Interview: Fred Mascherino of Terrible Things

Terrible Things

What started as a chance meeting between guitarist Fred Mascherino, a humble, but dedicated guitarist from Pennsylvania and I in a living room in Athens, Ohio, in the ‘00s, blossomed into an invitation to play in the Gem City.  In turn, their dedication to routing most tour plans through Riverside’s Knights of Columbus Hall instigated a long-running love affair between Dayton music lovers and Mascherino’s trio Breaking Pangaea.
In 2003, the opportunity to join Taking Back Sunday sent Mascherino (and drummer Will Noon, who played in Starlight Run, and now mans the skins for .fun) in more ambitious directions.  During his tenure with TBS, Mascherino and the band encountered commercial success, including a #3 spot on the Billboard charts.  In 2007, Mascherino left the band to pursue his own songwriting, making a record under The Color Fred moniker, and later formed Terrible Things with Andy Jackson (Hot Rod Circuit) and Josh Eppard (Coheed and Cambria), releasing their 2010 self-titled record for Universal Motown.
Jackson and Eppard left the fold in 2011, and Mascherino spent nine weeks on the road in early 2012 with 90s alt-rock staple The Lemonheads, which reinvigorated his desire to reinvent Terrible Things, shedding the punk and emo templates that previously held him back in favor of a vintage rock direction. 
Ghettoblaster caught up with Mascherino prior to a brief tour of the midwest to discuss the band’s forthcoming record, new lineup (which includes Aaron Van Allen and Steve Curtiss), the death of Ryan Dunn, Coheed and Cambria, and more…
You’ve had a long history of playing shows in Dayton, beginning with your band Breaking Pangaea.  How does it feel to be headed back this direction this October?
I’m definitely super excited.  Those old shows were legendary at the Knights of Columbus.  I hope to see a lot of familiar faces.  We’re all a little bit older, but I think we’re just as wild now. 
You took a little break from touring with your own bands to do some shows with The Lemonheads earlier this year.  What was that experience like, and how did that differ from what you were used to?
I did nine weeks playing bass for The Lemonheads.  Playing bass alone was a new experience for me.  I had to buy a bass.  I didn’t even own one.  There were a lot of backup vocals that I got to do, which I enjoyed.  Really the best part was that I was such a big fan of them in high school, so it was neat to play those songs and to learn more about the history of those songs and the history of the band.  Evan Dando is a very sweet-hearted guy.  I hope to do some shows with them in the future, although I’m pretty excited about getting back to my own stuff.
It is different when you’re playing for someone else versus playing your own songs…ofcourse that is where my heart lies.  But it was still a really neat experience playing with those guys.
I hate to interrupt, but I should probably put my dog out.  I’m sorry, there is a dog in my yard, it will be one second…
So you have a dog?
I just got her in the Spring.
What kind of dog is she?
She’s actually a pitbull.  We went through a rescue.  They found her in Philly and she had been hit by a car.  She had a couple broken legs.  They fixed her all up, and she’s really grateful that…she’s like my kids’ best friend now.  It is a happy ending for her.
You have some experience with pitbulls from the first Taking Back Sunday video you did, don’t you?
Yeah, our drummer Mark O’Connell had pitbulls.  I always thought they were the coolest dogs.  Ofcourse they get a bad rap.  They are great with kids and everything when you realize that it is the owners who make them bad dogs.  Michael Vick is in Philly so we always hear about him.  He had about 100 dogs and all but one of them were rehabilitated so they are resilient too.
That’s great.  So you were doing double duty on The Lemonheads tour.  Was it difficult to play two sets a night?
Yeah, I was also opening the show acoustic.  It was sort of an on the fly thing where I would do it if we didn’t have a local opener.  I never really knew if I was playing or not.  It was a very laid back camp.  1990s rockers…they were kind of like, “You want to go on?  Go ahead.”  So I enjoyed that too.  That’s another thing that sort of made me feel like I wanted to be playing my own songs.  I always get more out of that.
Around that same time period Ryan Dunn was killed and I’ve seen some pictures online of you with Ryan.  Did you know him?
Yeah.  He was actually a close friend of Steve Curtis who is drumming for us now and played drums in The Color Fred.  When he died I was just leaving for a tour that day and was picking up my van from the mechanic.  The mechanic didn’t know that I knew him and said really unsympathetically, “Hey, the Jackass guy died.”  So I found out in an insensitive way, which happens when a person is well known.  It was a sad thing.  It kind of changed some things in our town.  You see some friends less at the bar now because they’re done with being wild.  It is definitely always on my friends’ minds.  It will take some time to get over. 
I knew him well enough.  We have a bar in town called the note that Bam (Margera) opened.  We all…me and all my friends hang out there.  They have national acts play.  Dashboard Confessional played last week and the um…oh shoot…who is the world’s biggest stoner rock band?  I think they play with two drummers?  I’m just blanking. 
I’m not sure.
I’m sorry.  You probably listen to them, but I can’t remember their damn name right now.  Anyway…that’s kind of the deal.  It sucks.  It is obviously part of life.  It sucked for me because I was on tour and wasn’t really around.  It wasn’t real to me until I got back.
So when you got back from that tour you started writing for the new Terrible Things record or had you been writing before that?
I was demoing.  When I got back from The Lemonheads they were going to Europe.  I could have done that, but I decided that I needed to get the Terrible Things record under way.  I actually decided that I was going to record it at my house and that I was going to play all of the instruments.  That was the biggest undertaking I’d ever done.  I’ve never produced my own records and I’ve never played drums on a record, although I’ve played since high school. 
I felt like I needed to make something without any other input other than my own ideas.  I came to this realization because I played some of the demos for friends of mine and just getting the reaction kind of affected what the music was going to be.  So I decided not to play any of the music for anyone now until it is completely done. 
Jason Elgin who produced our first record helped me with some of the sounds.  I would send him drum tracks and he would tell me to change the heads or tune them a different way.  So he offered technical advice, but other than that I just kept going on my own, doing what I thought sounded the best.  So, now that this record is done, I feel like it stands apart from anything else I’ve done in the last five years.  It is more of the real me. 
I’m not holding back in any way, vocally or guitar-wise.  It feels great.  I’m super excited to get out there playing this stuff.  It has a different thing to it.  It is hard to put your finger on it.  People will say that its more rock.  It has some Zeppelin going on, or Deftones.  Some of it is a little heavier.  It is just more grounded and less poppy than some other stuff I’ve done like The Color Fred record. 
I think I saw on your Facebook that this record will included a collaboration with the guys from Balance and Composure.  Was that for your record?
That’s for this record.  He’s the one musician that’s on this besides me; Jon Simmons that sings in Balance and Composure.  He sings on a song called “Last Look.”  Those guys are from PA near me, so Jon and I went out for Chinese food and I talked him into coming to the house.  He was digging this one song that I had, so I said, “Let’s see what you sound like singing on here.  He really brings a nice element to the record.  The song he picked is a southern rock thing. 
When I say “rock” by the way, this doesn’t sound very modern.  This is a record that we’re putting out on vinyl, because it needs to be thought of as a more vintage sound.  The whole record wasn’t compressed by the mastering guys the way they usually do.  Jason Elgin mixed it.  A lot of records these days have a shiny loudness to it.  I didn’t want that.  So we kept it very old school sounding.  We kept it very old school sounding, like even before I was born sounding.
It feels awesome.  It is something that I haven’t heard in a long time and I think people are going to notice that it doesn’t sound like every other record out there?
Is Universal Motown putting this record out too, or are you going a different direction?
I’m self-releasing this.  I’ve got some help from some good friends, like the guys in the band.  We are doing everything ourselves this time around.  We are pressing vinyl ourselves.  Luckily in the spirit of that some of my artist friends have been throwing in their time.  I have a friend helping me manage the whole pressing plant part of it.  So much of this I couldn’t do without Jason Elgin.
My wife, Elena, actually painted the cover.  Our whole house is filled with gigantic paintings and I finally got her to do one for me after years of asking.  So that’s what the cover is.  It is all very do-it-yourself.  After Thanksgiving we are heading out on a house show tour with Geoff Rickly (Thursday) and Garret Klahn (Texas Is The Reason).  We are putting out the record at the end of November too.
Where all are you going on this trek that stops in Dayton? 
We will be hitting Dayton, Cleveland, Chicago, Pittsburg and New Jersey.  We are trying to add Detroit also.  This is a little run.  This is just a tour to get the word out that we’re playing again.  I’m really excited about the band I have and we’re all eager to get out there.  We all live in the same town now.  The last lineup I had was from Alabama and Albany, NY, and it was impossible to get together.  With this band, we are able to rehearse whenever and it has just been so good and the music really benefits from that.
Can we expect to hear some Breaking Pangaea tracks during your trip back here or will it exclusively be Terrible Things? 
I have certain sections of the set where the band plays hints at some of the old stuff that I’ve done.  We have a couple Breaking Pangaea parts that we play.  Maybe if…I’m always game for an acoustic…I’m always game for taking requests on the acoustic if the crowd is asking for it.  I always try to give the crowd what they want.  Maybe there is still time to relearn some of those songs.  We were going to try to, but we just kept working on the new stuff.  You won’t be let down, I’ll tell you that. 
Did I read that you had a chance to catch up with Josh Eppard (former Terrible Things drummer) last week?
Yeah, I went to see Coheed and Cambria last week in Atlantic City.  It was a huge, sold-out show at House of Blues.  It was great.  I hadn’t seen him in almost a year, though we talk on the phone once a week.  His playing was great, he looked healthy, so…I do miss hanging out with him so it was nice.  I’m really excited for their new record.  I can’t wait to dive into that one and see what Josh did this time. 
I’m really proud of him.  We loved playing together, but when the opportunity came for him to do Coheed again I had to tell him to go for it.  It was a chance for him to do something…he wanted to re-do that situation and claim that spot again.  I know how he feels, so I’m glad that its working out for him.  It is really better for everyone.
( For more information visit