No Context: An Interview with the Magik Markers
Listening to Arthur Russell (I am thinking mostly of World of Echo and Another Thought, not his club stuff) Richard Youngs, Jessica Rylan, Six Organs of Admittance, Charalambides, The Believers, The Cherry Blossoms, Burning Star Core, Lamborghini Crystal, Colossal Yes, Shadow Ring: these are all so heavy, and they have all found a way to be epic and heavy and human with melody. It now feels like a greater risk and a challenge to play melodies. Not based on strict pop formulas, but on what you hear in your head.
I will not quote all of "Coney Island Baby," but that is how I understand how we wrote Boss: with a celebration and a vengeance, a sense of vindication and a party, the way any record should be made.
It was also written out of straight frustration. When you look at most of the vapid, soulless, douches currently writing songs and making records, do you not think with even the slightest effort you could do better?
I am lazy. I wouldn't have done it unless I absolutely had to.
Re: the band's 'new sociology', The New Science. . .
Elisa Ambrogio: Live and on record, I thought it was important to blur the line of authority, about who is 'on stage,' who is the creator and who the audience is, to blur the line of safety. Even though Richard Schechner was doing it in 1968, it still feels new to me in the context of a rock show or a rock record. The not knowing: Am I the guitar player, am I the audience? Who should everyone be looking at? Why did I come here? What is happening? Pushing a person out of passivity, and whatever effect that has. I am interested in the mind control of a crowd toward what I think is a positive ideal. But so was Hitler.
When someone would come to a show and say, 'Jesus, I could have done a better job' or review a record and say, 'I could have made this and it would have been ten times better.' Good. Who is stopping you? Do it, dude. Make it happen. Who told you I was the artist and you were the audience? The only difference between you and me is that and I did it and you just talked about it. How about we switch?'
But for me now, just that, even at its best, it is not enough. There are melodies in my head and there is an order to the way the sounds are happening. I think you can compose in a decomposing world, I think it is a comfort and something we need to do. I always want every show to be the best show, the show that unlocks something, changes something. We rarely succeed, but when we do it is as good as it gets. Now I want to do that on a record.
I was never not interested in playing music for the unfucked pale girls, I just didn't want to be one of them. I just had higher hopes for places I felt were too good for the likes of me. It turns out they weren't so great.
The Markers have always been interested in momentum, whether it be the momentum of a joke or the momentum of a bat, the thing which is compelled forward is of interest. If we stayed the same we would have stayed the same and that would have been phony. We are not the people we were, thank god. I trust people more, I love strangers more. I feel more scared for and warm to humanity. I trust that at their base, when directly confronted with human suffering, people feel empathy and a desire to help. There are more kind human beings than sociopaths. That is true. My heart is warmed constantly by the unfounded trust I put in people that pays off.
Want to follow up on Magik Markers' "theories of effective sound formulation," as Pete put it. Seems like you're chasing doubt, uncertainty, a dreamlike state--all of which I get from listening to the record, for sure. . . Is there an elaboration to be made as to the relation of improv to the songs on Boss, which sound more composed?
Pete: Yeah there was a while a few years back when Elisa would go on live about finding your locomo... Fear... fear was our locomo. Like we had our backs to the wall and we got all pokey with sharp sticks. I personally didn't want to have anything on this record that wouldn't sound right in a dream. It was pretty easy to hear a sound that wasn't right and eliminate it. In a way it was easy to know what to do. The songs are indeed composed. The pieces were made together out of many forms as well as improvised parts until they fitted just right. Fitted and re-fitted again. The only thing we really knew from the start though was the words. The feeling of the record flowed out from that. There was a while there when I thought the record would come out to dark, but I think that there are islands of relief in there. Anyway, this is just what we did naturally as a result of being put in this position. We'd been thinking about it for a long while and then we did it. We've been thinking for a while about how sounds can evoke feelings and trying to come up with new ones. That's the myopic vision Elisa was talking about. Always churning under the only earth we know.
Who you imagine this music to be for--do you have an audience in mind when you work?
Pete: Well, this time Elisa and I wanted to make a record that we would want to listen to again and again. I think we succeeded on that goal. I can't wait to have the actual thing to listen to in its finished form. We took time to make it and for me it's stood up well. I think it would be really cool if this record was heard by some kids in the middle of America. I wanted to make something that they could really dream on and get deep into. Unlock some code in their brains that will open them up to trying to find out where our stuff came from. I know it meant a lot to me to get snapshots of other worlds when I was growing up in the middle of nowhere in Michigan. I got excited real early.
I remember seeing you guys play Reena Spaulings a couple months back, and how different the reactions of, say, J. Mascis and Kim Gordon were to those of the artists gathered there, who frankly looked a bit horrified, or intimidated, or scared...
Pete Nolan: We were kind of working it out at that one. Seems like it'd be harder than that to shock a bunch of artists in New York doesn't it? I guess that's why they had us confined behind the sawhorses.