Mick Chorba is probably best known as the man behind The Dipsomaniacs, one of New Jersey's best and sadly overlooked bands. Currently, he spends most of his time with the band, The Successful Failures, who will be releasing a new CD out in a few months. We caught up with Mick through an email interview to talk about his bands, the upcoming record, and his record company - Face Down Records.
What does it mean to you to be a successful failure? Sometimes I think nearly everyone I know could be called a successful failure :)
Yeah, we all succeed at failing and of course you learn more from your mistakes than from your successes. Failing is just more interesting to me. Though you could take the name like we used to be failures but are now... well, successful. It's confusing. The band's name appears in a Bob Dylan song (Love Minus Zero/No Limit). But I actually took the name form a Jack London short story called "Minians of Midas". He's one of my favorite writers and that phrase really grabbed my imagination when I read it. I wrote it down in a notebook a long time ago and planned to use it if I ever started another band.
What was the reason for starting "The Successful Failures" band? Was it to give tunes that you couldn't see the Dipsos playing a chance? Poking fun at your career?
The SF band was started as an outlet for my extra tunes. It's a totally different group of guys and in my opinion a different sound (though similar since I am in both equations). It started as a side project and is my main gig for the moment. We've had a great run of good shows and lots of creativity. I'm really proud of our last CDs and the new one is progressing as planned.
The Successful Failures will be playing a bunch of shows this summer as you wrap up production of the band's next CD. Do you try to push one band over the other right now? Or is it just luck of the draw that SF is doing more shows than the Dipsos?
Right now I'm only playing with The Successful Failures - I'm also doing some acoustic shows with Greg Potter from Blank Pages and Ron BeChamps from The Successful Failures. The Dipsos are on a sort of unofficial hiatus. We decided to really focus on making a good CD and then take a break unless we got some great opportunity - I think we did make a great CD with Social Crutch (we released the album in February of this year). I'm proud of it and glad we finally finished it and released it. Our longtime guitar player, Ron Mitchell, left the band in 2006 or early 2007. He is a founding member and had been with me and Tom since like '92. Matt Maciolek, our bass player has been in the band since '96 - so that was a long run with the same line-up. We kind of weren't sure what we were going to do after Ron left - we tried out some guys that didn't work out. Eventually, we made the new album with Paul Crane (from Bastards of Melody) on guitar and that worked out great. He also played some banjo for us on one of the songs (a Dipso first).
Tell me about the upcoming CD by SF. How many tracks does it have? I know you have a single available online right now. When can people expect the disc to be available?
The new SF CD is going to have about 12 songs on it - we've been working on 20 plus songs and have been whittling it down. I think we recorded about 16 or 17 tracks. It's going to be similar to "Ripe for the Burning" but a little more guitar heavy. It rocks. I built a new studio in my detached garage and this will be the first album produced out of there.
When you do solo shows, is the audience usually Dipso fans, SF fans, or both? Have you noticed separate fanbases?
Since the Dipsos have been around so long and have such a great back catalog more people know us - the Dipsos songs are consistently downloaded and I still sell CDs from the Dipsomaniacs even though we are not really playing shows right now. With The Successful Failures I really had to start over. It's hard. But our live shows are well attended and it's all very exciting. Of course when my friends and family come out it doesn't matter... It's just me and my songs. It really helped The Successful Failures to record out in Knoxville with Don Coffey from Superdrag. We met a lot of cool people that has helped to open some doors for us. We've also traveled a lot having done shows in the last two years in Chicago, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Baltimore, Richmond, Tennessee, North Carolina, DE... bunch of other places too. We played a house concert in Madison WI and someone came out to see us who had seen us in Raleigh, NC. He had a recording of our show that he had been listening to but didn't have any of our CDs... small world.
The Dipsos have been plugging away for so long now. How does it feel when people refer to the Dipsomaniacs as a New Jersey institution (as I think I read somewhere recently)?
That's great! I like that. The Dipsomaniacs should be institutionalized. Yes, that seems right. We've worked so hard for so long and put out 6 CDs that I think are all really very good and hold up to a lot of music that I like. In everything we've done we've always been proud of our NJ roots. I'm glad to be known as a NJ artist. It's like that song by John Gorka "I'm from New Jersey.... People from NJ try harder..." always liked that line.
A Dipsomaniac is a relatively old term describing a medical condition involving an uncontrollable craving for alcohol. I know the name probably sounded extremely cool to you 15 years ago... Have you ever run into any problems with the name from anti-alcohol groups? Are you on MADD's hit list?
Nobody has ever paid any mind to it. Tom, our drummer, came up with the name. And maybe at the time when we were like 22 years old it did seem funny but it's just a name. The band really doesn't have anything to do with craving alcohol... we are about good rock n roll, garage, power pop... Playing honest heartfelt tunes.
What's going on with FDR Records? Any new releases to watch out for? Do you look for talent on a regular basis? Do you plan on continue to release actual CDs or do you foresee moving towards download-only releases?
I'm trying to figure out how to continue to be a label in an age when no-one buys CDs... I'll keep you posted. I'm really just focusing now on my songwriting and recording in my new studio. Also - my focus is playing live shows. That more things become internet based and digitized the more important, I think, it is to be a real band who can show up, plug in and rock a room, connect to people standing there listening to music. Honestly, I get paid more frequently now with digital downloads so I like that but everything has changed so much I'm just sort of waiting to make my next move as a label - I'm not sure what I want to do.
Finally, if you had to list one or two of the highlights of your career, what would they be and why?
The highlight for me was the whole Dipsomaniacs experience with the Little Steven Underground Garage contest in 2004-2005. We won a lot of gear, got to open for Pat Benatar to over 10,000 people then played Irving Plaza in NYC opening for Rocket form the Crypt. It was awesome and such a rollercoaster ride. I remember feeling so vindicated. The Dipsos have always been a hard working band but we never had a lot of luck - it felt great for things to work out and for once and to get some recognition from people in music. We/the Dipsos also played with and recorded with one of our guitar heroes, Tommy Conwell, for the FDR Who Tribute - that was so cool! As far as cool stuff with SF - hanging out with Don Coffey form Superdrag in Knoxville, Tennessee was way cool - we played at a festival he organized then worked with him in his studio for 3 or 4 days. We crashed at his place and just had a blast.
Gary Wien has been covering the arts since 2001 and has had work published with Jersey Arts, Elmore Magazine, Princeton Magazine, Backstreets and other publications. He is a three-time winner of the Asbury Music Award for Top Music Journalist and the author of Beyond the Palace (the first book on the history of rock and roll in Asbury Park) and Are You Listening? The Top 100 Albums of 2001-2010 by New Jersey Artists. In addition, he runs New Jersey Stage and the online radio station The Penguin Rocks. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.