In 1981 a band from Atlanta called MPG released their debut and also their only album on the recordlabel A&M Records. At the time the album wasn’t really noticed by AOR/Pomprockfans, but through the years the album of MPG became a collector’s item for the AOR/Pomprockfans. Some fans see the album of MPG as a classic that didn’t get the attention it deserved.
The album contained 9 songs and it was especially the opener “Too many questions” that made this a classic Pompalbum for many people. “Too many questions” is a Pomp-classic with classy piano-keys, a lovely guitarsolo and very impressive lead vocals of the vocalist of MPG called Steve Carey. This song is up there with LE ROUX.
Also the following song “Working overtime” is a great song, but is more uptempo AOR/Radiorock that we can compare to classic bands like STEEL BREEZE, THE SHERBS and the first LP of SILVER CONDOR. “Best thing I ever had” is pure midtempo Pomprock that could easily been a song of ROADMASTER (like side-B of their album ‘Sweet music’), including similar harmonyvocals. A great mixture of AOR-rock and Pomprock can be heard in the song “Goodbye cruel world”.
Moving on to the track “Why me”, which is slowtempo AOR like FRANKE&THE KNOCKOUTS, ALLIANCE, THE AUTOMATIX, only less sensational and with harmonyvocals that are in the STYX territory. Side-B starts with “Get yours tonight”, which is midtempo Pomprock with heavy synths, a bit weak compared to the other songs, but there are hooklines here and there in this song.
There are some great keys in the next track “Hurt me”, the song itself is a bit experimental like TRILLION. Then we get a song that is similar in style to the earlier mentioned “Working overtime” of side-A. I am talking about the uptempo AOR/Radiorocker “Can I come over tonight” which includes lovely keys and harmonyvocals and can easily be compared to THE SHERBS, 707 (third album), STEEL BREEZE and even PREVIEW. The uplifting and hard-driven beat makes this song very catchy and very fine to listen to. During the chorus you can’t resist to sing-a-long.
The final track of the MPG album is “Always something”, which is a nice semi-AOR/Pompballad that has a great pre-chorus like TOUCH (especially the harmonyvocals). The MPG album is still just a great album and a big recommendation to every AOR/Pomprockfan. Unfortunately, MPG split up after the release of the debut album, although they did record another album that never saw the light of day.
Years later, one of the most important members of MPG called David Mikael is trying to get the band together again and hopes it comes to a MPG reunion this year. I was very surprised to hear that and contacted David Mikael. We had an interview in which he tells me everything about MPG and the possibilities for a reunion.
Can you tell us about your first music experiences?
Well I’m not quite sure where
to start but I guess it would be when my parents started me on classical
piano lessons at age 6. I ended up taking 7 years of classical and 3 years
of jazz piano lessons. Somewhere although around age 11 or so The Beatles
became popular and I decided after watching all the teenage girls chasing
them, that I definitely needed to start playing guitar. So I did. I’ve
continued playing guitar and piano all these years as well as playing 8
instruments total and lead vocals. My main job in MPG was of course as
When did you form MPG?
Actually I didn’t form MPG at all. I’m from central Florida and was quite active here playing in numerous groups in I believe around 1978 when I received a phone call from Atlanta, Georgia from Art Titus, whom Id known from Florida. He told me there was a band called the Miles Brothers who had a lot of record labels looking at them but still needed a lead guitarist.
They offered to send me a plane ticket to fly me up for a weekend to audition for the group but I told them I wasn’t interested because I was just recently married and was quite happy with the way things were. Well they continued to call me so finally I said ok I’d fly up to see what this is all about. Well that weekend I fell in love with the group and their songs and decided to move to Atlanta.
We lived and played in an old house in downtown Atlanta called the Bistro for almost a year. The Miles Brothers when I joined them were more of a blue eyed soul kinda Hall & Oates band. But after I joined the band our direction started shifting to rock and roll.
The band consisted of Steve Carey who was basically the leader and main songwriter, and to this day I think Steve is still one of the most talented people I’ve ever worked with. Steve Locklin on bass and Mike Bolt on drums were both from Mobile Alabama, and had grown up together there playing in bands. Kim Smith was on the other guitar.
The Miles Brothers originally got their name from a black guitar player David Miles, whom I have never met but I heard he was quite good. Anyway it wasn’t until after we were signed by A&M records that we changed our name to MPG, because our management, A&M, and all of us thought that if you didn’t know anything about our music, that possibly by just hearing our name (Miles Bros.) you might think we were a black kind of R&B band.
We did however want to keep Miles
in the name so we changed it to Miles Per Gallon, shortened to MPG. That’s
why on the album cover we are all wearing gas station shirts. I’m the one
in the Exxon shirt.
That’s interesting to know. Can you tell us about the only album of MPG?
We picked from about 25 or more songs to come up with the 9 that are on the album. Some of my all time favourite MPG songs didn’t even make the cut. The actual real single off the record and also the only 45 pressed was “Best Thing I Never had” with “Why Me” on the flip side. I don’t really know what the actual album sales were but I was told once it was in the neighbourhood of 40,000 to 50,000.
We very big in Atlanta and were
on regular radio rotation on all the local rock stations for at least a
few months. We also were quite well known in the regional Southeast U.S.
and some other parts of the country. My favourite guitar solos on the album
were of course “Too Many Questions”, “Why Me”, and “Goodbye Cruel World”.
I think my favourite lyrics were from “Always Something”. We did a lot
of preproduction on the songs ourselves with some help from Barry Korkin
of A&M Records/A&R department.
“Too many questions” is hold as a classic pomp/aor song, why do you think that is?
I think the piano line on that
song working with Steve Carey’s style of vocals and lyrics is definitely
what made it. Also the guitar solo was quite unique. I actually ran an
old 66 stratocaster I had through an old Aiwa reel to reel tape deck into
my tube musicman guitar amp with a wah wah to get the harmonic overtones
How did you get in contact with your co-producer Tom Knox?
We were very much in the same
style as Styx, Journey and Toto. Our management company Hugh Rogers Management
asked us to make a list of producers we would like to work with. At the
top of the list was David Foster, who we were crazy about, especially the
work he had done with a band called the Tubes, but unfortunately he was
overpriced and already booked up a couple years ahead. Barry Korkin then
suggested Tom Knox, who had engineered some cuts off of Toto 4. Toto was
one of our favourite bands at the time so we all agreed and the relationship
Did you also tour to promote the album?
We didn’t tour as much as a lot of bands but we certainly did a lot of shows, especially in the south U.S. In Atlanta fans used to wait in lines to get in and it was like an old home reunion because they knew all the words to our songs and would sing out loud along with us.
A couple of my favourite shows
were when we got to play with Bob Marley in 1980, I believe only 6 months
or so before he died, and we played with Aerosmith at the sold out Omni
in Atlanta for 20,000 plus fans. At that time we did a lot of shows with
Mothers Finest, who had the same Management Company as us. Boy you talk
about some incredible live energy, whew! Mothers Finest had it going on.
Your band came from Atlanta, can you tell us more about the musicscene over there?
Yes. The original music scene in Atlanta in the late 70s, early 80s were as strong as anywhere I’ve seen since. There were a lot of bands getting signed at that time. We used to record at Axis studios in Atlanta opposite Kansas, The Dixie Dregs, and The Brains, just to name a few. We were also with the same Management Company with a band called Whiteface (Pompband that released one album-Gabor) who were on Mercury Records.
They were actually bigger than
us then and went on to form another group The Producers who were signed
by Portrait Records and did very well in record sales and popularity. They
could have probably got even bigger but one of their main members Kyle
Henderson left to pursue a more religious career. Doug Bare, Benny Rappa
and Kyle are still at least part time still here in the Central Fla.
area doing different musical things. In fact Doug Bare plays a gig out
at Universal Studios.
Did you record more stuff with MPG after the first album?
Yes we were in the middle of
doing demos for the second album at Steve Carey’s house when things started
to go bad. But we had at least another 15 to 20 great songs to pick from.
Plus we had a stockpile of a lot of other great songs that never made the
first album. A lack of material certainly wasn’t a problem.
Sounds interesting, any chance to release that unreleased material?
I don’t think the quality of
the demos we did is good enough to release in today’s market, maybe a handful
is. Most were done either on 4 track or 8-track reel to reel and would
have to be re-recorded. But there has been talk of doing that. I own and
run a 56 track Automated studio now here in Winter Park Fla., so we certainly
have the facility to do it at even though the rest of the guys are scattered
all over the U.S.
Is there a chance you re-issue your only MPG album?
If it was up to me I would say
yes immediately. I’m pretty sure A&M Records still has the masters,
but I know there is probably money that needs to change hands before that
could happen. I suppose if some other label or distributor really cared
enough to put it out then it would happen. I don’t think anyone in the
band would object I have had many people ask me that lately especially
from Europe, but I think it is mostly just all talk. I do however think
if someone was to take a chance to buy the rights and put it out on CD,
a lot of revenue could be made for them.
When did MPG exactly split?
Well I believe it was early 1982 when things started to fall apart. It was really no fault of the band, we all got along great, had a solid direction and were very much looking forward to doing our second record. We were signed by A&M originally for 7 years to do 4 albums. Where the problem entered was the fact that the label and our management company had problems dealing with each other, and possibly the constant pressure that our first record wasn’t a huge smash.
There was talk at one time that if we could get new management, then the label would continue to work with us. But our management contract extended the same length as the record contract and we could not get out of it. It’s really a shame because we had a special chemistry together. Meanwhile all the members of the band wanted to keep playing even if it was doing some cover tunes to keep from getting stagnant.
Everybody except Steve Carey.
I can’t blame Steve for his decision though. So we started rehearsing with
a girl singer, changed the name to Back To Back and even did some gigs,
all the while hoping the conflict with the label could be resolved. But
it wasn’t so in late 1982 I moved back home to central Florida.
What happened to the rest of the band after the split?
Steve Carey still lives in Georgia
and has a recording studio where I believe he mainly does commercial jingle
work for alot of big advertisers. Steve Locklin lives in Arizona and works
for Intel Computers. Mike Bolt lives in the Mobile Alabama area and still
does gigs from time to time with Steve Carey mostly at top 40 gigs. Kim
Smith cannot be found. I’m sure he is doing well and was originally from
Indiana, but we can’t seem to locate him.
What did you do after the split?
Before I moved back to Florida. I got to be involved with a couple other major level projects. I was hired to go to Nashville and play all the guitar solos for The Teddy Baker Group album, which was slated to be on Mercury records. The record was completed and I’m not sure but I think it was also briefly released but then shelved.
To this day I don’t actually have a copy of the finished product but only tapes of finished mixes. I also got to play guitar with a group on Lowery Records called Cycle. I got the job thru a friend Howie Harnick, who introduced me to Roy Yeager who was playing drums and co-producing the project. Roy had also just finished a stint playing drums with The Atlanta Rhythm Section.After I moved back to Fla.
I got a job immediately with a local group called Paradise who went on the be finalists in the MTV Basement tapes contest.(Do you remember that?) Anyway I also headed other original groups such as The Difference and The Exception who both released various albums and singles. About the same time Late 80s- early 90s I decided to put my engineering and production skills I had learned to use and open a recording studio which originally was an 8 track facility, but has now grown today to a 56 track automated studio as I mentioned earlier.
Another band worth noting was
a group called Bigshot which I helped form in 1994 with a longtime friend
of mine Deryle Hughes. We were on the Parc Record label that was a subsidiary
of CBS. Pat Armstrong who had managed other major acts like Molly Hatchet,
Quiet Riot, etc managed us. That was also an Orlando group. I started forming
my current group DAVID in late 1994 and also continue to produce and engineer
other upcoming acts at my studio.
There were rumours going on about a re-union of MPG, is that true?
Yes, I am the one who is calling and bugging the other guys to try and get together and do a new album. I believe it will happen, but when I’m not sure. Everyone has totally different lives now and it may take a while to co-ordinate our schedules long distance to do it. We still can’t find Kim Smith, but will continue without him.
I would like to have at least
half of the album be some of the older songs we never recorded correctly,
and half of them new compositions. All will be still melodic rock. As far
as what label, I don’t know. We could possibly shop it to some majors but
I believe I’m leaning towards a smaller independent label or just putting
it out ourselves, maybe even on Poexula Music that is the company that
handles the DAVID stuff. I think we all have a slight bad taste still from
the majors and you certainly retain more control doing it on a lower level.
Last thing I would like to mention to you is that your band MPG was also mentioned in Kerrang’s Hard Rock Bible, did you know they made an incredible mistake in the story of MPG. Here’s the quote as published: “Coming out of Atlanta in 1981, this band’s only LP showed a good blend of CHEAP TRICK quickisms with some solid melodic music. MPG has the classic “Too many questions”, which deserved more response than it got. For the 1987 album, the vocalist was Robin McCauley”. Did you know this? They must have been confused with MSG (The Michael Schenker Group).
Yes. I think you are right. It
was an obvious research error. I have a copy of the mention myself from
a few years ago.
Thanks for answering the questions and we will talk about your studio/label/other projects and your new band DAVID in the next issue of Strutter’zine (issue 14). In the meantime, you can contact David yourself if you want to know more of MPG or just want to talk about MPG with him. Call the DAVID hotline telephone # 407-349-9662 or sent him e-mail to the following e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org
ORIGINAL LINE-UP MPG:
Steve Carey -Lead vocals, Keys
Kim Smith -Guitar
David Mikael -Guitar
Steve Locklin -Bass
Mike Bolt -Drums
LATEST NEWS ON MPG:
David Mikael finally got all the guys in MPG to agree to do a new album. Steve Carey and David Mikael are already exchanging tapes in the mail to decide on a song list. They still can’t find their rhythm guitarist Kim Smith, but the 4 of the 5 original members of the band will carry on without him. They will record it at the studio of David Mikael and at Steve Carey’s place in Georgia. The bass player will fly in from Phoenix and the drummer from Mobile. It may take them awhile, but it is no longer speculation and is definitely going to happen. 1999 will bring the follow-up to the only album of MPG that was released 18 years ago!
(A special thanks goes out
to Eric Abrahamsen for making this contact possible and David Mikael for
the interview and all the information he has given us)