As The Jesus And Mary Chain make their return to the U.S. for West Coast dates in October, guitarist Mark Crozer sat down on a Sunday afternoon to talk with Parasites & Sycophants about his his early exposure to The Beatles, his solo LPs, meeting Jim Reid, and his very cool band The International Jetsetters…
Parasties &Sycophants: Mark, thanks for spending some time with us here at Parasites & Sycophants…It’s been a long time coming – we’re glad we finally got it together! As a sort of an introduction to our readers, tell us where it all began for you musically. What bands/artists influenced you early on?
Mark Crozer: As clichéd as it sounds, it all began when I was about six years old, listening to my mum’s Beatles singles on an old mono record player. I think I was watching A Hard Days Night one Christmas when I decided I wanted to be in a band. I was also really into The Monkees shows on TV. It wasn’t just the music it was the whole idea of having a band that appealed to me. I alternated between wanting to be a drummer and a guitar player despite not actually been able to do either. I got my first guitar when I was nine. I didn’t really start listening to anything contemporary until I was ten or eleven when I discovered Adam and The Ants and then I began the slow decline into becoming your typical pop-chart obsessed teenager.
P&S: Can you recall the name of the first band you were in? What was your first attempt at writing a song?
MC: I was in my first band when I was thirteen. It wasn’t really a band as such as we could barely play. It was just me and my brother and some friends mucking around although we did take it very seriously. We even performed at a church harvest supper and a number of elderly ladies walked out with their fingers in their ears. Ha! I think I was quite pleased about that. Fortunately I can’t remember the name but I’m sure it was something really cringe-inducing. My first real gigging band was when I was fourteen and we were called Insane Logic. It was just me, my friend Alex (whom I’d talked into buying a bass guitar) and a Boss DR-55 drum machine at the beginning. At our first show we were heralded as Oxford’s answer to New Order. I’d never even heard of New Order at that point. My tastes in music were extremely un-cool. I had just discovered Big Country (still one of the best live bands I’ve seen) and U2 and had spent all my paper-round money on some cheap, crappy effects pedals to get that big, chiming guitar sound. Then they got stolen after the gig. Embarrassingly I can remember my first attempt at writing a song. I was nine years old and I wrote a song called ‘Lucy’ using the only two chords I could play – E and A. I can still remember it. It was crap.
P&S: Apart from playing Bass and Guitar, what other instruments do you play?
MC: Er… I can just about keep a beat going on the drums and I can tinkle a bit on the piano but I wouldn’t say that I can do either well enough to play in front of anyone else.
P&S: According to an early bio, things started taking off for you professionally in the late 1990’s when you moved to Canada – what prompted that move from your hometown of Oxford?
MC: Again this is going to sound rather clichéd but it was because of a girl. I met a charming French-Canadian in 1989 and spent over three years traveling backwards and forwards between England and Canada to be with her. We eventually got married and I moved out to Montreal in 1993 though we’re not together any more. It was a serious culture shock going from a small city like Oxford to a busy, vibrant and also largely French-speaking metropolis like Montreal. It’s the largest French speaking city in the world after Paris you know.
P&S: During this period you recorded two critically acclaimed LP’s “Shining Down On Me” (1999) and the follow up “Unnatural World” (2001) – were those LPs distributed worldwide/backed by a label or were they self-released in Canada only? Do you have any plans to record another solo LP in the near future?
MC: Well, critically acclaimed is probably pushing it a bit though it’s very nice of you to say so. A few people did say some quite positive things but they were largely ignored. They were self-released albums and both totally different from each other. I was floundering totally, both as an artist and personally when I made the first one. I’d been in a band in Montreal which fizzled out disappointingly and then sold all my music gear and moved out to Vancouver and started my own business selling massage equipment. Very bizarre. I didn’t really have a clue what I was doing with my life. But somehow I got drawn back into music again, wrote some songs and recorded them at my friend Paul Garay’s studio. They became ‘Shining Down On Me.’ I was really pleased with it at the time but it’s so different from what I’m doing now. ‘Unnatural World’ was mostly just me and an acoustic guitar recorded live to DAT though there are four ‘produced’ songs on it too. I still quite like that album. It’s dark. Not surprising really as I was not very happy back then. I don’t think I’d do another solo album. I got bored of working on my own. I’m much happier in a band though I am a total control freak which makes it difficult sometimes.
P&S: Correct me if I’m wrong, but were you the main person behind Coolbrook Booking Agency? Is the agency still booking artists in the UK?
MC: I was the main (and only) person behind that, yes. I started Coolbrook in July 2005 at the instigation of my friend Mark Browning. I’d just come back from a 26-date European tour with his band Ox, whom I played bass with for a short while (and I could talk for hours about that tour – in the space of one month I experienced every rock n roll cliché imaginable and that doesn’t even include the story about the rampaging wild boar.) Mark is someone I knew of from Vancouver and our paths had crossed a couple of times when I lived out there. I moved back to England in 2003 and on a return visit to Canada later that year I learned that Mark had a new band called Ox who were doing really well. I checked them out online and was totally blown away. So I got in touch with him and asked if he wanted to do a gig in Oxford. I booked it and it was a big success. A year later when he was planning his next tour he got in touch again and I half jokingly offered my services as a bass player for the tour. Surprisingly he was quite keen so I was ‘hired.’ I then ended up booking half the tour and it was suggested I could book tours for other Canadian artists. So I did. It was quite a tough job and I lost quite a bit of money doing it. I decided to call it a day in January this year and just go back to being a musician where I could lose money but at least have some fun doing it.
P&S: What first brought me to the attention of Coolbrook a couple of years ago was the addition of The Jesus And Mary Chain’s Jim Reid to the roster of artists. How did you meet Jim and how did you begin playing bass in his live band?
MC: Well, it’s really just another example of me opening my big mouth and saying ‘I can do that.’ Funnily enough the connection came about because of a record label in Canada. One of the first bands Coolbrook worked with was The Heavy Blinkers from Halifax, Nova Scotia. I had a chat with their record label (Endearing Records based in Vancouver) and learned that the band was signed to Transistor Records in the UK. I was quite surprised to discover that Transistor – whom I’d not heard of before – was based just up the road from me in Chipping Norton. It’s literally a twenty minute drive from where I live. So I hooked up with Mark at Transistor and discovered that he was doing a single (“Song For A Secret”) with Jim. I heard it and got quite excited and asked whether Jim was planning on doing any live dates and said I was interested. So that was that. I booked some shows for Jim and Phil and met them both for the first time on October 29th 2005 at The Cavern in Exeter. I was slightly overawed when I met Jim I have to say but managed to hide it. It just sort of snowballed from there. Jim wanted someone at the shows to help set up guitars and amps and make sure everything was tuned properly so I offered to do that. Then backstage at a gig in Brighton in January 2006 we got talking about the possibility of him having a new band. I said that if he was interested then I’d be up for playing bass (Phil was already playing guitar with Jim) and I knew a drummer (Loz) who’d be perfect. I didn’t know Loz at all then – I was totally winging it – but I’d been a big fan of Ride and had seen Loz playing with Dusty Sound System just a couple of weeks before and thought somehow it might just work out. Remarkably it did as Jim said he was up for it. I got in touch with Loz via Dave Newton who managed Ride and not long after I found myself in a tiny rehearsal room in Oxford playing with these indie legends. I couldn’t believe my luck. The funny thing is I’m not really a bass player at all but have somehow ended up playing bass more often than guitar.
P&S: I’ve heard a few bootlegs of Jim Reid’s early solo shows – the set was a good mixture of Mary Chain classics, Jim’s post JAMC band – Freeheat, Dylan’s “If You Gotta, Go Now”, and a slew of others. Did you or the rest of the band suggest songs to play live?
Video:: Jim Reid w/ Mark Crozer (Bass)
“Stranded – Live”
MC: In a word – no. Jim had got a set worked out before I started playing with him. Aside from Never Understand, the other Mary Chain songs we did were lesser-known ones. He never seemed that keen to do any of the better-known Mary Chain songs. I think that to him it just didn’t seem right without William’s involvement. That’s just my feeling. I’d love to play some more of Jim’s songs in the new incarnation of the Mary Chain. There’s one called War On Peace that is just fantastic – easily up there with the best he’s ever done and we worked out a really good arrangement with the band last year.
P&S: Playing in Jim Reid’s band led to you playing guitar in the reformed Jesus And Mary Chain. I read on your myspace blog several months ago a retelling of the day Jim called you and asked if you would like to play guitar in the Mary Chain – That must have been one of the most rewarding feelings as a musician – Were you a huge Jesus And Mary Chain fan before you joined the band?
MC: Being asked to play in the Mary Chain was a very exhilarating, life-affirming moment for me. I’d just come from playing one of the worst solo gig’s of my life and was pretty depressed about it. Moments before Jim called me I was seriously considering whether I had any future at all playing music. Things were looking very bleak. I had no money, no proper job and the one thing I knew I could do well looked like it was slipping away from me. I was even thinking about moving back to my mum’s house! I was sitting at the bus stop in Notting Hill when the phone rang and I heard Jim Reid asking “how would you feel about coming to California with the Mary Chain?” I thought he’d called me by mistake! So thank you Jim. When we played at Brixton I wore a t-shirt that said “Jim Fixed It For Me” which was the slogan from a TV show from the 1970’s called Jim’ll Fix It. But I meant it literally.
To say that I was a huge Mary Chain fan before joining the band would be disingenuous but I was certainly aware of them and knew they were very cool. I remember sitting around with my friend Joe in 1987 (when I was sixteen) listening to Darklands and thinking it was really out there – very different from what I was used to listening to and that they had totally freaky haircuts. Joe made a tape for me along with The Smiths, Echo and the Bunnymen and The Cure. That soon became the soundtrack to my teenage moping and I tried desperately to get my hair to look as wild as theirs. I started working at Our Price Records a few years later just as Automatic was being released and I liked Blues From A Gun a lot. I think though in many ways the Mary Chain were always way ahead of their time. So as a fairly main-stream teenager I’d hear something like Psychocandy and go “What the hell is that!?” It was only years later that I heard it again and thought what an amazing and ground-breaking record it is. I am definitely a fan now for sure. I listen to Darklands the most though. That’s my personal favourite.
P&S: Do you think your life has changed drastically since joining one of the most influential bands in rock history? Do your friends and family treat you any different?
MC: I’m having a very surreal moment. It’s been a dream since I was six years old to be asked a question like that! Well, since joining one of the most influential bands in rock history (heh heh) my life has changed in some ways but pretty much stayed the same in most respects. You see, I’ve been living a fairly unorthodox, rock n roll life for quite a while anyway. The only difference is now I have the band to go with it. It’s quite hard to describe how it’s been over the last few months. Aside from just being part of the Mary Chain reunion – which in itself has been incredible – meeting people like Scarlett Johansson, Jarvis Cocker and doing things like Letterman have been the most fun and weird. I guess generally it’s an odd mixture of moments that are utterly bizarre and unreal tempered by others that are totally normal. When I’m playing with the band on stage and really focusing on not screwing up my parts it’s not really any different from being in any other band. You’re just trying to do the best job you can. Then there’s this sudden realization of being in front of thousands of people who are going crazy, singing along, crowd-surfing and I think “wow, this is totally, unbelievably amazing!” Playing Brixton Academy recently was one of the biggest thrills of my life. There was a moment of perfect synchronicity where I thought “this is what I was born to do” that came as we were playing Darklands. It was the first time in nearly twenty years that the Mary Chain has played that song and I’m standing there thinking “this is just completely mind-blowing.” We were great that night. The band has been getting better and better and we still really haven’t played that much together yet. I can’t wait till we do some longer tours. So to answer the question: Yes and no. I can pay my rent now which is a pretty drastic change from the beginning of the year.
My friends and family treat me exactly the same. Why wouldn’t they? I’m 36 years old and have lived enough years as an adult to take it all in stride and so have they so they do as well.
“Just Like Honey – Live Summercase ’07″
MC: Well, I’m not entirely sure what the plans are. You’ve got to remember that until a few months ago the prospect of new Jesus and Mary Chain material was not even the glimmer of a prospect. So Jim and William are still trying to figure out how this is going to work. Initially I think they were just thinking of going into the studio with Loz but now it’s looking like we might all be involved. I hope so because I know I’ve got a lot to offer and there’s good chemistry between us. I’d love to be able to help orchestrate some of the sounds on any recordings that get made. I love engineering and producing as much as I love being a musician. But ultimately it comes down to what Jim and William want of course. We’ll see. I’ve taken to jokingly comparing myself to one of the red-shirt-wearing ensigns in Star Trek. Jim and William are Kirk and Spock and the rest of us are the ones whose names you don’t know but sooner or later you suspect they’ll probably get zapped and disappear. I’m joking of course when I say that but I like to think of it that way as it stops me getting big-headed.
P&S: Along with work in the Mary Chain, you have formed your own band, International Jetsetters – with Bert Audubert and fellow Mary Chainer Loz Colbert (also ex Ride) – We know you’ve played with Loz in Jim’s solo band, how did you meet Bert?
MC: Bert and I have been good friends for about four years. We met while we were working as telephone fundraisers for the Royal Shakespeare Company. We got to know each other during a very drunken summer. It all began at a midnight party down by the river in Oxford with a mad girl who was trying to catch crayfish with a children’s fishing net. She kept a dead kestrel in her freezer too. Bert and I both had a crush on her. The three of us had another boozy night a few days later on the roof of the house that was later to become International Jetsetters HQ. I knew we were in trouble when she turned up with a longbow and a quiver of arrows. Anyway, back to the river: Guitars came out along with copious amounts of red wine and spliffs and we realized we had a lot in common – particularly our unorthodox view of the world and love of music. Up until then I’d had an image of Bert as an incredibly clean-cut fellow as he always seemed to be very together. The reality is that he’s one of the wildest, most debauched party animals I have ever met. When the Mary Chain played at Coachella in April he insisted on coming along to live the rock n roll lifestyle on my behalf. I just can’t keep up with it these days so it worked out very nicely. We’re like the Abbott and Costello of backstage partying.
Video:: International Jetsetters
MC: Well, for me it all goes back to The Beatles and the music of the sixties. They were my first love musically and will always be the benchmark I’m aiming for in terms of songwriting. There’s probably also elements of the stuff I was listening to in my teenage years such as The Cure, The Smiths, etc. I have to say that playing in the Mary Chain is having a big influence too. The Reids really are masters of three chord pop so I’ve been trying to strip it down in a similar way. I recently wrote a song with just two chords and the next challenge is to write one with only one! I’m also very influenced by my dreams. I have some very strange dreams and one in particular – where I dreamed I punched a clown in the face – was the inspiration for a song called Keep In In (Let It Out.)
P&S: I know the band is currently recording the debut EP/LP – I also noticed a few shows the band is playing later in the year – will there be plans to play in the US?
Video:: International Jetsetters
“Inside Yourself – Live”
MC: We would absolutely love to play in the US but logistically I think it’s going to be difficult if not impossible unless a label puts out the album and can sort out visas and flights for us. It’s hard enough trying to arrange shows in our own backyard as it is. Everyone’s busy. Loz and I first and foremost are committed to the Mary Chain so have to work round that; Loz also has a family and has other projects on the go; Bert is an in-demand actor and pretty difficult to pin down as he’s frequently off working on a film or an advert. Ask him about the time he was asked to play a slice of bacon for an advert. He loves talking about that. He should call his autobiography ‘From Hamlet To Ham and Back Again.’
MC: Well, I’m really keen to get into production. I’ve worked on a few small projects (including engineering a couple of tracks for Jim last year and all the International Jetsetters stuff) but would love to be able to work with other bands too. I’m hoping to expand my studio one day soon. It’s very basic at the moment.
Aside from doing music together, Bert and I also write comedy (along with our friend Bruce on occasion.) We’re currently working on a short film based around the unusual-yet-somehow-totally-normal things that seem to happen to us daily (such as being asked to join internationally famous rock bands; dressing up as pigeons to hand out leaflets in Trafalgar Square; getting into car accidents with wild boars and so on…) Keep an eye out.
P&S: As a sorta way to close things out we always like to ask fellow musicians – what sort of stuff are you listening to right now? What would be your current TOP 5?
MC: Ok. Well. Hmmm. My current Top 5 bands/albums are:
Editors: An End Has A StartBat For Lashes: Fur and GoldIda Maria (from Sweden) I saw this band last night in Oxford and they were unbelievably brilliant.
Jarvis CockerRichard HawleyP&S: Mark it’s been a real pleasure! Best of luck with everything and let’s talk again in the future.
MC: It was a fun way to spend Sunday afternoon
Mark Crozer will be on tour with The Jesus And Mary Chain this fall, along with a couple of dates with his very own International Jetsetters…
09.27.07 – International Jetsetters – Oxford, England -The Jericho
10.20.07 – The Jesus And Mary Chain – Las Vegas, NV – The House Of Blues
10.22.07 – The Jesus And Mary Chain – Anaheim, CA – The House OF Blues
10.23.07 – The Jesus And Mary Chain – Los Angeles, CA – The Wiltern Theater
10.24.07 – The Jesus And Mary Chain – San Diego, CA – 4th And B
10.26.07 – The Jesus And Mary Chain – San Francisco, CA – The Fillmore
10.27.07 – The Jesus And Mary Chain – San Francisco, CA – The Fillmore
10.28.07 – The Jesus And Mary Chain – Denver, CO – The Fillmore Auditorium
11.21.07 – The International Jetsetters – London, England -The Windmill
For More Information on Mark Crozer/The JAMC Please Visit:www.myspace.com/internationaljetsetters
Special thanks to Rose