Posted On 15 Sep 2016
The Killers’ bassist Mark Stoermer just released his second solo album on August 5th. It’s called Dark Arts, and it’s a a technicolor, psychrock daydream of an album – a mosaic of sixties-induced psychedelia, bluesy desert rock swagger and lithe, lush orchestration.
It’s completely different from his first solo record, Another Life, which was a stripped back folk album, and also the opposite end of the spectrum to the stadium-ready sonics of his full-time band The Killers.
Dark Arts’ 13 songs comprise a mosaic of sixties-induced psychedelia, bluesy desert rock swagger, plaintive lyrical poetry, and lithe and lush cinematic orchestration. Co-produced by David Hopkins of Bombay Heavy and recorded at The Killers‘ Las Vegas headquarters Battle Born Studios and Studio at The Palms, Dark Arts weaves together a twisting and turning trip through a myriad of styles.
Learn more about Mark and solo music in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time! Now that we are more than halfway through 2016, what are some words you would use to describe it? What were some of the highlights of 2015 for you and your music?
A circus of doom.
Writing, recording and finishing most of this album in 2015.
Writing the song “Blood and Guts” in less than a day was one of my musical highlights of 2015. Every now and then, lightning strikes and there’s a breakthrough. Some songs take years to write, “Are Your Stars Out?” was one of those for me. “Blood and Guts,” on the other hand, was an exception. I wrote most of the lyrics in 10 min. The music in a few hours. We also had a wolfman try a mix back in October It was pretty cool.
Growing up, did you always want to be a musician? Can you recall your earliest musical memory?
I don’t remember always wanting to be a musician, but one of my aunts told me that when she asked me what I wanted to be when I was 4 years old, I said “rock star.” I don’t think I even knew what a rock star was when I was 4, but apparently I said that.
My first memory as a human being on this planet involves some kind of disco song being played on the TV with glits and lights from a mirabel and some show girls dancing. It was very Vegas but I just so happened to be in Texas at that time, where I was born. Maybe it was shadowing my future life in Vegas.
You recently released your second solo album called “Dark Arts.” Where did the inspiration for this album come from? How long did it take to put together?
Beyond musical sources I draw inspiration from books, films, art and just general life experiences as well.
“Spare the Ones that Weep” for example is inspired by Jean Luc Godard’s film Alphaville, but from the perspective of someone watching the film wanting to be in the film.
Here’s Mark’s newest single, “Take My Time”. The video, which features kaleidoscopic black and white visuals evoking Don Quixote can be found on “Dark Arts.”
How do you think “Dark Arts” is different than your first album, “Another Life”? How do you think your sound has grown and changed from album to album?
For this album, I experimented more with sounds or songs’ lengths. The last album more was more story driven , and the songs were short, sweet and to the point. While this album still has stories, I think I let them breathe more and also focused more on my guitar playing, even left room for some solos.
I started off as a guitar player, and moved to bass when I joined The Killers. But I don’t really see myself as a guitar player or bass player. I just do what serves the song. However, it was fun to get to explore a little more my guitar playing in this record for sure.
Do you think the typical Killers fans will enjoy your new sound on this record?
I don’t know. I’m not really writing for Killers fans, necessarily. But if they want to come along for the ride, they can join me. I’m mostly doing this for my own enjoyment and to grow as a musician and a writer. Hopefully someone else likes it out there. But I’m not sure if that applies to Killers fans or another type of fans. I’m just trying to reach fans of music.
How do you think your time with The Killers helped prepare and excite you about being a solo artist? What do you love about not being in a band setting? Was it hard at all making the transition?
I’m not trying to embark on a solo career. I had some songs that I wrote that I wanted to complete and record. And I was a musician before The Killers, and will be a musician with or without The Killers.
As far as preparation, definitely the experience of making albums with The Killers and the different producers we’ve worked with has been an influence. Being a part of the process of album making from start to finish, multiple times, has definitely given me experience to be able to complete my own albums now. Not to mention the fact that, thanks to the success of The Killers, I don’t have to have a regular job and I have time to do this sort of things. I am aware of that and very grateful.
There are pros and cons with making a record on your own or with band. With a band, the democratic process can be difficult but the final result can often be better when it works. Working by yourself with no one to bounce off ideas can be extremely difficult for me. This is why I enlisted collaborator and friend David Hopkins to help me sort through, co-arrange and finish ideas. I get a little lost sometimes by myself. I tend to write lyrics first with just an acoustic guitar or a simple backing track I made on Garage Band. It’s when I get in the room with another musician I respect, that I can finally determine where the song should go production wise.
I don’t know if it’s a transition. It’s just a different experience. Both worlds could potentially co-exist. solo and band, as long as it’s possible to balance the schedule.
Do you have any upcoming shows? Where can people see you perform live soon?
I’m exploring options right now. jamming with a great bunch of guys in LA, but I don’t know how far I’ll take it. I might do a few shows. but I’m not looking to do any hard core kind of touring.
Who are some of your favorite artists and what bands continue to inspire you and your music? Who would you love to work with in the future?
I listen to all kinds of music, from classical to jazz, to rock n roll. My album collection is very diverse. I have thousands and thousands of albums, but I grew up listening to a lot of classic rock like The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, Pink Floyd and The Who. Actually, the first album I ever bought was Public Enemy’s Yo! Bum Rush The Show, and I was mostly into hip hop from the ages of 10 to 14. It was at that age that I discovered Nirvana which opened the world of guitar rock for me.
Other artist from Captain Beefheart to Syd Barrett, from PJ Harvey to Nick Cave, from Miles Davis, to John McLaughlin to Fela Kuti and Mulatu Astatke.
I’m open to work with almost anyone depending on the music and depending on what he/she is working on currently rather than what they did in the past. If someone had a good idea, I’d be open to collaborate with almost anyone.
At the end of the day, what do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope listeners take away from your songs?
I don’t think there is one underlined message to my music as a whole. The message, if there is one, changes from song to song. Each song is a story in itself, and hopefully there are multiple interpretations. It’s a good thing if people can read into something and find another meaning that I may not have thought of myself. Each song can be a platform for a different message.
When I was growing up I would lay in bed with headphones listening to one album or two a night. I would rarely repeat the same albums. This is when I absorbed the majority of my musical influences and that was the time when I could go to another world and live inside an album. And each night would take a different journey. My goal is to hopefully give back that experience to any listener even if that type of audience isn’t as large as it used to be, meaning these still interested in the complete album experience.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers about yourself or your music?
We’re excited for some new music I’m planning to release this Fall and in the Winter and hopefully we have some great videos coming with them too.