Saturday, October 31, 2009

MICHAEL DAVIS: MC5 KEN SHIMAMOTO INTERVIEW



Thirty years after the MC5's turbulent glory days, bassist Michael Davis sounds like a very happy man. He resides a long way from Motor City madness in Tucson, Arizona, where, as he replied when I remarked that they don't observe daylight saving time there, "We're constant. This is the center of the universe."

After the Five, Mike soldiered on with Fred "Sonic" Smith in Ascension, then served jail time on a drug charge. From 1977 to 1984, he was a member of Destroy All Monsters with ex-Stooges guitarist Ron Asheton. More recently, he's performed with the Empty Set, an L.A. band led by ex-DAM drummer Billy Frank. Since 1996, he's been a member of Rich Hopkins & the Luminarios, a band that employs a floating cast of Tucson and Minneapolis musicians, and enjoys a measure of popularity in Europe. Michael joined me at the I-94 Bar from his home in Tucson on May 17 and 31, 1998...

K: How'd you happen to join the MC5?

M: When I met those guys, I was not a bass player. What I did was play acoustic guitar and harmonica and sing Bob Dylan songs. When I heard Bob Dylan about 1962 or '63, it completely changed the direction of my life. I'd never heard anybody sing like that or talk like that or express themselves in those kinds of words. Up to that point, I was at art school; I was at Wayne State University studying to be a painter, an artist, kind of the whole normal thing, and then I went and saw Bob Dylan play at the Masonic Temple -- at that time, he was just playing a guitar sitting on a stool all by himself -- and it took hold of my life. I decided that's what I wanted to do; I wanted to be a musician.

When I met the MC5 and Wayne [Kramer] in particular, that's what I did. He and I got to be friendly and we started hanging out. We'd get acoustic guitars and we'd sit around and sing Beatles songs and learn all the lyrics to the Beatles' stuff. Wayne was still in high school and I had a few years on him. I'd been around here and there -- I'd lived in New York and places and so he kind of looked up to me, and I was telling Wayne where it was at. We'd play the guitar and do all this harmonizing and stuff like that.

Well, I also knew Rob Tyner from living down in the downtown area where the students and the artists would live. So Wayne and Rob decided it would really be neat if they could get Mike in the band somehow, and that wasn't too hard to do, 'cause basically Wayne irritated the bass player to the point where he got mad and quit the band.

He left and then they said, "Okay, Mike, you're on," so I went out and bought a white Fender Precision bass and sat down in the basement with Wayne and learned about 20 cover songs that the band did at the time -- the MC5 was a cover band -- with one original piece; that piece was "Black to Comm," which was totally experimental, atonal madness. And that's how I got in the band. Ironically, the first gig I played was at Wayne State University, where I'd gone to school to become a painter.

read Michael's full interview with Ken HERE

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