This shall be my first in a long going run of interviews of people within the live music scene. Today I had the chance to interview longtime taper and all around nice guy mkdevo. He busted out onto the scene in the past couple years as being bar-none the top videographer of Phish concerts. His youtube vids have been a hit and he’s seen up to 100,000 hits on some of his best vids. I’ve personally known him since 2004 when I met him as a taper at Breakfast concerts. Also, he’s been known to be the lead vocalist for the Good Time Boys, a mainly Red Hot Chili Peppers tribute band backed up by Ron Spears, Adrian Tramantano and Tim Palmeiri. If you ever had a chance to see them play, you’d attest to the balls out rock that the Good Time Boys bring to the table. For now though, we’re discussing taping and videotaping mainly. Here’s a sample, one of my favorites, of his great concert vids:
Without further ado, here is the interview:
IGZ: I’ve always known you as a longtime taper be it with the Breakfast or earlier on at Deep Banana Blackout shows, can you tell me how you got started out taping and what type of taping rigs you preferred?
MKD: I’ve always had a thing for live music. Even going back as far as middle school – when what I was listening to was about 90% hip-hop/MTV – I’d run my TV through my stereo, and record live performances from MTV’s Spring Break onto audio cassette tapes. If I had a live version of something, it would always win out against the studio version. Even if it was something as simple as Naughty By Nature’s “Hip Hop Horray” – the live performance just felt so much more “real” to me.
At the time, of course, I was completely oblivious to the concept of “taping”, microphones, etc. Fast-forward to high school – I started playing drums (as in, not just in the school band), and my taste in music shifted heavily towards funk and rock/alternative. My friends and I would make frequent trips to “Exile On Main Street” – a local CD shop that specialized in those live bootleg discs I was longing for before I knew any better. The going rate was $25/disc, with double-disc sets sometimes “discounted” at $45, and I was gladly paying it. Sometimes you’d really hit the jackpot and find a show that you went to! That feeling was like striking gold. That concept was just amazing to me. There were so many concerts I’d seen that had become nothing but memories. Being able to relive those memories and listen to them whenever I wanted was just something I needed in my life.
Sometime in late 1995, I became aware of tape-trading online. This hobby suddenly became cheaper and more expensive at the same time! On one hand, no longer did I have to shell out $25 a disc at Exile, but on the other, I was now buying TONS of blank tapes, and spending a bunch of money on postage to boot. I was building a collection – an archive, if you will – of live music. It was awesome.
As great as that was, there’s no denying it was a huge pain in the ass, especially when you think of the way things are done today. Analog tape trading meant a loss in quality every time a copy was made! So in order to setup a trade with someone, not only did you have to have a show that was attractive to them, but it needed to be a low generation (one of the first couple copies) as well. As you could imagine, this is something that could be difficult for someone just getting started with a collection.
Luckily there were a lot of kind folks out there who would do B&P (Blanks & Postage) for others. All you had to do was send them a blank tapes and a self-addressed stamped envelope, and those tapes would come back to you with music on them. There were also some not-so-nice folks who would do 2-for-1 deals – a similar process, but for every 2 blanks you’d send them, they’d keep one, essentially profiting.
As I got into the hobby more, and started attending more concerts, I started thinking, “why can’t I do this myself?”. I knew that if I recorded shows myself, that would give me a bunch of “master” tapes to add to my list, which would certainly be attractive to potential traders. My dad had a handheld Panasonic cassette recorder that he would record his bass riffs on. It had a built-in mic and recorded onto regular analog tapes, and the sound wasn’t all that bad. I started taking this to shows and sneaking it in with me. Between 1996-97, I recorded a handful of shows with it – Weezer, Stone Temple Pilots, Smashing Pumpkins, and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, to name a few.
Quality-wise, my tapes didn’t go over too well with those who received copies from me. Apparently, this wasn’t the ideal way to go about recording shows. Little did I know, the real tapers were using external microphones, and recording onto DAT (Digital Audio Tape). DAT was like a whole new world for me. Digital meant no more generation loss when making copies. People were also more concerned about documenting source info (what equipment was used to make the recording) than they were with analog (where source info was usually just AUD or SBD). I was serious about wanting to be a taper, and DAT was the next logical step for me. In November 1997, I bought a Sony D8 DAT walkman/recorder, along with an Audio-Technica AT822 basic stereo microphone. My goal was to record my first Phish show(s), and on November 26, 1997 I did just that.
I’d been in touch with a taper from New Jersey named Bryan Foley. He was super helpful. I met up with him at my first Phish show in Hartford, and he showed me the ropes of the tapers’ section. He advised that while my AT822 was an ok mic for basic/small-time recording, I wouldn’t really want to record Phish/arena shows with it. He instead suggested that I “patch” out of his rig. With a DAT recorder, one could plug into another person’s rig digitally, and get the exact same recording they were getting, with no loss of quality. Not only was this a great way to get a feel for what different microphone/pre-amp combinations sounded like, but it was also a means of leaving the show with a recording without being a full-fledged taper, and without having to wait weeks for a copy from someone in the mail.
So for the next year and a half or so, I was a “patcher” at bigger shows, while recording smaller local shows with my AT822 mic. I knew I wanted a full taping rig, so this time allowed me to get a feel for what I liked (and what I could afford). After a while, it was clear that I loved the sound of the AKG 480/ck63 hypercardioid microphones, and specifically when paired with the Graham-Patten DMIC-20 – a pre-amp and A/D (Analog to Digital) converter in one. As “affordable” as this rig was, it was still a bit out of reach for me, now a college sophomore.
Luckily, during this time period, I was involved in a CD trade with someone very local to me by the name of Matt Vallo. Matt and I had very similar tastes in music, as well as similar geek-like tendencies. We became pretty good friends, and in June of 1999, Matt and I went half on a recording rig (consisting of the AKG mics and Graham-Patten pre-amp I mentioned earlier), and the rest is history. Countless shows were recorded with that rig between the two of us for the next 10 years or so, and the rig evolved with the times.
I “retired” from audio taping in 2009 because I wasn’t recording nearly enough anymore to justify owning a rig. I’ve thought about getting back into it with something a bit more low-key, but haven’t been ready to make that move just yet. We’ll see…
IGZ: Since the Hampton run in 09, which i’d like to thank you for on behalf of the thousands of us who couldn’t be there, you became somewhat of a youtube sensation to phish fans everywhere. Where did you get the idea to video tape the entire shows and put each song on youtube?
MKD: Here’s a little-known fact: I actually don’t own a video camera!
I’d gotten into photography a bit over the past few years. Nothing crazy/serious, but I liked having cameras that were a small step above your average point and shoot. I enjoyed taking pictures for the same reason I enjoyed recording – to be able to capture moments and memories, and share them with others. At some point in 2007, I realized that my camera (a Canon PowerShot S2, at the time) took some pretty decent video, with equally decent audio provided by its built-in stereo microphones. More and more, I found myself using it to take video at concerts. I was happy with the results, and even happier to be able to relive those musical moments – now in the form of video.
An upgraded model of my camera was released in December 2008, and this model shot full 1080p HD video. Problem was, there were no plans to release this camera in the US, but I knew I had to have it, so I imported it from Japan. At that time, I already had my Phish Hampton tickets, so I knew well in advance that that camera would be rolling the minute they took the stage. I was psyched.
I didn’t have enough storage to record the entire shows, so I had to pick and choose songs. I really enjoyed recording what I did of night one, especially knowing that it was very good quality and so many people who were shut out would be able to see it crystal clear. I did figure out that nights two and three, I needed to be in the money seats – center field, if you will. I darted for those seats the next 2 nights when the doors open, and that’s when I really fell in love with videoing Phish.
IGZ: Does it hinder your ability to enjoy the show?
MKD: Quite the opposite, actually. I wouldn’t do it if it did. But I LOVE filming. I love knowing that these moments are being captured to relive forever. I love knowing that I’m the one doing it (granted, not the ONLY one), and I won’t ever have to search for it or wonder if it exists. I love knowing that the memory is from MY POV. And I love knowing that other people – LOTS of other people – will be able to enjoy these moments because of what I’m doing.
At Jones Beach in ’09, my buddy Ant and I went up to “center field” where I could film the whole time without being bothered. The guy next to Ant said to him at one point, “your buddy’s not having a good time, eh?”. Ant replied, “Are you kidding me? Kid’s having the time of his life right now!”.
IGZ: That certainly sounds like Ant to me. What are some of your favorite videos to capture be it phish or otherwise?
What a show. I was close and center. Unfortunately, I had a basketball team in front of me, and recorded almost nothing the entire night. Would have recorded Forbin’s/Mockinbird, but was doing a stub-down (ugh!). Trey started doing a goofy dance, so I figured I’d throw the arm in the air for a bit to capture it. Little did I know, I’d soon be recording the first Icculus in 10+ years. Incredible moment.
Author’s note: this is also my favorite video as well.
My most-viewed video, and for good reason. This is a rockin’ version of First Tube, and the first few rows are going bananas. Trey is totally eating it up, and giving it right back to them. Really, really fun to watch.
Can’t possibly not mention this. This is where the whole mkdevo YouTube thing started to take off. A moment some thought would never happen. Welcome back, Phish!
I never cared all that much for NYE before I got into Phish. After seeing NYE ’97, I never wanted to spend my NYE any other way, and saw them on NYE in ’98, ’99, and ’02. I almost forgot what a fantastic time those shows were, until those minutes leading up to midnight on 12/31/10. This was also a very tough ticket for me. To me, this video signifies the good, helpful people that still exist in the community, and feeling the feeling that I forgot.
One from my early days of filming video clips at shows. Vedder sometimes comes out *before* the opening band and plays a song solo to reward the early birds in attendance. I was one of those early birds on this night, and there’s no song I would have rather heard him play. This is an incredibly beautiful song by Hunters & Collectors, and I lost it a bit when it started.
In the intro (before the video starts), Eddie introduces this as “OTOTO” (one time, one time only). First and only-time cover completely out of nowhere, and moments like this are exactly why I love doing what I do.
From the same show as above. Just a brilliant, emotional performance that I could watch over and over again. Perfect.
Another one from my “early” days. I called this as the opener, but was really more hopeful than anything. Extremely psyched when they started it. My favorite song on “In Rainbows”, and an excellent way to open a show!
HERE IS A MOTHERFUCKING HORSE ON STAGE!!!!!!!!
IGZ: I would imagine its hard to choose a favorite seeing as there are so many greats; thanks for narrowing it down. Were you expecting to get upwards to 100,000 views on some of your videos and what was your reaction to the fanfare? also have you had any particular commenters that struck you as amusing?
MKD: I knew in Hampton that I was getting some great footage, and I was just hoping that a lot of people would be able to enjoy it. I would say the number of views is certainly more than I’d expected, and that’s awesome. Knowing that other people are enjoying what I do really keeps me motivated to keep doing it. I’ve been very enthusiastic about sharing music with others since I started audio taping/trading in the 90s, so being able to do that again is a great feeling.
I get an email every time a comment is posted on one of my videos, so I read them all. It’s a pretty good balance of praise, criticism, humor, and trolling. There’s one particular comment that has become an ongoing joke with me: “mkdevo is king of the wooks!”. Hands down the funniest comment I’ve read on one of my videos. Another funny one recently was “mkdevo=boner”. I suppose that one could go a couple different ways.
I’ve also had a few unintentionally amusing comments, like the guy who tried to tell me that my Nine Inch Nails “Wish” video was NOT shot in Mansfield, MA, or the guy the other day who dropped the little fact nugget on me that “All Along The Watchtower” was written by Jimi Hendrix. Those are always a good time. 🙂
Author’s Note: As an avid NIN fan and Wish being my favorite song, I couldn’t leave this one out😉
IGZ: What do we have to look forward to from you this summer be it Phish or otherwise?
MKD: Right now, the only thing solid I’ve got is Phish Bethel, Holmdel, and Mansfield. No Superball IX for me, sadly. Other things are still shaping up. The Mars Volta & Soundgarden sounds really intriguing, and I’m definitely excited about a Foo Fighters announcement soon. We shall see.Still need to land some Bethel pavilions, btw. (winky, winky!)
Author’s note: hook a brotha up!
IGZ: And lastly, whats the chances of a Good Time Boys reunion?
MKD: Not sure if this one’s for you or the blog. 😉 But it’s not gonna happen.I’ll just say that none of us had any idea that our last show would be our LAST show. But since it appears that it was, I can honestly say that I couldn’t have scripted a better show to go out on. I’m always very critical of our performances, and every aspect of that show was the BEST we ever did, so you won’t hear any complaints from me about it being the last of the Good Time Boys.
Well, that’s that. Huge thanks to mkdevo for being patient with me and diligent with his answers. I hope everyone who reads this gets as much enjoyment from this as we did for putting this together for you.