MOUTHY ISSUE TWO
interview by Ian C Stewart
Mark Robinson enjoyed MTV success with his band Unrest in the early 1990s, releasing the Isobel Bishop EP and the album Perfect Teeth on his own label Teenbeat, which also had a deal through 4AD Records. He was also in Grenadine with Jenny Toomey (Tsunami etc). Post-Unrest, Robinson and bassist Bridget Cross morphed into Air Miami, who also had some 4AD releases. Then came Flin Flon and eventually some solo albums and stuff.
Is there anything you're feeling particularly mouthy about at the moment?
I suppose I could go on about the war that's going on, but people have probably read enough about that. Housing prices are too high, yeah.
Word association. I say “musical influences.” What do you say?
Mmmm. That's always a hard one. I think your favorites and your influences are sometimes completely different. I think some folks don't even realize what their influences are, they just name their faves. The first bands I had records of when I was a kid were Queen, KISS, Elton John. Bands I liked when I first got a guitar were Gang Of Four, Undertones, Adam & The Ants, Joy Division.
Really? KISS? Wow. How do write your songs, are there different approaches for different projects?
I just write what comes from my hands playing the guitar. In Flin Flon, the different approach is that all the songs are originally written on the bass guitar, so that inherently changes the feel of the songs. In Grenadine, I wrote the songs on a custom ten-string guitar. Just as a footnote, Nattles also writes songs in Flin Flon and Jenny Toomey wrote about half of the Grenadine songs.
Will there be a DVD of your stuff?
I'd like to release a DVD of the history of Teenbeat. All kinds of stuff, from music videos to live performances, everything.
I'd usually ask people about their relationship with their record label, but since you are your record label, um, how's your relationship with Teenbeat?
What's the strangest recording session you've been part of?
I think the two strangest were with a band called Sexual Milkshake that I was producing. Their first session was in this guy's parents' house. There were vacant rooms that had inches of dust in them, it was like a haunted house. Then they played live at WMUC-FM at the University of Maryland and essentially just improvised stuff, including faking fast-food drive up orders.
Have you been on tour recently?
I just did a tour with Flin Flon and we’re doing another in May. I went to Hartford, Connecticut last month and played solo.
Where are your biggest markets?
Where am I most popular? New York, DC, San Francisco.
What's the biggest audience you've played to?
Uh, probably in Unrest, in front of 2,000 opening for The Breeders. Or, actually, in Omaha, Nebraska with Fugazi at an amusement park. Unrest was offered to open for Nirvana in Florida, but we turned it down. That probably would’ve been some big audiences.
What are your favorite places to play live?
The Galaxy Hut in Arlington, VA. Middle East Upstairs, Lizard Lounge, Abbey Lounge in Boston.
Obsessive fans? How annoying is it to be stalked?
I love all my fans! If there really are any.
Do you think music in general is just crappier and stupider than ever before right now? Or better? Or the same? Or all of the above?
I think there is always something good going on in some genre. So, the same. For a while, experimental and electronic music was where all the exciting stuff was happening.
What bands are you currently excited by?
I like Glass Candy, The Rogers Sisters, True Love Always, Wolf Colonel. And, of course, all the Teenbeat bands!
How has the internet affected you?
I'm on the internet all the time. It's great.
Are there any music people you'd like to collaborate with?
I never really thought about that. The only people I've really truly collaborated with have been in Unrest. Probably Richard Baluyut from Versus.
What's next, musically speaking?
I'm working on finishing up my third solo album, entitled Origami and Urbanism. Nattles and Matt and I are also currently writing new songs for another Flin Flon album. A solo tour of Europe is in the works for July.
So, what happened to 4AD? Their quality went sharply downhill after you left them. Did you break 4AD on your way out?
Oh yeah, as soon as we left they just fell apart. Bridget and I were the glue that kept that operation going. Oh well. No, actually, they have some new folks running the place and I think they've been doing some cool stuff.
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