From Aural Innovations #19 (April 2002)
Blasting out of Scotland, Marshan distinguish themselves by playing a brand of stoner rock that is less sludgy, and more based on British blues, than many of their peers. Hearkening back to Black Sabbath, but with more energy and a wackier sense of humor, Marshan's sound is both trippy and high octane. Their first release, a 6-song CD EP is called King's Thursday on the Friday Street (see the review in AI #18). I got a chance to chat with the band's vocalist/guitarist Graeme and their bassist Kevin via the Internet.
AI: So how did you guys first get together? What other bands have you played in?
Graeme: The Marshan line-up has been around for a while under various guises. We basically really started getting it together in around '97 when we played more Doom based stuff and were known as Dying Sun. At that point we had a separate singer. We changed our sound a bit over time and in '99 we split with the singer and became Marshan.
AI: What kind of music did you grow up on, that influenced you?
Graeme: I don't know if my early influences (other than Black Sabbath) have any real bearing on the music Marshan make. I basically grew up listening to thrash and later death and doom metal. I suppose those styles are the roots of my guitar playing, but you're not really going to hear Obituary when you play a Marshan record.
Kevin: I grew up with Graeme through my teens and our musical taste went along similar lines. I started out playing my brother's shit guitar before I bought my own, then circumstances moved me to drums then bass-hence I tend to play the bass like a guitarist.
AI: What are some of your current influences then?
Graeme: Well there's the obvious 70's rock stuff, like Cream, Zeppelin, and Mountain, but also early blues stuff like Robert Johnson and Howlin' Wolf, and 50's Rock N Roll, Chuck Berry and Elvis. They are the most obvious influences you might hear, but I think we take influence from all sorts of stuff. There's no point in blinkering your view when it comes to music, there's a lot of good stuff out there.
Kevin: We all have varied taste-on our recent tour with Sea Of Green I went into Fopp in Nottingham and came out with Nina Simone, Captain Beefheart, Albert King, Neil Young, Pharoah Sanders, Robert Johnson, and more. I'm catching up on the older stuff right now!
AI: You've just been on a recent tour with Canadian band Sea of Green. How did you hook up with them?
Graeme: I contacted Eric from Sea of Green about a different matter altogether, and basically the idea of them coming over here began to germinate from that. It got off the ground pretty quickly really; I think those guys were bored of playing in Canada and the US, and we were looking to hook up with a band to play with over here, so it worked out perfectly. Getting the tour together was actually reasonably simple thanks to help from a lot of great people. The "stoner" scene has got a really good underground do-it-yourself feel to it, everyone seems to want to help out and get involved and that really makes a difference.
AI: I thought it would be interesting to discuss each song on King's Thursday on the Friday Street. This is pretty free form as far as I'm concerned, so feel free to comment on anything about the song you feel like, or think is interesting.
Kevin: I'm gonna leave you with the band encyclopedia for this...
Purple Demon Blues:
Graeme: I remember playing around with the intro riff in a practice, and Scott came up with the main riff through the song in a practice and we threw it all together pretty quick. We were practicing on a day when the world was supposed to end according to Nostradamus, and that snuck its way into some of the lyrics. Scott sings this one.
We really jam around with this song live; it's a fairly easy song to play, so we tend to mess around a bit. I think the title is a joke; I'm not really sure how we came up with it.
Mutton Chop Hop:
Graeme: We normally start the set with this one, again the live version is a bit more free form that the studio one. There's actually a phased guitar line on the pre-chorus that in hindsight I might have made slightly higher in the mix.
Again, it's a kind of humorous title, but the lyrics are a bit more complex. I tend to write lyrics over a long period of time, so one verse will address one issue and the next might be written months later and be about something completely different. It's a fun song, but there's some blues in there as well. I like to play around with light and shade like that.
Deep and Meaningless:
Graeme: I've always digged acoustic stuff, and I wanted to put a quiet song on the CD. This was the last song written for the CD, and the final section of it's basically improvised in the studio. Malky uses some brushes in the early section of the song. I was listening to an album by the guys from Crowded House (I think it was called Finn) when I came up with the riff. I'll probably lose all my rock credibility for saying that.
We don't play this one live, we stick to the heavier numbers for that. Acoustic numbers don't work too well in pubs; maybe we'd play it if we were playing arenas, ha-ha!
Funky Fork Song:
Graeme: People always ask about this song because of the title. Originally it was called the Funky Drum Song, because we had this weird drum thing planned for the middle. Anyway we scrapped that idea, but the name stuck, and we were basically sitting in the practice room wondering what the hell to call this song. We couldn't really call it the Funky Drum Song, as there were no really obvious funky drum bits, so we just replaced that with fork.
Kevin: In case you hadn't guessed it, we also saw a funky fork!! What a fucking fork man.
Graeme: That's how things tend to happen in Marshan, everything's last minute and we just go with our instincts. King's Thursday on the Friday Street, was a name we decided on just as we were walking to the studio on the second last day of the session. We don't over-think things, more often that not, if something makes us laugh then that becomes the lyric or the song title or the guitar hook. That's not to say we're a joke band, I guess we just have a quirky sense of humour.
Summer Hill Song:
Graeme: A little interlude that I jammed out on my acoustic guitar during the summer while I was sitting on a hill, hence the title. I brought it to Scott and he added the lead section, I used a phaser on the rhythm and Dave Chang messed about with effects in the studio.
Kevin decided he wanted to fade it in, so he sorted that out during the mastering phase.
Graeme: The oldest Marshan song, which shows some of our Doom roots. We don't often play this live anymore, partly because it's about 9 minutes long, partly because it allows less room for jamming, and partly because we used to open our set with this all the time so we kind of got bored of it. It's a kind of Sabbath thing; it's a great number, but is not really a reflection of where our sound is at the moment. We'll probably play it once, maybe twice on our upcoming tour with Sea of Green, because it's fun to play, but we've got a lot of new stuff to play at those shows, so there'll probably not be much time for it.
AI: For those interested (because I know there are some out there), how about a complete rundown of the equipment you each use?
Graeme: Guitars: Gibson SG Standard and Gibson SG Special, unfortunately neither of them are vintage. Amp: Marshall JCM 2000 + 1960 4x12. Effects (not in chain order or anything, just things I've got): Crybaby Wah, Lovetone Brown Source, Big Muff, Electric Mistress, Deluxe Memory Man, Small Stone, Prescription Electronics Yardbox, Small Clone, E-bow, eh, that's it.
Kevin: Purple Ibanez EDB600 bass. Marshan VBA410 valve head and matching 8x10 cab. Pedals: Wooly Mammoth, Deluxe Memory Man, Dunlop bass wah, DD-5 delay, zoom board, which I use as a tuner.
AI: How has King's Thursday on the Friday Street been doing for you? I hear it's been getting some airplay.
Graeme: Yeah it's done pretty well; it's been played on Radio One in the UK and KNAC in the US along with various other stations. We've still got a way to go to really break into people's consciousness, but the CD's been getting good reviews and people seem to be showing interest. The thing that I'm most proud of is that a lot of people have said it sounds a bit different to the usual stoner rock stuff. I guess that'll mean some people probably won't dig it, but it's encouraging that we're building our own little identity. A lot of people describe it as being a happy record, which is cool.
AI: What about this contest you have going on, on your web site right now? What's that all about? This isn't the first contest you ran, could you tell me about the previous one and what resulted from it?
Graeme: Well we've got Malleus to do us some artwork and have made some posters up, so you can basically win a signed poster; kind of naff I know, but hey it's free. Like a lot of Malleus stuff there is a skimpily clad girl in the artwork, and we're basically looking for someone to come up with a name for her. Go to www.marshanrock.com to give it a try.
We had a competition where we wanted people to guess what King's Thursday on the Friday Street meant. We got a lot of cool and trippy answers for that one. Some guy from Australia won it; he wrote this long poem so we figured that he deserved it. He got a free CD.
I think the current contest will end in June and then we'll get another one up and running. Hopefully we'll come up with some more obscure questions.
AI: So what lies ahead for Marshan? Are you planning a full-length album now? Have you done any of the writing or recording for it yet?
Graeme: We're writing material at the moment, most likely for an album. We're going into the Studio in May to record a few tracks, which will probably be part of the album, but which we might also be released as an advance stop gap single, as we probably won't have the album done till early next year, so we want to put some stuff out this year.
The material we're doing is a progression on from the stuff on King's, basically keeping the happy rock vibe but adding a few new touches. We've probably got 4 or 5 songs still to work on, but those in the UK will hear some of the stuff on the upcoming tour.
AI: What about touring? Any bigger touring plans on the horizon?
Graeme: We've always got a few things up our sleeves, but other than the Sea of Green thing, I doubt we'll be touring much in the first half of the year. As I've already mentioned we'll be hitting the studio in May, and we're lined up to play on a few festivals in the UK during the summer, so perhaps in the latter half of 2002 we'll have some more touring plans.
AI: What band would you tour with on your "dream tour"?
Graeme: Of the bands going round now, I think I'd like to play with Down, I really liked NOLA, and I'm looking forward to the new one. Those guys are involved in lots of projects so we'd probably get to jam with them; I think that would be a cool tour.
Of course I'd love to have played with Zeppelin back in their early days, perhaps on their first US tour when they were really hungry; I think I'd learn a lot from that.
AI: Where do you see your music going in the future?
Graeme: There's definitely a big blues influence coming in, we're even jamming out a country blues slide song at the moment. It's not really so easy to say where we will go, as we're pretty spontaneous; if something sounds cool we tend to do it, regardless of the consequences. We've never been a band for standing still for too long, we've always developed throughout our 5 year history together, so some things will change, but we don't have any big plan or anything. We just play what we like.
AI: Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, and good luck.
Graeme: Cheers Man!
Kevin: Have a beer on me...
For more information you can visit the Marshan web site at: http://www.marshanrock.com/.
Email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact via snail mail c/o Marshan; 17 Falkland Avenue; Newton Mearns; Glasgow; G77 5DR; Scotland.