ABOUT MARK- THE LONGER STORY!
EARLY DAYS: It was as nature intended that Mark should be born with one arm. Born an Essex boy in Harlow in the mid ’60s he used to amuse my parents strutting around holding a toy tennis racket turned upside down to represent a microphone as he sang along to Beatles records! Thus a star was born!
Although music didn’t really kick off for Mark until he was 7 when he’d managed to compose his first ‘song’ on the piano using two fingers playing up and down the keys representing the story in his head of a spaceman taking off in his spaceship, experiencing a serious malfunction and then ending up drifting powerless into space forever. His own version of ‘Space Oddity’? probably, but it had no lyrics it was just the notes that painted the pictures and told the story in his head! For the first time he’d realised music could convey emotions, tell a story, paint a picture and so a valuable lesson had been learned!
Mark loved (& still loves) The Beatles so much that he realised he had to play guitar so around the same time, when he was 7, he laid his parents’ classical guitar on the floor and tried to play with his feet, then a combination of his hand & a foot all to no avail – after all Paul McCartney never played with his feet! (Did he?). Reluctantly Mark gave up struggling to find a way to play guitar with one hand ….for now.
SONGWRITING: Mark started writing songs that he heard in his head when he was about 10. He fantasised that he was in a Beatles-esque ’60s band called The Stars and imagined songs from their albums, singing them to himself (God he must’ve been a lonely child!) and eventually writing lyrics down with an indication of what the song was in his head (e.g. “jaunty rock” etc) so later he could remember and re-sing it. By the time he was 12 he had written around 50 of these songs mostly obvious copy-cat songs of Beatles, Stones & Who songs!
BASS & RECORDING: Eventually, through sheer frustration and dogged determination, when Mark was about 14 he found a way to play guitar one handed by playing right-handed guitars (upside down – so strung normally) bass-style from listening and copying Paul McCartney’s bass lines from Sgt Pepper. From these humble beginnings Mark began to learn bass licks and then guitar chords and strumming and finally fingerpicking (of sorts) using my thumb to pick & strum and 3 fingers of the same hand to fret with. Whilst this was physically limiting (He’s never been able to play barre chords & hence play Hendrix/Blues lead riffs) it opened up the possibilities for him as a songwriter and he began to record the ideas in his head! For his 16th birthday he bought himself a cheap bass guitar and amp & began practising. He started to record the song ideas he had using a pair of headphones as a microphone (sticking them into the mic sockets of a hi-fi cassette deck) recording onto cassette, then playing back that cassette on a small tape player and adding another instrument or vocal live recording onto a second cassette in the cassette deck. Through this ‘bounce’ process, he could build layers of sound and began to learn to strum guitar discovering chords by accident to accompany the bass lines he’d already recorded adding vocals and harmonies. The results were often painful to the ear and suffered sound degradation with each ‘bounce’ but he was gradually improving his guitar skills and vocal harmonies whilst realising the songs in his head.
When he managed to get a job, when he was 20, he saved up and bought himself a much needed 4 track recorder (Yamaha Portasound) and a drum machine and synth (the wonderful Korg Poly 800 MkII) and began knocking out some cheesy ’80s songs (in the style of the Pet Shop Boys & Peter Gabriel). He even went to guitar classes in the evening with talented folk star/tutor Roger Sutcliffe where he learnt many blues licks and styles and which opened up a whole new door to the world of Blues!
LONDON & BANDS: At 22, Mark moved to London where the distractions of city life meant he neglected music for a while and after falling in & out of love several painful times he eventually turned his back on love and threw himself into music forming a band called The Poppyheads where he played guitar and shared lead vocals with fellow bandmate Mark Pesch, sadly no longer with us. The band changed personnel many times with himself & Mark (Pesch) at the root as chief songwriters. In 1992, they were joined by female drummer/singer Jackie Romeu and became The Unknown, the Violet Overtones, Kinda Wundaful (what a name!) and then Paintbox. Eventually, in 1996, Mark (Pesch) left the group to go to live in Japan, so our Mark & Jackie carried on as a duo for a while.
Eventually, under the new banner of Slinki Malinki and together with lead singer & front man extraordinaire Hamish Galloway and keyboard player Imogen Prince, the new band began to be managed by Jackie’s old friend and legendary Producer, Gus Dudgeon. Gus started to give them their first real break and things went well for a while. After a year or two, Imogen left for Spain and was eventually replaced by Rob Peaple. Gus was determined to make the band successful & pulled the group tighter and produced a demo for them; and slowly it looked like things could happen for the group. Then tragedy struck when Gus and his wife, Sheila, were killed in a car accident in 2002! For a while the band continued but without Gus and with no deal looking likely eventually belief and inspiration dried up in the band and Mark & Jackie dissolved the band & went duo again.
For a time, Mark & Jackie were kind of an art-style duo with a mix of dance, latin and pop songs where Mark went back to acoustic guitar to accompany her. Inevitably they realised they needed a band to represent the pop songs they were writing when performing, and so formed Nelson Romeu with keyboardist Rafael Piamolini, Alex Ribchester (drums) & Josh Taylor (bass) – later to become Supersmiler when Alex & Josh were replaced by Andy Pearce (bass) and Jamie Burgess (drums).
GOING SOLO: Then in 2009, Mark played his first solo gig at the Boiler room, Guildford supporting friends Reed Maxfield. It was the first time Mark had ever performed alone and at first he felt naked! No backing band to support him or to turn to. However it felt great and he felt a freedom he’d never felt before. Meanwhile, things weren’t going so great with the band, there was frustration at playing the same ‘Pay to Play’ gigs in London which Mark and Jackie had always despised & a general lack of commitment started seeping in. Eventually after months of deliberation Mark made the brave decision to leave the band and go solo – brave because if they had gone on without him and found worldwide fame he’d have had to eat his own trousers! But they didn’t. The band sadly disbanded and Mark began his solo musical direction.
Since 2010 Mark has played many gigs and festivals in the Farnham & Guildford area predominantly (thanks to the likes of Vic Cracknell and other local musicians holding ‘Open Mic’ & ‘Guest’ nights) and in London and, indeed, around England as well as abroad in Romania & Kosovo. Being able to write a song ‘on a Saturday’ and perform it live a week later has given Mark enormous artistic freedom! Developing a blues ballad style and discovering his solo voice which has improved both his guitar playing and singing style. Each year Mark tries to increase my achievements from the previous year. In 2014, the Blues Trio played the main stage at Weyfest and at Pewsey Music Festivals and showcased on Eagle Radio.
Mark also began playing more blues, first as a duo with blues harpist Phil Thorpe then added Paul Stone on cajon. The Trio then added the talents of Kevin Rowe on bass to make it a Blues band and have released an album of mostly original blues songs with a few covers on “Out of the Blues” . Since then, with Phil off touring the world, they’ve added the wonderful Mr Glen Vaal on blues harp.
Mark has also released several solo albums “In from the Cold”, “Out in the Sun”; “Lost Gems” – a retrospective collection of unreleased tracks and a ’60’s Psychedelic album “A Trip to Euphoria” by The Electric Tricycle Band. all on CD and digitally distributed by Spotify, Amazon & i-Tunes etc.
Having set up a non-profit making musicians co-operative called ‘Blue Trouser Records’ together with like minded local musicians Mark and co. have been ‘signing’ local musical talent with the view that many mouths sing louder than one in order to promote and nurture unsigned talent!
In 2019, Mark was approached by Animal Farm Artist management and they are working with Mark to promote two singles Mark has produced with them.
We look forward to bigger and better things in the future!
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