(in uproarious Mexican accent) Uh..hello, ees thees Mark?
Oh, could you tell me if Pepe is there? Pepe Roni?
Heh heh. How's it going?
That's a classic. How ya doin'?
Great. How are you?
Good. Finally got it on CD. Have you heard this umm... Some other company put out this stuff, but it's like a different CD.
The Bum Bar Bastards?
Have you heard that one? It's like different stuff.
Yeah, I have it.
How'd that happen? Where'd you get the original ones?
There's actually a story on the web about it. I got it from these guys at Caroline Records in like the mid-'80s.
It's from the '70s?
I've heard various things. The Bum Bar Bastards people claim to be the original callers, but I've heard anywhere from 1969 to the mid-'70s.
Wow. Is it out of print for you now?
Oh yeah. They claim to have the exclusive rights.
Really? Did they tell you to stop putting it out?
Yeah. They've got a distribution deal with Sony or some subsidiary of Sony.
They didn't even use all the tapes though. I mean, there's some stuff -
Is there stuff on mine that's not on theirs?
I think so, yeah! There was stuff missing that I was waiting for.
I know that they have extra stuff.
Yeah. I haven't listened to the rest of this yet, but I bought the Screamer CD you put out too.
Is the Screamer track on this Tube Bar CD the same stuff that's on that?
Is the Screa - Oh, I see what you're saying.
Yeah, 'cuz I have the Screamer CD.
Yeah. The Screamer CD - the CD that has all the Screamer stuff - does include that material.
He's funny too.
Yeah yeah yeah yeah.
Well, you left off the girl - On the CD, I was wondering why you left off the girl with the uhh - you know, the girl calling the radio station.
Oh yeah! Ha!
It's a classic! You just liked the Screamer better, I guess?
Oh, on the Screamer CD? The Screamer CD was just the entire -
No, I mean when you put The Tube Bar on CD, you left her off.
Oh, I did? Yeah, I haven't listened to that in a long time. Oh, 'cuz she was on the LP.
I get what you're saying.
Oh sorry! Yeah, I heard the LP years ago.
Yeah, that's kind of a tricky situation because I'm personal friends with the person that played the radio man, and I don't think he was too excited to have that on there.
Ha! What are you up to these days? What are your latest -
I'm kinda doing solo stuff and beginning work on a new Flin Flon album.
Are you working on a new solo album right now?
Yeah, yeah. And I had one come out last year on a German label called Tomlab.
What's it called?
And what's the record?
It's called Origami & Urbanism.
Oh! Yeah, that's the one I can't find anywhere.
Yeah. Do you sell it on your site? Can I buy it through you?
Yeah yeah yeah.
Okay. I have your others. The only one I'm missing is the Flin Flon one where you had locked grooves between every song, because it annoyed me so much a few years ago, I sold it!
Oh. We got hatemail for that!
I wouldn't have sent you hatemail. I thought it was funny, but it was like, "Ah! I'm sick of standing up!"
People asked me for refunds and we got a couple letters that were pretty mysterious.
That's hilarious though. Why did you retire the name Unrest?
Why did I retire the name? The band broke up.
But you stayed with the one person in Air Miami. You just didn't wanna call it Unrest because of Phil not being there?
Well, I stayed with the one person but she was not an original member of the band.
Yeah. Oh, okay. That makes sense.
The guy who left the band was. If he was in the band, then maybe we would have called it Unrest.
Was that Dave Park or something like that?
Uh, Phil Krauth.
Oh, oh. I mean - yeah. Okay, yeah. I meant, uh -
You meant the other person.
Yeah. But that's good though! I mean, that's really good that you, you know, 'cuz a lot of people would have just kept the name going no matter who was in it at that point, you know? Because it seemed like you'd established a whole new audience since she had joined the band.
Because you changed the sound so much.
My wife just put a note in front of me saying, "Grenadine, Unrest - He is the most talented, best!"
Ha ha ha!
So yeah. She's very fond of both of those and also the Air Miami CD. I'm not sure she'd be so much into the Flin Flon. Might be a little too angular for her.
Yeah, I could see that. See, when I hear Flin Flon, I always think that too. Like that it sounds different from my other stuff. But then I read reviews of Flin Flon and they say, "Sounds exactly like Air Miami and Unrest."
Oh, no! No, really that's just lazy listening. Or maybe they just hear the guitar tone and go, "Ooooh." So I take it then that there won't be anymore Grenadine or Air Miami records?
Do you talk to those people anymore?
I talk to Bridget from Air Miami, and I just put out Rob from Grenadine's album with his band Sisterhood of Convoluted Thinkers, and I talk to Jenny Toomey occasionally.
On a completely different topic, the same time I got the Olympic Death Squad CD, it was literally like the same day that I watched a documentary about the '72 Olympics. So... would those two be related?
No. I can't remember how I came up with the name, but it had nothing to do with that.
Yeah. Isn't that weird?
Yeah. That's surprising.
I just wanted a name that sounded cool! Ha!
Oh okay. Heh!
And I think it was the year of the Atlanta Olympics. It came out a few months before the Olympics, and then there was a bombing. In '96. I kinda half-expected to get a call from the FBI or somebody. But then years later, I did get a call from the U.S. Olympics Committee, and they told me that I had to cease and desist. I don't know if you heard it, but I think like Congress passed some sort of law or something giving the Olympics Committee the rights to the name "Olympic." So they were calling up every company, like Olympic Paints, Olympic whatever, and telling them they had to change their name. So I was just one of the ones on the list.
Is that the only reason you started going by your own name?
No, I just used Olympic Death Squad for that one record. By the time they called me, I didn't care.
What does Urbanism & Origami sound like? I think I read a review that said it was different from your -
I think it is a little different. It has a lot of organ. There are guitars too, but there's more organ. And it's a lot more open-sounding. You know how my first two records were very closely recorded? This one's a little bigger-sounding. I think this new one I'm doing now is going to be even more different sounding.
What is your muse this time?
I don't know. I'm trying to write songs that don't sound like they came from me. And I just put out a single in Germany that I think accomplishes that.
Can I get that on your site as well?
Did you actually make four of those noise CDs? Or just the one?
I've only made one.
How do you make those tones?
I had a studio create them for me. He gave me tones from like 20 hertz to 20,000 kilohertz or whatever. And then he told me what they were so I didn't have to figure it out. You know, A, B, C, D.
How does one create - I mean, how did the studio create just -
I think now on the computer it's easy. It's just a signal tone generator. They used to have, like when you gave a record to a mastering plant, they would put the tones on the tape.
Oh yeah. Okay.
Tones On Tail.
Is that really what they called it?
Ohhhhh. Now it's all makin' sense!
Okay. Yeah, I remember that. I used to get cassettes, and they'd always start with "(ascending) boo boo boo boo boo boo bee!"
Right. Yeah, I guess it's like a volume reference tone.
Like that hit single you had at the beginning of your -
Um, what - your, it's, okay, y'know like starting about with umm... you know, the "Skinhead Girl" single up to present-day - although I haven't heard your, your uhh newest one - it, it's, your, you, between the um artwork and the music, it, it's, something about it has just a very clean feel to it. Not slick at all, but it almost seemed like you'd specifically chosen an aesthetic to look as... Surely there's a better word than "clean" for it, but it's just -
You're talking about the design of the covers?
Yeah, and the music itself too, with the chiming guitar tones and everything. It just seemed like such a radical break from what you'd done before in Unrest.
But you've really carried it through everything you've done.
Yeah, that's true.
Was it purposely though? Was it just you got this sudden sound and look and - I mean, how would you describe your aesthetic? I know you have kind of a design firm too, right?
It's very minimal, I guess? I mean when I design things, I try to make them minimal yet strong, I guess. I mean, that's what I attempt to do. As far as the music, I don't know. I just kinda locked into it. I think that might be - I think a lot of people do that. You kinda find something you like and it kinda becomes your signature thing. And then, that's what you do. I mean, I've tried to do some different things with each release. I'm not that sure if people recognize that, but what can you do.
I don't think the music - like if I put all of your different projects face to face - you know, the ones with different names - they all sound different. They just seem to have the same, like I said, aesthetic.
But they definitely - you can tell, like your first couple of solo CDs under the name Mark Robinson were just so, like you said, closely recorded, and it just seems - weren't a lot of them just you and your guitar and that's it?
As opposed to Grenadine, who had that really chiming romantic sound. That first album's really romantic; the second one's pretty jokey, but the first one's really romantic. And then Flin Flon... I think you know what your bands sound like, so I guess I could just stop there.
But yeah. So were you a big Henry Cow fan when you were younger?
Yeah yeah yeah.
Because I didn't catch that until much later in life. Looking back at your career in the music biz, are you happy with all of your records or are there some that you kind of look back at now and go "ehh"? Or are there some that really stand out as your favorites that you're most proud of?
I really don't listen to them very much, but generally sometimes I'm very embarrassed to listen to some things, and then sometimes I'm amazed that I like something that much. For instance, there's a song called "Sugarshack" on the Imperial album. I heard that and I was like, "Wow. That's amazing! How'd I come up with that?" Or "She Makes Me Shake Like A Soul Machine," that song? I always thought that was kind of a good one. I still think it's a good song, but I was listening to the recording and I'm like, "Ugh, Jesus. How did I let those vocals pass into the final mix?" Ha! You know, stuff like that. Umm............. Yeah.
On the back of this Tube Bar CD, you have a list of all these early cassettes and things. Is most of that stuff on the Fuck Pussy Galore CD or is there a ton of stuff that's impossible to get now?
Oh, the... yeah. I think -
Like the Black Christmas cassette.
Yeah, none of that stuff - no, no. All that stuff's out of print. But we're hoping to do this thing where we're gonna do CDRs so we can have everything in print.
Oh! Yeah! Do you really think that's gonna happen? Are you gonna have time to do it?
No, it'll definitely happen. I essentially have to digitize the cassettes, then kinda remaster them and obviously burn them onto CD.
I see that you've put out at least one release in which you refer to yourself as "Mark E." Was this just a tribute to The Fall or does your middle name actually begin with an "E"?
I lived in a group house in the mid-late '80s and one of my roomates called me "Markie-D" or something to that effect. Mark E. is just short for that, and a spelling that I can stomach.
Oh, before I forget -- A while back a fellow from another country decided to send me a bunch of CDRs by his favorite local bands. Imagine my surprise and cherubic delight when one of these bands, "Rhonda Harris," featured none other than Mr. Mark Robinson as a member! What was that all about?
The leader of the band, Nikolaj Norlund, asked me to produce the album. I flew over to Denmark and we recorded it. I ended up playing bass and singing background vocals on the album.
I've spent so many years listening to your stuff, I have to ask these little questions that I've just wondered about for years. Like the "Bavarian Mods" single.
Why are there three minutes of dead space on side two?
Umm.... Hmm. That was ninety-
Yeah, you just hear this "va-vup! va-vup!" and then nothin'.
Right. I don't know. There's a lot of little kind of experiments and little things that you can do. I have a record that's actually all silence. I think Bar/None put it out. It's like a clear vinyl, and it's advertised as like a... I can't remember what it is. Like advertised as some ridiculous record, like a joke. The cover? But then you open it up and it's a blank record.
I don't know if it was them, but I heard someone put out an album by Marcel Marceau. He was the mime, right?
Yeah, somebody in the '70s or '60s did that.
I was just inspired by the whole thing and thought, "Wouldn't it be cool to have three minutes of silence in the middle of a single?" There's also a, what's the band - 23-Skidoo? They had a couple of locked grooves in the middle of their record. I think there was a long stretch where I did a lot of kinda cool vinyl things.
Do you know that old San Francisco band Caroliner at all?
They did one record that starts with four locked grooves.
It looks neat! It's a neat-looking record. It's kind of annoying, but it's not as bad as - well you know, the thing is I don't know why years ago when I had the Flin Flon album, why I couldn't just look at it like I do now at singles. I mean, you have to turn up after every song to turn a single over.
I was just lazy. I was such a lazy bastard when I was younger. So are you in Washington? Arlington?
No, now I live in Boston.
How long have you been in Boston?
You relocated the whole company?
Pretty much, yeah.
Why'd you decide to make that move?
I just wanted to get better jobs for the design firm.
Is there a big graphics design field there?
Well, in DC the biggest employers are the government and lobbying groups, things like that. So if you're a designer, you're gonna do like, you know, the National Association of So-and-So's newsletter. Whereas up here in Boston or in New York, there's all sorts of companies. Now I've kinda found my niche, which is kinda very closely related to doing record covers, and that's book covers.
Oh, really? Give me some book names. I wanna look up the covers.
Would they be books I could find online so I could see what the covers look like?
"If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things." Another one is "Grass Roof, Tin Roof." I've done so many. I do like 50 a year.
Wow! Would there be listings online under your name?
There could be, yeah. I know Barnes & Noble is pretty good about that. I've looked up things like record producers, and it'll pull up a list of all their records.
So is that enough to pay the bills? You can have your own company and -
Yep! Doing book covers and then also I design the vast majority of Teenbeat's stuff, but I do that for free. And then I'll do the occasional freelance CD job, but that's generally for small bands.
Who are the best selling artists on Teenbeat?
Currently? Or in the history of?
I guess currently, let's say.
Currently? +/-. And Flin Flon, and I guess Mark Robinson.
Do you tour anymore?
I haven't really toured lately. I did a tour of Germany last year, and Flin Flon did a few tours last year. They were like three kind of weeklong tours.
Is touring just tedious? Or you don't have the time for it?
It's hard to find the time.
Do you find it difficult to come up with new material year after year?
No. I don't know why.
You're still inspired to create music?
Oh, yeah. I guess it becomes harder because you don't want to repeat yourself, but I'm always amazed - right now I'm working on a cover compilation, which I always say no to. I've always hated those covers CDs, you know like a dedication record like "The Songs of the Beatles! Played by Bands You've Never Heard Of." I've always said no to them, because those records are always terrible. But there's one that this guy in Italy is doing, and he's this really really nice guy so I said I would do it, but it's for this band Red Red Meat?
Oh yeah. I remember them.
And I just really don't like them at all.
I'm trying to find a song that I like though! I finally found a song which I still really don't like, but I like it more than all the rest of their stuff, so I've been working on that and I've been pretty happy with it.
You just said yes to be nice to the guy?
Uhh, pretty much.
Wow. Yeah, Red Red Meat. I remember back when I was a college DJ at the University of Chapel Hill - a big Unrest-loving place. I remember there was a big to-do about Red Red Meat - "Ah, this great new thing!" I made myself a copy of it, and I was like, "Alright?" Same thing with the Grifters. "I just - I must be missing something."
I think the Grifters are much better, but they are the same kind of - they'd be in the same section in the record store, I guess.
Yeah. I liked the Pavement though!
Who would you say are your favorites ever? I'm not saying "Who influenced you," but who have you been listening to forever and just love still?
I just got one of those iPod things and I've been putting all my music in there. And I think the stuff that I'm most happy - I'll put it on random play or whatever so it'll play me random songs from the collection of everything - and I think it makes me most happy when King Crimson comes on.
All periods of King Crimson?
Yeah. I think my favorite - I pretty much like all the periods.
Even like Lizard?
Oh, I love Lizard.
They're a band where the albums I like by them I really like, but there's not a ton of them. You know what I like? I really like their last two. They're more aggressive than -
You mean their very, very last two?
They're really aggressive. I just like the approach they took.
I think the last two are the ones I do not own.
I didn't like the one before them. I didn't like Thrak.
I have Thrak.
Thrak to me just sounded like they were old basically, but these two are really aggressive. They remind me of Red actually.
I guess when Bill Bruford and Tony Levin left, I just became very skeptical. But I did hear a song --- uhh, what was it called.... It's a really, really good song that's from the newest album.
I think both of them are really good. I love those, I like Discipline a lot. My favorite's their first one. It just seems to work. I have a book about them! I found it in the neighbor's garbage.
Yeah. I haven't read it yet, but I -
Oh, it was the neighbor's - Oh, I see what you're saying.
Yeah! Yeah yeah, they were throwing stuff out. I found a bunch of albums on the street and I found that. It appears to be explaining what their songs are supposed to be, and I think that would help me because I get really lost in the free jazz type stuff. You like Yes at all?
I like certain songs, but generally I don't like Yes.
I love Yes. Then there's Rush, who I'm supposed to like but I don't.
Yeah, I don't either.
So what else is going on? Have you been reading a lot?
We're having our Teenbeat 20th Anniversary next year.
Oh wow. What are you doing special for it?
We're gonna have two concerts. And uhh..... It'll be good good fun. Ha!
Are you playing with Flin Flon?
Yeah, we're just trying to figure out who all is available to play.
Umm.... What else.... Do you think you're gonna be making those other electronic CDs?
I'll probably make one more of those at least. It's been in the can for - It's been recorded, but it hasn't been edited, and the editing is the main part.
What has been the response to the first one?
Some people tell me they really love it, but I think most people are just like, "What the hell is this?"
When I put it on, it drove my dog crazy.
But every song would start and I'd go, "Wow, that's really cool what he's doing there!" And then it would just go on and on and on.
Like the one where your voice is just saying words.
That's a really cool one, and it takes forever for the one speaker to catch up with the other one or whatever. But it's still interesting all the way through. Because one is going faster than the other, they kinda create different melodies as it goes.
Which is really interesting. You know, that was one - I remember when I played it, about halfway through my wife said, "Well, I guess there IS something that hasn't been done before!"
Heh heh heh! Well, it's kinda been done before.
Oh, so you're ripping off Steve Reich.
Well, I'm not ripping him off. I'm just -
Paying homage to him? What record of his was like that?
He had these all-tapes records, and there's one piece called "It's Gonna Rain." It's got this guy, a preacher guy going, "It's gonna rain! It's gonna rain! It's gonna rain! It's gonna rain!" It's kind of a similar idea.
The only one I have by him is The Desert Music.
Oh yeah, he was doing a totally different thing by then.
Do you still - I guess as owner of a record label, I guess you'd have to still seek out - are you still excited about hearing new music?
Yes. I'm not necessarily excited about hearing it to release it, but I like to listen to it.
Are their newer outfits that you've heard that aren't on Teenbeat that you have been impressed by?
One new band I like is Glass Candy and the Shattered Theater, and I like The Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
I still haven't heard them. I've heard all the other ones who are always pegged in the same - Strokes, White Stripes...
I really like the Strokes.
Yeah, me too. I like 'em a lot. I really tried not to buy into the hype, but their songs are too catchy.
They remind me of the early Cars.
Yeah totally. Oh yeah.
White Stripes, I like some of their songs.
I'm not very familiar with the White Stripes, but I've heard a couple of their songs and I've been like, "What's that?" "The White Stripes." So... Mmmm... Who else... Uhh... I don't know. Heh heh!
Yeah, well I know what you mean. If someone asked me, I'd be the same way. Do you do a lot of reading at all?
It depends on whether I'm doing a book cover.
Oh, you have to read every book all the way through?
Well, it depends. If it's a novel, then I really have to read the book. But if it's a book on, you know, gardening or something - well, I wouldn't do a gardening book, but then you can get the gist of it and just kinda....
Oh, here's a better question than "Do you read a lot?"! When you were coming of age, in your teenage years or whatever, what era was that in the DC hardcore scene? Were you into that stuff like what you parody here on The Tube Bar? Flex Your Head stuff?
I started going to DC punk shows in '82-'83, so I saw like Minor Threat, Government Issue, Scream, No Trend.
Did it feel like a scene?
It must've been awesome.
There was kind of like the Dischord scene and then the whole hardcore scene. There were so many shows. I would go see Government Issue play like four times a month or something.
That's what I did in college with Superchunk and Polvo.
I saw 'em both like 19 times. But what do you mean there was a hardcore scene aside from -
Well, there was the group of friends of the Dischord people that were in all the bands, and then there was the larger DC punk scene.
Oh, I gotcha. What other bands were there that weren't Dischord bands? Well, I guess Government Issue only was for a few minutes.
They were definitely a Dischord band. I guess there was No Trend, that type of thing.
Did you consider yourself a punker? A punk?
I guess so.
Was early, uh - I guess not. What was the earliest Unrest stuff you recorded? Was that some of the stuff on Fuck Pussy Galore?
The earliest Unrest stuff recorded, no it is not. I don't think that stuff's even been released. I mean, there are some early tapes of this band that was to become Unrest.
Was that hardcore?
No. When we started out, I didn't really know too many people to play music with, so I essentially just played with whoever I could. So we didn't really have any common musical interests. Like one guy was the Van Halen guy, another guy was like the Rush guy, and then I wanted to do like Joy Division. And then Phil Krauth, who I recruited to be in the band - he was in the marching band in high school; he was the drummer. And he was really into like Led Zeppelin and stuff like that.
I remember you gave him a drum solo near the end there. Whenever I would see you guys live, he would do a drum solo.
Oh yeah! Ha ha!
That was hilarious! Those were the days when you were playing "Hydroplane" for half an hour. What was the first bass player guy, or at least the bass player guy on the earlier Unrest records - what was he into?
He wasn't really technically the bassist. Phil was the drummer and then Tim and I both played guitars, and then sometimes one of us would pick up a bass. It was very experimental. And we didn't really have a singer in the group, and we didn't even have songs. We would just like - because we didn't play shows, we were just so excited about playing music that we would just have these practices, but we wouldn't practice anything. We'd just kinda improv for like two hours. And then eventually I think we tried to.... But he was totally into the DC hardcore stuff. And we were into the Dead Kennedys and Henry Cow and King Crimson.
You did "21st Century Schizoid Man."
Oh, here's another thing I've wondered over the years that I just thought of. The whole dichotomy that you've used a few different times of the really beautiful, romantic music and then lyrics like "I wanna fuck you all the time." Was that a joke thing or an attempt to be more honest in a love song or was it just a whim?
I guess I just liked the irony aspect of singing that kind of lyrics during a beautiful song.
The other one I guess I was thinking of was, umm... There's one on the Air Miami album where you keep saying it. Oh, "Hey hey! Hey hey! I wanna fuck -"
Oh, yeah yeah yeah yeah.
Is the narrator in "Skinhead Girl" a black guy?
Umm.... no? Ha!
Okay. That's something I only thought of recently, because of lines like "Sometimes I feel like I'm on a mission to kill myself," (which a black guy might think if he were dating a skinhead girl) and when you say "Check this girl - this girl is swirl." I've always heard, "Oh, he's down with the swirl!" as being a black guy who's into a white girl.
Yeah. I heard that in DC actually. I heard a black girl say it. So I thought maybe there was some meaning I'd never thought of. Plus you put Sammy Davis Jr. on the cover. So I think maybe that IS what it's about, and YOU NEED TO -
Did you get a sense of when - I guess through sales or whatever - when you were at your - like, are you at your highest popularity as far as sales now? Or has it been steady all along? Or was it like during one stretch of Unrest or one stretch of - Are have sales been steady?
My own personal records?
The ones you've played on, yeah.
For a little while, we were putting out records on another label so I don't have sales figures, but I think it was definitely around the time when Unrest released the Perfect Teeth CD.
Was that because you were touring so much?
It's because we were touring so much, because we were getting so much press and because we were on a larger record label and the record was coming out all over the world. And then also the market for records was much better back then.
Has that changed because of file sharing and stuff?
Yeah, I mean for whatever reason, tons of independent record stores have closed since then.
Alright, 40 minutes. I wasted 40 minutes of your life.
I wasted 40 minutes of your life.
Heh heh heh! So do you still live in Chapel Hill or -
No, I'm in New York.
Oh, you're in New York City?
Yeah, I've been here for about eight years. Do you like Boston?
Yeah, it's great.
I have a friend there who used to play in a band called Generic for a while. Do you hang out with Steven Tyler?
I've never seen him.
Do you hang out with Ric Ocasek?
I think he moved to California.
Do you hang out with Brad Delp? Okay, well thank you so much for your time. I'll have this thing online next week and I'll try to get it in a zine. And I'm sorry about my Unrest reviews; a lot of them are pretty old.
But I've been doing it for eight years! They can't all be zingers. But I posted a few new ones of the singles that I've gotten recently.
Alright, well again thank you very much! I'll go on the site right now and buy what I can.
Alright. Thanks a lot.
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