Tuesday, October 6, 2009

So Let Me Introduce To You

The online democracy that is the internet may have caused the retail music industry to come unglued, but the same levelling effect has created a perfect platform for home recordists and local have-a-go heroes. One of these is Markus Reeves, based in Leicester but with Southend connections, he's active on the buoyant open mic and local festival circuit, and has just released a free 5 track 'analogue only' EP 59 Steps.

59 Steps has it's references, roots and sound shaped by Weller, Strummer and Neil Young on Skyline and Crosswind , but shades them with shadowy small hours close-mic moments of Nick Cave and Johnny Cash on I Know and 59 Steps .

So going back to the beginning - was there an act or artist that made pick up and play - and do you remember the first track you cracked.

Paul Weller without a doubt, I spent my school days listening to The Jam and via that got into The Who, The Faces, 80's mod scene, northern soul, Motown, Stax - the list is endless! But really it was Weller's 'magpie' approach (as some of his critics are happy to point out) that was a musical tipping point for me. The first song of his I worked out was Liza Radley on the B side of START! A beautiful, beautiful song.

Can you/do you still play any of your earliest songs

Funny you should ask that, as I've just rearranged a song called What I'm Thinking,that I wrote at college about fifteen years ago and played live for the first time last week. I'm not bothered about looking back at what I've done. To me it's a totally organic process.. songs NEVER stop evolving and when an artist keeps a song the same for years it's liable to lose it's magic live.

What are the ideas and inspiration behind the 59 Steps EP
It's a very disparate set actually. Some songs are just stories and others are written from stuff that's caught my imagination. Skyline was written at the Summer Sundae Festival- about people being together for one common purpose, that feeling of the common good wraps around you from skyline to skyline.. In my case it was a music festival, but equally it could be a party or demo or even the poll tax riots. The rest range from travelling murderers to getting stood up in the pouring rain, to a rant about consumerism.

Markus Reeves - Skyline

You've gone for strictly analogue recording why is that? - are there any other self enforced rules: no more than 'x 'amount of takes or tracks
Cool question, tape has a quality of sound that I just love, digital recording has its place but it all too often its VERY sterile. I have no problem with surface noise, amp hum or even slightly distorted recordings, I've always been attracted to Lo-Fi because as john peel said "life has surface noise". As far as takes go, I don't hang on every syllable of a take, I'm very very untrained as a singer, so every time I play a songs it comes out slightly different, after two or three takes I'm usually happy with one of them - three seems to be my magic number as it goes.

Why a 5 track EP rather than an album, is there much material left in the tanks

I'm just impatient. Plenty.

The packing is a great touch literally - how did you come up with the 'wrap' design
Someone reintroduced me to Origami earlier this year (thank you, you know who you are) and I came up with this little wrap for the CDs. It's just six folds of an A4 sheet, the great thing is, if you download the full EP package with artwork, then you've everything to make up the exact same physical copies I give away at gigs. Which is one thing I miss about downloading

The internet seems to have caused the downfall of the retail music industry, but has it had the reverse effect for the live/grass-roots music scene

The days of mega-stars are numbered now. I think, more and more music is internet, DIY and as generations mature, the shift to 'found artists' will grow. Personally I love the fact that the emphasis on 'product' has died, I'll give as much away as I can afford, so people can get to my gigs and have a great time as they knowg the songs already. It's never going to be a totally level playing field, there will always be money to pump into publicity for the 'plastic pop stars' but the grass roots and local scenes have really really flourished.

You've been playing festivals and open mic nights do you have to adjust the set for indoor/outdoor performances - and what would the ideal/dream venue be
I have some much quieter songs that just don't get played that often because of noisy venues or lack of a soundcheck, so I tend to play the more shouty tunes as a safety net. However The Musician pub in Leicester is a fantastic place to play the quieter stuff. Ideal venue?
100 Club
End of.

You're doing a Lennon night this Friday - what can we expect to see in the set
Really looking forward to that one, it's his birthday with five acts doing thirty minute sets, I'll be banging out 'Working Class Hero' and maybe a slow version of 'Revolution' mixed in with some of my own tunes, and maybe a reworking of a Jam track 'Away From The Numbers' from in the city. It's at The Shed, Leicester on October 9th with proceeds going to the Donor Foundation

Recorded exclusively for this blog
Markus Reeves - Working Class Hero

Are there any plans for hook ups with other local musicians - either performing, writing or producing
I've got plans for a three piece maybe next year, playing louder stuff ( getting my Jam/Weller head on ) but before that I'm looking to work with a songwriter called Bethia Mitchell who has the most amazing
voice I've heard for a long time, doing quite dark twin accoustic/harmony type stuff. I'm amazed at the depth of female singer songwriters in Leicester at the moment, there are probably four or five I'd love to work with such as Nancy Dawkins, Matti, Paula Driver the list goes on ...

What's the story behind the sample closing 59 Steps
It's just a found clip - the song is about self imposed isolation and failed redemption, told in the first person by a convict knowing he won't ever stop whatever grisly thing he does. The clip on the end is about a guy who went beserk on a Greyhound bus and actually hacked a fellow passengers head off with a bowie knife. There's no connection to the song other than it seemed apt, I just had this mad 45 second chord section at the end that needed filling and that fitted perfectly.

Markus Reeves - 59 Steps

Yikes your gig bag's on fire - what piece of kit do you save first
Can't live without my Shubb capo, as for guitars well the trusty 1976 S. Yari accoustic, I'd risk an awful lot to save that baby ... they don't come like that very often.

Finally - any hints or tips for home recorders or starter guitarists
On the recording front, spend as much as you can afford on a good mike, then don't get hung up on the tech side, spend time getting levels right. Just forget the tape/disk is running and do your thing. If you're playing with one eye on the desk you ain't gonna play naturally. If you're thinking of getting out and playing live and don't know where to start try finding out about local open mike nights, it's such a brilliant way to get 'stage miles' in and learn what it's all about.

1 - tune up before you get onstage (basic ,but nerves will get the better of your ears under those lights trust me)

2 - print off your song lyrics (in bold) and take them with you, again nerves play with even the best memory

3 - enjoy! Most of these type of nights the crowd is on YOUR side.

The 59 Steps EP is downloadable with Origami cover art - right here

You can see more Markus on Youtube

And get all the dates details and previews on Myspace or Facebook


bleecher said...

what a handsome chap...

lil said...

You’re really spoiling us today PM…
Luv it!

I concur with you Bleecher…

Mondo said...

Yes and looks sort of familiar too?

Keith said...

Cool post. Great Q&A. I had never heard of him before so this was an interesting post. I hope your week got off to a good start. Cheers!

GollyGumDrops said...

Good tips on the open mic idea

Mondo said...

Don't forget to grab that EP too Keith..

Have you done mucgh open mic stuff GGGD - I haven't for a couple of years - but backup guitar (or second set of strings at least), LED tuner and plenty of plec's are essential for the gig bag too..

Gabbi said...

Amazing post and interview dear Mondo! I love his voice and songs. How fantastic to be able to attend Lennon night... are you going? You're going to have to share on it! :)

Mondo said...

Unfortunately I can't do the Lennon night Gabbi - Leicester's about 200 miles from me, and the cars in the menders at the moment too - ho hum!

Gabbi said...

That sucks Mondo... :) But well, at least we have the tunes right?

Piley said...

some nice toonage there... great package too (the pics\downloads i mean!). And a Lennon bonus too? you are spoiling us!