Michael2 – Pop Rock Experimentalist

Michael Marquesen, known to Macjammers as michael2, is 43, married, with a little girl, and lives in Los Angeles, USA. He is a social worker (as he talks about in his forum thread i was just assaulted…) specializing in harm reduction/HIV and Hepatitis risk reduction. He works specifically with active IV drug users and prostitutes; does risk assessments, writes disease/overdose prevention curriculums and, as a musician who has struggled with alcoholism in the past, tries to spread the word about staying clean.

He also is one of the most inventive songwriters/arrangers on Macjams. His tracks often float like a Brownian Motion equation through the quarks and corpuscles of subconscious creativity. Yes, he can nail Beatles-esque pop, but then he’ll submit a track the defies category, that haunts and magnetizes. Plus, he jumps right into nearly every Invitational, Challenge and Online MJ Festival and is involved in countless collaborations. I look forward to every michael2 post. As of this writing, he has 99 songs on MJ…

Here are some of my favorites:

- Pet
- Is This Love?
- Right As Rain (spotlighted in MacJams Music Podcast #1)
- Have You Had Enough?
- How Did You? (MJ Coffehouse)
- Outside
- Darcy
- Even If Its Lies
- Do It For Reasons
- I Don’t know
- Like A Person
- You Can Say It’s Right (But It Feels Wrong)
- God Only Knows (LSP Challenge)
- Pop Song About an Ex
- Rings Around the Moon
- Someday
- Everyone Relies on Time
- Unkind
- Flames Grow Tall
- Under Your Skin
- So Easy To Read
- Reverse Folk
- Time to Change
- Worries
- Stayed At Home

Michael opens up many of his tracks for collaboration. Here is a sampling:
- I Could Go To Bed (w/Bud)
- You Breathe God (W/Vic Holman)
- I’m Still Waitingby EZamor w/Birdman Wayne
- WWYD? by ledebutant w/Jim Bouchard
- Regret (w/Spitlogic)
- le trottoir by blaky smith
- The Wrong Sky by echoroom w/ Racerat
- Mt St. Helens by Mystified w/ biba_nova
- Tonight by rsorensen
- Say A Prayer With Extra Arms w/ five_extra_arms and 5X
- Do It For Reasons 2 w/ Vic Holman

When did you start playing music?

“I played bass in a childrens’ orchestra when I was in 5th grade (after being told I did not have any musical aptitude… based on a written aptitude test). I really wanted to play the clarinet, but since I was the only kid with large hands they put me on bass. I got a Tiesco Del Rey electric guitar at a garage sale the same year. I played it through an Alamo amp at full volume and was really into feedback.”

What drew you to music?

“I was too small to be a jock, and my uncle had a rocking surf band which blew me away. He gave me an echo pedal around the same time that I heard the live version of Dazed and Confused. I loved all of the volume and sound. Another big moment was when my friend’s older brother (a big stoner who lived in his parents garage) took us to see Bowie when Station to Station came out. That show seriously warped my 11 year old mind.”

You have a fascinating combination of influences in your music. What have been your performance experiences?

“I played in a million punk, pop, indie, psych bands. I’ve always loved sound, but tried to balance it with melody. No music schooling at all; put out a bunch of records on a bunch of different labels (indie and major), and toured a lot. I was basically one of those drug addled losers that didn’t work, and played guitar all day. I must say that I got a lot more done after getting sober in ’95.”

How did you beat your addiction?

“I got tired of getting arrested, beaten up, being dope sick etc… and went to a bunch of rehabs but nothing was working out for me. I met this cute girl and she took me to an AA meeting in june of 95. I have sober ever since. It was really kind of a fluke; I had many times made a concerted effort (since 1985), and a chance encounter totally changed my life. We’re still friends.”

Did staying sober have anything to do with you quitting the music biz?

“When I got sober, I didn’t tour for about a year (afraid of temptation); but no, the reason I quit was because I just felt like my passion was turning into a job. Once I got involved in major labels, it felt so lame and fake. We recorded 21 songs for an album and they made us drop 7 of them as they weren’t commercially appealing. It just got to the point where it wasn’t fun anymore and I was tired of touring. For most musicians I know, if you’re not touring, you’re not making any money. Best decision I ever made, music is really fun again. At least now I don’t have the indie kids calling me a sell-out.

How long have you been a social worker? Why did you get into that?

Been doing it since 2002. After quitting music I ended up building sets and working on commercials. Good money, hated the job, so I went back to school for Psychology and just kind of ended up where I am. I love my job. I can relate to all of the different personalities that I meet and I’m good at it (comes really naturally), so I found my niche in this world. I love coming home from work knowing I didn’t take anything away from the world.”

Does you MJ name michael2 signify rebirth?

“Nah, I was active on another board and Michael was taken.”

Are you in a band currently?

“No band, although from time to time I’ll get ex-bandmates to help record myself and I occasionally play on other peoples records. Working on one for Io Perry right now: keys, gtr, bass and backing vocals.

A batch of songs you submitted when you first joined Macjams (includes Pet and Dust)… is this from a CD you did after getting back into music?

“That’s from the Henhouse CD. I recorded it with my friends Io Perry and Scott Matz (who I played with for years in Old Hickory). That never got released on a label as the people I were talking to wanted a crazy portion of the publishing and I just couldn’t do it. I don’t expect to make any money, but at the same time I just can’t condone people trying to screw the artist. All of my previous experiences with indie labels were really positive (generally they took no publishing and you split the profits after the bills were paid). I think it’s a different environment now, so labels may want some of that publishing in case you license a song for a commercial or something. Realistically, it’s probably the only way they can make any money, but I can’t buy into it. Mount St. Helen used to play live, and we would just make copies of it and give them away.

“(If anyone wants any of my stuff I’ll post it online and they can have it for free. Just let me know.)”

Do you include your little girl in your songwriting/recording in any way?

“I have made some recordings of Sophie vocalizing and banging on the piano. They will undoubtedly end up loaded into a sampler and mangled into some sort of ambient piece. Once she starts singing, she will definitely be all over my recordings.”

Any hobbies you enjoy that MJers don’t know about?

“I am into gardening, drawing and painting, building things; hanging out with my family.”

Do you remember the first song you wrote?

“Do you have to ask?”

Acutally, you’re the one who suggested that I put that question in my questionaire…

‘Rock and Roll Destiny’ – a bad kiss rip off I wrote in junior high. I’m sure I could still play it (only had 2 chords, most of which were A). the first lines were ‘don’t wanna go to heaven, don’t wanna go to hell; just want my name up in lights, want my records to sell.’”

What are you musical goals?

“Have fun and grow as a writer first, technician/producer is a distant second.”

What is your recording process?

“Guitar, vox, keys, bass, in that order; although I’ll record myself playing anything that’s in front of me. Not really technically very good at anything (okay at guitar).”

Gear?

Fender Tele (early 80′s), Ibanez Artcore, Fender Rhodes, Harmony Broadway acoustic, a bunch of synths, effects, noisemakers, electric toy instruments, and casios (fave synths are the Roland SH-101 and the Casio CZ-1000). Ibanez bass. GB4, Audacity, getting my Logic set-up going soon. My fave plugins are Eve synth, free Alpha synth, Camelcrusher, KT granulator, Fineline synth, Line 6 Gearbox, Crystal Soft Synth, Automat, Alpha and Remedy soft synths. I use a million different types of echo, reverb and delay. I really love effects, this list changes every time I try something new. Really loving Ambience reverb, TAL-Dub delay, and Pluggo right now (I got the free Runtime and I troll the net for interesting freebies; use ‘em once and throw ‘em out).”

That’s one way you get each track to sound so unique. Any mixing tips?

“This is my weakest area, due to lack of knowledge and patience. I usually start with the drums and maybe run them through Camel Crusher for warmth; then I move onto bass, gtrs, other instruments and lastly vox. I have been trying to figure out compression lately; seems to be helping my bass sounds a little, but I am still flailing when it comes to drums and compression. As for mastering, that’s best left to folks who can afford Ozone3.”

Musically, what do see as your strongest point?

“Keeping an open mind and a desire to try everything. I think my song writing is probably better than my playing.”

Weakest?

“My production skills. I always loved lo-fi indie rock and psych, so I really don’t worry if it doesn’t sound perfect. I basically lay everything down in 1 or 2 takes and then layer on the atmosphere.”

How do you come up with a song?

“I write lyrics in a book, and then steal from it later. usually music comes first, melody second, lyrics last. i would say that sounds and the overall vibe effect the melody line. i typically have only bare bones arrangements, so much of what you hear is improvised over the top; to set the mood I record with effects blazing.”

Tips?

“Ask millions of questions, read (books and websites), and make a ton of mistakes and songs that will embarrass you later on.”

How has your Macjams experience been so far?

“MJ has been awesome. Wasn’t really recording much before stumbling on it; made me decide to try out GB. It’s the first time I’ve played music for anyone since quitting music as a career. I found I missed letting others into my world, and now all are welcome.”

What macjams submission are you m,ost proud of?

Dust, it’s one of the first I posted and I don’t think many people have heard it. I like it because it is my take on a classic pop song.”

You have a bunch of ambient sound experiments posted on MJ. Any reason why you are drawn to do this? (It seems unusual for such a good songwriter and someone who enjoys melody so much.)

“I really love a lot of experimental stuff and the way sound can just fill a space is fascinating to me. When I was young and playing the upright bass, I would spend hours dragging the bow over the strings just basking in the overtones. Bands like Tangerine Dream, Pink Floyd, Can, Harmonium and Acid Mothers Temple were always really appealing to me. And of course Brian Eno is basically a demi-god.”

Any ironies you want to share?

“I always wanted to be a working touring musician, and never wanted to be a grown up, married, normal guy. Now I would never want to tour again and love being home with my family, doing domestic stuff.”

- Discography:
Every Parents DreamSybil
Couch SlutsWhy Get Sober When You’ll Just Get Drunk Again
Old HickoryTrust Knot EP
Old HickoryBrain Travels Before the Heart Stops
Old HickoryDrain the Lake
Old HickoryEra’s Such As Witchcraft
Miss Spiritual Tramp of 1948Live @ KXLU
Quasar & The BamboozledCan You Picture That
Mount St. HelenHenhouse
Io PerryGreybay

“I was a hired gun on Greybay, and I’m working on her new one. There have also been a million compilations, split singles and stuff like that.

“None of this stuff is still in print, and Mount St. Helen is still in the can. Io‘s record is still available since it came out a year ago. It’s a really cute indie pop record. She’s really talented and a nice girl. Her record is basically her on bass and vocals, Jose (the drummer from the Breeders), Scott (the drummer from Old Hickory), and myself playing keys, guitars, and backing vox. You can get her stuff on iTunes and on her MySpace page: Io Perry.”

Listen to all of Michael Marquesen’s MJ music on his michael2 Macjams Profile page and Michael’s MySpace page.
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37 Responses to “Michael2 – Pop Rock Experimentalist”

  1. Robert Michel Says:

    I just stopped by your blog and thought I would say hello. I like your site design. Looking forward to reading more down the road.

    Robert Michel

  2. Bud Says:

    Excellent profile Tobin – well done. I’ve come to consider Michael a friend in this community and learn something every time I listen to one of his songs.

  3. rsorensen Says:

    Great spotlight on my favorite macjams artist. Would really love to hear more Mount St. Helen.

  4. gregd Says:

    This was a really interesting look into the musical career of a talented MacJammer. Thanks for the new perspective.

  5. Lennon714 Says:

    I wasted no time getting over here when I saw this blog was about Michael2. Easily a favorite of mine at MJ. Insightful and candid interview. Thanks, Tobin!

  6. Feter Says:

    This is awesome .. indeed Michael such an interesting and Mjer ..on both ways musically and personally… as a true musician his words taught me a lot and let me turn to look at some good points. True fan to his work, specially the Beatlian’s sound. Thank you so very much to let us have this chance to know more about our good Michael!

  7. Reinholt56 Says:

    Power to you Michael.

    Keep at whatever it is that you’re doing because I think persistence pays off at the end of the day, even if what you are doing changes along the way.

    Life is about experience and learning and you’ve already done some of that and come through it.

    Take care.

    A friend.

  8. rsorensen Says:

    Hey Tobin – you should also add ‘Caroline Knows’ to the list. It’s an amazing song that should have way more fans and comments. His very best, imo.

    http://www.macjams.com/song/31149

  9. Yeman Al-Rawi Says:

    Mikey, you’re a dear friend of mine. I’m glad to see you blogged here at MJ. Your work is really important here and we all love you. You’re indeed one of my favorite vocalists here. I look forward to collab with you after “I’m Still Waiting (featuring EZamor)”. Thanks for sharing all these beautiful works around us!

  10. Dajama Says:

    Very cool blog. It’s great to hear so much about the person behind the music. Thanks, Michael for sharing your story, and thanks, Tobin, for putting this all together. Very cool. Peace.

    David

    P.S. I’m with rsorensen – “Caroline Knows” is probably my favorite michael2 song. I think it was the first of yours I listened to Michael; I loved it then, and I still do!

  11. Vic Holman Says:

    Very cool inside look at what has made Michael, Michael.

    There is no doubt that music is so ingrained into his soul. And a great inspiration to others I’m sure.

  12. MacJams Music Blog » Blog Archive » Texas Threesome: Jack Hemby/Terry Pearson/Pat Robinson Says:

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  14. Billdo Says:

    Michael,
    It has been awhile since running into you at topo’s crib and the oddly occasion at your place of employment. All the Years and great times I have had with my best friend scott by my side to ALL those shows many years ago. I really treasure watching the music/magic grow as it happens naturally and not produced out of necessity to give to the mongers that need to stay afloat… I am leaving to Oregon to spend the rest of my life with the girl of my dreams.. Just wanted to say that I greatly appreciate artists such as yourself that fly under the radar but do get noticed by what is important….the people in the world that really know what makes things all tick in time…Thanks for kicking it around downtown and take it easy in your endless endeavors… GOOD TIMES!!!!
    Bill
    Gabison(Scott’s Cypress buddy)

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