MARK KOZELEK: Q&A

Originally published on Entertainment.ie, September 2008

You have this reputation as a writer of very intense,  intricate songs. Are you really as intense as you’re made out to be, or is that whole persona just something that’s been invented by the media?

I don’t know. I write songs, but can’t help what’s projected onto me. I’m faced with the same day to day stuff as anybody else. I spent last week fixing things that were broken in my apartment and running errands. Most of the people I interact with on a daily basis don’t even know what I do for a living, so the ‘persona’ thing doesn’t amount to much. Even on tour, I spend two hours a night singing songs, and the rest of the time, staring at the back of people’s heads on airplanes, some fat guy coughing on me.

You’ve said in the past the singer-songwriters like Neil Young, James Taylor and John Denver were big influences on you as a kid, as well as rockier bands like Led Zeppelin. I know you’ve said that you don’t really listen to ‘modern’ music, but there must be some bands that filter through – like Modest Mouse, for example.
I’m not trying to sound mean spirited, but I honestly don’t know of many successful musicians who get that excited about other, current artists’ music. You’re either a music fan, or you’re a working musician. Your time is spent making records, planning, touring – not counting the days until another guy’s concert. There are some newer artists I like, in a casual, passing way, but I couldn’t tell you the bass player’s name, or name two songs off of their new record.

‘April’ is a beautiful record – what’s the significance of the title, if any?

Thanks. It just came together that way. There are several references to spring in the lyrics, and when I phoned the distributor, they gave me the April 1 release date, so it made sense.

It features the likes of Will Oldham and Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie, The Postal Service), amongst others. You’ve known Will for a while, but how did the collaboration with Ben collaboration come about?

I’ve known Ben for a while. We met at a music festival in Spain years ago, where we both got food poisoning. We’ve been friends ever since.

Speaking of Will, you covered his track ‘New Partner’ a few years ago. You have this reputation for covers now, but it’s not as if you don’t have appropriate material of your own.  Are covers just a little indulgence?

I go through phases with it. Right now, I’m not enjoying playing covers, but eventually, I’ll be inspired to do it again.

You’re giving away a 7-track live EP from your Belfast gig last year, to people who buy stuff from the Caldo Verde [Kozelek’s own label] website. Do you find that Irish crowds respond differently to your live performances, or were you just particularly happy with that gig?

We recorded some of the concerts on that European tour – and that one had a good overall balance. The level between the guitar and vocals was right, the audience was mellow, the performance was relaxed. It felt right to make an EP out of it.

You produced Alan Sparhawk’s [of Low] album earlier this year – is production something you’d like to do more of?

Not really. I like helping friends out, but don’t see myself doing that kind of thing a lot.

You’ve been in the music business almost twenty years now – have you found yourself becoming increasingly annoyed by the industry (internet leaks, the digital age), even over the last ten years? Would it be correct to say that releasing ‘April’ on various coloured vinyl editions means that you’re still determined to keep one foot in the ‘old’ world? And are you still as enthused about making music and touring as you used to be?

Sure, the internet has soured my feelings about the industry to a certain extent – it’s just not how I’ve grown to understand or connect to music. But playing music is who I am, what I do. I’ve had the determination to deal with obstacles in the music business for the last 15 years, and I’ll continue dealing with whatever it brings. The main thing is, is making music that people connect with and love. If you can do that, things will fall into place.

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