Local Current Blog

Mark Mallman on Marathon 4 and his new ‘Double Silhouette’

Credit: Andrea Swensson/MPR

Mark Mallman stopped by the Current recently to chat about his eight-day-long musical journey Marathon 4 and share a few tracks from his new album, Double Silhouette, which is out today. If you missed the interview when it aired on the Local Show Sunday night, you can catch up by streaming it here or reading the transcript below.

Local Current: You just wrapped up your Marathon 4. First off, I have to ask: How are you feeling?

Mark Mallman: Well, I’m actually still waiting on my hearing to come back, and I hope it does. I was working on a job yesterday at Flower’s Studio and it was a little bit difficult to the mix accurately. Because I had headphones on for eight days, two different types. And I have a little bit of post-traumatic stress disorder that I’m trying to sort out, still. A lot of dreams and not sleeping, stuff like that. But it’s not so bad.

How many hours a night did you manage to sleep during the Marathon?

It was on and off. Anybody who watched knew that I’d wake up about every hour to check the headsets and make sure everything was good, because sometimes there were a lot of people watching. But yeah, sleeping wasn’t really an issue. It was the daytime mosquito level of stress that was water torture. It was very difficult to keep that little happy, funny video rolling.

Were there a lot of technical difficulties?

Not difficulties, no. I mean, we were dealing, on a consumer level, with literally something that has never been done before. And so it was, with a very small amount of money, trying to keep everything together. We had probably 30 things plugged into two outlets, and the van is moving and bouncing and everything is literally falling. And the cameras are wiggling and there’s stuff shorting out, and we’re switching between cellular networks. I learned so much about computers this summer, and I’m glad because the minute we left for New York City we were working, and we were working until we landed at Santa Monica Pier.

At night when you were sleeping, you were strapping EEG gear to your head to sync the music with your brain waves. Did that technology work as you were expecting?

Absolutely. And actually, there were two brain wave controllers. Emotiv is the company that makes the really powerful brainwave controller, and you move, create things on the computer by training it with your different thoughts. At night, I had a hacked toy called the Mattel Mindflex that uses the same NeuroSky chip — I had to [explain] all this for Wired, because they grilled me on the technology — and it was hacked and made so that when I’m sleeping I can use Abelton to create a soundscape that’s triggered by this headset.

I came to your Minneapolis stop at MCAD, and after just an hour of listening to the music I felt like I was in a bit of a trance; it had a very repetitive, soothing quality to it. I’m wondering, what’s it like after eight days of that? Does it feel like the music is still playing in your head?

No. That only happened after Marathon 2, and other little projects I did. There were some songs we invented, but really this became like a futuristic, surreal version of Conan O’Brien. We had multiple cameras, we had a host with a desk, and we had guests coming on and off. And we were driving from coast to coast. And that’s kind of why USA Today glommed onto it, because this is kind of like a new genre of… something? I don’t know, that wasn’t my goal. But the setup enabled me, I was talking and being funny and trying to keep my mind from this Chinese water torture of technology that we crammed into this van in order to do it. I learned so much. And musically I learned how to invent this type of electronic music — by the end, if anyone tuned in, we were pretty dialed in on a musical level. In the beginning, when MNDR came on, we were all over the place. It was interesting. But it’s what I do these for. I went to experiment, to see the real world disappear, to go singly into one vision and see what kind of world I can meticulously pull out of some type of valhalla. And this really was, it really sunk me into a form of hell that I’ve never been to. And it was scary, and I don’t know why it was scary. I’m still sorting it out.

Will there be a Marathon 5?

Yeah. This concept really turned the other three on their heads. It was kind of like a moot point after 78 hours and 10 hours totally hallucinating [during Marathon 3]. If we do another one, I have to change a few things. If we do, when we do, I don’t know. It could be a couple years. But it has to be something that turns the concept on its head again, because one informs the other.

Before that happens we have a new album on the way from you, Double Silhouette.

Yep, it comes out October 9, and the CD-release show is at the Ritz Theater on the 13th.

What can we expect from the new album?

It’s very singular, it’s very filmic, because I was working on horror movies in LA when I was finishing it, it’s very dark. It’s similar to the Red Bedroom, my 2002 album, but it’s a little more spacey and the fidelity is very high. I think it kicks. I think it’s really great. But you know, it’s like with all my music, the songs seem like they’re really happy and they’re actually really dark lyrics.

Tell me about the song “The Man With Music Instead of Blood.”

I wrote it about a year ago, and it was when I had went through this emotional thing, when all of a sudden I realized that I had kind of believed the myth of myself. I had been blaming rock ‘n’ roll for wild behavior and all this stuff, and then I realized, no, it’s just me. And coming to grips with that. Blaming the lifestyle that I had led — scapegoating music for my bad behavior. Now I take total accountability when I behave badly.