- - Sunday, March 12, 2017

Without Miracle Legion there would be no Radiohead: Thom Yorke of the English band has long sited the Connecticut band’s songwriting and deeply personal lyrical delivery as the No. 1 influence on how his group came to be. And while they may not be a household name like Radiohead or the band they are often compared to (REM), Miracle Legion holds a place in the hearts of both critics and a rabid group of loyal fans for taking smart, jangly college rock to the masses.

After decades away the boys are back: Mark Mulcahy, Scott Boultier, Dave McCaffrey and the enigmatic man of mystery, Mr. Ray Neal. The reunited lineup will play a slew of dates in April including New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Hamden, Connecticut and Philadelphia April 20.

The mercurial Mr. Neal discussed the band’s reunion, the time he “pocketed” some of Prince’s picks and what he really does for a living.

Question: How did Miracle Legion form?

Answer: We were lucky that somehow in 1978 in New Haven, Connecticut, this punk rock scene happened. I was a suburban kid, and I discovered this club called Ron’s Place. There were prostitutes and people pulling out guns. It was great! (Laughs.)

Mark was the drummer in a band called The Saucers. I liked the band. I think they discovered I had access to a truck, so they started including me. I became the roadie.

Q: How did you transition from roadie to band member?

A: I got back to playing guitar around the time I found the club. Mark was the drummer for everybody at the time. I was in a band called Stray Divides with Kirk Swan, who went on to form Dumptruck.

When Kirk left, Mark and I said, “Man, the songwriter always leaves. Then we’re stuck.” We decided to write some songs. It was kind of accidental because we just did it. We released a cassette called “A Simple Thing.” Think we made 100 of them just for a laugh. Someone at Sounds, the old music paper in the U.K., reviewed it. We still don’t know how that happened.

Q: As a duo you recorded Miracle Legion’s “Me & Mr. Ray” album. Many consider it the band’s best. Do you?

A: I like it. It’s only recently that I’ve been actually able to listen to it again. When we made it, I just heard all the things I wished I’d done differently.

I like our album “Portrait of a Damaged Family” because I feel it combined [“Me & Mr. Ray“‘s intimacy] with what I learned about recording guitars while making “Drenched.”

Q: Because of the album, does everyone always call you “Mr. Ray”?

A: People do call me Mr. Ray a lot, which is weird. They come up and say, “Hey, Mr. Ray!”

As my friend, you can call me Ray.

Q: How did you guys end up recording it at Paisley Park studios?

A: Prince walked past me when we were recording. He was shorter than I even imagined he was. (Laughs.) I don’t know how we ended up there. I think the guy that produced us while we were there must have had some kind of deal.

How the hell did we get to Paisley Park? I remember when we got off the plane, there was a limousine waiting and the driver was a girl in a sexy uniform. Amazing. He was on tour while we were recording, and he flew back in to record for 48 hours. We had to move out of the room we were in to another room.

When he left, we went back and the studio was full of his stuff [like] heart-shaped picks. I grabbed some of those.

Q: Why did you decide not to make music for the “Adventures of Pete & Pete” show?

A: I was fed up. The last deal we had was on the album “Drenched” on the Morgan Creek label. They completely screwed us over. They spent a lot of money but they didn’t do anything.

We were going to do another record and spent a month in a cottage in Newport, Rhode Island, rehearsing. We were literally a week away from going to Daniel Lanois’ studio, and I remember Mark getting off the phone with the label and saying, “They’re not making the record. But they’re not gonna drop us.”

We were trapped in that for two years. I was in a bad way. My wife at the time wouldn’t let me watch MTV because I would yell at the TV.

Q: Did you leave music completely?

A: I could go a long time without playing the guitar. I realized that if I do anything well, what I do well is make music.

Q: What brought you back into the band?

A: Last year’s Polaris tour went really well. Mark was kind of surprised. We started to talk. I have been living in Scotland for the last few years. We didn’t really know if anyone would be interested. And they were.

I was really worried because I didn’t want to do a nostalgia tour. If it didn’t feel as real as it did in the past, then I really didn’t have any interest in it. But it exceeded my expectations.

Q: How has the relationship with Mark evolved over the past 20 years?

A: It is exactly the same. We’re hopefully gonna sit down and write some songs. There are no specific plans, but I certainly think it’s possible. I would love to do it.

Mark is more creative than ever, and I feel like my guitar playing has moved to different places. There is a live record coming out at some point from the shows we did last summer. Mark’s making a living off of music. I’m in a great position where I just play music.

Q: If you don’t rely on music to make a living, how do you make a living?

A: I’m an international drug trafficker. (Laughs.)

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