Every Monday we will be bringing you an unsigned singer or band as part of our Independent Music Monday feature. This week, we caught up with MarcusMIDI find out more about him…
Where are you from and how did you first get into music?
I was born in County Durham, grew up in Northampton, then went to university in Reading (mainly because one of my favourite bands The Cooper Temple Clause were from Reading and I wanted to start a band so they were my kind of guidance) and kind of didn’t leave for a few years after that. Then I moved to Sheffield to live with my then long-term partner. Now I’m stuck in a beautiful city surrender by people I don’t know. I’m kind of a quasi-luddite/quasi hermit that just wonders around the city gibbering to myself and recording stanzas and melodies as I go. I’ve never really belonged anywhere. It’s kind of a liberating feeling mixed with loneliness and a dash of fear and insecurity. I got to a point in life a couple of years ago after breaking my back where I realised that I thought I had everything and I was happy. And I was, but happiness is a bit like a box of strawberries. Once you’ve eaten them there’s none left and when you pop to the shops to buy another box you find out they’re out of season. Or worse, you live a lie and manage to get a box of ‘Winter Star’ grown in Egypt but available to buy in December. You buy the box, eat them and convince yourself that they’re really nice when in reality they are not at all. And deep down you know that.
Who were your musical influences when you were growing up and who are your influences now?
I grew up listening to Elton John, Japan, Paul Simon’s 'Graceland'. I got well into my alien trance and drum’n’bass acts like Eat Static, and then Marilyn Manson, Korn, System Of A Down and Rage. I never really focus on one genre really, I’m a sucker for a good melody, a good beat and also lots of noise like Sonic Youth, The Velvet Underground being my favourite bands. I’m massively influenced by Lou Reed and Television and of course The Cooper Temple Clause. Gary Numan and Human League also spring to mind, nice guys too. Truth be told I’ve become quite bored of guitar bands, I love The Strokes and The Cribs, I love Arctic Monkeys when they don’t sound like Arctic Monkeys. Their new album is a breath of fresh air, even though MGMT did it years again on their 2nd album ‘Congratulations’. That was a much bolder move, and an massively underrated album. I’m hugely into Lil Xan, $teven Cannon. Only 1 in 6 songs by Kanye are good. Kanye is fascinating in the way Puff Daddy was in the 90’s. Not a very good rapper, a good producer, self proclaimed genius - which means he isn’t. Fascinating stuff. Not a patch on the new talent though. Drake never lets me down. But I do prefer my old-skool hip-hop like J-Dilla, Biggie, Tupac and A Tribe Called Quest. I could go on forever with this one.. Sorry! Shout out to Test Icicles. The greatest 2nd album that never was.
How would you describe your sound?
Like Sonic the Hedgehog and Knuckles sharing a few beers with The Strokes. All the melodies are composed using old videogame chips that were used in the 70s and 80s to make game scores. So there’s a really cold raw DIY sound which is blended with late 70s GBGBs era sounding guitars. And then there’s just me crooning along in a conversational style about love, loss, depression and other little things like that. Happy music that reminds you of your childhood fused together with introspective naïve, nonchalant and often meandering lyrical content from someone who never finds the answers to anything.
What is your latest single called and what was the influence behind it?
My debut single is called ‘Title Screen’ following on from last year’s ‘Kingdom Of The Spiders’ EP. It’s part one of a trilogy of songs, the other two are in various forms of completion. I’ve always wanted to branch out in to a more hip-hop sound with the chiptune vibe. So my long-term partner of 6 years dumped me via text. It was one of those life-defining moments when I suddenly realised I was stuck in a city on my own with no friends or exposure to anything outside the studio really. And that love is a construct that serves no purpose other than to pull the wool over your eyes to the reality of everything else that is happening in the world around you. Love is as meaningful as a selfie. So in a feeble attempt to help get my head straight I went off to London for a few weeks sofa-surfing and binge listening to a lot of Drake at the time. I also found out I could play keyboard which I never knew till that time. So recording was fun. I brought my ex-brother in law Ant to play guitar on it. I picked him up from Northampton on the way to record with my long term producer friend Mike Collins in Margate. He had no guitar, and no idea what he was going to play. I realised I didn’t have a hook for the outro, just the chiptune melody line, and then kinda felt the pressure... So I went for a pee and then it just came to me. So I handed him Mike’s guitar and sang the guitar lines in my head to him and voila. He did the outro in one take. We had the whole song recorded in a few hours. Lyrically the song is pages long. The hard bit was figuring out what to include and exclude really. I think that’s why it’s only the first part. The next part ‘Root Menu’ is a lot more melancholic with an uplifting transformative vibe.
What’s your local music scene like?
No idea. But I do not, nor ever had had paid attention to any ‘scenes’ because my music doesn’t fit in to any so I’m completely removed from it all. Gives me space to breathe and not follow any trends. I just enjoy all forms of music, I like experimentation, but you can’t beat a bit of heavy metal or old school punk to get you going. That and maybe just chill out on the balcony looking at the moon whilst listening to Small Faces 'Ogden’s Gone Nut Flake'. That’s a perfect night right there. I’d like to see some good hip-hop acts in Sheffield. That’s my quest now, to seek out these artists. They must be hiding somewhere.
What do you have planned for the next 12 months? Any albums or festivals?
I am currently mixing my debut album, which is looking like a double album at the moment. I’m especially excited by the last track which just turns into a 7 min’s noise-fest of feedback and all manner of strange noises. That was probably the most fun part of recording this album. I recorded it in 7 days with Tom Bellamy (The Cooper Temple Clause) producing. But I’m quite OCD so it’s taken like 7 years to mix... That’s kind of where ‘Title Screen’ comes from too. It’s not part of the album, but more like where album 2 will go I think. I’m basically writing, recording and releasing things backwards. Why not... I am also currently rehearsing at Sheffield’s glorious Yellow Arch and should be hitting the live circuit, starting with Sheffield in August. London is already in the bag. I just need to set a date. When I’m ready, I feel about 95% ready. It’s quite exciting at the moment, especially with the reception online to ‘Title Screen’ it’s going to be interesting to perform these shows, and look in the white’s of people’s eyes whilst I sing.
Is there anyone you’d love to collaborate with?
Unfortunately they’re all dead. I suppose Julian Casablancas, making a song with him, duetting. That’d be cool. But I always think it would just sound like MarcusMIDI or The Voidz anyway.. Would still be interesting. Maybe a collaboration with Lil Xan, that’d be proper cool. I’m digging that. Lil Xan is the most punk thing out there. More punk than most punk itself. People hate his music, I love it. People hate that he doesn’t really rate Tupac, so what, I hate Muse. Doesn’t matter. I love that it pisses people off. And those Bobby Johnson beats are to die for. Maybe a duet with Post Malone, or Drake, hell, just get them all in on one track with me. Man, that’d be some epic stuff right there.
Any funny stories surrounding your live performances?
I haven’t performed live solo yet. But I’ve played a whole bunch of shows road-testing my material in the past. I have too many stories to tell. Let me think... I remember playing Leeds festival once and we were travelling from Reading and the journey was so long and sitting in the worst traffic known to man. I desperately needed a pee. I had to do it in a bottle. That was pretty humiliating, you’d be surprised how difficult it is to pee in a bottle when you’re desperate and you’re surrounded by truckers. We were running late because of the traffic and texts and emails were flying in left right and centre ‘where are you’ etc. I remember the whole car falling deadly silent for 20 mins while we all knew we weren’t gonna make it but no-one dared speak and admit it. We bowled onto site and literally straight on to the stage to perform whilst one of my favourite bands The Cribs were playing the main stage. Walking onstage to ‘Mens Needs’ is a great warm-up.
I remember reading the one and only review of that show. The reviewer rambled on and on about my hair and clothes for the whole article. He didn’t like the music. Or the hair. That’s probably my favourite review of any show. You know you’ve made your mark if they can’t be bothered to review the music but just your hair. Job done.
What is the one thing that you want readers to know about you?
I’ll throw a couple in for good measure. The first single I ever bought was ‘I’m Going Slightly Mad’ by Queen on cassette tape in HMV in Milton Keynes. That tape was literally on repeat for years. Just because I was born in the 80’s doesn’t mean I remember any of it nor does it make me an 80s child. I was a massive fan of Take That and couldn’t stand Oasis as a kid. I am still to this day not ashamed of that at all. You can like Take That and Lou Reed at the same time. I always thought Gary Barlow was one of the most underrated song-writers of his time. I was proved right years later (and still to this day). Unlike Elton John I do write all my own lyrics. Each of my songs has about 7 different lyrical versions. I am actually very shy inside, despite appearances. Finally, I never completed 'Resident Evil 2' because I invented a drinking game where you take a swig of beer every time you walk through a door. This was ill-advised as by the time you get to the end you walk through so many doors it's unreal. Suffice to say I got too drunk and ran out of ammo for the final boss and saved just before going through that door… So I could never, and never have, completed 'Resident Evil 2'. You live and you learn.