Musician Interview with Mkl Anderson of Drekka
Name: Mkl Anderson
Bands: My projects: Drekka, Turn Pale
Toured with rivulets, Jessica Bailiff, In Gowan Ring, Besoin Dead
Websites: facebook.com/drekka.is, drekka.bandcamp.com, drekkalivearchive.bandcamp.com, www.bluesanct.com/bands/drekka, www.flickr.com/photos/drekka/, bluesanct.tumblr.com
QRD – What’s a myth about touring you wish people knew wasn’t true?
Mkl – People seem to think that ‘tour’ & ‘vacation’ are synonymous. They are far from the same thing.
QRD – How many shows do you do a year & how many would you like to?
Mkl – An average of 40 to 60 shows a year, which seems perfect.
QRD – How many shows does it take before you are in a real groove?
Mkl – For Drekka, the start of the tour is the most creative. After a dozen or so shows, things sort of settle into a script, so I generally will come up with a new basic set plan for each week of tour & discard the previous week’s material.
For Turn Pale, being a band set up with songs & whatnot, we’d get to a peak after a week or so. But, we tended to play a lot locally, so we were always pretty well rehearsed.
QRD – What’s your preferred length of tour?
Mkl – For US, around 3 weeks... for Europe, around 7 weeks.
QRD – Do you use a booking agent or book things yourself & what are the advantages of each?
Mkl – I book the bulk of my own shows, mostly because it is hard to find a booking agent who understands Drekka has different priorities/needs for performance spaces. In Italy, I have been lucky enough to have a few great friends who book my shows & they are always amazing shows.
The advantage to booking my own shows is having personal contact with all the venues & folks putting on the shows. The downside is it sucks up a huge amount of mental energy & time & makes my life miserable for the period preceding going out & doing the shows.
QRD – With so many venues no longer having an in house promoter & promotions relying so much more on the band themselves, how do you get the word out to cities you’ve never been to before or rarely go to?
Mkl – I don’t. I don’t work with venues who are too lazy & impersonal to put any effort into the shows they book.
QRD – How do you think the festival circuit has effected touring & do you enjoy playing festivals?
Mkl – Festivals are a rash & a racket. It is just another indication of the emerging corporatizing of culture, only accessible to those with the contacts & the money. I would play festivals, if it were possible. But, I am not going to dance like a little monkey to get on them.
QRD – Do you keep notes on how to play your songs?
Mkl – I record every set I do & generally will go back over the recording if I have time, or if I feel it went particularly well & take notes on what I might try to recreate.
QRD – How often do you have line-up changes & how do they effect the band?
Mkl – Just me. Always just me.
QRD – How do band practices differ from live shows?
Mkl – I never practice. In fact, I almost never even set up my equipment at home... just at the shows.
QRD – When you hear your live recordings are you generally critical or satisfied?
Mkl – The live recordings tend to bring out elements of the material that is not immediately heard in a live setting. They tend to stand pretty well on their own & I use live recordings to sculpt much of my released ‘studio’ recordings.
QRD – Do you think of recorded versions or live versions of your songs as definitive?
Mkl – My material is never definitive. It is all just snapshots of the present.
QRD – What do you do to stay interested in your set each night?
Mkl – I try to listen intently & be open to completely discarding the plan at hand.
QRD – Do you do the same set every night on a tour?
Mkl – Similar structures, sometimes. But every night is pretty different.
QRD – How does the audience effect what or how you play on a given night?
Mkl – The audience & the space is probably the most influential element for a performance. An inattentive audience makes it impossible for me to communicate what I am trying to get across & many nights will result in someone getting slapped. Or at the very least get a big blast of fuck you from my mixer. No matter how loud they talk, I control the volume.
QRD – Do you take new songs on the road or stick with released material?
Mkl – There is a huge element of improvisation & writing on the fly going on live.
QRD – Do you throw in cover songs & how do you select them?
Mkl – If a conversation before the show or something in the air reminds me of some song or tune, I will often try to work it into the set somehow. It is part of the dialogue hopefully going on between myself & the evening.
QRD – How do you deal with bad stage sound & bad sound guys?
Mkl – I try to make the best of it & if it is not workable I tend to revert to a noise set with the goal being making the PA sound even worse.
QRD – What do you do when equipment malfunctions on stage?
Mkl – Usually start singing & look for some sort of drum lying around to hit.
QRD – What’s something you hate seeing other bands do?
Mkl – Apologizing at the end of the set. No one noticed if you got the words wrong or played sloppy... unless you apologize for it at the end of your set.
QRD – Do you ever tour with bands other than your own as a hired hand & if so how is that experience different?
Mkl – I have driven & sold merch for bands... it is a lot more relaxing & you actually get to look around the places you go sometimes!
QRD – Do you prefer playing with another touring band or just locals?
Mkl – I like playing with locals. It is nice to meet people like yourself who live in the places you play.
QRD – Do you try to listen to the local opening bands on tour?
Mkl – No. Almost never. It makes it exciting when you see someone who takes you by surprise. It also keeps you from dreading playing with some band who completely sucks.
QRD – What makes you like a particular city?
Mkl – Don’t know exactly... it is always nice to return to a city & see someone you know from last time.
QRD – What makes you like a particular venue?
Mkl – Stereo PA, good full bass frequencies, friendly promoter who interacts with you & seems to care, refreshments.
QRD – What do you have for merch?
Mkl – Whatever is still in print. I like to have a t-shirt for the tour, which come with a download for the most recent album. This has been really successful with people who want to support the tour & buy something, but don’t want a physical record.
QRD – Do you try to have any specialized merch for live shows?
Mkl – I try to have some sort of special tour release, usually a very ltd edition cassette or in the 90s a CDR.
QRD – What’s a merch item you think about selling but haven’t yet?
Mkl – Poseable Drekka action figures. Turn Pale always meant to make little goth lunch boxes, but never did.
QRD – Besides band members, how many people do you bring on tour & what are their duties?
Mkl – Usually try to have at least one non-band member... job, to provide perspective, moral support, & help sell merch.
QRD – When you’re on tour, does someone take a father figure role of responsibility?
Mkl – I will be your father figure, put your tiny hand in mine.
QRD – What do you do to keep your instruments & personal belongings from being stolen?
Mkl – Hope for the best, never leave it out of sight of someone I trust.
QRD – Do you rent a vehicle or take out your own?
Mkl – US tours we have one, Euro tours we rent one.
QRD – What’s the worst car breakdown you’ve had on tour?
Mkl – Turn Pale had our van break down in Connecticut, pre-GPS, pre-cell phones... walked several miles to get a tow truck, then two of us hitched a ride to Brooklyn with the other band we were touring with, while the other two road with the tow truck which towed the van up to the front of the venue in Brooklyn where we unloaded directly on to stage & played immediately... then, was stranded in NYC for several days while our van was repaired.
QRD – What’s your ideal touring vehicle?
Mkl – Compact car with good gas mileage.
QRD – What plays on the radio as you drive?
Mkl – If Sarah is driving, Of Montreal.
QRD – How do you occupy time in the van?
Mkl – Stare out the window.
QRD – What’s your main activity to occupy your downtime when not in the van?
Mkl – Sit & watch people walking around.
QRD – How do you try to find places to eat on the road?
Mkl – Internet or GPS on the road... or ask locals at the show.
QRD – What’s your in a pinch fast food meal?
Mkl – In the US, Chipotle or Cracker Barrel. In Italy, Auto Grill
QRD – Do you try to make any meals for yourself on the road?
Mkl – Nope.
QRD – How many days does it take before your body is in sync with the touring lifestyle?
Mkl – Drekka is a world class touring artist, always in sync & ready to go.
QRD – Do you prefer to stay at people’s houses or hotels & what are the advantages & disadvantages to each?
Mkl – As long as there is a private, clean bed to sleep in & no dogs or smokers, I am fine staying at someone’s house. I like talking with people after the show & the next day. Love hanging out with the promoters or other bands & stuff.
QRD – Do you have separate clothes for onstage than daywear?
Mkl – Not for Drekka, but in Turn Pale I had two button up stage shirts I would alternate.
QRD – How many changes of clothes do you take on tour?
Mkl – I bring five t-shirts, two pairs of jeans, & all the socks & underwear in my drawer (around 12 pairs)
QRD – How often do you do laundry on tour?
Mkl – Once a week or so. I also try to bring a couple pairs of socks in the shower with me & air dry them overnight.
QRD – How often do you try to bathe & how do you schedule in everyone getting bathed?
Mkl – It is just me & my girlfriend usually. I shower about the same as at home, depending on the season & how hot it is out.
QRD – What do you do when a band member has totally different ideas about hygiene?
Mkl – Make fun of them.
QRD – How often do you try to schedule a day off?
Mkl – Ideally, five or six days on, one day off. I try to avoid more than one day off at a time because it kills your momentum, & tends to get me sick. If I let my momentum slow, my brain thinks I am home & that it is time to crash & burn.
QRD – Any tips for not getting sick on the road?
Mkl – I am a bad person to ask that one. I have had food poisoning several times on tour now. On Turn Pale tours, I would always lose my voice halfway through & I was the singer.
QRD – Do you have a set drinking policy (none before performing or a nightly total)?
Mkl – No. Depends on the show, the mood... I definitely try to remember that just because it is free doesn’t mean I have to drink every night.
QRD – What’s a lesson from touring you keep forgetting & re-learning?
Mkl – I keep forgetting the Italian word for ‘Thank you.’ Every year, I can’t remember it.
QRD – What do you do the week before tour to get ready?
Mkl – As little as possible. I eat at all my favourite restaurants & start packing like ten days beforehand... I make a pile in the corner of my office with anything I think I will need.
QRD – How long does it take to convert back to day-to-day life?
Mkl – Around 5 days. I used to have a t-shirt I would wear for a week after I got home from tour which read ‘Tour was fine, thanks’... now, I just avoid going out for a few days when I get home.
QRD – How do you test for personality conflicts between band members before touring?
Mkl – Unfortuantely, I have never done that before... which has led to some awkward touring experiences.
QRD – How has touring effected how you feel about playing in your hometown?
Mkl – I try not to play locally more than once every couple months.
QRD – How do you feel about fans putting live cell phone videos up on YouTube?
Mkl – My stuff doesn’t translate well recorded through phone mics & I would rather someone keep the phone in their pocket so it doesn’t distract other people at the show. But, it is always nice when someone cares enough to record & share your work, so it is a give & take situation.
QRD – Do you see touring as mainly a promotional tool for your new albums?
Mkl – Nah, I see touring as a way to travel & meet people who I may have something in common with. The biggest thing I get out of it is the ability to travel. It is the primary reason I create the works I do.
QRD – Do you try to hit museums or any touristy things while you travel?
Mkl – Only if there is a day off... trying to cram being a tourist & getting to the show totally stressed me out. Besides, I am not much of a tourist anyway. I prefer to just do what people who live where we are do.
QRD – Do you try to get any rudimentary grasp of a language before touring in a foreign country?
Mkl – Nah, part of the fun is being lost in translation.
QRD – Do you have any pre-stage rituals before each set?
Mkl – A little tincture of kava kava & a lot of trance inducing pacing around for about 20 minutes before I begin the set in earnest.
QRD – Does “what happens on tour, stays on tour” apply for you?
Mkl – Not in the age of iPhones.
QRD – Have you ever or would you like to do a bus/train/mass transit tour?
Mkl – I have done extensive train tours in Europe. Pretty good for the most part, except lugging around 50lbs in equipment & spending hours of your time sitting in train stations each day gets a little bit boring. But, it is a fun way to see parts of cities you wouldn’t otherwise experience.
QRD – What are your favorite & least favorite seasons to tour?
Mkl – I hate touring the US in the summer, because touring the US is a crapshoot even without the dehydration & heat exhaustion. I prefer to tour in the late autumn or mid winter. I am a goth like that.
QRD – If money were no object, how many months a year would you spend on the road?
Mkl – Two yearly excursions, around 5 or 6 weeks each.
QRD – What would make you start touring more or start touring less?
Mkl – More = financial viability. Less = financial inability.
QRD – What’s something that would cause you to cut a tour short?
Mkl – I have had food poisoning on tour several times now, so health issues wouldn’t stop me... if I got all my stuff stolen, I wouldn’t be able to continue. Other than that or breaking a leg, I cant’ see why I would miss a show or cut short a tour.
QRD – What’s something about life in general that you’ve learned from touring?
Mkl – That everywhere is more or less the same, which is neither a good or bad thing, & doesn’t make traveling less fun.
QRD – Anything else?
Mkl – Drekka is a world class touring artist.