This interview was conducted in 1997 and revised in 2003. It was published in the Lummox Journal in both years.
note: I first interviewed Mark Weber back in 1997, when the LJ was in it’s “big” format.I had gotten a split chapbook (co-written with Mark) from Gerry Locklin that had pictures of some of the
musicians that I would later come to know of as those involved with the experimental music scene here in Los Angeles, (some
of whom Mark has recorded) like Nels Cline and Vinny Golia. Imagine my surprise
when I walked into Sacred Grounds in San Pedro, one Sunday afternoon and found Golia, et al, working before a near empty house…I
ran home and got that chapbook and raced back and asked Vinny to sign it.He
looked at me like I was crazy.But he signed it.So for that, and the introduction to Todd Moore, I’ve undertaken this re-interview.I hope that after reading this, you’ll want to contact Mark and order a copy of one of his wonderful
CDs. You can reach Mark at Zerxpress@aol.com
RD: How'd you ever get started doing the Zerx Chapbooks?
MW: I've always been a do it yourself kinda guy, and it just occurred to me in the early 80s
to start doing them. And then as I went along, more and more was revealed to me -- what do the anthropologists
call that? "participatory consciousness"? I found out that chapbooks are the best. They’re short,
quick, easy to read, and if a poet can't get it together in 20 pages of poems then they'll NEVER get it together. If
you can't do your poet thing in 20 pages there's no amount of additional pages that is going to help.
RD: You publish a lot of split chaps with Gerry Locklin, how’d that happen?Is he the only poet you’ve published with?
MW: Regarding split chapbooks -- I've come to feel that about 18 pages is all you should need
to get your poem thing across. But, 18 pages is too small for a book. So, you do the double book
thing with Gerald. He's always game. We've done one per year since 1987, if I remember correctly. And we're
already planning the next one. My side some years winds up being a dumping ground for a lot of odds & ends
that would never find themselves in a book anywhere. Most of my book-length manuscripts are still awaiting a publisher.
RD: How long have you been at this?
MW: I was born writing. My mom has 6 pages letters I wrote to her concerning the state of our household
when I was 7 or 6. Published my first poem in high school newspaper, 1971. I didn’t get on board
with the American small press lit thing till 1980-ish. Though, I was writing poetry all along. Up to 1980 I was
so involved with the Los Angeles jazz & blues scene
that I never got around to checking out the huge happening poetry scene during those days. I wrote for jazz magazines
-- CODA mostly -- for 14 years.
RD: So, is that where you met Vinny Golia and his crowd?
MW: I met saxophonist Vinny Golia in the early 70s in Los Angeles when we were both acolytes at the church of clarinetist
John Carter and trumpeter Bobby Bradford. John has since moved on into further dimensions of himself, but Bobby is still
around and No, I haven’t recorded with Bobby. I did engineer the recording of his latest CD where we got
a live shot of his band at Museum of Modern Art there next to the La Brea Tar Pits, last August. I'm not sure what Bobby's
calling the CD yet, but I suggested he call it WHEN YOU GET TO THE MONA LISA TURN LEFT, which is something Bobby said when
we came in the back door of the museum and asked directions. I've never been in the bowels of that museum, huge!
I've always been up top.
RD: I regard you as being the Alan Lomax of modern music. How'd you start the Zerx Recordings?
MW: Oh, I'd been doing poetry readings all around the country and the idea of working with poetry + music
always interested me, and being that most of my friends are musicians, we just did it. And then we put out a record
on Vinny Golia's 9 Winds label and that got me hooked. It was purely fun. Writing is such an in-grown occupation
that it became a healthy social thing to goof off with musicians. I still prefer poems on the page, best. But,
again, it's a gas to work with musicians.
RD: Who are some of the people you’ve done recordings with?
MW: Here’s a list of some of the poets/musicians who record on Zerx: Bayou Seco, Stefan Dill, J.A.Deane,
Todd Moore, Mitch Rayes, Lisa Gill, Janet Feder, Bubbadinos, Ken Keppeler, Jeanie McLerie, Gerald Locklin, Joe Somoza, JB
Bryan, David Parlato, Mark Weaver, Michael Vlatkovich, Nels Cline, Vinny Golia, William Roper, Chris Shultis, Steve Peters,
Mary B, Melody Sumner Carnahan, Ray Zepeda, Socorro Romo, Juan Taike, Quincy Adams, Manny Rettinger, Larry Goodell, Kurt Heyl,
Al Faaet, Dave Wayne, Steve Terrell, Tom Guralnick, David Moss, etc etc
RD: What about this ALBUzerxQUE series?How did that come
MW: The ALBUZERXQUE compilation CD series came about when it became apparent how much music was here in
New Mexico. Presumably a person who has spent a goodly portion of their life in the arts
should know when they’re hearing good music and poetry without consulting the Name Game. You should know
a good poem even if only Joe Blow wrote it and not Robert Pinsky. So, I started recording the local New Mex scene.
The series is up to 15 volumes presently. Sales have been pitiful so we're taking a breather right now.
Todd [Moore] told me he read that the "creativity index" for towns in the 650,000 population range, that
Albuquerque is top dog in the states. Albuquerque is also top dog in that category for murder.
Actually, if I read the NEW YORKER correctly, Albuquerque is 5-times more murderous than New York City. Personally, I've
only been shot at once in the 12 years we've been here, and that was just 'cause I was in the wrong place at the wrongest
time. They got the bumper of my truck instead. We were outside my engineer's studio. Actually, we were inside and thought
we heard fireworks. Went outside to check it out and found ourselves in the middle of some midget gangbangers playing
out the dramas of their lives. I'd sure be pissed if I got killed by a 13-year-old idiot. Me and Quincy, my engineer,
did a Keystone Cops and to this day neither of us can remember who got back inside the door first, we were grabbing and crawling
over each other in a dead heat. Three houses have holes in them to attest to the marksmanship of these drama queens.
The recording studio is in Albuquerque's "War Zone." Perfect for Zerx.
RD: And your gig on KUNM?
MW: The radio show at KUNM came about after I sobered up several years ago and Mark Weaver, the tuba maestro
& jazz dj, talked me into coming down to the station and being a jock myself. I hadn’t really planned to become
a jockey and then I fell in love with it. Every Thursday I have 2,000 listeners and streaming on the web @ kunm.org
(Thursdays, - ).
RD: I’ve been listening to [a
tape of] your radio show and you play mostly straight ahead jazz, but you mix it up with some experimental stuff. Zerx
seems to record a cornicopia of styles of music besides jazz, but mostly it is not mainstream. So do you see yourself as an
archivist? Or are you more of a musicologist? Could you go into your philosophy" (meaning, your selection process, how
you choose certain groups to record, etc)? Is there a plan or is it more a case of who "falls by"?
MW: I see & hear the whole of jazz
as one continuum. You can't understand Albert Ayler without knowing 1920s New Orleans parade music.You can't possibly understand Ornette without knowing Lightnin Hopkins.You can't follow Misha Mingelberg & Han Bennink without knowing Thelonious Monk and Baby Dodds.
show might seem "straight ahead" but it's more devious than that.I don’t
compromise one inch on the airwaves -- everything I play I love and will defend. But why play this way out ultra
avant garde stuff if you’re going to lose listeners. Most listeners in the daytime (my show is Thursday
afternoons also streaming on the web @ kunm.org ) are at work or driving or just not ready for Marilyn Crispell,
yet. So, I don’t spin anything with extended forms or too involved -- well, I do actually, but
I don’t make it a habit. There's so much great jazz just in the mainstream that I don’t have a problem programming
hit shows every week. Tomorrow on the show I'll be interviewing saxophonist Frank Morgan and playing his music.
RD: Frank Morgan?All right!
MW: Right now as I type this I'm
listening to a CD of the Amsterdam group Instant Composers Pool who were just here playing the Outpost, and I got to chauffer
them around and hang with Misha Mingelberg, Han Bennink, and Tristan Honsinger!These
guys are Gods. They are contemporaries with Cecil and Trane and Sun Ra in the free jazz world. I got them to sign
the Eric Dolphy LP, LAST DATE that they were on in 1964! Monsters. Still playing their butts off. Raised
the roof off the place. Ten musicians from The Netherlands killing us. BUT, I'd have a hard time spinning this on a regular basis.
Most people can't take it. Most poets still write with their tenses uniform and in proper uniformity.
In music that's like playing with fealty to the tonal system, which went out with Eisenhower. Most
poets have tin ears. Someday I'm going to have to get them all together with a chalk board and a piano
and explain a few things about music to them.
RD: So could you go into a little bit
more about this concept that most poets have tin ears? (I believe that there is a direct connection between music and
poetry and I don't mean that it's because jazz is COOL for backing poetry - tho it often is very COOL - so could you explain
your reference to music and poetry?)
MW: I'm probably not making any friends
with this question. So, let's just say that by & large I'm scared to know what music poets listen to, in terms of
music. It's not really their fault, they’ve been brainwashed by the industry.It's rare to find people who actually pay close enough attention to music to be knowing about it.
can hear it in their poems. Clunky. No flow. No ideas or development of deas. All the poets who
are influenced by Bukowski they went to the liquor store but did they listen to Mahler? or Borodin? (Bukowski
was a Romantic) (You never heard him digging Bach/Baroque music and you never hear him speak of 20th century music
-- it would have been great if he got some Ives, Cowell, Schoenberg, Webern, Berg, Bartok into his ears -- whew, he
would have soared even more)( he did dig Sibelius, but Sibelius was a 20th century composer who essentially was
a 19th century Romantic ).
Gerald Locklin can play the piano! He's a piano playing motherfucker. And it
shows in his writings. And it shows in what he listens to. Ron Androla plays congas and listens
far and wide. Fred Voss digs the blues. Todd Moore digs Mozart. And is there any question they can
write? These guys write their butts off.
I've just always had high expectations for poets
-- that they were a little more musically hip. But, it hasn’t been my experience.
Here's my latest poem (why I burned out on the poetry scene)
ANOTHER JIGGER OF DISILLUSIONMENT
what finally pushed me over the edge was when i got jerked around by
this guy who was publishing an anthology of jaywalkers called the Outlaw Bible of Poetry said he wanted some of my
poems had me sign a contract them crazy fuckers i knew from my jail days could tell stories to curl your hair and
if your hair was already curly then, it'd get straightened and if you didn't laugh when they got to the part where
he gouged out a guy's eye then we'd know you wasn't one of us like you won't find me in this Bible either that's
no more outlaw than my house cats i once punched an L.A. police dead square in the face and when he got back up i
had already injected all the evidence into a vein his .45 was shaking so bad i thought i was goners but in this game you