The music for this album is very considered and sparse with almost no effects, save for some reverb, which leaves you very exposed as the player, requiring a lot of concentration to deliver the goods.
London guitar duo Markers have just released their brilliant debut album Heaven In The Dark Earth. We caught up with both of the bands members, Jason Carty and Jodie Cox to hear all about the album as well as discussing forthcoming live plans, the pairs other musical projects, live plans, memorable gigs and the influence of The Jesus Lizard.
E&D: Your debut album Heaven In The Dark Earth is out now. How did the recording of the album go?
J Cox: One important factor for us about making this record is that every aspect has been done with good, long-term, talented friends. The initial recording was made by Rory Atwell at Lightship 95, which is situated in the hull of a boat. Some further recording and the mixing was with Wayne Pennell at Otho Court. The actual recording of it was an interesting experience. The music for this album is very considered and sparse with almost no effects, save for some reverb, which leaves you very exposed as the player, requiring a lot of concentration to deliver the goods. It can a be a few takes before we find the right mood, pace, velocity etc. mixed with the push and pull of how we play together before deciding which take captured that particular track the best.
E&D: Is there any meaning to the album’s title?
J Cox: We commissioned Anji Cheung to write some words for the record and also create a sigil for us, which she executed beautifully. The title of the record comes from the last line of the last verse she penned, which we felt naturally encompassed all of the earthly and otherworldly elements we consider to be within the record.
E&D: Who designed the albums cover and what made you choose that image?
J Cox: For the artwork, we commissioned Simon Fowler of Cataract Press. I’ve always enjoyed his artwork and Jason was drawn to his style instantly. Simon got the feel of the album right away and his interpretation of the music was both interesting and insightful to his process. Every time he presented a new draft and new details it got better and better. We are blown away with what he has created for us and especially as the first artwork representation of Markers in general. It has set a high bar.
E&D: The album has been four years in the making. Have you been tweaking with the album in all that time and when did you decide that now is the right time to release the album?
J Cox: The period and process has been a long one for a lot of reasons. As with any creative alliance, the development of how you express ideas and details to each other can take a while. Following that comes the revision of ideas, arguments of those ideas leading to satisfying conclusions, distractions, arranging time around family and work life as well as other creative commitments, saving and spending the money when we can to commission the right people to contribute their skills to the album, press the record and hire people to work on the release etc., which all takes time. A lot of effort has gone into making the record what it is which is something we wanted to proud of no matter how long it took.
J Carty: The other thing worth noting, is that during this time we’ve also worked on a fair few other seedlings of pieces that didn’t make it onto this first album. We anticipate the next record to come together much faster as we grow those unused seedlings into mature specimens.
E&D: What has the reaction to the album been like so far?
J Cox: It’s been very positive! People who know or are aware of the kinds of music we’ve been involved in over the years have been surprised and complimentary about it, which has been encouraging given it could be seen as quite a departure. It’s been nice discovering a new audience to try and get the music out to as well.
J Carty: One thing that has struck me when we’ve played these pieces live is how respectful the audiences have been. I expected a certain amount of band/audience dissonance with the sound of talking or glasses clinking etc., but for the most part they’ve been so attentive that you could hear a pin drop.
E&D: What inspires the music that Markers make?
J Cox: We consider the music we make to be very visual and express our ideas to each other referencing lots of arts that influence that (films, photography, paintings etc.). We also draw inspiration from personal experience and each other.
J Carty: Also, the atmospheres created by film scores that we love. I think almost every track we’ve worked on has had an alternative life as the soundtrack to an imaginary movie in our heads.
E&D: How did Markers get together in the first place?
J Cox: We’ve known each other on and off since the late 90’s when we were very young playing in various bands. I can’t remember how we actually started playing together but we hadn’t seen each other for a while and think Jason might have suggested it. We’ve been fans and enthusiasts of each other’s musical output (and still are) for a long time, so it’s been fun to see how our styles and our respective approaches to writing music have come together.
J Carty: Around a decade ago, I damaged my hearing playing too loudly while in the band Art of Burning Water. I had five or so years away from music after that. Eventually I built up enough of a desire to make some fresh sounds, so I reached out to Jodie to see if he was into trying a quieter project together. We worked well as a duo straight from the get go. It was fun, but also enough of a fresh challenge to keep us invested in it.
E&D: What have been some of the highlights of your time in Markers so far?
J Cox: One that sticks out at the moment was being a part of the ‘24 Hour Sci-Fi Challenge’ with another old friend and badass film maker, Craig Murray. The challenge is that you get given a title, a line of dialogue and a prop and within 48 hours have to deliver a short film encompassing each element provided. Craig invited us to write the music for that which was intense, but really fun. It got shortlisted as a finalist and we got to see it on a big screen, which was lots of fun. We would love to work more with film.
E&D: You recently did a cover of Pastoral by the Jesus Lizard. What made you choose that particular Jesus Lizard track?
J Carty: We’re both fans of The Jesus Lizard, but I’m particularly geeky about them. Their early albums are hardwired into my DNA and consequently, my fingers. I’ve always enjoyed playing the beautiful riffs from Pastoral. In The Jesus Lizard’s oeuvre, it is one of only a couple of tracks that express an explicitly gentle nature. It was quite a tough decision whether or not we should do a straight cover, an arrangement or just forget the idea altogether. The original is so perfect, so we decided to not risk (as much) getting it wrong by attempting to mimic it exactly, and instead took it on a bit of a sideways adventure of our own, even incorporating a little baritone guitar solo for Jodie to explore.
E&D: What’s your favourite The Jesus Lizard album and why?
J Cox: Shot. It straight up fucking rules. The track ‘Thumper’ is one of my favourite starts to a record.
J Carty: Goat. It was the first album I heard by them and it is perfection in every respect. Desert Island Disc material. Timeless.
E&D: Who has been the biggest inspiration on yourself as a musician?
J Cox: You must know that’s’ a very hard question! Too hard to boil it down to one so I’m going to limit this as much as possible by saying Unwound, Drive Like Jehu and Silo.
J Carty: Following on from a previous question, Duane Denison has been the biggest single inspiration to me, from his style of playing to his songwriting craft, his knack of embracing and incorporating ideas from wildly disparate corners of the music spectrum and finding a way to unite them harmoniously, even down to the way he composes himself on stage. When you watch him, he’s not overtly rock ’n’ roll, but his subtle expression diverts all the attention down to those devilish and powerful riffs pouring out of his hands. Enigmatic, to say the least. John Reis, Kate Bush and Morton Feldman, amongst others should also be mentioned as pretty major influences.
E&D: You have an album release party at Servant Jazz Quarters on February 26th. Are you looking forward to that gig?
J Cox: Absolutely. We’re both excited to have the great Haress and Anji Cheung joining us for this too.
E&D: Will you be playing the album in full?
J Cox: If you got the money, honey, we got your disease.
J Carty: Up until now, we’ve been playing all the songs from the album at live shows, but we may play a couple of the cover versions at this show too, possibly leaving out one of the album tracks to make room. You’ll have to come to find out!
E&D: Will you be hitting the road for any other gigs after that?
J Cox: We sure will. We have a few shows lined up over the next couple of months and are looking to schedule more when we can.
E&D: What has been the most memorable gig Markers have played so far?
J Cox: I suppose when we opened for Sir Richard Bishop. It was in an old tin tabernacle and had a massive gun from a ship that we had to play in front of. It was maybe our second show and it felt like the songs and playing were starting to melt together effortlessly. SRB is incredible too and always an absolute pleasure to watch.
E&D: You’ve supported the likes of Earth and Steven Von Till in the past. Who did you enjoy playing with the most and who would you love to play with in the future?
J Cox: Both had their own merits for me. Opening for Earth and their audience was an interesting one and went over really well. Opening for SVT in a church was great too. Really good vibe all night. For future shows, I would like for us to play with as many different types of artists that we can from DIY shows to purpose built concert halls. Let’s do it.
J Carty: There are a million bands and ensembles that I’d like to play with. Maybe some festival shows would be good if the atmosphere was right – playing to an unsuspecting audience could be interesting.
E&D: What has been the best gig that you have ever seen?
J Cox: One of my top 5 was seeing Ennio Morricone at Hammersmith Apollo. There were 110 people on stage playing an array of his finest work, which was just outrageous. My friend and I had a front row seat and were situated right in front of the soprano singer when she sang The Ecstasy of Gold, which was beautiful and incredibly overwhelming in the best way.
J Carty: Melvins, at Kentish Town Forum was beyond epic. I was right at the front and the palpable scale of the volume washing back felt like it could sink battleships, yet despite that, it wasn’t painful. Dale Crover was just on top of his shit too. I think I must’ve wet myself during some of those long drum fills. Also, seeing both Nirvana in ’92 and The Jesus Lizard in ’94 performing on the Reading Festival stage made quite an impression on the young me.
E&D: Are you involved with any other bands at the moment that you can tell us about and what you’re up to?
J Cox: Yup and sure. I’m playing with Sex Swing and we’re in the process of finishing up our second LP. Have a new project called No Bueno which is one of the heaviest things I have ever done and is so much fun. Still available for Narrows when we want to do anything again and on-call for Earth whenever I need to be summoned.
J Carty: I’ve recently been testing my ears with a new rock band. It’s early days for us, but it’s coming together really nicely. Tom Barnes (I’m Being Good/Sweet Williams) on drums and Russell Whitehorn (Silent Front) on bass. I’m playing guitar and will be attempting some vocals too. We’re called Regaler.
E&D: Would you ever pull double duty and play with different bands on the same bill?
J Cox: Yes and I have done so. I was playing in Earth the nights that Markers opened for them. Have also done it when I was playing bass live for Broken DC and Sex Swing played right after. Always fun!
E&D: What bands and artists are you listening to at the moment and any bands you could recommend to us?
J Cox: Anji Cheung, Haress, Khyam Allami, Jay Jayle, Daughters, Mark Kavuma, Nadah El Shazly, Liberez, Nisennenmondai, Wu-Tang (bung-bung).
J Carty: Grey Hairs, Neurotic Fiction, Color Television, Sauna Youth, The Tunnel, Mésange, Trigger Cut, Frauds, Helms Alee, JOHN, Suburban Lawns, Kogumaza, One Unique Signal.