Silent Uproar: The new record is not out and the touring is about to begin, how does it feel? Do you feel pressure, or is it more of a relief now that the record is out?
Mark Engles: We don't really feel pressured. It's a relief like you said, because we can finally play and people can buy it at stores. We have been touring with these new songs for a year now, because the records been so slow you know. But it's not a big deal. At this stage we're not really in any rush. We're not trying to live off hype or anything, we're just doing what we do and, in fact the slower backups and things that can make things go slower may even help in the long run. It's nice to be in stores, and we like the album, we think its a pretty good album.
SU: I've read that you never consciously tried to create a new style of music, but through your desire to create something different, you actually have in a way. Is that something you see as an accomplishment or is it just like, "Great. We're just a band."?
Mark: Well it would be an accomplishment if you could say you created a new style, but I don't think we have yet. I mean I still think we're trying to hone our style a little more. I'm looking forward to writing new music already. But no we wouldn't brush it off and say whatever, it would definitely be a compliment, but I don't think we're there yet, you know, I still think we have some developing to do. It will always be like that.
SU: I would think the band would always be the last to see it. It would be a bit egotistical if you were like, yeah, yeah, yeah, we invented this thing and it's great.
Mark: But I think, once you have, and if you think you're great, you might stagnate a little bit. You need to keep moving on. To put yourself in this state of mind that you already have this style that's wonderful and great, it would be detrimental to your progression, unless your cocky, some of the bands out there like to claim they are cocky. It's bullshit.
SU: I think people are starting to recognize what you guys are doing and that it is something very different. It's hard to find something else out there today that sounds like you guys, or that are even in the same vein that your music is, it's really great to have that.
How did writing in the desert influence El Cielo?
Mark: I think most of all we just got away from everything for better or for worse we got away from our normal lives. We just lived together in a house. And I think, its just a way to write a record and not that it's the best or the worst, but it reflects the album, I think it was great for the album. But you know where you write your music definitely shows in what you come out with. Next time maybe we'll write a record in the middle of Manhattan or the middle of Chicago. We definitely like to switch it up. Next time maybe go someplace that is hectic and full of life.
SU: Do you think you'll want to separate yourselves again.
Mark: You have to be completely dedicated, in ways you go, the ways you do it. It's just something we decided to do then. I don't think it's the most amazing thing about the record was that we did it in the desert. It just reflects the album. Next time we'll go somewhere else and do it somewhere different and we'll come out from that state of mind. The mellowness of the record definitely reflects where we were.
SU: Besides time and experience, what's different between Lietmotif and El Cielo?
Mark: I think just looking at the songs and kind of molding the songs more. I kind of think Lietmotif was much more of a jam record. Which is great, which is good for what it is. But I think this album we kind of looked at every song for longer and under more of a microscope. We looked at each song and how we could make that song the best for itself. Rather than just going in and busting them out.
SU: When asked if the new album would have a theme to it, you said that it would but you'd like to see people figure it out. Well it looks like the Dredg yahoo group is really taking this somewhere. Have you checked out any of what they have been talking about?
Mark: I know of the yahoo group, but I haven't been on there in a while. I think Drew might have gone on there and printed something.
SU: Well that's kind of what they're running through now, trying to figure out the new album and just the overall concept of it. Basically the conclusion they have come to is that the record is basically an audio representation of a Salvador Dali painting. In fact someone translated the Japanese words in the Canyon Behind Her. SU: Is the painting you are referring to titled "One Second Before Awakening from a Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee Around a Pomegranate"?
Mark: Yeah definitely. We always hang up art whenever we write. It all came together. You know you have these synchronicities which happen. We happened to have that one up and the whole thing was about sleep paralysis. It just linked up. We decided to make that the underlying theme for some of the parts. But at the same time it's not a complete package deal. For us it's more of an influence, more of a direction. I like the fact that people are thinking about it.
SU: Someone at Interscope mentioned it to me that the group was talking about these things, so I went and checked it out. It was really amazing to see; one person would come up with something and tie it to something else and another person would come up with a little bit more, it was neat seeing how it had evolved.
Mark: That's great, really great.
SU: So along the same lines, it has been proposed that the use of the triangle is a symbol for change of some kind. Are we on the right track?
Mark: Correct, Delta.
SU: Cool. Ok, switching gears, would the new Queens of the Stone Age album be as good if Dave Grohl hadn't played drums on it?
Mark: Haha I knew you'd ask. I can't answer that question because it didn't happen. He is on that record and it is an amazing record. I saw it live too and it blew me away. But then again I've been a Kyuss fan since I was 14 so I'm sure if they put an album out now, with the drummer they have now, I forgot his name, I'd be into it. The guy that replaced Dave live is awesome too, but I'm sure I would enjoy any of their albums. I've been a Josh Homme fan since I was young.
SU: But like you said, you can't really answer that. You have to admit though, he added a little something to it.
I heard you were working on a silent film for Lietmotif, did you ever finish that or did work on the new album overshadow work on that project?
Mark: That's something that people kind of heard about and it kind of blew out more than it was supposed to. It was just something Drew was doing for fun. As an interest he does a lot of film stuff and then we got really busy with touring and making our album, so it got put on hold but I'm pretty sure he'd like to continue it. It was more for his own enjoyment than it was to be something we sell or market. It wasn't supposed to be at all like that. I'm sure he'll finish it someday. He's always got some projects going.
SU: What about a DVD release or something? Your music is so visual that it seems like that would be a natural fit.
Mark: Yeah, we're always thinking about alternative releases and things we can do down the road. Always.
SU: The artwork for the new CD is great. Did you guys have any input into that or did someone just whip that up and say "ok, here's the art"?
Mark: No that's Rohner. He's a friend of ours. He does the website, the album work, and some of our shirts. It's just a friend that does amazing work
SU: So did you have a lot of input to the design of your website as well?
Mark: Definitely. We did it together, and Rohner overlooked the whole thing. We'd sit down and have meetings together and kind of worked on it together. He was definitely the overseer of it.
SU: I know that to you guys it is an extension of the music, a visual representation of sorts. Do you ever worry that maybe it will turn away the person with casual interest because it isn't very accessible?
Mark: I don't really worry about it. But I could see how it could. It doesn't worry me because we know as individuals when we go to websites if something is interesting then that's what gets us going. I don't like going to websites and seeing a stupid picture of the band. You know what I mean? I'm not going to sit there and be interested and be motivated to look through that website. We see that, that maybe some people will be turned away, but that doesn't bother us.
SU: I guess the difference is whether you look at is as a way to express yourself or as a marketing tool.
Mark: Its just a place for people to go. It's still in the early stages, we want to get some more information up there, we want to kind of litter it with a bunch of little candy here and there, audio and visual and whatever it is. It's just a place for people to go if you already know about us, you go there to get some more stuff. Pretty soon we're going to put some live stuff up. We're going to put up some other rarities. It's almost like if you already know about us, you go there to find more. That's the way we look at it rather than if you have no idea who we are.
SU: Well how do you think that new fans hear about the band, is it word of mouth, the Internet, what?
Mark: I think word of mouth is number one right now. That and the internet are probably the two most important. That and seeing us live. I think that word of mouth has always been the best way to find out about a band. I mean all my favorite bands over the past 15 years, you know your friends told you about it, or your sibling told you about it. Those are the people you trust, so you automatically put your ears into that band because you trust the people that told you about it.
SU: How does that conflict with the interest of the label though? With being on a major label, it's no secret that their ultimate goal is to make money. They have to market it some how.
Mark: Right, it just matters how much time they are talking about making money you know. I think it depends on if you want to make money quick or if you want to make a career out of it. So I think we're not being pressured right now into doing anything.
SU: That's good to see that they are stepping back. It's moved from the 70's where it's all about developing an artist and giving them time to build a career and a following to making things completely disposable. It's got to sell 5 million copies this week and then we don't care in three years. So it's great to see that they are taking a chance with trying to build a career for a band again. That's good news.
On your website you ask your fans to send you their dreams, nightmare, sleep paralysis episodes, or lucid dreams. Do you collect these things to share with other people via the website or is there another reason you ask for them?
Mark: Yeah that was Drew's idea because we had poetry on our last website. We started getting these e-mails. It's funny because what happens is the fans kind of start it because they just start sending us stuff, people just started sending their experiences. They didn't know if it was sleep paralysis or what it was, but they would send it in. Those are things you try to describe to people but it's hard to describe without sounding boring. But I think, putting them in text rather than a verbal form is a lot more credible. You can get a lot more details a more visual figurative so, Drew just said hey, if you have these descriptions send them in. They're really just so interesting to read. We'll figure out, put them on our website, or do something with them.
SU: Back to the label for a second, what made you decide to work with Interscope?
Mark: I think it was just the overall lack of pressure that we were talking about earlier. They seemed relaxed there. It's not like we had six or seven labels looking at us. We weren't necessarily that band that every label wants. I think we were talking to a couple, two or three. We really enjoyed our A&R. He was a very kick back nice guy. He signed Jurassic 5, his name is Ben Gordon. He's just a nice guy, and everyone there pretty much understood it. If they didn't at first, they do now.
SU: Were you looking for a major label or did it kind of just happen?
Mark: It kind of just happened. I don't think we really set out for a major label. I mean we would have gone with anything that looked Markeficial. It came up, kind of shocked us that they were even looking at us.
SU: I'm somewhat impressed with Interscope that they would take a chance with something that's not quite so…I mean with as much music as we see come and go, it's just nice to see them take a chance with somebody. It kind of gives a little more credibility to the label to, to see they are doing things like that.
Mark: Even though they have all of these top 40's acts, a lot of their acts are controversial and they do their own thing, even though they are mainstream and they do sell 8 million records. A lot of those acts don't change when they become major. If they want an indie label they'd be doing the same thing.
SU: Like Eminem?
Mark: Right, like Eminem or No Doubt, whatever those bands are doing, they are still being themselves. Even though they are the pop mainstream.
SU: We all know for all practical purposes, you have to do press. I mean you are doing this interview; there will be articles in some magazines, etc. Yet, you clearly avoid any press, which would put the "image" of the band before the music. Do you think it is possible for a band to gain notoriety in today's TRL, radio station payola world without giving in to system at times?
Mark: I don't know. It's a good question. I'm not really a communication major. I'm no authority on that. We just do whatever we feel comfortable. If we don't feel comfortable we don't do it. I don't think we have a real mission or goal. All the stuff doesn't make you feel uncomfortable. I mean, even recently some stuff has come up, Spin reviewed our album and instead of putting the album cover they put a photo of us. I was really pissed off. It just makes no sense to me. But stuff happens, it's not the end of the world, we're still going to do what we do.
SU: And there's not a lot pressure from the label to be more press accessible?
Mark: No, not really at all. At first they were kind of like what are you guys doing, but we've been there for about a year and a half now, so they kind of understand.
SU: I think your albums definitely present themselves as more of an album, and not just individual tracks. Did you ever feel any pressure from Interscope to change the structure of the album to make it more song based?
Mark: No. They actually, people from the label came down once, maybe twice to the studio. If anything we got input on sound and how it sounds, but never once was there actual discussion on the actual writing or how the album should flow. Going into it we told them we were going to make an album that was more of a piece as an album rather than twelve songs thrown on a disc. If any input from the label it was more in production and sound quality you know. Rather than you guys need to do this, write this, do this lyrically, there was nothing like that at all.
SU: I know I keep going back to that, I guess it's just really is surprising to me in a way that you guys do have that relationship with them because I've heard so much of the contrary you know.
Mark: I think it's because we are such stubborn guys. We made sure everyone knew that there was no way we were going to do anything if someone was going to tell us how to do our music. We made that very clear.
SU: It's great that they respect that too.
So I know a tour is in the works for the rest of the year and into next year, do you know whom you will be touring with?
Mark: I think Code 7 if that works out on the east coast for two weeks and then kind of a weird tour but I think it'll be great because I love the band, I just don't know how well their fans will love us, Ozomatli. That will just like 10 dates with them. I've always been a fan of them, and just their whole organic fusion of hip hop and latin percussion and all that. We'll see how it works with our music opening up. But you know just to put ourselves in front of as many fans as possible is always good. We'll play our best every night. I think next year still, in the open, so we'll see what happens.
SU: I saw that you are going to be playing during CMJ, are you excited about that?
Mark: November 2. Yeah. I don't think it's a CMJ show, but it's during CMJ, so it's definitely going to be a CMJ thing. Probably be meeting people and all that business stuff.
SU: It's also a great opportunity to catch some good live music because there are so many great bands playing up there.
Mark: Yeah were trying to, we heard it cost a lot of money to get ticket for that, so we're actually trying to get in as fans because we heard there's so many good bands that we enjoy. Like Sigur Ross is playing, and who else, Ugly Casanova and Black Heart Procession. A bunch of really good bands. So we're trying to be fans too.
SU: Any bands in particular that you are into these days?
Mark: There's always some. On the way over here I listened to the new Lowe which is pretty good. My friend Rohner who does all the artwork turned me on to Richard Buckner, and he has an album called The Hill which I think is brilliant. Half an hour album, it's just one track and it's all this poetry coming from the perspective of people who've died. So it's bust brilliant. The way it's recorded, it's one of those albums you just put on headphones and it just blows you away.
SU: So is it all spoken word?
Mark: No, no, it's a completely musical album. He just put the poetry to music, turned them into lyrics and sings them. It's eerie because it's the southern drawl with the southern music about people who've passed away from their perspective after they have passed away. So it's got this dark undertone. But there's always so much to listen to. The new Godspead, Black Heart Procession, too much to list.
SU: What if any message do you hope that people get from listening to your music?
Mark: Message? I've never been one on messages, I don't think any of us are one on messages. I think the beauty of music is that you should be able to take what you want from it and no one is telling you anything. But just empathy, making people feel good from listening to our music not really a direct ideology, just that you listen to it and it makes you feel good. No matter what idea you're thinking about is. That's probably about it, rather than saying, here's the message. Then it wouldn't be free.
SU: Do you care if people get the music? I mean I know you would like to continue to live off the music and not have to work 9-5s, but beyond that do you make music more for yourselves or is there an inner need to get it out for people to hear?
Mark: It's got to be in the middle somewhere. Ultimately when you pick up your guitar or your drumsticks or your microphone, you're going to play something you like. You're going to try to write something you enjoy. But if you don't have an audience then what are you going to do. It's go to be somewhere in the middle. We write songs that we really enjoy. Then when we play it for people and they really enjoy it then that feels good, if they don't, what are you going to do. You can't really force that.
SU: Well that is all I have, do you have any shout outs or thank yous?
Mark: Just thank you. There are good and bad interviews you know.
SU: Thanks, we look forward to catching you on the road.