Substream Music Press Interview: Terrible Things

June 16, 2010

by Jameson Ketchum

“Whoever can write, that’s who gets to stay in the game.” This quote from Terrible Things’ creator Fred Mascherino couldn’t be truer about the man himself. Toiling away in bands for twenty years, Mascherino is no stranger to adapting. From his time in the scene kings Taking Back Sunday to his solo aspirations, the Pennsylvania native exemplifies hard work and the ever classic throw back. This is straight forward, good old fashion rock, multiple guitar solos and all. Other than its innovator, Terrible Things (originally called Initials) consist of Josh Eppard (formerly of Coheed and Cambria) on the drums and Andy Jackson (formerly of Hot Rod Circuit) backing up on guitar. I spoke with Mascherino early one morning on his day of press about what is to come for the singer/songwriter and, even though we got pretty far off topic, I got a great sense of where his head is at as he embarks on this new journey.

Terrible Things by Ryan Russell

Substream Music Press: I’ve been hooked on the two songs you got on MySpace for a week now; I’m stoked to hear the rest.

Fred Mascherino: Wow, thank you. I’m stoked for you to hear the rest. I wouldn’t say those are the absolutely the best ones on the record either so that’s what makes us pretty excited. Every time we started working on a new song, Josh Eppard would say “This one’s my favorite!” then after about five more he’s say it again. We’re definitely really excited. We just finished mixing yesterday and it’ll come out in late August on Universal Motown, which we thought the “Motown” part was pretty badass (laughs).

SMP: A band’s first release is a big statement of who they are, what do you want to present in you first release?

FM: What we were trying to say is that we’re bringing rock back. This album is like straight ahead big rock but not like a lot of the rock these days that are very influenced by metal. I haven’t heard a lot of real tasteful stuff since like The Foo Fighters, who have been around so long at this point. The Queens of the Stone Age are a great band. I feel like what we’re doing is something that there is a shortage of right now. Musically, that’s what we’re trying to achieve, we tried to write parts where we were playing our instruments as hard as we could. The drums are very live sounding on the record, very natural. There’s probably a guitar solo on 8 out of 10 of the songs. We’re just trying to bring it back. It’ll probably almost seem like we’re doing something new even though it’s like 30 years old (laughs).

SMP: I heard that a lot of it is based on a fire that happened in your hometown, can you expand on that?

FM: Yeah, I grew up in Coatesville, PA. I lived there up until a couple years ago and I still live in the area now. Coatesville had almost 50 fires in a one year period, 15 of them were in a one month period. It was a really scary time because the fires were happening in the middle of the night and it was always a residence, one woman died and a lot of people were left homeless. It was just really terrorizing to the city. I was kind of upset about it because it was where I was brought up and had lived for 25 years, so I wrote a song called “Lullaby,” which the chorus is “The city sleeps except for you and me because we know better”. It started out as a reactionary thing, and then turned into this couple who was living through this with their town under siege. In “The Hills of Birmingham” I say “We will sleep when we are dead,” and I never meant to write a concept record and I never thought I was the type of person who could write one. Focusing on one subject for a whole album seemed too difficult to me, but I was so drawn to this subject and it sort of brought on a darker mood to the music than stuff I’ve written before. Artistically it was a really deep thing and I wound up getting a lot out of it.

SMP: Yeah, that has to be tough because that’s where you grew up, that’s security and safety to you.

FM: My brother was still living there at the time in the house that I grew up in. One of the fires was just up the street and he had seen the car there that did it, but I guess he wasn’t thinking about it, but the next day there was a fire there. Then I met Andy Jackson while I was kind of writing this, he was the other guitarist from Hot Rod Circuit. He and I started playing together and he ended up telling me that about three years ago he had a fire at his house and all his guitars were lost. He kind of was able to relate to what I was doing. He wrote two songs on the album that he sings lead on so it became this kind of group effort, so it was something for all of us to get inspired about.

SMP: How did you hook up with your new band mates?

FM: I was touring acoustic with The Color Fred and Andy was working at a club in Alabama and he watched my set and said “Hey you write really good songs, I’d like to play guitar with you if you ever want to do a band.” I got home from tour and called him the next day and said “Did you mean what you said? Because I’m ready to start a band.” He was ready and he’s a really motivational guy and he has a really positive personality. Next thing we knew we were playing with a few different drummers and bass players and it just clicked with Josh right away. I toured with Josh when I was in Breaking Pangaea and he was in Coheed. It was actually Coheed’s very first tour. He’s honestly my favorite drummer, he’s always been someone I’ve dreamed of playing with. The stuff on the record is so good and he’s helped us to achieve that rock sting we’re talking about. The last song on the record is called “The Arsonist’s Wife”, it’s the most Coheed that we got and it’s definitely Josh’s song so there is something for the Coheed fans in there.

SMP: Do you find that because of your time previous bands that you have a bit of a built in fan base with anything that you do? Or does Terrible Things feel like you’re starting from the ground up again? Which do you prefer?

FM: There is a fan base but I still think that they generally come to anything new with a raised eyebrow and we still have to totally prove to them that we’re still writing as good as we have. A lot of us always sort of glamorize the albums that we had when we were in school or the first few years after high school, that’s my favorite stuff from back then. Nothing will ever beat Fugazi, it’s hard for Fugazi to even beat Fugazi. That’s what we’re working against with those fans. We’re trying to make something they can love but we also realize that in order to do what we want to do we have to reach a lot of new people. I look at it as I put a lot of work into the TBS records, like Louder Now, I spent a year and a half of my life writing and recording it. There were like 30 tracks of guitars on a couple songs and just ridiculous work going into it. If I can repay the people who respected me because of that and they can dig this then I’m grateful to have them around.

SMP: What would you say that you have found comforting in this project that was maybe lacking from your time in TBS or even in The Color Fred?

FM: I was doing the solo thing for the last two years and I’m much happier getting back to collaborating with my peers. For some people it’s a dream to have all the say but I kind of work better having people to bounce things off of, especially someone like Andy Jackson who is a great songwriter in his own right so he’ll often suggest things on my songs which make them more exciting. The whole thing about the straight ahead rock makes me happy because it’s not punky and I think on this record we’ve finally shaken the whole emo stigma. You don’t put all those guitar solos in and still fall into that category.

SMP: I think emo is dead finally.

FM: Yeah, I’m fine with that (laughs). It’s been copycatted to the point of it being a bad plastic surgery job now.

SMP: I miss the days of emo when it was about Goodwill t-shirts and thick rimmed glasses.

FM: Yeah, now its hair straightening! Another thing is that the scene back then had some kind of collective conscious. You’d have like vegetarians and environmentalists. You felt like the punk scene had a soul and that they cared about something and maybe helping the world a little bit. I don’t know what it’s about now. It’s about dance, get your dance on.

SMP: Yeah and what about bringing in causes that so strongly associate with this music, which is a trend that a kid will eventually move on from, then do they also move on from the cause?

FM: Yeah, that’s weird. I don’t know if that’s a result of the scene getting so big that you’re just going to bring in normal mainstream people that don’t really think? I’m not involved in this scene of like the Christian or Tooth N’ Nail like where they don’t know what they’re into. They’re a part of it but they don’t know why. I know exactly what you’re saying, it’s frustrating. It definitely made me think about if we want our causes to be a part of our band. I’ve always kind of pushed the green movement with people, I’m hardcore about it, and I have a veggie oil car and things like that. But I played Live Earth and I don’t think any of those bands cared about the actual movement. Bon Jovi played and I doubt they’re doing much. It’s a weird world, that’s kind of what the song “Revolution” is about, it says “This is not a revolution until we say it is.” You should actually do something if you believe in it and you should act and not wait for someone else to do it for you. As far as all the things that are wrong right now, the recession and things that seem like they need to be better its kind of like “Lets do it then! Let’s get going!” the song leaves it open to whatever your belief is. But I’d be happy if people were passionate about anything.

SMP: What influences you while you write and how has that changed from project to project?

FM: I’ve definitely noticed an evolution in the way I write over the years. I found that I pushed myself a lot harder. I can’t sit down and write on command; I have to be thinking about something that’s actually driving me crazy. That craziness turns into the ideas then I can sit down and basically spew out a song in about an hour once I have it in the barrel ready to go. I’ll write the music and the words at the same time sitting down with a pen and it just splashes out like Jackson Pollack. Usually what I do at that point I’ll really love it, you create something and you fall in love with it. I’ll sculpt it for the next three hours and historically I’d leave it at that point. Nowadays, after working with a lot of producers and doing some on my own, I’ve kind of learned that it can’t stop at that point. I’ll leave it there then maybe a month later I’ll reexamine it. It hurts to do this but I’ll pull it back a part and see how I can make it better. I started doing that a couple years ago and since then I’ve had better results where people are connecting to the music. So it kind of takes that first fire and day of conception then it takes a wiser listener later who is more detached to say what might be missing.

SMP: What is something you are really looking forward to in the upcoming months and what is the plan after the album releases?

FM: We’re doing this tour then we’re doing two weeks of Warped Tour. “The Revolution” is going to radio and we hope that some people hear that and like it. The plan is basically to go on the road and not come home until we’re satisfied, but that tour isn’t set up yet. We all have friends in bands that we’d hope to be touring with all through the fall. My favorites who I’d want tour with right now would be Circa Survive or Say Anything. For now we’re trying to hit up our friends who we actually love. I sang on the Say Anything record In Defense of the Genre, which was a thrill because I like that band so much. Max is one of the best writers in our scene, just such a visionary.

SMP: I’m sure you’re tired of this question, but what do you think of the Taking Back Sunday reunion?

FM: I was very surprised and I got to hand it to them that they surprised even me. I don’t know what that’s all going to lead to. I’m personally not into reminiscent stuff that much as far as doing that but I was especially shocked because I know that Matt Rubano enjoyed the last record so I knew that he was still feeling what they were doing so I was surprised that he was not in it anymore. I’m sure they’re going to be fine and I’m sure there’s a certain age group that is really excited about it. I don’t know what that means for their future but I guess it doesn’t really matter what I think about that.

SMP: Not necessarily speaking of TBS, but do you think that for some bands who are so engrained with a certain age group and style that when it comes time to move on or grow up there is just no hope?

FM: I would hope not. I would hope that your band would always be good enough to bring in new people and it is hard when you’re already so well known in a certain circle. I think its all about having good songs and if they do then they can move forward. They have to connect with people. I had seen a quote from Adam this week that New Again was a giant step backwards and I just thought that was strange because he was a part of it and had full control of the band because I wasn’t there (laughs), but why not make something that is ten steps forward? Maybe that’s what they’re doing now. It’s like why did you make it? That’s just a way to explain poor sales.

SMP: Yeah, I can get into that stuff for nostalgic reasons but I can’t take it as seriously as an adult now.

FM: Yeah, that’s what I mean. If one of your friends was like “Hey I’m going out with Lisa,” and she was the girl you went out with in tenth grade you’d be like “What are you doing? That’s weird! She’s not even hot anymore.”

SMP: I feel like one of the only bands I can say has done that successfully and grown up a long with their fans is Brand New.

FM: Oh yeah, that’s what I’m saying. They wouldn’t be going back to anything. They were able to successfully progress and change a lot each album and keep everyone’s interest and the reason is that people want to hear what Jesse has to say. He has a way of telling a story and building a song and people want to hear that and that’s priceless. That’s the reason that Slash is still playing music and Axl Rose is floundering. It’s whoever can write, that’s who gets to stay in the game.

You can check out Terrible Things on this year’s Warped Tour or at

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