Vol. 1 no. 3
AW: What really made you stay in Toronto?
MM: I was starting to make a living, and I met Barry Elmes in this Italian Wedding band. I started to hire him for gigs, and Kevin Dean would come down sometimes. Not long after that, about 1985, he got me to join Time Warp. They were young too; it was a good gig for me, and I also started playing with the Shuffle Demons. That was a good thing because I was getting sick of the jobbing thing. It got me playing raw stuff, and I got to travel around. We went to Europe one summer, and it was great life experience. It kind of screwed me up a little because it wasn't really my own direction, but it was a good physical strength-builder. I learned about being on the road, understanding the business, etc.
When I got to Banff, I felt like I needed to get back on track. There was Liebman and Dave Holland and those guys who were encouraging me. I applied for a Canada Council grant to go to New York and study with Liebman. It was a little rough, because I hadn't been playing that much since the summer. There were these two kids before me, one guy from Vancouver that had been in Banff and could play. He'd been in New York for a year on a grant; he was playing his ass off. I walked in and I was kind of messed up musically. Liebman's reaction was, "What the fuck have you been doing?" He really got me back on track fast. He made me transcribe a lot of Wayne Shorter, who is the total opposite of Sonny.
AW: In what way?
MM: Just in his approach to improvising, the economy and the compositional approach, his sound and articulation. I got back on track with that and also getting to play with Dave Holland. So I thought, "I'm going to do this, move to New York, I gotta do it." That was pretty much the end of me and the Demons.
AW: I remember hearing an interview with you at the time on CBC, along with Brian Dickenson, how you two were seeking your fortune in the big city. Two Canadians amongst the Americans...
MM: It was good, a great experience. There were a lot of little gigs and more sitting in amongst the musicians, lots of sessions. Lovano was around a lot, and it was just before he started to get really big. There were also a lot of guys my age too, kind of a good support group of people who really wanted to play. That's what they were there for, to play. They might not be there forever, some of them were just checking it out, but they all had a common purpose.
I had put out my first record on Unity, which was a co-operative label, called The Curse, with Barry Elmes, Jim Vivian, and John McLeod. A lot of people liked that record; I like it too, although it's different from what I'm doing now. It had a certain rawness to it.
AW: Did you want to stay in New York?
MM: Part of me definitely wanted to, but there were a few factors pulling me back. The money, the legality, and I wasn't ready to give up some personal things. The Demons were still kind of hanging on. Unity was starting up also. I vowed to come back and do a CD and try to put together a tour. I eventually did a festivals tour; Elmes couldn't do it, so I got Bill Stewart to do it. It was before he was famous; he took over my apartment in New York. What a guy! And Kevin Turcotte was on that tour as well. It was the first tour he did with me. I knew Stewart was going to be famous, and at the end I told him, "Well, Bill, it's been great. We probably won't be able to afford you next time." And he said, "Well, I certainly hope so." (laughs) I wasn't quite sure how to take that.
AW: What did you think of the Canadian festival tour?
MM: At that point, it was just like, well this is great, I'm doing it. We weren't making very much money. Also, then I didn't have to apply for a Canada Council touring grant. It was much simpler. Then I came back in the fall, and I wanted to set up my own tour through the Maritimes and Quebec and Ontario. I'm glad the tour thing is there, but I think it could be set up better. It should just be people applying for a process, rather than a tour that varies from group to group. It's so much work just to get turned down for a lot of people.
I was getting discouraged; I talked to Kevin Dean about going back to school. I was all set to do it, and then I got word that I had won the Juno award. So then I thought, okay, I have to really make this happen. I went apeshit on business for about a year, trying to get things happen, but of course my playing suffered. There was lots of paperwork.
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