Former journeyman guitarist Mark Remmington returns from a decade-long break from music to release his first album as a singer-songwriter, 12 Weeks. Written over 12 weeks of lockdown life, each song was written, recorded and mastered by Mark over the course of a week. We caught up with him to find out more.
I set myself a goal of writing, fully recording, mix and mastering a song a week, every week for 12 weeks, all in an effort to fix my head, and, all-in-all, it worked!
First up, tell us about yourself - what got you into music?
I had zero interest in music for much of my childhood, and then when I was almost 12 I think, I got given a double album of chart hits, and I feel I need to credit myself here for instinctively knowing that on the whole selection of chart releases the only thing worth listening to was Areosmith.
I also kind of liked Chers song on that mix, but let’s not dwell on that; Aerosmith, my first love was Aerosmith, and within a couple of years I was 14, I had my first guitar, I was a Rock kid, and I played obsessively for a while.
Were there any particular bands or artists you took inspiration from?
Who do you not credit? I’ve had so many musical phases, played in bands/acts ranging from Metal, Folk, Pop, Jazz, Soul, and on my upcoming album 12 Weeks, I’ve written and play everything, vocals, guitars, bass, keys, so I have a long list of influences to credit.
As an electric guitarist, David Gilmour, Tony Iommi, Jimmy Page, Steve Howe; as an acoustic guitarist, Ben Harper, Nick Drake, Bert Jansch, on piano and also bass, John Paul Jones is just the best in my eyes.
As a songwriter and lyricist I think Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Jeff Buckley, again Nick Drake, are all people that have had a profound influence. Sometimes you are poetic, sometimes the song has a clever twist in the tail, and sometimes you just need to say it how it is.
As a singer of these songs; John Mayer once said that a style is something you arrive at when you fail to sound like the person you were emulating in the first place, and I can really relate to that. But you find your voice, and then you really work out who you are and express yourself with what you have.
How would you describe your musical style?
Right now I’d say alt. rock, indie and indie-folk about covers it. But more broadly, with these tracks, I’m fairly plain speaking, I’ve got no hang ups about trying to be cool musically, or hiding from the fact that certain situations hurt me, I have songs that speak of my love and worries for my children, I have songs speaking to rattling in and out of depression, of the collective experience of living through the pandemic, of the great gift of good friends…
So I’m a singer-songwriter, but the type that likes to tell a story in my songs.
If you could collaborate with any living artist, who would it be?
Hey I’d love to collaborate with pretty much any big name artist out there; even just to meet some the people listed as influences above would blow my mind. But now I think about it, my favourite thing is just to make music with friends, or people whose music I like and I click with. So I feel like I’m already doing or have done my dream collaborations.
For example, I’m currently providing lead guitars for a good friend and fellow artist, Nix Dadry; its been amazing to get down the studio, turn the amps up to 11 and play in a way that compliments his very cool style of rock. A couple of years back I was providing guitars in studio and live with an alt-folk artist called Neil Cousin, who became a friend, but also such an inspiration as a performer and an artist that really casts a spell when playing live.
I’m in a blues three piece called Stone Pepper Blues, we released music last year and my buddies there, Jon Cannon and Eddie Miles are just superb musicians, but it’s how we gel, the ease of the musical communication between us, that really creates the magic.
So all of these projects mean much more to me than any fantasy football league of collaborators. It’s about the real people and how we connect that really matters.
Tell us about your debut album 12 Weeks. What’s it about?
12 Weeks is a reflection of a point in time in my life. Life’s been hard lately; you may have noticed! When I got to end of November last year, my mental health had taken a turn for the worse in a way I hadn’t experienced in a long time, it was a sharp nose dive and it really took me by surprise.
Everything, lockdown life, work, family, financial instability, all of these things were thrown in the mix too. Daily anger, frustration, feeling a lack of purpose, they were all contributing factors, they were the shadows following me through every day.
I got to January and finally resolved to climb out of the place I was in. I decided to start writing songs, with the first one being my song “Blossoms” which is all about just admitting to yourself that you’re not OK, that things are not OK, but then taking the time to heal one step at a time. Stand up, breathe, get out, simple words of advice.
So I set myself a goal of writing, fully recording, mix and mastering a song a week, every week for 12 weeks, all in an effort to fix my head, and, all-in-all, it worked! But the songs are also the stories that presented themselves throughout that 12-week period.
When did you write it and where did you record it?
I recorded it all at home with a very basic set up. I don’t even have what most might consider a home studio, but I had a laptop, a mic, and interface and actually thats all you need to get your plane off the ground you know.
And when I say at “home”; some of it was in the shed at the end of the garden. There were times where I’d drive the car to a quiet field nearby and sing my heart out till I got the take I needed, there’s only so much a neighbourhood under lock down could be expected to put up with! Although there were times when my very loud valve amp for guitars was just the only way to go, and it got noisy (sorry/not sorry neighbours!).
The most important thing for me looking back was not so much the where, but the how. I organised myself; I planned when certain aspects of the process had to happen and be completed by, I gave myself firm deadlines to create within and I announced my goal publicly of making a song every week for 12 weeks, in order to make myself further accountable for it. And that really was helpful in both having deadlines, but also, it gave that sense of purpose, sense of meaning that I needed to get back in order to start healing my mindset.
How does 12 Weeks represent you?
These songs are a 12-week snap shots of the thoughts and feelings I happened to experience at the start of this year. But I would stand by each piece as a true representation of my values, of my outlook on life overall; how to treat myself, how to regard others, things that should be cherished.
In that relatively short set of months I seemed to cover the great highs of love, of family and friendship, along with the sinking lows of depression, of loss, and of finding meaning in all of it. I somehow experienced and therefore covered a lot of ground in that period, but all of our lives right now are particularly emotionally charged, we’re all on a rollercoaster, strapped in waiting for the ride to stop so we can just catch some air aren’t we.
Can you talk us through each track?
“Going out of our Minds” is the opener, the bookend at the start, the biggest in terms of guitar sounds, feedback and all that. I found myself going for my daily allotted exercise and I could stop in any street and hear people shouting at each other through their windows, screaming at their loved ones from inside the guilded cages of their netflix streaming homes. So this song is a bout that; all of us living in our little boxes, locked up and literally going out of our minds.
“Burst Your Bubble” is about friendships, I re-connected with some old friends and made myself one or two new ones as part of my effort to help myself, why not be there for others too? So this song is about the simple act of sitting with a friend, they tell you all their woes, just working through that feeling when maybe you’re the one that screwed up, that got you into the mess you’re in right now, sometimes you really need a friend to burst the bubble and say, you’re not a bad person, we’ve all been there, you’ll be ok, it’s all good.
“Blossoms”, This was the one that began the process. This is my note to myself; a message to say, “we’re not ok right now are we… come on son, get up of the floor, lets take it one step at a time”. I released this song straight away and the best thing was having so many people connect with the message, even need it, to know it wasn’t just them. I mean, it meant so much to know personally that it wasn’t just me. It shouldn’t diminish our personal struggles, but I think it’s important to understand the difficulties of life right now is, for many of us, also a shared experience.
“Grow Up!” So, I also work with young people and have really been struck by how amazing and selfless some of the people that are young carers are, and also those that are in looked after care like foster homes, and their commitment to forge their own way even though they may not have had the best start.
This song is mainly about one conversation I had with a 16-year-old, who had responsibility for the care of their disabled younger sibling for most of the week while their single parent worked 60 hours to make ends meet. Their response was “We all have to go grow up sometime” and just shrugged off any concerns for their well being. So thats the lead line for this song. It’s a happy sounding song, but the lyrics are heart breaking in their way; well, to me they are.
“Black Keys Honey” This is a sweet song for my wife, she’s just the best person I know. I don’t even know how I snagged her to be completely honest, but I did! Yay me. It’s also about the black keys on the piano; they sound great don’t they, its impossible not to make a melody by just messing about with those 5 notes. It’s not about honey though as it happens.
“Sleep Sleep My Darling”, I’m a parent, and one thing about living through pandemic restrictions, was less the impact on me, but more so the impact on my kids. Social interaction, having access to their tribe, to hang out, to play, the removal of all these things has been so difficult on them. So this is a parents lullaby, this ones for the kids.
“Can’t Avoid the Crash” is an open tuned acoustic guitar track, playd on a Robert Johnson style parlour guitar that I love. The song itself is about broken relationships. It poses a question without offering any solutions; how do we get over it? How do we fix a love or a trust that is so irrevocably damaged, how do we forgive that? basically it doesn’t matter who you are, sooner or later we are all heading for a crash, and thats that.
“Dream Big” I pretty much wrote this whilst out running; I started jogging regularly about 6 years ago, and came up with the rhythm and idea for this track whilst running my sorry beer bellied self around the local riverside. The track title is a bit of a postcard/meme thing but the sentiment is strong so what the heck, whatever you’re dreaming of doing, just go do it, quit the day job, start that business, or don’t, but just dream big, do it now!
“Roll Away” is a chilled acoustic number and my story of growing from boy to man, about mistakes made and lessons learned on the road to becoming the person I am now. What “Roll Away” means changes throughout the song as we all change through life from being young and largely living for your self, to growing, to becoming devoted to another and letting that be both your compass and your destination.
“Lucky all the Same” musically, the guitar solo in this song is about as much as I’d ever want to say as a lead player. I don’t aim to play fast, just with emotion, and allow each section to build and build and it does so for about a minute, which is a generous amount of time. I’m very proud of what I laid down here.
Lyrically, this song was initially based on another conversation I had with a young person I was advising as part of my guidance work, they were getting involved in petty crime and making questionable choices, really I may as well have been speaking with my younger self, so thats what the song became. In both cases the response from the younger self is the same; I’m fine, I’m better than fine, I’m at the top of my game! you go on now, thanks but no thanks for the advice, “but you be lucky all the same”.
“The Time Machine” I was really thinking of classic Smashing Pumpkins with this one musically, I love the Mellon Collie album. But this song itself is quite simply a wish to stop time, to be able to live the best days over and over again. In my head the central character would be a Victorian inventor from a Jules Vern or HG Wells novel, whom I lifted the title from of course.
My Time Machine is very differnt to Wells character and story though. My protagonist for this song actually appears in the music video for “Bubbles” as a kind of steam punk professor in a top hat, is featured on the single cover for this song, and also the album cover for 12 weeks. I just love those turn of the 19th Century early sci fi classics, and its been real fun portraying that type of a character and just using that type of imagery in the music I’ve been making.
“Put my Bones into the Ground” This is my piano driven kind of epic that bookends the close of the album. This song is about loss, my Grandad passed, but before he did he repeatedly told me to remember to pray (I’m atheist), to learn piano (I’m a guitarist) and to live my best life now, as one day I may be him and my youth/younger days may be all I remember. So this song is for him, I managed to suss out enough piano to make it, and try to heed his advice, to love and live life well, live for others, have a life worth remembering, cherish and carry those people whom you may love with you in your heart till the end of your days.
What are your hopes for ‘12 Weeks’?
Double platinum probably, in all the major sales territories at least. If people start buying CD’s again too, mainly my album, buy it in their droves, buy them as if the internet never even existed, that would be just peachy. It is of course on all the major streaming platforms just in case that doesn’t happen.
In all seriousness, I’ve managed to attract already such a supportive following and I do hope to continue to connect with others. It’s incredible to get messages from people and hearing how much they identify with tracks like “Blossoms”, how a song I wrote has helped them. Thats something to be treasured, and thats all I really hope for, a little more of that.
What else is coming up for you in 2021?
Quite a bit; I’ll continue to do some online things to promote this album, but I’ll also be playing live with my other project “Stone Pepper Blues”. Nix Dadry is releasing a recently recorded live session with video which I play on as part of his band, and he’ll also be releasing an EP this year which I play all over, so I look forward to supporting those releases too.
In the main otherwise, I’m already working on my next album and have songs demo’d for more than half of it already. I’ve got a taste for it now! So I’ll be doing this around the other releases, performances and projects. The next album is going to be much more of a collaborative affair with friends performing on it and making contributions. But thats a story for another day… watch this space, I promise to keep it entertaining!
Finally, if you could go back in time and give yourself one piece of advice, when would it be and what would you say?
Well after writing my song “The Time Machine” I am working on the real thing and have been preparing for this exact eventuality, so I’m glad you asked.
I’ll basically be handing myself a few winning lottery lines and dates, a list of people to avoid sleeping with if I can at all help it, don’t listen to Toby, he’s a liar. Also not to eat that kebab on the way back from Thorpe Park, that lead to bad times.
Finally I’ll say; son, nothing happens for a reason, there is no fate, life is the illusion of choice wrapped in the chaos of randomness. Stuff just happens, and then you have to make sense of it all after the fact. Stuff will break, you will break, but then you have to take whats left and build something new out of it. So just do what you’re gonna do ok, just don’t screw anyone else over. And don’t forget what I said about Toby.
Then I’ll probably wink knowingly, activate the time portal and disappear across a shard of light. All the while younger me will be left puzzling why I was wearing a T-shirt the whole time that read “12 Weeks, June 9th, 2021”.