Q & A with Mark Gemini Thwaite - April 2007
By Petra Sümnicht
Pic: Promo 2007
Q.) We did our last Q & A back in 2003 and a lot has changed since then. At that time you had your own band New Disease. Last thing I heard was that you were signed to a major label (Universal) and that you`re working on the debut album. Now you are back with The Mission, so what happened with New Disease?
A.) New Disease signed a deal with Universal records USA in late 2003, after we had released our debut Axiomatic EP through Changes One.. this drew the attention of Tool producer David Bottrill, who was looking for new bands for his Universal label imprint.. we signed to Universal and commenced recording of our album in early 2004, releasing the single 'Like Rain' in May 2004 and touring with Skid Row as well as a UK headliner tour.. unfortunately we were dropped by Universal later that year as loads of labels dropped tons of bands, and David chose not to renew his contract with UMG.. so we never did get to release the ND album, most of it is recorded and mixed, but I'm still hoping to find a small independent label to release it at some point, theres some geat songs.. we never officially split up, but now I live in Los Angeles and everyone lives in different cities unless someone offered us a new deal its unlikely we would reform.. but never say never..
Q.) Are you still collaborating with Peter Murphy (Bauhaus)? Or are there any other musical projects besides The Mission?
A.) I have been working on new material for Peter Murphy's next album - Peter lives in Turkey and I live in Los Angeles so its mostly long distance, so far we have co-written several songs together.. I also just recorded some guitars for Tricky's new album in a studio here in LA a few weeks go, it sounds really good, and I've been recently talking to Paul Raven (Ministry/Killing Joke) about recording some guitars on a new project he's working on.. I also recorded a bunch of guitars on an album for NYC singer -songwriter Sarah Fimm last year, she supported Peter Murphy on our 2005 tour.. its an excellent record, featuring Josh Freese (N.I.N) on drums, Tony Levin (Peter Gabriel) on bass, and myself on guitar, but I think they're still mixing it.. watch this space!
Alright, let`s go on with The Mission:
Q.) There are only a few days left until the release of the new Mission album GIAB, how do you feel these days?
A.) Every excited about the new album and tour, I think we all did an excellent job - especially Wayne, who I think is firing on all cylinders on this record.. its perhaps his best work since Carved in Sand.
Q.) How would you describe the style of the album to someone who never heard of The Mission before?
A.) Well, when folks who haven't heard the Mission before ask me what we sound like, I usually say we sound like the lovechild offspring of U2 and Led Zeppelin, with a gothic tinge..
Q.) You really seem to be a good team in the band now. What strengths did you draw from each other while you were together with the band in the studio in Bath?
A.) I probably enjoyed recording this album the most out of the 4 studio albums I've done with the band since joining back in 1992 (Neverland, Blue, Aura, GIAB) - the quality of songs that Wayne had brought to the table was very high, we did alot of pre-production preparation of our ideas before entering the studio last August, and the rappour between myself, Rich, Steve and Wayne was very good - all in all it was very enjoyable experience, and I hope some of that positive vibe has translated into some great performances on the record. It was evident to me that we all really cared about this album and wanted it to be the best it could possibly be.
Q.) What were the high and low points of recording this new album for you? Wayne told us already about the nightmare of the hard drive crash, anything else for you personally?
A.) Well, as mentioned before, we all had a great time recording and collaborating together on this album, so besides the hard drive failure issue we had a few days into recording that Wayne mentioned - very scary - everything else was relatively easy and fun..
Q.) On the Family EP we can read that you got the credits for the music on Whether Man and It Don`t Matter Anymore Anyhow (together with Wayne) and we know about Belladonna. Are there any more songs on the album were you had the chance to bring in your own ideas?
A.) Let me think.. 'Dumb' is mostly one of mine musically, although Wayne came up with the brilliant middle 8 choppy section, which really livened up the song.. Hdshrinkerea was partly contructed from one of Wayne's ideas and some of my demo ideas - Wayne had a song called Headshrinker that he needed a chorus for, so he took one of the chorus sections from a demo I'd submitted - he also used the intro riff from that demo which became the Hdshrinkerea's middle 8 section - and a joint collaboration was born.. Also came up with main verse and chorus riffs on 'To Love and To Kill' - Wayne also added the middle 8 riff and some nice runs here and there. Again a nice collaborative effort.
Q.) Have you been surprised as you heard Wayne`s lyrics for the first time?
A.) I think he's come up with some great lyrics for this album, some of the best work of his career.. sometimes I've been caught out about the metaphorical content of the lyrics on GIAB, for example I really did think that 'Blush' was about driving a car.. until Wayne explained it to me..
Q.) Julianne from AAE did some backing vocals for several tracks. There are also male backing vocals on the album, were you involved?
A.) Ha ha! I think the rest of the band will laugh at this one.. you may notice that there's never a vocal mic on my side of the stage.. my tuning can be horrendous! But I seem to recall I might have joined in with some joint bv's a song or two, i forget which now.. we recorded some hand claps together - even our web guru Paul Morgan joined in...
Q.) Listening to all this new material now, are there any feelings of "I wish I had played that differently" for any of the tracks?
A.) Not really.. I recorded most of my meat n veg rhythm guitars - and some lead overdubs - in the studio in UK with the band, but I also did quite a few lead guitar overdubs from home in Los Angeles with my home studio, then got Wayne to fly them into the mix.. for example all the lead guitars and atmospheric noises on 'Father', plus overdubs on 'Draped', 'In Sillouette', 'Blush', 'Chinese Burn' etc were mostly done at home in LA. This meant that I could spend more time and experiment with different overdub ideas and sounds before submitting them. So all-in-all I'm happy with the results.
Q.) Not sure if you`re a football fan as well like your band mates, but what do you think about Wayne`s FC Liverpool song Draped In Red?
A.) Its a great song and nice bit of music... I love the orchestration on it by Caroline Dale, especially in the middle 8.. I'm not much of a footie fan, and initially I had my reservations about the subject matter being on the album, but Wayne asked me to contribute some lead guitar parts to the recording, so I worked some stuff out, and submitted them.. and found the song growing on me. I think its amazing that the song keeps getting played at Anfield (Liverpool FC's ground) and also got used on ESPN etc - very exciting.
Q.) What are your personal favourites on the album and on the EP?
A.) Well I find all of the album to be pretty consistent, but if I had to name some personal faves I would include 'In Sillouette', 'Belladonna', 'Father' and 'Hdshrinkerea'. Ask me again after the tour...
Q.) How would you describe your style of playing guitar compared to Simon and Rob? And have you changed your style for the album?
A.) I think my style of playing has been pretty consistent over the years, maybe Wayne could answer this one for you better than I could... having heard Simon Hinkler's exquisite lead guitar on 'Grotesque', I can tell you I would never have come up with those melodies, so I guess we have different approaches.. I've never heard Rob's guitar approach on new Mission material - only on the live DVD, so hard to say... I think Wayne would agree that my style is different to both of them.
Q.) Your best guitar riff on the album is on....
A.) 'Belladonna', most certainly. I had this idea to come up with a riff that evoked some of the earlier classic Mission/Hussey riffs of yesteryear, but without blatantly ripping off any particular song. Ironically for me the original idea and chord changes I had were reminiscient of our friends H.I.M, and for me the riffs and tone on 'Belladonna' evoke both classic Mission and newer bands like H.I.M who are also inspired by the Mission..
Q.) You already played a lot of the bands back catalogue over the years live on stage. Do you have to rehearse the old songs though or do you know them inside out?
A.) Well I've been touring with the band on and off for the last 15 years now, so obviously some of it sticks in the memory - its like riding a bike - but I still like to do some home revision when theres been a sizeable gap in shows - our last tour was 18 months ago...
Q.) Are there any old songs you would love to play live?
A.) There's old Mission songs we used to do live back in the 1990s, such as 'Tomorrow Never knows', 'Childs Play', '1969' and 'Sticks and Stones' that used to be fun to play.. I also enjoyed playing the Neverland era material like 'Sway', 'Neverland', and 'Swoon'.. but it's also been fun to play old classics like 'Fabienne' which we never played before until the last tour in 2005.. I've never played 'Shine like the stars' live on stage, despite playing on the album version - same with 'Dragonfly' – as I parted ways with the band before they toured the 'Aura' album, so it would be cool to play those songs live sometime..
Q.) The last two gigs of the tour are going to be in Israel. Have you ever been there?
A.) Nope... should be interesting! I always enjoy make it to new territories.. we're getting lots of messages from Israelie fans who are really excited that we are coming..
Q.) We all know Rich`s addiction to extravagant trousers, so what about you? Have you already bought new "interesting" clothes - like a new Batman shirt or PVC trousers - for the tour? ;-)
A.) No, not really... I can't compete with Richie Mr Rock Trousers!! I lost my last fave red logo batman teeshirt at the Copenhagen show in 2005, if anyone has seen it..
Q.) Do you have any special wishes for the tour?
A.) That every show is sold out! But seriously, just to have a really good time playing with the band, and have some rocking shows..
Thanks very much for your time Mark! See you on tour...
For more info please visit Mark`s own website
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