles on the rim of the snare and then bleed all over their pants. Currently, I’m sort of at a loss for what my dream lineup of local bands would be. A year ago at this time it would have definitely been Conversions and Turpentine Brothers, but Conversions broke up and Justin & Tara moved to New Mexico. And a lot of my other favorite local bands contain either members of Major Stars, or my other band Life Partners, or I’m putting out their recordings on this collective label I’m a part of, RIDE THE SNAKE. So it would be hard not to have a bit of nepotism involved. I would have included Baby Yaga but their lead singer now sings with us. But as far as local bands I love that band mates of mine are not in, that I’m not involved in putting out the record of: Eunuch is actually at the top of the list. I like Social Circkle a lot, and Dry Hump, who I just saw for the first time last weekend. Closet Fairies are a really good band. I guess pretty much all the local bands I’m into are punk bands. Hope they like guitar solos.