Mark's review of Mountain Mirrors' CD so impressed the powers that be here at antiMusic, that given Mark's description of the music that is was perfect for the Artist of the Month. And so it happened on Dec 1st. Now go a bit deeper as Mark speaks with Jeff Sanders of Mountain Mirrors for this week's Hensch's Hometown Hero column.
HHH: First off, your music has been a soundtrack to pretty much all of my youth. I stumbled onto it solely by chance and from there I've been an addict. Thank you for making such compelling sounds and committing them to tape!
Jeff Sanders of Mountain Mirrors: That means a lot to me, Mark. Thanks brother.
HHH: Now, on to interrogation.... You have often described your music as a sort of healing process akin to something spiritual. What faith do you follow and how has it carried over so well into your musical output?
MM: Just faith in a power greater than myself, and knowing that there are no coincidences in life and everything happens for a reason. I wish I had a profound answer for this...I just believe in vibes and karma...ghosts, UFO's...and I don't believe in money or war.
HHH: How do you feel about the notion of the songwriter? You frequently cite such luminaries as Nick Drake when it comes to your music, and is this day and age, the lonely musician is becoming less and less common. Any thoughts on this trend?
MH: You have people like James Hetfield and Mikael Ackerfeld who are songwriters who have people who believe in what they do so much and add to it consistently enough to be able to form a band...and artists like Devendra Banhart, Jose Gonzales, Joe Purdy, Joanna Newsom and Damien Rice are more independent and whose songs hold up with one instrument and a voice.
I don't know...now with computers and sequencers, I see tons of people going it alone - completely. I guess I just see a song as a spiritual entity. So in that way I decided for the song to get the energy it deserves, I need to back off and let others contribute to it. It's not about me, it's about each song. On Lunar Ecstasy, this came in the form of drum loops and a few guest appearances. This time I found Elad Fish...and he is the George Martin of the new album. He is an incredible musician. And Claire Fitch. I listened to her Ambiencellist CDs and knew this album needed her vibe.
HHH: A thread runs through Mountain Mirrors, and it is a theme of the relativity of good and evil. I personally believe that evil and good are normally objective, and are largely defined by how they affect a person personally. How do you feel about the lightest light and the darkest dark then?
MM: That is a good question, and probably my biggest influence while writing lyrics for this cd...the relativity of good and evil. The evilest of all deeds can have a positive effect on something.
Noone can know for sure the reason for this terrible event...or the most harmless action can be seen as an act of selfless love and the result is disaster. Who's to know the true intention of this "divine" person?
Take a jury who imprisons an innocent person for some heinous crime and ruins their life and the lives of everyone they love. Justice hasn't been served. The ghoul who committed the crime is running free and someone valuable to society is thrown in the trash in an instant. The jury acted with very good intention. But a chain of events starts as a result of that decision...but did it happen for a reason? Who knows?
HHH: All of your releases revolve around your own musical creations, yet you always have an excellent supporting cast of guest artists. How do you manage to pull this off every album, and what can you tell us about those who appeared this showing?
MM: When I first started, I found a band called Vine Sweetland and the forefathers of the New Millennium on MP3.com. They were a collective of musicians ranging from retro rock guitarists and drummers to tabla and sitar players backing Vine...who is like a modern day Jim Morrison. Out of the blue, Vine emailed me a tambura track and told me to do whatever I wanted to it (this became the title track to the 4-song "Voices" demo). He ran Zemira Records, and when my demo was released, he sent it out to some reviewers for me and everything. His selflessness was mindblowing to me. Ever since, I have been excited about the idea of finding musicians on the internet and contacting them to play on my music. On this release, I found Claire Fitch on the KVR plugin forum...the first time I heard her Ambiencellist CD I was blown away. So I e-mailed her to play on a track or two and she was really cool about it. She is an amazing musician and has a sound no one has ever come close to achieving. The way she makes the cello sound will put you in a trance!
I decided this time I was tired of using drum loops and wasting time trying to learn how to make beats with software. So I googled some stuff and found drumsforyou.com. At the time, Elad Fish had a chance to enter for a free drum track and I won it. I sent him "Deploribus Unum" and the first time I heard it with a real drummer was like a revelation...I could not turn back to using drum loops!
With the next few songs, I'd just suggest little things like, "please just play outside the box, with a lot of dynamics...and on this part, pretend you are beating the entire planet senseless with your sinister beat!!" and he nailed it like magic. Now it's at the point I feel I don't have to suggest anything other than, "have fun!".
He also plays awesome keyboards and has a friend (Guy Bar-Tor) who is just the most solid bass player I've ever heard...so since finding Elad, things have just fallen together. I took it as a "sign" from the vibes that everything was happening exactly as it was meant to happen and the songs were heading in the right direction.
HHH: In your biography on the website (www.mountainmirrors.com) you mention playing in a variety of other bands. How were they different from what you do now and why did you feel compelled to look elsewhere for your musical inspiration
MM: I miss all those guys...Ross, Paul, John, Rob, Rico, Stoney and Nick are all great guys and those were fun times. But I was in it as an ego thing at the time. And as much as I loved to play guitar, drugs and alcohol were taking over my life. Jams became a reason to party, and turned into just getting smashed and talking about ruling the world! Ha...you know, just having fun...but my life quickly went down the drain. Now it's all about music and what it means to me...I owe music for literally saving my life and am giving back now.
HHH: It is increasingly difficult in our manic culture to meditate on the greater things in life. What do you think makes your music so trance-inducing and reflective?
MM: Thank you...my wife Jenn has a lot to do with nurturing that side of my songwriting. I also owe some of it to reading the book "Zen Guitar" by Phil Sudo (R.I.P.). At the time I was into the whole "music as healer"..."butterfly effect" type idea of music and when I picked that book up, it was like I was reading thoughts I could not put into words yet. Such a simple book with such a profound meaning to me. Especially at the time I read it. It was like it fell from the sky just for me.
HHH: There is something very organic and almost primordial about your music. How do you feel about nature and man's relationship to it?
MM: Nature is all we have in this world that is beautiful...like paintings, sculptures and music made by the gods. And many humans love to destroy it. Many people don't even have the ability to see it when it's there. We spend a lot of time in our own minds...It's like taking a beautiful sweater your grandmother knitted for you and put so much time and love into it...then turning around, dropping your shorts and dropping a fat deuce on it
HHH: You are very forthcoming about using your music to overcome a tough personal time. What kind of emotions are invested in the songs you've written throughout your career?
MM: My emotions are mostly regret and the constant struggle to rise above who I was. And gratitude that things are happening for me today...and trying to feel that I deserve these good things now.
I try to put some hope in every song - even the darkest ones. Even if all it is a riff that I find uplifting and hope someone will feel that when it comes up. Or in the part I *don't* play... I call it a "phantom limb" riff. It's not there, but I hear it! And if I hear it, someone else somewhere must be able to hear it too
HHH: Many bands eventually want to tour and go all over the world. Do you ever get this wanderlust, and if you do, how would you pull a tour off?
MM: I love my home. My family and friends mean everything to me. I get e-mails all the time from people asking when we're touring their country or state and that warms my heart...it makes me want to set up a small tour to show my appreciation...you never know.
HHH: Last question! Basically, if you could say anything to the world at large right now, what would it be? This is your change to let yourself be heard!
MM: Thanks for this Mark. It means a lot to me...and reader, if you're here and have read this far, thank you. Hails!