Kevin: What have you been doing for the last three to four years between "Finched" and "Nisus"?
Mark: I finished writing "Nisus" in the summer and fall of 1992. All of it was demoed out, all the vocals were done; all that remained was to go into a studio and record it and mix it proper. It was originally intended that the album was going to come out through the Axis label, but due to various reasons it didn't. Axis and I very amicably parted ways; they just didn't have the money to put it out. Then I took a year off from that and concentrated on engineering; I shifted over from working a day job engineering and freelancing part-time to engineering full-time. And Peter Dysparia from Vein Cage and I put together a live band for awhile doing Out Out and Vein Cage material, playing a handful of shows locally and a couple in New York. It was a lot of fun, but a little more work than we could handle -- that was the summer of 1993 up to January of 1994. After that I was working full-time as an engineer and becoming co-owner of Slaughterhouse Studios. But eventually I got the initiative to start looking around for new labels, and I ended up working with Metropolis.
Kevin: I seem to remember that "Nisus" was originally going to be on the 21st Circuitry label.
Mark: I had also looked at going with 21st Circuitry. It's hard to explain why I ended up going with Metropolis versus 21st Circuitry; they're both great labels and it was not and easy decision - it just worked out that I ended up going with Metropolis. But I did put a track on the "Coldwave Breaks" compilation on 21st Circuitry, and there is also a new compilation of new wave covers that the label is putting out that I'm putting a track on. I'm covering Candy-O' by the Cars and I've got the guitar player from the Marshes doing the lead guitars on it. I want to continue working with Don Blanchard (label owner of 21st Circuitry) in the sense of giving him a compilation track here and there, it's a lot of fun. And Don and Dave from Metropolis know each other and get along.
Kevin: What lead to the more aggressive atmosphere in "Nisus" as compared to your earlier albums? Was it an influence from working with Vein Cage? Or was it the sound you wanted to take Out Out after "Finched?
Mark: To be fair, a little bit of both. Peter Dysparia of Vein Cage and I have been friends since 9th grade and have collaborated on material off and on all through high school. During the time of post-"Pepperbox Muzzle" through the summer before I started writing "Finched", that was when Peter was working on the Vein Cage record; and I would go over to his studio and work on material. Some of the stuff on the Vein Cage record was purely his idea, some of it was co-written; in way or another, I had input on the record, but it really was his baby. Over the course of that time, he must have had an influence on me; it's hard not to be influenced by somebody when you have a mutual respect for their work.
Kevin: Is Vein Cage still in existence?
Mark: Peter has a bunch of material for a new record, but I think he's just sitting on it right now; he's doing other things like working on getting together a live band.
Kevin: Where you involved in the Vein Cage track on the Visions of the Apocalypse compilation?
Mark: No, my housemate at the time, Dave Blood, was the guy Peter collaborated with on that track. That track was sort of their experiment to see how they worked together, and it ended up being a more gothic version of Vein Cage. Peter's newer material sounds nothing like that; but it's still really good.
Kevin: Have you had any negative reactions from older fans who criticize you for falling into the fad of adding a heavy guitar element to your music?
Mark: I actually haven't had any criticism of the fact that sound is harder. I could see that people might make that observation or accusation, but nobody has to my knowledge. Of course there haven't been a lot of reviews of the actual record yet; when that hits we'll see. But to answer the question, no it was not a deliberate attempt at any stretch to become heavy or more accessible. Part of it was the reaction to the title track on "Finched" in which Peter played the guitar in a very metal style; the reaction to that song when I demoed it originally was so strong - I got very excited about it. And I think that carried over into the writing of "Nisus" -- a little bit of using guitar textures, combined with a little more confidence. Having played most of the guitars on "Finched", I had a little more confidence in bringing the guitars forward a little more. All the guitars I played on "Finched", I buried; there's guitar in most of the songs, but they're so buried and textural. I think it works for that record, but I think it was partially out of a lack on confidence.
Kevin: Were you intentionally going for a fuller sound on this album or was it just more of a natural progression?
Mark: It was definitely a natural progression for me. With "Pepperbox Muzzle", I was partially limited by my lack of equipment, so things necessarily had to be sparser. Mostly it's out of wanting to try new textures out and the fact that I like dense textures, so I think I've just been practicing that end of it quite a bit.
Kevin: What does the title "Nisus" refer to?
Mark: According to the Webster's dictionary, if you're speaking of an individual person, one's Nisus is their strength or will to survive. Or if you're speaking about a species, it's the inherent instinct to keep the species alive.
Kevin: Which kind of fits in with the atmosphere and lyrical content of the album.
Mark: There's definitely a strength theme on the record, and as I was writing it, that started to emerge. It just seemed appropriate.
Kevin: Why are you re-releasing "Pepperbox Muzzle" and "Finched"?
Mark: "Pepperbox Muzzle" was only officially out for a month and half. A month and half after it came out, Rough Trade US, the manufacturer and distributor for Axis at the time, folded. "Finched" actually had a pretty fair shot at life, in the sense of distribution and promotion. I think those two earlier albums both have another shot at life potentially.
Kevin: Are you doing any remastering or re-recording on those?
Mark: Just a minimum of remastering, but very minimal. I don't want to change them that much, because I don't believe my judgement now versus my judgement then - I don't think it's fair, they should have a life of their own. I did a few things in the remastering to Pepperbox Muzzle to sort of pump it up a little bit, but it's not anything significant.
Kevin: On your webpage, it shows the artwork for the cover for "Pepperbox Muzzle" being different from the original release. What was the reasoning for doing new artwork for that album?
Mark: The old artwork was fine, but it was done in a hurry, and I never felt it was quite what I had in mind; I think the new cover more represents the album. And I wanted to bring that cover up to where I've gone with the other cover designs.
Kevin: When are you planning on re-releasing those two albums?
Mark: "Pepperbox Muzzle" is tentatively scheduled for October 22nd and "Finched" probably early next year. Then my fourth one, which is tentatively titled "Voiceprint", will be coming out hopefully before the summer.
Kevin: Are you planning to do any tours in the near future? Or do you consider yourself more as a studio band?
Mark: I'd be interested in doing live shows again, but financially, it's not feasible for me right now. Running a studio does eat up a lot of time and you're sort of committed to being around; even if I'm not doing sessions, I'm still the chief engineer and I still have to be around to make sure the equipment is working. And if I'm going to have people playing my music, helping me promote my record, where they're not going to make any money on royalties, they should be getting paid. I would want them to, in the process of touring, make sure they come back at least breaking even with what they would have made had they stayed and worked at their job.
Kevin: What kind of reaction did you get those few times you did play live?
Mark: The reactions were everything from quite acceptable to pretty amazing at a few shows where the crowd response was phenomenal.
Kevin: How long have you been running Slaughterhouse Studios?
Mark: I've been co-owner for a little over 2 years; and I worked for the previous owners, one of whom is my partner in the business for about 3 years prior to that.
Kevin: Who have you done engineering work for?
Mark: Predominantly, your three- and four-piece rock bands of various forms, from noisy to poppy. That's mainly what's in this area; there's a lot of really good rock-type bands in western Massachusetts. But I've done everything from hip-hop to techno to country to folk to classical guitar; one time I had three Celtic harps in the studio.
Kevin: How long have you been doing engineering work?
Mark: I'd say I started freelancing professionally in 1990-91; I've been noodling around with recording since junior high school.
Kevin: How long has your webpage been up?
Mark: Less than a week. It's a nice place where I can post upcoming releases, appearances, compilations and so on. It's a bit of shameless self-promotion, but if people what to hear stuff, they can download some low-quality sound files. It's mainly for promotional purposes, but also to have a presence; it seems like the thing to do and it was fun designing the page.
Kevin: It seems like you have gotten a lot of praise from reviewers and critics, yet have seen little recognition, even from the underground and industrial communities. Any reaction to this?
Mark: I don't tour and that makes it a lot more difficult. I never had a lot of promotion, although it seems this time around, I'm doing far more interviews and related kind of promotional work; I think Michael Mahan at Metropolis is trying to push things out there. But I'm happy for the fact that those few thousand people out there have the record.