35 at 52: Mark Mikel to play 35th anniversary show Nov. 23Written by Sarah Ottney | Editor in Chief | firstname.lastname@example.org
When Toledo musician Mark Mikel’s parents gave him a four-track reel-to-reel machine for his 17th birthday, it was the beginning of a lifelong passion for recording.
“I would write songs and want to hear how it would sound with a band playing it so I’d do the whole thing — guitar, drums, bass, piano, vocals,” Mikel, 52, said. “A lot of it was finished so I could get [my bandmates] to like the song so they would want to learn it and perform it.”
Thirty-five years later, Mikel is marking the anniversary of that pivotal event by playing his first Toledo-area concert in almost a year. The show is set for 8 p.m. Nov. 23 at the Maumee Indoor Theatre, 601 Conant St.
The show will feature music from Mikel’s former bands Marikesh, The Mark Mikel Hallucination and The Pillbugs as well as tunes from his solo projects and current project Dark Ocean Colors.
General admission tickets are $25 and available at www.popcycleisland.com, the Maumee Indoor Theatre box office, RamaLama Records, Culture Clash Records and Heights Guitars.
Mikel said he assembled a group of some of the best musicians he knows to play with him, including guitarist Jeff Kollman, bassist and former bandmate Ian McCormack, keyboardist Bill Hubauer, drummer Brad Babcock, keyboardist/guitarist Zak Freed and the Monclovian 1st Irrational String Quartet. Several other artists will step in for certain songs, Mikel said.
“I’m excited to be playing with the quality of musicians I’ll be playing with that night,” he said. “These are top-notch guys and I got to hand pick the band.”
A self-described “studio hermit,” Mikel rarely performs live in Toledo anymore. The Maumee show will be his first and last local show this year. He said he stopped after growing frustrated with the bar scene.
“You want to play for an audience, but they’ve got televisions on and they are serving dinner, so it’s a whole different dynamic,” Mikel said. “I wasn’t enjoying it anymore. I didn’t like the role I was playing and it was keeping me from doing what I really wanted to do with music. I wanted to do my own music and I wanted to make and sell records. I want to play places where people really love music.”
Earlier this year, he completed a small solo acoustic tour of the United Kingdom, including a few performances at The Cavern Club in Liverpool.
“The Beatles made that famous,” Mikel said. “What cooler place to play could there be? I’m such a Beatles freak, so to go to the town where The Beatles grew up was so cool.”
Mikel recently released a four-disc digital set of early recordings. The set, called “Yesterday’s Window,” features songs written from September 1978 to July 1979 and is the first of several planned box sets.
“I have mass amounts of music from over the years that really hasn’t seen the light of day,” Mikel said. “My first album came out in 1985, so I’m going to keep doing boxes until I reach that point.”
Mikel went through all his old reels, transferred them to his computer, cleaned up the tracks and assembled definitive versions from several variations of the same songs.
“You think, 17, it’s going to be a bunch of little kid crap on there, but no, it’s good stuff,” Mikel said. “If it wasn’t any good I’d leave it alone, but it’s good. They really stand up. Some people might like it better than the stuff I do now because who knows? It’s just fun.”
Mikel was born and raised in Toledo, graduating from Bowsher High School. As a kid, he wasn’t sure if he wanted to be a musician or a cartoonist.
“Then probably around the age of 11, with the purchase of a drum set, that was it,” Mikel said. “I was a little more into making music than my friends. They were excited about it and having fun, but I was obsessed with it. I’d want to stay home and stay in my basement and write and record. That was all I wanted to do. I was like a mole person.”
Mikel spends nearly every free minute in his studio in Arrowhead Park in Maumee, which is crammed full of instruments and recording equipment, including some of the same equipment he used as a teen.
“I’m very into analog and I try to stay as analog as possible and use vintage equipment,” Mikel said.
He is obsessed with the music of the mid-60s to mid-70s, which he calls “the golden period.”
“Music was able to live and grow as an art before computers took over,” Mikel said. “Today all music sounds the same, but back then music could change sometimes within the same year. You could differentiate between early 1966 and late 1966. I can’t tell the difference between 2003 and 2013.”
Mikel describes himself as “a perfectionist who hates perfection.” One of his earliest inspirations was drummer Micky Dolenz of The Monkees. He also loves The Beatles, The Kinks and The Who.
“Perfect music bores the hell out of me,” Mikel said. “It’s knowing when to leave the mistakes, knowing when to not fix your off-key notes, knowing when maybe it’s not the best executed part, but something feels fun about it. The best rock music — The Beatles, The Stones, The Who, Hendrix — they all have rough edges. That’s essential for any kind of art.”
In May, Mikel and Dark Ocean Colors recording partner Scott Hunt released a new album, “Close Enough to See.”
“The biggest thing Mark taught me would be how to finish tunes, how to make it as good as you hoped it would be,” Hunt said. “It’s the art of listening to the big picture. If you were to strip it apart and only listen to one thing at a time, it might sound shitty, but when you put it all together it sounds great.”
For more information, visit the web site www.markmikel.com.
Tags: Arrowhead Park, bassist and former bandmate Ian McCormack, Bowsher High School, Culture Clash Records, Dark Ocean Colors, drummer Brad Babcock, guitarist Jeff Kollman, Heights Guitars, keyboardist Bill Hubauer, keyboardist/guitarist Zak Freed and the Monclovian 1st Irrational String Quartet, LIverpool, Marikesh, Maumee, Maumee Indoor Theatre, Ramalama Records, The Beatles, The Cavern Club, The Mark Mikel Hallucination, The Pillbugs, United Kingdom