In this, the second of our interview series at Town Hollow, I spoke with Marc Gartman, renowned music impressario and charming bastard. Marc is one of the funniest people I know and in his new job finds him planning all sorts of neat things* for us to do and hear downtown. A musician himself, his current project Fever Dream has produced an amazing album (available at Chaperone Records), a series of stunning videos (some after the jump) and neon soaked live shows that include caftans and headlamps. When I asked Marc if he had anything he wanted to plug for this interview he replied that he wanted you all to know that there is a band that exists called Unicorn Hard-On. Here is their website. It’s probably not suitable for work unless you work someplace that is very sexy and loud.
(*like, for example, The Buzzed Up Spelling Bee I’m hosting this Tuesday October 8th at the Red Star. You’ll come, won’t you? Oh, good.)
First things first. Billy Joel?
M: The reality of it is that I’m really just a fan of his greatest hits. I don’t know anything about most of his albums.
C: Do you feel like you should really dive in and find some deep cuts?
M: No. I’m fine with it. I’m very happy with my relationship with Billy Joel. But I would not consider myself to be a real fan. Same thing with the Talking Heads.
C: Who are you a true fan of? Where you have listened to everything?
M: Will Oldham…Bonnie Prince Billy. Bill Calahan…Smog. With Smog the early stuff is unlistenable but once you get past the third record, it’s just, it’s awesome. And I’ve listened to everything by Low. The Grateful Dead, Phish (Marc leans into the recorder) HUGE PHISH FAN
C: I’m going to go ahead and make a written note of that so it doesn’t get left out.
C: Thank you. Got it.
M: So uh, what’s your problem?
C: Have you interviewed people before?
M: I have…
C: Like lots?
M: Lots? What’s lots?
C: Lots is more than five.
M: Then yeah…I’ve interviewed LOTS.
C: Well, I’m trying to say…You’re not in skilled hands here.
M: Is there a POINT?
C: I think you should think of this less like a serious endeavor and more like, we are going to have lunch and conversation and I might ask you more pointed questions than I otherwise would in that situation. I guess the thing that interests me when talking to creative people is learning about what you do on a daily basis to be productive as a creative person. And learning about what inspires you, your intellectual makeup…but on a lighthearted level? Does that make make sense? Is that dull?
M: No, that makes sense.
C: When you interviewed people was it when you were at the TV station?
M: No, it was for a magazine called Tape Op. It’s sort of a very particular magazine for recording. I wanted to write for them because I wanted to use it as an excuse to go interview people that I wanted to talk to. So…I wanted to talk to Will and his brother and Stephin Merritt from the Magnetic Fields.
C: Oh you did! I forgot about that. Because we went and saw that movie and you and Nick Lamon were on either side of me and you both kept talking through the whole thing. You kept pointing out places you sat in his apartment.
M: Yeah. You didn’t like that. But these were people I was interested in and fascinated by and I had specific question for them. But it’s also nice just to see where the conversation is going.
C: Right. And like with you and with Jesse, I know we could just go out to lunch and a have a good conversation but I’m also looking for an opportunity to talk more about ideas and projects rather than just the day to day. If we got together under normal circumstances we’d tend to get into more gossipy talk…
M: I’d like to!
C: I know you would. You’re a good gossip. But you know, It’s nice to see not just what people are up to but also what’s of interest to them.
Billy Joel. Again…
(We both get quiet as River of Dreams comes on over the speakers)
M: We’re on like, a Billy Joel STATION. This was one of his last songs before he stopped writing tunes.
C: Moll and I used to joke “Whenever I gotta warm up the vocal chords I just sing River of Dreams. It’s got all the notes..”
M: He does sing all the notes! This was the beginning of the end. I remember reading an article by Chuck Klosterman, he interviewed him for something, and he just talks about how Billy Joel just feels sorry for himself. He’s like “You can’t hug a Grammy at night.” It’s true. Grammy’s can’t hold you at night.
C: He could nuzzle it into his bosom. Ok. Another question… was there a point in your life where you thought “I’ve made it”? This is something.
M: Oh god. I do know what your saying but it reminds me a bit of our little romance in that the problem with me, which was something which I think annoyed you and rightfully so, is that I have really low self esteem and so it’s really hard for me to be like “Hey man, I’m really DOING something here!” But that’d be a great attitude to have.
C: But when you were talking about this job…
M: Well, when the position first opened up I was really hesitant. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do it..
M: It’s a big change. It’s going from being the person whose up on stage trying to get the gigs to being the person…it’s just a whole shift. And I was really nervous about how it would affect my relationship with this town. And Teague was like, I mean, he wasn’t giving me shit about it, but he was like “I notice you have a little bit of an air about you.”
C: You have Air?
M: I mean, It’s not intentional. I think I’m still just me but I do have more responsibility now.
C: Everybody always says you have an air about you…
M: I think that’s just an east coast thing.
C: That they’re just not used to it?
M: I dunno. I’m just me. I know that I upset some guys. There are guys that kind of growl at me all the time…
C: Yeah, and this might sound complementary but it’s more just something I’ve noticed, that you don’t find many girls who feel that way but there definitely are those guys. Maybe it’s because you give such focused attention to women and not to men?
M: Gail said the other day that someone was asking about me at the Brewhouse and they “Wanted to know if the gossip was true.” And she was like “I had no idea what to say!”
C: Which gossip?
M: Yeah! So I said listen, if that ever comes up again just tell them it’s all ABSOLUTELY TRUE.
C: Lean into it!
M: Monahan was like “I heard you’re making bank over there!” And I was just…Ugh! I love it! I love it. And he was like “Is it true?” And I was like “IT DOESN’T MATTER IF IT’S TRUE!”
C: I think that you and Bob Monahan could have a morning gossip show.
M: He’s funny. We get along well. I mean as long as we don’t get too close.
C: This is the fun part were I get to transcribe all of our chewing noises…our mouth sounds….
Hey Ladies! If You Want To See A Real Show…
M: Oh, I was going to say this. Talking about moments when I feel pride. There are two. The moment right after I write a song, I’m proud and also as I get older I feel really thankful. I’m not a religious person but I do sort of say thanks when it happens.
C: How do you write songs?
M: Here is the reality of how I write songs, uh…it just comes out of me in spurts. I can feel it coming on but if I force it it doesn’t work. Suddenly my brain’s like “There’s one there. Do you want to reach for it?” And my whole house is set up, I’ve got pen and paper, I’ve got the recording thing, the instruments so that when it happens, cause there’s this other thing that sort of decides that it’s time. Then I just go and I have to find it and it’s right there.
C: So you don’t notice any similarities in the times that it happens? Things that bring it on?
M: That’s tough. It’s too draining for me to figure out the math on when I write a song. I’m just thankful when it happens. Could it be because of this that or the other thing? Sure.
C: But you have set up your life so that, when it does happen, you’re prepared.
M: That’s the best I can do.
C: When it does happen, is it music or words first?
M: It all starts with a feeling. Suddenly there’s this moment of clarity in my brain which is telling me “If you are interested there is a possibility, the window has opened up for some reason, and if you want to go write a song right now, that could be a good idea.” And since, right now, all the energy is going toward Fever Dream, from there it starts with a beat. I start with the drum machine first, and I find the beat. And my brain says “That’s the beat!” And then I get really stoned. Well, before I get really stoned I get naked, and I’m wearing a head lamp and my shades are up halfway so if someone wants to see the fucking show they’re more than welcome to. I don’t like shades down, makes me feel really claustrophobic. It usually happens late at night and…
C: And what is your address for my readers?
M: (Provides Address) If you want to see some weird shit going on at 3 o’clock in the morning, go ahead. It’s fine.
C: We’ll set up a viewing! I’ll set out some lawn chairs.
M: And usually what I do is actually very similar to what Paul Mcartney does, which is, he does this thing where he’s starting to write a song and he’s like (singsong) “Butterflies and Shrimps on Ice…” and when something comes along that I like more than that, that’s what I’ll do instead.
C: Yeah. I read once that…the baby wainwright? What’s his name?
C: Maybe. Whoever it was said that when he writes a song, he sits down at the piano and sings in German. But he doesn’t know German. It’s just fake german but it’s what sounds the best until he can fit in real words.
M: Cool. I can relate to that. Like speaking in tongues or something.
Two Princes and a Hitman…
C: What did you want to be when you grew up? When you were little?
M: I wanted to be the Spin Doctors.
C: You could not have been…
M: I know. I COULD NOT HAVE BEEN. Trust me…
C: No, I mean, you could not have been a child when the Spin Doctors were…
M: The bass player asked my girlfriend to go backstage after a show and I was like “DO IT. DO IT FOR US! THIS IS THE CLOSEST I’LL EVER COME!” But what do you mean, like at age two?
C: Well no, not two, but say, seven?
M: At seven I wanted to own my own, like, when you hire a hitman?
C: You wanted to kill people at age seven?
M: Yeah, I had a company called FALCON ENTERPRISES and I carried a briefcase with a gun in it and some papers. And if you needed someone taken care of? I would do it. So, Hitman, Spin Doctors and now as I get older, I like power now.
M: It’s really sort of seductive.
Eric Pollard + Twitter = Love…
C: You bugged me to get on Twitter and now you never use it.
M: The reason why I thought you should be on Twitter is that you have a really unique ability to pack a punch in a sentence. I don’t have that ability. I think you also have the interest to connect with people, through writing, where I like to connect with people through music.
C: And text messages.
M: I am a texter, for sure.
C: I like that you tend to breach a conversation with a text message that is usually a question. Then you sometimes call to follow up on it.
M: Just following up on my text! Yeah, I don’t like tweeting at all…
C: You don’t really like self promotion…
M: I just don’t see the value in Twitter. I tried it out because Pollard and Teague told me I had to do it.
C: Holy shit, does Eric Pollard love Twitter or what?
M: Exactly. Those guys are addicted to it. So I said, fine, I’ll try it for Fever Dream. I’ll try it out. And after a couple of weeks I hated it.
C: When I first started It made my brain hurt. And now, some one described it as a river? Like, you should dip into it but you don’t want to let it just wash over you because it will consume you and make you go batty. You can’t read all of Twitter.
M: Look at my Facebook. This is what I want my world to look like…
C: No friends?
M: No I have all friends but I don’t follow anyone so my feed is completely blank.
C: I like that Bow Tie picture of you….
Jamming. Romantically or Otherwise…
C: What do you look for in a musical collaboration?
M: I don’t even care about their ability, I just want to know whether they are going to bring anxiety into my life or not. Are they going to fall in love on the first date. That is NOT what I want. I don’t want to go on a date with someone, musically speaking, I don’t want to jam with someone… the biggest turnoff, and this happened to me once…
C: Don’t you also call romantic dating “Jamming”?
M: I HOPE not. I REALLY hope not.
C: Are you going to start?
M: I have invited girls over to jam, but… maybe I do that? But it’s embarrassing if I do.
C: But you were saying, about collaboration and not wanting people who bring in anxiety…
M: Yeah, meaning that if we get together and play for an hour, this guy was talking about how he’s looking forward to playing gigs and how we should get a bass player. And I’m like…you just killed a perfectly good date. Like if you’re on a first date with someone and their like “What kind of house do we want?”
C: “How many people are we going to invite to the wedding?”
M: Yup, It’s like, we were having a nice time and you just killed it. We are looking for different things.
C: You need to be musically wooed.
M: Exactly! And very carefully. I need people who are doing their own thing. That’s the most important thing, I’m not an easy person to work with but if you work according to my rules… if you give me what I need, I will give you a lot of what you want. I’m not going to give you a best friend. But I will give you albums, tours… I’ll give you a lot of stuff. But a lot of people are looking for a new friend. Especially guys. They want to be friends with me. Which is nice but that’s not going to happen. Well, it’s possible, but…
C: I mean you can make friends with guys right?
M: Meh? I mean how many friends does Andy have?
C: A lot.
M: He does? Oh, ok. Anyway, that’s what I look for in a musical partner. That’s why I liked playing with Steph and the girls from the little grey house. I don’t care if you can’t play. We can hang out, that’s all that matters. You can LEARN how to play music. I mean it’s fun to play with hot shit players but…
C: Yeah, when I think about Healthy Band, I mean, I really miss singing but I don’t really think I could be in a band if Molly and Nick weren’t involved… because it’s so… like you said there’s no anxiety…
M: I loved working with Nick. That was a great creative relationship and maybe we’ll do something in the future, who knows but those videos were very successful…
C: Those were amazing!
M: We really worked so effectively together in that we were both just open. Sort of like “What idea do you have?” “Great!” “What idea do YOU have?” “Great! Great!”. That is hugely important to me and I respect that if Nick had an idea I knew it was an idea worth sending out. Most people if they have an idea, I sort of disregard it. Which is, not the nicest thing in the world to do but… with Nick I totally trust it. I mean, some of the stuff he loses me on. I’ve watched some of his films and some of the stuff he loses me on like having Sean act…
C: Is acting something you’re interested in?
M: I might be but I can’t memorize the lines.
C: So you can memorize song lyrics but not lines?
M: Ha! Ask the other guys if I can memorize song lyrics…
C: Oh that’s right you have that binder! You had that, and then I tried to justify my own lyrics folder because of that fact and Nick was like “NO FOLDERS!”
M: It is pretty dorky. For the most part I can remember words but as far as acting goes? I’d like to be an actor but I just can’t…remember.
C: What’s your favorite movie?
M: Probably Spinal Tap.
C: That guy seems mean. Have you ever listened to an interview with him?
M: Yeah, he’s all business.
C: I don’t know, maybe he just really disliked the guys that was interviewing him but uffda. Scary dude.
M: Yeah, he’s very much like, if you think I’m like these roles I play, you’re WRONG. I’m an actor.
C: Are their other kinds of art that interest you besides music?
M: I did painting for a while. And then recently my parents wanted to know what to do with all my old paintings..
C: Save them if you love me?
M: No…It was time. It’s been like ten years. But right now what I’m doing creatively is I’m putting it all into this new job.
C: Would you call it facilitating?
M: No! IMPRESSARIO!
C: Oh yeah. Or “Boss”.
M: I also thought “Music Tsar”…
Stephen King Loves Cheesecake…
C: You seem really open to getting advice on things and from a wide swath of people. Have you always been like that, do you feel like it’s served you well?
M: I think so. I think it turns some people off because some people want to be kind of clubby. But I want everyones opinion. And I think part of that is where i’m from, I’m from a melting pot you know….and I think that’s one thing I bring to the music scene here is that it was starting to turn into all blue grass bands and DJ’s. And I want a Metal night at Red Star. We’re starting a weekly spelling bee that’s been a total success.
You asked earlier where ideas come from and I would add that they come sporadically and that phones are really great for that. If I decide a Clue night at Tycoons sounds fun…I can just write it down. Also moving and going for walks helps. If I just sit in my apartment I can get sort of down. Like “Hey, I write songs! But when was the last time you wrote a good one?” I wouldn’t consider myself depressed but I’m certainly not taking care of myself. I eat, not healthy, but not bad. I asked Rod Raymond the other day, like, why don’t I work out anymore and he said “Because you associate it with pain.”
C: There is a real tipping point with exercise. Because I used to hate running but once I did it to a point where it made me feel good enough times I learned to enjoy it. Do you feel like you need more structure? Can you self impose structure?
M: No. I have no discipline whatsoever..
C: That’s the other thing I find myself asking and being curious about. With a creative lifestyle, do you have to have self-discipline and if so, how do you do it? I think most people don’t. But it seems like you should, right?
M: I think to each his own. Some people do. Steve Garington has total discipline…
C: I feel like the ideal is to be some sort of artistic ninja…where you wake up and do your artistic training! And there’s a schedule! But really a lot of artists stay up all night and get drunk and do whatever they feel like. And that’s sort of the liberty afforded to them.
M: If, IF that’s afforded to them. I do not think that’s a good idea. I think you run out of steam. I think the people who are creative the longest are like, Stephen King. He get’s up, and start’s writing and he’ll put in like four hours in the morning and it doesn’t matter what it is he just keeps the machine going.
C: He loves cheese cake.
M: Does he? That’s so weird. He is so weird. His face…
C: My mom loves Stephen King and I just can’t. Every time I try to read one of his books the phrases he turns just give me the crawlies.
M: I remember at one point being into The Tommy Knockers. But now I don’t read.
C: You don’t? Not at all?
M: I read rock biographies. I’ll just go back and forth between Bob Dylan, Neil Young and The Dead.
C: See to me, that feels like…. as much as I’m drawn to restaurant and food books I also find them sort of exhausting because it’s like reading about work. Actually Paul Metsa, you know Paul Metsa? He’s a musician and actually I think he did the booking at Famous Dave’s in Calhoun Square for many years…that’s someone you might want to talk to…
M: I should book a show with him…
C: He’s really interesting. But anyway, he wrote something on Facebook about his summer reading and it was entirely comprised of Music History and Music autobiographies….
M: It’s the romance.
C: Is that it? Is it aspirational?
M: For me anyway, I do it because it reminds me of why I got involved in the first place. Like the early romance of wanting to be in a band, and being a deadhead and trading tapes. It’s fun. The reality is different than that but it’s fun to read about anyway.
One Last Time! Billy Joel…
M: If I woke up tomorrow and I was Justin Timberlake I’d…
C: Yeah, what would be the first thing you’d do?
M: The first thing I’d do would be to have a day of respect for my time as Marc Gartman. I’d just look back and know I had a great run but that I had to do this now. So the first day would just be a tribute to me.
C: So the first day you would mourn the loss of Marc Gartman. And then on the second day you’d wake up and then..
M: I’d fuck Jessica Biel and go on tour with Jay Z. I’d do exactly what he’s doing. I wouldn’t change a thing. He’s so great. Also, If I woke up and I was Ryan Goslling, again the first day would be one of respect for me…
C: Wait, what if you woke up and you were Billy Joel?
M: Billy Joel, now? I’d be like: “This Sucks!” Billy Joel in the eighties, now, that be…
C: Who’s the median between modern Billy Joel and Justin Timberlake?
M: Well I think it’d be interesting to wake up as David Byrne.
C: He put’s on operas for dogs.
M: Or to wake up and be Yoko Ono. She can do what ever the hell she wants.