I had two great music teachers in my life. The first was my brother Lonnie who I pestered until he taught me how to play Simon and Garfunkle on guitar. It changed everything. He taught me that and much more.
My second real teacher was Eric Garcia who taught me how to play bass and drove me around LA when I had $450 burning a hole in my pocket looking for the perfect bass. He told me I would know when I found it and he was right. That day we drove up Mulholland Drive, west of the 405 and I found a 1963 Black Fender P-Bass. It is and was the perfect instrument.
It was a natural thing for me to want to make sound because I remember dreaming music and relating to the world from that perspective as a child. Even then I knew it was a constant and would comfort me. The first record I owned was Rubber Soul; it was a gift from my older cousin. I was eight and after hearing that record I knew that all I would ever want to do is make music.
The Go Go's
I started writing songs seriously when was asked to audition for the Go Go’s in 1984 when Jane Weidlin quit the band and Kathy Valentine moved to guitar. They were looking for a bass player who could write songs. I had been playing bass for six months at the time. I auditioned for the band and a little over a month later we were playing at the first Rock In Rio Festival in Rio de Janeiro.
One of the first songs I wrote was a co-write with a friend of mine, James Whelan. That song, Mad About You, became the first single for Belinda Carlisle’s first solo release, Belinda. It was written for the Go Go's but after they split up in 1985 Belinda Carlisle recorded it and a couple of other songs that I co-wrote for her first solo record. Mad About You went to number three on the Billboard Hot 100.
Before the record was released I met Howe Gelb through a friend in Hollywood who heard he was looking for backup singers. Howe and I hit it off and I began to play with his band Giant Sand. They were all from Tucson, AZ but were living in Hollywood at the time. We went on tour in 1985 with a full crew and played two shows a night. First up was Giant Sand. The lineup was Howe up front with Scott Garber on bass and Tommy Larkins on drums and I played guitar. Up next was The Band of Blacky Ranchette. Rainer Ptacek, one of the most gifted and soulful players I have ever played with played slide and electric guitar, Neil Harry played pedal steel, Scott Garber switched from bass to guitar and Tommy Larkins played drums for the entire night, and I switched to bass. Many nights on this tour we played altogether close to four hours. It was wonderful. It was family.
One day and night we drove 36 hours straight to get to a show in Madrid because we found out everyone needed a special visa to cross France. After having every piece of equipment and luggage searched we got or paperwork and I think we made it for sound check. We blow up the PA system at the end of that show in Madrid.
We were in London at the end of a tour and Howe and I found a copy of Billboard magazine and saw that Mad About You was listed in the Hot 100 at #11 with a bullet. When we flew back to Tucson, Howe and discovered that we were going to become parents.
We ended up back in LA and had an amazing beautiful child. Indiosa Patsy Jean. We lived on the corner of Sunset and La Brea in the same apartment building as John Convertino and his family. John Convertino, Howe and I and Chris Cacavas recorded The Love Songs. Howe Gelb's Giant Sand, now with giant³ sand, Howe continues to evolve. He is an innovative and groundbreaking artist with a singular voice. He is and always has been a trailblazer.
I continued to write songs, I had bands, and I wandered… a lot. I got to tour with the Steve Wynn Band for the release of his second solo record “Dazzling Display.” Playing bass and touring was the most blissful thing I had ever done, I loved it.
I had a couple of bands with some sweet people in LA. My friend and bass teacher, Eric Garcia, played lead guitar in my band. John Convertino and his sister Celeste played with me in LA too. Howe Gelb played on some recordings back then as well.
I returned to Tucson where John Convertino and Joey Burns offered up their rhythm section services and with Robert Mache playing lead guitar, as well as Winston Watson, Parthanon Huxely and Paul Martinez, we began making a record at Harvey Motltz’s home studio.
I could not figure out how to trust my inner voice or the sound I heard in my heard or how to transmit it outwardly or trust my voice, my inner voice. Many songs were recorded but remained unfinished.
I was teaching guitar and songwriting to kids in Austin, Texas in 2006. On my way home one evening I got a call from an unknown number. I checked the voicemail and heard this slow gentle southern male voice that said. “Hi my name is Mark Linkous, I have a band called Sparklehorse and I have a tour coming up and Steve Wynn suggested I call and see if you want to play bass." I met him for a cup of coffee the next day when he was on his way to the airport and we talked. . Six weeks later his new band met in the Smokey Mountains in North Carolina to practice for a couple of weeks and we hit the road. Mark Linkous, Johnny Hott on drums, Chris Michael on keyboards and guitar, and I got to play bass.
If you know the music of Sparklehorse you will easily understand why this musical experience was so sweet and how it deepened my musical perspective and about writing. It was a transformative experience. If you don’t know the music of Sparklehorse, you are missing out.
Mark Linkous took his life on March 10, 2010 and left a terrible silence behind. I could not play or write for a long time.
It was music once again, and writing again that began the healing process...