Recently PPO had the pleasure to interview Mark Bacino about his new album "Queens English".
PPO. ItвЂ™s been awhile since youвЂ™ve graced us with a new album. What took you so long?
MB. Well, I started recording "Queens English" late in 2006 having written about half of it in the years following my last release "The Million Dollar Milkshake" in 2003 and I finally finished the album towards the end of 2008. So when all was said and done it took about two years to make but saying that, I wasnвЂ™t recording non-stop during those two years. There was a lot of other stuff going on. I had to finish writing the tunes and I was doing quite a bit of freelance music work on the side. Plus my wife and I had a child in 2005 so we were obviously still in the thick of some hard-core baby duty during this time. It all made for some slow going. I engineered, mixed and played a lot of the tunes myself too so that also added to the sluggish pace. Once the album was in the can, some interest in the record developed with some industry peeps and the project kind of got tangled up in that for about 7 or 8 months, too long a story to go into here, вЂ?till that whole situation crashed and burned in typical music biz fashion. Coming out on the other side of that and making other release arrangements finds the album finally making itвЂ™s way into the world now.
PPO. Can you elucidate about the idea behind the New York theme to the album?
MB. The New York theme sort of just developed organically as the songs presented themselves. I didnвЂ™t set out to make a New York themed record and probably didnвЂ™t realize thatвЂ™s where it was going or what it wanted to be вЂ?till about half way through the writing process. Inadvertently as well, the record turned out to be a very personal one so I suppose the theme makes sense as IвЂ™m a New Yorker born and bred. In the years following my last release a lot of changes were happening in my life, leaving Manhattan for the outer-boroughs, settling down and becoming a first time parent. At the same time New York was changing quite a bit as well. Obviously the fall out from 9/11 but also the gentrification and hipster invasions of good portions of the city. All the changes happening within the city itself started to seem like a natural metaphor for the changes happening in my life and vice versa. A mixed bag of melancholy, joy, endings, beginnings, a reassessment of focus and dreams. A lot of those themes started to emerge in the songs so I kind of went with it and it sort of became equal parts my record as well as New YorkвЂ™s record if that makes any sense.
PPO. As a producer do you have a unique mindset for recording your own music as opposed when you do stuff for other artists?
MB. Obviously whether youвЂ™re producing a record for yourself or for others youвЂ™re still the same person so you pretty much just do what you do, at least thatвЂ™s the way I am, but when producing for someone else you do have to enforce a certain amount of separation so you can serve the music and the artistвЂ™s vision properly. I always have strong opinions when IвЂ™m working for other folks but in the end itвЂ™s their music, their thing and they have to be happy. I think a lot of producers loose that focus whether theyвЂ™ll admit it or not. It probably helps that IвЂ™ve been on both sides of the glass so to speak, as both artist and producer. Gives me some good perspective. Ideally, if weвЂ™ve done it right, at the end of the project everyoneвЂ™s satisfied вЂ“ the artist, me and the music.
PPO. As a multi instumentalist do you enjoy the control this gives you in the studio?
MB. ItвЂ™s always a blast to play everything yourself on a tune, definitely gives you a sense of accomplishment in addition to the control factor you speak of. IвЂ™m not gonna lie, IвЂ™m definitely a bit of a control freak. That mindset certainly factored heavily into the making of this new album, not so much on the performance side but in terms of the overall sonics of the record. I engineered and mixed a lot of this album myself partly out of convenience but mostly because I was unhappy with the preliminary results I was getting working with other engineers on the project early on. I kind of ended up wasting a lot of time and money before I realized that I really just needed to do most of it myself to get things where I wanted them to be sonically. That said, all control-freakdom aside, I also enjoy the dynamic of working with other musicians and IвЂ™m painfully aware of my limitations as a player. IвЂ™m never above deferring to the better musician in the room. At the end of the day itвЂ™s about serving the song and really no one casually listening probably cares much who played bass or whatever on the track. TheyвЂ™re just listening to the music.
PPO. Can you tell us about how you go about the process of writing songs?
MB. To be honest itвЂ™s somewhat of a mysterious process. I rarely find myself sitting down to "write". It kind of just happens when it happens. Mostly when IвЂ™m absentmindedly playing guitar or piano or just humming a melody to myself while IвЂ™m doing something else totally un-musical. I guess you could liken it to an audio version of doodling. I used to worry that the tunes would stop coming using this method but thankfully theyвЂ™ve continue to show so IвЂ™ve stopped stressing and actually I find that attitude readjustment really helps things along. Patience is key. In terms of the nuts and bolts, for me, chord changes and/or a melody-line usually come first, then IвЂ™ll work on the lyrics. Not a hard and fast rule but thatвЂ™s generally the case. Once in a while a phrase may strike me and IвЂ™ll build the music around that but thatвЂ™s more the exception not the rule.
PPO. And what are your plans for this album?
MB. No formal plans really other than to enjoy finally having it out and about in the world, sharing it with folks and weвЂ™ll obviously play some live shows to help spread the word. ItвЂ™s been a bit of a long road getting to the release date so just having it available to everyone is pretty awesome. Hopefully people will enjoy and get something positive from the music.