Mark Stoermer: “What does the future hold? No one really knows”
Taking a short break from The Killers, Stoermer's second solo album sees him venture into unknown territory.
Published: 2:06 pm, September 26, 2016
Mark Stoermer recently took some time out from his bass duties with The Killers to release another solo album. The follow up to 2011’s ‘Another Life’, ‘Dark Arts’ is an intricate work; a low-key, self-funded effort that came out via his own label, St. August Records. It’s a project quite different to his day job - as Mark explains.
Now the album is out, is there a sense of fulfilment or still a craving to continue?
How do you find the creative process compared to the group effort with The Killers, with you having complete creative control is it more or less daunting?
Democracy can be a bitch, but when it works it's a beautiful thing. Personally most of my favourite artists are bands. There are lots of great solo records, but nothing beats the magic of the band when it works. That said, you obviously get more freedom when you do your own thing. But that freedom can be overwhelming for me at times because I often get lost when it comes to deciding musical direction or production of a song. It tend to write lyrics first with just an acoustic guitar or a simple backing track I made on Garage Band. That is where sonically it can go so many different ways for me because I like so many types of music. I don't know if I want to make the song a metal song, a reggae song, or an electronic song. That is why I enlisted collaborator and friend David Hopkins to help me sort through, co-arrange and finish ideas.
You stopped touring with The Killers, will there be any form of live show for this solo stuff?
I'm exploring some options. It's too early to say. Honestly, I prefer the studio over the road, so if I do decent shows, it wouldn't be any kind of extensive touring.
Do you find the release of completely writing a solo album a different kind of rewarding to a joint effort?
Yeah it's a different experience entirely. In The Killers I've never written any of the lyrics. These songs are my stories, whereas in Killers songs what I've contributed with was strictly musical ideas. Putting yourself out there lyrically is a much more vulnerable situation.
Is this a way for you to exercise what creativity you don’t normally get to, or are hoping to pursue this further?
I think it is a chance for me to exercise different aspects of songwriting, especially the lyrics and the guitar playing. I also obviously have more say on the production and arrangement as well. I wouldn't say that these are the reasons why I do this. these are just songs that I had that I didn't believe would work in the killers setting, and I just wanted to work on them and record them on my own. I do think the process helps me grow as a musician in general. I would like to continue writing and recording songs as long as it is enjoyable for me. whether or not I make albums, is another question. Maybe in the future I will juste release a few songs at the time or short releases as eps. We will see. Ultimately it comes down to whether or not the process is fun.
Have the rest of The Killers heard it, and what were their thoughts?
I don't know if any of them has heard it. Definitely no one has told me they have so far. But I don't expect them to listen to it. This is just something I'm doing for myself. If someone listens to it, and enjoys it, it's a good thing. But I'm not fishing for input and compliments.
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I think if there was a fulfilment it's the completion of the songs. And now that it's out, I am looking forward to writing new songs. Most of these songs are already kind of old to me. I wish i could crank out a record in two weeks like some bands did in the 60s because years between records doesn't really make sense to me.
What perfect conditions should the listener be in for this audio experience?
First, prepare some sandalwood incense in the early or late evening hours, just as long as the sun is down. Set the lights to a nice orange rosy glow, and put on your best pair of headphones.
How does the process feel this time to the previous release?
The last album was more story based and I kept the songs relatively concise. In this album I let the songs breathe a little bit more and I got a bit more adventurous with the music and arrangements. Part of this was a result of collaborating with my friend and co-producer David Hopkins. Our common ground and influences like Pink Floyd to Mahavishnu Orchestra, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, is where we came together, and we tried to inject a little bit of those kinds of influences in the album. This was a much different approach to the more singer/songwriter style of my first record.
How does it feel being the focal point of a release?
This release is a small self-funded independent project. Relatively it has zero focus compared to the media attention that is given to The Killers' releases. It's barely a blip on the radar, and not even worth comparing.
As a music fan, do you think the album experience as a whole is something that is becoming rarer?
I think just by nature the way that people listen to music makes the album experience becoming rarer. If you're listening to an album out of your phone and on Facebook at the same time while responding to a text message and getting notifications from your favourite app at the same time it's hard to compare this with the days of album rock and the bedroom headphone experience. This is not necessarily a negative thing. It's just the way it is. Nothing stays the same. Everything changes. Really, it's the artist's job to be able to adapt to these changes.
How do you feel the world seems now compared to when you first started back in 2002, is there any reflection upon this in ‘Dark Arts’?
Back in 2002 I didn't even own a mobile phone. I went around the word for the first time with a disposable camera, and took some pretty good pictures. I lost this camera. Now I have thousands of photos on my hone, that I hardly ever look at. And every time I lose a phone, I lose these photos with them. Yes, I know there's this thing they call the cloud, but it doesn't seem to work. Maybe it does. I don't know, I'm old.
I would say that there is some reflection on the times. I think it's hard not to reflect on the times. As a songwriter or a person who makes anything creative, whether you like it or not, the spirit of the times will come through in its own way.
What does the future hold for you?
No one really knows. I try my best to think about today, tomorrow, and nothing further. I've learned this from someone else who learned it from a wise man.
Mark Stoermer’s album ‘Dark Arts’ is out now.