If life experiences are able to influence your work, Mark Eitzel should have enough inspiration to last him a life time. The mainstay of American Music Club, his solo career was halted in 2011 when he suffered a serious heart attack. Taking a step back from recording, it took a lottery winning friend to coax him back into the studio and create what would become his new album Don’t Be A Stranger. Now about to play a series of Irish dates with his band Warm Gentle Rain, State asked him if he thought fate had played a hand in this record…
“Fate always has a hand in everything I do. Artistically I’m a chimp that throws its feces at a spinning wheel. Before I got ill nobody wanted a Mark Eitzel record, they only wanted American Music Club so I tried to get the band together. It was only me and the guitarist Vudi and we did SxSW but it was a disaster. Also he doesn’t want to use the name because he doesn’t want to be in one of those bands that continue on bravely, carrying the brand. We had one great tour in Europe with some friends of our but that was it really. We were around twenty years ago and no-one really wanted to do it anymore, yet I was doing these horrible demos on my laptop and no-one wanted those either”.
Did your illness make you re-evaluate your relationship with music?
“Of course but it really didn’t register till after the record was done because I wrote all these songs before. They changed a little bit but I also did a musical in Brighton called Marine Parade and it was working those actors that changed everything more than the heart attack. There’s usually a ten year time lag between what happens to me and writing about it”.
How did the musical change your approach?
“It was all these poor actors trying to get their mouths round my fucking words. You have to be spare and make the words fit the music. There’s a reason Cole Porter was great. We’re revisiting all these old American Music Club songs and I can’t believe I had the self-importance to try and sing them. It was fun to do but when you get in the way of a song it’s a problem”.
Isn’t life a lot easier when pop stars just let a team of people write for them?
“They don’t even call them songwriters anymore, they’re topliners. Beyonce may be this all powerful brand but she doesn’t mean anything, she doesn’t say anything. That doesn’t always matter but it’s not my thing. If you’re going to sing an empty song all you’re going to feel by the second verse is the futility of life”.
How did your producer Sheldon Gomberg effect the record?
“He knows everybody in LA. He brought Pete Thomas (Elvis Costello and The Attractions drummer) and he was an absolute gentleman. I could barely talk to him because I honestly ate and drank Armed Forces and Get Happy, all those albums” Pete sat down and asked me how it was going and I just shouted “yes!”.
Is it important to change your musical approach each time?
“A little bit. You have to cut the shit, be clearer. Even though I’m old and no-one wants to hear my music I still want to do that”.
Having been in a band for so long, did you find life as a solo artist very different?
“I didn’t have this group of incredibly intelligent and talented guys to listen to my songs. I’ve got through that now but that’s why those band records were so great because I had an audience. When I do a solo record I think a song’s great and I must finish it whatever. Now I’ve got my boyfriend but he doesn’t really like my music, he likes country and western music a lot more”.
The opening track on the album ‘I Love You But You’re Dead’ tells the story of a (Detroit punk band) Destroy All Monsters show you went to in 1979…
“I was trying to figure out what she meant when she signed that line on my poster. It’s about that world, everyone in it was fuuuuckkkked up. There’s no other way to say it than with three syllables. Not that I’m waxing about it but everybody was just diving into the darkness”.
Would you say punk’s influence was overrated?
“I hate all that, because it was a history that was never told at the time everyone has to revisit it constantly. But it certainly changed my life when I was living in England and I went to see the Damned and The Adverts when I was 18. I thought, right that’s what I can do”.
Mark Eiztel & The Warm Rain play:
Feb 21 Dublin – Workman’s Club
Feb 22 Cork – Cyprus Ave
Feb 23 Kilkenny – Cleeres
Feb 25 Galway – Roisin Dubh
Feb 26 Belfast – Errigle Inn