Live Skull are a cult New York based band which was formed in 1982 and founded by guitarists Mark C. and Tom Paine. Their first album Bringing Home the Bait was released in 1985 via Homestead Records. Positraction was their fourth and latest album, before the breakup in 1989.
In 2016 they’re back as a band and now they announced a new album. Saturday Night Massacre is out on November 8th via Bronson Recordings and was mastered by Fred Kevorkian (Iggy Pop, Debbie Harry, Peter Murphy). Artwork was created by Gary Panter. The lineup includes Mark C (vocals, synth, guitar), Rich Hutchins (drums), Kent Heine (bass), Thalia Zedek (vocals on Nova Police,vocals and harmonica on Midnight Zone) and Marnie Greenholz (vocals on Up Against The Wall). They will play also some shows in Europe:
Sun. Nov. 17 – NLD – Groningen – Vera (with Joh Spencer & the HITmakers)
Mon. Nov. 18 – NLD – Rotterdam – Rotown (with Jon Spencer & the HITmakers) (SOLD OUT!)
Thu. Nov. 21 – ITA – Ravenna – Transmissions Festival
Fri. Nov. 22 – ITA – Ravenna – Transmissions Festival
Sun. Nov. 24 – FRA – Lille – La Malterie
Mon. Nov. 25 – NLD – Amsterdam – OCCII
Tue. Nov. 26 – DEU – Berlin – Urban Spree (with White Hills and Martin Bisi)
We are glad to premiere a new track titled “Midnight Zone” which drives us in psychedelic lands. Listen below and check our talk with Mark C. about the new album, Transimissions Festival, live shows and much more.
Let’s start from your new album “Saturday Night Massacre”. What can you tell us about the inspiration and the creative process? And what made you to start again as a band after so many years from the latest work in 1989?
It was an organic process beginning with an invitation to play Martin Bisi’s BC 35 Anniversary party in Brooklyn two years ago. Live skull had recorded or mixed many of our albums with Martin at BC studio. Original members, Marnie, Rich and I got together to jam at my studio, and started to put together original song ideas to perform at the show. Marnie rocked some new bass lines and I brought in solo guitar jams that I had saved up, having recently worked mostly on electronic music. Rich chimed in with the beats. The three of us quickly fell back into the Live Skull groove, jamming, listening to each other, building steadily upon each other’s parts, though we were calling the project New Old Skull. We played four songs at the show, two of which, Details of the Madness and Up Against the Wall ended up on the resulting compilation records.
For the live show celebrating the BC 35 record release we invited former member Thalia Zedek to join us. When Chris from Bronson Recordings offered to release a New Old Skull record, we had five songs in the works. Marnie moved on to other work while Rich and I began in earnest to jam and write new material; recording everything and listening back. Mostly guitar and drums, but I also picked up the bass and played synth on occasion. We invited Kent Heine -who I collaborate with in o13 (@o13 official)- to join in on bass and the album started to come into focus. His methodical playing amped up the grooves and augmented Rich’s lively percussion style and allowed me to flesh out the guitar parts and test out vocal ideas.
I had been writing/collecting and mashing up lyrics relating to the political turmoil in the US, and they were a natural fit to the new jams. Live Skull had always been a protest band in the abstract, now we were getting more specific. (It’s part of the magic of Live Skull that parts we work out separately, sync right up when we throw them together in the band situation.) I gave Thalia a couple of song titles, and some insights as to what they referred to and she wrote her own lyrics, as did Marnie.
Rich, Kent and I recorded the basic tracks live in my studio, Deepsea, while I engineered; and then we proceeded to work on the overdubs. When all five us eventually met up to rehearse for the BC 35 II record release party I recorded Thalia’s and Marnie’s vocals. Once I told Chris that we were getting excited about the scope of the music, he suggested we make it a Live Skull record. We had the input of four original Live Skull members, the sound that was evolving was big, the lyric ideas were edgy, the political news was growing heavier by the day. Yeah it seemed the right time for the official re-emergence of Live Skull.
You are from New York. I’m very interested to the connection between the places we live over the years, the territorial geography of our roots and the art. How do you feel these theme connected to your music, your way to think music?
Well I don’t know if you are familiar with the cover art of Live Skull’s Dusted, our third studio album; but it consists of five hi-definition black and white photographs, gritty interiors of factory ruins. They are part of a series I had begun once I moved back to the East Coast, from California. My forays inside those dusty –dusted– time museums, informed my music dramatically, invoking the edgy and ominous guitar lines and the haunted, alienated, vocals that colored the Live Skull sound from the very beginning. What happens when you tear away at a crumbling facade and reveal what looms beneath it in all it’s horror and glory? That’s what we were exploring in Live Skull, that’s what was on our minds when we picked up our instruments, pointed our amps at each other and blasted through the hollows of my open loft space. It was the early Eighties, we lived in and around the officially abandoned East Village and Lower East Side, a lost neighborhoods that resembled the aftermath of a war zone. The landscape reminded me of the reconnaissance photos my father took after bombing raids in Germany in WWII. Crumbling buildings and vacant lots, burnt out shells of cars lining the streets. We took in this landscape, lived and breathed it and spit it back out in our art, our music.
You will play in Ravenna for Tranmissions Festival which is focused on experimental sounds. What is your relationship with experimentation and what is your way to explore new paths in music over the years?
Live Skull’s original goal was to obliterate the traditional boundaries of rock music, while working with traditional rock tools. Electric guitars, bass, drums and vocals, charging through reimagined song structures, annotated by cut up and exaggerated lyric content. In our world, following a lead instrument could prove to be illusive and the resulting barrage, is an indivisible composite of sound, and psychic drama perched on the edge of fulfillment. We are still guided by those ambitions.
We continue to explore the visceral impact of distorted guitar licks ricocheting off heavy bass and drum grooves as the whole band navigates chaotic, twists and turns of rhythm and melody. I’ve worked with other types of music, other instruments and techniques but its the emotive power of sound that holds my attention.
What is the best thing of live shows you like more compared to studio recordings? What kind of show we can expect from you in Ravenna?
Live shows are all about the moment. All senses heightened as the drama unfolds, as the music swells, rising and falling with the movements of those on stage and the reactions in the crowd. The fun lies in how much you can be in the present, both for the band and the audience. Forget about your past, ignore the future and take in the sound as it washes through you!
In Ravenna we will likely play most of Saturday Night Massacre and one or two classic Live Skull tracks. The lineup will be Rich Hutchins on drums, Kent Heine on bass, yours truly Mark C on guitar and vocals, and newest member Dave Hollinghurst on guitar and vocals. Come experience a fresh, new chapter in the extended Live Skull saga.
Ritual question. What are the best releases you recently appreciated?
Flamagra /Flying Lotus, Our Love / Caribou, Anima /Thom Yorke, good kid m.A.A.d city’ Short Film / Kendrick Lamar, Eryikah Bado / New Amerykah Part Two (Return of the Ankh), Agadez / Bambino, A Moon Shaped Pool / Radiohead, Drunk/ Thundercat, Major Key / DJ Khaled, Mith / Lonnie Holley, Disintegration / The Cure, 5:55 / Charlotte Gainsbourg, Mirage (Deluxe Edition) / Fleetwood Mac.