MF Ruckus isn’t just a world-class party machine cranking out some of the best power rock you’ve probably never heard, oh no, MF Ruckus is a multi-media assault of the senses and mind. MFR has its own comic book, motion comic, weekly webisodes, music videos, acting on The Nug Nation and voice over work which landed them as characters on Billy Ray Cyrus’s latest video “Angel in my Pocket”. MF Ruckus also has a new concept album dropping shortly The Front Lines of Good Times Vol 1. Here is MFR vocalist Aaron Howell.
How did your families respond when you first started MF Ruckus?
That’s tough to answer. If you mean way back when the band first started, we were teenagers. The band had a different name, but never really stopped. Our families likely viewed it as teenagers being teenagers. If you mean our families now, they didn’t respond at all. They weren’t around when MF Ruckus was formed. Being a band is just one of those things we’ve always done. It came with the package. Now, there have been many sacrifices and compromises made over the years. Guys get married, have kids, pursue careers…all the normal life stuff. We just figure out how to make it work. It’s easy to give in to the outdated cultural meme that at a certain age, it’s time to hang it up and put childish things away, but we just don’t work like that. We love to travel and play music together. So, whenever life changes, as it is wont to do, we just ask ourselves how we’re going to make it work. That level of flexibility has kept us together a long time. Our families support us, though. We do what needs to be done to keep our house in order and that allows us the space to do what we love to do. We try to keep our families involved and more importantly, happy. It’s amazing what can happen when you make your family top priority instead of doing the old band vs family tug-of-war. We all know how that ends. We actually did an episode of our podcast recently where we had 3 out of 4 of the wives host. It was pretty god damn hilarious. My wife was breastfeeding our infant son the whole time, haha.
How have the people in your life responded to the progression of MFR’s music?
Everyone’s very supportive. People have come to know us as a band that experiments a lot. We do whatever we want to do, creatively speaking. We are also small and independent enough where we have zero restrictions with regard to our output. It’s been a lifelong pursuit and it would be silly to expect to be playing the same stuff now as we did when we were 16. Hell, we don’t even necessarily play everything we’ve written in the past 5 years! We just make stuff for the sake of making stuff. We let songs grow into whatever the fates would have them be.
What do you enjoy most about writing music and what is the hardest part of writing music as a band? How do you overcome this?
What I personally enjoy most is pulling something out of nothing and building it with my best friends. The hardest part is probably waiting and dealing with setbacks. Our guitarist moved home to Chicago, so learning our long-distance collaborative process has been very tedious and frustrating. We’ve also been working on our new record for a few years now. The studio is backlogged with projects as well, so it’s been a very long wait. I’m impatient in that way. I counteract that by staying busy, focusing on consistent production practices and getting a very clear picture of what is in my immediate control. That’s how the comic, videos and podcast came to be. It keeps us active while the pots are simmering.
If you could re-work any film soundtrack, what film would it be and what would you do differently?
The best film soundtrack of my adolescence was for Dazed and Confused. I would get baked and zone out on Foghat, Ted Nugent and Rick Derringer. I love old muscle car rock. I don’t know if I’d want to rework it necessarily, but it might be fun to do a tribute to that soundtrack. Do a live show, act out scenes from the movie…we could do a double feature with Detroit Rock City. I get to be Matthew McConaughey.
What is the most unlikely cover of a song you would like to perform?
I REALLY want to do a heavy drone version of either “Father and Son” by Cat Stevens or “If I could Only Fly” by Blaze Foley. I’m having trouble talking my bandmates into it. I also really wanted to do “Land of Confusion” by Genesis before Disturbed got hold of it. I think we would have done a cooler version, haha! A long time ago we did a pop-punk version of “Better off without a Wife” by Tom Waits. Wait. After reading this list back, maybe I’m just in the wrong band, haha!
Has anything happened that has made you not want to continue with music? Anything that had made you want to continue more than ever?
I think about quitting often. I think most, if not all musicians do. It’s an incredibly frustrating pursuit and it’s very easy to feel like none of it matters. It’s easy to see real-life human being who like your band reduced to likes and data points. Technology has made it easier than ever to see how you compare to other artists and harder than ever to get people in the door for your show…forget about getting folks to listen to your albums! There’s just so much out there. Social comparison is so toxic and it seems like creative comparison is twice as bad. I’ve found that for me, the key is staying engaged with real-life human beings, showing appreciation, focusing on having fun with my friends and just doing it for the sake of doing it. Once, I was going through a bit of a spell of futility and depression. Just for shits, I put on some of our rough mixes while I was driving. I started to tear up and I went “Oh yeah. I LOVE doing this. This is so good!”. I have to take time to appreciate what I’ve got. It keeps the negative storytelling at bay. Resentment and Envy will kill ya.
You’re very diligent and consistent with your popular webisode series. With everything else you have going on that has to be difficult. How do you stay focused and keep the quality and hilarity up to par?
It’s really just a matter of managing projects and showing up consistently. We have an idea of where we want to go. That drives us. It’s our guiding star. Then we take stock of all the resources we have at our disposal and decide how to use them most effectively. Then we decide what we’re going to do every day, week, month and year to move in the direction of our guiding star. We have a ton of songs in our catalogue, we have access to facilities and professionals who can help make our ideas a reality and, we like to joke around and hang out, so it’s easy to add our personalities into the mix. It was an untapped resource for many years before we started to feature the characters within the group. That, more than anything was what inspired the comic.
The second issue of your comic book The Front Lines of Good Times has been released. How long has this project been in the works, how did you choose what story lines to use and what artistic direction to develop?
Man, comics are hard and I’m learning this the hard way. The idea was conceived over 4 years ago. It’s been a lot of personnel changes, delays, setbacks….but the idea is all there. I have the whole story, all the characters, the whole world in my mind running all the time. Were it not for the delays, certain ideas would not have had time to mature. I drove around for months with sticky notes of ideas stuck all over the inside of my van. I’ve told the story a hundred times to people. I’ve had to rewrite parts, kill off characters…really frustrating and time-consuming stuff. It’s just a matter of putting one foot in front of the other and remaining on the lookout for ideas to stir into the pot. I fill my consciousness with ideas. I listen to a ton of podcasts, watch videos on YouTube and documentaries, read books, learn about people, learn about characters and storytelling and just generally seek to develop my understanding of the universe so that I can incorporate those ideas into the story. I’m seeking to solve a problem. In search of the solution to that problem, the story evolves on it’s own. I really can’t say where it will ultimately go until we get there.
MF Ruckus was enlisted to do the voice over work for a recent Billy Ray Cyrus video. How did that come about and how surreal was the experience?
Several years ago, our old friend Mikey Peterson who directed the DVD portion of our live album started a show called The Nug Nation. He needed voice-actors and some help writing. He knew I did voices and had acting experience, so he invited me on board. The Nug Nation has grown quite a bit since then. I’ve had the opportunity to work with Red Man, Afroman, The Nappy Roots and now Billy Ray Cyrus. One of Billy Ray’s handlers was trying to shop The Nug Nation around to some networks, but with Jeff Sessions doing all his saber-rattling about federal prosecution for marijuana, nobody wanted to touch our show. Down the road, however, Billy Ray found himself with a number 1 hit and a new album with a song about a joint called “Angel in My Pocket”. The stars aligned and he hired Nug Nation to make a video. That’s the short version of the story, but it was a pretty crazy experience.
The Front Lines of Good Times Vol 1 the album drops later this year. How is everything coming along with that? How has the music progressed since your last outing? Do you have an official date yet?
It’s in the queue for mix. I’m hoping it’s done soon. I reckon we’ll see it released by the fall. I’m pretty excited about it. The music has progressed so many ways. This is material we wrote and demoed over 5 years ago. Truth be told, we’re all hot to get in and start the next one!
Now what about TFLoGT Vol 2? Why not just release one mega-album? Will there be a comic book series to go along with that album as well? How will Vol 2 differ from Vol 2?
The original idea was to release a monthly comic/motion comic with a new song as the soundtrack all eventually leading to a 36 chapter compendium with 3 full length albums. Unfortunately, budget is a real bitch. So, the comic kind of happens as fast as it can.
I’d love to do one big mega-album if budget weren’t an issue. If we had unlimited resources, we’d all quit our jobs and hole up in the studio for a year and make Jake Fairly do the same at the drawing table. Alas, we do not have unlimited financial resources. We are, however, limitlessly resourceful and foolish beyond our years. That keeps us thinking that if we keep working, eventually people will take notice and opportunities will present themselves. We expect to have a new album out every year for the next few years. The songs from those albums will serve as the soundtrack for the motion comics to come. We are hoping that as we release pieces of the story, it will gain momentum and allow us to produce faster.
Will there be music videos and touring to support the album?
Absolutely. We have an animated video in the works plus a ton of ideas. I think we’re going to shoot some footage for another video at an old 1800s brothel next month. That should be cool. We’re also planning to go back to Europe to promote the new record.
What are some bands that you know and enjoy that you think people should be listening to?
The Blind Staggers, Hangman’s Hymnal, Bud Bronson and the Good Timers, The Diffusers, Space In Time….Those come immediately to mind.
Anything else you would like people to know about?
Yes! Everything we do happens because of a few generous people who back us on Patreon. We appreciate the support so much that we pass the love on to other creators. We allocate 10% of our Patreon earnings to pledge to other artists. We currently back about 15 creators on Patreon. It really works if we all help each other out. You can check out our profile at patreon.com/mfruckus. Thanks so much for taking the time to to talk to us!
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