BG musician is paying it back

Overnight music industry success is a matter of decades for Bowling Green musician and spoken word artist Matthew Donahue, who is one of the featured artists on the new On-U Sound compilation album Pay It All Back Vol. 8.

This is the 10th album Donahue has been featured on, this time with his stage name MAD45.

The Pay It All Back series includes recent On-U Sound releases, alternate mixes, unreleased material and teasers from forthcoming albums.

“All of this is pretty amazing and a testament to sticking with it, in terms of one’s creative efforts. Stick with it, because dreams do come true. It is amazing to be on an album release with such greats as Lee Perry, Jeb Loy Nichols, Horace Andy, Sherwood and Pinch, Tackhead and many other music legends,” Donahue said.

Donahue has two pieces on the recording, the first is solo spoken word set to music. It’s the opener for both the CD and the limited edition blue vinyl 33, called “You’ll Own Nothing.”

The second is “I Don’t Wanna Work a Fake Job,” a Tackhead piece featuring MAD45. Donahue provides both his writing talent and vocals, along with Tackhead vocalist Bernard Fowler. Fowler is also known for his vocals with the Rolling Stones, which he has worked with since 1989.

“‘I Don’t Want to Work a Fake Job,’ was an early release I did in the late 90s,” Donahue said. “More recently I revisited it and reworked it into a new version with Bowling Green musician, producer and audio engineer Walter ‘Mac’ McKeever,” Donahue said.

Producer and On-U Sound Records owner Adrian Sherwood was working on a new Tackhead album, during the pandemic shutdown, and had asked Donahue to send him some vocals to go with rhythms and beats that he had already put together.

“One of the songs I sent him was a version of Fake Job that I had written ages ago, and he liked it. More importantly, he liked the lyrics,” Donahue said.

Tackhead was an influential early industrial band, that began in the mid-1980s. Mixing in funk and dub sounds was Sherwood, who formed the band with three former members of the house band for the Sugarhill Records label, Doug Wimbish, Keith Leblanc and Skip McDonald. The three were the musicians playing behind DJ Grandmaster Flash’s 1982 hit “The Message,” and many label’s other early rap hits. The band achieved major label status after adding Fowler.

Donahue has had a long career with music in Northwest Ohio, beginning with punk bands in the 1980s, eventually being a founding member of the Great Barbecue Gods and then Universe Crew, which led him to the connection with On-U Sound Records..

“Universe Crew was signed to a subsidiary label of On-U Sound Records called Green Tea Records based out of London, England owned and operated by legendary producer Adrian Sherwood. We released a few recordings with Universe Crew and eventually the band broke up and members went their own way,” Donahue said. “I still maintained a friendship and connection with Adrian Sherwood and do recordings with him today under my music moniker MAD 45.”

Donahue is thrilled with the way things came together for the Pay It All Back Vol. 8 collection, but it didn’t happen overnight, and he has some advice for aspiring musicians.

“Stick with it. Keep going. Know that, more than likely, you will not become rich and famous. That being said, you can have a fulfilling life, some interesting experiences and create some interesting work with fellow creatives and make some great friends along the way,” Donahue said. “Stay in it for the long haul, as you never know who you will meet and what things will lead to, and you will probably have some great stories to tell!”

There is also more to come for Donahue.

“Recently I have been working quite a bit with Skip ‘Little Axe’ McDonald who is a living legend. I produced and released a live album with McDonald, under his moniker Little Axe, as well as a collaboration album and have done some recording with the supergroup Tackhead,” Donahue said of his latest work.

Donahue has wide-ranging inspirations for his music. He was a fan of Adrian Sherwood, while he was playing with the Great Barbecue Gods, that inspired him to send a cassette as an introduction to the On-U Sound label.

“I would have to say the two groups that have been most inspiring and or favorites are Motorhead and Public Enemy. Both of the groups and their leaders, Lemmy from Motorhead and Chuck D from Public Enemy have played a key role in my interest in music, songwriting and philosophy,” Donahue said. “There are also loads of others musicians as well such as instrumental rock and roll guitar players, Link Wray and Dick Dale, but also Bob Marley and producer Adrian Sherwood and On-U Sound Records as well as Skip “Little Axe” McDonald.”

Tackhead still has a following today, along with the various dub and funk oriented side projects each of the band members are part of. However, since 1989 Fowler has also been known for his backing vocals with the Rolling Stones, and their side projects from Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, Ronnie Wood and Charlie Watts. Wimbish plays bass for Living Colour. McDonald has the blues and dub influenced Little Axe project, and extensive production credits. LeBlanc has worked with Sherwood on many projects, including Nine Inch Nails “Pretty Hate Machine.”

As with the other artists on the album, Donahue has several recording projects in the works, including more with Tackhead.

Donahue is also known in the broader art world as an award-winning documentarian and art car creator. His films have appeared on PBS stations and his art cars have been part of local installations at the Toledo Museum of Art.

He has a Ph.D. with a specialization in popular culture, through the American Culture Studies program at Bowling Green State University, and he has lectured nationally and internationally on popular culture and popular music topics.