Sunday, 30 December 2007

Scott Hunt

Mark Mikel "I was a fan of The Sprags back in the early 90's. I bought their first CD "Neighborhood Sounds" and was really impressed at their songwriting muscle. I approached them at one of their shows and asked to produce their next album. Through the recording of it we became friends. I was particularly impressed with Scott Hunt who was much more into music than the others. Scott was like me in alot of ways. The kind of guy who could play many instruments and spend almost all of his spare time writing and recording. We became great friends and he's a huge source of inspiration to me. I think he's one of the greatest songwriters who ever lived and the true genius behind The Sprags. He's producing the new Pillbugs album. When he and I work together it always comes out unbelievable. We're even trying to develop a sitcom together.

Scott has me play the drums on most of his solo albums too. His sister Shelby sings on them. Their latest "Sonic Symphony" is a pop masterpiece if I'd ever heard one.
When The Sprags lost their drummer, around '98 I think, they asked me to fill in until they found another. I loved their songs and hanging out with them (plus I missed playing drums) so I donated my services indefinitely. I wasn't to join the band as anything but a drummer. They didn't need another singer/songwriter and I was okay with that. It was fun to be in a supportive role for the first time ever.
We still do it and the new Sprags album is getting close to finished.Scott Hunt's Montana is one of the best albums EVER made. How exciting to find some love for it here. Get it- steal it-whatever you have to do (you won't be sorry) but it may not be easy. Only 1000 copies were printed in 1997.

An almost complete unknown and criminally underratted artist and my best friend. Yes, we're finally doing an album together and it's going to be mind blowing."

Saturday, 29 December 2007

pillbugs promo photo-signed

with thanks to Tsutomu Kubota

Mike Baron

Mike Baron broke into comics in 1981 with Nexus, his science fiction title co-created with illustrator Steve Rude; the series garnered numerous honors, including Eisners for both creators. A prolific creator, Mike is responsible for The Badger, Ginger Fox, Spyke, Feud, and many other comic book titles. Baron has also written numerous mainstream characters, most notably DC's The Flash and Batman, Marvel's The Punisher, and several Star Wars adaptations for Dark Horse. He has been nominated for Best Writer in the Kirby, Harvey and Eisner Awards, and has won two Eisners for his work on Nexus
Buzz For Aldrin is one of his albums of 2007 it seems…

Mike Baron “Pillbugs: Buzz for Aldrin. The Pillbugs have been producing outstanding psychedelia since 1991, released their first album in 1998. Mainly the brainchild of guitarist/composer Mark Mikel, the Pillbugs have been getting progressively richer, deeper, and more rewarding with each subsequent release. This is a two disc set, like two of their previous albums. There is no filler. To give you a clue where they're coming from the second track is called "Make Like Arthur Lee." Only Arthur Lee never managed to fill an album the way these boys do. The second disc in particular hits you with one perfectly timed acid flashback after another, until you feel like you've been worked over by a tag-team of nude female masseuses to music by vintage Airplane and Country Joe & the Fish.”

Friday, 28 December 2007

Mark Mikel's Top Ten Heavy Metal Albums

Black Sabbath- s/t
Black Sabbath- Paranoid
Black Sabbath- Masters of Reality
Black Sabbath- Vol. 4
Black Sabbath- Sabbath Bloody Sabbath
Black Sabbath- We Sold Our Souls For Rock and Roll
Black Sabbath- Sabotage
Black Sabbath- Technical Ecstacy
Black Sabbath- Never Say Die
Black Sabbath - Heaven and Hell
Mark Mikel "Anyone else who claimed to be Heavy Metal were only rehashing what these guys already did IMO. Distorting the guitar more than Iommi did just made it whimpier sounding...who else had that crunch?... and any band that called themselves metal but had a high pitched singer in spandex seemed to really miss the point. The moment HM became a genre it was a joke. Many people just remember the hair."

Bucketfull Of Brains 66 summer 2004

A few years back I came upon a C.D. called “The Idiot Smiles” by Toledo based musician Mark Mikel and what a gem it was. Mikel was obviously a creative artist to be reckoned with. Peerless playing, adventurous production, classic voice and guitar sounds and, most vitally, superb songwriting, Mikel it seemed was blessed with an abundance of heart fuelled talents few could match. The petsoul psych sound of a man who obviously had a passion for what he was doing, delivering up an album of pop joy riches just for the hell of it. The album was already a few years old when I fell for it’s endless charms and on such a tiny label that I thought the chances of ever finding out anything about the man himself, remote. File along side the likes of Bill White Acre, Sean McDonald and Mr. Brown, in the “Who was that Masked Man?” section of my collection. Then a few weeks ago I was handed a CDR of an album by The Pillbugs, “The 3-Dimensional in Popcycle Dream” which just knocked my socks off. A brilliant adventurous psychedelic rock tour de fucking force of the most beautiful kind with an overflowing detailed and stunning production and playing that is jaw droppingly authentic without a single knowing wink of conscious parody. The Pillbugs aren’t just playing in the perfumed garden, ala Dukes of Stratosphere, they are landscaping it from the bottom up. Most importantly of all at the multicoloured heart of this multi-layered treat lay one great pop song after another. This was the real deal beyond all doubt and I quickly tracked down a proper copy of this magnificent creation along with a copy of the equally brilliant self titled debut double CD and low and behold who is the main driving force behind the band? The Mikelmiester himself (well obviously, otherwise why would I bother mentioning him at the start). Anyway Mark has not been an idle jack in these last few years, as a quick trawl through will confirm. A whole slew of production jobs, a couple of other, solo albums and Mikel also finds time to plays drums for The Sprags. The new Pillbugs album in itself should be reason enough for an interview but now there’s loads more reasons why you every loving Bucketfull should track the mighty Mikel at Bug Central and open your eyes to a truly gifted talent.

BOB. So what are your earliest musical memories?

MM. I don't remember a time when music wasn't important to me. I remember my favourite toy (which wasn't really a toy at all) was my little portable record player. The first song I can remember hearing is Louis Armstrong's "Hello Dolly." My mother was a singer and a big music fan so I was lucky to have access to her collection, which was mostly big band stuff. Harry Bellefonte was another early favourite of mine. My parents would buy me kiddie records like Disney and Yogi Bear-type stuff. I loved those too. I'm talking about when I was 4 years old. I think I was aware of a newer-style of music called "rock and roll" but my grandfather (who I was very close to) always made fun of it. He would say it was nothing but (mock sing-shouting) "Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Oh Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! I'd laugh and agree with him though I really hadn't a clue. Then my friend across the street (who had a few older brothers) invited me over to listen to music that he likes and he played me an album by The Monkees. The first song I heard was "She" and by the time I got to the 3rd song "Mary Mary" I was completely hooked. He told me this band had their own TV show and it was on tonight. I couldn't wait. I sat by the TV until it came on and enjoyed a few minutes of the coolest zany-est comedy I'd ever seen, until my mom made me turn it off and come to dinner. I couldn't make her understand how heartbreaking it was to press that off knob and go eat. I think I started making up my own songs around that age but they were not very original. Just stupid kid lyrics to an already famous melody.

BOB. So what was the first song you wrote?

MM. The first actual song I wrote that was any good at all was called "Georgia Apple Wine." I was 12 years old. I've never recorded it. My first band was with Scott Tabner on guitar, Ian McCormack on bass and I was the singing drummer. We had known each other since we were six years old and we always pretended we had our own rock group called “The Jelleybeans”. When we were old enough we begged our respective parents to buy us instruments, which they eventually did and once we had the stuff we became the local garge rock band. We were The Bronze Serpent then but soon switched to the name Marikesh and added Dan Rhyand on keyboards. That was my band for over 12 years. We released our own LP in the mid-eighties and a couple of singles, while reaching some sort of a "hometown heroes" status. Local radio stations weren't locked into a strict playlist then and we were fortunate to get some good airplay. After Marikesh disbanded in ’86 I was tainted toward the idea of forming another group. I got in the habit of recording alone in my studio and making albums that never materialised. I got into doing a lot of production works for the local Toledo bands and that kept me busy. Then an old friend of mine Mark Kelley called me up one day and asked if I'd consider being in a band if the band agreed to play my songs. I thought that was okay as long we didn't have to become a recording entity. I didn't want to put that kind of labour into a group that would just fizzle out again. I liked to record by myself and if these guys wanted to play my songs live then I'd go along with that fine. He suggested calling us The Mark Mikel Band but I suggested Hallucination should replace the word Band to give it more pizzazz. I thought it had a Jimi Hendrix Experience sound to it. I didn't really like the name but inside I thought this group would only last for a few months so I wasn't that precious about it.
So Mark Kelley brought in his bass and Dan Chalmers to play drums and I brought in Glenn Blattner on lead guitar. I was to play rhythm guitar and sing my songs. We were more successful than I'd thought we'd be. Winning a few “battle of the bands” competitions and getting to play openers for big shows for the likes of "Bad Company," "Cheap Trick," and "King's X." So... here I had a band that really rocked and played MY songs. How lucky can one be? It seemed like a good idea to release a solo album made up from some of the best songs I'd recorded up to that point.
Dan Chalmer's was obviously very rock steady. He was so good I'd include him in the studio on most occasions. Dan had the most, easy going, eager to work and please, attitude that I'd ever experienced from a musician. He loved my songs and loved being the drummer on the recordings. The other guys would get invited over less but still made it onto a few songs. Mark Kelley was still pretty new to the bass guitar because he'd been a drummer for so many years. Glenn Blattner just wasn't crazy about my songs.
When this first "solo" album, "Sorghum Pudding" was released in mid-1993 there were no other Toledo rock groups with CDs available. So again local radio was very willing to play it. "Out In The Midnight Rain" was the track played mostly. I find it hard to listen to Sorghum Pudding nowadays because it was recorded to please Def Leppard's producer/engineer Mike Shipley. I think I was making too much concession to the music scene at the time to please him. He was courting me with a possible record deal for about a year and a half. Mike's own career was getting a bit wobbly at that time so he eventually decided he couldn't take me on. Anyway, after all that I felt liberated and confident enough to do a new album that was more me...more what I'd like to do.
And the band kept continuing on, even though the lead guitarist role kept constantly changing. We'd added a keyboardist, Steve Eyer and a background singer/percussionist Dave Murnen. We'd had so much fun becoming famous in our hometown with Sorghum Pudding that we were eager to release another. The Idiot Smiles was released in late 1994 and, though I believe that album was so much better than its predecessor it basically died on arrival. By that time, every garage band in town had their own CDs pressed, so radio stations, rather than dealing with that kind of onslaught, closed their doors for good. We just needed a good idea to get noticed again.
I had the braniac idea of doing an album comprised solely of cover songs by some of the many groups I'd produced records for. The idea was to try to do their songs our way and then give all the discs away at one concert, a tribute to the success of the Toledo rock bands. "Blatant Rip-Offs" was the first and only Mark Mikel Hallucination album and it was a training ground intended to make the band an actual recording entity. By the time the CD was actually released the line up was Mark Kelley (bass), Dan Chalmers (drums), Dave Murnen (vocals/percussion), my old Marikesh bandmate Scott Tabner (guitar), and me (vocals/lead guitar/keyboards). That's the line-up you know today as The Pillbugs except Tabner has taken on the lead guitar role.

BOB. So how did The Pillbugs germinate, first gig, first recordings etc.

MM. I was becoming more uncomfortable getting all the attention with only my name being represented in the band's name and I think, possibly some of the other guys were becoming a bit resentful too. And as I said before, I never liked the name so I was keen on changing it even more than the others were.
This was 1996 and by this time everyone and their brother had their own crapball band. Techno dance clubs were really becoming the hang-out of choice for the hipsters. It was becoming almost impossible to get audiences excited about seeing an original rock group.
I couldn't blame them either. I felt there was nothing new for me anymore personally that I could find in a record store that I'd even like, let alone be thrilled about. This was definitely a national or even global problem for all I knew. So I had a vision of this new group that would be just what I would look for if I was walking into a record store. I always felt there was a black hole in psychedelic music. That Sgt Satanic Piper stuff that you just can't find. If anyone was carrying the torch at all it seemed to me they were still applying this "college-y dance" or MTV quality to everything. Nothing seemed authentic unless it was authentic. But what if there was a band that sounded like it hadn't heard any disco, hip-hop or U2, REM, Gun n Roses, or Nirvana? I’m not knocking that music or their influences but it was so much easier to find. It's still that way today.
We still sustained a modest following when we changed from The Hallucination to The Pillbugs and gigs were different in name only until the first CD was released.

BOB. So when did you first feel that you were a proper band?

MM. I didn't think we were a proper band until we'd finished the first Pillbugs album. It wasn't until then that we could really see ourselves. That's what we can do when we try our best. That's what we are. That's what we sound like. Now we can feel it and live it. It was a myth that we created for us to step inside.

BOB. The sound on both albums is stunning, beautiful, overwhelming and endlessly detailed. What references were you taking in to achieve such an authentically psychedelic spirit while remaining current?

MM. Remaining current was a concern that I realised caused weakness in an artist. It was the element that killed Sorghum Pudding for me personally and I swore never to let it happen again. My tastes are extremely quirky because I feel records just sounded better pre-disco-era. There are some exceptions but it wasn't even really about that. I mean, how many albums amaze you like Pet Sounds? Where are the masterpieces where instruments and sounds appear unexpectedly or arrangements were colourful but somehow still managed to rock? With great vocals, songwriting, bass playing, drumming, guitars, orchestration, harmonies...everything. Real instruments and no sampling, sequencing, or Lexicon crap to kill the human element. Where the different conglomerations of sounds, create an alternate universe rather than a mental-picture of a band jamming onstage with really cool clothes. I wanted to make a rival for Sgt Pepper. Inside I knew we weren't as good as The Beatles, but I wanted us to believe that we pretend at least while in the studio. So really the next idea for us to get noticed was to arrogantly believe that we were making "the best album ever" and...uh...make it a double.
I wanted everyone in the group to get a really arrogant attitude about our next recordings, a complete Zen-like approach. We were not to re-write or re-create anything that came before us. It was the spirit and attitude only that we wanted to retain. As producer I tried to make sure every little sound mattered. And there were many little sounds. I wanted as many instruments as I could get to make appearances throughout the album. I made sure that feel was king and not perfection because I tend to hate albums that sound too perfect, like no one's having fun and I wanted the songs relatively short and very melodic. It had to have push and pull, light and dark, control to cacophony or constantly at odds with itself. No two songs could sound alike either. Every silly idea we tried, whether it was swinging microphones around the room, bastardising the string section by sending them through guitar stompboxes, or ping ponging tracks till we achieved 70 voices, seemed to work magically. Echo and phase shifting were done with two tape machines or an old Echoplex.

BOB. I’ve always considered The Idiot Smiles imbued with the musical adventurism that came from the sixties era so you don’t seemed to have tailored your songwriting for the Pillbugs.

MM. My approach didn't really change, however a lot of the songs wrote themselves by just letting tape roll. "Illuminating Drink" would be the best example of that. The band were only in the studio to record a weird improvised ending to We Are The Orange Sky People. We kept on going and never stopped until the tape rolled out, 30 minutes later. After editing it down the overdubs flowed as magically out the air as the basic tracks. Some of the lyrics wrote themselves as a result of written lyrics played backwards. My songwriting process is normally just me humming and singing broken phrases and melodies on the piano or acoustic guitar until something connects. I always finish the lyrics last but sometimes a lyrical phrase or title will spark the whole song. I think lyrically I was consciously more playful than usual for the first Pillbugs album.
The other Bugs got their feet wet, songwriting-wise, on that first album. I requested that each one of them do at least one track for the album. Not only did they come through but their songs, in my opinion, are strong and memorable. Davey's "Comburda" and Dan's "Goodnight To Babylon" are stand-out tracks for me.
That all being said, it's not the greatest album ever made but I think we achieved an important album in the genre. It's hard for anybody when you're that close to a project to see it from an outsider's eyes. You never get to know the experience of hearing it fresh for the very first time. I think we made an album that I would buy and thoroughly enjoy.

BOB. What was the response to the album?
I don't think the response was tremendous. I know we as a band loved it and believed in it but we knew we were travelling a bit out there for the average Toledo rock fan. There was no radio play or big hurrah in the papers. It wasn't until we got on the internet that things started taking off. I still run into people in Toledo who say they are huge fans of mine but have never heard The Pillbugs, since we changed the name of the group, we were basically starting from scratch again. To get people to come and see us, we would perform The Beatles Abbey Road album in it's entirety for the first half of our show and then play The Pillbugs stuff the rest of the night. We tried performing as many songs off of the double CD as possible but some just weren't made to be reproduced live. The band become a different animal in a live situation. We have to be for obvious reasons. The best live groups are all that way anyway. Nothing is ever dead-on like the CD. The Pillbugs know to keep the spirit of the original recording intact without completely imitating it.

BOB. So when it came to the new album, what lessons do you think you took from the debut?

MM. Well I know the other guys learned that they could write good songs. So this time around they were ready with a few more. So much so that even some of their contributions were given the axe along with mine.
"The 3-Dimensional In-Popcycle Dream" wasn't as focused from the beginning. I think we were drained from putting our all into the first album. It took awhile to even have any kind of vision except to try to record and experiment. Though we were confident in who we were and what the measure of appeal our songs should contain, lots of songs were tried and rejected for one reason or another. When recording had stopped we had 34 tracks to release. It would have been another double CD but it didn't really flow well as one. Somehow it didn't seem as coherent as a double. 11 tracks were removed in favour of a stronger, more focused mood. I'm extremely pleased with it now.
BOB. What songs are you happiest with and what do you try for when writing?
MM. Songwriting for me comes in phases. I never know when it's going to be but I'll become focused on writing for weeks or even months at a time and then stop completely for months at a time. I need to purge myself of them by recording them thereby opening up the demand (in my own mind) for more writing. Some people write more lyrically and some others more musically. I think I write visually. I can almost picture the whole mood and sound before I start writing. If I don't know what I'm going for then it's much harder, but I can stumble upon many good ideas too. If it's too agonizing I don't force it. I just stop.
I'm always into the latest. I feel like I keep getting better and whatever my latest song is, it's the one I'm happiest with or at least most excited about. I know that the songs we have been recording lately are by far my best. I had a great period of writing in 2002 and we're only laying that stuff down now. Mark Kelley wrote his best one yet too. It's called "Alluring Martha."

BOB. You also play drums in The Sprags, how did that come about?.

MM. I was a fan of The Sprags back in the early 90's. I bought their first CD "Neighborhood Sounds" and was really impressed at their songwriting muscle. I approached them at one of their shows and asked to produce their next album. Through the recording of it we became friends. I was particularly impressed with Scott Hunt who was much more into music than the others. Scott was like me in alot of ways. The kind of guy who could play many instruments and spent almost all of his spare time writing and recording. We became great friends and he's a huge source of inspiration to me. I think he's one of the greatest songwriters who ever lived and the true genius behind The Sprags. He's producing the new Pillbugs album. When he and I work together it always comes out unbelievable. We're even trying to develop a sitcom together.
Scott has me play the drums on most of his solo albums too. His sister Shelby sings on them. Their latest "Sonic Symphony" is a pop masterpiece if I'd ever heard one.
When The Sprags lost their drummer, around '98 I think, they asked me to fill in until they found another. I loved their songs and hanging out with them (plus I missed playing drums) so I donated my services indefinitely. I wasn't to join the band as anything but a drummer. They didn't need another singer/songwriter and I was okay with that. It was fun to be in a supportive role for the first time ever. We still do it and the new Sprags album is getting close to finished.
BOB. Future plans?
MM. I've been getting into video and animation lately. I hope to become better at that soon. I want to keep making Pillbugs albums. The next one "Happy Birthday" should be out by June. I keep toying with the idea of doing another solo album but I think I'll wait for a good reason.

Mick Dillingham

Monday, 24 December 2007


Rainbow Quartz 2007

1. Here’s to the End of Time
2. Faceless Wonder
3. 4 sec Nightmare in a 5 sec Dream
4. Good to Be Alive
5. All in Good Time
6. Make Like Arthur Lee
7. Alluring Martha
8. Charlie Blue Car
9. Hold Me So Near
10. King of Zorg
11. Spaced-Out
12. Liberty Town of Love

Rainbow Quartz is an innovative record label started by music attorney and former musician Jim McGarry, who is located in Manhattan. The label is currently distributed worldwide by Red Eye USA. At a time when major labels are becoming mega-corporate-monoliths with diminishing interest in the underground and alternative music scenes, Jim McGarry has "first look" as both an attorney and international label A&R source at some of the finest, most talented, and interesting unsigned artists and bands in the world. Rainbow Quartz releases guitar-pop and rock with a jangly psychedelic edge as well as solid singer songwriters and bands with a cerebral and artsy bent.

RQ bio. This fab Ohio-based psychedelic pop band have agreed to release a formidable compilation of their most serious forays into guitar-based psychedelia (which includes some remixes) – with the opening two tracks on the album being brand new, never before heard perfect pop confections. Track 1 is downright REVOLVER-esque with sitars galore, evoking early TRAFFIC. Track 2 is one of the most perfect pop songs we have heard in years with chiming guitars and gorgeous harmonies. The album also boasts sophisticated sounds that would make BILL NELSON of BE BOP DELUXE smile. This is a must-have album for any Rainbow Quartz fans of MYRACLE BRAH and COTTON MATHER – and just about any fan of 21st Century BEATLE-esque pop and rock. THE PILLBUGS, proclaiming themselves “the world’s most psychedelic band”, are a Toledo, Ohio-based American psychedelic progressive rock group formed in the 1990s. Band members Mark Mikel (vocals/guitar/keyboards), David Murnen (vocals/percussion), Mark Kelley (vocals/bass), Scott Tabner (guitar), and Dan Chalmers (drums/vocals) released four albums of some notoriety: one landed them as the first rock band in history to release a double CD of all new original songs as their debut release (The Pillbugs), and another is the only known rock CD to contain a Viewmaster reel (The 3-Dimensional In-Popcycle Dream). Their third album Happy Birthday is considered their poppiest effort, and summer 2007 finally saw the release of Buzz For Aldrin. Their first release on Rainbow Quartz, Monclovia, is a “best of” The Pillbugs’ heavier guitar sound. The dozen strong, catchy tracks were hand-picked from previous releases by Rainbow Quartz label owner Jim McGarry and promises to put The Pillbugs on the map.

Mark pointing out the fact that Monclovia is available everywhere including Bestbuy

Mark Mikel. "There's two new tracks on Monclovia. I wrote 'em. Dan drummed. Scott Tabner played guitar. Davey was MIA on both tracks, I think. Scott Hunt played tamboura, bass guitar and organ on Heres To The End Of Time. I played guitar, bass, guitar synthesizer and organ on FW and sitar on it.
Faceless Wonder was extracted from the Buzz CD line-up. Heres ToThe End Of Time was recorded specifically at McGarry's request. I sent him the demo that was actually meant for Scott Hunt's and my new album we've yet to do. Jim loved it and asked that we record it proper for his release. He was worried that it was too fast and he didn't like the blue note on the verses but he eventually changed his mind. (The song is in C and the blue note is the flat 5 and in this case would be Gb. Reach my arms as far as I can seeee-eeeeee. The blue note is on the first half of "see." And also on words in the lines with the same melody- "Grabbing for the wonder that remai-ains.")
The remixes are my mixes. They were meant to help give the album some more worth to people who already own most of the songs

I remember being elated when Jim told me he wanted Alluring Martha on the CD. He had already picked the 12 songs that were to be used for Monclovia. I was down in Mansfield Ohio at Ken Dudley's converting all the analog versions to be used to 24 bit. digital. McGarry happened to call me while I was there to tell me of a recent revelation: "We gotta have Make Like Arthur Lee and Alluring Martha on this thing. I love those songs." I was really fucking thrilled about Alluring Martha being added. He kept adding more after that and it was starting to get up to 16 songs. I told him the genius of his comp was keeping it 12 songs- if we keep adding more songs, then it's not going to be as tight and powerful. All the other bug discs are like 2 hours long so this would be a great move. So three songs that were supposed to be on Monclovia were deleted (Wait a Minute, Son of Shirley and Walking Along an Edge of Sky)."


Mark Mikel “It seems to be the most misunderstood genre in the history of rock and roll. I find it the most enjoyable because experimentation in (writing, sound and lyrics) is the first rule. What other genre can boast those qualities? I don't like that it's still associated with drugs. Virtually every music of any style has had its share of druggies. I find the music more of a substitute for drugs than a companion. It's also the most exciting genre (when virtually all genres bore me because of their lack of exploration)... even 40 years later. When was the last time you heard something really colourful, fresh, rocking, melodic and sonically daring released as a single? It's almost as if those qualities are outlawed. As if record companies are afraid of them.

******And it IS the record companies- not the lack of newer psychedelic groups. There's probably more psych bands than ever before now. Intelligence and their target audience are not seen as something that can intertwine.. Sometimes I wonder if the whole '67 psych season was closed early due to the whole misunderstanding. Kind of like "I can't do those drugs I'm not going to be doing that music anymore." Then people just distanced themselves. I sure as hell wouldn't want people to feel I was telling them to do LSD just because my music sounds like an aural hallucination. I believe that the rule has reversed in modern psych. I don't see LSD at all involved in the new psych scene. It just seems to be made up of people who still really like to listen. If you're going to sit and just listen-it's very fun and rewarding music- psychedelia is really the Disneyland of rock and roll.The 1960s fashion, image and idealism that accompanied psych ate it alive really. But all those great psychedelic albums and hits have aged better than almost any other music. We still seem to love Magical Mystery Tour, Are You Experienced, The Piper At The Gates... and all that wild music from the late 60s. True music lovers are amazed by that stuff- without tripping, being sedated or hit on the head.

I was 6 years old through most of 1967. I'm not really in a position of authority on the subject. But as a musician in a modern day psychedelic band, I can draw you a picture of how someone may have been affected by it enough to carry a torch against all odds.My earliest memory of becoming remotely aware of the word psychedelic was seeing Micky Dolenz say it at the end of the Daily Nightly clip. But the word meant nothing to me for the rest of the 60s. It meant as much as "far-out" or "out-a-site" or "sock it to me." It was just another word that was part of the crazy culture that was unfolding. Even at that young age I was aware that the world was a very different place than it was a few years prior.It wasn't until early 1974 (when things got a little tamed) that I started lamenting over the loss of the radical attitude and excitement that to me was extremely colourful or..."psychedelic." I felt robbed because as soon as I was old enough to go buy my own music- the good schtuff wasn't being made anymore. I was 12.So that's when I started digging into the music that was made before. I've kinda always been that guy ever since. I remember being teased in 8th grade for being a Beatles fan. There were other great bands around but nothing blew my mind like the rich sounds of well done psych. Strawberry Fields Forever, I am The Walrus, Eight Miles High etc... I've had many love affairs with different music over the years but songs like that always seem to haunt me the most...even to this very day.

So in my mind there has always been a big void of true listening music in the pop/rock arena. There was that one little beautiful moment so many years ago when it was alright to go where no band has gone before. I've mourned the death of that spirit for years. I still believe that love is the answer but that's not cool anymore either- what can you do? Country music, jazz, rap, metal, blues etc...have all been celebrated for years to the point where nobody's going to even point a finger at you. But with psychedelia, critics become holier than thou and fault you for your if you have no right to carry that torch. That attitude has created a great void in the world's musical catalog. I've been trying to do my part to fill that void- not to change the world, but mainly for personal reasons.
What is psychedelic? Is it sitars and backwards instruments? Possibly. Many people think of The Grateful Dead as psychedelic but they never really used that stuff much, did they?Is it singing about laughing gnomes, white rabbits and walruses (walri?)? That could do it for some too I suppose. Our method is to use songwriting, instruments, vocals and recording techniques as color and make lots of colors. Varied and unexpected. We re-invent ourselves with every song. You never know what the next song or album will be like. You can just count on the fact the "love" was put in. It will always be a result of musicians trying their very hardest to bring you a high-quality listening experience.Then we say on our website "The world's most psychedelic band," and I'm sure that gets interpreted in people's minds many different ways. It really means nothing and at the same time means everything. It's just our way of drawing attention to ourselves, isn't it? We say we are, so we are. When we started The Pillbugs in 1996 we were not aware of any other modern-day psychedelic groups. There might have been other underground psych bands but we knew nothing of them. We thought it might be a good idea to try and fill the gap. Nowadays it seems there is much less of a gap to fill. I'm aware of the underground psych bands. Psych/pop connoisseurs like Valis and Mick Dillingham (Bucketfull of Brains) have turned me on to so many psych bands it's inspiring and somewhat discomforting at the same time. We have much competition now. Try to observe and separate what's weak in modern psychedelic music from what's meaningful and timeless. Just like every other kind of music there's good and bad psychedelia too. I have no interest in bands that set up strict boundaries by what's already been done. These guys are just re-hashers and do little to contribute to the growth. The Beatles still cast a huge shadow on this particular community and when bands try to imitate them it just always ends up sounding contrived. Musical cliches (even ones created by The Beatles) have to pretty much be considered taboo. They can be used, but you must do it with a wink because everybody can see through you. The important thing is to think like the greats- not imitate their sound and arrangements. Although it's fun to do as a learning experience. Take it farther and every now and then back up and start again and take off in another direction. For me it is key to really make it a very likable song. I like to slightly challenge the listener but keep my arms around them at the same > time. I like catchy but clever lyrics and melodies and I don't see that changing anytime soon. I like everything to hit you hard and deep. I want people to smile at least once during every track. I want the songs to have a real strong purpose or motive. Don't want them just sitting there. The Pillbugs' psychedelia is the new and now of the genre. Along with all the now countless others, be it The Virgineers or The Squires of the Subterrain or whatever, we are all here defining or redefining what psych music is in our time. If we do it, it's authentic because it's us. We own it. We inherited it."

heres a link to a great british psych site


Mark Mikel “It is incredibly hard to master the instrument but for a guitarist with patience, the sitar can make some pleasing sounds. I never learned properly like George Harrison did. I wish I had Ravi Shankar sitting next to me to show me some things. As with almost any instrument I play- I take time to reacquaint myself with it before I do any recording. You see credits for me like French horn, sitar, accordian...etc and I really can't play those instruments. I pick them up then work something out that might be suitable. It might take me a few hours.These same situations can apply to guitar/drums/keys/bass and even vocals. I have to give myself a reacquainting period. If I was a performing musician, it would be easier to master whatever instrument I use. "No audience" means that I have to somehow keep up on all these instruments by motivating myself.

The acoustic sitar has frets that you supposedly can move for a particular scale. I don't really think that's wise to do more than once- if at all. Maybe they have different sitars for different keys (like harmonicas). It just was a mistake when I tried it. It was never the same afterward. When I bought my new sitar I resigned myself to never adjusting the frets more than a slight hair. If I need to change the scale, I just change the pitch on the tape machine. Tuning it is a bitch because there's 18 strings and it's not an exact science. Sometimes a good ear is more detrimental for that reason.The toughest part is holding it properly. I've gotten better at it over the years but, I can't sit that way for long. Many of my tracks have the sitar up on a stool and I just stand next to it and play. I wish I could just once see someone play one in person.That sitar piece by Anoushka Shakar is my favorite part of The Concert for George. She was sorely missing from OUR Concert for George
The electric sitar I have is made by Danelectro and called the "baby sitar." It's just like a guitar with a semi-teardrop or gourd shape body that has a bridge that sizzles the strings like a sitar. You play it just as you would a guitarYes, we've used my electric sitar a number of times. Scotty the T played it in NYC on Here's to the End of Time. You can see him using it in the rehearsal video on YouTube. It's been on all our albums, but its appearance can be slight. I'm pretty sure it's on Plastic Surgical Holiday (but not the main solo- that's the acoustic one). It's used on Popcycle Island and Neo Mega Quasi...It's possible it's not used on Happy Birthday, I suppose, but at the moment I can't think.It's definitely on Buzz for Aldrin and Cosmic Surprise."


Sheriff Ape

Mark Mikel of The Pillbugs creates flash cartoon. Theme song by The Pillbugs. Voice talents include Scott Hunt and Dave Murnen. Very Funny!...

Smile- the great lost masterpiece

Mark Mikel “Well the way I see it, The Beatles considered themselves to have only one band in real competition with them-The Beach Boys. They admitted this many times. The two bands were constantly trying to "one-up" each other in the rock and roll "re-invention" game. Brian's answer to Rubber Soul was Pet Sounds and though the album wasn't a huge commercial success, it influenced music itself beyond any real definition. The Beatles were trying to better "Pet Sounds" when they did Sgt Pepper.Brian was doing Smile as an answer to Revolver. He knew The Beatles were cooking up something else huge so the race was on. When Sgt Pepper came out first, Brian knew he was defeated and gave up on Smile. The other Beach Boys basically took over and released the watered down and totally confusing Smiley Smile.

Had Brian not given up and instead released this masterwork in '67 (post-Pepper), I grant you it may not have tore up the charts and the hippies might have bashed it, but that album would have been in the general musical (and non-musical) public's reach for almost 40 years now. Music that great and significant would stand very tall among classic albums nowadays. And think of the influence it has already had just from being bootlegged. Really even Smiley Smile's influence is hard to escape among pop writers today.I would bet it would have been top 10. Maybe even #1 in the UK. The Beach Boys were already #1 in the UK when Brian was working on "Smile." I think it was way original and different enough to not seem like Brian was jumping on any band wagon.At least it would have had a number one single on it -Good Vibrations. That's the song they used to sell Smiley Smile instead.I know I would have bought it years ago and it would have had a very profound influence on me. I don't think in that way I'm very unique.I would still like a properly mixed and mastered version of the unfinished album. Judging from the ones they finally released on The Beach Boys boxset, they would sound fantastic. Hope I see it before I die. I don't care that it's not finished at this point.That album not coming out in 1967 is one of the all time greatest rock and roll tragedies. It would have changed life as we know it. It came out much too late to matter."

Mark Mikel's dream production jobs

Mark Mikel has produced many local bands down the years but if he could pick anyone to produce who would he choose?

“Here's my dream list- keep in mind that this is to produce- not to be an actual part of their band:
Paul McCartney. I'm still in awe of the big Macca. I think Chaos & Creation it's his best production since the early 70s. I don't mean it's as good but it's pretty darn close. The production has been crappy on many Macca albums but aside from the odd dodgy or unfulfilled composition, his writing is still very strong in my opinion.I know this sounds cocky but Paul should have his next album recorded by Scott Hunt and me. That would be a brilliant move on his part. He needs to leave the multi-million dollar crapball studios and get into mine where only music matters- not a bunch of "digital gadgets&fixes." We know exactly how we'd produce him because we discuss this all the time. I've studied his music for most of my life. I feel like I know him. Paul's biggest enemies are "perfection" and that lounge-style of singing he's employed since Broadstreet. And if the drum sound is not right (which it rarely is)- forget it. If it's too perfect and spot on- there's no saving the track. Still the McCartney era is almost over and he's done well more than his fair share of great music.

The Monkees. As arrogant as this may sound-and though they deserve it anyway- I can virtually guarantee their place in the Hall of Fame if they have one more go the right way. It's just something I've believed for years. Even though they're still alive- it's probably too late. I've studied their music since the earliest age. The Monkees' career is plagued with bad decisions. Out of roughly a dozen albums they only have 2 consistently great ones- Headquarters/PAC&J. "Head" is arguable- still it suffers from only containing half an album's worth of songs.Most anything they've done since has only confirmed in my mind that they don't understand their own strengths and appeal.

Producing Brian Wilson would scare the hell out of me- but I'd love to keep him away from digital instruments. I have the new version of Smile I think they did a great job. The only drawback (to me) is the vocals. There's no way to reproduce those magical voices singing together. Brian's voice isn't quite right either. I wish he could have finished it when Carl was still alive. No Carl Wilson vocals is the biggest downfall of all. I Do love how they went back to the old studio where it was originally done and used the old equipment. For that reason the music is very well produced. It's easily the best music that's come out in over 20 years. That writing is totally sent from God.

The Rolling Stones, The Kinks or Ray Davies, Ringo

There are others out there, who are still performing or still able to record, that I think I would benefit from getting their hands dirty in my studio:The Moody Blues, Strawberry Alarm Clock, Steppenwolf (but only if they include Goldy McJohn), Peter Frampton, Tom Jones, The Zombies, Ian Hunter......

Every day is one more day too late, guys. C'mon.”

Some Rare Songs

Mark Mikel.....................................Elanie Mickel
Mark Mikel: "Earth Fogged Over is a cool one from 1987. It was super ambitious- that's for sure. My mom (Elanie) is singing backing vocals on that one along with an ex-girlfriend Merri Shivelbein (now Montgomery) Dan Rhyand and T.J. Evans. T.J. was substituting for Scott Tabner who had washed his hands of Marikesh a few months earlier. Because Scott wasn't part of it, I don't consider it a true Marikesh recording really. But Ian McCormack's bass playing is totally off the hook. His bass parts were so great that when I listen to Marikesh recordings, that's always what I focus on. Earth Fogged Over is one of Ian's best.

Jeff Kollman

Still Much Better You Than Me is from '87 or '88. I know I wrote it in '87 but I think it wasn't recorded right away. The only memories that stick out are the taunting "nah nah nah nah nah" sound of the sped-up backing vocals and a train whistle at the end. Oh yeah... and Jeff Kollman played the lead guitar solo. He was my best friend back in the late 80's to early 90's. He's one of the greatest guitar players to ever walk the earth and a very successful session musician out in LA nowadays. He's worked with virtually every biggie in the business- including Linda McCartney. He also has some music in the recent Fantastic Four movie. There's a few songs that Jeff had me finish writing for him. He'd give me the music and I'd write the lyrics, vocal melodies and harmonies over it. That's happened three times and all three songs are included in the first 100 MP3 set. Don't Listen to Your Head, Come and Rule the Night Time. and Crowd of None.

Mark and Jeff

Day of the Time to Come Gone By is the first song I ever used a sitar. It's from 1988 and I play all the instruments though Dan Rhyand sings backing vocals. The Hallucination used to play this one a lot when we first started out.

It Will Be You was based off a guitar melody from an earlier song called The Rules. It's a solo recording from 1982. The vocals are pretty cool but the music sounds a lot like The Doors.

Plastic Girl was an experiment. It must have failed because it's obvious to me that I never finished it. From 1984, it was a contender for the Love Is What You Want LP. The experiment was: do a different guitar riff every time after each vocal line. Normally you would want a nice catchy guitar riff to be repeated. I wanted a bunch of confusing ones that were NEVER repeated. If anyone ever tried to learn them they would get a severe headache. I don't think anyone in Marikesh thought it was a good idea- including me. We really didn't want the headache.

I recorded the original versions of Let it Not be Forgotten and Passage of Eternity in 1990. Those songs became early Hallucination "live" staples. We re-recorded both those songs as a band in 1991 (not too seriously). I think we were just making tapes to get gigs. When it was time to mix for my first solo album, I chose the '90 version of Let it Not and the re-made '91 version of Passage. Passage seemed to really capture what the band actually sounded like. It was one of our most popular songs at the time.

Fat Evelyn was recorded in 1990. It was the first I worked with Scott Tabner in a year (and that was only because he did that Marikesh reunion song in 1989). He and I laid down countless guitar tracks doing the same line and that's how we got that big sound.It may be the only recording I've ever done that had my voice running through a digital effect. Jeff Kollman lent me an ADA effects unit that had 1000s of crazy sounds. It was then I discovered I don't ever want to own any digital effects. I did use it that one time though for the deep voice chanting at the end.I know it's based around an experience I had of seeing the fat lady at the county fair. She was so huge and smelly. It was disgusting really. So the lyrics aren't that sympathetic. But they aren't geared toward overweight people- just toward a person who is SOOOO BIG that people will pay money to see her. "Who knows where her body ends and where her heart begins?"But I wrote her a dark love story and made her husband Jack the Clown who never put her down. Jack used to be a woman or a nun or something. I'd have to look at the lyrics of the end chant.

Portait of Your Garden. It was written about my Mom. She's an artist- abstract realism with lots of attitude. I think she's the greatest around today. Anyway- she had this long narrow room that she painted in. She designed the house and this room had drains in the floor to wash away the paint. The room was formed by 2 long walls and 2 glass sliding doors. Sky lights across the top, windows all along one wall and plant-life all around.Looking through the glass sliding door was like looking at a painting in a way.So it's (the lyrics) images of her and the song is pretty abstract."