Australian Guitar - - Feature -

Bri­tish gui­tarist Mark Gemini Thwaite has es­tab­lished him­self as the go-to guy for when you need a player who can do jus­tice to ‘80s goth clas­sics and in­fuse them with a mod­ern sen­si­bil­ity.

His list of cred­its is im­pres­sive: Al Jour­gensen’s Re­volt­ing Cocks, Gary Nu­man, The Mis­sion, Bauhaus front­man Peter Mur­phy, Fear Factory front­man Burton C Bell’s As­cen­sion Of The Watch­ers... Hell, he’s even played with PJ Har­vey, Ala­nis Moris­sette and Tricky, and even backed Marvel Comics leg­end Stan Lee to per­form a jazz stan­dard at the kick­off of Lee’s Comikaze Expo (also known as the LA Comic Con) in 2012.

But Thwaite is much more than a side­man. His own mu­sic is steeped in goth tra­di­tion, but is some­how fresh and new, ex­ist­ing si­mul­ta­ne­ously in one spe­cific era and no spe­cific era.

You can hear his work on two al­bums re­leased re­cently: MGT’s Gem­i­niNyte with vo­cal­ist Ash­ton Nyte of The Awak­en­ing, and SoulPre­tender by Prim­i­tive Race, an in­dus­trial rock su­per­group fea­tur­ing Dale Crover of Melvins on drums, Chris Kniker on bass and late former Faith No More front­man Chuck Mosley on vo­cals.

I’m so jeal­ous of this al­bum. This is the record I wanted to make and you beat me to it!

[ Laughs] Yeah. “You bas­tard!” I did a solo al­bum last year un­der my acro­nym, MGT, be­cause a lot of Mis­sion fans used to re­fer to me as that – it’s less of a mouth­ful. So when I did this solo al­bum with all th­ese guest vo­cal­ists, Ville Valo said, “Rather than call it Mark Gemini Thwaite, which will be a mouth­ful for our Ger­man DJs, why not just call it MGT?” So that’s how MGT was born as an artist. The last al­bum, Vol­umes, was me with all of my mates on vo­cals be­cause I’ve got a rub­bish voice.

I fig­ured I’d be Jimmy Page – write all of the mu­sic and then ask my friends to sing on it. I worked with peo­ple like Ville Valo, Wayne Hussey from The Mis­sion, Miles Hunt and Erica Nock­alls from The Won­der Stuff, Ricky War­wick from Black Star Riders, Ray­mond Watts from KMFDM, Ju­lianne Re­gan from All About Eve and Ash­ton Nyte, who is a great South African singer I was re­cently in­tro­duced to.

That al­bum went down re­ally well. I did two tracks with Ash­ton, both of which were lean­ing to­wards my gothrock back­ground – hard-hit­ting with def­i­nite goth-rock over­tones. And we just kept writ­ing, and be­fore we knew it, we had a whole al­bum writ­ten.

So this al­bum is the fruition of that col­lab­o­ra­tion. It’s still go­ing un­der the moniker MGT, which the la­bel wanted, but it’s me and Ash­ton. The orig­i­nal plan was that we were go­ing to call the band Gemini Nyte, which started as a joke about how cheesy it would sound when DJs would say it on the ra­dio. We thought it was hi­lar­i­ous, but peo­ple thought it was pretty cool! When we signed the new deal with Cleopa­tra, they as­sumed the al­bum would come out as MGT be­cause we put all this work in last year with the

Vol­umes al­bum.

There’s a wide va­ri­ety of ma­te­rial on the record, but it’s still very much an­chored in that sig­na­ture goth-rock sound.

Yeah. Unashamedly. The two tracks with Ash­ton were ar­guably the most goth-rock songs on Vol­umes – al­though I see it more like mod­ern goth-rock. It’s got more in com­mon with Mar­i­lyn Man­son, Rob Zom­bie or Ramm­stein, and none of those were con­sid­ered to be gothic rock bands. I think son­i­cally, we’re touch­ing upon the kind of area those bands are in, rather than proper goth-rock bands like Joy Divi­sion.

Def­i­nitely. A song like “Dystopia” has some crush­ing gui­tars that don’t sound like they came from the ‘80s.

Yeah! There are echoes of The Mis­sion and stuff that

I was in­flu­enced by, like The Cult, Killing Joke, The Cure… And by co­in­ci­dence, we ended up work­ing with a cou­ple of the guys from The Cure on the record too!

Yes! Pearl Thomp­son and Lol Tol­hurst play to­gether on the record.

That was a fan­tas­tic thing that hap­pened. I didn’t know ei­ther of them, but I was in­tro­duced to Pearl Thomp­son, the gui­tarist who formed the band with Lol Tol­hurst and Robert Smith back in the late ‘70s.

I ran into Pearl at the NAMM show at the start of 2017 be­cause I was there to pro­mote my new Schecter sig­na­ture gui­tar, and Pearl was there be­cause he was a Schecter artist as well. We got chat­ting and ex­changed in­for­ma­tion, and be­fore we knew it, we were talk­ing about col­lab­o­rat­ing. I said, “Fun­nily enough, I’m do­ing a new al­bum with Ash­ton. It might be cool to get you to play some gui­tar on it.”

So I sent him a demo in the spring – he was pre­par­ing to move from some­where in the desert to nearer to the out­skirts of Los An­ge­les, so I didn’t push him. And then he had an art ex­hi­bi­tion in West Hol­ly­wood in the sum­mer, and that’s where I met Lol – who was orig­i­nally The Cure’s drum­mer, but ended up mov­ing to key­boards later in the band’s ca­reer. I got chat­ting with him, and it turned out we lived less than a mile apart. It’s crazy.

So the song “The As­sem­bly Line” is on the phys­i­cal ver­sion of the al­bum, but I ended up get­ting Pearl’s gui­tar and Lol’s key­boards and putting to­gether a brand new mix. It’s an al­ter­nate ver­sion of that song called the ‘Cured Mix’ – it got a stand­alone mix in Fe­bru­ary and got added to the dig­i­tal al­bum. And let’s face it, most folks just buy al­bums dig­i­tally or lis­ten on Spo­tify. It’s on the al­bum, but it missed the phys­i­cal press­ing of the CD.

Let’s talk about the Prim­i­tive Race al­bum,

SoulPre­tender. It’s a tragedy that Chuck passed away so soon af­ter its re­lease.

Yeah. I’ve al­ways been a huge Faith No More fan – I first got into them back when Chuck was the singer in the ‘80s. “We Care A Lot” was a mi­nor hit in the UK, and they were largely ig­nored in their home coun­try at the time. And that was a great track with cross­over el­e­ments of metal and hip-hop, with el­e­ments of Killing Joke in the key­board sounds and the drum at­tack. So he parted ways with Faith No More, and I was a fan of the Mike Pat­ton stuff as well.

Fast for­ward many years later, I do a record in 2014 with Prim­i­tive Race, which was a col­lec­tive of mu­si­cians put to­gether by Chris Kniker, who put to­gether an al­bum with his friends, and we put out an al­bum with an in­dus­trial slant. That al­bum did pretty good, and he said that for the next al­bum, he’d been talk­ing to Chuck Mosley and it’d be more stripped down – no synths, more fo­cused on rock’n’roll and Chuck’s vo­cal, and rather than it hav­ing loads of dif­fer­ent singers like the pre­vi­ous re­lease, this would be Chuck on vo­cals all the way through with my­self on the gui­tar. We ended up with Dale Crover from Melvins on drums and Eerie Rock on key­boards.

I couldn’t hide my ad­mi­ra­tion for Jim Martin and the old Faith No More sound, so some of that def­i­nitely came out in the way I ap­proached the al­bum. And lit­er­ally a week af­ter it came out, Chuck passed away of a drug over­dose. He’d had a long, well-pub­li­cised bat­tle with drugs; part of the rea­son he was ejected from Faith No More was his in­abil­ity to keep his drug habit un­der con­trol, and it looks like it ul­ti­mately got the bet­ter of him. But all I can say is that he did a fan­tas­tic job on the record, we’re all proud of it, and I feel hon­oured to have been able to work with him and col­lab­o­rate on some songs to­gether. And I do think it’s a fit­ting ad­di­tion to his legacy. We’d been talk­ing about go­ing out live, and I wouldn’t have been sur­prised if we’d done a few of those Faith No More songs if we had. That would have been very in­ter­est­ing, but now we’ll never know how that would have went.

What can you tell us about your Schecter sig­na­ture model?

I’m into bling on gui­tars. If I was go­ing to go for a Gib­son model, I’d go for the Cus­tom, y’know? I want the block in­lays, I want the triple bind­ing, I want the whole she­bang. I’m not a huge fan of ba­sic-look­ing gui­tars. So when Schecter asked me to do a sig­na­ture model, I said I wanted it based on a Cus­tom. They’d put out a model which was the clos­est shape that they’d done to a Les Paul, called the Solo-II. So I wanted it based on a Solo-II with Cus­tom specs. I wanted it to be a blue gui­tar with gold hard­ware, a B7 Big­bsy and a dif­fer­ent colour on the back – like the Les Paul Gold­tops, where the top is gold and the back is a nat­u­ral wood colour.

So there are all th­ese things I wanted to ful­fil in my own model; it’s a cul­mi­na­tion of all the gui­tars I’ve played, and the tweaks I would make to them. I would of­ten throw Bigs­bys on my Les Pauls – I’ve been do­ing that for years. So the model came out, and every­body was like, “Wow, that’s su­per blingy!” We ended up go­ing for an ul­tra­vi­o­let fin­ish, which is blue in some light and pur­ple in other light. It’s got a stained red back, gold hard­ware, and it’s just su­per blingy.

For me, it’s just to­tally nat­u­ral, and it’s a man­i­fes­ta­tion of what I like in a gui­tar and how it looks. Some peo­ple love it, some peo­ple hate it. Some peo­ple say, “No! You can’t put a Bigsby on a Schecter!” It’s got my Sey­mour Dun­cans in it, a JB in the bridge and the Al­nico II Pro in the neck, and it’s made with a rose­wood fret­board. I love it. It’s the first gui­tar where I’ve felt like I don’t need to bring along a Les Paul on tour, be­cause this kills it.

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