One of the most powerful rock drummers of the day, Jason Mackenroth, best known as the high-energy percussive pulse behind Rollins Band and Los Angeles power trio Mother Superior, steps out front with a new band and its eponymously titled debut album, Mack.
Jason’s explosive signature style was honed during the course of four worldwide Rollins Band tours, seven Rollins Band CDs and six Mother Superior releases. During this period, Mackenroth also toured with Grammy-winning producer Daniel Lanois (U2, Bob Dylan, Neville Brothers, Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson) as the drummer for his 2003 U.S. and European Shine tour, with Jason’s Mother Superior band mates filling out Lanois’ touring band.
In late 2003, Jason parted ways with Mother Superior. It was a necessary but extremely painful step, making a break with his longtime friends. Alone and deeply depressed, Jason channeled his angst into writing the songs that eventually became Mack. Finding himself without a label or a band, Mackenroth recruited friends John Kuker (Semisonic, Mudvayne, Girls Against Boys) and Jacques Wait (named “Producer of the Year” in 2004 by the Minneapolis Music Academy and an esteemed engineer who’s worked with super-producers Steve Lillywhite and Eddie Kramer) to record Mack. Jason handled all lead vocals, rhythm guitars and, of course, drums while Jacques and John, in addition to producing and engineering the sessions at John’s Seedy Underbelly studios in Los Angeles, played bass and lead guitar respectively. Angry and unapologetic, the album was recorded with the same fury with which it had been written – in ten short days (plus one day of mixing).
“I never intended to leave Mother Superior to start a new band,” explains Mackenroth. “It wasn’t preconceived, there was just nothing else I could do.”
Mack erupts at breakneck speed with the reckless, raw energy of “Welcome Wasted Again,” concerning the tendency to combat pain by numbing the senses. The menacing, dirge-like “Lost” also deals with Jason’s “lost” period, post-Mother Superior. “It’s about leaving people you’ve been brothers and creative partners with for years and not knowing what the hell is going on,” says Mackenroth. The savagely beautiful “Mystified” takes the viewpoint of the onlooker to an unexpected breakup, the one who’s left wondering why.
While songs such as these were clearly inspired by Jason’s departure from Mother Superior, there are numerous tracks that recount the band’s highs and lows in a more humorous fashion. (Mackenroth wrote all of Mack’s nine songs, with the exception of “Torn In Two,” an early song he co-wrote with his Mother Superior band mates.) “Dry County Shakedown” is based on a run-in the guys had with the cops in Mississippi while on tour with the legendary MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer, whom they had met while recording the Rollins Band’s 2000 DreamWorks release Get Some Go Again. (Kramer subsequently released Mother Superior’s SIN on his MuscleTone label in 2002 and produced 13 Violets, their 2004 Top Beat release.) “I took some liberties with the story,” laughs Jason. “We’ve had some weird things happen on tour, but we’ve never actually been shot at!” “Going For The Thrill” is an adrenalized celebration of a night out in Hollywood, the band’s adopted hometown, while the ferocious, sexually-explicit “3’Some” is based on an incident documented by L.A. journalist Jim Freak when Hollywood’s Sisters Grim attended a Mother Superior show at the Garage.
Jason Mackenroth was born in Sacramento on May 9, 1969, and started playing drums at Rio Americano High School where he graduated in 1987. He eventually played the coveted center snare with the Sacramento Freelancers, a highly ranked DCI Drum and Bugle Corps, during the 1987 and 1988 seasons.
Mackenroth moved to Los Angeles in 1989, where he co-founded the power trio Mother Superior, which attracted the attention of Henry Rollins. Rollins who was the leader of punk icons Black Flag and also an acclaimed solo artist, produced two Mother Superior albums and had the group join him in the Rollins Band. Mackenroth played with the Rollins Band on seven albums and four world tours.
In a 2005 interview with The Sacramento Bee’s Chris Macias, Mackenroth talked about how his Drum Corps experience prepared him for life on the road with Rollins. “Drum Corps definitely trained me for that one,” says Mackenroth. “It also shaped my whole concept of rhythmic timing, and keeping beats on (point).”
In 1998, Henry Rollins asked Jason and the rest of Mother Superior to join him in the studio for what at the time was to be a “solo” record. They wrote five songs together the first night and soon Mother Superior was doing double-duty as Rollins Band. Their alliance with Rollins afforded them some mind-blowing opportunities. In 2000, Henry ran into George Clinton at a Grammy party. Clinton asked Henry and the band to join him to record at Hollywood’s famous Cherokee recording studios resulting in three as-yet unreleased tracks.
“George Clinton thought Jason was just the shit,” Rollins told Australia’s Beat 10 in an interview. “I mean Clinton freaked out on him. It was so cool…”
Another highlight was making 2002’s Rise Above: 24 Black Flag Songs to Benefit the West Memphis Three, which found the band backing Black Flag’s Rollins, Keith Morris and Chuck Dukowski along with an astounding array of guest vocalists, including Iggy Pop, Ice T, Tom Araya of Slayer, Exene Cervenka and Motorhead’s Lemmy.
“I couldn‘t help telling certain people what I was up to way before we actually finished the album,” says Jason, “including Henry, and even Ian MacKaye. Henry’s always been supportive of our personal projects but when I told Ian I was doing my own record, he said, ‘I have to hear that!’”
After backing numerous music legends, it's Jason Mackenroth's turn to – in the words of “Welcome Wasted Again” – “set the world on fire for everyone to see.” If the incendiary Mack is any indication, he’s definitely up to the task.
Factoid: Jason Mackenroth marched as section leader and Center Snare for the Sacramento Freelancers Drum & Bugle Corps in the 80's. 2005 and 2006 saw Jason playing snare again for the River City Regiment Drum Corps.
More recently Jason Mackenroth was the kit drummer in the Blue Man Group band for eight years. He stayed behind the drums throughout his four-year battle with prostate cancer, playing the show through Christmas Eve, 10 days before his death Sunday (January 3, 2016). Jason Mackenroth was 46.