Exclusive Interview:: Former Jesus & Mary Chain Guitarist Back With New Band & Debut LP- Introducing Mark Crozer & The Rels
It’s been almost five years since we last talked with Oxford musician Mark Crozer – now living in Charlotte, NC and is setting sail with a fantastic new band – Crozer is set to issue the self-titled LP: “Mark Crozer & The Rels” (Planting Seeds Records). We had the chance to sit down and catch up with Mark on his activities since his worldwide tour with The Jesus & Mary Chain and his Oxford supergroup International Jetsetters.
It’s a pleasure to chat with you again. Last we talked you were touring the world with The Jesus & Mary Chain. Looking back on your time with Jim & William Reid – what are the memories of that experience you’ll remember the most?
It already seems such a long time ago… Coachella was probably the highlight and the time I remember most fondly. I had a lot of fun, not just at the show but the whole time I was in LA. It was my first time in California, first time playing a show that size, first time getting treated like a rock star and I just felt like life couldn’t get any better. It was a pretty amazing time for the two years I played with the band but it was a strange time as well because we were only doing a few shows here and there. So I’d go off for the weekend to Spain or Japan or wherever, get the rock n roll star treatment and then a few days later I’d be back in my normal job managing a rehearsal studio in Oxford where I’d be shouting at bands for blowing up the PA or leaving bowls of chili hidden behind the sofa for a week.
It was mostly sitting around eating pizza which is what being in a band is really about. Lots of sitting around waiting for something to happen. We did record more than just that one track actually but I don’t know what happened to the others. I know that Loz did some drums on one of Jim’s solo demos and it sounded really good – “Just Get By” I think it might have been… And we recorded two or three songs with William. I think we did the “Kennedy Song” and one called “Moodrider” but they were quite rough takes from what I recall. Jim wasn’t there for those recordings. It was just William and the rest of us. I seem to remember that he was supposed to sing the vocal on those ones but every time we did a take he forgot to.
JAMC appeared to have a lot of momentum going around during this period – then it suddenly ceased – From your point of view did you feel Jim and William just lost interest? (Edit: JAMC are currently on tour in the US thru the fall )
I really don’t know. I can only guess and say that I don’t think Jim and William were totally ‘on the same page’ at that time. I got the impression that William was keen to do a lot more touring than we did but that Jim was a little hesitant about it for one reason or another. You have to remember that at the time they hadn’t been in a band together for almost ten years and it had ended spectacularly badly back in 98. So I think Jim was probably wary of throwing himself right back into the middle of it all again, more so than William perhaps. I dunno. This is really just my personal take on it and I could be completely wrong. I certainly would have been happy to do more at the time. Seems like they’re going out all guns blazing now though which is good. I’m happy to see them out they’re again. It’s great that John Moore’s back in the fold as he’s definitely got the necessary rock n roll swagger. I don’t really understand why they didn’t get Loz back though. It’s perplexing as he’s such a great drummer and a really nice person to work with. I’d play with Loz again any time. We’ve been talking for about a year now about how to do stuff together. The last thing we worked on together was “Next Christmas” the song that I contributed to Ramseur Records “My Favorite Gifts” album.
VIDEO:: THE JESUS & MARY CHAIN “All Things Must Pass” (Live David Letterman)
Almost simultaneously with you touring the world with The Mary Chain, you also began forming your own band – International Jetsetters – which included Loz Colbert (Ride/JAMC), Bert Audebert, your brother Paul Crozer and Fi McFall. The band released a critically acclaimed EP “Heart Is Black” along with high praise from legendary US disc jockey Rodney Bingenheimer, who featured your track “Inside Out” on his show for a solid month. The IJ’s also played at several UK Festival appearances. What were your fondest memories of the band?
I think probably my fondest memories go right back to the beginning when it was me and Bert mucking about writing and recording songs in the house we shared back then. That was a really fun time. Probably one of the most fun times of my life. That old house was the perfect place to be creative, get drunk and act like Withnail and I. Jim (Reid) and Phil (King) came over a couple of times to record Jim’s “Dead End Kids” single and the cover of “And Your Bird Can Sing” for Mojo magazine. It was such a cool and weird place to live. The Jetsetters did some really good live shows. I think one of the best was when we played at a festival on the east coast of England near where my brother lived. That was one of the highlights. Most of the time though I was frustrated during that period as I felt we should have been getting more attention than we were. But it was just really difficult to put time and energy into it for various reasons. We all had so much going on outside of the band that it just became impossible to make it work. Maybe the fact that I was off doing all those big shows with the Mary Chain didn’t help. It just made me wish even more that the Jetsetters were doing the same kind of shows.
As quickly as things came together for International Jetsetters, things seem to slow down on the band front – with various projects popping up – you with solo recordings and Bert & Fi playing in Welcome To Peepworld. In your opinion, did the dynamics in the band change from where it started perhaps creating the need to create new outlets for the music?
Oddly, the Jetsetters was a more difficult band to be in than the Mary Chain because we had five songwriters in the band in the end who all wanted to be heard – which really is a recipe for a disaster! When we were a three piece at the beginning it was probably a lot easier because it was me and Bert writing stuff together – even though we were stronger musically as a five piece. I think there was just too much going on in everyone’s personal lives at the time too and it made it hard to keep the momentum going. Paul didn’t even live in the same area as the rest of us so that didn’t help. We’re all still friends though and that’s the most important thing.
VIDEO:: INTERNATIONAL JETSETTERS “Inside Out” (Official Video)
It was announced somewhere in social media probably a year or so ago that International Jetsetters would be going on an indefinite hiatus. At this point would it be realistic to say the band have officially broken up?
I guess so. I live in the US now so it would be very hard to do anything together. Plus everyone’s happy doing what they’re doing now. Peepworld seems to be doing well, Loz is playing with Gaz Coombes and I’m really into my new band. Having said that, it’s so easy to share files over the net now that I can’t see why at some point we wouldn’t work on each other’s projects now and then. Bert actually plays bass on one song on my album… though his part was recorded about five years ago!
Another big milestone in your life – You started a family and took a big leap forward by moving from your home in Oxford, UK to Charlotte, NC. Was it immediately decided to put a band together for live performances?
Yeah. It was a big leap and one that I wasn’t sure about at first but I’m very happy to have made that decision now, both from a personal point of view and a musical one. Although I’m very, very English I’m really happy being in the USA. I love the heat, the sunshine, the laid-back nature of most of the people I meet, the way people actually smile at each other and say ‘hello’ to you when you walk into a shop! The little things make a big difference. My new band came together very organically and in a very relaxed way (very typical of the South!) I played my first solo show here at a mini festival last October and Wes Grasty – who is the bass player in my new band – happened to be there and sent me an email the day after to say that he liked what I was doing. We met up and talked about music and he struck me as being a really nice guy with similar music tastes to my own. I wasn’t really thinking too much about getting a band together before then – my focus was just on writing and recording songs that I thought one day I might release. But when the band came together it gave me the impetus to start taking it all more seriously again. And I’m glad I did as things have really been coming together pretty effortlessly since the band formed.
Tell us more about how the debut Mark Crozer & The Rels album came about?
I should add that there were other people pushing me to get this record out. While creatively it is my project, it would never have got finished if it hadn’t been for Jodi urging me on all the time to get it finished. I didn’t initially think I had it in me to do another album. Mostly, I wasn’t sure there was a demand for it but she helped
me to see that, regardless of whether it sold or people liked it, I had to do it. And she was right. Another big factor in getting it out was that I had the financial support of a good friend – Jeff Spinazzola. We’ve known each other for a few years and he’s become a big fan and believer in what I’m doing. So he helped by pulling the
whole thing together and gave me the chance to get Jay Braun on board again to do most of the mixing. So, yes, it’s my project but, as always, there were a lot of other factors involved
(((LISTEN))) MARK CROZER & THE RELS “Sunshine”
Which leads us to your current band Mark Crozer & The Rels. Where did the term REL come from?
You know me… I’m a bit of a geek at heart. ‘Rels’ is from Doctor Who! A Rel is a Dalek unit of time. Sorry. You asked. I have to say though that the name The Rels was actually thought up, at least in part, by my brother. In fact I have a feeling I even made a demo about ten years ago under that name that may have had a song of his on it because I recently read a copy of Nightshift (the music mag from my home town, Oxford, UK) and it mentioned a demo by ‘The Rels’ in passing from about a decade ago which was when Paul and I invented the band that never actually existed. I think he was a little pissed off with me at first for stealing the name… ha ha. But he’s ok with it now.
From the album credits it is clear that this is your project from start to finish – you write all the songs and you play most of the instruments. For future releases will you be using the live band to record and perhaps collaborate on new songs?
Yes to both questions. The band will certainly feature on the next album. The only reason that this album is mostly me is because I had it pretty much finished before the band was formed. Though I have to say I do like the process of building tracks up from scratch on my own. But I definitely want the next album to be a proper band collaboration because we’ve got a good thing going. We’ve talked about writing stuff together which is something I want to explore. I did tell the others right at the start though that I wanted this to be my band… I mean, that I would be the primary songwriter. Not because I necessarily think I’m the best songwriter or because I’m an control freak… though… I probably am… but I just think a band works better when there’s one driving force in that department.
Well, as I said before, it was really quite a laid-back, organic process. I met Wes first and he suggested Taylor Short (the ‘lead’ guitarist and, despite his name, the tallest member of the band… ha ha ha) as they’d been in a band together back in the 90s. A kind of shoegaze-y band called Laburnum… So that peaked my interest right away. We played through songs together for a month or so as a trio before we finally met up with Donnie Merritt who is the drummer. Wes and Taylor had been racking their brains for a few weeks trying to think of a drummer before they suddenly remembered him. The first time we played together as a four piece I knew it was going to work out. In fact, I remember Donnie walking into the room the day I met him and he was wearing a very cool flat cap and even before I’d heard him play I thought “yep, this is going to be great” and I was right. I’m really enjoying playing with this band. They’re not only great musicians but three of the nicest people I’ve ever met. Honestly, in the six months we’ve been doing this there’s not been one moment of tension between us which is very unusual. I find it very refreshing. I think it’s partly a regional thing. Southerners are incredibly easy-going. But it’s also this particular group of guys. They’re just great people. Plus we’re all fathers and have been around the block a few times so age has probably mellowed us all out. But we definitely rock like teenagers I think.
(((LISTEN))) MARK CROZER & THE RELS “Killed By Karma”
What are some of the musical influences the other band members have?
You know, one of the great things about the band is we just play. There’s not really any discussion about how to do it. I might occasionally give a little bit of direction for a particular song if I’ve recorded it a specific way but they just seem to know innately what to play and what not to play. So what I’m trying to say is… there was never a point where I asked them what bands they like to see if they’d fit… we just all seem to have quite an inclusive, similar view of music in general. They appreciate a good song and it doesn’t matter who it’s by. Having said that we’re all into all kinds of music from the sixties, seventies and eighties so it just seems to gel. I know they’re all Beatles fans… and Monkees fans too! Wes and Taylor are into shoegaze and Donnie is just an all-round music buff who seems to know everything about every band that ever existed. In fact they all seem to be a lot more knowledgeable about bands than I am. Whenever we’re talking about music, which we tend to do after a rehearsal, I just keep my mouth shut and nod seriously.
Upon listening to the band – we hear lots of 60’s influenced sounds. Was it preconceived to take the new band in a more power pop sound vs.the shoegaze/noise/atmospheric pop leanings of International Jetsetters?
Not really, though I was conscious of not wanting to make anything too dark. In the past – pre Jetsetters this is – my songs have all been pretty morose and LONG. I guess that, on some level, I did want to avoid having any songs that were too morose and I wanted to keep them all short and sweet which they are mostly. I think the average song length on this record is about three minutes. There are a few songs on there that only clock in at about two and a half minutes. So I was definitely thinking of the sixties way of writing a song. I mean if you listen to most Beatles songs they rarely go over two and a half minutes, particularly between 62 and 66… and yet they manage to get in three verses, three choruses (or more) a bridge, a guitar break… that to me is magical and what I hoped to be able to do myself. There are only two songs on the record that break the four minute mark and they’re probably the least ‘pop’ ones on it. I don’t think the album sounds dated though. I think there’s definitely a big 60s influence and also influences from the 70s and 80s too. But I do honestly think that there’s something quite fresh sounding about it at the same time. I would never have wanted to sit down and create something that was just a pastiche of music from a bygone era. I don’t see any point in that.
We’ve also noticed a surplus of live dates for the band in the state of North Carolina. Are there plans to take the band on the road – perhaps playing shows in Virginia or other neighboring states – maybe entertaining doing a short weekend tour?
A surplus? You make it sound like we’re doing too many! Ha ha. We have been playing a lot I guess. We all just decided we wanted to play as much as possible to get the band really tight and I’m happy we’ve been playing a lot because we’re starting to sound really good now. Although we’ve played a lot we’ve been trying to avoid doing too many at the same kind of venue. So we’ve played at an outdoor Shakespeare Festival, a Beatles tribute night, a vintage clothing store, a honky-tonk bar called The Thirsty Beaver which is our favourite venue now. Every time we play there we have a wild night.
I think we would definitely like to play further afield but only when the time is right. If there’s an audience who want to hear us somewhere then we’ll try to go there.
Also noticed that your song “Broken Out In Love” was used as professional wrestler – WWE’s Bray Wyatt intro theme music – how did that deal come about?
This is certainly one of the strangest but coolest things to happen with my music. I only heard about it a few days ago when one of his fans tracked me down and asked if that song was mine. I thought that surely it must have been a different artist with the same song title… but no, it’s my song. When I looked into it I found that a lot of people had been desperately trying to find out who it was by so I decided to release it as a single and I’ve been getting emails and facebook messages every day from people telling me how much they love it. I’m not totally sure how it came about as that song wasn’t publicly available prior to me putting it out last week. I’m guessing it was probably through a music library that publishes some of my songs.
Also, last year you made an appearance on How did The Ramseur Records Christmas appearance come about?
That was just one of those serendipitous things. When I first came to Charlotte my father-in-law told me about a local musician he knew named David Childers. He took me over to his house one evening and we
played some songs together and really hit it off. After that meeting we kept in touch. Early in 2011 my father-in-law mentioned that David was involved in a Christmas compilation album and they were looking
for more songs so I sent my demo of “Next Christmas” – the one Planting Seeds put out the previous year and he really liked it. David sent it to Bob Crawford who is the bass player for The Avett Brothers and the person who was putting the album together and he really liked it too. I decided to re-record the song in Oxford with Loz on drums and then it came out on the album last November. I think the album did really well and that song has become my most downloaded track by far.
This is actually a good time to mention a bit more about David Childers as he’s been such a catalyst in kicking things off here in Charlotte. Not only did he enable me to contribute a track to that album but it’s really down to him that this band got together. I got to play at the farm festival because he told the organizers they
should book me. So if that hadn’t happened I probably wouldn’t have met Wes and then the rest of the band. David has been a huge supporter of everything I’ve been doing in the time I’ve been here. We’ve opened
up for his band Overmountain Men a few times and he’s introduced me to some really great people like Randy Walker at WSGE who’s radio show I went on a couple of weeks ago. And ultimately it’s all down to my
father-in-law for introducing me to David…and then… if you go a step back, that’s all down to me meeting Jodi in New York in 2007…which of course only happened because I was on tour with The Mary Chain… and that only happened because I’d been booking shows for Jim solo previously… and that was a direct result of my involvement with Transistor Records in Oxfordshire… I could go on and on…ultimately I can trace the direction my life has taken back to one seemingly unimportant decision I made when I was 12 years old which
was to go to Cherwell School (high school) rather than Cheney. Seriously. That one tiny decision shaped my life from then on. Cosmic man!
I know you’re constantly recording – is there already enough material for a follow up Mark Crozer & The Rels LP? Well… just last week I quietly released “Relics” on bandcamp which is a new album of nine songs (including “Broken Out In Love”) that didn’t make it onto the official album and I have another half dozen finished songs already that could go on to form the basis of “Mark Crozer and The Rels 2.”
Along with working in the new band – are there other projects that you are currently working on?
Not really. Not musical ones anyway aside from doing the odd solo gig or recording here and there. I’ve actually been trying out new ventures such as writing a script for a zombie movie! I sent it off to a production company here in Charlotte and the head honcho really likes it and is interested in acquiring from me. Not exactly sure what that means but I would love to see it get produced.
As always we like to close things out by asking you what you are currently listening to – for old times sake, can you list your CURRENT TOP 5 bands/artists you’re listening to?
This is hugely embarrassing to admit but I haven’t actively listened to much music in ages apart from stuff I’ve been working on or music that my three year old daughter is into! I just never seem to have the time to sit and listen to anything. Occasionally I’ll hear about a song and check it out such as that single by Gotye called “Somebody That I Used To Know.” I know it’s totally uncool and very mainstream but it’s a well-written song performed sincerely and I just can’t help but like it. The only newish band I’ve heard and liked in the last year is The War On Drugs. Mainly I find myself going back to the classics like The Beatles, Jackie DeShannon, Jacques Brel… god, I’m just realizing how little music I listen to these days. I pulled out my entire CD collection just yesterday and all I wanted to put on was “With The Beatles.” Oh, I did listen to and enjoy the new single by Gaz Coombes. That’s a good song. I should listen to the rest of the album!
We appreciate your time sitting down to chat Mark – all the best to you and we look forward to seeing the band live this Summer – cheers!
10.06.12 – Gastonia, NC @ Mount Holly Farm Fest 2012
10.08.12 – Charlotte, NC @ Snug Harbor w/ Food Will Win The War
11.10.12 – Raleigh, NC @ Deep South
12.21.12 – Charlotte, NC @ Thirsty Beaver
Mark Crozer & The Rels Self-Titled debut album is out 09.18.12 via Planting Seeds Records and available on Limited Edition Compact Disc/Digital Download via your favorite music outlets. You can visit Mark Crozer & The Rels at: