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Mark Mulcahy - Interview

  by Anthony Strutt

published: 13 / 2 / 2006

Mark Mulcahy - Interview


Since his much acclaimed former band the Miracle Legion broke up in the mid 1990s, Mark Mulcahy has released three solo albums. Backstage at a London gig, he talks to Anthony Strutt about his latest record, 'In Pursuit of Your Happiness'

Mark Mulcahy is the voice behind one of my favourite US bands of all time, the Miracle Legion. He became a friend in the mid 80's and has remained one since. Their first UK review said "This band looks like Ian McNabb of the Icicle Works fronting R.E.M." The Miracle Legion are no longer with us. They split up in 1996 14 years after getting together, but Mark has gone on since then to record three critical acclaimed solo albums, 'Fathering (1999), 'SmileSunset' (2001) and 'In Pursuit of Your Happiness' (2005), which have been released by Loose Records in Britain and on his own Mezzotint label in the United States Frequently praised by the likes of 'Uncut' and 'The Guardian' for his good looks, puppy dog charm, and the fact that he has the voice of an angel, he is often compared to Jeff Buckley whom the Miracle Legion toured with once. I spoke to Mark during a very rare UK tour late last year before a show at the Spitz in London. PB : What made you want to do music in the first place ? Was it always in your blood ? MM : Well, it was something that I had always dreamed of, and fantasised about. When I used to go to church, I fantasised about going out on stage, and a band was always there. It was a strange dream. I always dreamed of being in a band, but I never took a chance with it. I played drums in my room instead. Then I met this guy, who was kind of crazy, and he said he wanted to start a band. He didn't even play anything. He had a guitar, but he couldn't play at all and he got this gig at this college and we got chucked off stage, but that's what got me started. I met another guy there at that gig who was a musician, and he said, "Hey, I would like to play with you, but let's get rid of the crazy guy." He and I played together for a bit, and then he had the courage to reply to an ad. The guys who placed the ad said they didn't like him much, but they liked me, so, I ended up in the music business crawling my way all over people from the outset (Laughs). That's how it began. I took a chance and started as a drummer. Drumming was good.I still love drumming, but I kept on meeting bands that faded out, and when you're the drummer in that situation then it is immediately over. Ray (Neal, the other main member of what would become the Miracle Legion), and I were in a band together with with Kirk Swan, who went on to become the singer in Dumptruck. He folded that band, and so we decided to make up our own band and to see what would happen. We gave it a go. Ray played guitar and I sang and that was it. Mainly I was just playing drums in bands , but when Ray and got together we decided to write, and that was the genesis of me fronting my own band. PB : What made you want to sing? Was it like Iggy Pop ? He saw the Doors, and he didn't want to drum anymore. He wanted to sing. MM : Part of the Iggy thing was he went to Chicago where there are and were some great drummers and he thought "I'm not that great." It wasn't so much that actually. I was in Dumptruck. Do you know that band ? PB : Yes, I have got their first three albums. MM : I was in that band at the same time as Miracle Legion. They both started at the same time, so I was drumming and singing, doing both equally and being perfectly happy, but then Dumptruck moved from where we then were in Connecticut to Boston. They wanted a full time drummer. I couldn't image not drumming, but that was the way it was. It was like "We have a drummer now. You're out !" And so they made the decision for me. I was now a singer, but even in the Miracle Legion I drummed a lot. It was a hard thing to give up entirely. I never wanted to be the lead singer, but I love it now that I am. I wish I was still just that, instead of a guitarist now as well. PB : How do you feel your guitar playing has come along ? The last time I interviewed you in 1999 you said that you get by. Now do you more than get by ? MM : I'm still pretty bad, but playing with other people just about covers it up, and let's me relax a little bit. I still haven't mastered it. I am nobody. I am the worst one out there (Laughs) PB : You get by. You do what you have to. I get by to write. I play guitar to write. I make no excuses for myself. I think everybody knows I am doing my best and only the musicians in the audience wish there was someone better up there. I am not Richard Thompson. I am getting by. PB : 'In Pursuit of Your Happiness' is your third solo album on Loose. On 'Fathering', your first solo record, you played everything on it. 'SmileSunset', however, featured a band. MM : 'SmileSunset' was mainly me as well. I did have some help. I enjoyed doing 'Fathering' that way, but for 'SmileSunset'I found people who wanted to help and to play the bass, the cello and drums. PB : Is the nucleus of 'SmileSunset' the same as 'In Pursuit of Your Happiness' ? MM : It is the same drummer. I did 'In Pursuit of Your Happiness' with bass and drum and guitar. The whole album was mapped out like that. I have never done it that way before. We mapped it out and then added to it with a host of people. Most of them I didn't really know too well. PB : Are they local guys ? MM : Yeah, I met most of them through my friend Miles who works at the studio I record in. There's one song that Joey Santiago plays on.... PB : That's the lead guitarist with the Pixies ? MM : Yeah, whom Miles knows really well, because he works as the their lighting man. Miles sent him the track, and he sent it back. PB : He didn't play in the studio with you ? MM : No, he never showed up. PB : J Mascis from Dinosaur Jr also plays on the album. What about him ? MM : J I have met. I'm friendly with him. He lives around where I live. We did some music together. I said "I'm making a record. Do you want to play on it ?" and he said "Yeah". PB : On your own label Mezzotint there's a band called Polaris. Are you involved with them as well ? MM : Yeah ! Actually it's the Miracle Legion without Ray. We were asked to write the the theme tune to a TV show. Ray wasn't interested, but I said that I would like to give it a try,and so I did it myself and wrote the music myself. It was my first try at doing something without Ray, and I didn't know anyone, at all so I asked the other guys to be the rhythm section. We didn't do anything other than make a record. We did four songs in three years, but there's never been a gig. We are a studio band. We do appear live on the TV though. We are on the show every week (Laughs). PB : Is it a news thing ? MM : No, it is a sitcom for kids, but it is one of those that crosses the line and adults like it too. It's not stupid. It's very adult. It seems silly to kids and it looks silly but adults like it. PB : Is music a full time career now, or do you have a day job ? MM : No, I don't have a day job. PB : You can survive on music alone. That's good! MM : It's been better since I started Mezzotint. I also mainly record on my own. There's not enough cash for a band to survive. I have done a number of different things in the last few years like an opera which also had helped to pay the bills. PB : You did some theatre as well, didn't you ? MM : Yeah. PB : Was that acting or music ? MM : I wrote that with another guy and acted in it too. There were two productions and we sang as well. PB : Was that a good experience or was it nerve wrecking ? MM : Well, it was singing, so I am used to that. One I acted in and the other I just sang in. The one I just sang in I enjoyed. The one I acted in I got over it, but it was boring. If you're an actor, I'm sure it's not boring. I don't want to be an actor though. The challenge of acting is you have too do the same thing every night and that's not how I approach my music. PB : I believe you have moved. You lived in New Haven in Connecticut at the time of the Miracle Legion. MM : Yeah, I live now in Spirngfield in Massachusetts which is one state up. PB : Dumptruck recently remastered their UK output and their first three LPs. Were you involved with any of that (Mark drummed on their first LP from 1984, 'D is for Dumptruck')? MM : That was just Seth Tiven (Dumptruck singer and guitarist andsole surviving member). For what I did with them compared to what they have done, I wasn't a big part of it. PB : I didn't even know they were still going. MM : Yeah, I just sang on two songs on Seth's new record which is the new Dumptruck record. PB : Are there any bands that you grew up with that you still like ? I know you liked the Smiths. MM : I absolutely loved them all my life and I still like them and I love Pere Ubu. David Thomas is a genius PB : You soundchecked with some new songs so I would imagine you have enough material for a new album. MaM : Well, I'm always ready to make an album, whether I have the material or not. PB : Anything else you would like to add? MM : No, but if there's anything else I would be happy to tell you. Have you any deeper questions ? PB : Yeah, of course... But folks, those are between me and my friend Mark, Big Mark from the Miracle Legion. A big guy with a big heart. The photographs that accompany this article were taken by Anthony Strutt

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Mark Mulcahy - Interview

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Interview (2013)
Mark Mulcahy - Interview
Paul Waller talks to Connecticut-based singer-songwriter Mark Mulcahy about his new album ‘Dear Mark J Mulcahy, I Love You’ and his years with much acclaimed indie rock outfit, Miracle Legion

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Dear Mark J. Mulcahy (2013)
Upbeat and compelling first album in eight years from former Miracle Legion front man, Mark J. Mulcahy
In Pursuit Of Your Happiness (2005)

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