Q & A with Mark Gemini Thwaite
By Petra Sümnicht
Pic: Mark 2008
Q.) The Farewell tour finished a few weeks ago with a crowning finale in London. Iit was a particularly emotional moment as you all waved good bye to the crowd on the last night. Do you have any memories of your thoughts in that special moment? Or were you still busy with your pedalboard which gave out on the last part of Tower? ;-)
A.) Yes that was definitely a Nigel Tufnell 'Spinal Tap' moment when my guitar cut out on the final few minutes of 'Tower of strength' on the last night… actually it turned out to be a dodgy guitar lead… luckily Simon (Hinkler) was already playing the outro guitar solo so it probably won't be noticed much in the Audio cd.. maybe on the video, who knows?! The guitar signal came back on for the final minute of the song so that was cool. I think it's always special whenever we play 'Tower of Strength', it's such a moving song with its euphoric vibe and the fans really connect with that song, and it was especially poignant that final night...
As for how I felt, well it was a mixture of elation – as its always the case when we play Tower – and also sadness… somehow it didn't feel like 'the end'… although of course we knew it wasn't, cos we had been asked to play a couple of songs at the aftershow 'party' later that night..!
Q.) How did you enjoy the tour generally? And was it a different feeling compared to the earlier tours because it was the last one?
A.) I enjoyed the tour immensely, I think the fact that the audience knew that this was the last time they were going to see the Mission perform live, made each night a truly special occasion.. the current line up of the band with Richie and Steve is great, we were really hitting our stride on this tour, really firing on all cylinders..
I personally would have liked to have played more songs from the post-1992 albums recorded with the band, but obviously the focus was on the first four albums so only a handful of post-1992 songs got played, such as Daddies, Afterglow etc..
The final tour musically was heavily influenced by the fact that it would culminate in 4 shows in London Shepherds Bush Empire where we would play the bands first 4 albums and b-sides in their entirety... so the tour rehearsals were more intensive than usual, having to learn (and in some cases relearn) nearly 70 songs including tracks also from Neverland, Aura, Masque and of course GIAB..
I would say that this tour also differed from previous tours as we literally played a different set every night, we never played the same set twice, and in Europe we mostly played material from all the first 4 albums each night plus other tracks from later Mission albums.. Ironically it also meant that some nights we weren’t playing many hits, so we found in Europe that it seemed that some fans still mainly wanted to hear the singles...
Q.) Any special or funny highlights – on or off stage - you would like to share with us?
A.) Well the show at Shepherds Bush Empire - Friday 29th night I think - where one of our fans jumped up onstage, and stood with Wayne was pretty memorable.. one of the Empire security staff tried to pull the guy offstage, and Wayne grabbed onto the fan and I also tried to block the security guard using my body and guitar… the audience could see what was happening and that we were cool with one of our fans being onstage, and eventually the security guard gave up, but he seemed ignorant of the fact.. it definitely became an ‘us versus them’ moment, and we won.. it was a touching moment that highlighted the Missions unique and close relationship with our fans.
Q.) What were the high and low points of the tour?
A.) Well obviously the high point had to be the final show at SBE… hard to top that one! I don’t think there were any significant low points of this tour… except for the time our tour bus broke down (yet again) in the middle of no-where in Spain, and we had to hitch a ride with the Dead Guitars on their tourbus to the next venue…
But that aside, it was a great tour, I think the shows were enhanced by the fact that the fans knew this was the last time they were going to see the Mission, so each night felt like a special occasion.
Q.) You played over 60 songs during the tour, which one was the most difficult or complex song to learn?
A.) Well let me think.. ‘Dream On’ was hard on my fingers… I have my guitar slung pretty low and the picking riff on ‘Dream on’ is quite a stretch on the fingers.. I always used to dread that one… also ‘Heaven on Earth’ was difficult to play accurately with my guitar low.. bear in mind it was written on an acoustic by Wayne, probably played while sat down etc.. so my difficulties werent so much remembering the parts or knowing the song that was an issue, more the angle of my guitar neck!
I remember we were all a bit intimidated by ‘Love me to death’ - I found the opening verse guitar sequence hard to play accurately at first – even Wayne would struggle with it, and he wrote it! It was also a hard song to get the dynamics just right, and it has the dramatic middle 8 lead guitar bit that was hard to get right as well, it has a weird timing.. but once we had rehearsed and then played it live few times, it turned out to be one of the stronger songs and great to perform..
Actually I’m forgetting ‘Paradise will shine like the moon’ which was very difficult, it was originally written in the studio and had never been played live by any line up of the band before, plus the studio version has specially tuned guitars etc.. and it was a real struggle for Wayne to sing both timing and pitch-wise, and for the band to get it right and to play it tight… We kind of nailed it at the last night at SBE but to me it always sounded like it was struggling a bit.
Q.) Were there any of the old songs that you enjoyed playing life because you never played them before?
A.) Yes, quite a few, such as “Love me to Death’, ‘Heaven on Earth’, ‘Hungry as the Hunter’ was surprisingly fun to play live.. also ‘Bridges Burning’ was fun (used to play that back when I first joined).. ‘Dream on’ was fun, once we got the intro picking bit out of the way.. ‘Black Mountain Mist’ has always been one of my faves and I always enjoyed playing it myself so it was fun to finally play it live with Wayne.. bear in mind that after 15 years with the band, on and off, there weren’t that many songs I hadn’t played before..
Q.) At the Hamburg show onwards you were joined by ex Mission guitarist Simon Hinkler. What was it like because you never rehearsed all together?
A.) It was Wayne's idea to invite Simon along for these final shows, and I agreed it would be fun for the fans... it wasn’t the first time I had played in the Mission with Simon, he had jumped up with us on the Resurrection tour in Seattle USA back in 1999... but this was different as he was joining us onstage for 7-8 songs a night, mostly the encore songs, over 9 shows in Germany, Netherlands and of course London.. I get on well with Simon and we have a mutual respect for each other, so it was pretty easy going really...
Simon suggested that we both play most of the riffs (and in some cases the solos) together, so it was basically doubling up many of the parts. Simon also played piano on 'Kingdom Come', which was really nice... I took the backseat on songs like 'Tower of Strength', letting Simon take most of the lead as its one of his favorite solos. On other songs like Deliverance or Hurricane, we agreed to both do the solos at the same time, which was fun... and with Wasteland we agreed that both playing (and in some cases harmonizing) the ebow parts on Wasteland created some fantastic moments.. much to Wayne’s dismay lol!
Q.) What was your very first reaction as you heard that Wayne had decided to call it a day for The Mission? Have you been surprised or have you expected it already?
A.) I can’t say I was entirely surprised, as I know Wayne felt strongly that GIAB was his - and our – best work in many years, and yet it seemed to be met with a fair amount of indifference by the fan base and the music critics… it’s a shame as the album and songs are really strong – some of Wayne’s best work – and the current line up is the best for many years.. We all invested a large part of creative energy and time in GIAB – Wayne more than anyone – and it’s a tremendous disappointment to see it appear to be a failure commercially. It was a ‘make or break’ album really – we knew that it had to change our fortunes around or the end was nigh. Although the ‘Tour is a Bullet’ tour was generally considered a success, we nevertheless felt like we were moving in ever decreasing circles.
So when we were approached by a promoter in the summer of 2007 to play four shows at the SBE, with the idea of playing the band’s first four albums, I think Wayne decided this would probably be a good way to say our goodbyes, capture it on audio and DVD, and allow him to move onto some other solo projects..
Also bear in mind I was in the Mission when he first announced he was splitting up the band in 1996, shortly after we released the ‘Blue’ album… that was a depressing time, and I totally understood why Wayne didn’t have the motivation to do it anymore.. however he still reformed the band for the resurrection tour three years later, so I’m optimistic that we may get together again, maybe for the 25th anniversary in 2011… but I don’t think you’ll see the Mission in the recording studio again..
Q.) What are your musical plans for the future now, any news about your collaboration with Peter Murphy?
A.) I’ve been working on new material with Peter Murphy for a couple of years now, since we first toured together in 2005… we have a few songs recorded that we’ve collaborated on, and I’ve given Peter a bunch of music demos to play with… Peter is currently considering new record label options so I imagine once that is in place then we’ll record the new album properly… one of the major delays was Peter taking time out to tour and record with Bauhaus, but now that their new album ‘Go Away White’ is out, he can now concentrate on his solo work once again…
Meanwhile there is a major USA tour in the pipeline for June’08, plus some more European shows in the summer– we played some shows in Portugal and Spain in November/December 2007..
Q.) Since spring 2007 you are involved in another band project called Mob Research. Sadly Mob Research co-founder and bassist Paul Raven passed away on 20th October 2007. You were working on your debut album Holy City Zoo (scheduled release date: spring 2008). Are you thinking about to replace Paul in some way?
A.) Mob was Paul’s brainchild from day one, he approached me with the idea last year – and name – for Mob Research, and as far as I’m concerned it was Paul’s swansong recording and at this stage I have absolutely no intentions of touring the band without Paul once it finally comes out.. I had known Paul on and off throughout the years, we had first jammed together back in 1989, shortly before he rejoined Killing Joke for the Extremities album…
I just want everyone to hear how great Paul’s final project was, why he felt so passionate about Mob Research, and of course to see it released as a fitting final addition to his musical legacy..
If for some reason we need Mob Research to perform live in the future – say the album suddenly takes off and gets loads of airplay – I would probably consider asking Daniel Raven – Paul’s younger brother and bassist for Gundogs (www.gundogsmusic.com) – to step in on bass guitar… I think Paul would have approved of his brother stepping in under the circumstances.. but I really haven’t thought that far ahead yet…
Q.) You recently launched a MySpace website for your Metalmorphosis project. You have added hard rock guitars, drums etc. to classic synth pop songs from the eighties. And also most recently you have remixed songs by Combichrist and And One. This project isn`t really new, as it seems to be an ongoing project. As far as I remember you already recorded an eleven track album with eighties songs "metallised" back in 2000, but it was never released commercially. Are there any plans to release it now? Or is it only used to raise some attention for your DJ appearances?
A.) Basically the whole ‘Metalmorphosis’ project dated back to 1999 when I first started using Logic Audio Platinum software, and I needed to learn how to use it.. I used to play along to albums like ‘Dare’ by the Human League when I first started playing guitar as a teenager (long time ago), as there were no guitars on the album at all, so I could make up my own riffs… so when I first installed Logic Audio Platinum digital audio software on my studio PC my friend suggested that I try recording the guitars I used to make up as a way to get familiar with the program.
So I started with a couple of tracks from ‘Dare’ to get me going… once a few friends heard and raved about the results, I was encouraged to continue the idea.. The main remit was to pick recordings that have little or no guitar on the original version. However I found that once the new guitars were mixed into the original mix the eighties rhythm section - mostly electro - would sound a bit weedy so I would add rock drum loops and record additional bass guitar where necessary to bolster up the original track.
Before I knew it, I had an albums worth of material ‘Metalmorphosised’, and it was suggested by friends that I compile an album and maybe make it available to fans. I did end up passing on a few copies on request via my old website, but refrained from any commercial release because I didn’t really have the record company or original artist’s permission for what I was doing.
In 2002 I was commissioned by Gary Numan - a friend of mine and Wayne’s - and his label to create new versions of ‘Are Friends Electric’ and ‘This wreckage’ for Gary’s 2003 Hybrid’ album and the ‘Rip’ single. I guess this was the most public example of my Metalmorphosis project, although I requested at the time that the remixes – well actually, they were brand new recordings – were credited to ‘Mark Gemini Thwaite for New Disease’, as I was pushing my new band New Disease at that time.
Later I was also approached by NIN/HIM producer John Fryer to create a brand new Metalmorphosis remix on ‘Goth girls give good head’ for NYC electropunks LICKY (www.ilovelicky.com) for their debut record in 2004. As with the Gary Numan mixes, I chose to completely re-record the music, all I kept was the vocal from their original version. This was probably my most favorite remix under my Metalmorphosis banner so far...
I ended up rejoining The Mission in 2005, then toured with Peter Murphy, and also played some shows with Tricky in 2006 in Europe and recorded on his new album (as yet unreleased), and so my interest in working on Metalmorphosis remixes had ground to a halt until this year, where I was asked to perform a DJ slot at Club Antichrist in London as part of the Mission aftershow party festivities. I decided a few new remixes were needed for my DJ set, so knocked together some remixes for Combichrist and And One. You can check them out at www.myspace.com/metalm0rph0sis
Q.) If anyone is interested (highly recommended by the way), is there any possibility to get hold of it now?
Anyone interested in copies of the Metalmorphosis remixes can always drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q.) Have you heard the "house" song HIT REPEAT by Stisch feat. Wayne already? And what do you think about it?
Yes I checked out the samples on their Myspace page… Wayne’s voice sounds great of course, I can’t say the music is particularly my cup of tea though… mind you it should make the direction of Wayne’s new solo album more interesting!
Q.) Is there any band or musician that you would really love to play with one day? Who are they, and why them?
That’s a tough one… we all have our favorite bands, and musicians, yet many times it can be a disappointment when you finally meet them… I’ve always wanted to meet Jimmy Page and talk about his work with Led Zep, but I probably wouldn’t be so keen on playing on stage with him – he’d show me up!
Working with Peter Murphy was a dream come true as I was such a huge Bauhaus fan when I was younger… and Daniel Ash is one of my guitar heroes and influences, so to get to stand in his shoes and play some Bauhaus songs like ‘She’s in Parties’ on the Peter Murphy shows last year was a real blast..
Killing Joke were my other huge influence, so forming a band with Paul Raven was a thrill.. Killing Joke guitarist Geordie Walker is probably my biggest influence on guitar over the years, and I did actually get to hang with Geordie a few years ago and he even let me play his legendary 1952 gold ES295 guitar, while playing along to his new demos.. an unforgettable experience!
Q.) If there was one thing (non musical-wise) you could do tomorrow, any dream you wished to full fill, what would it be?
Invent a permanent cure to all sickness – aids, cancer, you name it…
Q.) Okay, tongue-in-cheek, what do you think? How long will it take until some kind of Mission reunion tour or a one-off show?
I’m quietly optimistic that when the Mission’s 25th anniversary rolls around in a few years, that Wayne will have that ‘itch’ once again.. and there’s only one way to scratch it..
Q.) Anything else you would like to add?
Well it will be weird not having the Mission in my life.. although I have experienced that feeling before, and sooner or later it always came back... like a lucky coin! I'm still trying to complete the album for Mob Research.. hoping to have that album finished and released in the summer. Check out my website at www.markthwaite.com for news on what I’m up to.. and thanks to all the loyal Mission fans out there for a very special farewell tour!
Never say never!
Thanks very much Mark and good luck for the future!