Ken Mc Mahan's interview
by John Molet and Philippe Archambeau - August 2002

Hi Ken, here are Philippe and John from the "Road to jacksonville" webzine, we've been real happy when we heard the Dusters were back on the road. How did that happen ?

I'm glad to hear it! David Barnette, our bass player, is from Jacksonville, Florida so there you go. He was in Memphis and called me in Nashville to come visit. The time was perfect because the songs I was writing were bluesy. And we had a good time seeing each other again. It seemed like the Dusters were the perfect band to record with and I always liked being in a band better than going it alone.

Can you introduce the band members ?
L. David Barnette - bass, Jeffrey Perkins - drums. The same bunch as the last time anyone saw the Dusters back in about 1992!

With the Dusters being on the road, does it mean your solo career is over ?
I hope we're so successful I'll never have another band!

How did you record this new album ?
It was recorded in a friend's basement with Dan Baird producing and my favorite engineer Neal Cappellino. We kept everything as live as we could because that's how we sound best. It was my first time recording digital and I was skeptical at first. Of course, we borrowed every piece of outboard tube gear we could get our hands on! We're all really happy with how everything came out.

Which song do you prefer on this album ?
All of them! I really like "Mexico." The song "Killing Time" is probably the best representation of the group that has been recorded. "How Long" is really different but it somehow makes sense. I like everything, it depends on my mood and what day it is.

From your point of view, what is the difference between writing a song for the Disters or for ken Mc Mahan ?
I just have ideas and some of them get recorded. With this record (Dang! is the name of the record by the way) the songs were already there. When we got together and played for the first time in ten years last November, I thought 'what better band to record these blues songs?' Now it's become more than that. I really see us sticking together as long as people want to listen. There are definitely songs I've written that are not for The Dusters or me.

We've heard Dan Baird will be on stage with you next november in France, does it mean you're gonna play some Georgia Satellites ?
I think we will do some Satellites and some songs from Dan's solo records. I just finished a tour of Europe as the guitarist with Dan, former Satellites drummer Mauro Magellan and Keith Christopher. It was a complete blast. We did all the ones I like so I'm ready for anything!

What did the Georgia Satellites represent to you ? Wouldn't you like your music to sound close to their's ?
The Satellites were one of the first groups that I saw make it big. The Dusters opened for them right before the first record came out and we were going nuts because they were the best rock band around. We never wanted to sound like them but we sure wanted to capture the same kind of fire they had ! And they continued the Southern rock tradition that had become so out of style with bands like REM and college alternative rock in general. They all had to be so "smart." I like my rock dumb.

Your music is mainly blues-rock oriented, but it seems you appreciate southern rock bands such as Lynyrd Skynyrd. Are there other bands you like ?
I was so influenced by living in the South and listening to the Allman Brothers, The Outlaws, and especially Skynyrd. I learned blues from the Allman Brothers and rock from Skynyrd. Then I found their heroes and listened to B.B. King, Howlin' Wolf, Robert Johnson and all the great blues music. I had the Robert Johnson record King Of The Delta Blues Singers before all of the hype surrounding the box set. But I'm not a purist of any sort. I like Humble Pie, Mott The Hoople, and The Kinks. I like The Beatles, from the mop top era on. And the Rolling Stones are big for me as well. I like anything with emotion that comes from someplace real. I also like a lot of stupid bands that I'm ashamed to admit!

Besides new music (techono, rap.....), do you think rock'n roll will get back its pride and respect it had in the 70's or the 80's?
Not really. There will always be folks that like guitar rock but it won't be big with the kids like it was. I hope I'm wrong. Dan sums it up best when he says his favorite bands play music that is out of style!

What do you think of today's music ?
The things I don't see is people taking the time to write songs or learn their instruments. In my opinion, a lot of the new bands are either great players with no songs or good songwriters who can't really play well. Duane Allman knew how to play guitar and they had great songs to play. Ronnie Van Zant and Gary Rossington wrote songs that are timeless. Ronnie was a poet for the common man.

Is it easy for bands such as the Dusters to live by the music ?
No, you have to have a hit record to make a living. We're hoping this one gets us to a place where we can live off what we earn with the group.

Sept 11th events had a major impact on the world and on the rock planet, with people reacting using different forms (ie, recording songs, playing tribute shows...).What was your reaction when it happened ?
My reaction was just like every else's. It was the worst thing I have ever seen. I don't think I'm important enough to make a statement about world politics or anything. About the only person I trust to do that is Bruce Springsteen. I think he's honest and doesn't have any ulterior motives outside of expressing himself.

Which gear do you use on stage ?
Right now I'm using either my 1965 blackface Fender Bassman or a new Pro Jr for an amp. My guitars are a Tele modified with humbuckers, a Les Paul Standard and a Strat that David built for me.

What can we hope for thr Dusters's future ?
Well I hope we can make some more records and play shows for some people. We don't want to be rich, but it wouldn't hurt my feelings either. Seriously, we just want a chance to play music and have a good time doing it.

If you had to spend the rest of your life on a desert island, which albums wouls you take with you ?
Something by Howling Wolf and a Chuck Berry record. I would need Skynyrd but I'm not sure if I'd pick a collection or my favorite one, "Gimme Back My Bullets". I would take "Sticky Fingers" by the Stones and all of the Led Zeppelin records. My goal has always been to create the perfect blend of Skynyrd and Zeppelin. That combination would most likely end up sounding like blues rock now wouldn't it?!?

Thanks a lot for answering our questions, we really appreciate.
Have a nice european tour.


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