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Mark Mills
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Mark Mills will Free You from Your Sexual Frustrations

You'll get your ass kicked or burst into tears. Either way, Mark Mills will help you work through some deep-seeded issues.

By Scott Wood

When I received a few emails from Calgary-based, ultra-sex-positive, dance music maker Mark Mills (who is also a sexy Dad), I decided to change my usual focus. Typically I use my space here at earshot-online to give the campus community radio community the chance to get to know some of Vancouver's most interesting, up-and-coming bands. Calgary is almost a sister city to Vancouver, right? Besides, after I listened to his latest record Triple Fire Sign, how could I say no?

Here is my chat with Mark Mills.

Scott Wood: Your new record is called Triple Fire Sign. I'm a Sagittarius. What's your sign? How will our signs interact? Will this be a good interview? Where does the album title come from?

Mark Mills: When I was born, the sun was in Capricorn, the moon was in Cancer, and Leo was on the horizon. I was born on the full moon, and my birth chart eerily describes me quite accurately. I would have to look at your birth chart to get a better idea of how we would get along, but intuitively I feel we interact smashingly. I'd rather not project any particular outcome upon this interview, or judge its result as good or bad, it just is!

I feel like there is a lot of music with a "sex-negative" spin as they exploit and disrespect many sacred elements of sex, promoting identification with lower frequency interactions.

My wife Annie was the inspiration for this particular album and her three main astrological elements are fire signs. Her ways heated me up immensely as I fell in love with her fiery disposition, so Triple Fire Sign best described the album. 

Scott Wood: I've read your music described as "scrappy, sex-positive synth pop." This quote made me chuckle. Although I haven't heard much sex-negative music out there, can you talk about your spin on sex-positivity?

Mark Mills: I feel like there is a lot of music with a "sex-negative" spin as they exploit and disrespect many sacred elements of sex, promoting identification with lower frequency interactions. Yes, sex was meant to be suuuuper amazing and pleasurable, but there is a way to be reverent to all aspects of sex, honouring your partner and the intimate connection. Not to say sex is only meant for reproduction, but that sex without some level of love leaves you feeling shitty, at least in my experience. 

Scott Wood: Right now you're doing something called "Project Beyoncé." What is this? Why did you decide to do it? And can you introduce you favourite video from it?

Mark Mills: Project Beyoncé is like the minor hockey week division 3 novice semi-finals of the entertainment business. I had this idea to make a music video for every track on the new cassette and release it to YouTube. I was telling my pal Tristan from (Vancouver band) BESTiE about this idea, and he said "oh, kinda like Beyoncé", and so the project was named. The inspiration came from feeling limited by budget, and finding videographers that could get things done without pay, so I decided to make 11 of the shittiest music videos of 2014, and possibly of all time.

Also, so much Art is hyped so hard, so much Art focuses on production "VALUE", so much Art waits around to become something that it is not, or to propel its creator into some kind of dream like success and fame. Fuck that.

The purpose of the project is to create within a limited boundary, for the sake of expression and bringing ideas to fruition, no matter how good bad great or terrible they are. After 6 videos, my favourite is "Work Group", a simple perspective of what I may do on a sunny day, smoking some herb and flexing out some interpretive dance.

Scott Wood: Beyoncé is a force of nature. What can a straight white male performer—like yourself—learn from her?

Mark Mills: She IS a force of nature, regardless of whether you like her or not, she owns whatever she does with such a strong sense of self, never wavering, always committed. I think this is something that all performers could learn from her. I don't listen to her music, but I do like her. 

...So much Art waits around to become something that it is not or to propel its creator into some kind of dream-like success and fame. Fuck that.

Scott Wood: Beyoncé almost seems untouchable these days. She is a great singer, but other well-paid people write her songs and create her look. Other pop stars, like Britney Spears, are often maligned for being manufactured, but a cynical person could make the same argument for Beyoncé too. Why does Bey get a free pass on this, do you think?

Mark Mills: Because in every way she is manufactured, it is a continuation, perpetuation, exaggeration and elevation of whom she truly is. Like an extension of herself. There is a certain element of sincerity to her production, which resonates with a larger audience. Also she is an artist at her core, where as I am unsure what is at the core of Britney Spears, but how could I know when she probably doesn't know either. 

Scott Wood: You left a comfortable job in the Alberta Oil industry to make music. Big move. Big change in life direction. Courageous! Can you talk about one stumbling block on your way to making a living at music? (And how you got around it?)

Mark Mills

Mark Mills: One of the hardest parts is learning to live on a sustainable budget. In North America, or any "developed" country for that matter, we get so hung up on fancy things. Whatever your inspiration, you don't need chrome rims on your teal LeBaron convertible. It was hard for me to break free from consumer conditioning, and simplify my desires. Nowadays, if I can't live in it, or eat it, I have a hard time spending money on it. 

Scott Wood: You're a dad. How do you squeeze in time to write music? It can be really easy to balance work and home life with a conventional job. What's a good tip for other musicians on time management? How do you get it all done?

Mark Mills: I do a lot of creative and administrative work between the hours of 9pm-3am. Also during nap time. The times I must work while my 4-year-old is awake, I tell him he must do his own thing. I am lucky as I have a very understanding 4-year-old, and he has been spending a lot of time designing Lego cars.

One of the hardest parts is learning to live on a sustainable budget. It was hard for me to break free from consumer conditioning, and simplify my desires.

Also when I allow myself to be a human "being," not a human "doing," time loses relevance as everything gets accomplished when it is meant to in natural time. Let it out, don't force it out. 

Scott Wood: I've been listening to Triple Fire Sign while emailing you. I just heard "Work Group." Do couples who cook together stay together? Please explain.

Mark Mills: In this day and age within our culture, we sometimes measure our legitimacy and success based on separatist accomplishments. I do believe in the "divide and conquer" technique and individuality, but simply when you do things together, you stay together, sometimes. Something like making dinner can become a fucking chore, draining the overall pleasure and value of the experience. Especially within a family dynamic, if one person is expected to make dinner and have it on the table at 5pm, it’s more of a job than an expressive thing.

Food is one thing that can be enhanced by collaboration, and families that cook, eat, and clean up together, generally have a stronger connection within other elements of life. That’s like an extra 2-hours-a-day of spending time together and learning to communicate. The keyword being "together." My wife is a holistic nutritionist, food is her passion, and one of our powerful connections, so in our case, if we don't cook together, we may as well not live together.

Scott Wood: Here's a Mark Mills quote: “I’ve come to a place where my creative process is like self-medicated therapy for me. If you listen to the lyrics sometimes, they may come across as preachy, but I am singing it to myself because it’s a positive affirmation that I turn into song.” How do you keep your music from coming across as self-indulgent or hokey?

Mark Mills: Self-awareness and sincerity. When I write because I am challenged by something in my life, the lyrics can come out from a victim’s perspective. I know that victimizing myself from external occurrences that I have no control over is a destructive perspective. Once I get it out on paper that I am hurt, I can revise it into something that may potentially have context for someone other than me. When I write because I am stoked about something, it is easier to elude self-indulgence, as the inspiration usually comes from an outside source. There is a fine line between indulgence and fulfillment. 

...After the third time he yelled the F-word at me (fag), that I told him that I would smash his teeth in with my mic if he uses that word again

Scott Wood: You've said that the vulnerability in your lyrics has “caused people to burst into tears and threaten to kick your ass.” Can you tell the story where someone threatened to kick your ass?

Mark Mills: I played this show in Chicago last year and there was this middle-aged regular sitting at the bar. He was super-intoxicated and persisted to yell profanities at me, lending the advice that I grow some balls, and not be such a fucking fag. It was probably after the third time he yelled the F-word at me (fag), that I told him and the audience that I would smash his teeth in with my mic if he uses that word again.

After my set, he aggressively close talked me at the merch table, but I diffused it and told him to have a good night. I thought he went home, but when I was loading my gear out, I turned around and he was standing behind me. He mumbled some nonsensical rubbish with a wild look in his eye, when I bent over to pick up my amp and place it in my car, he slap/cupped my balls with an underhanded behind-the-back-ball grab. After a 2-second squeeze, he let go. I turned around preparing for some kind of altercation, but he just smiled, turned around and walked away.

I guess we worked through some deep-seeded issues that night and liberated some sexual frustration. 

Scott Wood: Thanks for answering my questions, Mark Mills. Could you please introduce another Mark Mills video?

Mark Mills: Thanks for the thoughtful questions Scott! The talented Cameron Macgowan shot a video to the music of "Goodbye Moment" from my debut album for the $100 Film Festival in Calgary earlier this year. It is an 80's Karate fantasy shot on Super 8mm, and it won the audience choice award for the festival! ENJOY!

 

Find more about Mark Mills online.

http://www.markmillsmusic.ca/
http://markmills.bandcamp.com/
@markmillsmusic

Listen to upcoming episodes of the interview show for an audio chat with Mark Mills.

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