Interview: Michael Des Barres Redefines ‘Renaissance Man,’ Performs with New Band in DTLA Wednesday Night

New Single ‘Crackle and Hiss’ a Love Letter to Vinyl


Michael Des Barres and The Mistakes will be hitting the Redwood stage in downtown LA on Aug. 28. Armed with a new single, “Crackle and Hiss” with a B side of “Stop in the Name of Love,” the band is getting noticed and is gaining popularity and fans.

Des Barres is no stranger to attracting attention. Everywhere he goes his naturally fun personality draws people in. In most cases, people know who he is: The British rocker who was on the TV show MacGyver. 

He’s been extremely popular and said he has a new lease on life with a hit radio show on Sirius XM that has about 5 million fans. 

But his heart is on the stage and that’s where he will be on Wednesday. Glitter Trash opens for Michael Des Barres and The Mistakes.

“It’s my fifth band in five decades,” Des Barres said. “And they all have one thing in common though: Me.”

Had Des Barres gone in another direction the charming theatre major could have easily been a comedian. He’s quick-witted and always armed random observations from his stream of consciousness discussions. He also pokes fun with self-deprecating jokes.

“What I bring to the table is three-chord Rock N Roll,” he said. “Unabashed Rock N Roll. I’ve never played anything else. Even when I joined the Power  Station, that was all funky and Robert Palmer soul but not with me. The caveat is I adored Robert Palmer and knew him years before the Power Station. The only thing that has changed is the lyrical maturity. But Rock N Roll has always been my thing. 

“I started acting when I was 8, I did ‘To Sir With Love’ when I was 16,'” he said. “My father is a Marquis and therefore I have that title, but he was an embezzler. At birth my education was paid for. I attended boarding school. During the vacations I stayed in the schools, it was very cruel, but I became a real academition. I read every book in the library. I’m not a monosyllabic rock and roller, I learned about Marcus Aurelius and Oscar Wilde. I had an incredible education, but I was an exhibitionist, I wanted to be loved. And it was the same then as it is today.” 

Michael Des Barres on the radio – Courtesy

The Early Years – Music and Theater

His love for acting and music got him through his school years, particularly when at 13 he was in Derbyshire, he said.   

“It was foggy and depressing but not for me because The Beatles came along and The Blues came along and I became fixated on Muddy Waters,” he said. “Then I came to London at 16 and got that movie.” 

Des Barres has had several starring roles, including the role of Murdoc on the American TV show, “MacGyver” and he’s been in the bands, but his personal life has also had some great support. He’s gotten a new lease on life from his marriage to his lady of 10 years, Britta, and his radio show on Sirius which he has been at for five years.

“I do the show from home and that gave me another wonderful chapter because of Steven Van Zant who is one of the most inspiring, most educated and most Rock N Roll guy. This guy is a true mentor to so many and I thought my days of being mentored were long gone. We met in the 1980s when Chequered Past supported SVZ.”

Des Barres and his wife like to travel and it’s one of the activities that gives the two a positive outlook.

“Britta is an amazing woman,” he said. “I met her 10 years ago we got married in December last year after being together 10 years. I’ve always been very women inclined, not on a sexual level per se, but I prefer women in every sense. Not that there’s anything wrong with boys. I support the LGBT,  I’ve been in British theatre all my life and Rock and Roll all my life. Hello.

“Britta’s indescribably smart and loves Patti Smith and Nick Cave,” he said. “We work so hard so what we do is travel. We love to travel because when you do that, the shackles of domesticity shatter and you escape the chains of the repetition of life. The newness maintains the newness in your life. Go somewhere. So we’ll go to Santa Barbara or we’ll go to Palm Springs.”

He doesn’t try but he can’t shake the need to play music. And at 71 he considers himself still a work in progress.

“Let me tell you the thing about The Mistakes: We make many of them,” he said. “And we’re loud and we’re all 17. When you’re young and you’re in a band, You know Silverhead everything was erotic, sensual and it was the early ’70s it was mascara we had worn for weeks, you know dirty sweet and beautiful and we played from our instincts it was sexual and physical instincts. We didn’t give a shit about billboards and fame. I already knew what that tasted like. And having to “be” something takes everything away. It’s a caricature and a lot of people die from it at 27. You get eaten by yourself, you get eaten by the creature you’ve created. As time went on I’d become more professional which is a horrible word in my opinion. It ruins it. ”

There’s a new single, “Crackle and Hiss,” the B side of which, “Stop in the Name of Love,” is getting a lot of air play. How did the new band get together?

“What happened with The Mistakes is I found Paul Ill 10 years ago,” Des Barres said. “I’ve been writing with Paul Ill, he’s a renowned studio bass player. He introduced me to Loren Molinare. Loren Molinare is you know, well if you hear his guitar solo on ‘Stop in the Name of Love’ – It’s getting massive airplay. Loren is one of greatest guitar players of all time. He’s from Detroit. We’re very MC5 — MC69 is what I call it. It’s fun, we make you laugh, make you dance make you think. 

“‘Crackle and Hiss’ is an homage to vinyl,” he said. “I play on my show every day, 5 million listeners agree with me.The drummer Matt Starr is outstanding. He’s a fabulous rocker and we have on the other guitar is Eric Himel, he’s fabulous, and then you have this guy, this royal aristocratic guy Michael des Barres. A humble man, a sweet ,vulnerable, consummate amateur. He sings. But it’s a lovely experience. We all get along very well, we’re all there for one another and all dressed in black and turned up to 11.

Michael Des Barres and Mistakes at Redwood – Courtesy

The Band Gets By by Loving Each Other

“The hipness and relevence is this: Love yourself and you will be loved,” he said. “Give everything you’ve got to everybody you meet. Shine a light on everyone you see and every dark room you enter and you will live a beautiful life. Let’s take care of each other, now more than ever. Relevance has nothing to do with it. Loving your brothers and sisters. The only way we can beat the ugliness and criminality of the culture we live in is by giving a shit about each other. 

Is he a ‘Star’ or is he grounded?

“I don’t want to be grounded,” he said. “That’s like having to stay in your room. I am the opposite of grounded. To be perfectly candid, I don’t think too much. I just do it. Whatever ‘it’ is, I just do it. And not to the best of my ability, but I’ll do it my way. I’m the Frank fucking Sinatra of punk. I’m not grounded at all.

My signoff on Sirius is ‘Be cool, be kind be courageous,'” he said. “We’ve got to be brave. We can’t hide. That’s not going to change this dreadful situation we find ourselves in with this government. We’ve got to do something. The only thing we can do — I’m not going go riot in the streets I’d ruin my wardrobe — I’m going to be kind to the person standing next to me. It’s a ripple in the lake. We’re ripplers. We’re a ripple in the lake. I’m a rippler. Jumping Jack the rippler. 

“I’m 71 and I feel 17,” he said. “Jan 24 I will be 72. When we go to Japan I will be 72, the irony is it was 1972 when I first went to Japan. That’s a lot of Rock N Roll, a lot of gigs. It doesn’t matter how old you are it matters if you are there. Especially in Hollyweird, they’re looking over their shoulder because everyone is so filled with anxiety and competition. When you can really connect, it’s the most beautiful thing in life. My wife, Britta and I will be anywhere and I’m talking to whomever is standing next to me.” 

Des Barres said it never hurts to give a smile to another or stop and make conversation. Not only isn’t there enough of that in the world today, but making small talk or giving a compliment to a stranger opens a door.

“People are dying to be in love, dying to be journalists, dying to give you something, dying to return good vibes,” he said. “But they’re frightened. And the minute you say ‘You look beautiful today, or ‘That’s a great hat,’ they love you. They love you. We adapt a mask of terror, fright and fear. But millimeters away are kindness and love. People will smile back but if they don’t, you forgive them.” 

Michael Des Barres and The Mistakes Play The Redwood on Aug. 28, presented by In Fuzz We Trust

The Redwood is located on 316 W. Second Street in DTLA