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(Taken from Black Velvet Issue 41 - Aug 2004)

By Suzi Hamilton

Taking On The World

In issue 35 of Black Velvet we featured an interview with John Nolan the guitarist from New York City band TAKING BACK SUNDAY. Since that time the band have accomplished a lot with the major success of their debut album 'Tell All Your Friends' selling over 200,000 copies, a heavy touring schedule and a change in line up.
With both John and bassist Shaun Cooper having departed for pastures new and the addition of two new band members guitarist Fred Mascherino and bassist Matt Rubano the band are set to take on the world. Black Velvet caught up with the band amidst their first ever UK tour, and chatted to guitarist Fred Mascherino about his life, interests, and input/influence on the band's latest album 'Where You Want To Be'.






Black Velvet: At what age did you first pick up a guitar?
Fred: Well my mom plays guitar and sings American folk music so I've been brought up with that since I was a kid. We always had guitars around the house. Eventually around the age of eleven I got serious about it and took lessons… went to college for jazz.

BV: What was your first band like?
FM: It was basically a straight edge hardcore band. We didn't play too seriously. I guess my first real band was when I was in tenth grade called Stickman. By the time I was fifteen we were playing all the bars in Philadelphia. My dad would always go with me, because usually people would think the band was older than it was… but my dad would hide out. He was cool!

BV: Where did you rehearsals take place in those formative years?
FM: I lived out in the suburbs of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the Westchester, PA the area where the Dead Milkmen came from back then to there. I still live there now… but I'm going to be moving soon because all the guys in Taking Back Sunday live in New York.

BV: Can you recall the first song you ever composed?
FM: Yeah. Actually (laughs) it was about this girl in seventh grade. I got up in front of my class with my teacher's 12 string acoustic. I didn't let on to anyone what it was about. Only a few people knew. I never actually got a date with her. It was a sad case.

BV: What about demos and getting your material aired?
FM: Pretty much as soon as I learned four chords on the guitar I wrote that song, and then wrote a million others. We did talent shows and we did a demo tape with Stickman when I was fourteen or fifteen. We'd go and play anywhere we could. Some small independent labels put out our stuff.

BV: How old were you when things began to take off?
FM: When I was eighteen I started a band called Brody and that led me to meet Eddie (Reyes) from Taking Back Sunday. He was in a band called Clockwise and Brody and Clockwise would gig together. I've known Eddie for something like eight years.

BV: So did this lead you into joining Taking Back Sunday?
FM: When I first met vocalist Eddie I'd started my new band called Breaking Pangaea, which was about five years ago. At that time Eddie had just started Taking Back Sunday. The two of us kept playing shows together. We live about three hours apart but he would come and play in our town and we would come and play his town. When things started to take off for Taking Back Sunday, they took Breaking Pangaea out on their first big headlining tour… we were opening for them. Then at the end of that tour John left so a few weeks after that I heard that they were going to continue without him so I called up and Eddie said 'Dude if you want the job you got it!' They didn't even try anyone else out which was cool for me.

BV: So what's been happening over the last few months?
FM: Last Fall we toured with Saves The Day and then we spent the winter writing and recording our new album. And then we just went and did a month in the states with Blink-182 and Cypress Hill. My first show with the band was last August (2003), which was the last three dates of the Warped tour. Plus a bunch of radio shows.

BV: Do you think that your input has enhanced the overall sound of the band?
FM: I thought that the songs were great on the last album ('Tell All Your Friends') so my goal was to keep that same energy going and the mood of that record. Basically I wanted to get it more amped up, I wanted to tighten things here and there, have a better sounding record. We were able to do that I think, because we had more time. We had a producer who was amazing.

BV: Who produced the new album 'Where You Want To Be'?
FM: Lou Giordano - he's worked with Sugar and the Goo Goo Dolls. He's an awesome guy. When people hear it they're going to hear more stuff going on the guitars… it's a heavier sounding album. We were deliberately trying to outdo ourselves. We wanted to make a record that our fans would still like that was really important to us.

BV: In your opinion were there any songs that were more difficult to attain the sound you wanted?
FM: Yeah there is a song on the record called 'Number Five With a Bullet'. It was rewritten about a dozen times. We actually went on tour and played it one way and then came home and said "You know what? We don't even really like that song. Let's tear it apart and start over". Me and Adam would just sit around at his house till five in the morning doing it until we got all the pieces right and with additional input from the band when we got together in the studio, we finally got what we wanted. I think it's one of my favourite songs on the record along with one called 'The Union'.

BV: Who does the bulk of the writing?
FM: The music is all of us together. Mark our drummer even plays guitar so he'll bring in a riff… Matt our bassist will bring in a bassline… we just take it and make a song out of it. I'm the bridge between the vocals and the music. Once we get some music happening and vocal parts, we will consistently work on it till it's done.

BV: What are your views on Animal Rights?
Fred: I've been a vegetarian for ten years… I've been vegan as well. You'll catch me eating a cookie here or there on tour because it's harder. It's not crazy. You can always find a salad. At this point Burger King even has veggie burgers. Having cheese would make it easier. But I don't ever eat any cheese or milk. My whole family eats meat so I'm not against that… I've never told anyone what to eat. That's wrong in my way of thinking. But it's the way I choose to live. I have a wife and two kids, they are vegetarian not vegan. They don't eat any meat.

BV: So you have quite strong ethics?
FM: I pretty much try to respect life. You'd never see my dad even kill a bug… he would always shoo it out of the door. That's the way I was bought up. It's a lot easier than people think. I read books that have that mentality of not stepping on other people…that's the code I live by.

BV: Have you done any solo work?
FM: I have a number of songs recorded of my own. I also play drums. One came out on an Equal Vision record compilation. I named the project Basic Design. I think there are a lot of copies out there. You may well find it on the internet. When I get time, and at the moment it doesn't look like I'm going to get any, I do want to put that stuff out and finish it up.

BV: Who are your rock music heroes?
FM: One of my heroes for pure entertainment is David Lee Roth. You don't have to take him too seriously; he's got a great sense of humour. I grew up wanting to entertain that way. Someone I know who's a comedian in New York actually met Dave and had him call me. We talked for five minutes. That was amazing for me and then two weeks later David Lee Roth called again and left a message on my machine. So I'm hoping now that maybe I will meet him.

BV: Did you get on well with the guys from Blink-182?
FM: They are great! They're far friendlier than you think a band that big would be. They hung out with us all the time they would come into our dressing room and play pranks on us.

BV: What sort of pranks?
FM: Haha. Well the last day of the tour they dumped two trash bags of popcorn on the stage while we were playing from up I the rafters and all manner of things being wheeled out on the stage while we were performing. It was a lot of fun.

BV: Have you got any unfulfilled ambitions?
FM: Coming to Europe with the band was certainly a goal of mine. I made a promise to myself when I was young that I wouldn't come here until I was in a band. There are few things… like I want to play on 'Saturday Night Live' back home… I'm hoping that we can do that sometime. If it all ended now I'd feel like I've done a lot… it's been really good… but luckily it probably won't end today.

For more information on Taking Back Sunday check out their official website www.takingbacksunday.com. Make sure you pick up the brand new album 'Where You Want To Be' on Victory Records - it kicks ass!.



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