Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Interview with Mike Byrne of The Methadones/Off Broadway (Redux)/Dan Vapid and the Cheats
(Mike Byrne, guitarist, pictured right)
By Chris Carlton
Squid Pro Quo: Thanks for taking the time to talk with Squid Pro Quo, Mike. Can you tell me how you got involved in Dan Vapid & The Cheats?
Mike Byrne: "Hey Chris, thanks for asking me for an interview. I need a better public image since the "To Catch A Predator" episode aired. You all know what happened at SXSW. When Dan got back, we needed some help at were I work, so Dan was coming into work with me every day. Dan's mentioned in the past how he would love to put a band together or play a show doing songs he has written for all his bands. A friend of mine who works with the owner of the Cobra Lounge contacted me asking if Dan would be interested in doing a show at the Cobra in place of Weaselfest. Dan was a little hesitant about it. I offered to play guitar if he needed someone. After about a week of thinking about it, he decided to to it and he gave me a list of songs to learn. At first, I thought it might be just a one-off gig, but we are going to go ahead and make a band out of it and record and play shows."
SPQ: Besides the upcoming gig Memorial Day weekend at Cobra Lounge, are there any more gigs planned as of right now?
MB: "We have one other show that we are planning on playing, but we are working the details out with the promoter. I guess I shouldn't say anything yet until it's official. We plan on playing out and we will probably do another show in Chicago sometime this summer. We plan on doing out of town shows too. The only thing we probably won't do is any long-term touring. It's just too hard with jobs and two of the guys in the band are married and Dan is having a kid soon."
SPQ: You were playing with Kurt Baker (The Leftovers) recently. Will you be doing double duty playing with Kurt and The Cheats at the show?
MB: "I will be doing double duty at this show. Luckily for me, I know a good portion of Kurt's set already from playing with him back in December. I think we are adding some new songs to the set, so I will have to learn those. I already know all the songs in Dan's set, so that shouldn't be a problem."
SPQ: Being a huge Off Broadway fan myself, I could only imagine what it would be like to play with Cliff Johnson. So, I have to ask...what IS it like?
MB: "Hahaha, it's actually pretty interesting. I've been a huge Off Broadway fan myself for over 11 years. I never thought I would be playing with Cliff in a band much less in Off Broadway. It's different because I've played in punk bands my whole life. It's a different style of playing and it's more challenging as far as chords and song structure. Cliff and the bass player Greg are super talented guys and I feel very inadequate playing with them sometimes because they grew up learning from the Beatles and I grew up learning from the Misfits and bands like that. But the two styles do work good together. The shows are fun because we play totally different places than The Methadones did. We play dingy bars on the Northwest side or sports bars in the suburbs."
SPQ: Is Off Broadway back? And if so, are you a part of the band?
MB: "Off Broadway is back; I'm the guitar player along with Simon (Lamb), who played with Dan too. We've talked about recording some new stuff and we definitely have plans to play a lot of shows. We are in the process of getting a new drummer. We had someone, but he just joined Badfinger, so we are back to looking."
SPQ: Any plans for recording new music with any of the bands previously mentioned?
MB: "We definitely plan on recording with Dan Vapid and the Cheats. Dan has a lot of songs written. I'm always really excited to hear new material from Dan. We've discussed it with Off Broadway, but we don't have any new material to record but Cliff has a lot of old unreleased songs that we could record. I think Dan and Cliff are two of my favorite songwriters and I'm lucky to be playing with both of them."
SPQ: Looking back at not only your career in music, but all the bands you've seen come out of Chicago, what are some of the high points for you?
MB: "I think growing up in the 'burbs and being lucky enough to come into the city at a young age and see all these great bands. Some like Raygun and The Effigies who were already established at the time, but seeing bands like Screeching Weasel, Sludgeworth, Gear, No Empathy, The Vindictives and a lot of others when they weren't as popular as they got. McGregor's in Elmhurst was a cool club that I spent many Sunday and Wednesday nights, seeing a lot of these bands. Plus you had the Wrigleyside on Clark St. that Marc Ruvalo booked at and Isabelle's on Grand Ave. that Joey Vindictive booked at. There were a lot of short-lived clubs that lasted only a year that put on great shows. I really miss when I was younger and was excited about seeing bands. I don't get that very often now."
SPQ: What's you all-time favorite venue to see a live show or play at?
MB: "Seeing bands for me was always cool at McGregor's. They had decent food and always put on great bands. I saw so many amazing shows there. Green Day, Pegboy, Screeching Weasel, Los Crudos, Sludgeworth, Monsula, 411, Born Against, Smoking Popes; there are so many. As far as playing, I always loved playing the old Bottom Lounge. I thought it was a really cool place and the owners were really nice guys. I always had a blast playing there."
SPQ: Who influenced you as a musician?
MB: "Growing up, I listened to metal when I was a kid and then got into punk and hardcore. The band that totally made me want to start a band and play guitar was The Misfits. When I first heard "Walk Among Us," I stopped listening to metal and started buying punk records. Some people growing up loved KISS and The Misfits were my KISS. When I was in 5th or 6th grade, I would come home from school every day and put on "Walk Among Us." I can still listen to that album all the time. As I got older, I would say Cheap Trick has a big influence. They wrote amazing tunes and they looked cool. Before I met Dan, I always, and still do, think he writes these amazing tunes. When we started playing together, it was cool to see him take two or three chords and turn them into these great songs. I still love watching him do that."
SPQ: Of all the bands you've played with, who did you like playing with more and why?
MB: "The band I had the most fun in was The Methadones. I got to play on a bunch of albums and tour the States and Canada and go to Europe. It was a blast. Like any band, there were some not-so-fun things about it, but for the most part, I had a great time. Plus it was the longest band I ever played in; 10 years. I played in a bunch of other bands that had some fun moments, but they never lasted to long. Before playing in The Methadones, I played in The Vindictives for about two years and I learned a lot about playing lead guitar from the bass player, Johnny. He is a really talented guy who showed me a lot of cool stuff on the guitar."
SPQ: If you had the chance to see any band/artist that you haven't seen yet, who would it be?
MB: "Obviously there are a lot of bands that are broken up that I would want to see. But bands that are still around? The Forgotten Rebels, Gilbert O'Sullivan, Joe Jackson, 20/20, the Vancouver Subhumans. That's all I can think of now."
SPQ: And now the question we've all been waiting for; what are your top 3 favorite places to get chicken wings?
MB: "Fantastic question. First is Yakzie's in Chicago. Hands down the best wings in Chicago and the world. Amazing sauce. The wings are small, but in a good way. Second would be "Down the Hatch" in New York City. They are a very close second to Yakzie's. Good sized wings and a very similar sauce to Yakzie's. Third I would say right now is Wingstop on Milwaukee Ave. in Chicago. I'm partial to them because I live closeby and the wings are consistent and the owner is really nice and he gave me a free meal once."
SPQ: As always, I want to extend a big thank you for taking the time to speak with Squid Pro Quo, Mike. Always good to hear from you and see what you're up to.
MB: "Thanks for the interview Chris, as always I think you should wear tighter trousers. I will see you on May 27th at the Cobra for the first Dan Vapid and the Cheats show."