It started with an old-fashioned idea. The optimism of the hippies met wit the activism of the more rebellious factions of society to create a powderkeg of activism and art in the late 1960s to create Woodstock. The fest could have been an unmitigated disaster that would have made Fyre festival look good. However, it would have a lasting cultural impact even the future decades rode on. With an eye on capturing that spirit again, and raking in a lot of money, the original founders of Woodstock create Woodstock `94: 2 More Days of Peace and Music, but officially it was three days. Continue reading
Motor Sister have become the LA rock supergroup who have made waves within the music world. Their debut album Ride (out now via Metal Blade Records) comes from the ashes of another one time band fronted by band singer and guitarist Jim Wilson.
Before Motor Sister came to life, Wilson once fronted a much talked about band called Mother Superior. From 1993 until 2011, the lineup of Wilson, bassist Marcus Blake and drummer Jason Mackenroth (later replaced by Matt Tecu in 2005) was a much talked about yet underappreciated rock outfit who made waves throughout Southern California and beyond.
Wilson spoke about Mother Superior and about their time together and the history of the band.
“That’s a good question because I always get that mixed up,” he said, clarifying how many official releases Mother Superior had out. “The thing is we released eight different CDs of original material but there was one at the very beginning that I recorded myself on a reel to reel tape recorder that we used as a demo called Right in a Row. It was nine songs that never came out anywhere else. It’s a whole album’s worth of material.”
“That was the album, as a demo, I got to give to Henry Rollins when I worked at Aron’s Records (longtime LA indie record shop). I said check out my band. He listened to it. I called and he said I really like this and let’s stay in touch. That’s an album that gets put on ebay as an album. It actually is a full album but was never properly distributed. That would be nine, and at the very end in 2008, we had a French label come to us and said they wanted to put out a Greatest Hits of Mother Superior and if you had any new tracks we’ll take them. So it had seven old songs, two new songs plus we did a cover of a Beatles song which we did for a Beatles tribute album that never came out. We gave them that song too. So that’s like a tenth album. It’s got new material but there’s eight proper distributed albums. Not to mention we recorded three albums with Henry Rollins and a live album, so we did do a lot of music in the time we were together.”
Some may recall them as the second version of the Rollins Band from 1997 until 2003. They recorded Get Some Go Again (2000) and Nice (2001) during their time together, touring internationally and reaching new audiences.
“I always knew Henry was into the same kind of music I was into like Black Sabbath and he liked Parliament and Funkadelic. He was a real music fan. He liked Miles Davis. When we first met Henry, he was hardcore getting into the Beatles. He would always know about the Beatles. I met Henry and showed him my Beatles bootleg collection. He asked ‘can I borrow these overnight, copy them all and bring them back to you?’ It’s Rollins so of course. He got so into the Beatles and at that point we were sharing music together.”
“It’s like Motor Sister now. We were a band with Rollins because we were friends. We were musical friends. That’s how it feels now. When Mother Superior started, that original trio – we were all working in record stores and growing up together. We were friends and as time moves on, everyone has families, kids and it gets harder to keep the same three guys together. You start to turn into this alcoholic freak show instead of like proper adults. We took that as far as we could before you start looking around in your life for other experiences and other friends.”
Towards the latter half of Mother Superior, Wilson landed a gig playing with famed producer Daniel Lanois’ solo band, which opened his world towards sharing the stage with larger acts.
“I’ve been playing with Daniel Lanois for eleven years now because I’m his friend. I’m the longest running musician in his camp and has been playing with him. It’s fun for me because Daniel is a world class musician and he’s treated with respect everywhere we go, and I get to be in the passenger seat as his bass player and co singer. Because of Daniel, I came back from DC a couple weekends ago and did the Emmylou Harris tribute show with Kris Kristofferson and Chris Hillman from the Byrds, Rodney Crowell, Don Was and The All Star Band. I get to be part of that world too.”
He shared his status with his longtime bassist Blake, with whom co-started Mother Superior with. Aside from Rollins Band, the two also were in Lanois’ band together. Then he explains what happened since then.
“He was first in Rollins Band and he did play with Daniel for a while. Then Daniel had his project called Black Dub and that was a weird point. For his Black Dub project, he only needed a bass player and a singer, and since I’m a singer he asked me if I wanted to play bass and I said yes. I played some bass – not all the time but whenever he needed it. When I joined the Black Dub project, it turned into a world tour and very successful. I think he felt a little bit of ‘wait…why are you playing bass?’ It’s nothing personal. It also brought it into the band. I think after the original Mother Superior drummer Jason Mackenroth and that was the closest we ever were and friends that hung out. Matt Tecu was the second drummer and he was a great drummer. He joined the band as a replacement because we needed a drummer. We didn’t have the comradely the original band had. Due to that, I think me and Marcus grew apart a bit.”
“When I came back after Black Dub and into the situation of Mother Superior – oh are we going to make another album? No offense to Marcus but he brought in frustrations while I was away on tour and he had a bunch of songs he had written that he wanted to sing and said ‘on the next album I want to sing at least three songs.’ “
“There I was listening to him. He asked if he could use my guitar when we got together. He said he’s got a Foo Fighters kind of thing. I was like ‘listen…this has all changed. It’s not the same band it used to be. That’s when I decided to make a solo record. That pissed him off so I got a nasty email. ‘Don’t use any of our connections if you’re going to do a solo album…you keep it separate.’ It was that time where if I tried to do anything different it made the guys in the band angry. It wasn’t like I could go back into the Mother Superior situation and pretend like it wasn’t existing any more.”
“There’s a saying that sometimes alcoholics use…I love alcohol but I’m not an alcoholic, but I love the saying that trying to do something different the same way every time is the definition of insanity. That’s what it felt like at the end of Mother Superior. We had a sound and we couldn’t do anything different or it would make the old band mad. We had talked about trying to change and it meant something different to each of the guys. We would never see eye to eye. I know other bands in other situations where they say ‘oh we don’t get along but we still play together.’ That’s because those kind of bands…say like Metallica or something, they’re getting paid millions of dollars not to like each other. Of course they’re going to go to Portugal and get paid a million dollars if someone’s going to pay them. I don’t know if that’s good or bad. Mother Superior has never had that situation where someone said ‘hey I’m going to pay you a lot of money to be friends.’ So we haven’t done anything together.”
Wilson admits he did reach out to Blake about his involvement in Motor Sister, which some fans may have noticed his absence from the project.
“To be honest, I tried to get in touch with Marcus when this project came about and got a negative response. So I tried to explain that the only thing that could happen is anyone who is interested will go back and check out the old stuff. Maybe it was too soon. Out of respect to the band, we changed the name. We threw the name around and there’s a song “Little Motor Sister” and Pearl [Aday, vocals] said “what about ‘Little Motor Sister”? And I said what about Motor Sister? Then it’s still MS. Now that we did that – I’m so glad that we did because it’s given it its own identity. It’s still related in a way where if anybody wants to know. I have nothing but respect for the original music. There are my guitar riffs and my melodies and all of my lyrics. As a singer I said I have to write all of the words that come out of my mouth. I’m glad people can still listen to the tunes and it’s going well. I wish all of the guys the best. Sometimes it takes time.”
Even after Mother Superior’s untimely ending, Wilson has kept active within music. He found a cult fan base for his music that became more apparent as time went on.
“I’ve been working on music since the Rollins thing. I’ve been super blessed that I get to do this. Somehow I survive. Because of that things change, and because of Daniel putting me in his touring band so much, it took me away from Mother Superior a little bit. It let me see it from a different place. While you’re in it every day…I can’t tell you how many times out of frustration, either the drummer or the bass player would say ‘we should have a meeting…’ and we would have a ‘meeting’ just for a chance so we can bitch each other about how we can’t pay our rent.“
“We really were a punk rock band that no major label would touch. We had fans that wanted us to keep making music. People were telling us ‘I love you guys! Don’t ever give this up. You really have something special. And you’re trying to keep this going but there’s no dash from the gas tank. Then you start looking for other ways to make this happen. At first we got lucky with Henry because I got to take the whole band on the adventure without changing anything. Henry took the whole band so nobody got left behind. But as time went by it wasn’t always possible. I had the opportunity to work with Daniel and it was something I needed to do. As it took me away from Mother Superior, maybe it made me go I don’t have to do that forever.”
“You know that Canadian band Anvil? I love them. I actually saw them open for Aerosmith in the 80s. I thought they were great. I saw that movie and thought about me and the other guys. I don’t want to end up in a dead end scene. I wanted to break away. I also think about Miles Davis and John Coltrane, and how John Coltrane was in Miles Davis’ band. He wasn’t afraid to take a chance to step outside that and that inspired me to do something on my own. It’s the history of music that not only makes me keep creating but not be afraid to try something different and doesn’t make sense at the time.”
Within the parameters of Los Angeles, rock music often spawns in the most unlikeliest of places. For Motor Sister, it came together at a birthday party with five people performing music from a defunct band which was brought back to life. Their début album Ride is the result of the love of one band’s music that they felt more people needed to hear.
Motor Sister is the somewhat alter ego of the long time Los Angeles based musician Jim Wilson’s band Mother Superior. The band called it quits in 2009, but the interest in their music from fans was still there. Then came Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian’s 50th birthday party at his home. Wilson explained how the whole scenario took place.
“When Scott started hassling me about the original idea, they made a poster that said Mother Superior and that’s what they sent out to their friends. We weren’t making a new band. We were having a party and having a good time. By using Mother Superior lives, it’s kind of saying we’re playing these songs and with a skeleton head on the flier.”
“Word got back via Neil Zlozower (veteran LA photographer). He did all of the old Van Halen and the Motley Crue album covers. He was at the party. He did two of the Mother Superior covers – the one on Triple X (2001’s Mother Superior) album and the Deep (1998 on Top Beat Records) album. When it came time to have the party, he was on the list. Neil had to be there. So he was the one who made the call to Metal Blade on the Monday morning after the party. He made the call on our behalf to Mike [Faley] from Metal Blade and talked about the party and seeing us. He hyped it up. So he dug further and approached us about making a record. There were some hardcore Mother Superior fans there. I’m not lying but there were some people tearing up because they hadn’t heard it for so long and joy was in the air. We finished the first song and the band looked at each other and laughed. Some people hadn’t experienced anything like it. They were emotional. A friend of ours had a list of every Mother Superior show she had been to, and she thinks she’s seen about 95% of every show from the earliest days. That’s how long she’s been following us. That kind of fan was really touched. We didn’t know where to begin. We just figured let’s just get together and do this. But when the Metal Blade thing came around, they asked Scott first. Scott said it’s all up to Jim if he wants to go back there or not.”
“I had such a good time and I had nothing but respect for Mother Superior. It’s been a little difficult with the old members… I’m sure they’re happy the music’s getting out again. We didn’t part as the greatest of friends. It’s hard to go to them and say ‘hey guys everything’s great.’ But it wasn’t me trying to form a new band. This kind of happened organically and the response is what’s keeping it going, and more so than anything it’s been the music. We can’t complain about that.”
Their début album Ride was based on the set list of songs played at that party, and somewhat of a Mother Superior best of record. The band who performed then (Wilson, Ian, co-vocalist Pearl Aday, bassist Joey Vera and drummer John Tempesta) became the band who recorded the album, with producer Jay Ruston (Anthrax, Steel Panther) overseeing the recording sessions.
“I know the twelve songs that are on the album is the actual twelve song list that Scott came up with himself for his birthday party. So those are the ones that he came up with off the top of his head, and after he sent the email to myself, Johnny, Joey and Pearl saying these are the songs for the party, a week later he said ‘oh shit, I forgot ‘Rolling Boy Blues.’ I forgot ‘Five Star.’ We kept it at those original twelve. We did “Rolling Boy Blues” as the encore for the New York show. We are open to other ones. We are starting to write new songs as well. The album’s been done for six months now recording wise. We need to get the cover and the release schedule. It takes a little while for the label to get it all together. In that time, we’ve been talking about making another record with some original tunes too. So maybe the next album might be 75% all brand new and a couple that we left off.”
While the twelve songs chosen for the set list that evening were compiled by Ian, Wilson himself talked about songs left off that evening he may have also added.
“The one I was surprised that we didn’t pick was from our very first album (1993’s Right in a Row) called “The Wiggle.” It seemed like one of those rock songs and every time we play it someone would yell ‘The Wiggle!’. We always ended up playing it. It’s a good jam. We were so young. I was in my early 20s and barely had any beer in that time. It was many beers ago!”
Wilson shared how he first met Ian, which he knew was a Mother Superior fan from the early years.
“It was the Viper Room. It was around the Deep album in 1998,” he said, recalling that moment. “I do remember when we played and where the Club Lingerie was on Sunset Boulevard, and at one point it was taken over by John Bush (Armored Saint/ex-Anthrax vocalist) and some of the Armored Saint guys when John was in Anthrax. They sponsored the club. Scott was probably at that show because I remember meeting John Bush. I remember meeting Scott at the KNAC Anniversary show at the Palladium in 1999. It was Skid Row, Rollins Band and Anthrax played. I met Scott backstage.”
Ironically, Wilson shared a story about him nearly becoming a touring mate of Ian’s.
“I heard a rumor. I’ve never confirmed this with Scott before but Henry told me that when we were about to go on our first Rollins Band tour and according to Henry, Scott said ‘what’s Jim doing this summer? We might need a replacement Anthrax guitarist because our guitarist can’t make the tour.’ Henry said we’re going out and doing our first shows. Henry told me that at the time and I was tripping like ‘what?! I could have had the chance to play with Anthrax! Hey Henry – shouldn’t you have asked me first? – just kidding!”
Wilson also nearly got to share the stage with another idol of his, but due to scheduling conflicts, it ended after a few rehearsals. But the fact he got to audition meant a lot to him.
“Another friend of mine was playing with Dave Davies of the Kinks at the same time. Dave Davies was looking for a bass player and my friend asked if I had a good choice for that. I said of course. I went to audition for Dave Davies and I got the gig, and they were supposed to go out a month before the Rollins shows started. I told Dave that I was playing with Henry, and Dave was a big Henry fan. He was super excited to have me in his band. When I got the call from Dave Davies, saying he had to push the tour back to this time. So I told him I was going out with Rollins, so I didn’t get to tour with Dave Davies but was in the band for a minute. I got to rehearse with him a couple of times and play 35 different Kinks songs.”