Based out of New York, the eclectic and hard-rocking ‘Punk Crooner Noir’ Mad Meg, with overtones of Eastern European existential anguish, have toured extensively in Russia and the former Soviet Bloc, including treks that covered close to 30 cities throughout the vast, frozen expanse of Russia, and in the course of which, they recorded a live album in a female prison in Lithuania.
Mad Meg release Who Deserves Balloons And Medals on 4th November 2022 and have taken the time to share some of the albums they’ve been playing as they created their new work.
Jason Laney (keyboards) chooses – Whatever and Ever Amen – Ben Folds Five
This album was a revelation to me as a teenager. I had studied jazz, classical, and the patron saint of piano men, Billy Joel, but I had never heard the piano rocked as hard as Ben Folds rocks it on this album. I had no idea the piano could be that wild until I heard him smashing away at it. His amazing combination of jazz and rock was revolutionary and combined with virtuosic playing and top-notch backup vocals from his bassist (Robert Sledge) and drummer (Darren Jesse) created a wall of sound that has definitely influenced my thinking, especially on our latest album Who Deserves Balloons and Medals? If you enjoy rock ’n roll, piano, or just great musicians playing excellently, you’ve gotta check this one out.
Daniel Veksler (guitar) says –
During the making of Who Deserves Balloons and Medals? I was obsessed with this CD I bought from a street vendor on Brighton Beach – it was an unlicensed mp3 collection with hundreds of tracks of the songs of Soviet Latvian composer Raymond Pauls. These are really well-written and well-produced 1980s pop songs, very much in the style of European pop music of the late 70s and 80s. The soundtrack of my first years as a human being was this music, mixed with Adriano Celentano and Toto Cutugno, as well as Yves Montand and Joe Dassin, and of course ABBA. I still love all this stuff, and I’m sure that somehow deep inside it influences my musicality a lot. This album contains hits like Zelenyi Svet (Green Light), performed by Valerii Leontiev; Million Alykh Roz (One Million Red Roses) unforgettably sung by All Pugacheva; and one of my favorites – Vernisazh – a heart-rending duet by Valerii Leontiev and Laima Vaikule, about being at an art opening and falling in love at first sight with someone else, but you’re both on a date with someone already so you can’t even introduce yourselves.
Igor Rez (bass) chooses – Combo Chimbita – Ahomale
I think it was about the time of the rehearsing and recording of our album that I really got into this record by Combo Chimbita. The band is a quartet of first-generation New Yorkers whose backgrounds are Colombian. I love all their albums, but especially this one on so many levels. I love the solid fat bass lines over Colombian ethnic vocals and melodies with psychedelic guitars. You can feel how much the band members love everything from soul, to R’N’B, to heavy metal. At times their ethnic vocals remind me of the Tuvitian throat type of singing. I don’t even have a favorite song, as when I listen to this album I absorb it as a whole.
Ilya Popenko (vocals) chooses – Tom Waits – Alice
At the time Who Deserves Balloons And Medals? was recorded, I was listening to the 2002 Tom Waits album Alice. It’s a collection of songs about the macabre, or the afterlife. They are all very different in character, and always with that inimitable Tom Waits charm and dark humor. The title song, which is also the first track on the album, is a deeply melancholy winter lullaby for yourself as you cut your own throat and softly meld with your own icy hallucinations. Full of heartstoppingly beautiful images and metaphors, the song vaguely personifies death as Alice, which brilliantly echoes “the Aleph” of Jorge Luis Borges. Other songs include Tabletop Joe about a Coney Island entertainer who was born without a body and is only arms and a head that plays the piano and sings.
Then there’s Flower’s Grave – the delusions of a tramp dying in the gutter as he looks at the moon and imagines himself a wilting flower. Kommienezuspadt is a kind of Swing Era soundscape that evokes the reception area of a Weimar version of hell. Poor Edward”is about a guy who had another face on the back of his head which drove him mad and then to suicide by whispering “things heard only in hell” to him at night. For lovers of the macabre like me, this album will touch you in many places you didn’t even know you had, and you’ll want to be touched there again, over and over.
And finally, Ruslan (drums) says –
I listened to so much music all the time and to pick just one album, which influenced me on our record is impossible. I can state that at the time I was mostly binging 60s and 70s rock such as The Beatles’ Rubber Soul and Revolver, Led Zeppelin’s Houses Of The Holy, Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here, and just pretty much anything by The Doors.
Mad Meg – photo by Ekaterina Ritskaya