It’s hard to believe it’s been four years since Mark Eitzel played in Aarhus last, but it has. I can remember the show like it was last week. Eitzel and his touring band playing to an intimate crowd, the drummer with one arm in a sling from a slip on the ice the night before in Copenhagen (and going straight from the ER to the stage while their show was in progress) and Eitzel recovering from flu with husky voice, but giving it all to the crowd.
Mark Eitzel might not be a household name to many of you, but I’ve always thought of him as one of the best songwriters and singers of his time. His time, though, is just as much now as it was ever with the release last month of a new album Hey Mr. Ferryman. Every review possible of it has been positively glowing. Ferryman was produced (and performed on) by none other than Bernard Butler (founding member of Suede), and even though that union seems unlikely, the marriage of Eitzel’s chordy and beautiful songs paired with guitar and orchestral arrangements just fits perfectly. Ferryman is undoubtedly going to end up on year-end lists for every music rag out there, and deservedly so.
Mark Eitzel live is something to experience, though – especially when he stops by Helsingør Theater (Den Gamle By) this Thursday. He’s often prone to anecdotes in between masterfully performing cuts from his entire career (over 3 decades starting with his former band, American Music Club). I can only describe the times I’ve seen him as life-affirming, romantic, and totally worth whatever price is affixed to a ticket to go see.
I had a chance to chat with Eitzel while he was waiting in an airport to hop over to the continent from his tour dates in Ireland and the UK last week.
Firstly, how’s the tour been going so far?
ME: It has been going very well
How have audiences been responding to the new material?
ME: Yes quite well, actually.
Are the new songs settling well in a live setting?
ME: It’s hard to play these arrangements without all the album overdubs – and also without Bernard (Butler), but the players are amazing and the music sounds great so we haven’t had any complaints so far.
You’ve played a few times in Aarhus before (last time, your drummer had just broken his wrist or something and you all had the flu!), I wonder if you feel that by hitting some of these cities each time you’re over, that you feel you’re building and building on both a familiarity with the towns, and the audiences, faces, friends, experiences?
ME: Well I have the flu again and lost and regained my voice already – so that part has been taken care of.. I think it doesn’t help that we only seem to tour in February. Our drummer has all his limbs still working – and we are watching him to make sure he doesn’t fall over too often – we try to keep him walking over grass – and that hand rails are always available…
If you had seen our last show in Copenhagen, you would have felt the absolute warmth and beauty of that audience. They were so great. They put up with us and honestly I remember that night as a very warm thing – though the whole show I was freaked out about Stephen…
Due to the amazing Danish health care system he made it back to the club in time to play the last song with one hand. (he is a ‘rock warrior’ – and will kill me when he reads that)
“Hey Mr. Ferryman” (the album) seems like a take both on mortality and romance – do you feel the two subjects are in some way intertwined?
ME: Sex and death? Of course. It’s ‘classic’. Ha. Everything is temporary.
What’s obvious to me right now is that I have to make music that is good for me in a karmic sense – to make compassionate music – to not make sour grapes – to not just complain about shit. That’s mostly what is behind this one.
How did the collaboration come about with Bernard Butler?
ME: My current euro manager and Bernard both have children in the same primary school. They met there and I sent BB my current demos…
– and how did the songs evolve to sound like we hear them here?
ME: It started as an acoustic album. We scrapped that and decided to make a full band record. 15 songs in 10 days. Bernard is the kind of musical genius that never has to think too long about what is needed.
I wonder how it is to be an American and being abroad while all these crazy things are happening in politics back home?
ME: Actually, it is nice to be away from the dismantling of my government. Nice to have some distraction.
The odd thing about being a Californian is that our economy pays for this shit show – we pay for the sneers on their rat faces. We pay for their lies. We pay for their Nazi salutes. The worst part is knowing that all their noise will end with blood.
My heart is a slow car crash into a wall when I think about what is happening.
Are you getting schtick from the Europeans though?
ME: Not yet. I’m more afraid of my own countrymen.
Mark Eitzel (with band intact) will perform in Helsingør Theater, Den Gamle By Thursday 23/2 – presented by Radar.
Support on the night is by Fernando Viciconte (US/AR) and tickets are still available at 150 DKK HERE