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Tom Petty takes a run at the charts with his first band (Campbell & Tench interview)

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A mostly unknown band returning from a 35-year rockus interruptus will make its local debut to nearly sold-out audiences this weekend in Ventura and Santa Barbara.

Must be the famous bass player — Tom Petty.

Actually, Mudcrutch has played some SoCal gigs, but that was way back in the silly '70s. This time, the band will have fans.

Mudcrutch, sort of like the Beatles revisiting the Quarrymen, was Petty's band back in Florida in the early 1970s.

In 1974, Mudcrutch moved to L.A. to record an album for Shelter Records, but the group broke up, the album never got made, and Petty formed a new backup band that went on to become those record-breaking rock stars the Heartbreakers.

The newly reconstituted Mudcrutch, which sounds a lot like Petty singing a bunch of songs you've never heard before, also includes Heartbreakers keyboardist Benmont Tench and guitarist Mike Campbell, plus original Mudcrutch members Tom Leadon (guitar) and Randall Marsh (drums).

Mudcrutch reunited recently to record a self-titled "debut" album, which is due out April 29 on Warner Bros., and the group is on a seven-city tour of California to promote it.

The trek kicked off this past weekend at the Malibu Performing Arts Center, and after gigs this week in Northern California, Mudcrutch will hit Santa Barbara's Arlington Theatre on Saturday and the Majestic Ventura Theatre on Sunday, then settle in for a six-day run at the Troubadour in West Hollywood next week.

Gavin Edwards, writing for Rolling Stone about Mudcrutch's Malibu show, said the band performed all 14 songs from the new album, which features such tracks as "Orphan of the Storm," "Crystal River," "Queen of the Go-Go Girls" and "The Wrong Thing to Do." It also tossed in a few covers like Elvis Presley's "Rip it Up" and the Rolling Stones' "Off the Hook."

Edwards wrote that "Mike Campbell and Tom Leadon had a rapport on guitar that belied their long separation"; "Benmont Tench was a virtuoso on piano and organ as per usual"; and "Petty looked ecstatic to be playing bass again, and managed to whip the crowd into a rock-and-roll fervor."

Tench and Campbell discussed the latest, as well as the distant past, during a recent phoner.

What's new in the Mudcrutch world? And why is there any news at all from the Mudcrutch world?

Mike Campbell: Tom Petty came up with the idea to get the original guys back together. In August, we started messing around, and after about 10 days, we came up with this record. We were so thrilled with it, we decided to put it out and play a few gigs.

How many Mudcrutch songs were/are there?

Campbell: We did 14 new songs. One of the songs, written by guitar player Tom Leadon, was left over from back in the day. So aside from a couple of covers we threw in, all the songs are new ones that were written recently.

And the band sounds like ? How does it compare to the Heartbreakers?

Tench: You can compare it to the Heartbreakers because Petty's the predominant songwriter and singer, and Campbell's the lead guitar player (or one of them), and I'm playing keyboards. But the bass player is different 'cause Petty's playing bass; Tom Leadon is playing co-lead guitar instead of Petty; and the drummer's different — Randall Marsh.

So you've got three different instrumentalists, an entirely different swing and a bunch of people who literally grew up, forming their musical tastes together and learning to write. There may be some parallels with the early Heartbreakers, but, basically, it's an entirely different band.

What's your take on the Mudcrutch album?

Campbell: We were just out of high school when we got together in Gainesville, Fla., and this album is very true to what we sounded like back then, even to the point where the album is recorded live — live vocals, live solos, everything with no headphones. So it's very fresh and organic and inspired-sounding. It's one of my favorite records I've ever been involved in.

How eager were the original Mudcrutchers to do this thing? Seriously, I would assume?

Campbell: Yeah, they're over the moon.

What was the strangest Mudcrutch gig?

Tench: I don't remember anything but weird ones.

Campbell: Our very first Mudcrutch gig was at a topless bar called Dub's Steakhouse at the edge of Gainesville. We played there for several months, five nights a week, five sets a night, so we became really tight and got an education in the real world. There were go-go dancers, drunks, rednecks and music lovers — it was a great environment.

No doubt. Gonna do any Heartbreakers' songs?

Tench: Mudcrutch all the way.

What happened in L.A. in the '70s? How has the scene changed?

Campbell: We got a record deal with Shelter Records, so we came out to L.A. from Florida, and it was a total culture shock. We went into the studio and started trying to make a record. We were so green, we couldn't quite get it together, so it began to fall apart. Out of that the Heartbreakers sort of morphed and became what they are. Mudcrutch had been a really good live band, but when we got under headphones in the studio, I for one just tightened up. Although we cut some good stuff, the band didn't really know how to play in a recording studio.

Also, the version of Mudcrutch that ended up coming out to L.A. was not the original lineup. The lineup used to cut the record we just made was the original lineup, which represents what Mudcrutch can do at their best. That's because Tom Leadon and Tom Petty had a special sound when they played and sang together. We finally get to tap into what was the original inspiration for the band.

So where's Leadon been all these years?

Campbell: I replaced Tom Leadon when he left. He's played a lot of music, and these days, he's in Nashville and teaches guitar.

Any advice to new bands moving to L.A. this week?

Campbell: You better have a lot of patience. It's hard for new bands to get a deal and a label that'll stick behind them for a couple of albums. Back then, a label would sign you and allow the first album to maybe not sell a million records, but still keep you and let you develop, and maybe by the second or third album, you might really get somewhere. Now there's this great groundswell of independent labels, and Mudcrutch probably would've been one of those.

Someday down the road, maybe a Heartbreakers/Mudcrutch double bill?

Tench: Well, that'd be a lot of work.

Campbell: A lot of work, but I'd do it.

What do the Heartbreakers know now that Mudcrutchers could've used then?

Campbell: I think you should never know then what you know now except in the case of romance and finance.

http://www.venturacountystar.com/news/2008/apr/17/rocking-reprise-tom-petty-takes-a-run-at-the-his/

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Just a gorgeous photo, and that interview.... wow!!!!

So fantastic to get to hear what these guys have to say! Bravo!!!!!

(Surfnburn, I'm thinking the 120 is the shutter speed, but its just a guess. I also suspect that it was taken at f/2.8 which explains the dreamy background. Never saw a film camera that would 'write' the settings in the film margins before. That is pretty cool.

Using film to take this shot just seems like the right thing to do doesn't it? Anyway, it seems like it to me, and I'm a digital shooter. Old school for the old school!)

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AFTER PREVIEWING THE ENTIRE MUDCRUTCH CD LAST NIGHT I HAVE NOT BEEN MORE EXCITED ABOUT PURCHASING A CD AS SOON AS I LEGALLY CAN. HOW REFRESHING IT WAS , TRULY AN AMERICAN ROOTS CLASSIC IN THE MAKING! I HOPE PLANS FOR AN EAST COAST TOUR WILL BE CONSIDERED MAYBE SOME SMALLER THEATER LOCATIONS LIKE THE BEACON, BARDAVON IN N.Y. OR PALACE THEATER IN CT.

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