‘From the House of Trax’ by Marcus McDonald
From The House Of Trax is a well known psych collectors item. Its cover is one of my favourite. Originally released in 1978 as a private press. We have been searching for Marcus McDonald for a long time and were pleasantly surprised when our friends at Arkivet (the Archive) made a nice interview with him. This interview wouldn’t be possible without their help (thank you Martin Dahl). Make sure to check their interview (they have A LOT of other interesting articles too). We won’t bore you any more with our rambling how good this holy grail of psych rarities is. Please see our conversation with Mr. McDonald himself.
When and where were you born Marcus?
Well I assume it was shortly after I was procreated in the womb. I was told later I was smacked on my bottom and took a breath in Louisville, Kentucky. As you can see right off I can be a bit of a smart donkey.
How old were you when you began playing music and what was the first instrument you played?
My parents gave me a set of drums when I was 13 or so and that lasted about 2 weeks and they took them away from me… I guess it was pretty annoying to listen to a kid banging on them all day and not really having a clue as how to really play them.
They had given a guitar to my sister Geri who played it for a while I guess, but it sat in the closet for some time so she gave it to me. So by that time I was around 14 I started playing music; well I guess it was music but mostly I just banged around on it until it sounded good to me. I carried it around with me nearly everywhere I went.
It was a Sears penncrest guitar that the action was so high and NOT adjustable so to play it the way I did it made my fingers literally bleed. I even tried putting super glue on my fingertips to be able to play it (not a smart idea).
What inspired you to start playing music?
I guess for the same reason anyone is inspired to play music… It changes your mood; sometimes that inspires your soul and comforts the spirit.
Music is not just a fad it’s a global experience it’s transcending and timeless. It’s healing and a rite of passage. But sorry to say for some it’s just a way to get attention; but that kind of music tends to just be a fade.
Do you recall the first song you ever learned to play?
The first cover tune I learned to play was Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven”; you know a little Led for the head. Second tune I learned was Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water”; after that I just started making my own music; that way nobody knew if I was doing it wrong. To answer your question better I must say that my influences were varied from bands like The Moody Blues, Pink Floyd, The Beatles, Stevie Ray Vaughan, The Rolling Stones and a host of others… I could mention a hundred others easily but life is short unless you have chosen to live forever. <><
What bands were you a member of as a youth and what types of music did you play?
I was never really a member of any other band so to speak, but I have shared the stage with some of the most awesome artists and musicians to ever hit the stage… Most of them are unknown to the masses but the greatest I have ever known.
What was the first song you wrote?
It was about my Father and it went like this… “My Father taught me right from wrong and he said Son don’t you worry none what’s done is done.” Wow I can hardly believe I just admitted that.
I played it in a barn ounce in front of my family and friends and my Dad cried a little; it was a one time performance and the last time it was ever heard. Also it was the last time I ever saw my Dad cry.
My Mother said; “I think your Daddy liked it.”
How did the band which bore your name come to be?
I met Jim Fergusson through a good friend of mine named Gary and his friend Jim Fergusson who owned and operated The House of Trax Studio invited me over to play and when he heard me play he offered to record my music for free; I could not pass that up.
It turned out that he was a Masterful Genius when it comes to audio engineering and my music would have never turned out like it is without him.
Who were the members of the band?
Really there was never a real Band… It was a conglomeration of good friends of mine that were talented and a few very talented artists that Jim brought into the mix and it turned out to be what it was then and is today… One name was even misspelled on the From the House of Trax album and they may never get the true recognition they deserve; for example Larry Love who did some backup vocals; His real name is Larry Lone but after the misprint he said; that’s cool I like the new name… Larry Love it has a nice sound to it. I thought it sounded more like a porn star.
Any way the list is…
Jeff Kruer… Drums
Terry Tyler…Rhythm Guitar
Butch Stults…Rhythm Guitar
John Pring…Lead Guitar and Slide Guitar
Chorus and Backup Vocals
Cheryl Combs, Teresa Fergusson, Brett Barker, Terry Tyler and Larry Love (Lone)
Marcus… Lead Vocal, Lead Guitar and Rhythm Guitar.
If I forgot someone sorry about that but you were great.
And John Pring if you read this interview; DUDE “come out of hiding man” I really need your help on a new project.
What was the writing and arranging process within the band? Did anyone else in the band write?
Everyone was talented but it was all my original music… There was one exception where Jim Fergusson and I collaborated on a song… “Gary’s Song”. This is a very long story that I will try to sum up quickly.
Gary was the mutual friend that brought Jim Fergusson and me together. One day I saw Gary walking around in the middle of the streets and as I followed him he was looking toward the sky saying things like IS IS IS and Was IS IS. I might die I might not die I might already be dead. I was a bit more than just perplexed but I left him in what I thought was good hands (family members) and went about my day. Later I found out the law had found him doing this very same thing and they were not as amused by his actions and arrested him and put him in what I understand as a mental ward. That evening Jim and I composed a song using the words I remembered from what he said. OK here is the cool part. We recorded the song and sent it to the place where Gary was and they let him listen to it on a cassette player (Boom Box). THEY said he listened to it over and over for three days then they reevaluated him and said he was fine and set him free. After that I never saw Gary Again. I have been asked by so many people what happened to Gary… Did he die or where is he… I really don’t know. I just assume he is alive and well somewhere and I just don’t know where he is.
Oh and the song “The City of In Between” started with a lampshade yep I said a lampshade. Jim had this lamp and the lampshade had a cityscape painted on it with holes punched in it where the windows were so the light would shine through; He called it “The City of In Between.” I thought that was cool so I wrote a song about it. There was once a time I started singing a lyric in a song I wrote. That went like this… “I saw my reflection in a puddle of euphoria” Jim said “A Puddle of Euphoria”What the hell is that??? We both started laughing so hard I could not continue and never sang that again but we laughed about it many times.
Where was the “Marcus” LP recorded? How long did the sessions last? Would you share some recollections from the sessions? How pleased were you with the finished product?
It was recorded in New Albany, Indiana and the sessions lasted from hours to dazed and confused but I remember I loved it all even the stuff I don’t remember. Try and remember this was a psychedelic age. I made some mistakes here and there but Jim was pretty much able to hide or correct them or just turn them into something cool.
What type of gear did you guys use?
What can I say but we used what we had and I believe it was the best at the time. Marshall Amps, Les Paul Gibson Guitars, 12 String Guild, Ludwig drums, Moog synthesizer and a lot of other stuff. 8 tracks reel to reel and an awesome studio that Jim had built himself and he was quite the wizard of audio.
What was the dynamic between your songwriting and playing?
If you mean the motivating or driving forces, physical or moral; well then I was just having a trip in time and loving every minute of it. And I was trying to be a Rock Star cause Girls love Rock Stars.
Would you mind answering question about psychoactive substances? Did in your opinion psychoactive or hallucinogenic drugs played a large role in the songwriting, recording or performance processes?
REALLY !!! Did you just ask me that??? I may want to be President one day.
I can tell you this… I have heard about things like Purple Microdot, Windowpane, Orange Barrel, Blotter, Pyramid, Chocolate Mesc, Schrooms etc.
I can also tell you if I had it to do those years all over again I would not change a thing. Oh and if I was given a drug test today I would pass with flying colours. I’m a survivor but have lost some really good friends to the abyss.
First press LP with disco cover.
The cover artwork must have a story behind it, because it’s absolutely one of the most amazing cover artworks I ever came across.
This is a long story too… So I will try to make it as short as I can… But it’s true and funny.
My dear friend Austin and I got some dry ice some bed sheets and chains oh and some beer and went to a local cave and set up. The shoot was going well until we ran out of water to pour on the dry ice so Austin went to a nearby creek to get some more water.
So there I was all alone wearing white robes (Bed Sheets) holding chains around my wrist’s that went to the ground and smoke hovering all around me when this family of five (Mom, Dad and three small children) walked in to the cave and saw me standing there.
The looks on their faces were priceless and I just could not resist so I turned to them and in a very deep voice said “WELCOME” as you would expect they screamed turned and ran away.
When Austin and I got back I told him about it and at first he thought I was joking but later we laughed so hard it hurt. I bet when they went home and told the story no one believed them.
OK now later when looking at the photo’s we thought maybe the pictures were to revealing or just not right. Even later at the studio while looking at them I just happened to drop the negative of one of the Pic’s down and it landed on top of a piece of blue construction paper and when Jim and I looked down at it we both said Oh My God that’s it. So I signed it with a black marker that turned out white and there it was the cover.
What can you tell us about recent reissue? What was the source? Are there any remaining unreleased tunes?
World in Sound contacted me and offered some money to reissue my album so I said yes and gave them some other stuff that was from that time but not on the original.
I should have held out for more money but at least these nice guys from Germany paid me something and did not just steel it like so many others have over the years… That is a story that I should make a movie about. Oh yeah I make movies now so maybe we will talk about that later.
To what do you attribute the album continuing to be held in such high esteem among music collectors?
Geeeeezzzz you keep asking me these questions that could take hours to explain.
At first I could not sell my album to be used as a place matte in the USA and some friends threw them like Frisbees and said; Let’s just see how far your music can go (Ok that kind of hurt but you would be surprised just how far a LP vinyl record can travel). Turns out my album has sold for as much as $1,200 in some countries like Germany and still brings a nice amount for mint original condition.
I have been told by many collectors they love my album and it’s the centrepiece of their collection. I must admit I am pretty proud of that.
I have a few Marcus; From The House Of Trax albums in mint condition that I have saved in a sealed container over the years and have them now on eBay for $500 but there are a lot of bootlegs out there so be careful about that. My name on eBay is “icouldnotfindone” because after trying for a loooong time to find a name that was not already taken I just typed in I could not find one and it accepted that name; so I am “icouldnotfindone” Hey go figure, haha.
You recorded another album in 1995 ‘The Return’.
Yes I did and I did it at a night club I owned at that time called LEGENDS.
I had my own studio set up and ask good friends that were very talented to help me out and they did. It was hard at first doing it all like recording, playing and singing all at the same time but I really like it as much as anything I have ever done. I will just bet you don’t have a copy of it; so check eBay for Marcus’ The Return or just look for “icouldnotfindone“.
MARCUS (The Return)
Tim Gladin…………………Lead Guitar
David Barker……………..Lead Guitar
Regan Calhoun…………..Bass Guitar
Mark McClaine……………Bass Guitar
Lynn Yeakey……………..Backup Vocals
David Barker…………….Lead Guitar
Steve Osbourne…………Rhythm Guitar
Would you discuss some of your most memorable moments in Marcus and what made them so?
I wrote some new songs once and we practice playing them for about 2 hours then went to the Carl Casper’s Car Show; they were having a band battle with about 150 bands. We got up and played and low and behold we came home with a trophy. I was pretty happy about that.
As far as memorable moments go they are all memorable and my faith family and friends are what make them so and if you like, love or care for me then I am your friend forever.
What currently occupies your life? Are you still involved with music?
Yes of course I am…
Now I like to make movies and my current movie is called “Chain of Events” (The Movie) it’s a romantic comedy (I know that seems strange for me) but if you look up Chain of Events (The Movie) on Facebook or just on the internet you will find it on eBay for sale and I did do a small cameo in it. I am now making a movie called SIN’s of the Flesh… And putting some new music and some music from my second LP Marcus’ The Return in it…It’s a horror comedy that I think will be my best yet.
Thank you for taking your time. Last word is yours.
Thank you for being into my music and asking for this interview because it means a lot to me and does my soul good.
My music is from my soul and the help of family and friends… I love music almost as much as my family and friends but family friends come first.
Thank you for your interest in me and my walk on this old rock and I truly wish to see all of you in a place we all can be happy in.
Oh and my last word is…
Interview by Klemen Breznikar/2016
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