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Rothko - Interview with Mark Beazley

  by Olga Sladeckova

published: 16 / 7 / 2003

Rothko - Interview with Mark Beazley


Back for a second interview with Pennyblackmusic, Mark Beazley, the frontman with Rothko, who played the Pennyblackmusic Bands Night in April, talks to Olga Sladeckova about his group's new instrumental anti-war album, 'Wish For A World Without Hurt'

It is Tuesday the 11th of September 2001. Early morning passes asquickly as any other. I am standing in the kitchen of one of my friend's house when he walks in from through the hallway. "Have you heard what happened?" he asks, looking horrified. "What happened?" I ask quickly. "There has been a terrorist attack in New York. A plane has crashed into the Twin Towers" he replies with a shaking voice and I can see his eyes going red, as he quickly turns and walks out of the kitchen. (The friend actually comes from Washington, but at the time was living in UK.) I can't remember the rest of the day so clearly after that. We all saw though the footage on the news, read about it in papers and bought books full of pictures that still make us shiver. Still now I have the permanent memory of smoke drifting above the New York skyline, covering the whole city in dust, and in the same shade of black that people wear to funerals. Mark Beazley, who fronts the solo act Rothko, was as horrified as many of the rest of us by the attack, and its devastating consequences and the desperate and the sudden feeling of vulnerability that came with it remain, like all of us, with him a permanent memory. 2 years on he is releasing 'Wish For A World Without Hurt', an album in remembrance of the events of 11th September 2001. Mark began playing music very young. He played in a few bands before forming Rothko as a solo project in 1997. As he confirmed in his first interview with Pennyblackmusic last year, he only thought of putting a line-up together after he was offered his first gig. Rothko's first line-up also consisted of Jon Meade, the guitarist from a band called Geiger Counter, and Crawford Blair. Right from the beginning Rothko met with an impressive response. After only a few appearances the band attracted the attention of Bella Union Records (formed by Simon Raymonde and Robin Guthrie of the Cocteau Twins), and this was followed by the interest of other labels such as Fierce Panda, Lo Recordings and Burning Shed. All subsequently released Rothko albums and singles. As the start of the new Millennium the original line-up split up, but, however, in 2001 Mark started playing with bass guitarist Michael Donnelly (Delicate AWOL) and later Frances Morgan on violin and Rothko's history continued. Mark signed to the London based record label Too Pure to release his last album 'Continual Search For Origins (2002)'. More changes, however, came when Mark left Too Pure at the end of last year. Today he is running his own record label Trace Recordings and on the 15th September, his first release, the 8 track, 'Wish For A World Without Hurt', will come out. Pennyblackmusic spoke to Mark Beazley one Wednesday evening about the album and the record label. PB: I spoke to you last year just after 'Continual Search For Origins' was releaed . The next release after that was on an Italian record label Nail Records, and was a 4 track early version of 'Wish For A World Without Hurt'. Could you tell me how that came about? MB: It was through a guy a called Teho Teardo from Pordenone in Italy. He also plays in a band with Scott Mcloud (from Girls Against Boys) called Operator who recently toured europe with Placebo. He contacted me after he read that the original line-up had split up. He just asked if we could do some stuff together. That wasn’t possible at the time but i sent him some sounds from the track 'Red Cells' (2002 7" single on Too Pure-Ed)which he remixed and which he did a really good job of, It’s really nice. then he released a 12” on Nail Records as part of their ‘Domestic Landscapes’ series, which he sent me and i really liked it. He came to England for a few days, we met up, and got on really well, he’s a lovely guy, and he asked if I would contribute to some tracks to the series, so of course I said yes, and that’s how it came about. my contribution was 'Domestic Landscapes #4’ PB: You recently parted company with Too Pure. Why did you decide to leave? MB: It just didn’t happen really and i didn’t sell enough records to justify doing another album with them.I must admit it was nice to have a solid label for a while. It’s just easier, but the fact that we parted company is a good thing. I wasn’t making any music. I hadn’t done anything for ages and there wasn’t going to be a follow up to ‘Origins’. PB: But still it seems that when ever you record something there is always someone interested in putting it out. MB: Not this time. (laughs) That’s why I started my own label. I found it increasingly hard to sell it to anybody. I’ve never felt comfortable asking people “Would you put this out?” Until now it hasn’t been a problem really. But I just felt really unsure about making more music and if people are not going to want to put it out. So the alternative to that was to do it myself. PB: When did you started thinking about your own label? MB: About a month after I split up with Too Pure. PB: Did you know anything about doing a label when you decided to started one up? MB: Nothing. I have had a lot of help from many people like Jon at Lo Recordings, Jason at Too Pure and various other people as well. Jason used to run Foundry Records and Jon has been running Lo Recordings for years. They have been great and really helpful. I couldn’t have done it without them really. PB: When did you first start thinking about doing 'Wish...' the 8 track? MB: A year ago. It was in June of last year. Too Pure originally agreed to put the CD out through mail order. It was only 5 track at the time, and it was really good that they didn’t put it out because it meant there was more time to work on the record and that's why we could write some music and come up with 8 tracks at the end. Sometimes it’s good when things take longer then you think. Delays are nearly always a good thing because you don’t have to rush to release anything. PB: You recorded the album in collaboration with Jim Adams (otherwise known as BLK w/BEAR). How do you know him? MB: Jim contacted me through my web site leaving a message on the message aboard. I got in touch with him, he puts records out himself and he sent me his stuff which I really liked. Jim’s stuff is great. It’s very drone based. He uses a lot of vinyl and makes different sounds. He’s a great man. PB: The record is based on what happened on the 11th September 2001. Why did you decide to base it on the event? MB: The anniversary was coming up and we just got talking about it and what it meant really. You know... there are always troubles in the world. Things in London weren’t good either at that time and that was the first time in the US that they felt that sort of attack. It has never happened to them, not in that way before, not from outside the USA. PB: Yeah, it makes you feel really vulnerable all of a sudden. MB: Definitely. When I was growing up I went to a Catholic school. And every now and then we would be evacuated from school because of bomb threats, and we were like 7,8,9 years old at the time. We thought it was a laugh but at the same time it was quite scary, especially as we never had a clue what was going to happen Those things do come sort of flashing back a bit. Also Jim lives in Washington, which, of course, was also attacked, so he was really close to it. He has friends and family living close by in the area. It was a terrible time. It was great to talk about it with him and to share together our thoughts on both terror and peace. PB: Do you think it’s some sort of feeling you have had inside you for a long time and it sort of increased by what happened on the 11th September? MB: Yeah, I would say. Definitely. PB: You have said it's reaction to September 11th, but do you also see it as a reaction to war in general? MB: Yeah, the album is about fear and horror and what those things can bring generally. And also, hopefully, some sort of resolution and peace. i think It's a very reflective record. A lot of times when you are thinking about being scared you are reflecting on what has gone on in your life and in the past. It’s just not about what’s happening at the moment. Those things make you look forward and make you look back as well. I think you are right. It brought a lot of those thoughts into my mind. Yeah. PB: Yeah, I connect it mostly with war. Well, my dad served in the war. And I’ve heard lots of stories and I put them inside of it somehow. MB: I think when you are thinking about things and you are reflecting on stuff you sort of get lost in your own thoughts a little bit. And all kinds of sounds creep in and they tell you something and I think that’s the way I like to use those sort of sounds. I think they do have a real place in the music. I’m not writing lyrics and shouting this is this and that’s that, but there is definitely a lot of thought behind it. PB: The second track of the album, 'I Feel Lost Without You', has lots of distorted talking. Where does that come from? MB: I have no idea. (laughs) I have absolutely no idea. It's done by Jim and he uses a lot of old recordings and a lot of old vinyl. Some of it is quite frightening. He developed a real sense of panic with that track. That’s the feeling I get out of that recording. I love it. I love that track. Jim and I made the album by swapping sound files between London and Washington DC, and then creating the tracks from the sounds we sent each other, so the album was a real joint effort. It was a real honour and a privelege to have worked with Jim on this record. PB: The first track, ‘Wish For A World Without Hurt’, sounds quite soft at first, but then you get all those rough sounds that make you shiver. Where did you take those sounds from? MB: It’s birds' voices that have been distorted and some drums. Sometimes it just happens that I’m trying to create a sound and think “Is this going to fit in with anything else ?” and then suddenly it just falls together. Most of the things that I make are about 4 or 5 minutes long and then I cut them into pieces and then try and rearrange them and some of them make sense. That's how it goes. It takes a long time. PB: How did you decide on the running order of tracks? MB: It just seemed to fall into place. I thought I would put one of mine tracks, one of Jim's one of mine and it just works. PB: I see some kind of relation between the first and the last track, ‘Wish For A World Without Hurt’ and ‘Lowering With Wolves’. MB: Yeah, The last track uses the end of the first track. So it’s almost like an opening and closing. PB: I found it’s sometimes hard to listen to it because it sounds so real but at the same it's very very beautiful because of that. I hope that makes sense to you. MB: That’s fantastic, thanks. Yeah, life isn’t just about being down. PB: My impression after I have listened to it was that it doesn’t have a happy end. MB: It has an end. But not necessarily a happy one, yes. I’ve always been obsessed about having a definite start and end. I always wonder how other musicians can put the order of the tracking so that it seems perfect and I always try to do that. I don’t like things that are definite. Nothing is definite. I like things to have an open picture. PB: Who designed the cover of the album? MB: Jim designed the cover. He’s an actual proper artist. the Images are a part of an exhibition that he is going to be staging in Oregon very soon. The front cover is a scene of a landscape in Texas after it has been hit by a tornado so it gives the impression of complete devastation. The back cover image is of a suitcase that contains equipment that actually records voices. PB: I also really like the picture inside showing a picture of a person's face in which they look as if they have been crying. MB: It’s just how Jim bent the card and it looks like there is a tear. That’s how it worked out. I love that picture. PB: Frances Morgan also now performs with you and James Adams and Michael Donnelly. She has been playing with you quite a long time now. How did you meet her ? MB: She was actually a friend of Jon (Meade) who was originally in the band. We knew each other but lost contact and then I started going to see her band, who are called Now. Frances is just lovely. She is a really good musician and can play guitar, bass, violin, keyboard and sings. I plucked up the courage to ask her if she would play violin and fortunately for me she said yes. PB: Frances sounds really great. I thinks she fits in perfectly. MB: Ah, she is brilliant. She has got a good ear and picks things up very quickly. She has known the music for some time and it’s just really great to have her in the band. It feels quite solid at the moment with me, Frances and Micheal in the band. PB: What are your plans for the near future? MB: Hopefully we will be recording a single soon which I’m going to put out. PB: What it's going to sound like? MB: I don’t know what it will be like yet. I have got some really harsh stuff I’ve done, maybe i’ll use that, I’d like to get something out before the end of the year. Hopefully it will be 7” single. PB: Will you be doing any gigs. MB: Hmm. Maybe… it’s really hard to get gigs. There is a new venue in Leicester which I would like to play in September. I would also like to maybe play London also in September. It’s always hard finding gigs though, especially in London. I don’t know why but it seems to be more hassle PB: Finally, the title of the album is 'Wish For A World Without Hurt'. Do you believe in it in any sort of way? MB: It’s a dream isn’t it? It’s actually not just about violence. It’s actually a real wish for a world without hurt - emotional hurt, physical hurt. There‘s too much of it in the world. People are always getting hurt and damaged. PB: Yeah, once you start thinking about all those things to this extend it's actually very depressing. MB: That’s just the way I feel. I want me to be alright, I want everyone else to be alright. But no one really is. Everyone suffers. Everyone. A ‘wish for a world without hurt’is just a dream i would like to come true. I started talking to Jim Adams about these things and thought then that the next thing shouldn't be some sort of vague thing. Everything that I’ve done I’ve thought about a lot, but I wanted this album to be something to actually say “This is how I feel” and to have titles that actually mean something. To really have some attachment to it. I don’t want things to be vague anymore and I want to continue making records this way. I'm really happy with this record. Also I’ve always said from the start that I would hope the music would never have a conclusion to it. And only over the last 2 years I’ve realised that, and it has been changing and moving forward all the time since then. I couldn’t hope for anymore. PB: Thank you very much for talking. MB: Thank you. The photographs that accompany this article were taken by Matthew Williams at the second Pennyblackmusic Bands Night at the London Spitz on the 26th April 2003

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Rothko - Interview with Mark Beazley

Rothko - Interview with Mark Beazley

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