Interview: Mark Laughlin (Ex-Dead Meadow)
I was casually checking my e-mail at work two weeks ago when a message arrived with the subject “Dead Meadow Peel Sessions.” It was sent by Mark Laughlin, the band’s original drummer. Apparently he hadn’t heard the recording in years and wanted to express thanks for sharing my copy. I immediately wrote back thanking him for writing me and asked if he wanted to field some questions about his experiences with the band. Although he felt a bit uncomfortable about being properly “interviewed,” he was nice enough to share some information about the Dead Meadow Peel Sessions, and answer a couple questions. What a nice chap he is!
Mark: “It’s funny that you posted the Dead Meadow Peel Session. I actually played on it and I don’t have a copy of it, so it was nice to be able to download it because I hadn’t heard it in years. I played drums on the first two albums, the Peel Session and [Got Live If You Want It] which came out before I parted ways with the band in 2002 or 2003.”
I don’t remember where I found the recording, and I have never, ever been able to find any information about it. In fact, for years I mistakenly believed that it was a WFMU Session, and it wasn’t until I was contacted by a friend of the band (or was it their manager or website designer?) that I found it out it was a Peel Session. Even though, I wasn’t sure if the person who claimed it was a Peel Session was right or wrong. Finally, I just decided to post it here, and if someone contacted me to let me know I was wrong, so be it. Mark provided a wealth of information about the recording process.
Mark: “A little history on this is that John Peel, who was a really cool guy (and would actually listen to a CD that was put on his desk), somehow got a hold of our first record and played us on the BBC a few times. Then he e-mailed us and asked us to do a Peel Session. The way Peel Sessions worked was that when a band was touring, and happened to be in London, they would go to his studio and just record it there in a few takes. We were so broke and we didn’t have the ability to tour internationally at the time. Honestly, we had no name for ourselves and we weren’t able to book any good shows. The only reason the first record even got released is because a friend of ours put it out (on Planaria Recordings, 2001). We told Peel, basically, that we couldn’t do it. He said that we could record a live session ourselves and send him a reel. Allegedly, it was the first time that he ever allowed a Peel Session to be recorded outside of whatever studio he was using at the time. I’m not sure if that’s true or not or if it’s some exaggeration directed at making us feel cool.”
If that is indeed true, that is remarkable. It’s not like I possess some great wealth of information and could cite another band who recorded a session for Mr. Peel outside of his studio, but if anyone reading this has, be sure to let me know.
Mark: “So, basically we recorded the whole thing in one night on Minor Threat’s old half inch 8-track which was in Joe Lally’s basement at the time.”
See! It was not recorded at WFMU! But that doesn’t explain why it was doomed to obscurity forever, only to be unearthed years later by a no-good blogger with no clue what he was holding in his grubby little claws.
Mark: “When the first two records were re-released (2006/2007), the Peel Session was supposed to come out too. I’m not sure whatever happened to it. I actually ran into Dead Meadow on the street when I lived in Brooklyn and–coincidentally–they were remixing the Peel Session at a studio located on the corner that I lived on. They never told me about it because they didn’t want me to have anything to do with it. I was under the impression that it was coming out, but it never did. I never heard the remixed version, either. However, this mix that’s floating around is pretty solid and raw, which was the point, I thought. I’m not sure how anyone even got a hold of it. I think at the time, we were just selling burned copies of it at our shows to people that wanted it. We didn’t take it very seriously.”
I guess whoever gave me the show must have bought one of the burnt discs, because I sure as hell was never able to locate it on any peer-to-peer networks or blogs. It makes one wonder what other vintage Dead Meadow goodies are floating around.
Mark: “I remember back in those days we used to let people video us and I know that there were some really smoking shows that were recorded. I’ve never seen any of them pop up on YouTube or anything, and I wish they would.”
I should take a moment to express how much I enjoy the first two Dead Meadow albums. Howls From The Hills is such a great record — anyone who does not own it would be wise to find a copy. The first one (self-titled) is way out of print on vinyl, and copies of it routinely sell on eBay for $75 and up.
Mark: “I just have one copy [each of the black and clear vinyl versions] and my cat kind of fucked up the sleeves.”
After he left the band, Mark went to law school. He is now a lawyer…just like Michael Gerald of Killdozer. I guess being a lawyer can be totally rock-and-roll! Sorry I called you a fag for all those years, dad!
I asked Mark whether he’s up to anything musical now…
Mark: “I do still play music – I’m in a couple side projects with friends – nothing substantial. I may release a four-song EP with one of them this year. It’s really, really different from Dead Meadow though. I’ll let you know if it happens. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to get on a drum set in the city, so I don’t get to drum very much. I built a small electronic music production studio in my apartment, so I do a lot of electronic stuff on my own. Electronic music has always been a passion of mine even prior to my Dead Meadow days.”
As for those Dead Meadow days, I asked if there was a great and lasting memory he had of his time in the band.
Mark: “I can’t say that one specific thing comes to mind. It was always a great feeling to play a really good, tight live show for a crowd that was really into it. I also really enjoyed recording Howls From The Hills. I really liked the way that record came out and it was a lot of fun to set up all of our crap in a barn in the middle of nowhere and just blow it out.”
Mark Laughlin. Drummer. Lawyer. Super-Genius. Good all-around dude. Friend of Swan Fungus!
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