Autobiography

 


I grew up in Tenafly, New Jersey, a residential suburb across the river from Manhattan. Started playing trumpet in the school band as a kid, marching at football games or parades in fall and spring, and playing classical greatest hits in school auditoriums in the winter. But it was in my early teens that I really discovered music, listening on a small transistor radio to mid sixties pop hits and on an old tube short wave set to all the strange sounds between stations that seemed from outer space. I took up guitar then and learned enough to play covers in a garage band that never got out of the garage, and for awhile lost interest in the horn. Things really went to another level when I got old enough to go into the city on my own, from '68 to '70 going to as many as concerts as I could afford at the Fillmore East or hallucinating on light shows at the Electric Circus. Naively I thought I'd opened my head up about as far as I could at the time.

 

 

The first gig
The first gig

 

In 1970, looking to both avoid the draft and get as far away from New Jersey as possible I ended up at a small formerly-Presbyterian turned outright hippie liberal arts college in St. Pete, Florida, and on the first night there met Arto Lindsay. We quickly dumped our assigned roommates and roomed together on campus, where we made friends fast. We were all looking for something but didn't know what exactly. Discovering free and cosmic jazz, and electric Miles, I picked up my horn again to jam in regular free-form sessions - Arto would chant the poems he was working on, others danced, made noise. This was the art school atmosphere of the early '70s, repeated all over the country, which in the following years fed the New York music, film and art scenes, as there seemed to be nowhere else to go once we left school behind.

 

So a bunch of us moved to Manhattan in 1974, which at the time was dirt cheap, dangerous and totally wild. CBGB's was just starting up, with Television, The Ramones, Patti Smith, Talking Heads, all just finding their sound, which was a revelation and a beacon, as we could see how easy it was to start a band. I'd studied theater thinking to find my way into avant-garde companies like Performance group, Robert Wilson's or Meredith Monk's but didn't look easy or so absolutely tempting as making music in an autonomous unit. It was towards the end of '75 when Connie (China) Burg, who'd also come from college in St. Pete, and I got together with Sumner Crane and Nancy Arlen, and spent the following year working hard to make our own sound, at first under the name China, and soon after Mars (see link). We played our first show in February, 1977 at CBGB's, and within a few months Arto put DNA together, Lydia Lunch and James Chance, Teenage Jesus and the Jerks. It was our moment as the No Wave, though at the time only in Manhattan, as Mars never managed to play outside of it.

 

In 1979, after Mars decided to disband as such, Sumner had been working on an "opera" John Gavanti, loosely based thematically on Mozart's Don Giovanni, but musically closer to free jazz, blues and samba forms, which I helped to produce and release in 1980 on my own label, Hyrax. With this project I finally and definitively took up the trumpet again. In fact we rented some instruments to add color, which led to Connie (now Lucy Hamilton) taking up the bass clarinet. Although Sumner had decided the real opera was impossible to perform without a huge budget, we did do some instrumental shows around this time with these instruments, and this eventually led to the formation of the group Don King, in '82, with Duncan Lindsay (Arto's brother) and Lucy Hamilton. Later formations included Arto Lindsay and Toni Nogueira playing Brazilian percussion and a final version in '87 withTony Maimone (pere ubu). We also made two European tours (finally escaped the city) in 1983 and '86, the first only in Italy, the second going on to Switzerland, France and finally Barcelona, where I was able to stay for a few weeks and was completely seduced by the city and the music scene I encountered there.

 

In New York City
In New York City

Back in New York, Don King faded away and I started working with other musicians, for once without my own band. I'd already been playing off and on in the improv scene and I had a short lived but exciting group with Christian Marclay and Mark Miller - Mark, Mark and Marclay (this was in 1985 or so, played a few shows and had a song on a European cassette 'zine). In 1987 I worked with Lizzy Mercier on what was to be her last LP, Suspense, and soon after that played for a couple of years with Sal Principato (ex-Liquid Liquid) and Ken Man in Fist of Facts. We also made it over to Europe, where I again ended up in Barcelona for awhile. It was calling me.

 

In my first visits to Barcelona I was doing a lot of improvising, with trumpet and electronics, in a scene heavily into analogue electronics, with home-made and Russian equipment, but I also started playing with an eccentric pop-rock band called Buildings, and I was able to time my visits with their tours around Spain, down into the deep south where I got my first real dose of flamenco and also drum and trumpet bands that played only in Easter week. Realized this was the root of Miles' Spanish side which had already made a strong mark on my trumpet playing back in the '70s, so again I felt very much at home.

 

In 1990 I met Silvia Mestres, A Barcelona girl, in New York, and this was the final push - fell in love and moved to Barcelona in 1991. Buildings had split up but with two of them, Gat and Anton Ignorant, formed my first group there - RAEO - and also began working with Pascal Comelade in his Bel Canto Orchestra (which included Pierre Bastien) as well as taking part in projects and concerts with other groups and artists - Superelvis, Beef, Telefilme, Mil Dolores Pequenos, Jakob Draminsky, Lydia Lunch (who was also coming over a lot) and Butch Morris. With Raeo made various tours of Spain, France and Switzerland.

 

In 1997 I recorded my first solo CD, Blood River Dusk (Por Caridad prod.) with help from Silvia, the beginning of an enduring musical and visual collaboration. She did the set design and visuals for solo concerts around Spain and France, including a series of four concerts in the Fin-de-siecle New York festival in Nantes (December, 1998). In 1999 collaborated on two CDs of French industrial duo Etant Donnes with Lydia Lunch, Alan Vega, Genesis P-Orridge and Michael Gira. The first of these, Re-up, was presented in Transmusicales 99 in Rennes and Sonar 2000 in Barcelona, where I also debuted as a floating member of Genesis P. Orridge’s Thee Majesty.

 

In 2001 I finally convinced Silvia to come onstage with me and we formed Convolution, and for the first time toured a part of the US, fifteen shows down the east coast and up through the midwest, in July 2001, a very interesting moment, at the height of the anti-system movement before it was crushed by post 9/11 repression, and the audiences were super open to what we were doing and passionate about change in general. Convolution stayed active, recording home CDs and touring occasionally around Europe, going through different phases and instrument combinations, until 2009.

 

Mark on stage 01 - Photo Frederic Navarro
Photo Frederic Navarro

 

In 2004 started a project with Jakob Draminsky Hojmark, Aleatory Grammar, recording two consecutive CDs of improvised psycho acoustic laptop and trumpet.In 2008 started working with free electric trio Bestia Ferida, with Arnau Sala and Adrian de Alfonso, and in the following 4 years played in all the major festivals and clubs in Catalonia, including Sonar and Primavera Sound. Then we had to call it quits as Adrian left for Berlin, along with a lot of other Spanish youth, fed up with the lack of opportunities for them in the economic crisis.

 

For the next couple of years I did a number of solo shows and some collaborations, including trio shows with Murcof and Philippe Petit. Blood River Dusk was re-released in 2013 as a vinyl LP on Feeding Tube Records, who I'd been working with on live Mars releases, and I even started composing and recording some material for a yet to be completed sequel.

 

Finally in late 2014 I hooked up with the guys from an underground Catalan rock trio, Murnau B., to play at a party for a fanzine, basically an improvised encounter, but it felt right and soon after we formed Blood Quartet (see link). With this band I feel in a way like I've come full circle, back to outsider rock but with everything else that's shaped me somehow in the mix.

 

Mark on stage 02 - Photo Frederic Navarro
Photo Frederic Navarro

 

Mark on stage 03 - Photo Frederic Navarro
Photo Frederic Navarro