Monday, August 11, 2008
Interview With Marc With A C
Foto by Blackstarlight
Marc Sirdoreus, former blogger/music critic but better known as Marc With A C has been playing for almost ten years now and recently released his latest album Linda Lovelace For President (comes with the Live At Stardust DVD too!). The record takes a more serious turn than any previous album, but it’s still got Marc’s classic and stripped down sensibilities. Most importantly it has some great tunes that I think are more rewarding in many ways than some of his older songs. You can read the rest of my review here.
But let’s get on with it shall we? Marc was kind enough to entertain my questions (many many questions) and I hope everyone will find them as enlightening as I did.
Foggy: How did you get started making music?
Marc: My grandmother bought me my first guitar when I was around twelve or so. It was the cheapest little Spanish guitar that wouldn't stay in tune. She tried to buy me a strap so I could wear it, but accidentally bought a saxophone strap for me instead. I didn't know any better, so I wrapped it around the back, attached it to the inside of the sound hole and went for it. My mom taught me some initial chords, and then I mostly learned to play from the tablature in classic rock songbooks, as well as a hearty amount of trial and error.
Around 14 or 15, I got really into writing and recording my own music under a different name, which eventually branched off into a somewhat unrelated band. There are probably hundreds of those tapes floating around, but I'm pretty embarrassed by them now and I'd prefer they just sort of disintegrated. It was all really whiny, angsty teenage stuff. I didn't have enough remove from the situations I was singing about to offer any real perspective, and my voice was unusually high for my age. Since I didn't really know how to control my voice at the time, I tried to push my range into something really gravelly - which is the exact opposite of what my vocal cords naturally want to do. So... bad songs, bad singing, bad lyrics.
Marc With a C as a solo persona was invented to kill time between acts at a local open mic night that I hosted. I wrote some silly little nerdy songs that were probably more honest than I wanted to admit - things like "Why Don't Girls Like Me" and "Left For Her". This persona became more of a draw than any musicians actually showing up to play, and it was a little surprising. I didn't really expect to be doing it this way ten years later.
The first Marc With a C "show" happened when a very popular local band didn't show up for their set on time. The promoter wanted someone to fill time, I offered my services, expecting to bomb. I opened with the theme to the Laverne & Shirley show and followed it up with an early version of "Victoria's Girls". Probably played for about 20 minutes or so. The crowd hooted and hollered, but... I didn't expect people to start booking me the very next day. I haven't really slowed down since.
Foggy: Do you think like a music critic (blogger) while making your music and vice-versa?
Marc: I suppose so. I'm certainly trying to capture experiences and feelings sort of condensing them into bite-size reviews of my life. I'm also elaborating on whether the subject affected me in a positive or negative light, usually. I've never really thought about it that way before... but I think you're totally dead on.
Foggy: As a writer who puts a lot of pop culture references in the songs do you wish listeners knew them all or do you think of it as a nice surprise for the nerdier fans?
Marc: My motto just sort of tends to be "the right people will get it". Although I'm often surprised by the references that people don't pick up on as much as I am shocked by what the listeners gravitate towards. I thought that my years of name checking The Who would have landed me a big following of fellow Who freaks, but it hasn't happened.
Sometimes, I don't even realize how many references I'm using! An interviewer once asked if I meant to refer to Winona Ryder three separate times on the Bubblegum Romance album... and I hadn't even thought about it until that very second. However, I get asked all the time about the line from "When My Ship Comes In". You know, if I really named our dog Meatwad. And the answer is yes.
Foggy: What do you do for a living besides making music, (formally) writing about music, and just plain being a cool guy?
Marc: Hah! You think I'm cool? Man... I'm the biggest dork on the planet, but thank you very much for putting that in print! Every job I have revolves around music in some way. I have been known to while away my time in record stores for employment, but that has ended for the time being. We're going to devote a lot of energy to Marc With a C work for a few months, and a regular job might not sit well with it.
Foggy: On the recently released Live At Stardust DVD you went on some hilarious little rants; are they planned or completely off the cuff?
Marc: Usually off the cuff. I might think of some stories I want to tell during the day before a show, but usually they are all long forgotten by stage time. Even when I tell some recurring stories, like the banter you'd hear before or during "Drunk Classic Rock Fans" or "Life's So Hard", I'm always improvising new bits. I rehearse as much as I can, but when I stand in front of a crowd that's as excited to see me as I am to see them? I'm just oozing happiness and I almost can't think straight. It's intoxicating, for sure, and that situation often leads to my mind going blank for the first few songs. But once I get talking during shows... all bets are off. Even I'm surprised by the things that come out of my mouth. I guess I'm just so excited to be there that I can't really shut up.
Foggy: Would you consider putting your discography online for free? Older stuff? All?
Marc: No. I give away a lot of music in the form of free "official bootlegs" on my site. I make as many of my concerts free as I possibly can. But making the official records entirely free, all the time? No, that's not really in the cards for me. I think in terms of albums for the most part, and giving it all away negates the cost of packaging and such for me. I grew up liking to buy records, tapes and CD's. That old guard mentality might be fading a bit in recent years, and I'm adapting as well as I can, but... I like record collections. I like for my albums to be part of someone's physical collection. If that vanishes? Half of what I love about music will have disappeared. It's likely that I'd quit altogether, at that point.
Foggy: What do you think of CLLCT (001Collective)?
Marc: I think it's a great idea. There's nothing wrong with putting together a supportive musical community, you know? Plus, the site looks great, and I always end up finding something new that I like there. I can only hope that it grows beyond the collective's wildest dreams. CLLCT is doing something very ballsy... and they're doing it right.
Foggy: Are blogs the modern equivalent of how radio used to operate?
Marc: In a way. They are sort of a cross between the CMJ magazine if every band referenced could fit a song on the monthly CD... and if everyone were listening to the same college radio station. The smart labels know that blogs have the power now, and they're playing the games they used to dabble in with radio. The not-so-smart labels, however? They are the ones afraid of sending you free records and CD's in the mail. They think that if they drop an MP3 in your blog's inbox, then dammit... you'd better write about it. And they will follow up until you are just fucking annoyed with the band themselves. Like the labels are doing the blogs the favors, hah. If you want press, you gotta be willing to model your product. Period. And that goes for even the smallest label running on no money whatsoever. If you can't be bothered to walk to the mailbox and send a prospective reviewer the thing you want to sell a kajillion copies of, then they shouldn't have to be bothered with writing about it. Radio wouldn't have put up with that crap in it's heyday, and the upstart blogs shouldn't be expected to either.
Foggy: So many people are obsessing about what direction the music business will take in the few years, but is "the end" really near as some people claim?
Marc: Only for the less savvy brick and mortar stores. You don't see Amazon pitching a fit about how CD sales are slipping. Folks still (mostly) buy music at shows to support touring bands. T-shirts aren't any less popular than they used to be. But to those people obsessing about what direction the industry is taking? I honestly better not ever hear a single fucking peep out of them. They shouldn't have time to talk about predicting these trends... they should be busy counting their no doubt gigantic stacks of money from saving their precious little industry if they are so damned smart.
But you're not seeing that, and you won't. Folks have been up in arms about the industry dying since the 8-track went out. Music will continue to exist, and people will pay to see other people perform it. As long as that doesn't go away, we're pretty much gonna be fine. Maybe the WEA system won't exist in ten years, but really good bands will still be doing just fine.
Foggy: Do you think the hipster record player fad will go away? Is reel to reel the next cool thing?
Marc: Hey, reel to reels were considered high-end audiophile equipment back in the day! But will this record fad fade? There's a lot of things to consider there, Steven. First of all, a lot of the teenagers buying their first records and turntables have grown up never paying for music at all. They get this stuff home and find out what it's like to have bought a slice of art. They see liner notes, big pictures all matched up with better fidelity than they have ever heard in their lifetime. I've watched the most "technologically advanced" iPhone-toting folks on the planet sell off practically everything they own to rebuy all of their digital music on wax, and it only gets bigger every day.
Having worked in the record store industry, I can say that there's not only been an obvious dip in CD sales... but also in what people are bringing to trade in at used shops. Folks are often only selling back compact discs for trade credit that they can spend on vinyl. You weren't seeing as many hot titles entering the used bins anymore, and the CD's that were selling the best were often the ones that you couldn't get on wax. While the stock of newly minted records has skyrocketed, the price surprisingly hasn't, unless the label is doing something special - colors, heavyweights, etc. Although... if it does all turn out to be a fad, we're gonna see the price of vinyl drop immensely, but there's also gonna be a lot of great used records out there that these kids are going to regret losing later. If vinyl loses its flavor... the industry is fucking sunk.
Foggy: Is it possible for another Elvis, Beatles or Nirvana, or is global success coupled with critical acclaim gone forever?
Marc: It's already happened again. We're just too close to it to realize it. Mark my words on this one... the next step in your Elvis, Beatles and Nirvana timeline will be In Rainbows. Not so much Radiohead, but moreso that album and its business model. Fans loved it, critics praised it to the hilt, and then once we all actually *heard* it...? Everyone almost unanimously agreed that it was at least pretty good. I can personally take or leave most of Radiohead's output, but I'm glad there's a band that hipsters and casual listeners of music can both agree on that doesn't suck eggs and doesn't treat their fans like idiots. It's very reminiscent of the Nirvana phenomenon in that way, and Radiohead is certainly selling more concert tickets than Nirvana ever did at their peak.
Foggy: Do you listen to your own music for pleasure?
Marc: Of course, man. I make records that I want to listen to. Probably not often enough to be a total narcissist, but I'll go a few months without listening to the recordings I've made, and then go through them all in a shot. This usually leads to me rediscovering a song or two that I'd forgotten all about. "Human Slushy" is a good example of that, and it started getting played live a lot more for that reason. My records are pretty good for driving, as they mostly last as long as the average Orlando car ride, and that's where I end up playing them. If I ever make a record that I don't want to listen to afterwords, I've done something very, very wrong.
Foggy: Favorite album of 2008 so far? Most anticipated?
Marc: I've really loved a few records this year... probably my favorite had been the newest Breeders album. The last Robert Pollard album, Off To Business, is pretty stellar as well. Other really pleasant surprises have been the new platters by Capstan Shafts, Retribution Gospel Choir and those Os Mutantes reissues. The upcoming stuff I'm looking forward to most? Easily, the new albums by All Girl Summer Fun Band and Juliana Hatfield. Especially the latter. Anytime Juliana puts out a new album, it deserves a fucking federal holiday.
Foggy: Seriously, Isn't Chris Zabriskie's album O Great Queen Electric, What Do You Have Waiting For Me? the best thing ever?
Marc: Yes, it is. And in some alternate universe, people are building shrines to him for making it. We just have to wait for the one in which we live in to catch up. That record is a masterpiece, hands down.
Foggy: What is your relationship with Chris? What was it about those three songs he had written that made you want to put them on Linda Lovelace For President?
Marc: We're best friends, we're bandmates, we're family. I think that Chris Zabriskie is the finest songwriter I have ever having the pleasure of knowing personally. As far as why his three compositions made it to the last Marc With a C album, it's a bit of a long story, so let me give you a quick overall summation...
At the same time that I was putting together the ideas behind Linda Lovelace For President, Chris was putting together ideas for the second record by another band we did for awhile: lo-fi is sci-fi. Further activities for that nomenclature were put on indefinite hiatus, but I felt a very close kinship to three of the demos he'd given me. I knew that LLFP was going to center around spiritual turmoil and disconnect from the world at large... and to boil it down simply? Chris wrote better musical statements on those things than I had. I begged, pleaded and groveled to use the songs, Chris allowed them to be used for Marc With a C, and the tunes became crowd favorites instantaneously.
You can't dance around the fact that two people as close as we are will likely be on similar pages creatively. I can't thank Chris enough for those tracks... they helped me to express the rest of the sentiments on the album, and LLFP as an album would not and could not exist without his compositions. He wrote the glue. The same should be said about his work on the DVD that accompanies the album, Live At Stardust. Without his editing skills, that film would simply not exist, period. He's the best.
Foggy: So Linda Lovelace For President has been out for a bit now and is even available as a hardcopy, any new thoughts on the album? New revelations?
Marc: Not really. I got out a lot of things that I wanted to express on this album, and to me... it almost plays like the second disc of Normal Bias. I think it's a really good collection of lo-fi pop songs, and I'm every bit as proud of it as I was when the tape ran out at the end of the album. Which is very audible on the title track! The real revelations are what listeners make of it from here on out, you know?
Foggy: What's next for Marc With A C?
We have a lot of things cooking at Mw/aC HQ. Ultimately, we'd like to do some road shows for the first time in quite awhile, and we've already started in on that. I would like to finally complete the Shock Treatment album that I've been working on for, oh, ten years? Hah. For a guy that writes and records as much as I do, I don't nearly come close to completing it all. If I did, I wouldn't have time for my friends and family, you know? I will say this, though... for the first time, I would like to just sort of focus on showcasing and enjoying the stuff I've created as Marc With a C, and not so much just jumping head first into a new album or project. There's so much left to do with what we've already made. That's a really exciting place to be in your creative life, and a first for me.
Thanks Marc for answering my questions and I hope all you readers have lots of food for thought to chew on. Look forward to news about Marc With A C's tenth anniversary. I heard he has something special planned.
Marc With A C-“Classic Country Wasn't Multitracked In '61”
Marc With A C-"I Tried To Die Young"
Older Marc With A C posts on Foggy Ruins Of Time
Marc With A C site
Marc With A C on Myspace!
Chris Zabriskie site