Mark Kozelek: "I Like Good Words, Whether by Danzig or Sonny Bono"
Whether it is with Red House Painters or Sun Kil Moon, the work of Mark Kozelek has always been marked by quiet desperation and a dry, dark sense of humor. A singer/songwriter of immeasurable skill, Kozelek is right at home twisting AC/DC into introspective folk songs.
We spoke to Kozelek from his home on Thanksgiving night, in anticipation of tonight's show at the Granada Theater, about the myths surrounding his offbeat persona and how he decides what songs to cover.
Do you think there are people who may dismiss your reinterpretations of AC/DC (and other rock) songs as some sort of gimmick? Are there other rock/pop bands you would like to do entire albums of cover material?
A gimmick would be something you'd do to attract attention, or to bring fame and fortune. My AC/DC covers record didn't sell many copies, and I'm still living in the same small apartment I've been living in for the past 17 years. I have another covers record coming out February 19. I like good words, whether by Danzig or Sonny Bono.
Your most recent album has been said to be your most optimistic work. Do you see your previous work as being overly pessimistic? Is depression something that aids creativity?
Not sure what's been said on my most recent record. I don't know what aids creativity. All I know is that it feels natural to hold a guitar in my hands and sing.
Why did you move to playing with nylon strings? How does the move affect your playing and even how you write?
The 12 strings and six strings -- the steel strings -- were tearing my fingers up. I picked up a Segovia record a while back and loved the sound. I was familiar with the nylon-string guitar, but wanted to explore it more. Not sure how it effects my writing, but I enjoy playing guitar more, now that I'm playing nylon strings.
You've done some acting. Is there more to come in the future? What would be the dream movie/TV show for you to be on?
Jeez, I don't know. I'd love to do more movie stuff, though. The pay is good, and it's an easier gig than dragging my guitar around the planet.
I can't remember the last time you played Dallas. Have you had a bad experience here?
I've never a bad experience, but never a particularly great, memorable one, as far as playing shows goes. But I like Dallas; a nice hospitality there. I remember a chef coming out and asking me how my food was, one cold December night in Dallas. I'll never forget that. Do you know how many times that has happened to me in other parts of the world? Zero.
When you write a song like "Glen Tipton," do you worry people will actually believe that narrator is you?
I don't worry about anything except my parents' health, things like that.
You're a big fan of boxing. If you could go back in time and witness any fight, what would it be?
Zaire, Africa, 1974, Foreman/Ali.
You also cover Hüsker Dü. They have resisted the temptation to reform like the Pixies did. What do you think of these bands that try to relive the glory days? What about bands who reform without their original singers, like when the Cars went out fronted by Todd Rundgren?
I'm a Hüsker Dü fan. I saw an interview with Bob Mould this year and loved his reply to an audience member who wanted them to reform. He said, "It wouldn't be the same; there was a spirit and a subculture that was going on at the time, and the world has changed so much, it wouldn't feel right to reform and do it now." The audience erupted into applause, and I was one of them. I don't pass judgment. Artists have kids, mortgages, or drug habits, and they got to do what they got to do. But reforming and the reunion stuff isn't me. I'm a moving forward person. If I was told by my agents and promoters that the only way I could make money was to reform Red House Painters and perform a certain album A to Z, I'd shoot myself. Luckily, I've never been told by a promoter what I can or can't play. If one ever does, that conversation will end fast.
My 15-year-old son plays guitar and wants to start a band. What would be your advice for him?
Condoms. Antibiotics are really hard on your body. Always, always wear condoms.
Mark Kozelek performs with Sahara Smith tonight, December 6, at the Granada Theater.