Brooklyn, NY’s Mad Mulligans got their start during all the Covid/lockdown insanity where musicians were coming up with creative ways to continue making music. To date they have released “Who Are The Mad Mulligans” in December of 2020 and “Action Men” which came out in January of this year. Johnny Kray guitar/vox, Wynn Skism bass/vox, Albee Damned guitar/vox, Carlos Cartagena guitar/vox and Gigi Ramone on drums (no Casio) make up the current day lineup. Everyone except Carlos had something to add in this July 2023 interview. Graphic collage photos by: Norman Blake.
MAD MULLIGANS @ BOWERY ELECTRIC, NYC. PHOTO BY: STEVEN J. MESSINA
IE: What's up guys? Mad Mulligans started as a remote pandemic creative of sorts with the members sending files around to each other to create songs at a time where rehearsal spaces and recording studios were pretty unattainable. Can you briefly tell us about the early stages of the band and of course the keyboard drums story.
Johnny Kray: Albee contacted me, and a few others during Covid lockdown about helping him out with some songs he had in various stages of development. Some needed guitar tracks, backup vocals, some were musically finished, but needed vocals written and recorded. So we started sending stuff back and forth. I wrote and sung on a few songs. After a while he had a decent collection of songs, with different people singing on them. After Covid he decided to create a project based off of the stuff called the Mad Mulligans. Since then we have had some rehearsals, where we wrote even more tracks together, developed a fairly steady line up and played a hand full of shows in between writing and recording. I'll let Albee answer about the keyboard drums...
Albee: During the pandemic there was no way to jam with anyone and we were all stuck at home. So I bought an electronic drum kit and an ounce of weed. I started writing and recording songs. There were about 11 of us in the first year emailing back and forth. Rich from Darkside NYC is a good friend so I asked him to sit down behind the kit to try and track something. It was like a gorilla in a go cart, so I wound up playing the first drum tracks. Rich called them the Casio recordings and tagged me good. As soon as the studio opened back up, we started using an acoustic kit to record again and Rich stepped up on a few drum tracks too. But I’ll never live down swinging sticks at an electronic kit. Sometimes I still cry myself to sleep.
Gigi: I’ve heard wild things about them but that was before I joined the band on drums. I was only supposed to fill in for one show at the Bowery Electric but they’ve kept me around! Glad they did cause I love being part of this madness!
IE: For people who have never heard of the Mad Mulligans yet what can they expect from a musical standpoint?
Albee: We are essentially an Oi/street punk band. We also play reggae, hardcore, and even some basic rock and roll songs. Most of our lyrics are typical working, drinking and getting the short end type of shit. We have a few pub type anthems in the mix as well. We got 3 guitarists in the band and as of now 3 of us trade off the lead vocals.
WYNN SKISM OF MAD MULLIGANS. PHOTO BY: PATRICIA KOO PHOTOGRAPHY
IE: All of you are seasoned NY punk and hardcore scene vets. Can you talk about some of the other bands you all have been involved with either currently or in the past?
Wynn: It’s all kind of a blur. Bands, work, family, life all melding together over the years. It’s just easier to focus on Mad Mulligans right now. Plus, I don’t want to be one of those guys whose best years are behind them talking about the “good old days”.
Albee: The short answer for us would be that me, Johnny and Wynn started the Krays 30 years ago as a recording project. So this is full circle for us. I've been in a shitload of bands, but most of them have had at least 1 of these guys.
Johnny Kray: I have played in a ton of bands over the years, most well-known being The Casualties, Roger Miret and The Disasters, The Krays obviously. Besides Mulligans, I have been working on an album of solo material that just needs mixing.
Gigi: I was the drummer on Skum City’s “Rise Of The Skum” record… even made it to Japan with those fellas. I’ve also played with Johnny in a La Polla Records cover band called Gillipollas… that was fun while it lasted.
IE: Your releases have had different members of the band do the lead vocals despite having Johnny Kray in the band who is an accomplished frontman in his own right from his time in the Krays. What was/is the thought process with this and do you plan on continuing this with future releases?
Albee: We're gonna have to. There's only so much of my crappy vocals anyone can take.
Wynn: We have more of a core group now, but it’s quite probable that we will invite more friends to join in. It adds an interesting dynamic to the songs.
Johnny Kray: I think generally who ever writes the lyrics sings the track, but that isn't always the case. There really isn't much of a thought process to it. We let whoever feels like singing the song have at it!
Gigi: I think it comes down to whoever feels like taking the lead … as long as it’s not me on leads it’s all good. I am working on backup vocals though.
Albee: Gigi’s already singing La Polla Records covers in the studio. We’re hoping she takes some time on stage someday.
MAD MULLIGANS @ BOWERY ELECTRIC, NYC. PHOTO BY: STEVEN J. MESSINA
IE: Your song titles bring an urban/NYC feel to the table as well with “Gentrified”, “Battle Of Brooklyn” and “Bricks And Batteries” being a few tracks that come to mind. Can you talk a little about infusing your NY roots and upbringings into your songs messages?
Johnny Kray: With most of us being born and bred New Yorkers, I don't think it's something we think too much about. I know for me when I am writing, I just let the vibe take over and spill it. Trying to be honest with our writing, I guess any New York vibe coming through is just a natural thing.
Gigi: The New Yorkness is strong with us. I haven’t written any Mulligan songs yet, but I suppose we write what we know and what feels right.
Albee: She’s right. We can only write songs about what we know. And we know Brooklyn.
IE: You guys have backed the opening of a new venue in Coney Island Brooklyn that opened late last year. Can you tell us more about this new venue and the history that is involved with the location that it is in?
Albee: It didn’t open last year. Coney Island USA is a non-profit org that hosts shit like the Mermaid Parade and other artistic stuff down there. They run the Sideshow also. They contacted me last December for advice. They want to host a few punk and hardcore matinees next door at the old Shooting Gallery. So me and Al Robert (LOA, Spoiler NYC) put together a fundraiser gig on the Freakshow stage and got them a them a backline. The first matinee at the Shooting Gallery on Surf Avenue is gonna be on August 26th and its called the Coney Island Punkfest. There is going to be 9 punk, Oi and hardcore bands.
IE: You played a fund raiser show at the Shooting Gallery’s Sideshow stage last December and it was recorded with the possibility of it being released. What is the latest with that recording? There was talk of it being released on vinyl?
Albee: We scrapped the vinyl idea for the same reason most others are. Labels can’t afford vinyl currently. We are releasing it on Wellsville Records on CD and cassette. We’re hoping to have it out for our gigs in September.
IE: Members of the band also run a DIY label called Rotten Bastard. You had a pretty busy start at the beginning of 2022 but things have been less busy since that time. Any upcoming plans with Rotten Bastard?
Wynn: Running a label, even a DIY one isn’t easy (or cheap). It’s hard to coordinate releases so they don’t stomp on each other. Trying to get zines, online shows and radio to give us a little publicity is hard and even harder to find talent to add to the label. And, when you’re trying to focus on the band (which is often like herding cats), booking shows, working on new material, while working full time jobs, it’s often difficult to give it the attention it deserves.
Albee: We started Rotten Bastard Records during the first pandemic wave as a means to release Skism and Mulligans shit. We wanted to help a bunch of bands also but no one had a way to record anything. We ran into Spike Polite and he had some new tracks, so we added Sewage to the bullpen. Unfortunately, by the time everyone got back recording again, the Mulligans were busy too. We have a few ideas that might be set in motion later this year though. We don’t want to keep releasing Mulligans, Skism, Mulligans, Skism. This is why we shopped outside labels for the next Mulligan release. We are actually discussing a few different options for the label in near future, a compilation LP being one of them. So there may be something next year.
PHOTO BY: NORMAN BLAKE
IE: Mad Mulligans are no strangers to cover songs. Can you give us a rundown on some of the ones you have done?
Johnny Kray: “Guns of Brooklyn” (Brixton), by The Clash has been a song Albee and I started covering together since we were kids. Seemed right to bring that out on occasion. “Y Ahora Que?” by La Polla Records from Spain is one I brought to the group. I have been covering it the last few years. Just a brilliant yet simple song. Fun to play and sing. I know playing covers is a joy, and a fun way I learned to play new things and have a good time jamming with friends. So pretty sure there will be all sorts we throw around. We've done “El Hoyo” by Manu Chao live as well and recorded “Hatebreeders” by the Misfits for a compilation. That was a fun day in the studio.
Albee: I always have, and always will try to sneak a Clash cover into every set. We do a shitload of ‘em together. Those “Hatebreeders” sessions were our first days out of lockdown, so to be able to do what we always did again was fucking incredible.
IE: What is a Mad Mulligan and how did the name come to be? Is it based off of someone you might know or do you have a picture in your head of what he/she might look like?
Albee: A mulligan is a do over, and the band is sort of one for all of us. Mad means a couple different things. Which we also fit. If I was gonna think of some character to fit the name?. It’d be a big red haired aggro Irish bastard with a brew in hand. Kinda like Rich O'Brien.
Wynn: More “mad” like a hatter as opposed to angry, although we do have some angry songs.
Gigi: Couldn’t have said it better than these two.
IE: Can you describe how it is with trying to build up a newer band like Mad Mulligans and make a name for yourselves in 2023? None of you are new to this and amongst you there has been prior success on varying levels but obviously things are different now as compared to when you were just getting started with underground music.
Albee: The internet makes it much easier to reach out and make connections. We've been able to release our first EP in the UK and found radio airplay and press all over the world. As far as doing shit in the 90’s? All of us used to spend entire nights running through the city together with spray paint cans and flyers. I still think the best way to promote is to go to shows and put paper in people’s hands.
MAD MULLIGANS FROM LEFT-RIGHT: CARLOS, WYNN, ALBEE, JOHNNY & GIGI
IE: How close of an eye do you keep on the younger generation of bands that may be playing the same type of Oi/punk that the Mulligans play?
Wynn: I really wish I had more time to check out new bands and online radio (which has a lot of good stuff). Most of the new bands I discover is because either we’re playing with them or going to see a band and checking out the other acts at the show.
Johnny Kray: I go to a decent amount of shows, so I keep an eye out for new bands. As far as punk, School Drugs is one that stands out in my mind. There are lots. Kartel, and The Executors, to name a few. Examine are a great hardcore band. On their 2nd LP now I believe. Danava is a great metal band I just discovered. Saw them live in Brooklyn last month. Slow on that one though, as they started in 2006 and have 4 LP’s now. But a great band.
IE: That's all I got, anything else we may have missed or that you would like to add?
Johnny Kray: Thanks for the interview.
Albee: Yeah man. Thanx for the last 11 or so years you been doing this for all of us. Some people take the shit you do for granted. But if you’se all read to the end of this crap, thank the guy that gives us this site. We do. Oi fuckin Oi, Chris!
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