Follow The Passion; An Interview with Mark Crozer

With angst that was deeply rooted within melodies that were pleasurable to the ear, The Jesus and Mary Chain have seized audiences from their humble beginnings in the outskirts of Glasgow, Scotland to here in the United States.  Tracks such as the “Tastes Like Honey”, “Happy When It Rains”, and “Sometimes Always” never cease to amaze when diving into the extraordinary library.  Amid the fierce tension between the Reid brothers that in many ways led The Jesus and Mary Chain to break up in 1999, the band reemerged in 2007 and released Damage and Joy on March 24th by ADA and Warner Music Group.
Mark Crozer (guitarist for The Jesus and Mary Chain) found himself admiring the United States during the reunion tour so much that he decided to move here.  First relocating to Charlotte then to his current residence in Brooklyn, Crozer has found himself firmly planted in other projects.  For those who are entrenched in the wrestling world, Crozer’s single “Broken Out of Love (Live In Fear)” has become wrestler’s Bray Wyatt eerie entrance music toward his descent to the ring.  His other endeavor, Mark Crozer & The Rels, have released the wisfful, indie-rock album Sunny Side Down earlier this year.
Ghettoblaster recently caught up with Crozer to talk about the juggling the attention with The Jesus and Mary Chain/Mark Crozer & The Rels, how life has changed since associated with the WWE, among other things.
The Jesus and Mary Chain have been hard at work touring and releasing Damage and Joy recently.  How has it been playing the new songs live?
Pretty frightening at first as we were under-rehearsed as usual. We had a week of rehearsals in Manchester before the tour started but most of that time was spent drinking tea and sharing our misery over Trump and Brexit. The first couple of shows were a bit shambolic and one by one we all succumbed to flu so were feeling pretty crappy for the first week. But we got into a groove after that and have been tearing it up ever since. I have to say the audience reaction to the new songs has been phenomenal. I think the show’s great now. The band sounds killer.
I saw that The Jesus and Mary Chain toured around Europe recently.  What was the feeling like going back to where it all began?
Well, it all only began for me at Coachella ten years ago. This was actually my first proper European tour with the Mary Chain as we’d previously only done festivals. It was great. No punches were thrown. There weren’t any arguments. I even saw Jim and William smile a couple of times on stage. It was almost like they were enjoying themselves.
Did you ever think at any point The Jesus and Mary Chain were going to make another run after those initial reunion years of 2007-2009?
I really had no idea. We played a festival in Brazil in November 2008 and I remember William saying “see you in January.” Then three years went by before I heard they were touring again and I’d been replaced by John Moore. At that point I thought that it was the end of the line for me. But things didn’t work out with John and I was surprised to get a call asking if I could come back to do a couple of shows in Tel Aviv. I wasn’t too keen to go because of the conflict there but at the time I was in No Mans Land, living in Nashville, totally broke and I missed playing in the band. I knew that if I turned it down there would be no way back. So I went and it was all a bit crazy. We had a rehearsal booked the day before the first show and within minutes of arriving I blew up the new guitar pedal board and then Phil blew up the bass amp. So the rehearsal was a fiasco. I was very anxious about the first show and drank too much to calm my nerves. I’m assuming I played the right notes though not long after I was asked whether I’d play bass instead of guitar so… maybe not.
I read in an interview you did some time ago that some of the songs from Damage and Joy were recorded with the Reid/Reid/King/Crozer/Colbert Mary Chain line-up – songs like  “Mood Rider” and “Presidici (Et Chapaquiditch) and the lone released track of the era “All Things Must Pass”.  Were some of those recordings possibly the beginnings of a new LP intended for release?
They’d been talking about doing a new album since the very first reunion show at Coachella. I just assumed that we were demoing songs when we did those recordings. I don’t think they were anything more than that. I don’t even remember which songs we recorded now apart from “All Things (Must) Pass”. I do remember eating some great pizza at the studio though. Funny how the human mind works.
Mark Crozer and The Rels have a new album – Sunny Side Down.  How different was it to be working on this  album compared to the previous S/T release?
Very different. The first MCATR record was mostly just me and was recorded in my home studio on and off over a number of years. I would set up wherever I happened to be at the time which was Oxfordshire, Suffolk, North Carolina, New York… all over the place. Sunny Side Down was very much a band effort and it was recorded very quickly. I went down to Charlotte and rehearsed with the band for a couple of days then we did a short East Coast US tour and went into the studio right after. We had two days booked at Mitch Easter’s studio and my plan was to record three or four songs. But at the last show in Brooklyn I was electrocuted on stage. I brushed my lips on the microphone and was thrown backwards by a huge jolt. Shawn, who plays bass, told me to touch the mic with one of the tuning pegs of my guitar and I watched in horror as a blue arc of electricity crackled between the mic and the guitar. I lost my voice for a week. Whether it was because of the shock or not I don’t know. Anyway, I couldn’t sing so we ended up recording bed tracks for seven or eight songs. We just powered through them. I’ve never had such a fun and easy time in the studio before. The guys in the band are all very musical and understand exactly how the songs should sound without any need for much explanation. Which was lucky as I could barely speak. You’d think we play all the time but we don’t actually get together very often because I live in Brooklyn and they’re all based in North Carolina. It definitely helped that we worked with Mitch who is a total recording wizard.

With The Rels doing various tours the last few years (UK dates, then some recent US shows) – Do you see potential songwriting collaborations with other members of the Rels?
I feel like it works best having one person in charge to be honest. My strength is as a songwriter and their strength is in being a really great band. When we put the two things together it works very well indeed. I heard a comedy writer recently say something along the lines of ‘democracy is great for a country but not for creativity’ and I tend to agree.
After the previous efforts, Was there a specific overall theme you wanted to accomplish with Sunny Side Down?
Having spent so much time working alone, recording everything myself in my bedroom, I wanted to do the complete opposite. I wanted to make a proper ‘band’ record without relying on drum loops or programming of any kind. And that’s exactly what we did. We ditched the idea of using a click track and played drums, bass and guitars live together in one room like it was 1965. So the record feels very organic. It’s a real band playing real instruments and you can hear it from the first note of the first song.
You had Mitch Easter help produce Sunny Side Down.  What was his vision/involvement instrumentally  with the album?
We couldn’t have accomplished this without Mitch. Not only is he a studio wizard but he’s a super laid back person and that really helped us all relax and play to our best. Plus the studio itself is an incredible space filled with all kinds of wonderful vintage gear which ended up on the record. On ‘Say Hello’ for example I played a Hammond C-3 organ plugged into a rotating Leslie speaker. It’s not a sample, it’s the real deal. It was this massive thing with big wooden pedals and I remember it took about half an hour to warm up the point where it was playable. I can’t say enough great things about Mitch. It was a magical time working with him.
What has been the response from fans since your song “Broken Out of Love (Live In Fear)” has become WWE superstar Bray Wyatt’s entrance music? Have you seen a surge of new listeners?
I’ve definitely seen a surge of new listeners for that song, running into the millions in fact, which has meant quite a few new fans. It amazes me how big the song has become. It’s been sort of a slow burning hit single I guess. Five years on and it’s still one of the WWE’s best sellers. Most singles have a very short lifespan but because it’s on TV every week It’s always being heard by new people. Long may it continue.
After all these years making and performing music, what is it that you are still wanting to accomplish that you haven’t yet?
I would love to get to a point where the Rels could become a viable touring band. We played a handful of shows as support for the Mary Chain last year and we had such a great response that I think we could do more. It’s just a question of working it out. And I’m always on a mission to write the perfect guitar pop song. There’s a very niche market now for that kind of music and in many ways I feel like a dinosaur still making guitar pop when the kids are all into whatever they’re into these days. I don’t care though. I know what I’m good at and I don’t plan to embarrass myself by trying to write an EDM tune. Having said that it would be nice to have another song as big as Live In Fear.
What are the upcoming plans for you and the projects you’re involved in currently?
This year is going to be totally consumed by Mary Chain touring. We’re on the road until November which is great. It means I’ll have plenty of time to write some new songs and finish up my rock n roll memoirs. Ha ha. I wrote a first draft last year and need to go back and revise it. The focus is on the many bizarre and disastrous experiences I’ve had in the world of music. Believe me it is a bottomless pit of disasters mostly involving cars that I’ve wrecked in ridiculous circumstances like crashing into a wild boar in Germany, breaking down irreparably within minutes of beginning a UK tour with a Canadian band, accidentally trashing a man’s car on his way to a funeral, getting stranded on Snake Pass in the Peak District in a Post Office van…
There will also be some Rels dates later this year whenever I can fit them in. It’s going to be a busy year.
(Visit Mark Crozer here: