Macha men

More than a decade after fronting one of Dallas' first new-wave bands, Joshua and Mischo McKay go out of this world

Macha is a world away, quite literally, from what the McKays were doing 15 years ago in Dallas, when they recorded a locally released EP called Bananarchy. The record was released under the name Josho Mischo, a moniker bestowed upon them on the spot by DJ George Gimarc, who debuted the boys' song "Abe Vigoda" on his Rock and Roll Alternative radio show. Gimarc and Jordan Sussman, then the host of KNON-FM's Saturday-afternoon radio haven Where's Your ID?, played Josho Mischo so often you would have thought it was the only band from Dallas not named 4 Reasons Unknown or Point Blank. The EP was "a precious little thing," as Matt Kadane affectionately refers to it, meaning it contained smart pop made by precocious teenagers absorbing and regurgitating everything all around them all at once. Each song contained a thousand notions crammed into a few minutes; no single tune could contain everything Joshua had to get out of him.

At the time, Josho Mischo seemed awfully important to those of us in Dallas who believed rock and roll would forever remain in the hands of old men only pretending to be young. It offered hope, solace, not to mention proof that kids our age--15, by God!--and in our sorry town could make a record without grown-ups getting in the way. And it proved that not everyone making music in Dallas wanted to be ZZ Top or MTV basement-tape suck-ups.

"I also thought Josh was some kind of a musical genius," Matt Kadane says of Josho Mischo. "Not that I wanted to play the kind of music he did exactly, but I've always thought that he has a way with melody, bass lines, chord structures, even lyrics."

The McKays would prefer to let Josho Mischo remain buried, forgotten about, perhaps only because they now find the name so cutesy and unfortunate. "What's that?" Mischo likes to say when asked about Josho Mischo. "I don't know what you're talking about."

But Joshua admits he's not so ashamed of the music he and his brother made so long ago. There are often times when he thinks Josho Mischo hints at what would become Macha--the thrill of throwing so much into the pot and seeing what would spill out, the notion that they could make music for themselves and only hope other people would come along for the ride.

"The Josho Mischo EP sounds just like Macha in a weird way," Joshua says. "The stuff has always had shadings of this undercurrent of non-Western melodic and rhythmic sounds. The one thing I make a rule for myself is if I'm doing something that reminds me of something else, I drop it. Josho Mischo was like opening the top of our heads and letting every last idea that could have had a twinkle get full airtime for three seconds in a song with 500 changes. That thing was a complete plug-us-into-the-wall-and-let-it-rip, the product of overactive imaginations. We had 30 songs we could work up, and we were ready to record. That was youthful energy venting itself at 100 miles an hour."

The McKays played live only briefly, from 1986 to '87, with Wes Martin on guitar. The brothers wanted to change the name of the band, but Martin insisted they keep it, if only because the McKays already had some name recognition around town. (Astonishing that the brothers never held it against him when asking Martin to join Macha.) Though Josho Mischo recorded more than 30 songs and sent them to the likes of Gimarc almost weekly, the boys never recorded after Bananarchy because they could never find any money to do so. "And thank God," says Mischo.

Joshua eventually left in late 1987 for Gainesville, Florida, to join Aleka's Attic with River Phoenix. That band would record here and there, even cutting a rather unimpressive four-song demo for Island Records that briefly made the rock-crit rounds. But Joshua was never willing to move to Los Angeles to wait while Phoenix made one movie after the next. Mischo remained in town and finished up his art studies at University of North Texas and SMU; he had, after all, won a prestigious Dallas Museum of Art award when he was 17, besting artists twice his age. During that period, Mischo also played in another band with the Kadanes and Martie Erwin on violin--yes, the very same gal who would become a double-platinum Dixie Chick. (The band's name, best left to the amnesia, was taken from an unreleased XTC song.)

Eventually, in 1991, Mischo and his mother, Cynthia, also relocated to Gainesville. The McKays had discovered that their mother was ill with cancer and thought the move to Gainesville--home of the renowned University of Florida Cancer Center--would do her good. Cynthia McKay had raised her boys alone; the brothers' father, a jazz musician, was "not in the picture," Mischo says. She was left to take care of her infant sons, and she infused in them her love of music--a passion that included Smithsonian Folkways world folk music alongside American rock, jazz, and R&B.

"She was a painter who was in New York in the late '50s and traveled Italy for a year," Mischo says. "She was an incredible human. She was very into music and hung out with all the jazz musicians in Europe in the late '50s. She was into the Stones, Leonard Cohen, Otis Redding, and also had lots of the Smithsonian Folkways ethnic records, and Josh totally plugged into it. He would play these records as a little boy. Her aesthetic created who we are."

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