Thursday, June 2, 2011

Mark Steiner Interview

Better late than never, here's an interview that our good friend Mark Steiner gave to Indieground radio, before our gig together last month!

Hi Mark! How can you describe your music to someone who hasn't listened to any of your songs?

Kalimera! Lounge-Noir is one "genre" my songs have been labeled with, as well as "Swamp-Rock." Some people compare me to the likes of Nick Cave, but I actually think that we are quite different, except that even though my music might seem dark and melancholy on the surface, there is in fact a lot of humour involved. Maybe that's a fair similarity. I do believe, however, that my music seems to fit in quite well with the Melbourne music scene. I'll also admit that the bands which inspired me the most over the years were These Immortal Souls, Crime & the City Solution and Tindersticks. Of course, through in a bit of Birthday Party, Stooges, and Tom Waits, and people might get the picture.

You are a ''man of the world'',living in different countries around the globe and being inspired by them.How does this affect your music?

I've living permanently in Oslo, Norway, since I moved here in 2002, and often revisit my home in New York. But yes, I do also feel at home in many other places, usually because of my friends and musical collaborators. I'm more connected to cities than nations, to be honest. Copenhagen, Paris, Berlin, Reykjavik, Coimbra (Portugal), Prague and Reykjavik are certainly up there. And of course Melbourne. I guess that my music reaches out to different people in different places, who all have there own impressions. The musicians I work with are pretty free to interpret and play my music as they see fit. This means that no two concerts are alike. It keeps me interested, and always provides a certain challenge. Who knows? Maybe Athens will also become a place I will feel at home. With the help of a few friends, including The Dark Rags, I'm almost certain that I will!

You have collaborate with so many great musicians!Do you believe that working together with people you appreciate is inspiring?

Some musicians are quite fortunate in that they find a band consisting of people who together have an incredibly creative energy. Other songwriters might find it in their best interest to run the entire show. That's all good and fair, but after many failed attempts at holding down a permanent band, I learned to adapt and make the most out of what comes my way. My approach is kind of like a blues musician, except that my songs aren't exactly written in standard form where I can just shout out the key and the band can just play alog. Fortunately, the internet has provided me with a social network which just keeps growing. Most of the musicians I work with are people I met online, or through mutual friends and acquaintances. So yes, I have indeed been very fortunate to meet several incredible musicians who not only understand my music, but who also have only helped elevate my songs to even higher, new levels. That in itself is inspirational!

What do you rememeber most of your early days in music with bands like Piker Ryan's Folly and Kundera?

Hehe. I don't remember much from the days of Piker Ryan. Ha! Just kidding. I was a bit heavy on the bottle in those days, as a singing frontman who held a microphone and a drink in either hand. We played to a strange scene in New York in those days. A lot of goths and some punks. I guess that people liked us because there was a certain theatrical element with the booze, the cigarettes, and the debauchery which took place on stage. I was once even assaulted by a drunk idiot who tried to grab the microphone from me when we played a gig in Brooklyn. I threw him back off the stage (which was just an orange line painted on the floor. The owner and the bartender then grabbed him and dragged him out of the venue (which was a pizzeria), and threw him out into the street. The best part was that my band kept playing. I think the song was "Paper God." Man, was I pissed (and pissed-off!) As for Kundera, that started up after the guitarist from Piker Ryan's Folly moved to New Orleans. I picked up my Fender Stratocaster, and my friend/pianist Eric Wolter and I began writing songs together with the amazing help of violinist Susan Mitchell. We also had Jerome O'Brien on string bass. That was a bit more sophisticated, as I realized that singing and playing guitar at the same time didn't mix well with booze.

Is it true that in almost every city you visit for a live you 're jamming on stage with local musicians?What do you think of The Dark Rags?

What started as an accident, became a blessing of sorts. Yes, I usually play with at least one local musician, often a female singer (if I can find one). Again, I have several musicians who I work with in different cities.  The past few gigs have been quite special. First a festival in Coimbra which consisted of my Danish wingman Thomas Borge on bass, Norwegian percussionist Gunnar Motland (from The Goo Men), both of whom have played with me in Oslo. We then added a Portuguese guitarist named Manel who I played with back on my first solo tour of Portugal in 2006. And finally, I managed to recruit the illustrious Bunny Lake (aka Tracy Vandal), who is a Scottish singer living in Coimbra. My latest female partner-in-musical crime who I hope to work with again soon! And last week I played a gig in Oslo, perhaps one of the best gigs I've ever played. Thomas came up from Copenhagen, as did Tex Lange, who playes drums with us whenever I play a gig in Denmark. Thos two are quite the dream-team for me. We also had the incredible Pavel Cingl (from Phil Shoenfelt & Southern Cross), Øystein Sandsdalen (Serena Maneesh, Le Corbeau) on guitar, and yet another favourite female artist: Julitha Ryan (known for her work with Mick Harvey & Hugo Race). She's crazy. She came all the way up from Australia to visit Norway for one week before heading back down under again. It was an excuse for us to sing and play music together. She's got a new solo album coming out later this year. It's brilliant! Anyway, the next gig is going to be very special indeed. The Dark Rags have offered to back me up on several songs, some of my originals, and some covers. They also found a lovely young lady named Rena Papageorgiou who will sing some duets with me. I've never seen the Dark Rags perform. In fact, I haven't even met them yet. But their music is great, and I look forward to the privilege of joining them on the stage next weekend! I have a good feeling about the concert at After Dark. It will be fun, and certainly a night to remember!

You 've played in China!How did this happen?
Actually, I only played a gig in Hong Kong. I was hoping to tour mainland China this year, but the Chinese are still a bit upset with Norway for giving the Nobel Peace Prize to a dissident. So those plans are off. Hong Kong was interesting, and strange. It was on my to my second tour of Australia that I managed to book a gig there. The best part was teaching a song to a girl named Rachel who was in the support band. She sang "Nisj" with me, in Mandarin, which isn't understandable to most people in Hong Kong because they speak Cantonese! The best part was that she played the part of the resistant woman so very well, that when she ended the song with "Goodby, Mahk!", I nearly fell over in a fit of laughter!

I've read that you studied experimental film in Bard College,which is considered as one of the most liberal colleges in the states.Have those studies helped you to develop as an artist and as a human being and in which way?
Bard was certainly a unique experience, back in the days when music was just a hobby. The fact of the matter is that I never even considered the fact that I could study music as a major. And the choice of film was merely because it seemed like a good way to connect my interests in writing, photography, language, music and art. I ended up becoming a filmmaker, not because I wanted to direct films, but because I didn't know what else to do. Salvador Dalí is quoted as saying that "avant-garde equals bullshit." I guess that makes me a bullshit artist!

Could you tell us more about the short film (Sea Of Disappointment) that you've recently directed along with Merethe Holtet?

Well, there isn't much to tell, except that it's still in the process of editing. One of the benefits of having studied cinema at Bard, I reckon. But it's got some really great footage. Merethe is yet another partner-in-creative-crime. We had a crazy time in Iceland last January, battling the ever-changing weather conditions. One minute it snows, the next, there is sun and rain at the same time. And WINDY. We even came across some old abandoned houses. It was pretty creepy, and we even got spooked by a door opening on it's own as we approached one house which looked like it was from the time of the vikings. The Icelandic people believe in elves and faeries. Spirits in the stones. I finally understand why! Merethe has a wonderful eye, and is an incredibly talented visual artist who also takes brilliant photographs. I think she shot over 1000 photos in three days, in addition to a lot of the video we shot together!

How can anyone buy your CDs and vinyl records?
Stagger Records ( in France, run by my "brother" Dimi Dero, has most of my merchandise in stock. Also, Z-Man Records in Australia put out a beautiful 2-CD version of "Broken" and "Fallen Birds", which is available through They also released "Broken" on vinyl, but I think that I have all of the remaining copies. The best way to get the CDs and records is to come to a concert, as I will have plenty to sell. And for those of you who want digital downloads, you can go to, where everything is available in various digital formats. The Piker Ryan's Folly stuff is there as well, available for free! But I wouldn't mind making some money, so feel free to make a donation or buy some of the newer songs from my solo albums!

Really looking forward to see you live on the 29th of April in After Dark!
Thank YOU! I look very forward to my first trip to Athens as well! And the concert should be a blast! Hope to see you all there! Cheers!
Interview by noise annoys! , every Thursday (12.00-14.00) at:

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