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Mark Mulcahy - Interview

  by Paul Waller

published: 6 / 11 / 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

Connecticut’s Mark Mulcahy’s recent album ‘Dear Mark J Mulcahy, I Love You’ has left a mark on me this year in a similar way to that as Grant Hart’s fine effort ‘The Argument’. Both artists have now gone solo after earning their stripes in successful bands during the 80s, Hart with Husker Du and Mulcahy with the criminally overlooked Miracle Legion, and both of these gentlemen have released ridiculously strong albums recently that have earned repeat play after repeat play on my turntable. ‘Dear Mark J Mulcahy, I Love You’, which has come out on Fire Records, contains some of Mark’s best work in our minds since his landmark 1984 record ‘The Backyard’, which he recorded with Miracle Legion. and his debut solo record ‘Fathering’. There is an infectious pop swing in some of the songs such as ‘Poison Candy Hart’ and ‘He’s a Magnet’ ,whilst album closer ‘Where’s the Indifference Now?’ has a skewed indie feel that is truly lacking in today current scene. Pennyblackmusic caught up with Mark on the phone whilst he was arriving at a concert on his recent UK tour. It turned out that he saw Bjork in a record shop the day before, so we chatted a little on that before we got into the meat of the conversation. PB: The press has had an overwhelmingly positive response to your new album, and now that you have had a few months to live with it yourself are you still content with how it turned out? MM: Yeah, it turned out just as I hoped it might and that is always a great surprise. I had a goal and I met it. Saying that, I haven’t listened to it for a while. so I shouldn’t say that I still think it’s great but I am happy with it. Yes. Mainly though, it is great to play live. PB: The promo cover of the new record has a pink hue to it, but the proper album release has this fuzzed up photograph of you on it? Who came up with the idea of having you represented in this way? MM: The pink one was made only because there was a bit of a rush to get a promo copy out to people, and we hadn’t yet thought of what the design should be yet. After that we got to work on something with a better likeness on there. Three people actually spent quite a bit of time on the picture. It did take a while to get it done, right up until the last minute. I like white albums, so we have one, I love that it was a white design. PB: It has this clean clinical design, and yet the image of you is cracked and not quite in focus. MM: Yeah, you could look at it that way. That’s exactly it! I have a friend that I get a lot of advice from, and when he saw it he said, “Yes! That is it, absolutely.” I am really happy with it. PB: This deal with Fire Records has played a major part in fans being able to find your records easily in shops as their distribution is so great. How did the deal come about? MM: Well, when we were getting to the end of making this record we shopped it around to a bunch of labels and they responded; all we did was send everybody a tape and see who wanted to put it out. With Fire, there was a guy there that has known about me for a long time. It’s great to see it in record stores; to know you are in there with everybody else. PB: What did your producer Paul Kolderie bring to the table this time around for you? MM: Well, how it worked was that I recorded it at a friend’s studio, and then when we had finished it, by coincidence, I ran into him, and we did a little more recording. He’s much more a mixer now than a producer. He’s done so much stuff. If you look him up, you’ll be pretty surprised. He will have worked on around a hundred records that you love like the Lemonheads, the Pixies, the first Radiohead record. Yeah, so much stuff that came out of Boston in that era. Anyway, he took the finished record and remixed it. He added so much to it, took it to another level. It was just another great stroke of luck to have him work on it; he just made it sound like it couldn’t be better. PB: On various songs on this album, and tracks such as ‘Where’s the Indifference Now?’ and ‘He’s a Magnet’, there is a real Miracle Legion influence trickling through. Do you see that? MM: You know what? At one point I thought that too. I didn’t remember us as being such a rock band, but then I did listen to some of it and, yeah, we were pretty fast. I was, however, just the singer then, so it didn’t matter to me how fast anything was and when I am playing guitar on my own now I couldn’t play anything quite like that. But by the time I got to this record I have just been practicing a lot and I can play that little bit faster, so the songs can be a little faster now too. It wasn’t a purposeful thing where I wanted to make it sound like a Miracle Legion record though. PB: Well, it’s one of those records where you can listen to it as a single piece, front to back. or choose any track off it at random and it will still be as good as the last one you heard. That’s a rare thing today. MM: I know exactly what you mean; it’s rare when a record does that. It’s a bit of a side effect from the approach we took where we were writing just one song at a time, one song per one day. Being focused on that one thing, maybe it is a great way of writing ten potential hit songs. Doing it that way, like each one is a single, that way you are not really connecting them together, and so maybe that’s why it works that way. I don’t think I’ve ever made such a short record as this though. PB: Have you thought about the next album at all; maybe take that one track in one day approach again? MM: I don’t know. I did like doing that, I have been thinking about it, but I haven’t figured out quite how to do it yet. PB: A lot of people first came across your music thanks in part to you being featured in Nick Hornby’s book ‘31 Songs’, which must have felt great, right? MM: Oh man, that was so great and strange at the same time. I’ve only met him this one time in London at a gig. It was great to bump into him like that and have a drink, so, yeah, I can say I have met him now. PB: To go back to your days in Miracle Legion, I have noticed in the press that the band is getting props once again, but whenever it happens it’s always in conjunction with the journalist comparing the band’s sound to that of R.E.M’s. Does that ever bug you? MM: I tell you what; it has annoyed me in the past but not anymore. I personally don’t think we sounded that much like them, but I can see the connection. But in the time when it was actually happening it wasn’t great (Laughs). I just ignored it all. PB: You signed to Rough Trade at the beginning with Miracle Legion; they must have been exciting times. How did that come about? MM: It came about quite simply by us sending some tapes out and somebody gave Geoff (Travis, Rough Trade owner -Ed) a tape. We saw him at CBGB’s, and he just walked up to us and said, “I want to sign you guys.” It didn’t just happen in two seconds, but to have him do that, well, it was very good for us. We said we would go back to the hotel and if he showed up in the morning he could sign us, and he showed up the next morning, and so he signed us. At this point in the conversation the phone was disconnected. I tried a few more times to get him back on the line, but I went straight through to his voicemail. I then got a quick call back. Mark apologised, but he was just about to drive through the gates at the festival he was playing at that day. I had to ask one more Miracle Legion question though. PB: With ‘The Backyard’ being amongst my favourite albums to be released in the 80s I wondered if you have any memories of recording it. What was it like recording those sessions? MM: Oh shoot...um...I remember that we really didn’t have a lot of money at all, and trying to do it was very expensive at the time. All there was to choose from in those days were proper, huge and expensive recording studios, so we just practiced and practiced a lot so we could just go in and do it as quickly as we could. It turned out that the guy we were recording it with was a 70’s musician who had been in a pretty good band. and he was a really good singer. It almost has a Journey sounding voice, and he really helped me learn to sing background vocals. He could see that that was something that I hadn’t done before, but the transformation was incredible. I was thinking about doing just one overdub. We tried harmonies, but I think we took it too far. It turns out that two was good, but three just took it too far (Laughs). At that point the phone disconnected for a final time. I thought it best to give up. Mark's new solo album ‘Dear Mark J Mulcahy, I Love You’ is one of the albums of the year, up there with Miracle Legion’s very best. You could do a lot worse than giving it a spin yourselves.

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Interview (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'



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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