Dark atmospheric voyages into the abyss of the human mind, that’s as an apt a way as any to describe multi-talented rock veteran Mark Deutrom’s solo work. A mixture of instrumental and vocal tracks it’s the culmination of much of what Deutrom has worked to perfect over the last decade or so, following an illustrious career as a producer and a long stint as the bass player in stoner rock, punk grunge mainstays the Melvins for several years. Deutrom’s solo career is a varied collection of a vast array of genres and influences that have convalesced into some amazing atmospheric psychedelic explorations of the human psyche I’ve ever heard, running the gambit of emotion and expression. His albums morph seamlessly from tightly wound rocker cuts, with fuzz and distortion wailing like souls trapped in hell one moment, feedback washing over itself like a tidal wave on a rampage, into an almost prog acid jazz feel, sparse guitar echoing through psychedelic landscapes that glitter with a life of their own. Deutrom even pokes his head out on occasion, delivering surprisingly beautiful and haunting vocals to round out a sound that seems to have no limits or boundaries, stretching from the heart of the earth to the darkest reaches of the cosmos and raging infernos at the hearts of the stars that burn there. Deutrom’s music career is as interesting and varied as the sounds he’s able to conjure and after a stint and some recording with a band in 2011, he’s formed a new band, BellRinger and is working on writing and prepping for recording on that project, as well as his usual production acrobatics and keeping his solo career rolling at a steady pace. Between everything, Mark took some time to look back over his history in the industry and deliver a really cool retrospective on some of the amazing things he’s accomplished, crazy places he’s been and some clues as to where he’s hoping to head from here. So, read on for some serious enlightenment, and don’t say I never gave ya nothing!
Listen while you read: http://markdeutrom.bandcamp.com/
Keep up with the latest news: http://www.markdeutrom.com/
See some pictures: http://markdeutrom.tumblr.com
Watch some movies: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQvfVw1b6yBTWaR5ldk30ng
I know your albums are released under your own name for a reason, unlike a lot of people who have bands that are simply their name. What I don’t know is if you have any core of people that you usually work with or anything, or if you like to handle that on a case by case basis as for what’s needed and in what situation?
I don't particularly have a core I usually work with. The pattern of the last three projects has been to work intensively with just a drummer during preproduction and tracking, and then do the rest myself with occasional overdubs from someone else. I've been lucky to have had Chad Bamford mix my last two solo projects and also track the first one. It's great to just hand over a project to a completely objective set of ears after having lost all objectivity with it...
You’ve been steadily releasing material for a while now under your own name and you’ve obviously been involved in some bands in the past! Do you have any other groups that you’re working with at this point or any side projects going at this point?
I have a brand new band that just formed a couple of months ago called BellRinger. We are just getting ready to start playing out. This will be a touring, recording and working band. We'll play some of my solo material in the band, but most of it will be written collectively. We're a party band! It's a rock band designed to drink heavily to and have a good time. I'm always talking to bands about the possibility of working on projects with them as producer. I produced an Austin band called The Well a while back and their record should be out in September. It's Sabbath/Blue Cheer style doom with a touch of psychedelia. I think people will like; people who like that kind of thing, that is.
I know you’re originally from London but grew up in El Paso, Texas after your family moved. How old were you when you all moved? What was the local music scene like there when you were growing up? Do you feel like that scene played a large role in shaping your musical tastes or the way that you perform at this point?
There were a few moves in between the UK and Texas due to my step dad being in the Armed Forces, but I left the UK at around five and ended up in Texas around ten. The so called scene there was effectively non-existent. Cover bands playing in bars. This is the first half of the 70's we’re talking about. Of course, there were a lot of great bands touring at that point, and some even stopped in El Paso, but for the most part it was figuratively, and literally, a musical desert. The actual environment was probably more influential than any particular musical thing. I would spend summers with my grandparents in the UK, so I was fortunate to get exposure to all that crazy stuff like glam, and also punk when it started, before everyone else in West Texas did.
What was your home like when you were growing up? Were either your parents or any of your close relatives musicians or extremely involved/interested in music when you were growing up?
No one in my family is musical. My Grandfather played the piano and guitar a little, but that was it. Step dad played the guitar a little and showed me a couple of chords as a kid. They weren't that interested in music, apart from buying a record here and there or having the radio on in the car.
What do you consider your first real exposure to music?
Probably watching The Beatles on TV as a small child in England. I also had a couple of 7"s that had Vivian Leigh reading Beatrix Potter stories. The music on those was crazy and fascinating to me. I wanted to listen to them again and again. I'll probably seek them out on eBay at some point.
If you were to pick a single moment, a moment that seemed to change everything for you and opened your eyes to the infinite possibilities that music presents, what would it be?
Watching A Hard Day's Night alone in a cinema at the age of five. That was mind blowing, and it's still my favorite Beatles record as a result. My mother drove me to the cinema, and she watched me walk up to the ticket booth and buy a ticket, and then she drove off! It seems incredible, but I guess she didn't want to go, or had something else to do. That would probably be illegal now, but it seemed completely normal to me. It must have been a weekday since I was the only one in there. It was an overwhelming experience. Not long after, I made her take me to the record shop to buy some Beatles singles. The early Beatles material has a very particular kind of magical quality to it, and George Martin was a genius in capturing that. It's still infectious. The timing was right and the music was perfect for the place and the moment. It connects beyond music, and that's what makes it timeless. I'll be picking up the new Criterion reissue of that for sure.
When did you decide that you wanted to start writing and performing your own music? What brought that decision about for you?
Probably about thirteen or fourteen. Deciding to want to do it, and then figuring out how to do it, has a complete abyss of a learning curve between them. Basically, you just have to start and see if have any inclination toward expression in your chosen medium. It really wasn't a choice for me. I was just driven to expressing myself through a loud guitar like ten million other teenagers.
When did you get your first instrument? What was that and how did you get it?
I got a student Yamaha classical guitar around eleven or so. I had to take classical guitar lessons to show that I could play "properly" before my parents would cough up for an electric. After a while, when I could sufficiently demonstrate some skill, my parents brought a used Vox electric from a neighbor, and that was my first electric.
You’ve been involved with several bands over the years, Clown Alley and The Melvins both spring to mind, but what brought about the decision to move into making music under your own name? Can you talk a little bit about how that came about?
It wasn't a decision. I didn't have a band, but I did still have a name! It just made it easier than coming up with a band name to represent myself. I didn't require that kind of distancing from myself either. I figured it worked for Tom Jones and Todd Rundgren, so why not me?
Where are you located at these days?
What’s the local music scene like where you’re at right now?
The local tag line is "The Live Music Capitol of the World". There are a million bands. Everybody in town is in a band, or three. The town is very supportive of music generally speaking, and it’s a point of pride having SXSW and ACL etcetera. There’s even a health co-op for musicians here to assist them if they need it. There's a huge variety of music here, and since Austin is going through a boom cycle there are more musicians moving here all there time. My drummer moved here from Dayton, Ohio last year, so he’s one of them. It's probably a unique situation in the US, and is very vibrant. Supposedly one hundred people a day move here. They're all sitting on the freeway staring into phones, or lining up for food like refugees at a camp.
Are you very involved in the local scene in your opinion? Do you either book or attend a lot of local music or anything?
I'm not involved that actively. I don't go to a lot of gigs, but I will check something out if it's recommended to me. If friends come to town, I'll go out to say hello. There are five hundred bands playing out every night here. It's a tall order to actively participate in that, and it's also time consuming to say the least. The last three bands I've produced are Austin bands, so there's some good stuff out there if you want to find it. There are also a lot of good tacos and BBQ out there, and it takes time to find that too.
Has the local scene played an integral role in the sound, history or evolution of your music? I know you’ve live in both Austin and London. Do you think you would be making the same kind of music with out that kind of dual exposure to both sides of the sea?
Austin itself doesn't influence what I do. Texas has a great and rich history of music, and some of that has seeped into what I do on a variety of different levels, most obviously the sporting of quality headwear. What I do has a lot of different influences, and if I had been sitting in one place, it probably wouldn't have the same quality, but who really knows?
Back in the 80’s I know you were involved in the formation of Alchemy Records and worked on some insanely killer albums including but not limited to The Melvins’ Gluey Porch Treatments, The Rhythm Pigs self-titled album, and Sacrilege’s Party With God but you split ways with them years ago and went on to work on some absolutely awesome stuff since as well including another Melvins album and some sweet Austin stuff like The Well. How involved are you in recording and releasing music at this point? Are you involved in any labels or anything at this point?
I'm always working on something for release in the future. Currently, I'm working on my next solo project, as well as a project for my new band. I'm also in talks with a few bands about producing projects for them. I'm utterly independent at this point. My projects go through CD Baby, Bandcamp, and the physical materials are made by Rock is Hell in Austria. I would love to get with a label that I could have a long-term relationship with, but that situation hasn’t presented itself. Labels, I need a home! I promise I’ll work hard and be responsible and not ask you for money for rehab. One of the plus sides of the digital revolution has been that people like me who are completely independent can still manage to get music to people who want it, even if they’re in Russia or Australia. The downside is the eternal struggle that being self-financed entails, teamed of course with the fact that very few people want to actually pay for music anymore.
Your solo music has undergone several different permutations and drastically changed since you started releasing stuff under your own name but at this point you seem to have found your voice and while stuff’s never “the same” there’s definitely a continuous thread, maybe a prevailing feeling that seems to connect your work. How would you describe your music in your own words to our readers who might not have heard you before?
Conceptually, what I do usually operates on a few different levels, and is internally reflective and has a lot of weight, as well as space. I like a lot of diversity and I don't have any rules about what I can or can’t do, although there probably won’t be much reggae or rap coming out of me. There's a lot of melancholy and harshness that runs through my material, but there's also beauty, confusion, humor and anger, and also celebration. The elements that reflect the human condition are what comprise the parameters within my work. Sonically, it ranges from maximum density to nothingness. My musical influences are from throughout the entirety of music, and are constantly shifting, forming, and deconstructing.
Can you talk a little bit about your songwriting process for us? Do you handle writing all the aspects of your music? I know you have drummers and people come in and play different instruments but I don’t know how much of that is planned out in your head beforehand and what’s spontaneously happening while you’re in the process of recording and working with that material. How much of a role do other people play in your songwriting process? Do you spend a lot of time working stuff out before you enter the studio figuring out every nook and cranny of a song? Or do you get a good idea of what something’s going to sound like in your mind and then head into the studio allowing for some room to change and evolve during the whole process?
Everything is usually completely planned down to the second, simply for economic reasons, and also my own sanity. There's room for interpretation and spontaneity, but I spend a great deal of time in the pre-production process mapping where they are going to happen. There's somewhat of an aleatoric approach within those spaces to allow for surprises and different directions to emerge, but I usually don't have the luxury to mess around in the studio too much. There's a strict framework that allows for elasticity. Hit record and see which version is the best, or throw it away and move in a different direction. It's pretty basic. If I hit a block, I might reach for Oblique Strategies or even the I Ching. I might flip a coin also. I don't really have a strict songwriting process. It's a mystery to me where it even comes from or how it happens. Sometimes I almost feel like a bystander. How does it happen? Where does it come from? Who knows? My new band has been writing some material together, and it's been an interesting process to assume a more passive role. Magically, a song begins to appear like an entity materializing at a séance. Maybe that means I'm not doing anything…
What about recording? I’m a musician myself and I think that at least most of us can appreciate the whole process once you’re finished and holding that finished version in your hands. But getting to that point, getting things laid down and sounding like you want them to, especially when there are other people involved, can be extremely difficult and trying to say the least. What’s it like recording for you and do you enjoy it?
I've always loved recording. I came up through analog, and that has a particularly alchemical resonance to it. It's magnetic, electrical and involves heat and current and gas. The whole thing is really a process of discovery and making educated guesses, and that's the interesting part. You might think you know what something is going to sound like, but until you’re actually doing it, it remains intangible and somewhat theoretical. The whole thing is a process of magical workings as new realities unfold themselves. Really, you just have a pre-imagined destination, and hopefully some fellow travelers that want to go to the same place you do. Electricity, temperature and atmospherics may have other ideas.
Do you prefer to take a more DIY approach to recording where you handle a lot of the technical aspects of recording and logistics and that kind of thing, or do you head into a studio and let someone else helm the technical aspects of things so you can concentrate more on just getting the sound that you have in your head committed to tape?
I’m definitely hands on when it comes to dialing in the sound. I love the process of putting together the mechanics of mic placement and choices, and combinations of amps etcetera. Usually, I'm already thinking about this stuff during pre-production with a band, so the refinement process has already begun in my head at that point. Once the sound is nailed for everything, I'll usually defer to the engineer for technical issues and suggestions and concentrate on what the band is doing with their performances.
You’ve released several albums but I’d like to concentrate on the stuff you’ve released the past three years or so. In 2011 you released The Value Of Decay on Rock is Hell Records with Southern Lord Recordings in several different permutations and packages. Can you tell us a little bit about the recording of the material for The Value Of Decay? Who all was involved and when was that material recorded? Where was that recorded at? What kind of equipment was used?
The Value Of Decay had a long gestation, and I ended up having to whittle down a ton of material to end up with that. It was really finished in 2007 or so, and didn't end up on vinyl until 2011. There was a digital release around that time, but I didn't manage it as well as I should have, so it fell down a hole. I had done some demos at someone's home studio in Austin called Tonehaus, and he gave me a great deal on time, so I started working on it there. He had built these PC tower computers, and they would start to shut down at points when the processing got too intense for the system. He had a few nice converters and mics, but he mainly did voiceovers and occasionally, some chamber music. It was the first time I did a completely digital recording. It's a different beast, to be sure but it's just a different toolbox. The choices are more binary than analog, figuratively and literally speaking. I just got in the converted garage with the drummer Cully Symington and started assembling the thing. Most of the drums were done in a few days, and then I pieced it together over a couple of years doing the rest myself. There's a lot of deeply personal and conceptual stuff in it, and there could have been more, but it just needed to end, and so it did. Chad Bamford's mix for that made me realize I had had actually done a pretty good job in that little place, since he managed to make it sound so good. It was really challenging to do on a number of levels. There's a cornucopia of formats that comprised it: everything from 4-track cassette to CD-R to 8/16/24 bit audio through horrible Behringer converters to pocket memo recorders. Somehow it hangs together and sounds pretty good. Mainly 60’s and 70’s combo amps, and a good drummer! A little while later, I did the entire drums tracks for another project that I haven't finished yet in there also. Cully did an incredible job doubling all these crazy drum parts, and I still have it and am working on it. It will be a real point of departure from everything else, but it's time will come. Maybe next year.
In 2013 you released a single-sided 12” limited to only like 200 copies, Ruckus Juice which contained the soundtrack the Ruckus Juice animated video along with two other songs, “Bo Diddley” and “Eat The Light”. I don’t know about “Ruckus Juice”, but both “Bo Diddley” and “Eat The Light” are on your Bandcamp page with the citation they were from a band you had in 2011. Was that the same band involved in The Value Of Decay or were those tracks part of something else entirely that you were working on or involved with? Can you talk a little bit about the recording of the material that made it onto the Ruckus Juice 12”?
In 2011 I had this band County Bucks. The Ruckus Juice 12" tracks are that band. All three of those tunes were done in the same session. “Ruckus Juice” was the soundtrack to the animated short my wife made for the band. We did a little bit of touring and a tiny clip is up from a gig on my YouTube channel, but it didn't work out. Corey Cottrell, the bassist from that band, is in my new band now. There was no band for Value Of Decay. It was just Cully Symington and I doing it, with a couple of overdubs from some other people; completely unrelated to County Bucks.
You also dropped Brief Sensuality & Western Violence 12” for Rock is Hell in 2013 which is two 12” slabs of seriously sweet instrumental psychedelia. When and where was the material for Brief Sensuality & Western Violence recorded and who recorded that? Who all was involved in playing on that record?
Brief Sensuality & Western Violence was done in at Ohm Recording Facility in Austin in December 2012. I used a drummer named Aaron Lack who is also a trained multi-instrumentalist. Some of the music was fairly complicated, so he was perfect. It was just him and me, but I did hire a trumpet player for the solo on "Shaky Rabbit". Aaron also played steel pan, toy piano, and glockenspiel. We worked on it for around nine months before we went in to do it.
Here in September you’re getting ready to release a 7” split single with The ASound for Tsuguri Records. But other than the upcoming split, do you have any other music in the works or on the horizon at this point?
Besides everything I’ve already mentioned, Rock is Hell has a tenth anniversary double coming out later this year, and I have an unreleased track from the Brief Sensuality sessions on that. There're a couple of other songs from those sessions that will emerge at some point also. This new band I have going will also get in the studio at the end of August to work on an EP, but there are no plans in place for a release yet. We'll probably do four or five tunes that we’re writing right now.
Shipping is seriously becoming a problem for people who don’t have a brick and mortar shop in their town that can get the music that they’re looking for. I try and provide people with as many options as I can for picking stuff up as I can. Where’s the best place for our US readers to score copies of your stuff?
I have limited supplies available through my Bandcamp page, but that's probably the best place to get it in the USA. Get it while you can. There probably won’t be a second run of this edition. There's no distribution for this stuff, so you have to get it from me or Rock is Hell in Austria. This is where being on a bigger label helps.
What about our overseas and international readers? There’s nothing worse than finding an album and being able to afford it but not being able to swing shipping, and that’s happening more and more often all over the world with international shipping rates the way they are!
People in the EU or elsewhere can get it through Rock is Hell in Austria, or possibly some individual record shops he has an arrangement with. Whichever place is closest, get it from there.
And where’s the best place for our readers to keep up with the latest news from you like album releases and that kind of thing?
My website is probably the best place to get any news I might be throwing out there, since I do not have the Facebooks. I very occasionally post something on my tumblr page, more often than not it's a depository for photographs I've taken.
Are there any major plans or goals that you’re looking to accomplish in the rest of 2014 or in 2015?
I'd really like to get my new band BellRinger out there working this year, and also get some tunes out there. Our first gig is with the San Francisco band Orchid in Austin on Halloween. I'll have a new solo album out next year, as well as something longer from the band.
Do you remember the first song that you ever played live? If so, what was it, who was that with and when and where would that have been?
Probably something like “Magic Carpet Ride” or “Waiting for the Bus” in a cover band in ninth grade in El Paso. The drummer John Evans from that band actually ended up playing on The Silent Treatment. He had some photos of our band playing on a flat bed truck next to the Rio Grande from back then. They were hilarious. We looked like we are about twelve years old. We got started early. I think we got twenty five dollars and all the beer we wanted. “Magic Carpet Ride” and “Waiting for the Bus” are still really good songs, so we had excellent taste!
Do you play your material live at all at this point? If so, do you have anything planned as far as touring goes fro the rest of the year? If not, are there any plans to do so in the future or anything?
The set for the new band has a couple of songs from The Value Of Decay, and also one from Brief Sensuality & Western Violence. We're writing new material, but there's also a lot to pick from in the past if we want to. We'll be out doing some limited touring this year, but it's not set up yet.
You have played with some of the greatest names in rock history, at least to me personally. You’ve been on bills with Nine Inch Nails, White Zombie, Tool, Kiss, Rush and you were playing bass in The Melvins on their 1994 tour where you happened to play a show on March 1st in Munich, Germany with one of the greatest musical forces of the last several decades Nirvana; which would unfortunately prove to be their final live performance. I’ve rambled on enough about who my favorites are! I’m curious to hear who some of your personal favorite bands that you’ve had a chance to play on a bill with over the years have been?
I think playing with Rush was a definitely a high point. They were great people, and are of course a legendary band. The NIN tour was fun also. The way technology was used on that Downward Spiral tour was really impressive and seamless within the production. I watched their whole set every night when I was able to. The Obsessed were cool to tour with also. Wino is a great guitarist and it's too bad that band was so short lived. I did a European tour with Sunn0))) in 2006 that also had Earth on it, that was probably the most fun I ever had on a tour. There was much hilarity with old friends, and also playing the heaviest music on the planet every night. There was some stuff that went on that was seriously epic and unbelievable that has to remain secret.
In your dreams, who are you on tour with?
When I dream, I'm never on tour so maybe it means my dreams have come true! Maybe Elvis in the early 70's. I don't have to play, but sometimes I sit in with the band, usually on “See See Rider” or “Steamroller Blues”. We just fly around on the Lisa Marie or the band plane talking numerology, alchemy, martial arts and doing comparative studies of arcane pre-Christian religions. Elvis gets the best Quaaludes, the best small batch bourbon, and hooks everyone up with everything they want. He is ‘The King’. Being on tour with Madonna would probably be pretty crazy and weird also. It would have been interesting to be with Franz Liszt on tour in the 19th Century also when he was a barnstorming lady killer. I could have just counted the money or figured out the wine situation. Of course, the ultimate tour would have been walking around with Jesus or Buddha, but probably not as much of a good time, as with Liszt or Elvis.
Do you have any funny or interesting stories from live shows or performances that you’d like to share here with our readers?
Bowling with the Jim Rose Circus in Sioux Falls was like being in a David Lynch movie. Opening for some of the bigger bands was kind of hellish, but fun also to be able to play through those big systems. Melvins played a show once somewhere in the northeast where we made the entire show like a game show, complete with audience participation. I think we were opening for Helmet. A bunch of people wanted their money back. We somehow convinced them that they had seen a really special show, and that seemed to satisfy them somewhat. A lot of shenanigans went on, mainly out of boredom and just feeling particularly anarchic on any given day. About three years ago County Bucks played a show in Shreveport where the promoter got the days mixed up. We got there and there was not one person that even knew a band was supposed to be playing. Eventually, one regular came in and listened to the whole set. We played to one person, and the bartender. We got all the free whiskey we wanted. There's no business like show business. As long as you're out playing the stories never stop.
© Gayla Partridge
Do you give a lot of thought the visual aspects that represent your music to a large extent, stuff like shirt and poster designs, album covers, and that kind of thing? I know you have dual covers on several of your releases and one of your early CDR releases even sported hand painted covers, if I understand correctly. Is there any kind of meaning or message that you’re trying to convey with those sorts of things? Do you have anyone that you usually turn to in your times of need when it comes that kind of thing?
There is definitely a lot of thought given to the design and packaging of everything. Even in the age of the instant download, people still want something that has some humanity attached to it. The hand screening element adds a little bit more humanity, so there's more connectivity. I think it's why there’s been a vinyl resurgence as well. Listeners want a connection to reality, and a record really provides that tactile experience. They might not have a turntable set up for optimal listening, but they still have the action of putting the record on and holding the sleeve and related items. There's no physical interaction whatsoever with downloading music. It's the same as paying a phone bill or renewing a drivers license. Pressing a real or virtual button is the lowest common denominator in the human experience at this point. Things have started to move slightly away from that model in music, at least temporarily anyway. This will move in fits and starts until you can just 3D print a record at your house, if there’s still a functioning electrical grid. Jennifer, my wife, takes care of all of my art and design needs. She has completely free rein working the material in to shape. In addition to being a great artist and designer, she's also an excellent animator and worked on the movies Waking Life and Lars Von Trier's Five Obstructions. The Ruckus Juice animated short film I mentioned earlier was all done by her also.
With all of the various methods of release that are available to musicians today I’m always curious why they choose and prefer the various mediums that they do. Do you have a preferred medium of release for your own music? What about when you’re listening to and or purchasing music?
I think records still sound the best. Our ears are analog, and so are records. I've been fortunate to have been able to make records of my last few projects and I’d like to continue that. I'm lucky to be involved with someone who actually cares about the quality of it also, and that makes a difference. If I had my choice for a physical digital format, it would probably be SACD, but that's definitely a niche market and pretty expensive to make. Blu-ray will probably be the last physical format that spins on a mechanical platform. The push is to get rid of physical formats altogether and then all we'll be left with will be digital simulacrums of what used to be real. It's happening as we speak. I see it as a conscious erasing of culture, with the bottom line being the only consideration. When I listen to music, I usually listen to records just like when I started listening to music. Most of my listening is done at home through a pretty good system with a tube front end. I have a dedicated tube headphone amp also, so I have some audiophile tendencies but I haven't completely lost my mind over it. I've never bought a download and I don't listen to MP3s. Listening to music through a computer is a necessary evil these days, but I don't really do it for pleasure or for critical listening if I can help it.
Do you have a music collection at all? If so, can you tell us a little bit about it?
I have a fairly large collection of records, lots of classical music from the golden age of stereo, some nice reissues that have been done on 12" 45 and such. I have the usual rock classics and jazz classics, and also some music from around the world. I've been buying CDs since they came out, so I have a lot of stuff that's from the original issues before they started throwing everything into the computer and messing with it. Hang on to your original issue CDs if you still have them. Everything has been remastered into the ground and sounds bad for the most part. There have been some remasters of some older classic recordings like Frank Sinatra and Miles Davis that have actually improved the sound, so there are some exceptions. I listen to SACDs and they sound very good, and are probably the best sounding digital format. I listen to everything from Fats Waller to Opera to Amon Tobin to early music from Europe. I'll listen to the 70's or 60's streams on iTunes. It's like an endless lesson in studio production techniques!
When I was growing up I was surrounded by my dad’s enormous collection of music and I was really encouraged to listen to anything that I wanted to, whenever I wanted to around him. There’s something about kicking back with a set of headphones, reading the liner notes, staring at the cover art, and letting the whole experience just carry you off on this trip off into another cosmos. Having something to physically hold and experience along with the music always made for a more complete listening experience for me. Do you have any such connection with physically released music?
As I mentioned before, I came to music through physical formats since that was the only way it existed. My primary connection to it is still the same. Records can sound very good through a properly set up system, and they’re the perfect length. They still sound the best. Some tubes, a turntable and good headphones are bliss. Records kick ass, files do not. It will be interesting to see how that gets redefined by the current generations discovering music. Instead of music standing alone on a dedicated platform, it comes through a conduit that also delivers games, information, communication, film content, pornography and lots of advertising. It's just more data, and has been reduced to the same importance as your bank balance or a puppy falling off a chair. Buying a physical format today is basically buying a souvenir of the music. It represents it, but it really floats around on a server somewhere. There's a lot of discussion out there about the death of the album, and the rise of the playlist. Maybe this is just a reflection of what the human attention span has been reduced to. I personally feel there will always be a place for collections of songs that are related to each other, even if it's only that they were produced in a specific place and time. Perhaps, we've come full circle with recorded music and it will be individual song driven again, the way it was in the days of 78s or wax cylinders. Who really knows? I can't really see a future where everything is reduced to the equivalent of a short story or ring tone. That doesn't leave much room for Moby Dick or Parsifal. Life itself is a novel. It's not a short story.
As much as I love my collection of hard copies there’s no denying that digital music is likely here to say. And there’s no denying the ease and portability of digital music, I mean there’s upsides and downsides to every method of release in my opinion and you just kind of have to role with the punches as they come. Digital music has done some really amazing stuff, it’s allowed unparalleled amounts of communication among musicians and their fans and it’s also eradicated a lot of geographic boundaries that were present even a few years ago by exposing people to the literal world of music that they’re surrounded by. On the other hand, while people are being exposed to tons of new music they’re not always very inclined to pay for it between illegal downloading and a growing belief that music is a disposable form of entertainment to be used and then disposed of when you’re done with it. As a musician during the reign of the digital era, what’s your opinion on digital music and distribution?
I talked about this a little before, but I also think the fact that most of what is considered great music comes from the pre-digital era speaks for itself, but that does represent the bulk of recorded music at this point. A hundred years from now, who knows? I suspect the golden age of music has passed, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. It's just part of the arc of existence in general. The digital format is all about attempting to emulate the analog experience without all those annoying real world gadgets. It's more about convenience than anything else. In the pro audio world there are now virtual pieces of vintage gear on a screen. If I'm using virtual gear to create something, how real is it? At what point does the virtual end, and the real begin? These are philosophical concepts that are pretty interesting and relevant to the entirety of society. Everything that comes through a computer screen is a model, and societal trends are pushing everything onto the screen. There’s an assumption that everyone having access to everything all the time is some kind of cause for celebration. It just renders everything as infinitely disposable, including music, since no one is capable of distinguishing between the model and the real thing anymore. They have become one infinitely disposable virtual landscape. Really, it's designed to push humanity onto the digital grid, where all you’re doing is existing within a binary language, endlessly making hard yes or no decisions like a CPU. There's no degree of shading in the digital world, just endless steps of yes and no. The off button is probably the most important function on any box.
I try to keep up with as much good music as I possibly can but there’s just not enough time to even sift through one percent of the awesome stuff that’s happening right now. Is there anyone from your local area or scene that I should be listening to that I might not have heard of?
Locally there are probably a thousand bands functioning in one sense or another encompassing a wide variety of styles from Americana to electronica to doom. Pong is a great local band comprised of people who used to be in Ed Hall. Churchwood is another local band that are really good in a kind of Beefheart/Waits vein. There's a pretty big stoner/doom/metal thing here too. Bands are also constantly breaking up and morphing into others, so it's hard to keep track. Who has the time? When I get a window I might be more inclined to just read than go out and listen to a band.
What about nationally and internationally?
I heard a band the other night by accident called Raedon Kong from Louisiana that was doing some cool things. They’re just a two piece, but have an expansive palate and an interesting approach. I discovered the Italian group Father Murphy through some animated short films they had scored and now I'm a fan of them. On their Bandcamp page they say they’re the sound of the Catholic sense of guilt, so that sounds good to me!
Thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview, it was a real pleasure to be able to talk to you and learn so much about your career. I hope it was at least slightly amusing looking back over everything that you’ve managed to accomplish since you got into the field. Before we sign off and call it a day, I’d like to open the floor up to you. Is there anything that I might have possibly missed or that you’d just like to take the opportunity to talk to me or the readers about?
I've been a photographer for quite a few years now, so follow my tumblr page to see some of that. The Riffology series of short films I make with my wife are on one of the playlists of my YouTube channel, so be sure to take a look at those. It's an ongoing series, so I try to get a new one up whenever there's time to put one together. Keep an eye out of my new band BellRinger. We'll have some music coming out before too long, and may even be lurking in your neighborhood.
(2000) Mark D. – The Silent Treatment – digital, CD – Tee Pee Records/Luna Sound Recordings
(2001) Mark Deutrom – “5 Skull Bake” b/w “El Morroco” – 7” – Southern Lord Recordings (Clear and Black Vinyl 7” versions available)
(2006) Mark Deutrom – Iraq – digital, CDR – Self-Released (Limited to 500 hand numbered copies)
(2006) Mark Deutrom – Gate – CDR – Self-Released (Limited to 200 copies with hand painted covers signed by Mark)
(2011) Mark Deutrom – The Value Of Decay – digital, 2x12”, 3x12” – Southern Lord/Rock is Hell Records (2x12” with offset covers limited to 400 copies, 2x12” with silkscreened gatefold cover and etching limited to 66 copies, 2x12” Test Pressing limited to 3 copies, 3xLP boxset limited to 35 copies)
(2013) Mark Deutrom – Ruckus Juice – 12” – Rock is Hell Records (Red Vinyl 12” with silkscreened cover limited to 106 copies, White Vinyl 12” with silkscreened cover limited to 101 copies, 12” Test Pressing with silkscreened cover limited to 10 copies)
(2013) Mark Deutrom – Brief Sensuality & Western Violence – digital, 12”+7” – Rock is Hell Records (12” with Purple Vinyl 7” limited to 258 copies, Purple and White Vinyl 12” with Purple Vinyl 7” and silkscreened gatefold cover limited to 105 hand numbered copies, 12” Test Pressing with 7” Test Pressing limited to 11 copies)
(2014) Mark Deutrom/The ASound – “Miniskirt” b/w “The Chief Of Thieves” – 7” – Tsuguri Records (Available in Black or Green Vinyl versions limited to 200 copies total)
(1982) Rayonics – “Walk Away Renee” b/w “Going Backwards” – 12” – Ready To Rock Records
(1986) Rhythm Pigs – Rhythm Pigs – 12” – Mordam Records
(1986) Melvins – Gluey Porch Treatments – CD, 12” – Alchemy/Boner/Ipecac Records
(1986) Clown Alley – Circus Of Chaos – CD, 12” – Alchemy/Southern Lord Records
(1986) Sacrilege – Party With God – CD, 12” – Alchemy Records/November Fire Recordings
(1987) R.K.L. – Rock N Roll Nightmare – CD, 12” – Alchemy/Epitaph Records
(1987) Neurosis – Pain Of Mind – CD, Cassette Tape, 12” – Alchemy Records/HOWLING BULL Entertainment, Inc./Neurot Recordings/Alternative Tentacles
(1989) Melvins – Ozma – CD, Cassette Tape, 12” – Boner Records/Tupelo Recordings Company
(1989) Raw Power – Mine To Kill – Multimedia Attack/Rotten Records/Rat Cage Records
(1993) Raw Power – Too Rough To Burn – CD, 12” – Rosemary’s Records
(2000) Mark D – The Silent Treatment – CD – Tee Pee Records
(2004) Tony Scalzo – Tony Scalzo EP – ? – Self-Released
(2010) Woodgrain – The Bronze LP – CD – Australian Cattle God Records