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Monday February 13, 2023

Mephiskapheles On Track To Record Fourth Full-Length Record in 2023

NEW YORK -- For months, if not years, on social media and directly from the stage, members of Mephiskapheles have teased the eventuality of a new Mephiskapheles album. After all, the band’s last full-length studio effort, the diverse and heavy Might-Ay White-Ay, was released in 1999.

Although the past ten years since the band reformed in late 2012 have seen the release of two EPs of all-new material as well as vinyl and cassette reissues of older catalog material, the band has yet to record its long-awaited fourth studio album. Finally that wait is over, as the band has plans to enter the studio in the middle of its upcoming US tour, around the end of April. 

But why would the band schedule a recording session smack in the middle of its first tour of 2023, while traveling through the Southeastern US? Couldn’t the world’s leading skanking satanists just wait until the tour was over, to return to the East Coast and record in New York or New Jersey? There’s an answer to that but, as some guy in a spy movie once said, “If I told you, I’d have to kill you.”

Regarding their role in the upcoming sessions, the Mephiskapheles horn section has remained tight-lipped. Meanwhile, the band has been steadily teasing plans online for a new full-length. Intermixed with promos for the tour or heroic images of Andre on the band's Facebook page, have been videos of the band at various rehearsal locations, in which they can be seen squinting at piles of sheet music or experimenting with a previously unheard Mephi-jam-eles, to lock in the perfect groove for a particular part of a song.

Who's about to reacquaint the world with satanic ska via a brand-new album? These guys! L-R: Wayne Dunton, Mike Bitz, Andre A. Worrell, Adam X, Greg LaPine, Greg Robinson. (Fan photo)

As far as why the recording is happening when and where it is planned to happen, pure serendipity. Mephiskapheles had been planning to do part of the Southeastern run with the excellent band Stuck Lucky, from Nashville (a simpatico pairing, as seen on the 2022 tour), but in the end, Stuck Lucky had to bail. Suddenly there were three empty dates to fill, a perfect window for recording. The only thing missing was a quality, affordable recording studio with the particular layout the band requires. That turned out to be relatively easy to find.

Recording God Bless Satan at Avalon Studios in 1994. L-R: Greg Robinson, Alexander McCabe, Osho Endo (obscured by McCabe), Brendog Tween, Andre A. Worrell (aka Nubian Nightmare), Mike Bitz, Brian Martin.

Session for "Satan Stole My Weed" at Studio Chill, 2014. L-R: James K. Smith, engineer Gabe K. Moses (back turned), Greg Robinson, Neil Johnson.



And so, on April 25, the band will commence recording the successor to its three already-existing studio full-lengths, all recorded in the 1990s, and all hailed as classics by fans and critics alike: God Bless Satan (1994), Maximum Perversion (1997), Might-Ay White-Ay (1999). Some of the songs that are slated to appear on the new album are already being played in the live set. And a few more are going to be included in the live set for the April tour.

The members of Mephiskapheles, for their part, are eager to get on with the recording project. “In some cases, we’ve been rehearsing these songs for ten years, and that’s not an exaggeration,” said bassist Mike Bitz, a co-writer of several of the songs set to be recorded. “It’s time to get this new record done.”


Masterclasses by the Meph Rhythm Section!

Mephiskapheles In Los Angeles: When Satanic Ska Came to SoCal, Part 1

LOS ANGELES -- It’s been more than a minute since Mephiskapheles has been back to Southern California, a gap the band hopes to correct in the coming year. The band’s last tour to the West Coast, in 2019, saw Meph play the Skalloween party at Catch One in L.A., where they topped a lengthy bill of mostly Mexican-American ska bands. Two nights later the originators of satanic ska headed north to put on a rousing performance at 924 Gilman Street, the legendary punk rock club in Berkeley. A highlight of the tour was when the band’s van physically reached the Pacific shore; a special celebratory detour was made to visit the cliffs overlooking the ocean, a few miles north of Los Angeles.

But on that first trip, in 1996, it might have been the initial entry into L.A. that made it feel special. Sometimes the way you enter a new city or town makes a difference. When Meph arrived in Honolulu for the first time, for example, they were met by a white stretch limo at the airport, with its radio on and playing “The Bumble Bee Tuna Song,” which the DJ then broke in to announce was topping the local chart as the most requested song. The band members helped themselves to drinks from the minibar and enjoyed the sights of Waikiki rolling by outside the car window. What rock star treatment! Something that was a completely novel experience at the time (and still pretty rare today) but it made the band members feel like everything would be OK.  (The warm breeze and palm trees, and the cold beer and local homegrown cannabis supplied by the hosts certainly didn’t hurt.) 

On the other hand, there are those other types of arrivals that don’t go so well, such as on Mephiskapheles’ first trip to Europe (also in ’96) when the band encountered Dutch customs agents at the Amsterdam airport who immediately discovered all the band’s merch and CDs (which they hadn’t bothered to try to conceal, being absolutely that green). The band had to fork over a large duty payment to get past the border; fortunately, although the tax and fine were steep, the shows were strong and the band was able to recover from the initial shock to its finances and have a successful tour.

But when the band’s first official tour vehicle, a 1975 Dodge conversion van (dubbed “The Falcon”) exited the freeway and began ascending the winding roads of the Hollywood Hills, in search of an address provided by the booking agent at the time, Mike Wood, it felt like a big day in the band’s still-young career. There was a rush of excitement at arriving in L.A. for the first time. The balmy weather and palm trees were just as expected. The Falcon kept ascending up the mountain. The homes were nice and kept getting nicer. As this was before the really bad drought, lawns were still green and well-manicured, also there were no traces of litter on the street. Soon there came into view a sign prohibiting smoking of tobacco anywhere in the neighborhood. Elsewhere at that time, smoking bans were either nonexistent or only in the planning stages (as in NYC). The band members, some of whom still smoked cigarettes in 1996, laughed and thought it was crazy that people could be so incredibly uptight as to want to ban smoking everywhere, even outdoors.

Mephiskapheles onstage at the Roxy in L.A., Nov. 19, 1999. L-R: Bourbon Zeigler, Jr.; Greg Robinson; Dave Hahn; Gardner Dunn; Andre A. Worrell (aka Grand Invidious); Dan Jeselsohn; Bill McKinney; Brian Martin. Photo: Sun. 


We are happy to be able to bring you, our Patreon supporters, exclusive streaming media every month via The Seance. Streaming links are valid for at least 30 days. This month we are bringing you selections from a classic Mephiskapheles show that took place at the Knitting Factory in NYC on March 2, 2001. Due to the band needing to make some substitutions, the lineup for this gig was unique. Subbing for Wayne Dunton on drums was James Baldassano from No Redeeming Social Value. On horns were Greg Robinson (trombone), and future member of The Roots, Ian Hendrickson-Smith (alto sax). Dan Jeselsohn was on bass and Bill McKinney on guitar. Brian Martin on keys. Andre A. Worrell on vocals, of course. Enjoy!  <LINK>

Mephiskapheles and No Redeeming Social Value on the marquee of the Roxy, in L.A. in 1999. 

Photo by Sun.

The Falcon kept ascending slowly up the mountain, winding through the suburban-looking neighborhood. Eventually the destination came in view, a large Modernist house, elevated on stilts so it perched on the mountainside, with a prominent deck overlooking the valley and the lights below.

On arrival, Mike Wood greeted the band warmly with (what else?) cold beer and some good herb. It was revealed that the band had arrived at one of the homes of legendary music agent and promoter Ian Copeland (1949-2006). Besides owning the booking agency that represented Mephiskapheles in the 1990s, he was also famous for being record label owner Miles Copeland’s son, and Police drummer Stewart Copeland’s brother. He operated Frontier Booking International (FBI), which had been booking ska bands since the 1980s. Frontier had asked a small number of bands from the 1990s ska scene to be on its exclusive roster.  

The house was filled with mementos of The Police’s fairly brief but illustrious career, including multiple gold and platinum plaques adorning all four walls of the bathroom. As with the limo ride from the Honolulu airport, the level of glamor and luxury hadn't been expected so perhaps it made that much more impression on some young guys from the East Coast who were trying to make it in gritty, 1990s New York. Most of the Mephiskapheles band members had never been to L.A. before, and to be welcomed into Ian Copeland's mansion was a big boost to the group's collective ego. When Mephiskapheles later performed a highly successful show with Mustard Plug and Hepcat at the Whisky a Go Go, and then finished the night with a room party at the Hollywood Court hotel, it was icing on the cake.

Thanks, as always, for supporting our music. See you Mar.13th !

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