RETROACTIVE BASTARD by Mark Parker | INTERVIEW
Author: Sean Manuel
Music is therapeutic for both the listener and the songwriter. For Bound Brook's Mark Parker, music brought him through a tumultuous 2022 campaign riddled with more than its fair share of agitation. Like punk forefathers such as The Ramones and The Replacements, Parker honors the "keeping it short and catchy" approach within his songwriting form and melody construction; meanwhile, he displays a personal vulnerability as he brings us in to hear of his "hard times" on the release entitled Retroactive Bastard. Retroactive Bastard is the follow-up to the June 15, 2022 EP release, Summer of Drunk; additionally, it is Parker's eleventh total effort on Bandcamp/fourth on Spotify. A true treat: It's live for your listening pleasure! Befriend Mark Parker in the interview below:
Hi, Mark. Retroactive Bastard is a thought-provoking album title! Explain the release's genesis.
"Retroactive Bastard" actually comes from an inside joke between me and my wife. My parents had their marriage annulled after I was born, so we thought that would make me a bastard retroactively. After some Googling we realized that's not the case, but I still liked the phrase so I used it for my album.
You indicated an enjoyment for crafting through-lines into your releases during your June 22, 2022 "Stay Home With Lazlo" phone interview. What themes can listeners expect to encounter on Retroactive Bastard?
The through-lines on my last few releases were more blatant. On "Still Confused" all the songs were re-makes of songs from a band I was in called State of Confusion and on "Summer of Drunk" all the songs were about alcohol. This release doesn't have an obvious through-line like that but they are all more personal songs to me. The themes of getting older, but not wiser, being worn out but not giving up were forefront in my mind as I wrote a lot of these songs.
"Not Today" is the Ramones-esque opening track to Retroactive Bastard. The lyrics read very much like Elton John's "I'm Still Standing," with contrasting themes of survival and reckless abandon. What real-life events inspired this track?
Thank you. Being mentioned with The Ramones and Elton John is pretty awesome! I had a lot of health issues in 2022. Nothing too devastating, but enough to make me a little crazy. I also found myself dealing with a lot more anxiety than usual, but when I pick up my guitar and I start writing songs, that all fades away. So as long as I have the ability to do that, I'll get back up every time reality knocks me down. "Not Today" encapsulates that feeling of knowing that things will get better... eventually.
In the tradition of songwriters like Jagger and Richards with "Satisfaction (I Can't Get No)" or Lennon and McCartney with "Day Tripper," the song entitled "Promising The End" is an example of your ability to create a song from a catchy riff. How do your songs normally come about? Is a musical idea your driving force; or, is it a lyrical theme?
Music comes first almost all the time when I write. My process is that I'll come up with a riff or a chord progression and just keep playing it until a phrase or a rough idea for lyrics pops into my head and I'll work out the lyrics from there. In the case of "Promising The End" the phrase "if not today, then when" was rattling around in my brain as I was writing the music and I worked it out from there. Musically, I wanted to write a song that felt like it belonged in an Anime episode. They often include these cool upbeat rock songs and I wanted to write something like that. The end result wasn't exactly that, but most of the time I end up where the song was meant to go even if it wasn't where I originally intended.
"Murtaugh Was Right" features an affecting half-time metric modulation brilliantly paired with the lyrics "My eyelids are so heavy I feel like I was hit by a Chevy," illustrating the musical moment. Was this a deliberate decision to convey the song's retirement-centric message?
Yes, although you make it sound much more intellectual! Before I programmed the drums I pictured that part of the song to be in half-time to go along with the lyrics. The flow of the song is much like a night out for me: start off peppy, but then there's moments of sluggishness. There are actually two versions of this song. On the streaming services the verses have the distortion guitars while the Bandcamp version does not. That came from my wife saying that people might not know who Roger Murtaugh is so she thought I should throw an Easter egg in the song. At the end as it's fading out I say "I'm getting too old for this shit." That's not on the streaming service version either because I added that line and remixed it after I had already submitted it to the streaming services.
The bluesy "You're In Town" is one of two instrumentals you have released (the other being "Chase Scene" off of September 17, 2020's Extra Credit). You mention in the info for "Chase Scene" how you created it from the intention to write a musical score for a motion picture. Is "You're In Town" from the same score? What imagery did you envision when writing it?
No, scoring an imaginary movie was a project that I started but haven't finished. I do have a bad habit of not finishing things. Usually it's books. I'll read two or three at a time but never finish any of them! "You're In Town" came about because I had just listened to Stevie Ray Vaughn's version of "Little Wing." Not that I'm at all comparing the two songs, but I love the bare bones song structure of that song with the bass holding down the song while the guitar noodles all over the place. I tried doing something similar with "You're In Town" but I felt like it was missing something so I added the distortion to the "chorus" parts to make it contrasting and give it more of a roller coaster feel to it.
What plans can Parker Peeps await in 2023?
I love that you used Parker Peeps! I hope that catches on. I wish I had a good answer for this question, but I honestly don't know. I haven't played out in a long time and I thought I'd get that itch to get back out there but I haven't. I have a passion for writing and recording songs but not so much for playing out. That being said, I'm not completely against it. I also have some ideas for the next batch of songs, but it's too early to really give a good explanation of them yet. I'm sure there will be at least one more release in 2023.
Where can listeners reach you?
Facebook and/or Twitter are the best ways to reach me about Mark Parker Music.
Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
Just a thank you to Lazlo for playing my music on BlowUpRadio and including me in the Webathons; and, to you for doing the research and asking great questions!
Artist Bio: Mark Parker is a DIY music maker from Central New Jersey. His love of hair metal and punk rock results in short catchy songs meant to stick in your head. His music can be found on most streaming services and on Bandcamp.
About the Author: Sean Manuel is a Senior enrolled in New Jersey City University's Honors Program. A Music Business major, Sean specializes in the piano and bass guitar. Outside of academia, Sean performs in and manages the Bayonne indie-pop group BreakTime: a four-piece writing modern pop tunes with generous vintage allusions to artists such as The Beatles, The Beach Boys, and Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. Are you interested in their music? Follow BreakTime @breaktimelivenj and stream their releases on all platforms.