Wednesday 27 December 2017

An Interview With Greg Green From MR PLOW

It's hard to believe that Stoner Metallers MR PLOW have finally returned with a stunning new album. Almost 11 years since their last album – Asteroid 25399.

Their new album – Maintain Radio Silence – is simply stunning. A great blend of Hard Rock, Doom, Psych Rock and loud as hell Stoner Metal riffs. The great sound that MR PLOW were known for back in the early 2000's.

I've been a fan of these guys since their early days and I was rather pleased to listen to the new album and to get the chance to interview Greg Green (Bass) from the band as well.

We discussed their lengthy absence from the scene, their new album and their 21st year being together as a band.

You can read all below.

Hi Greg. How are things with you today?

Great--both rocking and rolling.

Can you give a brief history of how the band came about and where it is today?

Mr. Plow got our start 20 years ago. Jeremy and Justin both played guitar in a band called Wormwood and Dave, our original drummer and I (Greg--bass) were looking for a guitar player. Wormwood broke up and we merged together and started writing songs that were heavily influenced by bands like Fu Manchu and Kyuss.

How would you describe your overall sound?

Heavy riffs with a lot of groove. Vocals that are often aggressive but still intelligible.

How did you come up with the name MR PLOW for your band?

Before Wormwood broke up I heard that they had considered calling themselves Mr. Plow, which came from an episode of the Simpsons. When we were trying to come up with a name for the new band someone suggested Mr. Plow. Nobody was in love with the name, but every other name anyone suggested got shot down. So we ended up going with the one name that everybody was ambivalent about, but at least nobody hated.

We’re still not in love with the name--people constantly want to sing the Mr. Plow jingle from the episode to us or quiz us with Simpsons trivia, but it also implicitly states that we don’t take ourselves too seriously, so, in a way, it’s the perfect name for us. 

We are here to talk about your new album which is a fucking huge sounding album. If you don't mind me saying. What can people expect from the album?

We certainly don’t mind you saying so! This album is the first in a long time--it will have been 12 years since our previous release, Asteroid 25399, when it comes out. But the real difference between this and anything else we’ve ever done comes from the fact that everyone in the band has been taking lessons and trying to grow musically coupled with Cory Cousins taking over the drum throne.

Cory is a truly gifted player. As a matter of fact, the bass and drums on the entire album were all done in one take each. Cory has his master’s degree in percussion. He’s had some lessons.

Why has it taken 12 years to release this album since the release of your last album? Any specific reasons?

It was my fault. I moved to Florida to go to chiropractic college right after we released Asteroid. The band played without me for a few months, but didn’t write any new material. Mr. Plow went on hiatus after awhile.

The guy who filled in for me on bass, Ben Yaker, formed a new band with Justin singing and Cory on drums called Sanctus Bellum.

Sanctus Bellum rapidly developed a name for themselves, and were putting out albums and playing a lot of regional gigs when I first got back from Florida. But they took an unexpected hiatus and cleared the path for Mr. Plow to get back into the jam room. This time, we had Cory on drums, and he loves to rock. It wasn’t long before we decided to start writing some new tunes, which brings us to this release.

When will the album be released?

January 26, 2018. We’re waiting on the artwork still, which is being done by Kyler Sharp, who is a well known artist in Houston. He did the poster for Metallica the last time they were in Houston. Everything else is done.

What influenced you all when recording the album?

We were influenced by each other--we’ve never been the fastest songwriters, but these tunes came together very quickly. Having Cory play drums made writing the new songs fun because we could intentionally write challenging drums parts. And the fact that we’ve all been improving our craft by taking lessons didn’t hurt either. Basically, we were all really happy to be in the practice room doing this again after so long.

What is the song-writing dynamic in the band. Is it a group participation or down to one individual?

It’s changed over the years, but for this album most of the songs were written by Justin or me. We were making demos of entire songs and sending them to the rest of the band--then when we’d all get in the practice room we’d put our individual stamp on the different parts. My favorite bassline on the whole album is one written by Justin. Jeremy, our other guitar player, came up with a few of the riffs that ended up becoming songs once Justin heard them and started tinkering.

Although two of us write most of the framework, it’s when the rest of the band flavors things up that the songs sound like Mr. Plow.

What influences you when writing music?

Lyrically, Justin takes a lot of inspiration from books. And Justin reads a lot of books. Actually, we all do--we’re a pretty literate band. My lyrical contributions to the album are inspired by random scenarios in my mind that might make a decent story, as in the case with the title track, Maintain Radio Silence. Another song I wrote on the album is Southbound, which is about a good friend of all of us who sold everything he owned and moved to Ecuador.

Musically, we all come from the common ground of loving a good, hooky riff. If it doesn’t find a way to groove it can’t be a Plow song.

You're coming upto your 21st year as a band. Did you ever think that the MR PLOW would last this long?

I’m not sure we ever thought about it, but the key is that we’re all good friends. We’d be hanging out with each other whether we were playing together or not. Writing songs and playing them live just gives us more activities to do together as friends.

What have been your high points and low points with the band?

I think, at least for me, the high point was putting out our first album--there was a great response to it from the critics and fans. We were regularly shipping boxes of CDs to Europe and getting emails from people all over the world who loved it. This next album, Maintain Radio Silence, should take everything to the next level.

The only low point was me moving to Florida. When I got back, Sanctus Bellum was going full throttle, so the future beyond the occasional “reunion show” where we played the hits from the first three albums was uncertain. We all have pretty intense days jobs, so being in more than one band would be challenging at best.

So, Jeremy and I started getting together with some other players and friends and playing some cover songs and mostly just using it as an excuse to drink beer with the boys once a week. Learning other songs makes you a better player, though. And I got a lot better at singing and playing bass at the same time, which has always been tough for me. That’s translated into me helping out with vocal harmonies in the live situation.

Would you change anything about your time with MR PLOW?

If I could go back in a time machine I would tell the younger version of ourselves to get out and tour more while we had less responsibilities. Other than that, it’s been a fun ride. It continues to be that way.

Are you all involved with different musical projects or is this your main band?

Mr Plow is everyone’s main band except Cory, who also plays in Blues Funeral with the two guitar players from Sanctus Bellum. Their stuff is super cool and reminds me of a proggy Deep Purple. Those guys are extremely talented and I expect everyone will be hearing more from them soon. They put out their second album, The Search, in 2017.

What is your musical setup when performing or recording live. Is it an advanced setup or a basic setup?

We keep it simple, other than the pedalboards of the guitar players. Both guitarist play through Matamp rigs, and get the sweetest, fuzziest tone ever. I use a Darkglass amp which has a couple of built in distortion channels that I use sparingly. As the bass player, I try my best to be a supportive player and lock with the drummer so the guitars can paint on top of that canvas.

How hard is it for Mr Plow stand-out from the crowd? Or do you not worry about things like that?

There is just so much good music coming out these days it can be hard to catch people’s attention. Mainly we just focus on playing well and having fun and letting the crowd make the judgement.

Do you perform many local gigs or do you have to travel further afield?

We mostly stick to the Houston area, although playing too many local gigs quickly leads to diminishing returns because people get the “I’ll catch them next time” disease. So, we try to keep local gigs down to every other month or so. We have a show in Lafayette, Louisiana with our buds in Vermillion Whisky in February, and we’re really looking forward to that.

Once the album is out, we’re hoping to do some more regional shows around Austin, San Antonio, Dallas and such.

With 2017 drawing to a close. What have been your favourite albums you've listened to this year?

Oh, man--there’s so much good stuff out there these days it’s hard to keep up. Houston’s own Galactic Cowboys just came out with a new album that I really love, and the whole band loves Elder’s Reflections of a Floating World and Pallbearer’s Heartless. And a bunch of other stuff. We could go on all day on this topic. I also just read that Fu Manchu is coming out with a new album in 2018 and that Alex Lifeson from Rush is playing guitar on one of the tracks, so our inner Rush geek is getting excited about that.

Apart from the new album, do you have any other exciting plans happening 2018?

Just hoping to get out and play some shows around the region. And maybe, just maybe, getting to open for Fu Manchu when they come through. They don’t know this yet, but we can hope.

Before you go, do you have anything to say to your fans?

Thanks for reaching out to us over the years--nothing is cooler than someone from another state or country telling us that they were driving to the beach jammin’ some Plow and feeling the good vibes we try to put out there.

Thanks for doing this. All the best with the new album.

Thanks for having us!

Words by Steve Howe and Greg Green

Thanks to Greg for doing this interview. Thanks to Curtis at Dewar PR for arranging this interview. Maintain Radio Silence will be available to buy from January 26th 2018.