Pearse McGrath: Rolling Stone Interview.

Republished here for the first time since 1970 is Jann Wenner’s legendary Rolling Stone interview with Pearse McGrath. In it, Pearse opens old wounds, then licks them clean, airing out his soul for all to digest.

Nothing if not a fighter, Pearse talks about growing up in Quincy, recording at Abbey Road with George Martin & Glyn Johns, and lunching with Matt Duffy. “Raw” is an overused adjective when describing emotional interviews such as these, but here, it truly fits.

Pearse McGrath. The Rolling Stone Raw Life interview.

McGrath circa 1971

Saturday Night: Since the story begins, as it were, in Quincy MA, tell us a little about Quincy and growing up there. In Quincy, such luminaries as Kevin O’Maley & Jimmy Flynn define ambassadorial excellence. Thoughts?

Pearse: Ahh Quincy. City of Presidents. A haven of derelicts, ne’er-do-wells and lost souls. And that’s just Wolly. Oddly enough I never knew Bev until a few years ago. That maggot grew up right near me too. Notable scenesters include: 2 presidents, Springa from SSD, Beakey from the Quincy Scallion (the MOST Quincy), that Illeana Douglas chick with the banged up face from Stir of Echos and a slew of subpar humans.

Saturday Night: How did you transition from young Pearse in Quincy to this godforsaken scene?

Pearse: A lethal combination of skateboarding, no parental supervision, a city with the highest under-age drinking rate in the country and Jimmy Flynn. 

Saturday Night: What was going on in Boston when you first started hanging out as far as bands, spots shows etc?

Pearse: Boston had a real strong scene. Lots of shows (mainly hardcore), few different spots to see them (although they would always get either shut down, or something would happen and the venue would decide it wasn’t worth the hassle). Too many bands to mention. Use your wildest imagination.

Saturday Night: You play bass. What was the first band you played in? How’d all that start?

Pearse: First band was The Lovely Lads. First show was at The Bombshelter in Manchester, NH with Dementia 13, The 86’ed and all those dudes. I had a bass for a few years prior to that just to fuck around with. Our second show was at The Chopping Block in Mission Hill. We were the last band to play a full set there as it was closed down not long after and the band after us (Over & Out? A hc band that Melillo had on his label ‘Stab & Kill’) had their set cut short due to a bouncer getting beat up with a padlock.

Saturday Night: The Lovely Lads were definitely one of the more talented bands to come out of Boston over the last ten years. How did that group get together? Why did you guys call it quits?

Pearse: At a house party at my old apt (Gentlemen’s Zone RIP) Joehawk asked if I was interested in starting an oi band. I was and the rest is godawful history. He said he had a few tunes to get started with and we could scrape together a few more people to work on ’em.

Originally Brendan was on drums, the Hawk and Sean Bredberg (Think I Care / New Lows)played guitar and I was on bass. Sean actually wrote “King” off the demo and had the name “Riff Raff” to which he later put to good use in his brother’s band. We had one practice like this in Chris Strunk’s practice space behind Little Steve’s Pizza.

Brendan then switched to vocals and we got Mike Hayhurst (Shot Dead, The Fellas, Downhill Fast) on drums. Sean left to concentrate on Think I Care. Eventually Edson (xfilesx) got on the drums and Mike devoted his time to being the classiest human on the planet. Not being sarcastic, he lives in LA and runs the best liquor store around. Sent me a bottle of Viking Blod Mead not long ago that was the business. James Whittle from Say Goodbye jumped onto 2nd guitar also. After Edson moved to NYC, Evan stepped in on drums. That was the final line-up.

Saturday Night: So your current band, Rival Mob, are one of the more popular beat combos in the hardcore scene. How did this band develop? What’s going on with you guys right now?

Pearse: Rival Mob was just The Lads doing HC tunes. We figured it was time to end things. We (Lads) played a few shows, got a demo and cd out and it was time to move on. Rival Mob’s first show was at the Elks Lodge in Cambridge and we were actually on the flyer as The Lovely Lads still I believe.

We’re (Mob) currently working on songs for an LP for Revelation Records and playing some shows. Would love to play the Midwest but it always seems to fall apart when we try and set it up. The other dudes in the band are all in like 300 other bands so it’s not easy to book anything ever.

Saturday Night: What exactly *IS* the state of hardcore out there? It seems to be to be a mix of great & terrible. Admittedly, I’m fairly checked out as far as hardcore goes, but it seems like the good bands are really good but some of the others are not what I’d ever consider hardcore by my limited definiton?               

Pearse: There are way too many bands. There’s a few that are really good and a bunch that are alright but the majority are pretty weak. There’s not enough room for all of it. Cull the herd. Trim the fat. Salt the earth.

Saturday Night: So we both nerd out to all things Oasis/Brothers Gallagher. I’m going to ask you this point blank: Beady Eye or High Flying Birds. God save us all for having to choose.

Pearse: Hard question. Liam is my man. In his prime his voice was unbeatable, but he’s def past his prime. Beady Eye is decent, some strong tracks and a shitload of filler where High Flying Birds is pretty solid all the way through. I don’t think anyone is gonna argue over who the songwriter is in the family. Noel doesn’t write any rockers anymore though which kinda sucks. Too much acoustic strummin’ around. If he didn’t try and be like his idols all the time it’d be better. I’ll just take both until they get it out of their system and get back to Oasis.

Saturday Night: Besides hardcore/punk blah blah, I know you dig a host of other genres. What kind of stuff is among your favorites right now; things that are outside the box?

Pearse: Not much right now honestly. I can’t think of a single thing that’s really stuck out lately. Just podcasts and movie soundtracks until decent shit comes out. 

Saturday Night: Brit-pop alert: take me through (and I know this is painful) the fall of The Rifles? Or have they fallen?

Pearse: Ouch. This is tough. They were the best band around for awhile. New album is over-produced. They need to get Joel back singing. They’re not done, though.

Chipotle with these two sounds fine to me

Saturday Night: How is eating lunch regularly with Matt Duffy? Would you say his grip on lunchtime delicacies is stronger, weaker or about the same as his handshake?

Pearse: It takes the term “power-lunch” to unheard of levels. Chipotle is the main spot. The amount of Smoked Tabasco Sauce and Mr. Pibb Xtra consumed is sickening. His grip is firm on this one.

Saturday Night: I’m going to singlehandedly credit you with the Game of Thrones obsession that a lot of people within the scene now have. Gimmie a line on how that started, what you think of the books and HBO series? It just wouldn’t be proper to talk to you and not mention this.

Pearse: I can’t take all the credit, my man GRRM has to get some claps too since he wrote it. But enough about him. Those are my favorite books. Picked them up when I was unemployed and spent my time wandering around Boston and ending up in bookstores a lot. Never even heard of them before, just grabbed GoT and got started. If you even knew how nerdy I get over those things (wrote in to podcasts, went to book signings, threatened people online over arguments regarding characters who died before any of the books even take place, etc.) you would be disgusted.  

Saturday Night: What other kinds of things are you up to these days – what’s occupying your time?

Pearse: New apartment, solid girl (what up boo), getting a decent TV set up in my living room for maximum good old fashioned American laziness and hanging with Ken at The Corner Pub in Chinatown.

Saturday Night: I once had a cool bum literally give me a Celtics shirt off his back in your neighborhood of Dorchester – so, similar to John Joseph’s walking tour, what do you think about giving a walking tour of Dorchester?

Pearse: That’s a good idea. A real good idea. I won’t do it. 

Saturday Night: The Banshee. What gives?

Pearse: No clue. Weirdest bar on Earth. Russian billionaires, a guy with the record for being arrested the most times, dogs running around, midgets, tons of fucking girls and either Oasis or Carnivore on the jukebox. Guy can get some real thinking done in that place. 

Saturday Night: So in general, what’s going on in Boston these days? How’re things? Who are newer bands to watch out for? Cool happenings to take in?

Pearse: Nothing, Pretty good, Magic Circle and TC’s are my answers in that order. 

Saturday Night: In closing, Pearse you are universally loved. To phrase this question in a timely Stone Roses reunion-style, can you give the readers any tips on how to be adored?


Saturday Night: Any momentous shout outs, feel free!

Pearse: Shout out to the weird trail of blood going from JFK station down the backstreets all the way to Dot Ave and to you, Sean. Thanks buddy see ya soon. 


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