Ten Questions with Live Skull (playing Lincoln Calling Friday night!)…

Category: Blog,Interviews — Tags: , , , , — @ 12:25 pm September 20, 2022
Live Skull plays Friday night at Lincoln Calling. Photo by Jen Jaffe.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

When it was announced that Lincoln Calling managed to book seminal ‘80s noise-rock legends Live Skull for this year’s festival, which runs this Thursday through Saturday, I was flummoxed. 

A product of the Lower Manhattan music and art scene of the ‘80s, Live Skull was the definitive post-punk noise act alongside bands like Sonic Youth, Swans and Lydia Lunch. They dominated the late-‘80s with a handful of albums released on Homestead, many featuring Thalia Zedek on vocals and all begging for a reissue. Soon after Positraction was released in ’89, the band called it quits. 

Now they’re back after a 30-year hiatus. The band’s founder — guitarist/vocalist Mark C. — reformed Live Skull with a new line-up in 2018 that includes Lincoln native Kent Heine on bass (Who remembers Kent’s former band, The Holy Ghost? I do. Read my interview with the band from way back in 2002). Live Skull has released a couple new albums including 2020’s Dangerous Visions on Bronson Recordings. 

The Lincoln Calling gig is part of a fall U.S. tour and will no doubt be a highlight of the Festival. I caught up with Mark C. and gave him the Ten Questions treatment. Here’s what he had to say:

1. What is your favorite album?

Mark C.: Depending on the day of the week either, Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks, or Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures, or Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew, or Joni Mitchel’s Blue, or The Fall’s Live At the Witch Trials, or Fela’s Expensive Shit!

2. What is your least favorite song?

Every pop song with auto-tuning!

3. What do you enjoy most about being in a band?

Travelling to different cities around the world to perform can be exciting, when the drives aren’t too long, you’ve gotten some sleep, and you get a soundcheck! I also relish not always having to be the driver, so I can shoot video out the window.

4. What do you hate about being in a band?

Hearing loss! Also having to feign laughter at bad, drummer jokes! How can you tell someone’s a drummer? He’s the one hanging with musicians…

5. What is your favorite substance (legal or illegal)?

Organic Hawaiian black tea from the Big Island!

6. In what city or town do you love to perform (and why)?

New York City will always be my favorite, but our last tour of Norway was super fun, and I would say recently we’ve been having a lot of fun playing upstate in Kingston. The air is sweet, the crowd is enthusiastic, and there’s nice outdoor space at the club we’ve been playing at, Tubby’s -where they feed you the most amazing vegan pizza and win you over with positive vibes!

7. What city or town did you have your worst gig (and why)?

Hmm… we’ve played shows where guitar amps blew up, lead singers could just barely crawl onto stage in the middle of the opening song, disappearing sound engineers at showtime…but back in the day we had a gig in Wuppertal, Germany, where we were told we had damaged a $1,800 microphone (somehowjust about the amount of our fee) and therefore they wouldn’t be paying us. And there was the time in Phoenix, Arizona, after a well-attended gig, I think the day after New Year’s, when Tom Paine and I were summoned upstairs to the club owner’s office, but instead of a check, he pulls a gun out of the drawer and slams it down on his desk in front of us. He looked up and asked what we were still doing sitting there!!

8. Are you able to support yourself through your music? If so, how long did it take to get there; if not, how do you pay your bills?

There was a time near the end of the ‘80s when Live Skull could support the band members while touring and pay everyone’s rent back home. But I’ve always had other jobs, and these days I record bands at my studio, Deepsea in Hoboken, New Jersey. I also piece together photography work and other assorted activities to help make ends meet.

9. What one profession other than music would you like to attempt; what one profession would you absolutely hate to do?

I’ve been semi-obsessed with art photography since I was a kid — you can see some of my work on our early album covers, posters and the 5-D video as well as on Sugar’s Copper Blue – and I imagine I would like teaching it.

Basically, I never thought I could face a steady 9-5 office job of any kind.

10. What stories have you heard about Omaha, Nebraska?

Aside from Insurance tips from Mutual of Omaha, I’ve heard they have the largest indoor desert and the largest indoor rain forest in America. Why travel further? And I always thought the Brooklyn Botanic Garden was special with their Bonsai Museum!

Live Skull plays Friday, Sept. 23, at Bodega’s Alley, 1418 O Street, Lincoln, as part of Lincoln Calling. Showtime is 9 p.m. For more information, including ticket pricing, go to LincolnCalling.com.

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2022 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.