Interview: Mark Fry
Published on April 16th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
This Thursday, acid-folk hero Mark Fry will perform songs from his classic 1972 album Dreaming With Alice, with a few numbers from his acclaimed 2011 album I Lived in Trees thrown in for good measure, at The Village Underground in Shoreditch, London (click here to buy tickets). Furthermore – and get this – he shall be backed by a band comprised of the following…
Nick Franglen (Lemon Jelly) – music director/guitar/keyboardsNick Palmer (The A. Lords) – guitar/accordion/vocalsGrasshopper (Mercury Rev) – mandolin/woodwindGuto Pryce (Super Furry Animals) – bassMartin Smith (Tunng) – percussion
Pretty gob-smacking stuff, I’m sure you’ll agree, at least if like Rocksucker you happen to be a fan of all of the above bands (‘except’ for The A. Lords, who worked with Mark on I Lived in Trees but whose own fragile beauty we hadn’t investigated until word of this show spread, and which we shall take this opportunity to recommend). Suffice it to say, we fired some questions over to Mark in anticipation of this really rather special occasion; first though, please do enjoy this taster of Dreaming With Alice…
Why did you decide to play with each of Nick Franglen, Nick Palmer, Grasshopper, Guto Pryce and Martin Smith? Did you approach them or vice versa? Are you a fan of their respective day job bands?
Nick Franglen is a good friend, and together we approached the others with a view to putting together an ace band for this gig at the Village Underground. Yes, I’m a big fan of all their respective bands, and feel very lucky to have some truly wonderful musicians up on stage with me.
If the gig goes satisfactorily, will you plan more?
I’d like to think so; the rediscovery of Dreaming With Alice has opened up so many new avenues into my creative life.
I take it they’re all fans of yours. Has your lasting legacy taken you by surprise? Do you remember the moment you first realised how influential Dreaming With Alice had turned out to be?
Yes, I was very surprised…and I still am! I thought the whole Alice thing would slowly die down, but on the contrary it’s become like a rather magical fairytale snowball that gently crunches along. It’s taken me on the most extraordinary voyage.
I only became aware that people were listening to Alice a few years ago. My wife was Googling something about a painting of mine, when suddenly reams and reams of stuff came up about it. I was in bed with flu at the time, and she came into the room saying, “Do you realise you’ve become some kind of legend out there in cyberspace?” I groaned, begged for more Night Nurse, rolled over and went back to sleep. I still don’t think I’ve quite woken up yet.
Do you feel like there’s still unfinished business in any respect?
An artist’s life is full of nothing but unfinished business.
How did you decide upon which songs from the two albums to play at the gig? Did you choose, or did the others have input?
We went from the basis of playing every song from both albums, and then in rehearsals dropped the ones which for one reason or another we thought didn’t work so well in the context of a live performance.
Do you still relate to the person you were and/or state of mind you were in when you made Dreaming With Alice? Would you have used drums on the album were it not for the issue with soundproofing?
Yes, in a funny way I do still relate to that boy of far away and long ago. Music has this extraordinary capacity to transport you back to a particular time and place. Luckily that time around the making of Alice was one of the happiest in my life, so I’m more than pleased to play those songs again.
No, I don’t think I would have used drums, but I love percussion and I’m thrilled that Martin Smith from Tunng is playing with us on Thursday; he’s one of the very best percussion players around.
The term ‘psych-folk’ has often been applied to your music, especially with Alice. Do you like that? Are there any other rough categorisations that you’d prefer?
I don’t particularly mind psych-folk as a category, although I think I prefer acid-folk for the Alice songs.
Are you planning a follow-up to I Lived in Trees, or indeed any other kind of new musical undertaking?
No plans as yet. At the moment I’m working on the Dreaming With Alice songbook with illustrations by Iker Spozio. It’s going to be a very beautiful, letterpress printed limited edition, which should be published this autumn.
Do either your music or your art take priority over the other at all, or are they roughly equal concerns of yours? Does one skill/pursuit inform the other? Any exhibitions in the offing?
Having two strings to your bow can be awkward, but if you can keep them both in tune at the same time, it makes a wonderful sound. I’m hoping to have a show of my paintings in London towards the end of the year.
Are there any obscure and/or up-and-coming artists that you’d like to recommend or give a shout-out to?
Finally, if you were forced to spend the rest of your days in solitary confinement, but were allowed the entire works of five different musical artists to take with you to tide you over, whose would you pick?
Hendrix, Dylan, Ali Farka Toure, Neil Young and Joni Mitchell.
Mark Fry, thank you.
Mark Fry and Friends
Venue: The Village Underground, Shoreditch
Date: Thursday 19th April 2012
Time: 8pm (doors)
Box Office: www.ticketweb.co.uk
Nearest transport: Northern Line to Old Street/Central, Circle, Hammersmith & City and Metropolitan Lines to Liverpool Street