Monday, April 1, 2013

Pheaturing Phile Alum Mike Gent From The Figgs

Rabbit. Hey, kids, welcome back to the Phile, it's April 1st, which means it's April Fools Day. Don't worry, I will not be pulling any April Fools on the Phile. It's enough of a joke already.  So, did you have a good Easter yesterday? Did you know Americans buy an estimated $120 million pounds of candy for Easter every year? I hope Jesus comes back as a dentist. And yes, Jesus rose from the dead. No, he's not a zombie.  North Korea is now threatening the United States with all-out war. What did Dennis Rodman say to these people? What did he do?  Ashley Judd announced she will not be running for Senate in Kentucky against Mitch McConnell. And Mitch McConnell announced he will not be co-starring in any romantic comedies.  The Pennsylvania Game Commission has charged a man with going deer hunting with a handgun in a Walmart parking lot. He is being charged with reckless endangerment, but may plead guilty to the lesser charge of being a redneck. Hunting in a Walmart parking lot. That’s got to be some good eating... a deer that lives on leftover Twizzlers and Mountain Dew.  Speaking of Walmart, they will test a new delivery method for customers who order online. They're asking shoppers to drop stuff off for other shoppers on their way home. In exchange, Walmart would give them a discount on their bill. So if you always wanted to work for Walmart but didn't want to get bogged down with the paycheck and healthcare, this is for you.  Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, the person in charge of our national security, recently said she doesn’t email, text, or tweet. So remember: If you see something, say something... because there’s literally no other way she’ll get the message.  President Obama told reporters that his NCAA tournament bracket is busted. Obama said they were the worst picks he's ever made... then he looked at his economic advisers and said, “Ehh, maybe not.”  Legendary singer Dionne Warwick filed for bankruptcy, claiming she has only $25,000 in assets but owes more than $10 million in unpaid taxes. She owes 400 times what she has. She could end up serving three years, as the White House budget director.  Congresswoman Michele Bachmann is under investigation for alleged misuse of campaign funds. She's blaming the accusations on her arch nemesis: the facts.  I was wondering yesterday where the tradition of Easter eggs came from, and then I saw this old painting, and now I know.

As you know today is April Fools Day, and last year the BBC played a great prank on-line. Check it out, this is real.

I wonder what they're planning for this year, those crazy British journalists. Now I wish I came up with a prank on the Phile.  Have you seen the new video game that just came out? It's from the creators of "Sim City". Check it out, kids.

One of the things I like to do in my spare time is to go on Twitter and look up certain words. One of those words I look up is Foghat, to see what people are saying. This is what I recently found...

No, I don't Princess Erika. LOL. Alright, now from the home office in Port Jefferson, New York, here is another...

Top Phive Explanations Joe Biden Has For His $585,000 Paris Hotel Bill
5. "I mistakenly thought they room-service nachos were 'bottomless'! I mean, they kept bringin' em!"
4. "Listen, if you really wanna understand Wreck-It Ralph, you're gonna need to watch it more than once!"
3. "Turns out when you throw a stupid sailboat painting through a window, they make you pay for the painting AND the window!"
2. "When those phone-sex lines say, 'Local charges apply', they ain't just whistlin' Dixie, my friend!"
And the number one explanation Biden has for his Paris hotel bill is...
1. "Here's a tip, travelers: don't try to clean vomit off the carpet with a curtain. That's just solving one problem by creating another!"

If you see it email me at Okay, so, one of my phavorite people I ever have on the Phile is back, kids. He's a singer and renaissance man. You know what time it is. Please welcome back to the Phile... Laird Jim.

Good morning, humans. It's Monday. April FOOOOOOOOL!!! No... really... it's Monday. Okay... chicken burrito at Taco Bell or pick a fight with the biggest guy I can find at a local bar? Hmmmmm....  gonna have to go to the coin toss on this one. I've been a tad grumpy since being forced to quit surfing. Sue me! I just had an interesting conversation with a dear friend who says, "There are NO good guys left out there." I explained that there are plenty of them... but like a lot of you women they TOO have been screwed over... they're jaded & playing their cards close to the vest. I explained that she could either keep rolling the dice... or give up and get 15 cats. She just laughed. By the way, this just saved someone a ride in an ambulance...

Man, now I want a chicken burrito. Thanks, Laird, great job.

This is the 25th book to be pheatured in the Book Club...

The author, Kent Gustavon, will be the pheatured guest on the Phile next Monday.

Alright, today's pheatured guest is a Phile Alum and an American songwriter, guitarist, and vocalist in The Figgs. They're latest release is "1000 People Grinning: The Figgs Anthology" and is available on iTunes. He will be next appearing at Musikfest Cafe At Arts Quest Center in Bethlehem, Pa on April 5th doing a solo show. Please welcome back to the Phile... Mike Gent.

Me: Hello, Mike, welcome back to the Phile. How are you?

Mike: I'm alright, Jason. Dealing with a crashed hard drive and some plumbing issues at my house. Besides that, everything is good over here.

Me: Man, it's been years since you were here last. Since then I interviewed Graham Parker a few times and Pete Donnelly. Did you hear Pete's solo album? It's really good, right? He said he liked your solo album as well.

Mike: Yes, I have heard Pete's record several times. I play on one of the tracks, "Careful", which started out as a Figgs track, but I thought it would fit well with the group of songs Pete had for his record. Some of the other songs on Pete's record were kicking around in Figgs rehearsals and sessions. My favorite being "Original Wonder" which was briefly attempted at the Los Angeles sessions for "The Man Who Fights Himself". We have done it a few times live. I would like to play that song some more.

Me: I need to get Pete back on the Phile again. When was the first time you met Pete? Did you meet him through Mike Viola?

Mike: Oh, hell no! Just the opposite. Pete and I met as young teenagers in the 80s when we started the band. I didn't meet Viola until around '96 when Pete was hired to play bass on the first Candy Butchers record. Eventually, Pete and I were both in Candy Butchers and made some great records with them as well as shows. Mike Viola has also played with Figgs on various records and tours. He's always an inspiring hang.

Me: Let's talk about Graham Parker for a moment... The Figgs were lucky to open for Graham Parker and the Rumour on their comeback tour last year. What was that like after playing and working with GP over the years?

Mike: It was amazing seeing them all together. I never had a chance to see them play other than video footage. I think it was very special for everyone involved, band and audience. Everyone in The Rumour were very kind to us. Working with Graham for almost the last two decades has been incredible. Hands down one of the best things that has happened in my career, and in the bands. I was a fan as a young kid in the 70s/80s, so to be able to make records, and get on stage with the man is really a dream come true, and an honor. We have become really good friends over the years, and he is the best band leader/boss I have ever worked with.

Me: I interviewed Martin Belmont a few times here and he said he liked The Figgs a lot. Imagine an album with The Figgs and the Rumour on it.

Mike: Martin was really great to talk to and so was Brinsley. I had some nice talks with both of them as well as the rest of the guys. Steve and Andrew are one of the best rhythm sections ever, and Bob is fantastic on keys and backing vocals. I think those guys were surprised with how much I knew about Graham and his songs/discography. I told this to someone else recently... When watching them play I would think "oh...that's how it goes". I was able to see how certain licks were played and how to play a drum part the right way by watching Steve, because remember, I have also been Graham's drummer at times as well.

Me: Yeah, I remember. The Figgs recorded a few albums and a DVD even with Graham. Any plans to work with him again?

Mike: I hope so. Before the recent record, I have played on the last 3 studio records along with a handful of live records. It would be nice to make a laid back, acoustic GP & Figgs record.

Me: Mike, what music did you listen to growing up? Who were your main influences?

Mike: What didn't I listen to? My mom liked 60s pop, and lots of female country singers. Patsy, Dolly, Brenda Lee, Tammy Wynette. My dad had a great collection of rock and roll music and saw some mind blowing shows in the 60s/70s. I listened to a lot of 70s AM radio riding in the back of my grandmothers big boat of a car. Whatever was being played on the bus at the time. I rode the bus with this brother and sister who lived above a bar that their parents owned. I was friends with the girl, and she would tape the 45's her dad would take out of the jukebox to replace with whatever was current. She would play these tapes on the bus, on a little panasonic cassette player. I remember hearing for the first time The Pretenders, Billy Squier, XTC, AC/DC, etc.... A lot of MTV when it first came out, then started to listen to college stations in the mid -late 80s. Pete Donnelly's brother Phil was a major source of info when it came to hearing and learning about new bands. He still is. I always soaked in EVERYTHING. Some of it I liked, some I fell in love with from the first note, and I know way too much about music I don't even care for.

Me: Last time you were here you were promoting your self-titled solo album, which just came out on vinyl. Are you a vinyl buff? I love vinyl myself.

Mike: Oh yeah. Playing LP's and singles have been my preferred way of enjoying music since I was a little boy. The first time I held our first single in my hand, I think I cried, it was so beautiful. To me, holding that finished piece of vinyl is a very pure form of success, and really the only goal I ever really had writing and playing music. Putting on a record that I made? I still get a kick out of it... especially when the volume is off.

Me: The Figgs released the last few albums on vinyl. Is vinyl making a comeback do you think?

Mike: It seems like it's making a comeback. I remember complaining when a record was $8.99. Now a lot of new vinyl is thirty bucks!! Most of our studio records have been released on vinyl with the exception of "Ginger", "Ready Steady Stoned", three of the EP's, and "The Man Who Fights Himself".

Me: Let's talk about the latest Figgs CD's, which I downloaded from iTunes. The last studio album was "The Day Gravity Stopped" and the latest release is "1000 People Grinning: The Figgs Anthology". None of "Gravity's" songs are on the anthology", right?

Mike: There is a radio edit of "Do Me Like You Said You Would" on the anthology.

Me: Who picked out the songs to be on the anthology album?

Mike: It was Pete Donnelly's project for the most part. It was his idea to begin with. I have always wanted to move forward instead of looking back, as far as record making is concerned. Pete thought it would be good to have a sampler for people who don't know the band. I think I came up with the first list of songs, then the Pete's added their choices. Donnelly did the sequence.

Me: How did the song "1000 People Grinning" get to be the album title out of all those songs, Mike?

Mike: "1000 People Grinning" is a great song written by Pete Hayes. I felt that we should make a new recording of it because, even though the original version has it's charm, I always thought that the song was much better than the recording and maybe deserved better. It would have been fun to do a new version of it for the anthology. The band was too lazy, and we live too far apart from each other to get it together, so we put the single version on. I thought it would make a decent title for the anthology because we have always maintained a humble, little, and loyal fan base, who always seem happy to see us play. You know... A thousand people grinning.

Me: Mike, for those that don't know, who is in the band?

Mike: Pete Hayes on drums, Pete Donnelly on bass and Mike Gent on guitar.

Mike: Who does most of the songwriting for The Figgs?

Mike: Pete Donnelly and myself write most of the songs, either separate or together. Pete Hayes writes a song every five years. Maybe.

Me: LOL. But he did write the title track to the latest release. I don't know if I asked you this before, but where did the name The Figgs come from?

Mike: It was picked off a list filled with other bad ideas.

Me: "The Day Gravity Stopped" is a double album. Not many people are doing those any more, Mike. What made you guys decide to record a double album?

Mike: It is our second double record. The first one was "Palais". I think with both records, we had enough strong material to do four sides. I really enjoy double records. I love how many double and triple albums Zappa has in his catalog.

Me: Who is that guy on the cover, and what is he doing?

Mike: That cover was done by a great artist Hollie Chastain from Chattanooga, TN. Check out her work at

Me: Okay, I will, and maybe I will have her on the Phile to find out who he is. You're working on a new solo album, am I right? What can you tell us about it?

Mike: Well, I had a pile of new songs ready, and I wanted to start a new Figgs record this winter, but that was not meant to be. I don't know... the idea of doing another solo record seems very boring to me. I thought my last solo record was one of the better records I have made in general, and I still have boxes of them in the basement. Why would I want to add to the stack? I have been recording in my living room which is something I haven't done in ages. I've also been doing some recording at different studios, so we'll see... I might just end up putting out another solo record! I know the world isn't waiting for one.

Me: Who played on the album with you, Mike?

Mike: I have had some friends play on a few of the new tracks, but mostly it's me playing everything. 

Me: Alright, Mike, this year on the Phile I am asking random questions, so here is yours... If you were offered a seat on the next space shuttle... if there was another space shuttle (stupid Tabletopics) would you take it?

Mike: Nah, I stopped using public transportation when I moved out of NYC. Plus, I can get to outer space in various ways while keeping both feet on the ground if I wanted.

Me: Good point. Thanks so much for coming back on the Phile, Mike. Go ahead and plug your website and anything else you want to, and tell Pete I said hello. All the best, and come back when your next album comes out, will you?

Mike: I have a bunch of solo shows coming up in the next few months including opening solo for a handful of the Graham Parker & The Rumour tour in April. Go to if you want to find out more info on my tour schedule, or to buy any music, including the new anthology. Also check out these two sites for Figgs & Solo vinyl. & Thanks for having me again, Jason, and I would love to come back soon and yap some more.

Me: Fantastic. Mike Gent, everybody.

That does it for this entry of the Phile. Thanks to Laird Jim as always and Mike Gent. The Phile will be back next Sunday with singer songwriter Mark Martyre and on Monday with author Kent Gustavson. Spread the word, not the turd. Don't let snakes and alligators bite you. Bye, love you, bye. Strawberry Blondes Forever!

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