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Crush - interview (2010)
2010-08-10| Katarzyna NINa Górnisiewicz and Marco Gariboldi | e-mail interview
Marco: You had a fruitful collaboration with Chris Vrenna. Are you still in touch with him? What do you think of his permanent entry into Marilyn Manson? Personally, I would have preferred that he continued on with his brilliant and inspiring career with Tweaker.

Mark Blasquez: Chris is a very gifted musician, indeed. Sadly, we don't really talk much anymore but I hope that can change in the future. We were almost attached at the hip for a while and had some really good times and did some great stuff together. I left Los Angels just as the first Tweaker album was getting wrapped up and Chris was putting a band together. I saw him a few years back at a Skinny Puppy show that Tweaker was opening up for, but we barely had time to chat. As for him being in Manson, if it's making him happy then I think it's great. That's not a group of people I think I'd operate well with, but then again, I'm sort of a loner at this point, I don't work well with anybody. I'd love for Chris to do some more solo stuff as well.

Marco: In addition to Crush, you have another interesting project - Blue Monkey. I listened to it on the Facebook page and found two beautiful songs named "Amber" and "Gravity" which are amazingly great tracks. Are you more focused on Crush or are you working simultaneously on both projects at the moment?

Ah, yes… There's the rub. Thanks for the kind words. I like the Blue Monkey stuff too. My musical tastes are all over the map. My iPod will go through Autechre, Dead Can Dance, Earth, Wind & Fire, The Reverend Horton Heat, Brian Eno, Slipknot & Elton John, as well as a lot of stuff that I can't even play in the car while people are with me because it drives them nuts. The thing is that I'm very passionate about music. What I wrote about on the CRUSH album were very real, very personal things to me. In every song I can tell you what each line means, why the beat is what it is, etc. Go WAY down the rabbit hole, because it's real, and it's really me. Then, you look at Blue Monkey and the same thing is true. I can't just do one thing. It's embarrassingly cliche to say, but I really am an ADD poster child. But sometimes, I get tired of screaming, so Blue Monkey helps with that.
For now the focus is on finishing Blue Monkey, but there's another CRUSH release not far away too. My problem has always been that I can't stop writing and just… finish. I'm getting better at it. I'm hoping to have both of these, as well as a couple other collaborations and surprises, out by fall.

Marco: Always inherent to this project, I'd like to ask where you got the inspiration for the nickname; from the homonymous animal or is there a hidden meaning?

Blue Monkey? Yeah, there's a meaning (seems there always is for me). Without going into all the sorted details, it was just a phrase that popped into my head when trying to describe a dead guy. Humans turn sort of blue-ish when we die and some of us, well… aren't really much smarter than apes. When I think of that name I get a sense of calm. I don't know why.

Marco: "Time Alone (Instrumental)" is featured in the opening scenes of the Burn Notice season finale. This isn't the first time that you have collaborated with the entertainment world and I was wondering if you prefer to write music that reflects your emotions, like with Crush, or follow a "script" such as the American McGee Alice soundtrack, where you had to adapt the music to the history of the video games?

They're both challenging in different ways, and the rewards are certainly different, but if I had to pick one I think I'd rather make my own music. I've had great times working in other areas of the entertainment world, but music, songs, feelings & ideas… That's what really matters to me. The CRUSH song "Sacred" was also placed in an episode of the same show and I've had music in movie trailers, other TV shows, commercials, and video goes as well.

Marco: An untitled Alien pre-quel directed by Ridley Scott is in production. There's also a rumor about the return of Giger as the art director, so the dream-team of the first movie could be reunited again. Would it mean that we'd finally watch a decent Alien movie after all those terrible sequels (except the James Cameron one)?

Now see? Right after I say I prefer working on my own stuff, you bring this up. I'd give up a limb to work on music for a project like that. The first two Alien movies are staples in my library, and my bedroom and studio are lined with HR Giger's work. I hope they do it right. If the forget about "the franchise", continuity or any other nonsense I think it could be great. Look what happened when they did that with the last Batman movie. Heath Ledger is one of the greatest villains I've seen on screen. Let's cross our fingers they don't screw it up.

Marco: I would like to ask a few questions about Alex Jones (infowars.com) since it is a subject very close to what you wrote in "The Red Pill". The first question is a little provocative; it seems that the only way to be equally informed, is by using the web since both the "old information sources" (TV, newspapers) are largely corrupt, but also because the web is full of debunkers and misinformation that do nothing but create even more confusion. Since confusion is the cornerstone of the psychological war practiced against the masses, should we trust people like Alex Jones? Do we not run the risk of (rightly) moving away from power and ending up hanging from the lips of another questionable person? Shouldn't we become the most qualified teachers of ourselves?

I couldn't agree with you more. I listen to Alex (and a few others) a lot and he's an incredible source of true, actual, factual, information. However, I don't see eye to eye with him unilaterally, on religious views especially. Point being that there is no such thing as "bad information", but so many people are afraid to open their eyes and see the truth. I've learned so much from Alex, but everything he says, I research on my own and draw my own conclusions. I've not found him wrong, from a factual sense, even once. But I can speak about what I've believe with confidence because I've done the leg work, I try to poke holes in every story and I know what I'm talking about and how I feel about it. Not what I'm told to feel, what "I" feel. This is what we all should do. Never, ever take anyone's word or instruction. Think for yourself.

Marco: Again in regards to Alex Jones (I use him as an example, because he's very popular on the web), he's doing a great job telling us the problems, the hidden strategy of the elite... but in the meantime the political, economic and social situation is getting exponentially worse. Civil rights manifest as strikes, while demonstrations are increasingly limited by unconstitutional laws (globally speaking). What is the solution? A rebellion? Is this our only way to stop this madness?

I wish I could say I've got a better solution, but I think you've hit it on the head. I can't speak for the rest of the world, but here in the US, people sound asleep. They get caught up in the Republican vs. Democrat debate, or other such nonsense, like any of that matters. They defend their favorite "team" regardless of that team's actions, while the global elite use them as cannon fodder in a war they're not even aware they're in. The only real solution I could come up with is if people, world wide, woke up and saw what was really happening. If they… took the red pill (if I might be so self serving and grotesque) and really saw the world and who controls it. After that, the solution would be… obvious.

Marco: I noticed a recurrent particular in your works; in the song "First Contact" by Death Ride 69 you used a sample (from Blade Runner I believe) "I Took the pill that you gave me", then the American McGee's Alice soundtrack with the "eat me" multiple reading key and now "The Red Pill" ;) It seems that there's a resonant constant within your works? Is it only a coincidence?

Wow, you've got a great ear. The part you're referring to is actually two samples; the background noise is indeed from Blade Runner (very impressed), but the words are from a drunk friend who was in the studio. I hadn't noticed the "pill" theme, but now that you've pointed it out it does make sense. People say "you are what you eat", I'm just saying you are what you allow into your body and your life. So, the recurrent pill theme makes sense in that regard.

NINa: Modern society is painstakingly recommending to take a lot of pills throughout a constant campaign of commercials on the TV - for well being, hair growth, erectile dysfunction, anti-cellulite creams, fat burning products, sight improvement, digestion, gas, etc etc... All the while, the cumulative effects make the liver suffer. How many pills do you take daily, if any and what are they for?

I very rarely take medications of any sort, not even aspirin. As for prescription drugs, especially psychotropic and sedative types, I avoid at all cost. If you're a war veteran in this country the government will remove your benefits and deny you service until there's nothing left for you, but they'll pour handfuls of free prozac down your throat. But in this country, returning war veterans and people who "talk about freedom too much" are currently considered our largest threat to NATIONAL SECURITY. So… go figure.

Marco: Did you design the "The Red Pill" cover art yourself? Is it an impassable and heavy door, just to hide the "Control Room" of the Wizard of Oz (The man behind the curtain) of our time?

I did everything on this album. It was done in a room with only me, from top to bottom. The artwork is the same. I learned some rudimentary Photoshop skills and just did what had to be done. Yes, the cover is indeed a big, heavy door, another symbol of things that are hidden and need to be exposed. Whether it's a case of who really runs this world (trust me, it isn't you) or things we need to dig into and discover about ourselves. The way we interact with the world is the way it will interact with us. Wake up, pay attention, think for yourself and do what you know is right. Not what you're told is right, what you know is right.

Marco: Flac, MP3 (128, 192, 256...kbit/s.), AAC... generally there's a big choice when we buy digital music. Do you think it's a valid option to sell high quality digital files, or for example the difference between a 192 kb/s mp3 file and a 50 MB Flac file is imperceptible to the human ear?

I couldn't really compare those two specific examples as I'm not deeply familiar with the FLAC protocol. I can say that I personally appreciate, and will always purchase, the highest resolution files available. Skipping the fact that some people just have to have "the best", and that business model is certainly valid, I've read many reports about damage that can be done to human hearing with consistent exposure to digitally compressed music. I think a more pressing point is this; why is it that what we watch has gotten exponentially better over the last few years (Blu-Ray, HD, LCD flat screen, etc), but what we listen to has only gotten worse? Why have we all, as a community of music lovers, allowed this to happen? This is something that has to change. I should be mixing my albums, not in 5.1, but in 360 degree, spherical surround. Why can't we move, even in the virtual world, around in the mix? If you want to hear what the guitar is doing you should be able to (virtually) walk closer to the guitar and hear it. What would that take? A mouse? Track pad? We are settling for way more than we should. In many respects.

Marco: I don't see videoclips as a resource exploited by most of the bands of our musical genre, despite YouTube and other video-sharing websites. There are some live clips recorded during tours but nothing interesting. I think that it's possible to make a good video even with a small budget and a good idea, don't you think so? Are you planning to shoot any promotional videos?

I'm as guilty as anyone about being lazy in that department. I am, in fact, planning on some sort of video accompaniment for the releases I've got scheduled this year. Some combination of concept video and some "making of / behind the scenes" thing that people will get with the package or download for free.

NINa: Which of your senses do you react to the fastest: shape, color, motion, smell, taste or touch?

Interesting. I think I react soonest to shape. I am a man, after all, and there is some sort of reptilian brain component that causes me to react, recognize and respond to certain shapes. Usually before I'm really even aware of them on a conscious level. Once aware, I think it's a tie between smell and taste. But I'll leave it at that.

Marco: Your lyrics seem to also transpire hope as well as the desire and the need to believe in something other than an indifference to bitterness, distrust and skepticism. Is it in the context that instinct or hope is truly dying last?

If I could rephrase that as "is hope all we have left now?" I'd be inclined to say yes. However, in a country that just elected their president on a platform of "hope" I'd just like to point out that hope is only, and always, a promise, nothing more. Still, we need something to cling too when we feel the floor falling away from underneath us, and sometimes that's the best use for hope that there is. I don't want to hope, I want to actually, well… believe.

Marco: Are you a man of science or a man of faith?

Probably more science than faith, but I do strongly believe that the way we interact with our world helps influence what happens to us. I think that if you follow either of those two concepts to their logical conclusion you could hold both in one hand.

NINa: There have been thousands of books about so called "positive thinking" methods written and sold so far. What is your view on that kind of manipulation being done to modify reasonable personalities?

Starting (dangerously) on the presumption that we all agree on what "reasonable personalities" are, I'll say that, up to a point, positive thinking is a highly powerful and greatly underrated activity. Putting yourself in a healthy, constructive state of mind before you start your day can't do anything but help you. Conversely, don't sit on your ass and meditate about things you need to take care of directly. If someone attacks you in a dark alley, don't try to "vibe" them into a better course of action. Grab a bottle, break it and cut their fucking throat. But that's just my definition of "reasonable".

Marco: You have a tattoo on your left arm that reminds me the Punisher character (Marvel Comics). Do you read Punisher comic books?

It reminds you of the Punisher because that's exactly what it is. My ink is still a work in progress, but I liked the Punisher character because he understood what was right and what was wrong, and never hesitated in his action. He knew what his truth was. That's all any of us can hope for.

Marco: You also have a tattoo of the Scottish Clan Gunn. I thought you had a Spanish bloodline due to your last name. Do you have any Scottish roots?

I do. My father was born with the sir name Wilson (descended from Gunn). His father was killed in WWII and his mother eventually remarried a Spanish man who insisted all the kids (including my father) took his name. Castilian by name, Scotch / Irish by blood.

NINa: Personally, I don't have any tattoos and was wondering what your mindset is when you make a final decision about getting one. Do you think it through, or just go for it? I mean, is it usually spontaneous or deeply thought over? Why is it that people mark themselves for life knowing that the skin will be aging along with the tattoo, is it something more primal?

NINa, I think everything through. Way too much, usually. When I find something that I connect with in a deeper way, I don't have any problem marking my body permanently. I think is is something primal. There is something about permanently marking yourself that, at least for me, felt very empowering. It's not for everyone, but I'm nowhere near done.

Marco: You have written a song for Econoline Crush ("Go Off" on the Brand New History album) together with Vrenna, Hurst and the unforgettable Paul Raven. Could you please share with us any memories of that session with Paul Raven?

I have the privilege of being able to call Paul a friend, but that's a large group to belong to. That particular session was very interesting. The producer was trying a different approach whereby we would all just sort of jam on a riff for a while until the engineer thought he had something solid. Then, they'd open the door and say "okay, do something else". We'd screw around until a theme started to develop, then lay that down, and so on. It was a very odd session. Paul was a very unique and wonderful person. Tall, brooding, slightly intimidating, but a a great sense of humor and a heart of gold, to be sure. I talked to him just a couple of days before his passing, about some exotic instruments he'd found and didn't know what they were. He is sadly missed.

Marco: I can't wait to listen to your new EP OpeoM, could you give us any sneak peaks? I'm curious about what covers might be included. One last thing, OpeoM = Opium?

Other PEoples Music. If I'm bored, sometimes I'll just find a song that I like and do a version of it. Dylan's "Master's Of War" will be there, possibly This Mortal Coil's "Fond Affection", XTC's "Dear God"… things like that. It'll be hard to narrow it down. But in the process I've written a lot more new material too. It was going to be an EP, but I can never seem to stop writing.

NINa: Crush sounds like a studio project to me more than a touring one. Do you DJ sets in clubs sometimes?

I'm not a very good DJ, so no. As a matter of fact, I don't go out to clubs as much as I should. I find myself working a lot, then I just head to my local bar to blow off steam. This is something I need to change. I don't mind being on my own, but some times it's better if you have some people to go with. Where I live is very… uh… quiet. I'm planning on moving much closer to SF soon. I am working on a way to take this music live all by myself, the technology is there to do it in a way that isn't lame, so I hope to have the ready soon.

NINa: What's your next level in terms of music evolution?

The Next CRUSH release will be much more streamlined and intense. I was doing a bit of a balancing act with this first album and I think I'm done with that.. At the same time, the Blue Monkey project will allow me to get more into production and textures. I'm happy to have both outlets.

Marco & NINa: Thank you very much for the interview and keep up the good work!

Thank you guys for digging so deep and coming up with great questions. When I'm in your area, the drinks are on me.

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Pictures come from Mark Blasquez' archive, all copyrights reserved by © their respective owners. Questions proofreading: Scott M. Owens
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