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July 30, 2009

Mark McGrath of Sugar Ray -- a surprisingly awesome interview

mark mcgrathI must admit -- at first, I was a little leery of interviewing Mark McGrath, the lead singer and front man of Sugar Ray.

You remember Sugar Ray, right? With hits like "Fly," "Every Morning" and "Someday," they were huge in the '90s. Even though they just released a new album, these days, people look at them as has-beens and lightweights.

But McGrath is actually a hard core music nerd. He's really unpretentious and modest about the band's success. Here's a link to the centerpiece I did on them, which ran in today's paper.

McGrath talked really, really fast and gave me so many good quotes, I couldn't use them all in the piece. Here are some of the passages I didn't use in the article ...

One time in the '90s, McGrath made an appearance on one of those MTV Spring Break-esque programs. The host of the show brought up a hypnotist, who had hypnotized a girl to say "yes" to anything McGrath asked. But instead of going for the obvious questions about something sexual, McGrath asked the girl the name of the '70s prog rock band fronted by John Anderson.

The answer, of course, was "Yes."

"I ruined the whole thing," McGrath said. "They thought I'd just come in with some ham-fisted sex question. I just remember that [host] went circling the drain when I said that."

McGrath on his music philosophies:

"Music is seven notes. If you waste your time in genres of music or make it lifestyle for yourself, you're going to miss out on a lot of music. When I was in high school all I listened to was the Sex Pistols, Clash and the Damned. You could not speak to me about anything else. I didn't care, I didn't want to hear it. And then life events happened to me. When a girl broke my heart, all the sudden Air Supply songs start sounding good. You're crying along to "Making Love Out Of Nothing At All," and you're like, 'This is good.' The biggest crime for me in music is to limit yourself to certain genres."

(Handout photo)

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:41 AM | | Comments (47)
Categories: Random stuff


Could you at least try to be relevant? I've thought for a while that this blog was remarkably boring and tame considering its subject is nightlife. But you just took it to a whole new level by salivating over your Sugar Ray interview. Oy gevalt.

Agreed, PJ. This is truly, truly terrible.

Something tells me that you probably weren't interested in reading this piece after reading the title but did anyway.
If I see a title for an article that doesn't interest me on this blog I don't read it. I don't feel the need to comment on the fact that it doesn't interest me or how terrible it is. You can say so much without saying anything at all. I think it's obvious that the blogs without many comments are the ones that aren't of interest to the readers.
Lighten up.

I agree. Damn you, Sam, for being enthusiastic about an interview that surprised you.

And how dare your so-called nightlife column cover something happening tomorrow night? We could all totally be dead by then.

I am so boycotting this utterly free content produced purely for my entertainment.

The truest sign of a successful blog/website is the up front presence of its most outspoken trolls.

I demand you make 'I just wanna fly' vacate my head.


One reader's troll is another's truthsayer.

So let's be honest. This is a blog about nightlife, one of the juiciest topics any writer could ever hope to cover. You've got sex, drugs, fashion, money, music, plenty of booze and bad behavior. But what does Sam choose to write about? Sugar Ray and Snuggie crawls. It would be inconceivable if it wasn't found in the completely out of touch Baltimore Sun.

And I don't say this simply to diss Sam. It would be nice if The Sun (and Sam) could get their act together and give the city the kind of press it deserves and desperately needs. Criticism might actually push that in the right direction. Although I'm not holding my breath.

Cardwell, you would be surprised -- just because one particular post gets a ton of comments doesn't mean it's hugely popular. In fact, I went back through the blog-o-meter, and the two most popular pots this month were about iguana cantina closing and reopening as a wine bar. Combined, they had 27 comments, which isn't that much. Name That Bar contests routinely get twice as many comments, but aren't nearly as popular.

Patapsco Jones, ah, the eternal argument -- we're not giving Baltimore the press it deserves and needs. Hmm. Well, I think you'd be surprised at the number of emails and calls I receive the day after a nightlife column runs in the paper. People really react strongly to both the nightlife column and this blog -- because a lot of the places I mention have never been covered before, by the Sun or anybody else, for that matter.

Sure, I do offbeat stuff like the Snuggie Bar Crawl. And, since Sugar Ray is coming to town tomorrow, I wrote about them. Shame on the nightlife columnist/pop music writer for not being serious enough!

Maybe you forget my posts about the viability of opening a bar in a downbeat neighborhood like Pigtown, or the parking dispute between neighborhood associations, bar owners and residents. Or Little Havana's struggle against city zoning ordinances, or the violence at Kolpers. Or the liquor board's crackdown on underage drinking at bars in the Inner Harbor. Or the struggles facing the Station North Arts and Entertainment district.

Ah, but if I only wrote about those things, then people would be telling me to lighten up.

Bottom line is, this is my blog. And yes, the main focus is nightlife and local entertainment. But it's still my blog. And if I want to cover gummy bacon and Sugar Ray, I'm going to cover gummy bacon and Sugar Ray. Speaking of which, I have a gummy bacon review to write.


I just think there's a lack of imagination in your writing which is curious given what colorful subject matter surrounds you. It's as though someone took the nastiest bar on the East Side and dumped 100,000 gallons of bleach into it.

I'm talking about local characters - like Leroy in Fells Point. Nasty, nasty dive bars. Baltimore Club music. People with serious drug problems who party too damn much. Huge racial and class divides which both divide the city's nightlife and are also bridged sometimes in interesting ways. This is fascinating, sometimes seriously dramatic subject matter.

But you don't deal with things like that. Your stuff, like most of the writing in The Sun, is sanitized to the point that it doesn't even resemble the city that most Baltimoreans know. It's like Entertainment Tonight. It's like Mark McGrath.

Patapsco Jones-

"Hey Buddy, I know you, I like pretty girls" -Leroy Brown


That's a lot of bleach. Let me address some of your complaints.

Local characters:

Nasty, nasty dive bars:

Baltimore Club music:

People with serious drug problems who party too damn much: Umm ... what?

As for bridging racial and class divides? Well, if you've been a longtime reader of my stories or my nightlife columns, you'd know that I get all over the city for stories, regardless of the race or class of the subjects.

Thanks for taking the time to comment. I'm sorry you don't like Midnight Sun and The Baltimore Sun.

Maybe you should take Patchen's advice and boycott this utterly free content produced purely for your entertainment. That would save us all a headache.

Sam- from now on you should only write about your visits to the block and filthy clubs, the real baltimore. Make sure to include the most obscene things you've ever seen and exaggerate them so it'll be more sensational, uh I mean realistic. Everyone knows thats what nightlife is really about. There's just not enough talk of doing blow off of puts me to sleep.

I'm glad I'm getting under your skin. It didn't take long. And I don't expect a mea culpa from you or anything. Very few people (and particularly very few writers) are evolved enough to admit their flaws in the heat of the moment. But maybe when this is behind you, and nobody has to know that you took it seriously, you'll branch out a little more and give the city the type of nightlife blog it deserves.

A few pointers:

- More sex. It's why many people choose to go out, whether they get lucky or not.

- More drugs. It's a BIG (too big) fact of life around here and you can get some good drama out of it. And by the way why are you saying "Um...what?" to my suggesting you cover "People with serious drug problems who party too damn much"? Have you never met anyone like this in Baltimore or something? And if so do you actualy live in Baltimore? This is exactly what I'm talking about by sanitized.

- More diversity. Seriously, like much of this newspaper, you write some seriously white guy-centric stuff. This is a majority AA city after all.

- Different walks of life. You approach this from an upper middle class, dare I say it, County perspective.

Branch out. Get out of your comfort zone. You might learn something. Better yet we might learn something.

You have to love Leroy. I know the man has some issues going on but I've never seen him get out of hand. Sam, I think that is a great idea for a featured piece. Interview Leroy for the blog. I've never had a conversation that included anything other than his affinity for pretty ladies or the time he "saved a white woman."
I will never forget the Baltimore episode of Insomniac with Dave Atell where he referred to Leroy as the "black Forest Gump". He went on to ask a group of ladies if they liked Leroy. When they responded that they "loved him", Atell's response was classic. He goes, "Then why don't you (4 letter word for sexy time) him?!?!?!?!"
God I miss that show.

To quote Sugar Ray: "Some say...Better things will come our way/No matter what they try to say/You were always there for me." Let us all focus on the words and be friends!

Sugar Ray has taught us so much that we are just turning our backs on in this blog today! Sessa, you had better start writing about drugs ASAP. So help me if I see one more thing about Chris Sligh or something about bacon. Light for all, indeed.

Thank you, Sam, for the great article! I will be there tomorrow night! I guess I am a cougar, I am 43 and were I not married, I would DEFINITELY be going after the 20-something guys.
I am a long time Sugar Ray fan and have seen and met them (and drank their booze!) many times. Mark talks FAST and A LOT but he is a very intelligent guy who has no delusions about his success.
Thanks again.

For some reason I've never had a problem with Sugar Ray. I don't buy their albums or anything, but have to admit that they write catchy songs that make people happy. Just like Sam and this blog. So what if Sam and Sugar Ray write light-hearted stuff? It makes people happy and brightens their day. Nothing wrong with that. Why does everything need to be deep and depressing to be considered "good"?

thats really awesome. i've always liked his off stage personality. he seems like the kind of guy that started a band for the right reasons, to just have fun and enjoy music. also, i saw that episode of Celeb. Jep a while back, and he was absolutely dominating the competition.

wow, are we really abbreviating Celebrity Jeopardy now???

"That's a nice jacket!" - Leroy has told me this many times, even when I'm not wearing a jacket!

Hey there Buhhhhhhhhhhhhhh-dee. I liiiiiiiiiike that! I liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiike women!

PJ jesus could you bloviate a little more, you wanna read about the things you expect to read about Baltimore's drug-and-party addled underbelly, go write it yourself. You could more than likely even get it put on MS as a guest post - like many other people have done previously.

And that Snuggie Bar Crawl was fun, I'm willing to bet even you would have enjoyed it.

Saw them last night at The Cork in Dewey... Good times and big ups to DJ Homicide.

hey PJ..."Let the hate flow through you...FEEEL the power of the Dark Side..."

hee,hee,hee, i just crack myself up....

Wait, you want me to bloviate more? Okay, what the hay! I got a little time to kill.

Can we agree that press in general is pretty god awful in this town? If your answer is no then I suspect you haven't experienced very much press from elsewhere. The purpose behind my criticism is to raise awareness of this simple fact. And while I've been picking on Sam (because it's really easy, and fun), it's not just his fault. There is drama and great stories all around this town every single day and what's left of the fourth estate here ignores it, consistently.

I am not simply talking about doom and gloom as you and some of your crybaby posting cohorts have tried to suggest in order to frame my argument in an easily mockable way. Here's a simple example of a couple things inexcusably omitted from this blog:

There's a house music artist from Baltimore named Ultra Nate who hosts Deep Sugar parties at the Paradox twice a month. Earlier this year she got Body & Soul, a legendary New York dance party, to come down to Baltimore (!). They even had buses of people coming down from NYC. Sam didn't cover it.

The same month she got Frankie Knuckles, the inventor of house music, from Chicago to DJ the same party, again here in Baltimore. Sam didn't cover this either. Sam claims to want more places to dance, but for some reason he rarely if ever covers the Paradox, even if big name dance artists/parties make it there.

There are just two examples but they're telling.

Oooop..gotta cut this short...Sorry guys!

PJ -
There is drama and great stories all around this town every single day and what's left of the fourth estate here ignores it, consistently.
Sad, but oh so true.

The after hours club in's kinda like old Odell's - You Know If You Belong.

Wow. PJ, are you some sort of internet posting supervillian? Please don't block out the sun with a giant disk! It could also be that the house stuff wasn't covered by the Sun, because no one gives a [hoot] about house. Besides of course the regular goers, who I'm sure are too busy spray tanning, and finding a better way to slip roofies into drinks.

From Allan's post above: "...he seems like the kind of guy that started a band for the right reasons, to just have fun and enjoy music. also, i saw that episode of Celeb. Jep a while back, and he was absolutely dominating the competition."

Allan is apparently such an arbiter of international style that he, like Sam, fawns over Mark McGrath and, like his grandma, cherishes Celebrity Jeopardy. Or "Celeb. Jep" as he and Gram call it during Bridge games. Any other fashion Do's and Don'ts we should be made aware of, Allan? Like what to wear during Shuffleboard tournaments? Or where to find the best Counting Crowes cassettes on sale?

it's true, i'm like the Dos Equis guy, sans the beard. As far as Mark McGrath is concerned, it's true. I've stalked him relentlessly. Over and over again. In fact I fawn so much, that I decided to not support myself the last time I fainted, to more easily worship the ground he walked on. And if I learned anything from years of relentless stalking, its that it's always better to look up at people, than to look down on them.

Wait, why am I even responding to this? The most "damaging" insinuation was that I watch CJ (that's celeb jep, i made it even shorter) with my Gram-gram. As far as the internet goes, that has to be the lamest comeback ever. I'm sure PJ was rocking in his posture correcting chair, laughing devilishly whilst sipping a 2005 glass of Merlot, in between Frasier re-runs, with a smile that would make, even Solomon blush.

But since I started, I might as well finish.


-wear crocs during shuffleboard. your grandkids may chuckle, but you'll be the one with the last laugh when you don't break your hip by slipping.

-buy the Counting Crows on iTunes. (really? you didnt like them? wow)

-be sure to take the stick out of your ass and clean it off every now and then. otherwise it starts to build up and get cake'd in there. and then you just have a tail.


-be retarded enough to post a link to your own blog, when commenting on someone elses. OMG it was the worst. I had more fun slapping my sunburn I got last week downy ocean, than I did reading your mindless drivel. Cashless society will "cure the drug problem", get the F outta here. Also, methinks you're starting such a clamor over here, as you're jealous of the fact that you only have a SINGLE comment, with easily 2 months worth of blabbering. Well done, just really classy.

I'm amazed they let that comment through given what a class act you've shown yourself to be - "retarded", "stick out of your...", and as loose a grasp on public policy ideas as you have on music, style and the English language.

Alas, my blog could use some more comments and I really should work on it more often. But I have no hate for Sam or anyone with a more trafficked blog for that. I'm just not a fan of Midnight Sun. But maybe it's not really Sam's fault. After all he has to tailor the blog to communicate with unsophisticated simpletons like you.

PJ you're like a reverse Tim Lumber

PJ, for a person that is not a fan of Midnight Sun, you've sure spent enough time writing responses to a blog regarding a Sugar Ray interview, which is a band you also claim to not be a fan of.
Instead of offending Sam and some of the posters, why don't you devote more time to your own blog? You can write about drugs, sex and all the house music you want.
It sounds to me that you're just trying to drum up interest in your own blog.

Honestly, I'm just caught up in an admittedly stupid flame war with you clowns. And you're absolutely right (clowns can be right too, look at Bozo, or The Fool in King Lear) that I should be devoting this energy to my own blogs. Conflict has a draw of its own though, even thoroughly stupid blog conflict.

As for interest in my own blog -well that is the reason they have the URL entry on here and many other blogs, to do a little promotion. But honestly this blog isn't the target audience. I prefer getting linked off the Transportation or Real Estate blogs on The Sun which are typically more thoughtful on urban issues.

I got drawn into this because The Sun frontpaged that Mark McGrath embarassment and I simply snapped over the neverending poor editorial choices at this newspaper. Which btw have been going on since I was a child. But don't worry, I'll be off of here as soon as this post falls off of the page and we (mercifully) won't need to deal with one another for a while.

Patapsco Jones: Noting poor editorial choices at the Baltimore Sun since childhood.

This is fantastic. I feel like i'm having an internet argument with "Buzz Killington". If this were real life, I swear it would've come to 10 paces and pistols by now.

Ok PJ, polish off your monocle and tell us why exactly Mark McGrath is a such a blight to your senses. (Original topic! weird, i know!)

Leroy is excruciating.

I don't think you can swing a cat in Baltimore without hitting some local media coverage of Ultra Nate.

The last interesting thing written about a dive bar was never.

Mark McGrath is cute.


The only monocle around here is the one your Granny let you borrow to read the credits of Celeb Jep up close.

Mark McGrath sucks. There's really no charitable way of putting it. He's not a blight to my senses or anything, he's just plain old wonderbread boring awful and has been for over a decade. I'm not sure why you need this explained to you.

What honestly bothers me though is this pathetic, misguided quest for relevance in The Sun. As though anything with a semblance of national fame deserves coverage - and fawning coverage at that. It's sad. You see it all the time. Like when that crap movie came out about DC Reporters and they ran a front page headline story on the website about how Rachel McAdams wardrobe was inspired by a Sun reporter. Or Sam salivating because Mark McGrath gave him the time of day. Or an article in today's Sun about some crap horror movie, featuring no-name local actors, filming in West Baltimore.

Our city has more pride and better taste than to care about stuff like this. Why doesn't the newspaper?

"Why doesn't the newspaper?"

Because The Sun is owned by a bottom feeder located in Chicago.

There are recent rumblings that a local group is preparing to make an offer to Zell.
First thing they would do is ban the terms "awesome" and "sweet" from any attempt at legitimate reporting.

lol-erskates! so now i'm old? who's writing your come backs, Milton Berle?

And I still don't get the irrational hatred of Mark McGrath. So he's not your cup of Earl Grey, so what? Why waste all your time in bashing him on the internet (btw, how many scene points is that worth?). Surely, you must have better things to do, like writing articles for your blog that no one reads.

Hey PJ, you want violence? You got it:

Or an article in today's Sun about some crap horror movie, featuring no-name local actors, filming in West Baltimore.

...but weren't you advocating for exactly this kind of thing? If you were my editor, I would have pitched this to you (knowing how much you hate the mainstream), and been mystified by why you shot it down.

I don't know, or care, if you're old, Allan. You are inarguably lame though, a timeless quality I'm sure will stick with you your entire life.

Actually a few people started reading my changebaltimore blog again recently (I measure success on that one in early Bill James terms). However, it's still the blog nobody writes, which, even you lamo Allan are right that I need to get back on. I do write for some other regional and national publications with decent traffic however which take up some of my time. It's under my own name though, which I won't be sharing here.

Oh and thanks for writing a real article with some drama, Sam. Hopefully there's more to come. Now go find some sex to write about for christ sake. You're a nightlife reporter. This town needs some sexing up and lord knows nightlife is the place to do it.


You do seem confused. You also seem to have a pretty simplistic sense of others tastes. The problem with Mark McGrath isn't that he's "mainstream" per se. It's that he's boring and sucks. Simply because something is (or in the case of Mark McGrath, was) popular doesn't make it bad in my book.

seriously PJ, it's like you're from vaudeville. you really are a blubbering piece of [expletive], you know that?

also, TSK, has a great point that someone who glorifies Baltimore in so many unreadable ways, would even mention snubbing a local starving actor in a movie of any genre. and you still haven't defined how Mark McGrath "sucks", as it's a pretty subjective term. define.

I could be convinced, Allan, that you are an expert on both vaudeville and [expletive] from all those nights you've spent with Gram watching Tivo'd Celeb Jep under the watchful, warm, loving gaze of your prized Mark McGrath poster. Beyond that I'm done with you. Teaching you taste is a bigger waste of time than teaching Rush Limbaugh about Peace, Love and Understanding.

And with that, my brief tenure on Midnight Sun is done folks. Thanks for putting up with me, Sam. And I honestly hope you're able to juice this thing up over here. Again, the city could really use it.

Patapsco Jones you are without question the most pompous poster I have ever seen on this blog. On the transportation blog, maybe 3rd most pompous.

Now start typing up a 34 page rant on how useless the American Idols tour coverage was and post it please, I dare you.


Don't push her, she might actually do it. Albeit, from a comfortable lurking spot.

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.

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