Published on July 27th, 2017 | by Jem of DEAD1
Interview: Mark Deutrom
— Interview by Jem from Australian band DEAD. Top featured image: Jennifer Deutrom.
Mark Deutrom, a.k.a. Mark D, is a bloke I’ve respected as a musician for a long time. A lot of people know him for his past work in The Melvins, initially as a producer, releasing their music (as well as Neurosis and Poison Idea among others) through his label Alchemy Records, and finally as their bass player in the mid ’90s.
His solo material since then has been great: diverse, well considered, and always managing to evade genre. He now fronts the Texan musical project Bellringer, whose last album Jettison will soon be re-released by respected French label Season of Mist, together with solo works from Deutrom’s large discography and as his upcoming sixth solo record due this winter.
When my band hit Austin, Texas during our last U.S. tour, I met up with Mark before our show. We went and grabbed a whiskey, pressed record on a Dictaphone, and had a lengthy chat. I was pleased to find him to be an interesting, humble, and generous fellah, even if some of his bigger words went over my head.
What follows is fragments of that conversation and more as it continued via email over a period of months, during which time Mark released the new Bellringer album Jettison, which is where our story begins…
JEM: As with your solo work, there is a sense of space and patience on Jettison that seems to be rare in rock music at the moment. To what extent are you directing the band members and how much do they contribute to the compositions?
MARK: There’s actually been a bunch of stuff… the first lineup of Bellringer had an LP basically finished, but I felt it would be better to let that material come out in videos rather than release a whole LP of material that didn’t represent the current state of the project.
This came about as my label was also deciding to close shop, so it made more sense to think about the whole thing in a different way. So, Jettison is really the second Bellringer LP.
I decided to operate as a collective instead of having permanent band members, and that has really opened up the possibilities, and also removed personnel issues. Now I can continue moving forward regardless of the decisions any individual player might make about their participation.
Things are going to move into another phase coming up soon, with some higher profile activity and also different players, so I’m looking forward to more changes.
Much of what I do is refining and editing… Morton Feldman haunts my dreams… Less is definitely more for me… unless more is more.
Higher profile activity? Can you elaborate on this?
The French label Season of Mist is reissuing my back catalog as well as some new music eventually. They have an interesting multi-national roster, and a global vision, and they’re excited to work with me. All of my solo releases really suffered from a lack of promotion, so I think this time they’re going to get it.
I have an idea about possibly touring versions of each solo LP, which would be fun and challenging to try to do. Bellringer already plays material from all the albums, so it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch.
It’s been great to have new musical voices contributing and taking things into unexpected directions. I’m still the main writer and producer, so things are directed by my serving the material first. More than anything I’m paying attention to the things that people are throwing out there almost subconsciously. It’s a question of finding the gold in those moments and mining them out.
It’s the space around the sound that defines its nature more than anything.
Much of what I do is refining and editing… just throwing it out! Morton Feldman haunts my dreams… Less is definitely more for me… unless more is more.
I envision much of my material played through gigantic sound systems, and I’ve had the experience of playing through some, so I know what works in those situations. Curiously, the less you play, the bigger it sounds. SunnO))) might be an example … or maybe it’s the 37 amplifiers that make it big.
There are psychoacoustic properties at work. It’s the space around the sound that defines its nature more than anything.
Writing to the members strengths sounds simple enough, but it seems it’s still often overlooked. So you’re seeing the sound shift a fair bit with new members now?
The sound absolutely shifts with new members. I added Monique Ortiz last year, who has been affiliated with former Morphine members, and she started playing bass and doing vocals. She’s great on fretless, and also has a technique using slide on bass. It’s very cool exploring the double vocal with her, and just adds a really interesting dimension.
Aaron Lack will continue to add his multi-instrumentalist expertise as displayed on the Bellringer LP and also Brief Sensuality LP. There’s a lot of tones and chops between everyone, so I’m inspired by that.
All this is going to get incorporated and will be shifting timbres, atmospheres, and directions. Bellringer is like a cloud, and there’s going to be shapeshifting, different colors, and different directions.
It’s great to hear the back catalog is getting re-released. More and more it seems that just getting people’s attention is the hardest part. And it doesn’t help in the immediate term if your music is not instantly able to slot into a genre. It seems that many of those mid-level labels have all gone under, are releasing just a small handful of things now, or have been replaced by more genre-specific labels.
I’m glad to see it coming out with some pros looking after it. I don’t feel the material has aged, and that’s good. It’s always been tough… it’s still tough to get anything going. That’s what managers are for, I suppose.
You really have to be more talented at selling yourself than at music…
The reality of the situation is that labels don’t really want to talk to artists. They want a manager type, or some kind of middleman.
You really have to be more talented at selling yourself than at music… there are countless examples of that before us. Many people like ourselves that end up starting our own labels and then looking for distribution. That’s a lot of work also, and you have to be really driven to make it successful.
You can just distribute stuff online now and have physical materials for gigs. I’m wondering how long there will even be record stores. When this phase of the vinyl bounce ends, it will probably be even more bleak than the real end of it in the ’90s.
Do you think running your own label has put you in a better position when negotiating with other labels? It seems so many bands are clueless about that side of music.
Well I have a certain amount of experience to be sure, but I’m not a music lawyer, and ultimately you need one of those to represent your best interests. A lot of musicians are afraid to embrace some of the realities of the way you have to do business, and I should have looked after my own interests better myself in the past.
There’s a lot of complexity and nuance that is best left to professionals. As long as I’m dealing with music itself, I can do a pretty good job, but I need a specialist to decipher the legal stuff.
This isn’t a bad thing… if the transmission in my car needs attention, I’m going for a mechanic!
There is a lot of what I would term as “tasteful” or “measured” use of effects on vocals and drums on this record. Do you find it hard to work these kinds of things into a mix? You handled the mixing for album yourself, correct?
Yes, I mixed it. Once again, it’s about serving the material. I would have loved for Chad (or Joe) to do it, but the whole thing was done within strict limitations, and one of those was zero budget for a mix. So, yes, it’s very measured (and tasteful!)
I touched on this before, but with the digital thing, there are just endless options, so you can find yourself down a rabbit-hole to hell if you don’t have a map or a destination. Since I track to tape, I print a lot of processing so later it’s dialed when I pull up a track. The decisions have been made during production, and that’s what you have. You can’t pull up 45 different snare sounds (you could). You’ve committed, so you stay in the big picture. I had some tech limits also, but it’s a cool little record and everybody loves it.
Digital recording’s goals have always been to sound as good as analog, so why not just do that to begin with?
All the songs have their own little universe, and I built it as a headphone record, so get the planars out!
Do you always prefer to track to tape? The mix sounds great. I dare say another engineer would not have done a better job, but it would it have been less stress handing that over to them?
Tape sounds the best as a source. All the classic records in every genre have been recorded that way. The digital age is in its infancy, but I do feel the golden age of recording is past. The speed of change has been breathtaking… Once the big automated SSL consoles came on line, the next step was into the virtual.
That virtual environment is a model based on all the tools of analog recording that sit in reality. Digital recording’s goals have always been to sound as good as analog, so why not just do that to begin with?
It’s really cool to mess around with a virtual vintage compressor, but it’s a simulacrum, and you are working with a model of something. With tape, you are dealing with something real. It’s experiential. Granted, it’s a model of the sound in some sense, but it does exist in reality.
To have mixed the Bellringer LP in an analog chain to my satisfaction would have been cost prohibitive, but it would have been a better experience with just a different result… this is highly philosophical. A hard-drive is real also… I think… People will always want to record in recording studios. It’s a great experience.
Part of the challenge in a project is keeping the life in it…
The stress isn’t really a factor, since I like doing it. Part of the challenge in a project is keeping the life in it. By the time you get to a mix, you’ve been into a project for months and months if you’re writing it also, so handing a mix over to someone with completely fresh ears in a different place will provide an extra infusion of complexity and personality it didn’t have before. You also begin the process of letting it have it’s own life.
Much of creation is about the way you do it. The virtual certainly makes things more streamlined, productive and economic, but I’d always rather mess around with a real vintage compressor in a place with some weird furniture than stare at a monitor, if I can afford to.
In much of your recent solo musical output, I get the feeling as a listener of something impending — like a buildup to something that almost never seems to get fully resolved. This creates a lot of tension. Is this something you do deliberately?
Absolutely deliberate. I feel there is a lot of tension generally speaking at work in the world currently, so I’m absorbing and reflecting. It’s somewhat difficult to know if this is actual or perceived since the great magnifier of the web is constantly churning and belching said tension at an audience locked into an infantile state of demand.
I feel like the pond-life that has some toxic agents introduced into its water supply. I think many people feel the same…
There is more of everything, and that is certain. There is definitely a direction of expressiveness regarding that in what I’ve been doing recently, and at times I feel like the pond-life that has had some toxic agents introduced into its water supply. I think many people feel the same, but don’t have the capacity to be articulate about it, and that creates more tension and frustration.
On the other hand, there is massive distraction that attempts to point real awareness away from reality, and that creates even more tension and neurosis.
This is cyclical and can be seen in twilight of great empires throughout history. Sometimes the signposts are subtle and embedded in things like Mahler or Houellebecq, and can only be deciphered with historical hindsight. Cubism and abstract expressionism were more embedded cultural signs that something was afoot.
Currently, there is absolute disintegration at work, a nanosecond at a time. As there always has been, as there always will be. Some of us just might be more sensitive to it, and have the skills to communicate that emotional content.
Maybe it’s simply about being conscious of mortality. Probably a combination of both, I suspect. At any rate, it is a feeling, and so if you manage to detect any feelings in what I’m doing, I’ve been successful.
Is there a sense for you that music is used to process your feelings? Or is it more of a reflection of the world around you?
It’s just a language I happen to be able to converse in. Like any language, there are a lot of things you can say in it, and one is only limited by their vocabulary, and their ability to use that to convey emotive or intellectual content: the more complex the emotions and ideas you’re trying to convey, the larger the vocabulary you’re going to need.
The world is complex, and emotions are also, with endless shades and nuance. Things are tending to be somewhat reflective for me at this point, but that’s simply because there hasn’t been time to do the interior work required for emotionally charged material.
Sometimes the emotional source material is simply not there to be drawn from, but more often than not, you can manage to have an idea… Ultimately it’s all snapshots of transient events being endlessly digested, processed and reshaped through the language of music. My goal is to provide an emotional connection to it, but it’s not the reason I do it.
When you’re writing new music, how much are you trying to achieve something specific, and how much of it is happy accidents?
There’s still plenty of room for accidental elements. I was fairly influenced by John Cage’s approach to that when I was younger, and it still lingers to some extent…
I would say 90 percent or more is specific. Much of that behavior is habitual mainly due to the economics of not having the luxury of endless studio time with a full band to experiment with. Everything has to be nailed, just for efficiency. You can mess around with a computer forever, but there’s no substitute for the unpredictable messiness of other humans.
There’s still plenty of room for accidental elements. I was fairly influenced by John Cage’s approach to that when I was younger, and it still lingers to some extent. It’s more of a philosophy of working than anything else, and can help to remove blocks or solve creative problems. An accident is often an opportunity.
It’s a question of having the awareness to be conscious of that, and then being able to capitalize on it.
So if you were to be given the luxury of more time in the rehearsal and recording studios would you approach things differently?
I might get into more experimenting on a sonic as well as musical level. I would love to be able to write parts for different instrumentalists and just see if they fly or fail in the studio. Recording ensembles of players would be great, but that is absolutely cost prohibitive at this point.
I have a friend who is an orchestrator for big movies. I would love to call him up and say: I’m imagining trombones, strings and percussion for this thing, can you get something together for me? There’s plenty of software that has models of all kinds of stuff, and I used some on a track called The Burning Gift.
It’s effective and kind of amazing you can even do that, but not really in the same universe as the real thing. In short, I would approach things probably the same way, but there would be more playtime and certainly less pressure to complete a specific amount of work within a certain schedule.
On one level that sounds very simple, that you would just spend more time in the studio, but what that can mean as far as output can be pretty huge. I don’t think Pink Floyd would have produced Dark Side Of The Moon if they were under time pressures.
Actually, according to some things I’ve read, Pink Floyd did Dark Side Of The Moon under some pretty big time constraints. I think they did the whole thing in less than a month total time, jumping in and out of the studio while touring. I think Led Zeppelin did that with the second album also. I always use DSOTM as a reference point when I hear about people spending months and months on something.
When The Melvins were doing Stoner Witch, we were so efficient that we started thinking up things to do since we had leftover time…
I feel the digital medium has made the whole process less efficient, in a sense. Every option is retained, decisions are procrastinated, and there is a fear of commitment, so the actual flow of real work is “virtual” also. It’s an interesting dilemma…
It’s all relative, I suppose. People like Fats Waller and Art Tatum would cut 10 or 15 masters a day. There’s a famous Elvis session where he came out of it with five masters. This is a different style of recording than Dark Side Of The Moon, but I feel the lesson is that if you are focused and productive, you can accomplish a lot.
When The Melvins were doing Stoner Witch, we were so efficient that we started thinking up things to do since we had leftover time. We did a track with Wayne Kramer from the MC5, and some other completely nonsensical things that have emerged on various other releases.
When we did Stag, we had time leftover so we recorded Interstellar Overdrive by Pink Floyd. It’s nice to have that kind of luxury.
Do you take any different approaches to writing for Bellringer versus writing for solo recordings? It seems like Bellringer has a sometimes more country twang to it, and is a bit more upbeat, whereas the solo stuff will lean more towards slow or atmospheric stuff.
With Bellringer, I try to take into account the specific strengths and idiosyncrasies of those involved and maximize those within material for the band. I’m always listening to them, and thinking about what they are the best at. I also pay attention to what’s working in the live situation. It’s a constant process of refinement.
I now have more of an attitude of Bellringer being a musical collective, it’s really opened it up to a lot of potential diversity. It’s sound is going to be constantly evolving
Since I now have more of an attitude of Bellringer being a musical collective, it’s really opened it up to a lot of potential diversity. It’s sound is going to be constantly evolving as people come and go, and that’s a good thing.
I haven’t detected any conscious twang in Bellringer, but we are a Texas band, and I do love real country music. Maybe it’s in the water… or tacos, or mezcal…
My solo material is more insular since I’m not particularly trying to incorporate an ensemble mindset to the material. There’s going to be some crossover. I never planned on playing the track Dick Cheney out anywhere ever, but there it is, in one of Bellringer’s sets. There are no rules in this game.
Dick Cheney played live?! I would love to see that.
I did an arrangement of Dick Cheney to play live just to see if people had the attention span for it at a gig, and also because it’s the kind of thing that lends itself to a giant PA! The bigger the system, the better it sounds. It has huge amounts of space, and really takes people by surprise. It’s not for every gig, but it’s a cool one to pull out.
Being a recording engineer, are there any whose work you personally admire and draw influence from?
An album is really a collaboration of everyone involved. Change one element, and you have something completely different. Everything appears to me to be shot through with chance, and while everyone works really hard to produce something very specific, everyone also begins working in the dark towards some kind of abstract goal that is utterly ethereal.
It’s about the entire project. The minutia can be interesting, but great albums are a result of a specific collective of individuals reacting off each other…
The whole thing is a magical working, and no one really knows the outcome. You just know when it’s right, but that is also highly subjective and debatable. The great engineers from the 20th Century made the right decisions at the right time, or accidentally did something and left it.
For me, it’s about the entire project. The minutia can be interesting, but great albums are a result of a specific collective of individuals working together and reacting off of each other.
I really admire the engineers involved in early stereo classical music recordings for Decca and RCA, like Lewis Layton and James Lock. They made records that are still considered the benchmark for that genre. The Capitol recordings of Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole are amazing recordings. I love Phil Spector’s direction and tones, and also Todd Rundgren.
The Queen recordings of Mike Stone and Roy Thomas Baker are really good. Tony Visconti, Eddie Offord, Ellington recordings from the ’40s. Bob Dylan‘s latest was done live to 8-track, and is magnificent.
On a personal level, making records with Joe Barresi and Chad Bamford was a real privilege, and absolutely influential. I’m influenced by everything to a lesser or greater extent, and sometimes it’s difficult not to listen analytically to what the wizards are doing because it’s so impressive. When everything falls into place technically and creatively, it really is transcendent and magical.
When you work with other engineers to record your own music, do you find there are any challenges in handing over that responsibility to someone else?
I think it’s liberating to hand over control to engineers. I can always learn something from what they are doing, and they have to have fun also! I give them free reign, unless I’m after something really specific.
It’s a relief to also split the workload up. Producing and engineering and playing can get to be a tall order sometimes, but I’ve figured out a way to get very focused in the moment, and then move right on to the next moment that requires it, regardless of what area it lies in during a session.
It’s great to hear a brand-new take on something you’ve been living with for a long time…
I handed over the mixes of my last couple of albums to Chad Bamford because I value his complete objectivity, and his approach to the material. It’s great to hear a brand-new take on something you’ve been living with for a long time by the time you get to a mix.
Did you meet Chad Bamford through Joe Barresi? Or vice-versa? They seem to work together a bit.
I think Chad was a staff engineer at A&M when Melvins did Stoner Witch there. I think he was an assistant engineer on that, but he also worked on the Stag sessions, and then he tracked The Silent Treatment for me, and has mixed every album of mine since, apart from the Bellringer LP.
Joe came to Stoner Witch with Gaarth Richardson, who had worked on Houdini for Melvins also. Joe also did Stag, and tracked and mixed Honky. He recommended Chad for The Silent Treatment since he couldn’t track it.
Joe mixed The Silent Treatment, and was sitting right next to me when Buzz called me up to tell me my services were no longer required by his band. I think Joe and Chad have some workshops where you can go into Joe’s studio and see how they do things for a day or two, but I’m not sure how much they work together these days…
I would love to have the budget to just be able to call those guys up when I want to, but that reality is out of reach today, but perhaps not for too much longer… If I really plan ahead, I can get Chad for mixing, but I would need a serious budget to get both of them for tracking and mixing.
Everything from Value of Decay onward has a quality to the sound I can’t quite put my finger on. It’s not “raw” but it seems to have space to breathe which, to me, seems like not the easiest thing to achieve.
It’s interesting how a solo flute in a Varese piece is “heavy”, but so is Leslie West and Bessie Smith and Schubert…
Well, the silence is half the music, or maybe all of it in the case of John Cage!
Much of so-called heavy music forgets this, but what is “heavy” is debatable. It’s more a perception issue for me than anything else, dependent on momentary and transient attitudes and emotional responses. It’s really interesting to me how a solo flute in the middle of a Varese piece is “heavy”, but so is Leslie West and Bessie Smith and Schubert…
Who knows? There’s some kind of subconscious emotional resonance at work. I think I just started paying more attention to those concepts of emotional resonance during The Value of Decay and trying to find a way to communicate that while still remaining ethereal and somewhat impressionistic. I think space is increasingly important in where I’m going.
I had a composition lesson with Morton Feldman when I was 18 at CalArts. I was completely freaked out, and worked like a dog for two weeks before it on this string quartet to show him. I just loaded it up with all this crazy shit going all over the place!
I went to meet him for lunch and handed it over to him, and he looked at it and then looked at me, and then looked at it, and then looked back at me and said “What the hell you got all these notes in here for!?”
He had a big New York accent, and had a raincoat on indoors, and smelled like 100 cigarettes and was eating a tuna sandwich that was dropping on my score.
“Try it with less notes. Come back and see me when you’re 35.” — Morton Feldman
I had no answer for him. I didn’t know why the hell I had all those notes in there, and I told him that. He said “Exactly.” I asked him if I had to have a reason for what I was writing, and he said “Nope.” All he had for me was, “Try it with less notes. Come back and see me when you’re 35.”
He did everything with less notes, so of course that was his advice! Maybe it’s just finally sunk in… He did live in New York, so maybe the quietness and space in his work is about trying to emulate the space of earlier music and a quieter time. I see him as the aural equivalent of Rothko or Gerhard Richter. There is something medieval about his work that is simultaneously attractive and alienating. I think there’s a strain of late Liszt and Satie in there, and they were both medievalists in some way also.
The world is so hellishly loud now, and I’m aware of that, so maybe I’m trying to do the same thing in a sense. There is definitely a longing for the bucolic and pastoral that is evocative through space and silence if you can find or make it.
You have to do primitive camping to get to that quality of silence, and then there’s some kind of stealth fighter jet flying around. Schubert was certainly a master of silence, but even in his time there were probably carriages on cobblestones, and some kind of barking idiot in the street that drove him crazy!
The world is so hellishly loud now, and I’m aware of that, so maybe I’m trying to do the same thing in a sense.
It’s all an illusion… all the PR photos for metals bands have them standing out in the woods… coincidence?
I’m not sure breathing or silence is necessarily an achievement in music… it appears to be a liminal state more than anything. Music only exists in time. Musicians are the true masters of time and space.
Your wife Jennifer does most of your artwork. To what extent are you involved in this process?
I might have a vague concept, but usually I just give her the title of the project and she runs with it. I trust her absolutely, and I like having a completely unique approach to something that I’ve been living with for a while. I initiate the process, and then sign off. It’s all her.
With the Bellringer LP, I wanted something iconic that would have timelessness to it, but also have a few layers of allegory… potentially a nightmare, but she really nailed it. I’m biased, but it looks like a classic cover to me! It would look great on a billboard.
Bellringer is now a live touring band. The songs on the LP seem like they lend themselves to a fair bit of improvising on stage. Is this the case?
The arrangements are pretty strict, even to the point of playing written guitar solos, but there are some places where there’s elasticity. Things have to stay pretty tight since a lot of the arrangements have an unpredictable structure to begin with. Dick Cheney has a guitar solo at the end that has written parts, and then an improvised section where I get to test the rhythm section’s endurance while I venture off and see if I can return to the point of origin successfully. I usually make it back okay.
When I hear silence in those big spaces in songs, I know people are really listening.
How have crowd reactions been to Bellringer on stage? The music is hard to place genre-wise, which seems to be more and more important to people.
There have always been issues with genres in the live situation. Melvins were truly hated by some audiences we had the misfortune to end up in front of… I have such a giant variety of material to pick from that I can assemble a set around that will be more or less complimentary to other bands we’re on a bill with. I’ve never been interested in clearing the room just to make myself feel good.
The audience is looking for a way to forget about their lives and the world even if only for an hour… Bellringer has a great unpredictability to its material and people seem to love that. It’s a risk, but I work really hard designing the sound for the live thing. I really know what works, and how to deliver it.
When I hear silence in those big spaces in songs, I know people are really listening.
Will you be releasing any more material as a solo artist soon? Your side of the Collective Fictions LP seemed to indicate a fair distinction between the solo stuff and Bellringer.
Yes, but I don’t know how soon it’s going to be. As I mentioned earlier, there will be a reissue campaign, and then probably a new solo LP. With Bellringer, I work the material towards the strengths of the players, and with my solo material, it can be anything, but there is some overlap.
I think society has arrived at the point where they feel media should be available for their consumption on demand instantly for free. This is infantile and regressive…
With my solo material, whether I can deliver it live or not is not a priority. I like to think Bellringer can deliver anything I write, and there’s probably a way to do it. I think it will probably get more experimental and heavier.
I just downloaded an acoustic song off your Bandcamp—was this from the planned solo LP you mentioned? I’ve noticed songs come and go on that a bit. Releases I’ve told myself I’ll buy later have disappeared. Are there reasons for this?
That’s not from the LP… my PR company Earsplit mentioned Bandcamp was donating all their proceeds from one day to benefit the ACLU, so it’s just for that, and will only be up for a short time. When I say something’s going to be up for a short time, I’m not kidding! It will be gone by the time this lands… so much pixie dust…
I think society at large has arrived at the point where they feel media should be available for their consumption on demand instantly for free. This is infantile and regressive, and I’m just reacting to that on some level. It’s also hard enough to make anything special anymore when it’s instantly cloned out onto the web.
I don’t have a big plan, but perhaps I am just trying to get some people to think about the transient nature of all of this. My music might not be available forever, and that’s OK with me. I’m just trying to reintroduce some intrinsic value to something society has decided should be free and on demand, and ultimately valueless. Everything on the web is valueless… it’s all a huge mirror filled with moon dust, gossamer, and fairy lights wrapped in a Satanic data-harvesting algorithm.
Everything on the web is valueless… it’s all a huge mirror filled with moon dust, gossamer, and fairy lights wrapped in a Satanic data-harvesting algorithm.
It’s the biggest shit-show ever invented, but you can run down the rabbit-hole of your choosing… I didn’t know they were digitally printing replicas of the tombs of Egyptian royalty to replace the real ones, since they are so fragile… you can watch all the cats in the world falling off of counter tops, or Maria Callas … or the ITER Fusion reactor being built, and there will always be a burning car in Houston to gaze at. Thank you interweb.
With these re-releases planned, is there any chance it might lead to some touring down our way? Any good (or bad) memories of touring Australia in the past?
I loved touring in Australia and New Zealand. Parrots in the snow! Awesome people, and beautiful countries. Melvins toured around with Cosmic Psychos. One gig was in a hotel where the guy running the show said the drums were too loud before we even plugged anything in.
I think Buzz and I just held our dry bass and guitar up to the mics and Dale barely played. People started to get angry and demand their money back like we were doing it on purpose.
I think Buzz and I just held our dry bass and guitar up to the mics and Dale barely played. People started to get angry…
I think the guy in charge had to give out some refunds, and then tried to deduct it from our guarantee. We took exception to that. If you ask around, you might find someone who was there. It was pretty shambolic, but there was stuff like that always on the cards. We could be pretty extreme with the sonics at that time, so people overreacting about that wasn’t something particularly unusual.
There’s some talk about Bellringer getting there for next year, and I sincerely hope there will be the support to do that.
As it turns out, the bass player from my old band was at that show you played in Byron Bay. His telling of it was that it was very weird and very frustrating having waited a long time to see you play. But it sure made an impression.
It made a weird impression on us also! First of all, we are there having traveled 8,000 miles. We want to play. People want to hear us play. The agent representing us has made an agreement in good faith with the promoter or representative of the venue. When you walk into a situation where everything has been agreed upon, and then someone starts issuing demands that are counter to that agreement, there are going to be some problems.
I had a guy come up to me after that show all pissed off and ask me for his money back! I just handed it to him and left him there with his mouth hanging open.
I’m not talking about the brown M&M scenario, this guy was telling us the volume we could play at… he thought the drum kit was too loud by itself. He was saying he had guests in his hotel…. booking the Melvins to play in it didn’t indicate much forethought or research on his part, and ultimately, he just wanted to make money.
The audience just wants to hear the band, and they are not interested in the machinations of how that happens, and that’s as it should be.
No one wants to see how the sausage is made. We had to get this kind of stuff figured out with this unreasonable individual, and then go out and play. A situation like that produces an unhappy audience, unhappy venue, and unhappy band. I had a guy come up to me after that show all pissed off and ask me for his money back! I just handed it to him and left him there with his mouth hanging open.
That whole situation was unfortunate, but I’ll bet it never happens to them now. It probably doesn’t happen to Björk much either.
You made the decision to keep the Collective Fictions LP as a vinyl-only release. Can you explain the reasoning behind this preference?
Same as I spoke about before… remember how cool it was to buy a record and you had no idea what it sounded like? You put it on the turntable and waited for the magic to start. That is an experience that is virtually impossible to replicate these days… but there are a few records out there that you can still do that with, and we made one of them!
It may please you to hear that many people I know still wait for the LP to come out before giving it a listen. The silver lining perhaps is that for them it is now a choice, and therefore even more special. So for us folk who snoozed and lost, will there ever be another chance to access your back catalogue rarities? Or do we have to scour Discogs?
If I hear about a film being made that I’m really interested in, I’ll do my best to avoid all info about it.
That’s cool… it’s hard to retain any kind of virginity these days. The on-demand world is convenient, but also infantile. Babies and puppies want things on demand! The temptation to take a peek is out there, but even in the past you could go to a record store and preview something on headphones before you bought it. If I hear about a film being made that I’m really interested in, I’ll do my best to avoid all info about it. I don’t even like all the behind the scenes material that gets produced. I’m like Blanche DuBoise: I want magic…