Thursday, 29 April 2010

Mark Mcguire

Whether making up a third of ambient psych band Emeralds, collaborating with Oneohtrix Point Never, recording under his own name or several other guises Mark Mcguire is a guitarist characterised by his prolific output and Krautrock inspired drones; creating music that can equally veer off into the shimmering and epic or the sedate and sublime. I caught up with the Cleveland, Ohio native over a series of e-mails to talk about instruments, the creative process and bromances.

You’ve always been pretty prolific with your output, like you’re always creating, what’s changed in the way you perform and record in the 5 years since you started with Emeralds?

-I play music either with Emeralds or by myself almost everyday and am constantly recording, playing, and practicing. There’s so many jams to be made and things to be done I feel like I just have to keep working constantly, there’s no time to waste! All that has really changed since we started is that I’m able to focus a lot more, and I feel like our recordings are a lot more relaxed and becoming more ambitious. I think we’re realizing our potential more and more each year and trying to go for it even harder. I still feel like we’re just getting started.

What equipment, guitars/effects do you use to record?

-For the past five years, I’ve been playing a Gibson Les Paul Studio. I recently bought a new Fender Lonestar Stratocaster, and I’ve really been digging it, such a different feel and sound than the Les Paul. I run it through a cheap distortion, a cheap phaser, an even cheaper chorus and a couple delay pedals. I also use two different guitar-synthesizers.

How much of your work is improvised? Do you spend a lot of time honing sounds and tones or do you work more on melodies?

-A lot of times I’ll just get a riff or a rhythm or a concept or something in my head, and then next time I play I try to get that idea out. It usually ends up sounding way different than planned because once I start going it’s about 90% improvised. Sometimes I’ll have an idea so deep in my head that it comes out just the way I thought, which is nice too! I like to try lots of different methods of writing and composing. Some of my new stuff is a lot more composed and put together than usual, and I’m definitely gonna keep trying out different styles and structures in the future.

Your music seems to lend itself towards the more Berlin side of things, who are some of your favourite Krautrock bands?

-I think more obviously some of my favourites are the early and mid-period Popol Vuh records, and all the Manuel Gottsching and Ash Ra Tempel records, and Kraftwerk is definitely one of the best bands of all time, and TD and Schulze and all the classic greats. That is a really important time and place for music that I respect and admire very much, but to be honest I don’t really sit around listening to that stuff all of the time or anything. Like if I’m driving and I’m listening to something really far-out I get way too zoned and that can get dark! I’m always looking for new music to get into from all different areas of the spectrum.

You collaborate with Daniel Lopatin from Oneohtrix Point Never for your Skyramps project, how do you two influence each other?

-Dan is one of the people we’ve met through our band that we had an immediate connection with as far as musical kinship, and just in general as a dude. We get along really well and I think that’s one of the most important things when collaborating with someone artistically. Being comfortable enough to create something as naturally as if you were doing it alone, and it’s definitely like that with him. Sometimes I think he’s the reincarnation of my estranged first best friend from childhood, it’s cool like that.

You’re from Cleveland Ohio, how has the city influenced you?

-Cleveland is a very unique place to grow up. The Midwest in general is a really specific vibe but Cleveland is totally its own world. There’s a lot to be inspired by here. There’s a really beautiful parks system in Ohio, were right on Lake Erie, and we get a full dose of each season. So in that way there’s a positive charge. Cleveland is also a really poor city, with a lot of people out of work. Major companies have moved out, the Ford plant is hanging on by a string, East Cleveland is really violent and scary. The Cleveland crime rates are double the national average in pretty much every category, and the winters are eternally harsh. People are really depressed here and most of them don’t even know it. They think it’s how everyone feels but it’s really just dark! That’s the negative charge, but it’s also inspiring to want to escape the bleak reality you grew up in. I love Cleveland and it’s always going to be where I call home. But with that said, I can’t wait to get out of here and see the whole world.

Mark can be found online at and