All Roads Lead To Sugarcult
(An interview with Tim Pagnotta and Marko 72 - Taken from Black Velvet 40 - May 2004)
BY SHARI BLACK VELVET
Every now and then a band comes along that you really fall in love with. It doesn't happen often and it can happen in varying degrees. When Black Velvet originally heard SUGARCULT's 'Start Static' album we were blown away. This band was as magical, fun and exciting as they get. The album was one of those you have to turn to max and can't stop bouncing around to. Well, we say bouncing around to - every track on the album is different - some tracks are super infectious and dayglo-y while others are more introspective and moody. The album as a whole though was one that throughout the last year we played and played and played. Which is more than can be said for many others. Usually we get CDs, review them and put them away to collect dust. 'Start Static' was an album that was constantly at the top of the pile and whenever there was a bit of downtime we'd put it in the stereo and it would immediately brighten our spirits and renew our hopes in rock 'n' roll.
live show? Well, that was much the same. They're one of those bands
we can't wait to see live. Every time they play England we wish they
would stay forever. When they come we're excited, when they leave we
hope it's not too long before they return again. Whether supporting
another band or headlining themselves, Sugarcult put on such super shows
that you find a permanent grin fixed on your face and feel so honoured
to be in the same room as them watching them play their hearts out.
Frontman Tim Pagnotta
and guitarist Marko 72 are eager to talk about the new release. I start
off by asking Tim if the electricity theme in both the 'Start Static'
and 'Palm Trees And Power Lines' titles was on purpose.
The album shows
a lot of emotions. Tim jokes that he's a disaster, a "fuckin' wreck",
but he hopes that by listening to his lyrics, fans can relate.
One of the most
serious songs on the album is 'Champagne', a song written about Tim's
relationship with ex-Sugarcult drummer Ben Davis. Ben's now been replaced
by Kenny Livingston who was in the band Lefty. Marko says that Kenny
coped amazingly in the studio with himself, Tim and Airin (Older, bassist).
Another very personal
song on the album is 'Counting Stars'. This was Tim's first time talking
about the song.
I ask Marko if
there are any of Tim's lyrics that he can really relate to. He says
As far as record
companies, another 'home' for the band, Sugarcult have moved from Ultimatum
Music in USA and Epitaph in Europe to now being on Fearless Records
in USA and Rykodisc in UK and Europe.
Well, hopefully Tim will be fine and the band won't need to use any of his clones. Mind you, imagine if each member of Sugarcult had three clones - we could have three Sugarcults. How awesome would that be? Either way, hopefully the band will tour lots - because we love seeing them lots. Make sure you pick up 'Palm Trees And Power Lines', their excellent new album, out now on Fearless/Rykodisc, and visit the official Sugarcult website at www.sugarcult.com
Sugarcult are on the cover of issue 50 of Black Velvet with an interview with the band inside.
To order this issue, go to www.blackvelvetmagazine.com/backissues.htm
(An interview with Marko 72 - Taken from Black Velvet 36 - May 2003)
BY SHARI BLACK VELVET
"Hi Shari," a voice speaks on the other end of the phone. Looks like Marko 72 is the lucky winner of the competition to be Black Velvet interviewee for the day (well, half an hour actually). Marko 72, incase you don't know, is the guitarist of the sensational Sugarcult, a band who've been reaping success in the States during the past two years following the release of 'Start Static', their awesome debut album on Ultimatum Music. A couple of months ago 'Start Static' was finally released in the UK thanks to Epitaph Records in Europe, so now even YOU can get your greasy mitts on it.
Above: Marko Wishes His Weiner Was This Big
"We're sooooo fucking excited. Our record came out in the States almost a year and a half ago at this point, and we've been trying to find a way to get overseas and get our album out overseas ever since. So not only are we excited that people are going to hear our music over here and that we have an excuse to come here and tour now, but it also represents a small victory for our band, because it's something we really fought for and really worked hard to make happen ourselves."
He explains how it all happened.
"We're on an independent label in the States and they're not set up worldwide, so we didn't have anyone doing this all for us. We actually got on Epitaph in a really unlikely way. I went to a NOFX concert because I'm friends with NOFX back home, and we went to an after party at Brett's house Mr. Brett. I was either talking to Jordan from Strung Out or Howie who used to be in D Generation - who's now in Danzig. I was talking to one of those guys and telling them about the band. I said "Sugarcult" and suddenly Brett comes in and he's like "Sugarcult? Who said Sugarcult?" I thought he was going to kick me out of his house or something like that, like "Get the fuck out of my house, I hate you guys!" but instead he was like "I really like your band. My son - he's 11 years old You're my son's favourite band". I was like 'holy fuck'. The next thing you know he's asking me to give him an autograph for his son. I'm like 'I can't sign an autograph for Brett Gurewitz, I want HIS autograph', you know what I mean? So it was really cool. He's such a sweet guy, Brett is. He really loves music. He's very open-minded - you can tell by the stuff he puts out. Everything from NOFX to Merle Haggard and Tom Waits. And blues musicians and punk bands, y'know. So it was a real compliment when he said he liked our songs and the next thing you know we started talking. I'm like "our album's not out overseas" and here we are now, our record's out on Epitaph."
Is it weird to be promoting it all over again, so long after its original release?
"Not really because in all honesty we never really stopped. Within a week from the day we finished our record we hit the road. First it was a couple of months of just trying to tell people that we even existed, and then our record came out and it was about telling people that we had an album out. Then once we started making some fans, touring became more about going out there and satisfying a demand. These people that bought your record, now they want to see you play live. So you go out and play more shows, and it's another chapter in the 'Start Static' story. But it's not weird, it's exciting, really. It's good for us because we got to the point in the States where we went out there on the Warped Tour 2001 when no-one had ever heard of our band and one fan at a time got into our band. We were learning as we went, trusting our instincts and doing the best we could, and from that we built a pretty good fan base to the point that now we can play our own headlining shows in the US and have 2,000 people show up and they know the words to the songs and know our names. It means a lot to us because it didn't happen over night. We've been a band for four years and it took a year and a half of touring around the country non-stop to really build it up, one fan at a time. When we play shows it feels really good, we feel proud of ourselves that we built it. It was something that we actually built. It wasn't handed to us on a silver platter.
"I think that we want to test that same strategy over here. It's another place now. First we tried it in our hometown and it worked. Then we tried it in this town where we could drive to and still make it to our day jobs. Then we put our record out and tried it around the entire country. Now it's a national thing. We want to see if we can do it all over the world. And make it honest. Just one fan at a time. Just have people see our band, hopefully we won't let them down, and then they're gonna wanna go and tell ten more people about us. And then they're going to come and see us, and then they're going to go and tell ten people each and before you know it, from one fan you've got 100 fans - which is great. We exist to make music and make records and play shows. Fans of our band are just as important as drumsticks and bass players. You can't have a band without them. If we could fit everyone in a band photo they'd be in the band photo with us! To me they're just as important as I am in the band, they're just as important as us. So it's really cool. We're excited to do it all over again over here. Then we'll go home and probably make a new record."
Tim (Pagnotta - vocals/guitar), Airin (bass/vocals) and Ben (Davis -
drums/vocals) come across as exceptionally down to earth guys, as you
can probably tell just by reading the above. They are very grateful
for the support of their fans, and you can tell they're in love with
the whole rock n' roll world. But not everyone's like that. Some bands
complain, some guys become egotistical when they hit stardom, some,
like Kurt Cobain, even commit suicide. What does Marko think about band
members who complain or are egotistical about their success?
"You start a band because it's worthwhile to get together with your friends and make up songs and play parties for people or play to crowds of friends. It's a fun social outlet and some way to challenge your energy when you're young and you want to do something more than just your homework! So maybe the bands that are out there that have big egos, maybe they grew up in a town where they didn't have a big local scene and their only exposure to music was through MTV and a radio and big music magazines. I think a lot of people go out there and think 'oh now I'm in a band I have to act like an asshole 'cause that's what people in bands are supposed to be like'. Luckily we had some really good role models when we were growing up; people like Fat Mike, Joey from Lagwagon who can make a lot of money and own houses but still can have a beer with you and totally be on your level and not conduct themselves like a bunch of pricks. I think we're all very appreciative. We were a band for several years just busting our asses in bars and parties, trying to get ten of our friends to come down to see the show so it wouldn't look empty. So every night that we get to do this on a professional level If we weren't getting paid to do this, we'd be paying to do it. I would give up my life savings and break up with my girlfriend and sell my car to be able to play two sold out nights at the Astoria in London. And here I am doing it. It's like 'fuck!' What you wouldn't give to do what we get to do. So of course you've got to be appreciative of it. It's fucking fun.
"And there are so many bands in the world; the majority of the best bands in the world don't get to do it, don't get to go out and play, don't get their song on the radio, don't get to do interviews. The bands that are big represent a small amount of the actual bands that are out there. It keeps you in check. You realise how lucky you are. You've got to be a total asshole to think that the reason you're getting attention is because you're the God's gift to rock n' roll. You can work your ass off and the odds are stacked against you whether anyone's going to give a fuck, so if they do you've got to be appreciative of it.
"You can't walk out there and act pompous. This is rock 'n' roll. We get to play music and drink beer every night and party all the time and hang out with our friends and travel all over the world. This is the best job in the world. Anyone who tells you otherwise should pack up their shit, cut their hair and go and get a straight job, leave room for the next band. Leave room for The Used or Finch or the next band of 19 year olds who want to rock out because they live in a shitty, boring town and want to break out of the mediocrity and go and see the world, live their lives and follow their dreams."
Marko is actually a veteran of the music scene. He was in many bands prior to Sugarcult, busting his ass, as he said, to try and become successful in his chosen career. He's been a member of Illiterate, Lost Kittenz, Cooler, Fun Razor, The Ataris, Swingin' Utters and more. Not only that but he ran My Records with Joey Cape of Lagwagon for a while.
"I've been playing in bands since I was 14 years old. I got an early start. I've been in different bands, done a little bit of touring. I played in The Ataris for their first year, and I also worked at Joey of Lagwagon's My Records. In all the bands I've ever been in I've always been the one who ended up getting stuck with making phone calls and doing phone interviews, booking the shows, mailing out our demos and all that other stuff. It's kinda like how a band gets the lead singer. It's usually who's not afraid to sing ends up being the lead singer. I tend to be the most organised guy in the band. I would end up doing most of the legwork. I was the guy who was willing to go to the copy shop at four in the morning and make flyers and put them all over town for the show, or make phone calls and harass people to give us a show. As a result I learned a lot about the way the business side of it works and Joey asked me to run his label. He was putting out some records and he was leaving for tours with Lagwagon. I just kinda jumped into the deep end and figured it out."
Working for a label has taught him a lot that has helped Sugarcult along the way.
put out a record for Nerfherder from my hometown. I learnt a lot. You
take it from everywhere. I learnt from doing My Records how it all works.
I learned from working in an independent record store. I learnt from
playing in bands. I learnt from watching other bands that came to my
town and having beers with them at the bar on Christmas Eve and talking
to them and having them say 'Ah man, we made a big fucking mistake,
we did this, we did that' or 'we didn't do this, we didn't do that'
and you put it altogether and you learn from it. You'd be an idiot not
to learn from it.
at the same time, Airin and Tim, our singer and our bass player, this
is their first band ever. Whereas me and Ben, our drummer, have been
in bands for years. I worked in the business side of the music industry
and Ben worked as an engineering producer. So we had years of experience
but Tim and Airin, it was their first band ever, so they bring a really
healthy dose of innocence to the band, which is just as important as
experience in my opinion. Innocence is just as valuable as experience
because sometimes you can know too much. Where somebody really learns
is in the unknown. It's not enough just to learn French by reading a
book; you need to go to France.
think we all keep each other in check. When Tim and Airin want to jump
I might go 'hey, wait a minute, you might want to think about this'
but there's times when I just want to sit there and think about it forever,
and those guys go 'fuck it, dude, let's jump!' I think it really helps
our band be a little more level headed about all this stuff that's happening."
He compares being in a band with like being a family. "It's a love/hate
relationship. We're kinda like brothers where we want to rip each other's
throats out sometimes and have crazy arguments but
like, you can call your brother an asshole but if your friend calls
him an asshole you'll punch him in the face. It's that kinda thing.
I think anyone in that kind of working relationship has that. We're
all each other's friends, you know what I mean? Each guy in the band
has a different sort of relationship with each other guy in the band.
We all support each other but there are definitely times when
a band is a crazy experiment. You've got four male egos in a relationship
together. It's hard enough for a guy and a girl to be in a relationship
together, let alone four guys. Throw in some alcohol and some 14 hour
drives and guys that never want to pull over and ask for directions."
are always like that, aren't they?
I always wondered what it was like when The Donnas were first touring
- pulling over every 15 minutes and asking for directions, whereas we're
sitting there fighting over the road atlas trying to figure it out for
ourselves. Then we finally go 'hey dude, let's pull over'. Sometimes
I kinda wish we had a female bass player. Sometimes I wonder if we do!
"It's cool, we're all each other's friend, we all connect. Every guy in the band is very different from the other, so that keeps it fresh and interesting. We're definitely not a band of four Markos or four Tims or four Bens or Airins. It's very much Airin, Tim, Marko and Ben. The four of us. The chemistry we have between us for better or for worse it makes us what is Sugarcult. We're not one of those bands like The Vines where it's just that singer guy and then, oh yeah, those others guys. I think each guy in the band has definitely got a strong presence in the band."
mentioned, the 'Start Static' album first came out on Ultimatum Music
in the States in August 2001. Marko talks about why they chose Ultimatum.
from Santa Barbara, there were lots of bands that we grew up with that
went to majors and there were also lots of bands that went to Fat Wreck
Chords or Epitaph and independent labels, and I think we just had a
little bit of a bad taste in our mouth from seeing how many
Santa Barbara's an hour and a half drive from Los Angeles so you're
pretty close to the music industry - and when you're that close
From far back it looks like a pretty picture. When you see it up close
it's not so pretty anymore. You see the psychology of how most of those
labels work. They'll sign ten bands expecting nine of them to fail.
I think that's just fucked up for the artist. The label gets to keep
being a record label but the band's signed their life away and usually
implodes under the pressure. It can destroy a band. Very few bands recover
from going to a major label failing and then coming back and going 'oh
yeah, remember us? The big band that signed to
now here we are, back at the bar. Could you give us a chance?' People
are kinda like 'well, you tried to reach for the brass ring' but then
there are also great things about major labels. They have a lot of resources
that can help a band out.
thing I can tell you is that we were a band for several years and we
decided we were ready to make a record. We sent our music out to people
and major labels kept saying they wanted to hear more and more and more.
Maybe we were a bit cocky but we said 'We don't exist as a band to get
signed to a major label. We exist as a band to make records.' It's not
'are we ready for you?' it's 'are you ready for us?' If they said 'we
want to hear more', we'd say 'well we want to hear more from you. We're
not going to write more songs because you're not ready to make our record.
We're going to who's ready to make our record'. It's flattering. Of
course you want to go home to your friends and say 'hey, the guy flew
out all the way from New York City and took us out to lunch and paid
money to rent out a place for us to do a private show for him'. That's
exciting stuff but it's not half as exciting as when all ten of the
employees of Ultimatum show up at your actual show at your hometown
and they all know the lyrics to all your songs because they've been
listening to your demo in the office for the last three weeks. You look
at it and it sobers you up a little bit.
go 'wait a minute here. Am I going to sign with a label that's famous
for being associated with Mickey Mouse or am I going to sign with a
label that I've never heard of in my life but consists of people that
I can hang out with and know on a first name basis and are really passionate
about my band and our music and ready to make a record right now with
us and put their asses on the line for us?' So to make a long story
short, that's why we signed to Ultimatum. They were ready for us, and
they needed us as much as we needed them. We didn't feel like we were
going to get lost in the mix."
are a fairly new label and things worked well from the word go.
always been very involved with our band. We did it ourselves for a long
time, where we made up our own CDs, made our own shirts and sold them
at shows, booked our own shows and everything. So we were used to doing
everything ourselves, so when we went to a label it wasn't 'here, tell
us what to do', it was more us telling them 'here's how we like to run
our band, here's the way we want to put our band out there' and the
cool thing about them was the cement was still wet enough that we could
carve our philosophy into their label and they respected us. They didn't
think 'oh, these guys are a bunch of dumb musician dudes. Let's keep
them in the dark making songs and busting their asses on the road'.
They involve us - which is another reason why we really like Ultimatum.
We like being on independent labels as they involve the artist. They
don't plug you into a formula. They ask you how you like to be, how
you like to run your band, what magazines you want to be advertised
in, what radio stations you want your band to be sent to."
you have time to think about all of that?
we have so much time. This isn't just our hobby anymore. This is our
life. You have eight hour drives. And most of our decisions have been
made while going 80 miles an hour on the highway!" he laughs. "Me
and Tim will start brainstorming an idea for the next video, or we'll
be looking through photos from the photo shoot and deciding which ones
are cool and then we'll mail them home, or whatever. Call up our label
and say 'use the one where I'm sort of making this face'. We definitely
have time. It cuts into your drinking schedule a bit, but luckily we're
all lightweights, we get drunk really fast. We come really fast too.
The sex and drugs part doesn't take up much of our time, the rock n'
roll part we spend most of our time doing out of the sex, drugs and
rock n' roll triad".
moving swiftly on
do you stop from getting burnt out?
don't know. That's the cool thing about our band; we're total fuckin'
workaholics. I guess we spent enough years doing this before it took
off that now that it's going we're just like 'fuck it, let's do this.
Let's keep this ball in play as long as we can. It's really like playing
pinball or something like that. Once it's going you try and keep it
out there as long as you can. But it's not really tiring. We're old
enough to have worked jobs before this and gone to college so we know
what the alternative is. There's no easy way out of life unless you
say 'fuck it'. If you're not working hard at something you love, you're
going to be working hard at something someone else loves but you don't
necessarily love! I'd much rather work hard and play a rock show at
the end of the day than have to get to bed and be at some office where
some asshole's breathing down my neck at eight in the morning, telling
me to build something or xerox something. 'Did you fax that thing yet',
know what I mean?
did Tim do before he did this? He was working at a clothing store in
the mall folding sweaters, telling fat people they looked really good
in their clothes so they'd buy the clothes. 'Oh sure, it makes you look
really skinny, you look great'. Who wants to do that for eight hours
a day when you can stand on stage and say the F-word all night and not
have to pay for it."
had a fun job though, I worked in a record store. That was awesome.
But believe me, this never gets tiring. When you're doing something
you love, you don't get tired of it. Granted, sometimes we get tired
of being on the road and want to go back in the studio and start making
new songs but luckily we have other outlets for that. I have a side
project band, Bad Astronaut. So whenever I'm home from tour with Sugarcult,
I can go in the studio with Joey and we make Bad Astronaut recordings.
Tim and Ben have their own home studios that they mess around in and
work on ideas. Ben will do engineering and producing for other people.
Our bass player Airin, he has side projects he does, recording projects
with his friends. We all have other things that keep us interested so
that it keeps it fresh so that when we come back to Sugarcult it's really
exciting, 'cause we also have lives as individuals too. That's important.
I think an important part of being in a band is also retaining something
outside of the band too, whether you have your own label, or your own
side project band or your solo band or whatever."
"I'll go in the studio with Bad Astronaut and be working on some really cool shit and then I'll have to leave on tour again so for the first few days of the tour I'm looking out the window, going 'fuck, I wanna be in the studio right now with Joey, taking breaks and eating Mexican food down the street and going to the local dive bar at the end of the night' but that usually only lasts for a couple of days. Tim the other day was on a total roll as we had a couple of weeks off around the holidays. He was on a total roll recording some new song ideas and he was packing for this tour an hour before we left because he wanted to record as much as he could. The whole time on the plane all he's talking about is his recording and I'm like 'dude, wait till we get to Europe, you're going to be stoked'. It took him one walk through Hyde Park and now he's like 'Oh man, I can't wait to go and see everything in Europe', 'cause he's never been to Europe before, which is pretty fun. I've been to Europe before, our bass player Airin has been to Europe before, he used to be a professional soccer player when he was really young, but Ben and Tim have never been here so it's like a childhood fantasy come to life, to come to Europe for the first time ever with your rock band. It's a childhood fantasy within a childhood fantasy. What kid didn't jump around on his bed with a tennis racket wanting to be a rock star when he grew up?
Finish The Following Sentences
Black Velvet asked Marko 72 to finish the following sentences...
Other than the band and music, the three things I love most are...
The first thing I thought of when I woke up this morning was...
I was really scared when...
I really hate it when...
If I had 24 hours to live I would...
If I could change one part of my body or my personality I would change...
I'm The One...
Visit www.sugarcult.com for more info.
YOU HEAR ME NOW?
(A Column by Marko 72 - Taken from Black Velvet 39 - February 2004)
Marko 72 Photo By Becky Neiman
What is it that drives us as humans to collect stuff? I guess it's our hunter-gatherer roots. Steve (drummer for one of my favourite Santa Barbara, CA bands of all time, Nerf Herder), is an avid collector of Pez candy dispensers; late 50's/early 60's era lamps, cocktail glasses, and peek-a-boo neckties from the 40's with sexy pin-up girls printed on the inside. Dave (also from Nerf Herder, on guitar) collects bottles of Mr. Clean cleaning product from all over the world; it's always the same bald dude with a shiny earring and his arms folded, but each country has its own name for it, so it's kind of a cool functional souvenir to look for.
Unfortunately things like eBay have taken a lot of the fun out of collecting things; fewer and farther between are the days when you could find something valuable for a steal, the proverbial 'cheap old guitar for sale' that turns out to be a rare 1930's Gibson, etc. The whole fun of collecting things is the thrill of the chase, it's not fair when all you have to do is punch it in and write a check. I've collected all kinds of pop-cultural debris through the years: Spice Girls dolls, Kiss dolls, punk records from the 70's, concert flyers, photos of me with celebrities (see the 'beautiful stalker' gallery on www.sugarcult.com).
So where am I going with all this? As a rock n roll traveler, I've become obsessed with collecting something that's easier to carry around; memories. 70's-era New York punk survivor Richard Hell is a way better writer than he ever was singer or bass player, and wrote a really cool novel a few years ago called 'Go Now' about a fucked up couple that goes on a road trip across America. Somewhere in that book he makes the statement that in many ways; 'memories are better than life, sometimes I can't wait for an experience to be over so that I can enjoy the memory of it sometimes I make decisions based on how good of a memory it will yield'. If you think about it, it's kind of true; like photography, you can edit or crop out the bad parts; blow up and frame the good times for all to see; destroy the negatives so they can't develop and bring you down. Of course this can backfire, as many of us have leapt back into a bad relationship or situation due to the historical amnesia that makes us forget the dysfunctional stuff and only miss the good sex or whatever! I keep this memory idea in the forefront of my mind when I'm on tour with my band. Touring can be a tedious exercise in repetition if you let it; wake up-drive-sound check-sit around-play show-get drunk- pass out; or it can be an amazing opportunity to collect memories. Go see some things, meet some interesting people, take some chances, try new things, take some pictures, go for it and then get drunk and pass out. That also holds true for whatever you do in your life, don't just let the days and months and years pass by; create memories. I get inspired by others that add that extra element of spice to their lives and go beyond the call of duty. I pulled an all nighter in room 116 of the notorious Columbia Hotel in London recently partying with people I had just met. The girl Angela busted out 3D photos of her and her friends in front of the swimming pool Rolling Stone Brian Jones died in. They had made a trip to his former house and broke in just to take pictures and pay their rock n roll respects to his legend. Brilliant!
there are hellish experiences, which can suck while they're happening,
but can be fondly looked back on in a triumph over tragedy way.
Sugarcult was on tour in America and our bus got slammed by a
drag-racing Mercedes while parked in front of a venue at 3am rendering
it undriveable. Thankfully, no one died, but our bus was fucked.
Our tour manager was having a nervous breakdown, Story of the
Year's tour manager was out at a bar (we were sharing our bus
with them) so our singer Tim and I had to save the day. We stuck
both band's members and crew on a early morning train; grabbed
our guitar tech Matt and ended up in a pick-up truck with our
bus driver and his redneck 80 year-old father in law driving us
out to his son's auto body shop out in the most remote rural corner
of Pennsylvania. We sat around drinking stale coffee waiting for
the sunrise and for a rental truck company to open; we learned
a lot about shot-guns and the history of our driver's incredibly
deranged family. Finally we located a huge 20' truck an hour away;
got it, loaded it up, said farewell to our new backwoods friends;
and drove 7 hours across the state to Philadelphia just in time
to drag everything on stage and make it to the show on zero sleep.
loaned my copy of 'Go Now' to my friend Kris (singer of another
great Santa Barbara band, the Ataris) a while back and he was
so inspired by the 'memories
' idea that he made it the underlying
theme of his band's recent album "So Long Astoria".
Kris phoned me the other day as he was driving from California
to Florida alone in a rental car with a huge stack of CDs, a guitar,
a notepad and a tape recorder; his mission: to get some inspiration
to write some new songs, have solitude away from his band mates,
and above all to make some memories. He told me how his band was
going to tour Europe and do some shows in Russia (at his request)
and that after the Russian dates he was going to jump on the three-day
Trans-Siberian Express train and check out Tibet; which is a lot
cooler than just limping home to your neighborhood pub at the
end of a tour and bragging about how many autographs you signed.
change that song,
me through www.sugarcult.com
dirty dancing to:
You Hear Me Now?
(A Column by Marko 72 - Taken from Black Velvet 41 - August 2004)
Kick out the jams you old motherfuckers; that's what I thought last night in Los Angeles watching the surviving members of legendary Detroit punk forefathers the MC5 strut their stuff to a packed house of music history nerds like myself and cats like John Doe (singer of X), Evan Dando (the Lemonheads), and Mark Arm (Mudhoney) in tow. Earlier I had gone to Dodger Stadium to watch a baseball game; my 3rd game ever! Somehow in my jetlagged state from having just returned from our UK tour and my own Parisian escapade, I propped myself up on a $7 beer and a $9 Hennessy and made it through my night of American culture.
you're sitting down. In the UK I had two interviews waiting
for me in Buh-min-gum so I invited both writers on my bus and
proposed that I do the interviews at the same time. It went
great and then I got to talking further to one of the girls
interviewing me who seemed depressed. Apparently a good friend
of hers lost his fight with heroin addiction, overdosed and
sadly died. I have personally never been a junkie but I have
lost several close friends to that evil drug, so I felt compelled
to give her my words of wisdom and sympathy. I don't mean to
sound preachy but heroin is a life sentence; once addicted you
are doomed to spend the rest of your life doing it or trying
to not do it; it's best to not go there in the first place.
My worst heroin casualty story goes back to my band from 1991-95
Popsicko. Our singer was an incredibly talented and intelligent
guy named Keith Brown (for you punk trivia buffs; he was actually
the first ever singer of Pennywise in the late 80s), he had
a tendency to live on the edge and tempt fate, and eventually
fell into using smack. Our band had recorded an album ironically
titled 'Off to a Bad Start' and had worked hard and risen to
the point where record companies were knocking at the door.
Unfortunately, the bigger we got, the harder it was to hide
the dark secret of our singer being strung out. He started like
everyone does, smoking it and thinking he had it under control,
the next thing we knew there were track marks on his arms and
his eyes looked as if he had been possessed by a demon; he was.
I have to emphasise that as frustrating as it is you almost
can't blame the addict for their condition. Authority figures
make the mistake of using scare tactics to dissuade kids from
doing hard drugs; then, of course, when someone tries it and
it seems pretty mellow, they think they were being lied to.
That's the way it happens time and time again. By the time you
realise that you need it just to get through the day and not
be sick it's already too late to turn back; just like that,
you're a junkie! Addiction is not a choice, it's a disease;
so if you know someone who is strung out, don't blame them,
instead, show them you care and help them get help, even if
you have to drag them kicking and screaming. As hard as it is,
it's still better than picking up the phone and hearing that
they're gone forever. We tried to use tough love with Keith,
we told him we were cancelling all band activities and that
we were calling his parents. A month went by and we heard he
was trying to get it together. I missed him as a band mate but
more so as a good friend. I wanted him to know that I thought
highly of him, cared about him, felt compassion for the struggle
he was going through and that the new Jawbreaker and Supergrass
albums were really good! I wrote him a postcard telling him
these things and sent it to his mom's house in hopes that he'd
get it eventually. On the night of November 7, 1995 (two weeks
before the release of our album) as I was stringing up my bass
in my bedroom, I got the call. Keith had been killed in a car
accident; he was high and nodded off at the wheel on his way
to Los Angeles to meet a potential manager for our band. He
had been off drugs for five days but got nervous about the meeting
so he shot up before leaving town. Me and my group of friends
all got together and spent about a week straight trying to come
to terms with this tragedy. I spoke with his mother and she told me that she had read him my postcard over the phone that
morning and that he was happy to hear from me and missed me.
That was my saving grace that got me through the confusion and
sorrow of that time period. I grew up a lot out of that experience
and learned that grieving is important when you lose a loved
one, but that even more important is getting on with your life.
When someone dies young, it doesn't make sense, you feel guilty
to smile or laugh, or eat or sleep. You have to set aside a
limited period of time to grieve and then move on, live a little
extra yourself in their memory. When I picked up the pieces
and eventually got things going again with Sugarcult and found
some success I felt like I was doing it not only for myself,
but also for Keith, a true talent who deserved to be recognized,
that helped me get through the hard early years of our band.
I was honored to invite Keith's mom, brother and sister to a
show recently; they told me Keith would have been proud.
On a lighter
note, flying home from our UK tour I had my childhood hero Nikki
Sixx (from Mötley Crüe) and his new band Brides of
Destruction on my flight. We were reading the same book (The
Damage Done) and I got to know him pretty well; it's weird to
be miles in the sky with a multi-millionaire rock star that
I used to have posters of on my wall, and just be talking about
life. If you read Mötley Crüe's autobiography, 'Dirt',
you'll read the story of how he successfully overcame a horrendous
15 year battle with heroin, he is now totally sober, the father
of 5 kids and still rockin' that crazy hairdo!
getting my rocks off to:
You Hear Me Now?
(A Column by Marko 72 - Taken from Black Velvet 44 - May 2005)
my sexy velveteens! Greetings from a well-lit room full of laundry
machines and lonely Los Angelinos here in Hollywood, CA where
yours truly is scrubbing the last few months of world tour stench
out of his clothes (yes, even us famous rock n roll stars have
to fold their knickers!). After a year and a half of non-stop
globetrotting it's finally time to close the chapter called
"Palm Trees and Power Lines" in the good book of Sugarcult;
and begin writing the next one (we're home now to work on our
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