Hiya Mark thanks for joining us in the virtual RGM lounge today, grab a brew and take a seat.
Thanks, Coffee with Oat Milk, Two sugars, Ta!
What made you decide to become a soloist?
I’m a soloist, but the album my new release will be from is called “SofaNauts” because I wrote all these songs for a band I tried to get off the ground with two old friends, the band was going to be called “SofaNauts”. It was a bit too ambitious as both the other chaps live about 80 miles away, so life and other musical projects just kept getting in the way. I ended up parking the songs and making a whole other album of solo songs that became my first album “12 Weeks” and I ended up performing all the instruments, learned how to produce it, and have been learning about making music videos and artwork and just became the 360 degree content creator you need to be as an independent artist.
Introduce us all to you and your musical history?
Well, there’s me on guitar, myself on Bass and Synth Bass, I sing everything, of course, I play all the piano parts; I’m still thinking of overdubbing a triangle or something which I will play. I’m kidding a bit, on my first album I did perform everything, and this album is still predominantly me, but I have made an effort to invite some friends to play at least one instrument on tracks that are otherwise all me.
On “Space Person Blues” which is the first track to be released from the album on 27th December, I have a great old friend, Tor Bjarne Bjelland guesting on drums. On another track called “Lets Forget We’re Animals” features another old mate, Steve Ryan, known as the artist “Stevo The Bass”, guesting on… well on Bass would you believe it. Both these guys were in a Pop Punk band with me called “Trucks” in the 00’s; we had major record deals, played gigs all over the world, had a gold-selling record, and experienced all the craziness and just fuss that comes with that type of work.
I loved those guys then and do now, despite all the years and the distance, as musicians I’m just in awe of them, and I’m just blown away that they were up for contributing to the songs they guest on. If you listen to “Space Person Blues” and just focus on the drums, Tor’s playing is so epic, so three dimensional, I love it. And as for Stevo, the song he performs on, I asked him to provide Bass Guitar on “Animals” which is a three step groove number, what he sent me was a synth bass part, so simple, he must have played it with one finger whilst eating a cheese sandwhich with the other hand, but… it only bloody makes the song. Melodic grooving bass part.
On other tracks I have two great mates from way, way, WAAAaaaaaay back to school days, Kelly Brown and Mark Hung, Kelly is another phenomenal drummer, he’s already well known and Drummer and front man for the Ska/Punk band “The MilkSnatchers”, I’ve managed to get him in on a couple fo songs, some I’ve stripped his playing down into samples (sorry Kelly!) but one he is in full blown John Bonham/Animal mode and I have his full explosive performance down. As for Mark Hung, we pretty much taught each other to play guitar, he’s frustratingly always been one step in front of me on guitar (dagnammit!) so getting him in to play some lead and rhythm parts has been brilliant, he’s a superb player; he’s also been instrumental in getting some of Kelly’s drums and some other bits recorded, he’s a great producer too.
My friend and Drummer with my Blues band I also gig with, Eddy Miles, also appears on one track as he wrote a sci fi short set of words, poem/lyrics, so I recorded him reading it as a monologue, and it really adds character to the track.
I’m still working to get a few other friends involved, but overall having these gents involved is really important to me, and I really can’t put into words how much I appreciate their support and contributions on this music.
What’s one question you’re sick of being asked when interviewed?
“Why are you Vegan?” I usually ad the tag #veganmusician to my social media, so it comes up. I must say, just on the environmental impact alone, I’m getting to the point now where I really think people should be justifying why they are not rather than hassling me about why I care about the only planet we live on, sustainability and the future for my children, ethical regard for other species and my own personal health.
We have set up RGM USA sharingUSA music with the UK scene and vice versa, what are your thoughts on the UK music scene?
The UK music scene is amazing, my God, this generation alone has given us the band “IDLES”, they are so inspiring, so important. They are perfect. The UK’s Grime and Rap scene is so original and stands out. The mainstream led by artists, which I wouldn’t choose to listen to, but Adele and Ed Sheeran. You can’t deny that as a nation we are still leading the way.
I do think there needs to be so much more investment in Arts education. I’m a self taught musician, but thats out of necessity, why should I be self-taught? How much un-tapped potential do we have out there? the answer of course is lots… lots and lots. I do feel the key to our success is more by the fortitude that English has become the main international language, if that wasn’t the case, I don’t think we’d stand a chance.
Do you sign up to any conspiracy theories?
Conspiracy? Why do you need conspiracies when there is so much overt power and corruption on fragrant and blatant display. We have political systems that favour members that are from the richest families and private schooling; these members are then bought and paid for and policies guided by corporations that fund their political parties. Even our left-wing options only assume power when they take a swing to the right and are just as likely to lead us into war and reduce the offering to support those most in need.
You can lie and cheat as much as you like in politics, you can hand billion-pound contracts to your university roommate and see them screw it up, and face no repercussions. You can be the Prime Minister and be shown to have lied and coerced your way into power, but at the end of the day, so long as you don’t screw your secretary behind your wives back, there ain’t nothing that’s going to topple you from that seat of power.
Conspiracies… pfft. The documented truth is worse than any conspiracy, it’s not just staring you in the face, it’s rubbing it into the dirt, and it’s telling you to goddamned like it.
I may be veering off from the light-hearted banter this interview was supposed to invite….
What support is out there for new artists in your area?
If you find out I’d love to hear about it… Actually, other artists on the scene are a huge help and inspiration. I’d encourage any other independent artists to use their network, or create a network, make friends. We’re all doing the same thing, we’re all learning as we go. I’ve started to help friends with their artwork for example, something I didn’t even know how to do for myself a year ago. I have other friend sharing their tips on what blogs and magazines to go to and I’ll pass that that knowledge on to others; get ready RGM because you’re on my referral list now!
Who is inspiring you at the minute?
My friends! check out my friend “Stevo The Bass” his one man Drum and BASS loop live shows are so cool, he also has a great track out called “Closing Down”. Or if you like Reggae check out the band he belongs to called “The Drop” who have also collaborated with the late great “Lee Scratch Perry” Reggae royalty basically. Tor is currently in the amazing Rock band “Electric High” their songs will kick your ass all the way down the street and still leave you asking for more. Check out my great mate “Nix Dadry”, I do happen to play lead guitar on his latest released material, which was so much fun to be put squarely into stadium rock mode; although he did get me in on Mandolin too. Check out his track “First World”, also his album doen way before I got involved “Magic Water” is such a strong album ranging from atmospheric to so hard rocking it’ll have you checking into a hotel room just to smash it up and throw a TV out the window.
What useless party trick /talent do you have/?
I can balance literally anything on my beard. I’ve got to the point with it now where even I have started to wonder if it is a super power, or maybe I’m imbued with some kind of magic, well not me, just my beard.
I have a magic beard. An Abraca-Beard if you will.
What was the most fun you have had on stage?
In my younger days doing the Pop-Promo circuit with the signed band I was in, we were asked to play a song at a live event for 7000 kids and on national radio and reported in national news. But when we got to it, due to the revolving door of artists they had for the outdoor event, everyone had to mime their song. To be honest, we didn’t mind that, we understood some things you did was just marketing, and we’d just had a live tour and we knew we were a great live band. So to us we just thought, “Yay! it’s a day off!” So we left the site and went to the nearest pub, played pool, and got recklessly drunk; after all, we were just going to mime a song we could play live standing on our heads, what could go wrong??
So fast forward four hours, we return to the “festival” site wearing sunglasses, high-fiving everyone in sight and generally being badass pissed up rock stars. Although really,, what was in our heads a swagger, in truth was more of a collective stagger, but we took to the stage regardless, we take it it like we’re mounting a pantomime donkey.
7000 kids go crazy and start jumping up and down to our radio and chart hit song, these poor kids who think they’ve been watching live music all day, not knowing its actually a great big celebrity karaoke event. We give it our best cos that’s what we do, we bust out our best-mimed moves including power slides, getting the crowd to clap along; I mean, we were professionals after all… then into the second chorus, our singer drunkenly gets tangled in some cables and falls right off the front of the 8-foot high stage.
7000 kids suddenly stop jumping, dancing, clapping, they are stunned into immobility, silence and confusion because the song is still pumping out, singing and all, but the bloke thats supposed to be singing is hanging upside down off the front of the stage with his flying V guitar hanging from his neck, and the rest of as in the band are doubled up in hysterical laughter. Rather than be concerned for our compadre’s wellbeing, we laughed, completely giving up on the playback miming, we were just way too drunk to care, besides that kind of stuff happened to us all the time.
We were told we ruined the event for all the kids attending who thought everything was live. I prefer to think of us as crusaders exposing the truth, we were heroes.
Really, really quite drunk heroes.
What was the worst experience on stage?
I think the previous example answers this question quite adequately too, ha!
Tell us something about you / your band that you think people would be surprised about?
Look, I got so much dirt on the guys that have collaborated on this “SofaNauts” album that I couldn’t possibly go there, mainly because they all got dirt on me too. Also it would get dark. Very, very dark.
If you had to describe your band to an alien how would you describe them?
This is a Sci-fi themed Pop/Prog/Rock album. Aliens would get it straight away. It’s the humans I’m worried about.
What makes you stand out as an artist?
Well I’m a reluctant multi-instumentalist that gets by on smoke and mirrors. Seriously, If you like guitars, if you like interesting lyrics if you like Space stuff, and if you like a mix of fun songs, as well as some progressive ones, then you’ve come to the right place.
Right now, what’s pissing you of the most? (Can’t say the virus )
I’m a left-wing, tree-hugging Vegan; I live with the belief that we are all equal, the belief that lying and corruption are wrong, I agree with the science that tells us the current industrialised form of human existence and consumption is absolutely not sustainable. The house I own is forecast to be underwater in 30 years from now.
The question is truely, what isn’t pissing me off because I look around and I see a world in denial.
What’s your favourite song to play live and why?
On my last album I have a song called “Blossoms”, its a personal number about mental health and recovery, my live performances this year were all solo acoustic affairs, and I did find myself missing the additional instrumentation on the record. That song is a stripped down acoustic number anyway, on which I also play harmonica, which I can easily achieve solo, and I must say I really enjoyed playing that. To be honest playing acoustic was fine, you just take the song to a different place.
I must say, I’m also in an electric blues band called “Stone Pepper Blues” and I could pick any song from that set, because its so fun to just crank my Valve amp up and belt out some guitar with my mates Eddy Miles (Drums) and Jon Cannon (Bass), those guys are so good and some how the three of us make a sound that becomes more than the sum of its parts.
I hear you have a new single, what can you tell us about it?
Yes, I do! “Space Person Blues” out on the 27th Dec 21 thanks for asking, which as it happens isn’t actually a blues song, fancy that! Its an alternative Rock song equipped with stadium drums, synthesisers and electric guitar, and musically is quite progressive, its just over 6 minutes long and I guess I wouldn’t call it a single as such, it’s not radio-friendly, even though its quite melodic and grooving, I see it more of a mission statement of things to come this year.
In true DIY musician fashion, I also make my own music videos, and the video for this is part sci fi movie footage, taken from a few public domain movies originally released in the 1960s. I love that classic movie aesthetic anyway, and they really went all out on the effects which look really cool, especially considering when they were made. One of the movies is pretty terrible as a story, “Voyage to the Planet of the pre-historic women”, not exactly high art. But still really cool on many levels. I spliced these movies together, colourised them, used light effects and cartoon/comic style overlays and then added performance footage of myself sing and also playing the guitar. I’m really happy with the video, I think its the best one I’ve managed so far, and I shot the whole thing on an Iphone, and edited on a normal laptop with free software.
It’s amazing what you can achieve with zero knowledge or training, so long as you are happy to experiment and put yourself in front of the camera and give it a go.
Talk me through the thought process of the single?
The “Blues” element comes in because the lyrics plays with lines from classic blues songs like “I got a bird to whistle, and a bird to sing” or, “I love my babe so long and tall” and of course “You sho’ enough got the blues, got the blues”. It was really fun to put these songs into a completely different context. But in terms of the meaning I was looking to convey, the song is really about, wanting to give or show the beauty of the world to another, but they can’t see it because they are too busy looking at the ground, “We could walk amongst the stars, but you’re still looking for the shoes, Bathe in the sunlight, but you sho’ enough got the Blues”. Because I think we can all be guilty of that from time to time, the beauty of the world is there at all times, just we can’t always see it because our heads are wrapped up in other things.
At least that is what I am aiming to get across, I made a point to be less explicit lyrically with this song, You do have to listen to it and pay attention to the small changes to the choruses to really get the meaning.
What was the recording process like?
You would be surprised at how much of this I recorded straight onto my iPhone; even when I transferred it across to my laptop I ended up keeping all the guitars, and the lead vocals all the synths from the demo I made on my phone using Garageband. I just re-recorded a few vocal lines, and then invited my great friend Tor to add his drum magic which he did at Havnelageret Studio, in Bergen with the studio owner Daniel Birkeland. So it was partly done on a phone in my shed by me, and partly done in a world-class recording studio fro the drums! Actually, Daniel Birkeland, runs an amazing studio, it’s an Alladins cave of classic guitars and other instruments, and I’d love to cut a whole record there, but it’s just not practical for me right now. Daniel also did an executive mix on the song as I must admit there were so many elements and myself still being a novice on production, he really helped make all the parts stand out.
Would you change anything now it’s finished?
This time, no, I don’t think I would, which is strange for me. Its a big number, there’s a lot going on. I’m just happy to be finally sharing these songs which I wrote a whole album ago.
What are your plans for the year ahead?
Well… *rolls up sleeves and leans forward* I’m going to be staggering the releases for the Sofanauts album, I’ll have a single release again in February, and in March
Then finally in April/May time i’ll have the album out in its entirety.
Alongside this, I will also be playing live gigs with my Blues Band, Stone Pepper Blues, and we’ll be going into the studio in 2022 to also cut at least an EP of original music. I’ll also be supporting the release for Nix Dadry in Feb/March as I am the lead guitarist for his latest Rock EP, which we are all really proud of.
As we enter Autumn I will begin writing for my next album, not sure whether to go harder rock, or go folk myself next time… see how the year goes, but either way, I’m a-gonna be busy.
Is there anything else you would like to share with the world?
If you’re reading this, I hope you enjoy the music I put out, it there to share thoughts and experiences that I think we all feel. Otherwise, y’know, just be you, be cool, don’t go changing. Unless of course, you are some kind of psycho, or worse, an oligarch or corporation leader that buys politicians and coerces the world into a darker environmentally damaged place just to further your own business profits and narcissistic aims, then definitely don’t “just be you”, if that’s you, you should definitely make some changes, get out of business and spend your days at the beach instead or watching cat videos on YouTube.
Mark Remmingtons new release “Space Person Blues” is available for download and streaming from all major platforms from Monday 27th December 2021. Look out for the album “SofaNauts” out later in 2022