Marcy Playground – Interview

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Marcy Playground

His name is John Wozniak and he writes and sings the songs for Marcy Playground. Here is his story.

So, how have you been?

Pretty good. I have been a little under the weather and there’s a lot of stuff going on, right?

Yeah, it’s flu season.

Yeah, it’s just like a cold.

Are you outside?

I’m calling from St. Louis. Where are you right now?

How are you breaking the sophomore jinx?

By putting out a record.

You know what I mean, people are expecting bigger and better things.

Yeah, I do. I think that we have delivered that for sure. I would like to go back and re-record the first record. I think it’s sub par to what we do now.

Everybody remembers Marcy Playground for “Sex and Candy”. How do you overcome the whole one-hit-wonder syndrome?

Well, I mean, that whole one-hit-wonder thing was tagged onto to us as soon as that song came out. The problem with that is it’s premature, and it’s kind of asinine for people to start tagging band’s with one hit before they have a chance to put another record out. For me, it’s like, ‘What?’ I mean, you do that after a couple years, after they turn out to be a one hit wonder. Why tag any band as a one-hit-wonder until you know for a fact that the band is going to be a one-hit-wonder. Talking out your ass kind of thing, it’s kind of annoying to me. My feeling on that is, well, people who say that are idiots and people who wonder if we are going to be that in the future are totally wrong and unjustified in wondering. Will we be a one-hit-wonder? Who knows? Maybe, you know. When that time comes, we’ll know.

Many of the reviews I read about the new album mention that fact in the opening paragraph, I think the new record is totally different from the first

Reviews from the new record? I don’t know what reviews you’re reading. Most of the ones I have read have been positive.

As I was going to say, that many people are not breaking the ties off between the first record and the new release, and showing that this is a different band.

No, they never do, and you’re right, they never do. When Radiohead came out with “Creep”, they were labeled a one hit wonder right way. So is Radiohead a one-hit-wonder?

No, I think with a lot of people, they are just listening to the singles and not the whole album.

Yeah, I mean, The Bends came out, then OK Computer, and then they were Radiohead. Beck is another good example; he came out with “Loser”. People are idiots and asinine when they start saying stuff like that. You have to wait a little while, then say it. There is a way to do that. There are one-hit-wonders. They exist, but you have to wait a little while before you start saying it.

I know you touched on this early, but what specific aspects do you like about the new record compared to the first record?

I like the fact the record is a lot more rock and it’s got more of live energy to it. We recorded it using all vintage audio equipment, so there is no automation or protool. All classical, vintage equipment with big knobs and big tubes, and big UV meters. We did it the old way by cutting a lot of tape. It takes a little bit longer, but if you’re cutting a record with SSL and protools to edit it…

Now with digital edit, bands are putting out records faster.

Yeah, it’s like batta-bing-batta-boom we’ve got a record. For us, we did it all the old fashion way. It was all about mic placement, cutting tape, and good live performance right off the floor, so the record was all done that way. For me, it was a lot more fun to make. I think sonically it’s representative.

How are you breaking the sophomore jinx?

By putting out a record.

You know what I mean, people are expecting bigger and better things.

Yeah, I do. I think that we have delivered that for sure. I would like to go back and re-record the first record. I think it’s sub par to what we do now.

Everybody remembers Marcy Playground for “Sex and Candy”. How do you overcome the whole one-hit-wonder syndrome?

Well, I mean, that whole one-hit-wonder thing was tagged onto to us as soon as that song came out. The problem with that is it’s premature, and it’s kind of asinine for people to start tagging band’s with one hit before they have a chance to put another record out. For me, it’s like, ‘What?’ I mean, you do that after a couple years, after they turn out to be a one hit wonder. Why tag any band as a one-hit-wonder until you know for a fact that the band is going to be a one-hit-wonder. Talking out your ass kind of thing, it’s kind of annoying to me. My feeling on that is, well, people who say that are idiots and people who wonder if we are going to be that in the future are totally wrong and unjustified in wondering. Will we be a one-hit-wonder? Who knows? Maybe, you know. When that time comes, we’ll know.

Many of the reviews I read about the new album mention that fact in the opening paragraph, I think the new record is totally different from the first

Reviews from the new record? I don’t know what reviews you’re reading. Most of the ones I have read have been positive.

As I was going to say, that many people are not breaking the ties off between the first record and the new release, and showing that this is a different band.

No, they never do, and you’re right, they never do. When Radiohead came out with “Creep”, they were labeled a one hit wonder right way. So is Radiohead a one-hit-wonder?

No, I think with a lot of people, they are just listening to the singles and not the whole album.

Yeah, I mean, The Bends came out, then OK Computer, and then they were Radiohead. Beck is another good example; he came out with “Loser”. People are idiots and asinine when they start saying stuff like that. You have to wait a little while, then say it. There is a way to do that. There are one-hit-wonders. They exist, but you have to wait a little while before you start saying it.

I know you touched on this early, but what specific aspects do you like about the new record compared to the first record?

I like the fact the record is a lot more rock and it’s got more of live energy to it. We recorded it using all vintage audio equipment, so there is no automation or protool. All classical, vintage equipment with big knobs and big tubes, and big UV meters. We did it the old way by cutting a lot of tape. It takes a little bit longer, but if you’re cutting a record with SSL and protools to edit it…

Now with digital edit, bands are putting out records faster.

Yeah, it’s like batta-bing-batta-boom we’ve got a record. For us, we did it all the old fashion way. It was all about mic placement, cutting tape, and good live performance right off the floor, so the record was all done that way. For me, it was a lot more fun to make. I think sonically it’s representative.

How are you breaking the sophomore jinx?

By putting out a record.

You know what I mean, people are expecting bigger and better things.

Yeah, I do. I think that we have delivered that for sure. I would like to go back and re-record the first record. I think it’s sub par to what we do now.

Everybody remembers Marcy Playground for “Sex and Candy”. How do you overcome the whole one-hit-wonder syndrome?

Well, I mean, that whole one-hit-wonder thing was tagged onto to us as soon as that song came out. The problem with that is it’s premature, and it’s kind of asinine for people to start tagging band’s with one hit before they have a chance to put another record out. For me, it’s like, ‘What?’ I mean, you do that after a couple years, after they turn out to be a one hit wonder. Why tag any band as a one-hit-wonder until you know for a fact that the band is going to be a one-hit-wonder. Talking out your ass kind of thing, it’s kind of annoying to me. My feeling on that is, well, people who say that are idiots and people who wonder if we are going to be that in the future are totally wrong and unjustified in wondering. Will we be a one-hit-wonder? Who knows? Maybe, you know. When that time comes, we’ll know.

Many of the reviews I read about the new album mention that fact in the opening paragraph, I think the new record is totally different from the first

Reviews from the new record? I don’t know what reviews you’re reading. Most of the ones I have read have been positive.

As I was going to say, that many people are not breaking the ties off between the first record and the new release, and showing that this is a different band.

No, they never do, and you’re right, they never do. When Radiohead came out with “Creep”, they were labeled a one hit wonder right way. So is Radiohead a one-hit-wonder?

No, I think with a lot of people, they are just listening to the singles and not the whole album.

Yeah, I mean, The Bends came out, then OK Computer, and then they were Radiohead. Beck is another good example; he came out with “Loser”. People are idiots and asinine when they start saying stuff like that. You have to wait a little while, then say it. There is a way to do that. There are one-hit-wonders. They exist, but you have to wait a little while before you start saying it.

I know you touched on this early, but what specific aspects do you like about the new record compared to the first record?

I like the fact the record is a lot more rock and it’s got more of live energy to it. We recorded it using all vintage audio equipment, so there is no automation or protool. All classical, vintage equipment with big knobs and big tubes, and big UV meters. We did it the old way by cutting a lot of tape. It takes a little bit longer, but if you’re cutting a record with SSL and protools to edit it…

Now with digital edit, bands are putting out records faster.

Yeah, it’s like batta-bing-batta-boom we’ve got a record. For us, we did it all the old fashion way. It was all about mic placement, cutting tape, and good live performance right off the floor, so the record was all done that way. For me, it was a lot more fun to make. I think sonically it’s representative.

You brought in a new guitarist, Zeke, so you could focus on your vocals more. Talk about his contributions and your new role.

Zeke helps to fill out our sound more live. He has a really good sense of space in his playing and his leads are really tasty. He’s doing a lot of the lead work and I’m doing more of the rhythm and singing. Sometimes I opt out of the guitar and just sing, and that’s interesting, not to have a guitar in front of me for the first time. Zeke’s a great guitar player, and the rest of the band have known him for eleven years. He fit in right away.

Not too many people know the story behind Shapeshifter. Would you mind retelling the story?

I grew up in a house where were my mother would have these friends over, but these friends were not your typical Saturday evening friends. They were spiritual people and medicine men, African shaman from Ghana, Tibetan monks, very interesting people. My mother took me to meet Rolling Thunder, who was the Cherokee medicine man, because he was in town and a friend of the family’s. When I met him, he started talking about this shapeshifter and the fact that he could see a shapeshifter around me. Whether or not it’s true, I do not know. He was not… it was a very, very strange experience for me. I think he was trying to teach me respect for things other than my immediate surroundings. I was a thirteen old kid who…

More or less a teaching about a life lesson.

Yeah, life lesson about how there is more important things in the world than your report card and your friends at school, it’s a big world.

Talk about the process of making the record. There’s a good balance and flow.

I think of the recording process in terms of creating a project, like an old classical vinyl record, ‘What kind of song do we need that this section or what type of energy?’ You know. Doing it like that, the songs almost pick themselves, but because of that some of my favorite songs that could be radio singles are going to have to wait.

I read that you are not really into b-sides…

Yeah, right. Every song should be an a-side. That’s my opinion: if it’s a b-side, then it sucks. My big fear is that it sucks, and that’s how I feel with “Sex and Candy”, is that it sucks. I would like to re-record it, but it really doesn’t matter. Maybe putting out a b-sides compilation of the material that did not make it would be pretty happening, actually because I like it! They are album cuts that just did not make it.

I’m going to throw a couple of songs from Shapeshifter at you and you tell me what comes to mind about the song. “It’s Saturday”, the first single was originally called “Teenage Hypochondriac”. Could you talk about that a bit?

It was about my mom being a continuous worrier and always into herbal medicine. If someone was sick, she would say you should take some wheat grass juice, and I just took that with my experience of going to school and I mix them into a song about not wanting to go to school. Then finding out it’s Saturday in sort of a Michelle Silverstein sort of way.

My favorite track on the record by far is “Bye Bye.” The vibe of the track is great. Did you originally write that song on acoustic guitar?

Actually, most of my songs I write on acoustic guitar. It’s a song about death. Do you know what the Bodhistava is?

No.

It’s a spiritual ceremony where you promise to be the last soul to enter the afterlife. It was one of those songs where I pull out my absolute fear of death and try to make it more positive. I’m really afraid of death. I figured I would write this song to sort of embrace that.

Is song writing in a sense therapeutic to you?

Yes. It could be a catharsis or antithesis of catharsis. Hey, that’s a good one. For me, definitely.

Another song I dig that is more on the rock side is “Secret Squirrel”. That’s got a nasty little riff in there.

That’s a bit of a pop culture song. My major in college was Popular Art and Culture, and the study of what’s pop. Saturday morning cartoons is a big part of our pop culture. “Secret Squirrel” is a cartoon, the song was about that but also modernizing it because it’s was an old cartoon. I gave it a surf quality. I don’t know what kind of quality that is really.

Was “Rebel Sodville” a nod to Neil Young in any way?

No, that was a song I wrote when I was fifteen. That’s the oldest song I can remember writing. I wrote it one night because I woke up from a crazy dream. I wrote the dream down, and the next morning it was totally forgotten about. A couple days later I discovered this dream I have written down in my notebook and decided to make a song out of it.

How did it end up on Shapeshifter?

Well, we started playing it, well, I played it for the band one time and they liked it. So we started playing it live and sort of refreshed in my mind the cool vibe that it had. Once we recorded it, the band said we have to put it on the record, so I said okay.

What’s the deal the cover? I heard stories about The Butthole Surfers wanted to use it. I like the artwork.

Mark Ryden, he did One Hot Minute for the Chili Peppers, a Michael Jackson record cover, and bunch of others. With Paul (Leary) and The Surfers, they had gotten Mark to draw a series of, like Western series of camping stuff. Out of the series came this piece [for the cover of our album]. Our record company neglected to tell us that our cover came out of that series, and Paul was like, ‘What the fuck? Marcy Playground took our shit.’ We talked to Paul about it and we all realized that it was a record company fuck up. The cover fit what we were looking for and we asked Mark for a piece and that’s what we got from him.

How did you hook up with the Brotherhood of Light?

We went in search of someone who was doing that type of lightning show, we wanted the liquid light show. The best people doing that is the Brotherhood of Light, actually the only people doing it. They have been out with the Allman Brothers for the last ten years doing their thing.

How’s that working out so far?

It’s working brilliantly! The guy’s name is Liquid Pete. He part’s of the band now. It’s a light and sound experience now as opposed to going to see a band. We definitely get a bit more progressive and do a bit more jams to Pete’s light show.

Most of the music I’m into involves bands that put on live shows that do not dictate the record in anyway, thus making it a concert experience.

We totally agree with that; that’s why we like Jimmie’s Chicken Shack. Dude, let me tell you something. They are one of the best live bands in the history of rock and roll. I kid you not. I have seen a lot of bands, but nobody puts on a show like them. We played HVF Festivals with Foo Fighters and Everclear; Jimmie’s Chicken Shack kills them! Incredible.

Where does Marcy Playground fit into today’s melting pot of music?

I really don’t like any of the new music; it’s pretty homogeneous. Like Korn. To me, Jimmies Chicken Shack was doing that like eight years ago. To me, it’s like what’s new with this or fresh about it. Deftones have been doing it for a long time too, and what kind of notoriety have they got? None. Deftones kill Limp.

There’s a lot bands that do not get the notoriety they deserve, and, for me, it’s like who the fuck is making the decisions on what’s popular or should be played!

Actually. Who’s out there deciding that the Limp is better than the Deftones? Give me a break. Or that they deserve commercial success. That person needs to be taken out back and beaten!

+ larry sarzyniak

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