we are currently hard at work on the third installment of our
Lost & Found series and that honor belongs to the gutsy and
overwhelmingly underappreciated 1994 debut of MOTHER TONGUE we
couldnít think of a better piece to go along with it than a
MOTHER TONGUE interview. Guitarist Bryan Tulao was kind enough
to put up with our incisive e-mails and after more than a few
back and forths and lost e-mails we finally got the story of
their beginnings straight.
You guys hail from Los Angeles and your debut came out in 1994.
How was the beginning of the band? How did you guys get
actually formed in Austin, Texas around 1990. David moved to
Austin from L.A. and met Christian, Geoff and Jesse through an
ad in a local paper. The band played a lot in Austin, most times
jamming, improvising and stretching out in a set. Thatís really
where the band developed its sound. The band moved to Los
Angeles and began playing mostly in the downtown music and art
scene. After a few months of playing late night slots in the
Hollywood night clubs, a buzz and a strong following grew.
Moving to L.A. was a huge life change for everyone in the
band. The band all lived together in a disgusting roach infested
apartment off Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood. Christian and Jesse
shared the living room with Christianís pet Iguana (who lived in
a huge reptile cage, and somehow seemed to escape every few
days). Davo stayed in the band equipment storage room, which was
infested with ants and had tin foil taped over the windows.
Geoff had his room which was completely stuffed with books and
records. It was an incredibly health hazardous living
environment, and surely inspired the band to make something
happen to get out of it. The band basically lived and breathed
music. If there was no show, the band would be rehearsing.
What had been your musical experiences previously to MOTHER
I grew up listening to, pretty exclusively, soul, jazz, funk
and some gospel when I was really young. CURTIS MAYFIELD, JAMES
BROWN, MARVIN GAYE, TEMPTATIONS, STYLISTICS. Stuff my parents
listened to. It wasnít Ďtill I was about 10 years old that I
really discovered and dove into rock music. I was completely
obsessed with LED ZEPPELIN. I was into all the bad ass bands of
that time; BLACK SABBATH, AC/DC, VAN HALEN, TED NUGENT,
AEROSMITH. In high school I discovered punk rock, mostly west
coast bands like X, THE GERMS, BLACK FLAG, FEAR, CIRCLE JERKS,
GUN CLUB. Also BAD BRAINS, MINOR THREAT, MISFITS, THE STOOGES.
I also got real into JOY DIVISION, BAUHAUS, SIOUXSIE AND THE
BANSHEES and early JANEíS ADDICTION. I could go on and on and
There's a lot of music we all listen to and are inspired by,
from hip hop, dub, blues and experimental. We all listened to
the same music, but we were all into different things too. At
the time we were making that first record we were all listening
to bands like, NICK CAVE and the BAD SEEDS, TOM WAITS, THE
VELVET UNDERGROUND, FELA KUTI, MILES DAVIS-Bitches Brew &
Live Evil, FUNKADELIC, JANEíS ADDICTION,GANG STARR, BUDDY
GUY, THE DOORS, MAZZY STAR.
For how long was the band together before you had all the
material for your debut ready?
The band had been together maybe a couple of years before
moving to L.A. To make a long story short, I came into the band
after Jesse* left to join the CHILI PEPPERS. Most of the songs
had been written and were staples of their live set, which I had
seen many times before joining the band. I brought in a couple
of songs of mine, ''Shiela's Song'' and ''Entity'', which
changed quite a bit after jamming them out with the band. Davo
brought in the bass riff and vocals for ''Mad World'', which we
all added to and collectively wrote together. I had about three
months to learn around 30 songs. And learn them and play them at
a certain standard. We'd rehearse as a band 5 days a week for
about 4-5 hours, then i'd stay after for another couple of hours
playing by myself and really working on owning the songs and
listening for what 'not' to play.
The first thing that I remember about your debut release was
that at the time there was no other band sounding quite like
MOTHER TONGUE. There were blues elements, and heavy elements
and it was quite soulful and at times you even sounded like a
jam band. The band also sounded like a clash of cultures. At a
point all these elements seemed to come to a boil which I
thought was great. When you first started what was your
approach to the music? How did you get to this sound and how
conscious was this?
The band was heavily influenced by the blues. BUDDY GUY,
LEADBELLY, SON HOUSE, ELMORE JAMES, to name a few. Davo had
seen BUDDY GUYplay quite a bit in Austin and was heavily
influenced by him and his live performing. That was sort of a
benchmark for the band. To take it out, take it to another
level. Also the influence of punk rock was huge. I'm talking
about bands that we grew up and were inspired by BLACK FLAG,
DEAD KENNEDYS, BAD BRAINS, X, THE STOOGES, THE GERMS. Those
bands performed like it was their last night on earth. That is
our bands mindset. Live exorcism.
What can you tell us about the lyrical content of that record?
Davo's the story teller. Songs like ''Mad World'', ''Burn
Baby'', ''The Seed'', ''Using Your Guns'' are his stories.
''Damage'' is his childhood, ''So Afraid'' is pretty self
explanatory. Christian and I write extremely personal songs.
Christian's songs ''Broken'', ''Vesper'', ''Fear of Night'',
ďVenus Beach'' are pretty straight out.
The cover has the face of Jesus with the word Ďdamagedí slit in
his inner lip. What can you tell us about the idea behind this?
Who was the artist?
The cover was painted by Mark Ryden. There is a concept for
the cover artwork, including the photo's on the inside sleeve
(which were taken by Davo's brother Jack Gould, and were
supposed to represent each of the song's). But I'd rather leave
the cover art to your own interpretation.
Your MySpace contains a long list of Ďinfluencesí. Itís easy to
see that you guys are taking pieces from different genres. At
the time (1993/1994); who were the artists that influenced all
of you and which artists influenced you individually?
Damn....In 1993-94, we were listening to TOM WAITS, Nick
Cave, JANEíS ADDICTION, WU TANG CLAN, FUNKADELIC, THE BEATLES,
KYUSS, BEASTIE BOYS, JOHN COLTRANE, PINK FLOYD........thatís a
tough one cause we all listened to so much different music.
How did the signing to Sony come about?
The band had gained a lot of attention playing around
Hollywood and a few labels were coming out to the shows checking
out the band. The band decided to sign with Epic/Sony because at
the time Epic had a roster of bands that were blowing up and
that they were promoting in a cool way. Bands like RAGE AGAINST
THE MACHINE, PEARL JAM and OASIS. We also heard good things from
friendís bands that were signed to the label. We felt that Epic
would be a good partner for our band and a supportive home.
Damn, were we wrong.
I believe Mario Caldato Jr. produced your debut at Soundcastle
Studios. He is known for producing THE BEASTIE BOYS and TONE
LOC. Soundwise the record has aged gracefully. It does not
sound dated at all, so in retrospect he was the perfect
producer. Was he your fist pick as a producer? Considering that
he wasnít necessarily know as a rock and roll guy what made you
go for him?
We met with quite a few producers, most of them well known
and respected. We were all big fans of the BEASTIE's ''Check Yer
Head'' record and after meeting with Mario, hearing his
enthusiasm, his idea's on recording our band, and after hanging
with him, listening to and talking about music we felt he was
the natural choice for us to work with. We all really respected
him and were excited to work with him. He basically recorded the
band live, with as little amount of overdubbing as possible. In
fact, I think there are really only a couple of guitar overdubs
on the whole record. Old school for sure.
Your debut was recorded during January and February of 1994.
What do you remember the most about the recording? The
production phase, the studio itself, budget, etc.
It was all our very first experience making and recording a
record. Personally what I remember most was beginning at 6 or 7
p.m. and going till 4 or 5 am, us tracking together in the dark
in the main room. The anxiety, nervous breakdowns, fights,
arguments that various band members went through. Davo climbing
up this big tree outside the studio with a long mic chord and
singing ''The Seed'' while a police helicopter circle around in
the night. David getting the studio door slammed shut on him
during the big earthquake. Ian Astbury singing on some songs
which were never used. The party we threw the last night
at Sound Castle when our A&R guy made us play a set of the
record, which may be one of the worst MOTHER TONGUE performances
,and to make it worse, at the time I was obsessed with MAZZY
STAR and Hope Sandoval was in the crowd looking at us like' ,'what
the fuck is this'í?
How exact was the record to what you guys were hoping to
accomplished with the recording?
I'm proud of that record, and I'm glad that it's resonated in
some people. But to be honest, we were hoping for it to sound
fiercer and be sonically more gnarly. Itís an honest picture of
the band at that time, and though it was recorded pretty much
live, it lacked the bands power and rawness we had when we
What happened immediately after the release of this record? Did
you guys support this record? US tour European tour?
After making the record we played a few local shows, then set
out on our first ever van tour of the U.S. playing with KYUSS
and STABBING WESTWARD. We played various opening slots on tours
with LIVE, SMASHING PUMPKINS, FLAMING LIPS, CANDLEBOX here in
the States. Then we toured on our first ever visit to
Europe opening for THE CULT. Even though we were constantly on
the road and opening for these bigger bands playing big halls
and festivals and getting exposure on MTV our records were
rarely in stores and support and promotion from the label was
pretty much non-existent. Thatís when we realized we were
fucked. Thatís about the time that the band began to really
The band disbanded shortly after, what happened? What were the
causes of such premature break up?
Certain members of the band couldnít stand each other, we
were pulling in different directions musically, moral was low
and basically the band couldnít write music together. There were
other factors as well, and I won't point fingers. It just wasnít
happening and we felt it whenever we got together. It was time
to call it quits.
European audiences have been more receptive to your music.
Would you agree with that statement? To what do you attribute
Absolutely! People that are into music in Europe are a lot
more open than people here in the States. They donít seem so
jaded, or as fickle. If theyíre into it, they donít give a fuck
who is in the room, they will dance and freak the fuck out.
They're much more passionate about live music. At least thatís
what I've noticed. I think itís awesome. I wish I could be more
like that. Unfortunately, I'm a jaded prick.
MOTHER TONGUE got back together in 2001 or 2002 and recorded
Streetlight. Really, another underrated record. I even
remember seeing the band on MTV for a few seconds around that
time. In your opinion how was the reception to this record?
Underrated??? Wow, thatís very generous of you to say,
thanks. I think we were all pretty surprised by the attention
that record and us reforming and recording got. Touring on that
record in Europe really blew us away. We couldnít believe the
turn out and support we had for a band that had been out of
commission for as long as we had. Of course, it would have been
amazing to have sold 2 billion copies, but we were happy with
the response a record we made on our own in our apartments,
backyards, friendís studios got. Our ghetto little record got us
on the road again, press, TV and radio airplay. We were cool
Looking back how do you feel about that record. Is there
anything you would change? Do you think of it as underrated?
What would I do different? Press the ''save'' button, thatís
what i would have done. Especially on those all nighter nights
that nearly killed us .There's a big list of things I would have
done different, but it is what it is and I'm proud of it. Mainly
cause we did it on our own. Underrated? Nah...
Whatís in store for the band? What are the upcoming plans?
finished tracking our new record with Mr. Noah Shain. We're
going in with him to mix it, then figure a way to put it out and
hopefully get back out and start touring again
if we ever meet, I'm gonna buy you a big burrito, a tequila ice
cream float and a pack of cigarettes for your interest, support
and kind words about our band. Thank you...
Thanks to you.
*Guitarist Jesse Tobias left MOTHER TONGUE to join the RED
HOT CHILI PEPPERS in 1993. He was replaced by Dave Navarro
within the year and then went onto a stint as a guitar player
for ALANIS MORISSETTE. He has recently played with MORRISEY with
whom he co-wrote the single ďYou Have Killed MeĒ, which reached
the # 3 in the UK singles chart.