MOUTHY ISSUE ONE
interview Ian C Stewart
Mark Ritchie is Scotland's answer to Mark Eitzel - a prolific troubador with a penchant for lilting acoustic-guitar ballads that bring a tear to the eye of anyone who's ever had a broken heart. Whether doling out the sorrow as a solo artist or with Paul Doucet in Shy Rights Movement, Ritchie's got a song for you. Probably a new one that he wrote last night.
Who does what in Shy Rights Movement?
I write most of the songs and also sing and play guitar. Paul Doucet plays guitar and bass, sings the occasional backing vocal, produces and programmes the drum machine. Sometimes we write songs together Ė heíll do the music and Iíll come up with some words.
Where did the name come from?
Itís from a Garrison Keillor short story Ė about shy people starting a protest movement. I loved the idea and the name and thought it was apt, but I really donít like Garrison Keillorís work very much at all.
When did the band form?
Initially, in January 1995. We used to be a four piece, but half the band quit in í99 and then I kind of fired the one remaining member, but he wasnít really interested in the band anymore anyway. So Iím the only original member left.
How do your songs come to be?
I write about what happens to me and the people in my life. Songs come at me all the time - itís just a matter of documenting them and not letting them get away. I write lyrics constantly and put them to music later, when I have a quiet moment with a guitar.
Mark - what are all the names of all your projects?
Shy Rights Movement and my solo stuff are the only two ongoing now. The solo stuff used to go under the name Frank Peck but now I just use my real name.
And how many releases do you have out?
There are 5 SRM tapes Ė Songs from the Smalltime, Live and Dead, Vanity Recordings, the Happiness Project and Reward Time. One 7 inch single too. Also, countless tracks on various CD and cassette compilations from various labels.
Solo stuff - 14 Frank Peck tapes and 2 under my own name. Iíve had other tapes out on other folks labels too. Thereís a 2 CD thing coming out soon from Seagull Tapes in Omaha, Nebraska.
How many songs have you written so far?
Thatís impossible to say. Iíve written so many, I couldnít even put a rough number on it. Hundreds.
When did you start writing songs?
When I was about 6 or 7, Iíd make up songs and sing them into a tape recorder. I couldnít play an instrument or anything. I just liked making things up. Not just songs Ė Iíd draw and write too (most kids do, right?) I started playing keyboard when I was a bit older and then got a guitar and started a band when I was 15.
Have you always written a lot?
Yes, because itís an endlessly fascinating process for me. If you keep writing, thereís always the possibility that you might come up with something really amazing. Itís that search for the perfect song that drives me to write so much stuff.
What about quality control?
Most of the things I write are never heard by anyone. Itís actually a good thing to write so much, because it means that the songs you keep are usually of a better standard. It means I can choose the songs which I think are the best and donít have to fall back on weaker ones to fill out a tape.
Who are your five biggest musical influences and why?
1. The Beatles. Obvious choice, but they really are hard to beat, and were one of the first bands I really loved as a kid.
2. The Smiths. They were the big band for me when I was a moody teenager.
3. Husker Du. The guitar sound itself still makes me shiver to this day.
4. American Music Club. Well, youíd expect me to say this. An incredible band.
5. Nick Drake. In a way, my main influence, because his guitar style is one which Iíve been trying to copy for years!
The thing that all of the people above have in common is great songwriting and thatís what influences me the most.
What's next for the band?
Weíre recording a song for a forthcoming Daniel Johnston tribute CD and also some songs for a new tape.
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