by: Thomas D. Mooney
I’ll keep this intro short and to the point.
Daniel Markham is releasing his second solo album, Pretty Bitchin’ this Halloween (Oct. 31). He’s playing tonight along with The Goners and Veda Moon at Backstage Lubbock tonight (Sept. 6).
We caught up with Markham earlier this week to talk about Pretty Bitchin’. Listen to an exclusive first listen to the song “Make Believe” from the album below.
New Slang: When you sent me this record, I guess after my first time through, one of the things that I thought was just how much of a guitar record it was. Like you could have sent these songs over without any lyrics on them, and it’d still be a great listening experience. It’s more of a guitar record than Ruined My Life is.
Daniel Markham: Oh yeah.
NS: Where’d this record come from? When’d you know this was going to be a guitar record?
DM: Well, it’s different from the last one in the fact that we recorded this all pretty much all together in a room pretty much live. There’s some overdubs, but not a whole lot. My friend Ryan Becker played all the guitar. That dude is just a beast. He’s one of the best guitar players I’ve ever seen in my life–and I’m not just saying that. I’ve seen a lot of badass guitar players and he’s on another level. Sometimes, I’d have melodic ideas in my head, but most of the time, he’d go in there and lay it down. We didn’t do a lot of takes either. It’d be one or two takes and just had it. I read something with Neil Young where he said that you got to get it right away or you’ll lose the magic. You’ll miss the moment and how it should sound. That’s kind of the approach we took. I knew after the last one, since playing with my band, I thought we should make a record that shows how we play a show. I would say that having him (Ryan) playing on there as opposed to Ruined My Life, where it’s just me playing all the parts, he definitely had a huge influence. And Tony Ferraro had a huge influence. He played all the bass parts. I think his bass–I kind of like listening to just his bass on the songs. He’s such a great bass player. And then you know Grady [Sandlin]’s drum parts are always so sick. We just play so well together and been doing so for so long. I think it’s having this rough, kind of fuck it attitude, recording it that way with our friend Justin Collins. And we recorded it in like two days.
NS: Yeah. It really has a popping sound.
DM: Yeah. It’s all electric guitars. There’s not any acoustic guitar songs. I went back and put some acoustic on a few things to give it a little bit of texture. I like to layer things. So vocals, some acoustic guitar, and a couple of slide parts is all we pretty much overdubbed. The music part, we all pretty much just did it together. It’s definitely a guitar record.
NS: Yeah. This does have more of a band record feel. Ruined My Life–this may sound weird–but it’s more of a singer-songwriter kind of record. When I was describing this record to some people, I said that it didn’t feel as dark as Ruined My Life. It’s not a “light and happy” record, but it feels like it did come from a much different place than RML.
DM: It did come from a different place. I was happy to be making a new record. When I made Ruined My Life, it was me moving to a new place and kind of nervous–I was probably really nervous. I don’t know. It probably had an effect on it. As far as lighter, do you mean it just sounds like I’m happier?
NS: Well. It’s kind of hard to explain. Maybe by the time this article gets published, I’ll know exactly how to relay it to people and you. Ruined My Life sounds really dark. There’s a lot of dark textures to songs. It feels like a fall and winter record. This feels more of a summer kind of album. I don’t know [laughs].
DM: That’s interesting.
NS: Yeah. I’ll work on finding a better way to explain it [laughs]. How long of a time frame were these songs written?
DM: I wrote all of those in two days. I was just like “I’m going to make a record! Let’s do this [laughs].” I hadn’t written any songs in a while and I set up my microphone and they all just came out of me. That was sometime in the winter and then we recorded all of it in April or March I guess. So it was all done in the winter so it’s interesting that you think it has a summer vibe [laughs].
DM: It’s always interesting to see what people get out of it though.
NS: Yeah. One of the songs on the album, “Ennio,” it’s a really great song. It has a really nice groove to it.
DM: I kind of had that guitar line that runs throughout. I say I wrote all these songs in two days. It’s more like I finished all these songs in two days. Know what I mean? I’d have music ideas throughout the year, but would just never be able to finish them. That song I actually wrote on the road with Charlie Shafter. I think it was in maybe Amarillo or Colorado or something. It was not around here. I really like Ennio Morricone and Earth and desert sounding kind of riffs. Thrift Store Cowboys. That kind of thing. I played the guitar part on stage and just kept playing it. It was in my head forever.
NS: What song on the album do you think you is tried doing something completely different with? Something you’d never really tried before.
DM: I think a lot of this record is that way. It was trying new things. Like the song “Hide the Body,” I was wanting to do something that was like ZZ Top. It’s always me coming up with stupid riffs and me liking them and going from there [laughs]. I kind of wrote that with ZZ Top in mind. Music wise, it has some things you’d hear on a ZZ Top record. Production wise.
NS: How often do you do that? Like when you’re with the band and you’re explaining to them what’s in your head, how often do you use other bands as examples?
DM: I always demo my songs so I always give them that. Grady thought it sounded like Dwight Yoakam. At the end of that song Ryan was going to play a solo that was going to last 54 seconds or something, I said “OK, play like you’re John Thorne and Billy Gibbons at the same time.” That’s kind of where that came from.
NS: Also when you sent it over, you said “Play it in this order and play it loud” (The “play it loud” part is always implied with Daniel Markham songs). What goes into the track listing? You wanting it in this order.
DM: Yeah. I’ve changed the order a little bit since I sent it to you [laughs]. I’m a record guy who likes things played all together. The order though, it’s one of those things where you just have to figure out how it’s supposed to go. You don’t think about it too hard. Don’t overthink it, but try and go with what just feels right.