Interview with Chlorine Frontman Mark Fain
Chlorine is the band determined not to be another casualty in the business that gives into bubble-gum pop and electronica. When singer/guitarist Mark Fain and drummer Eddie Travis, who had been playing in various bands together for years, decided to make music they believed in, they formed Chlorine. The band expanded with guitarist Chris Henrich, and bassist Jared Mueller. After being one of the many developing bands that fell through Universal/Polygram merger, the band soldiered on and signed with Time Bomb Recordings. The band delivered their eleven-track debut, “Primer” in June. Singer/guitarist Mark Fain sat me down prior to the bands dynamic live show to talk about everything.
by Jasmine Mowgood
Jas: How did you meet and how long has the band been together?
Mark Fain: I think it's funny. We started out as the drummer (Eddie Travis) and I, were in bands for a long time, before Chlorine was ever formed. And it was crazy. It was us two, and we were always in bands together. Then I went off to do my own thing in Los Angeles, he went off to do his own thing. We were always playing in different bands around town. Like local bands.
Jas: What made you get back together this time for good?
MF: We started Chlorine, because we both wanted to rock. We both wanted to kill stereotypes, of what was necessarily cool, as far as "flash-in-the-pan," alternative type, whatever. Which I love -- alternative rock, that’s what it all is essentially, but we wanted to balls out, big chorus rock, and kinda fuse together.
FALLING THROUGH THE CRACKS
Jas: What happened with your developmental deal with Mercury Records?
MF: It was funny, cause when Chlorine was a band for like 5 months, it ended up that we had a developmental deal with Columbia, and they offered us a deal, and then our A & R guy got canned, then our deal went out the window. It was weird slipping through the cracks. Then we go on for a couple more months. Then Mercury stepped up, and it was Mercury-Nashville, and they wanted a pet rock band. Totally weird. That thing ended up going...Well what happened there, was the big Universal merger, and we got the gas chamber with that.
THE TIME BOMB OFFER
Jas: With everything that happened to you in your past record deals, were you cautious signing with Time Bomb Recordings?
MF: It wasn't so much that, it was that it got to the point where, we knew we were great and there had to be a reason we were pulling in like 1,000 people a night on our own without a record out, because of some kind of mystery. But we're in, Houston, Texas, and it's not like A & R guys [are] coming in with contracts in their back pockets everyday, down in Houston. So it was really frustrating. So we'd been through the two raw deals, and we're going, "What's the deal here?" So [we thought] we'll do our own record. I'll go to radio myself if I have to and we'll just get [on] Soundscan ourselves, and do it that way. We were all frustrated, and just about to do it ourselves when Time Bomb stepped up, and offered us a contract two days later. And Time Bomb's a major label with an indie attitude. Which is really great.
Jas: Did Time Bomb take care of you better than you expected?
MF: Well, I felt the sincerity. I flew out, and I asked a million questions. I had like no fear, because at that point I was infatuated. After all the crap we had been through, and everything was answered correctly, and it was perfect.
Jas: What was it like recording with producer Dan Huff?
MF: Dan Huff's done everything from Faith Hill to Shania Twain. Which is really weird for us.
Jas: How long did the album take to record?
MF: I guess we did the record for two and a half months. We did most of it in L.A. and the rest of Vancouver, Canada.
Jas: How did you get Rami Jaffe to play keyboards on the album?
MF: Rami Jaffe is the guy from the Wallflowers. He was friends with Matt Hyde (producer). Matt had done Monster Magnet, and No Doubt. Bands like Liars, Inc. And what had happened was we wanted an organ player on some [of the] songs.
Jas: Which songs did he play on?
MF: "Back Down," and "Over You." Rami was just perfect. It was really great.
Jas: You're record is really different from anything that's been released this year.
Jas: The big guitars, big rock ‘n’ roll sound.
MF: And then you see the live show, and it's even louder. I think it was tamed down a little bit to be maybe radio friendly, and that’s fine.
Jas: There seems to be no mixture of genres. It's just rock.
MF: It's just rock.
Jas: "Don't Even Care," is rock and radio-friendly..
MF: ..and the words are about relationships, emotional problems, and mental trauma, and things like that. So many topics, at the same time. It's just not cock-rock. But I love the term rock, and rock was a scary word, 5 years ago. Rock was Warrant and, Poison. Whatever, because of the electronic wave and because Prodigy were huge. Rock is a brilliant word to me whether its alternative rock, active rock, rock radio, whatever. It's just a great thing.
Jas: How old are these songs?
MF: Some of them are going back three years. Y'know and some are going back a year and a half. We had such a huge repertoire of songs. Like 40-50 songs and we had to chisel that into eleven songs. "Way Out," is a big believer song. You have your whole life to do your first record, and 5 minutes to do your second.
Jas: The songs on this album are very personal.
MF: Extremely. I won't pay for a shrink. So this is like a psychiatrist session. Totally, it's very sarcastic, its everything I've been through. It's all about what drug addiction has done, mental mind problems, and relationships, and emotional set backs and whatever. And if you read the words to the songs, [you think] this guy's got problems. But they're very straightforward and at the same time its like a person can go to sleep and dream something that scares them, like "Why did I dream that? Am I this..?..that? Am I mass murderer?" Whatever, it's all brain releases. It's just a way to get things out. If I didn't have that I'd be killing people, or taking out McDonald's, and stuff. It'd be bad.
Jas: It seems that Cheap Trick is a really big influence.
MF: Totally. That's the thing. It's funny..
Jas: Because no one's really into that anymore..
MF: I know, and it's so uncool to say things like that. Y'know. And it's 1999, so believe me I have a total songwriting frame of mind, of what I want do. I'm a fan of "the melody," big time. When I was growing up, I was a huge fan of Bauhaus, and Sister Mercy and the Cult, and heavy bands like that. But at the same time I was also into your Aerosmith's, and your Cheap Trick's. And things like that, and stuff that was really sexy. Y'know like David Bowie, and T-Rex.
Jas: Music that was kind of out there?
MF: Yeah, I mean there were those kind of glam bands that came and went, and were huge for an hour. But then there's your timeless bands. And Cheap Trick is the most underrated rock band in the world. They're the kings of the melodies. There is no band today [like that].
Jas: And you hear the big guitars, like Monster Magnet, but they've been out there for a while.
MF: Buckcherry, and Monster Magnet. Those guys are brilliant to me, they're just everything I believe in. Y'know and we do it in a very melodic way.
Jas: Do you like the music over in Europe?
MF: Oh, I love Euro-pop, and British rock. The whole movement was a real big deal to me. The Kinks.
Jas: Do you like the rock they have there now? Bands like Stereophonics and Feeder?
MF: Yeah. I'm a huge Oasis fan. I always was really into the Manchester sound. I love that, and I was really into bands like the Stone Roses, and the Charlatans UK. I was really into bands like the Mission UK. Bands like that were a real big deal to me.
I love Suede, the Verve even. I love that big time, and its really weird because its a total ying yang to what I'm boasting about. I think that's what Chlorine sounds the way it does, because I'm so influenced by the melody aspect of those bands, and the way that they approached melody. [They] kind had their own kind of cockiness, but they [are] more of the kind of bands that stand there. I like to take that and put it with your typical American rock.
Jas: So you're taking the melody from the pop bands and the big guitars from the rock bands..
MF: Totally, you take the big guitars, and the total cock-rock vibe, and mix it up. That's the kind of vibe that I dig. Big time. And that's a really good way to put it, you've actually turned me onto a new way to approach it. But that's exactly what it is.
Jas: Is this your first time touring the west coast?
MF: Yeah, we've played the Viper Room, and done showcases and things. And New York, Chicago, all up and down.
Jas: Have you done the CMJ showcases?
MF: Oh CMJ's all this f-----g bulls--t, y' know? Because [there's] no respect at [these] conferences, and stuff. And there would be bands that already had deals on them. We'd get the bad slots, and it was really, really, really mind boggling, but it was a pleasure to get noticed.
Jas: How did you get on tour with Alice Cooper?
MF: That's amazing. Well we started the tour with Fuel. And Buckcherry, were on many of the bills. We did a bunch of Sponge dates, and radio festivals. We did Ted Nugent, it was like, "Why not?!" And then there's Alice Cooper who is like one of my mentors. So it was like a lot of people were like, "Alice Cooper??!!" and we were like, "Yeah, Alice Cooper!!"
Jas: I didn't know he still toured.
MF: Yeah, he is, and he's the godfather. You know, there's not a Marilyn Manson without an Alice Cooper. There's just not. So its great. It's a total honor. It's great because Chlorine can do that. We can go on tour with Alice Cooper, then we can go on tour with like No Doubt, or we could do the Foo Fighters or Fuel. Y'know that's great because we're straight up the middle rock.
Jas: Are you having a great time on tour being out there playing and meeting people?
MF: As a person..I'm one of these guys who can't sit still. I can't sit around without obsessing about things to do. I'll get really anxious. So I couldn't wait to go on your for the first time. Now being on tour, I have no time to be in my head.
Jas: Are their any bands that you'd like to tour with? Aerosmith?
MF: It'd be an honor to go out with them. I got to meet Steven Tyler, it was brilliant.
Jas: Any places that you'd like to tour?
MF: Yeah, I want to go where my family's all from. I want to go to England really bad. Which is like my roots. My mother was very British. Had a very hardcore British accent. My parents both died, not too long ago, out of nowhere. It was really weird. But I've got all my cousins and family over there.
SONGWRITING & BIKES
Jas: Are you writing songs on the road?
MF: Yeah, it's weird I kinda am. I'm coming up with lyrics, riffs, and songs and its really cool. But being on the road leaves you..sure you get tired, but it's beautiful. On the sickest, and the worst, and the most depressing day in the whole world, I would trade that anytime for a day at my house. Y'know, I just miss my motorcycles. Other than that its totally cool.
Jas: How many motorcycles do you have?
MF: A lot. I can't think right now, but quite a bit.
Jas: And you thank the makers of the motorcycles..
MF: Yeah, Triumphs, and BSAs, and Nortons, and things like that. I f-----g love them. Y'know.
Jas: What was the first concert you went to?
MF: You know what's weird. This is great. Well the first concert that changed my life and made me want to be in music. I was like five, and it was Glen Campbell doing "Rhinestone Cowboy," at the [Houston] Astrodome. Now that was what made me want to be in music, but the first actual rock concerts, a big concert, was The Cure, "Head on the Door Tour." Yeah, go figure.
Jas: Are you surprised that bands like The Cult, Bauhaus, and Black Sabbath are on tour?
MF: Surprised and very jealous that I'm not on tour with them. It's just amazing, they were such a huge band then. Love & Rockets, Black Sabbath, all that kind of stuff. And a Bauhaus show is just amazing too. I mean I love that too.
Jas: When you're at home do you ever go to shows?
MF: Yeah, all the time. That's what I enjoy doing. I don't drink or do drugs anymore. And I mean I was a bad drug addict, and I don't mind talking about that, but its like, I was always out. but now my thing is riding bikes, messing around the house, or I like going to shows. I like going to England, and hanging out. Sitting around shows, especially if it's a good show.
Jas: Are there any local bands in Houston that you like?
MF: Well, its funny because I really want to champion a band back home, but I can't really do that because there's not that many bands that I'm totally into back in Houston. And maybe my opinion just sucks. Y'know there's not many bands that believe in the first chorus, and understand the song and the image. But I meant this year, its been really great to see bands like Kid Rock, Monster Magnet, and Buckcherry. [And] you get your money's worth. We've been through this genre, where all these kids that are coming up and believe its alright to pay $18 to see a band stand there! And I've said that a lot in different interviews, but its the truth, and its not fair. Give me my money back.
ROL: Are you surprised when you see really young bands, without a lot of experience on the road?
MF: I think sure, my first band could have gotten signed over night, and it would have been like that, but I'm really proud that I've been on the road without a record deal. I'm really proud that I've been through a bunch of bulls--t. I'm really proud I've gotten a little older. I mean I'm 27 now, so its not that old at all. But I'm really proud that I've been through enough stuff to show in A) our music, and B) us as people. Anyway, when I see a band. I want to see someone that's got history and an album about them. When I'm reading the lyrics, I want to get into somebody's head that's lived it, or been through it. I don't want to hear about their high school problems, or what girl left them for the football king.
LOS ANGELES & THE BUSINESS
Jas: Why did you come to Los Angeles?
MF: I came and started playing music here, and I got sober and cleaned up here. Started working with other bands, and the things I was doing weren't integrity oriented, y'know. And like finally [Eddie & I] made a promise to get together. I went back to Houston, and we actually [then] started Chlorine.
Jas: In Los Angeles, did you learn things about the music industry that you wouldn't have learned in Houston?
MF: I've been very involved. I've been obsessed with the business. I am the singer that’s always checking radio on Tuesday. I am the singer that always is on the phone with the record company, and on the phone with the president. And I always want to know what's going on, and finding out things before [everyone else] is finding out.
Jas: Is that because of the deals that fell through?
MF: That and it's just like a drug to me. My career is my baby. Its like if you had a job, you'd put a lot of effort into it too.
Jas: Is there anything that you've learned about the music business, that if you went back you wouldn't do again? Like trusting people?
MF: Yeah, I think that's perfect. I don't think I'd be as nice. Y'know to certain people. I've also been very aggressive too, but I don't trust anybody anymore. But I trust my record label now. I really do, and I'm not just saying that. That's the funny thing that I actually do, but because its so open. Like if I'm remotely insecure, I can blow out a talk, and we can all sit down and rap it out.
So when we sat down to do the deal. I grilled them with a million questions. They understood, and they really respected it, and it was cool. We all got on the same plane. [I said] "Look, I want to know if a million people walk up to you and say Chlorine's the worst band in the world, you're going to go, 'You know, I love them and we're going to give them one million percent.' " So that's cool.
I want to know that if it doesn't stick the first time we're on, we put an extra slab on stick on it, and go it again. It's just the way I want it to be done, and I think the way that it is [being] done is brilliant. It's just a plus. I'm watching the charts. If something were to go wrong, and I don't believe in the word "if," I've never believed in the word "if," but if something goes a little wrong within the camp, I want to know that there's a game plan right around the corner. So that's good.
Jas: Are you planning a music video?
MF: I think we're definitely going to do one. I don't think it's [going to happen] tomorrow, but I think what we're going to do is get across the boards more at radio, and really have a story at what's kind of an undeniable thing.
Jas: Do you read your press?
MF: Always. Big Time. I always read press. I care. Our press has been really good, but then you get some press that's really brutal, and its because not everyone likes who you are, not everyone likes the things that you like. A lot of people listen to stuff like Moby and the Prodigy, and they don't like bands like us, or whatever, so they slam bands like us. But you know what, at least they slammed [us]. It's passionate. I'd rather weigh the press. Y'know, it's press, and it's a great thing, and I'll talk to anybody, anywhere, anytime, as long as it f----g takes. So I read it, and I've got opinions towards people who write bad things, but a lot of the time I read something and someone will go, "Oooh...," and I'll go, "No, they're right. That's true. I felt that way." Some people go "[Mark] is really cocky, and he's really whatever, and the problem lies..." Y'know. whatever. And once in a blue moon there'll be a slam, and I love it. I've got to know that you hate me too, because if you just like me a little and I'm OK, that's when I'm nervous. Just either love it or f-----g hate it, because passion is a beautiful thing that shows we're all alive. So it's really groovy. But I can't change. You get ten people in a room, and one person's going to feel different about something, and they have that f-----g right.
I LOVE KID ROCK 'N' ROLL
Jas: What would your 3 favorite records?
MF: I'm so into music, and t have so many records, but I'm always listening to Cheap Trick's "Heaven Tonight." I like to listen to a lot of Elvis Costello, but at the same time I'm so into what's great now. I love Kid Rock. I love Monster Magnet. I just love all that kind of stuff. So it kinda depends. But I like stuff that definitely [makes you] stop and think. And I like stuff that's cocky. I love Aerosmith, "Toys in the Attic."
Jas: Are you meeting people now that you'd never thought you'd meet?
MF: Yeah, like I got to meet Alice Cooper, which was really cool [and] I met Steven Tyler. [I run] into people and I'm like "I'm not worthy!"
Jas: What was it like meeting Steven Tyler?
MF: [He was] extremely nice. We really sat down and rapped, forever, and I couldn't believe it.
ARE YOU READY FOR CHLORINE?
Jas: What do you want for the future of Chlorine?
MF: You know, I want to keep going at this consistent pace, and keep rising and rising, and I want it to be where you wake up one day and go, "Oh my gosh. Chlorine has been in my face for so long, and it turns out they're not playing the club down the street anymore. They're playing the 25,000 seater." Y'know, whether its next year, or 2 years, 3 years, 4 years, 5 years. I mean it will happen. I firmly believe that. Why? Because I am the annoying individual, that if it all went away tomorrow, I'd still be banging on your door, till its like, "OK, fine come in."