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The Queens English of Mark Bacino

April 26, 2010

This week’s interview comes from Mark Bacino.

Mark Bacino is an American singer/songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist born and raised in New York City. With two critically acclaimed, power-pop obsessed releases to his credit, 1998’s "Pop Job" (Parasol) and 2003’s "The Million Dollar Milkshake" (Parasol/Nippon Crown), Bacino returns to the fray with “Queens English”; a self-produced album he describes as “a melancholy love-letter to NYC & life in its outer-boroughs”. With its eclectic mixture of pop, rock, ragtime-y music hall and orchestral fare, “Queens English” seamlessly blends its palette of tack pianos, acoustic guitars, horns, strings and things into concise, two and a half minute blasts of hook-laden songcraft reminiscent of Nilsson, Newman, solo Macca and “Muswell Hillbillies”-era Kinks. With contributions from Lee Alexander (Norah Jones), Michael Leonhart (Steely Dan/Lenny Kravitz) and Morgan Taylor (Gustafer Yellowgold) amongst others and featuring the single ‘Happy’, "Queens English" is slated for retail release May 18, 2010 via the newly-formed DreamCrush label distributed nationally by Redeye.

Q: Describe the band, when did you guys get started?

Well, although I have a great live band, I’m pretty much technically a solo act on paper I guess you could say.  I usually play a lot of the instruments myself on record but I also balance that out by bringing outside players on board, whether that be folks from my band or just other musician friends.

In terms of getting started, it’s weird; it seems I’ve always been a musician.  It’s one of the true constants in my life.  I probably started to take formal guitar lessons around the 3rd grade although I had a few starts and stops with that until I hit my early-teen years.  At that point, I’d given up on formal lessons and really began to move toward the self-taught side of things – revisiting the guitar, then exploring keys, bass, drums, etc.  Eventually I joined a basement band, mid-teens, and haven’t looked back since.

Q: What are your influences?

That’s always a tough question.  The best answer I’ve been able to come up with is that, to be honest, I think I’ve probably been influenced musically by everything I’ve ever heard; from the random TV jingle I heard for :30 when I was 10, to an album I listened to endlessly in college.  I really believe it’s all in there at some level.

As far as specifics go, since my music is really of the ‘pop’ or ‘power pop’ variety, of course I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’ve been influenced by all the amazing folks who came before me and created/mined that territory – Beatles, Beach Boys, Big Star, Harry Nilsson, etc.  That said, I’ve also been influenced by a lot of stuff people don’t necessarily associate me with musically; some bands like The Police, The Cars, Hall & Oates, Prince, they all had a pretty heavy influence on me growing up in the 80’s, just to name very few.  I also love a lot of jazz – Coltrane, Miles… Ultimately I realized just because this stuff doesn’t show up, overtly, in the music I make today, that doesn’t mean it hasn’t had a profound effect on what I do.  As I mentioned before, I think it’s all in there.

Q: What is your approach to song writing?

I kind of go about songwriting these days from ‘a wait and see what happens’ approach.  I don’t really force my writing or sit down to write, per say.  When the mood strikes me I do it and that’s it, really.  I used to worry about writers block and I used to think that maybe I should impose some sort of structure to the craft but I quickly learned that approach doesn’t work for me in terms of writing music for myself as opposed to others.  I mean if I’m writing for another artist or for TV or whatever I can impose that sort of discipline and pull out some good results but for my own work I learned to stop worrying and just let it come when it comes.  And, knock wood, it continues to do so.

Q: Any tour plans? 

Well to be honest, as much as I’d like to, these days I’m married, I have a young son and a freelance music production business so the demands on my time both on the home front and on the business side of things are kind of all-encompassing.  Touring is basically a twenty-something’s game or a heavily established artist’s gig.  Although I have three records to my credit at this point which luckily have been well received within pop music circles and my fanbase continues to grow, touring is just, financially, really not a realistic option for me.  It doesn’t make much sense to spend, 5K, say, on a low-budget van tour only to make a quarter of that back.  As you know, when you have a family you obviously have to think about things a little more than when you’re single and 21.  That said, I still plan to do some regional shows to promote this new album, “Queens English” and I’ll probably do some Ustream broadcasts, video Blogs, etc to make up for my lack of getting out and about.  Plus, honestly, I never say never.  If this album does well and garners a respectable road offer I would certainly consider it.

Q: What music first made you interested in writing and recording your own music?  What motivated you to go from listener to creator?

Back as a teenager I really became fascinated with the sort of one-man-band studio exploits of people like Prince and Pete Townsend.  I loved those “Scoop” home demo records of Pete’s and I was floored by what Prince was doing in the studio all by himself.  From there I kind of went further back, exploring the records of Les Paul with his early sound-on-sound experiments.  All that really inspired me.  I knew it was something I wanted to do myself so it kind of led me toward experimenting with different instruments ‘till I was passable a player on each, which then led me to buying a little cassette 4 track recorder and I was off to the races.  Songwriting was really just an extension or next step in that process for me.  I needed something to record!
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