Mark Stampeâ€™s life revolves around music. If he is not working as a sound engineer in a live music venue, working in the studio, or even in one of his two bands he is organising gigs around Kent. He is constantly searching for new equipment to improve his business, whether its a new Mac or even microphones, he is always trying to better himself for the people around him. He also tries to spread himself out around Kent as much as possible, do the sound for gigs such as art events, in the studio or even recording his own band. He specialises in live sound, this is where his passion lies and what he was studying in particular at University in Kent. Mark has been collecting vinyl since a young age, and got his first record at the age of 8. Ever since he has his eyes open for new pieces, he invests usually in things that really excite him from his favourite artists. His collection at his own home is modest, which contain the things that he listens to frequently, but he stores the majority of his collection at his parents home, purely because he doesn't have the space for it. Mark is an extremely kind, friendly and generous person, who loves to help his friends as much as he possibly can.
I visited Mark at a pub in Canterbury where one of his bands was performing. This is one of Mark’s bands, Tikoloshi, he is currently in two, the other is called Nougat Cakewave. The event this evening was ‘Battle of the Bands’, an ongoing contest to discover bands from around Kent. The people in the pub then give the bands a score and then one band is crown the winner. This has been going on for several weeks and is due to finish next month. This was Mark’s first time properly performing with band so it was exciting to see what they had come up with. The music he produces is very unique, he has a particular style that may seem to some a little strange, mainly because he uses feedback in his songs, but I think that what I heard was very good. I could tell that he enjoyed performing but was still a little shy as he was faced away from the audience, although he claims that they all face each so that they can interact better whilst performing.
Mark Stampe is self employed, running his own business where he is a local Producer and events organiser. In his town, Canterbury, he helps out his friends whenever he can by producing their songs. He is too kind to charge them a lot of the time, but is grateful for the experience. In fact, he helps out all his friends whenever he can whether its driving their equipment around or going to an event to support them, he is an extremely caring person putting others before himself. He is often invited to go and co-produce songs in studios around Kent to provide his expertise. Whenever a band pops up that he feels is suitable for his company, he will organise a gig to help promote them. He puts in a great deal of effort to ensure that everything is organised and runs smoothly. Firstly agreed to band/PR on a date and price that he can afford to pay them, then find a venue and haggle the price, choose support acts which is usually 3, make up flyer as soon as possible and try to design it all around be able to do it for ÂŁ5 a ticket. He also needs to find an additional sound guy, hired equipment, find out the tech spec form the band and then get the tickets online. Mark has a following of people who love to help him out because they believe he is such a great person. He also works for a well known venue in Canterbury called Orange Street Live Music Venue, where they put on various artists from around Kent and further. Mark is the live sound engineer here, he usually turns up at 6 to set the equipment up and receives a tech spec form the band. The first thing he does is chats to the band about what the situation is at the bar, and what they want in terms of sound design, he also has to tell them about the sound restrictions and what time the music has to stop etc. He is the face between the club and the band. Then he will get on with the sound check, as soon as all the equipment is set up. He has to organise the microphones because the different types of mics will be needed for different bands, but usually the rest is set up permanently. He has to be on top of what the band are doing as the levels in sound during different songs will differ, i.e a solo will need different levels of frequency. He has to constantly check for glitches, so he has to be extremely organised.
First, Mark took me to his house that he shares with his friends to show me his collection and his equipment because he works from home a lot. In his room he keeps a small amount of his collection, the vinyl that are important to him and that he listens to most. The first music he ever listened to was Mozart, he thinks that because of his father he heard classical music before rock. The first record he ever bought at the age of 8 Appetite for Destruction by Gins and Roses on cassette which his brother bought for him because it was parental advisory. At the age of 6 he was given a record player with a copy of Jim Read. His favourite artists are Neil Young, John Coltrane, Pavement, Can, Polar Bear and Steve Reich. All of these bands are independent artists. Most of the vinyl Mark has he also has on CD too so that he can listen to it in his car and transfer on to his Ipod. His most treasured vinyl is by Neil Young called Live: Rust, which he doesn’t have on CD because interestingly enough he doesn’t want to have it on CD. This is because he believes the album is so good and doesn’t want to spoil the quality of it by buying on CD. Half the album is electric and the other half is acoustic and it is special to him because its a memorable record that takes him back and is also extremely easy to listen to all the way through. He also highlights a vinyl by Shellac. He believes all record collectors should have a copy of a Shellac vinyl because of the bands ethics, they punish you for buying their music on CD. He states that when buying a Shellac album, you are getting the best quality because the vinyl is so thick. They also provide you with a CD in the vinyl to transfer on to your computer, so in effect they are punishing you for buying it on CD with a low quality copy and a high quality vinyl.
His Frank Zappa album Hot Rats, is also very precious to him as it is original press and not a copy. An album by the Grateful Dead has particular meaning to Mark as it is one of the first vinyl he ever bought. He couldn’t believe that he had it on vinyl and he was listening to it that way, so it was a big thing for him. He believes that vinyl is a lot better than CD because there is a bigger frequency range so it seems to him only logical that you would get a better sound from it. Music on a CD is compressed, so the highs and the lows are chopped off the ends which is fundamental to the sound of the music. He described it like a painting; the vinyl is a bigger painting where there is more to take in, you can see the smaller details, like his Frank Zappa album that he has on vinyl and CD you can actually hear the difference in sound, its an undeniable fact. He also finds it a more memorable experience because its much more of an active thing; it has a beautiful cover and gatefold (card sleeve that the vinyl slips into) and then you can actually see the music on the vinyl. Its more interactive and you feel as if your getting involved with the experience as a whole. He doesn’t spend that much time in his room, but when he does he is listening to music, he mainly uses vinyl up until recently when the needle broke, they can be quite expensive to replace so he has to wait a while to save. The second most thing he is likely to be doing is playing one of his guitars; usually acoustic but sometimes his electric with amp when he is playing around with effects pedals. He also spends a lot of time reading in here or watching documentaries on his TV through his Wii for example, ‘The History of Christianity’ and ‘Music History of Detroit’. In his car, he has a specific selection that he likes to have available. He liked to point out that he had a Mercedes estate to carry around large equipment that has a 6 CD changer. He always has to have some sort of angular rock music, such as King Crimson, Frank Zappa or Captain Beefheart. And also something with quit a traditional jazz sound like John Coltrane , but mostly rock as he needs heavy rock to stimulate him in the car. His most played record in the car is by a bad called Fugazi because its great for motivation, one of the most influential band of the DIY scene.
The design for this book on Mark Stampe, has been based on one of his favourite albums that he purchased, it is a live ‘Led Zeppelin’ album called ‘The Song Remains the Same’. He brought this album at a small vinyl dealer who is one of his close friends. Mark buys most of his collection from here as they are reasonably priced from an independent store. The reason why he likes it so much is because ‘Led Zeppelin’ are one of his favourite bands and this is a great example of them live, also cosmetically its a great album.
Mark has an incredible CD collection which he has been collecting since he was about 9 years old. When he was young, he used to use his pocket money to buy CDs. Now, the collection has grown to around 4000 CDs, in his room are just a selection of the CDs he listens to currently. He took me on a tour around his collection; the thing that first struck me was that he has 30 Frank Zappa albums and he had others on vinyl that he didn’t have on CD. His CDs have to categorized into genres, otherwise it would
be terrible trying to find a particular CD. He begins with fusion, which is mainly jazz music that has been influenced by rock and funk, a fusion of different genres, a classic example of this he explained to me was Bitches Brew by Miles Davis. Then next it was Jazz, and underneath were film soundtracks such as Enio Morricone, then minimalist composers such as Steve Reich which is the most important movement to him, Krautrock, which contains some of his most favourite bands such as ‘Can’. Then 60s psychedelic rock, including Jimi Hendrix, then folk; Neil Young is his favourite artist of all time, then turn of the decade American indie rock merging into punk and post-punk and classic rock, post rock and math rock. Although he believes that vinyl is a great deal better than CD, CD still plays a large part in his life. He is quite a digital person so he believes it necessary; he produces music which has to be digital, he also needs to transfer all the music he buys on to his iPod because when he is working as a sound engineer for the music venue, he has to play his iPod. He also spends a great deal of time in his car so he prefers to listen to his own music as opposed to the radio.
I caught Mark doing some tests on his laptop where he was producing a song for his friends band; Delta Sleep, a post-rock band from Canterbury. In his house he uses the spare room as a temporary studio for his work. He had connected his laptop up to his mixing desk and amps. Here, he was trying to mix the track together to make the best sound as possible. He uses the program called â€˜Q-baseâ€™ which learnt how to use at University, this program allows him to record bands, a music software.
Mark learnt his skills whilst studying at University at Christchurch in Kent where he studied Commercial Music. He tells people that he studies Music Production because he is embarrassed. Here, he discovered many types of music that he was never exposed to before, for example Steve Reich, a composer who pioneered minimalist music and has been a huge influence on modern music. Mark decided to go to University after backpacking around Australia for a year and discovered that at 22 years old he wanted to be more involved in music. He passed most subjects with ok grades, but feels that his teachers didn’t understand they way he worked. It may have been because he was on a commercial music course that his opinions conflicted with the lecturers. To him, I don’t think that it mattered that he didn’t receive the grades that he had hoped for because he wanted to be self employed. He told me that his father is self employed, and so was his grandfather, so it’s becoming a family tradition. This way it allows him to be free, running off in different directions and getting paid for the things he is most passionate about. He knows a lot of people in the industry in this area too, partly because a great deal of them went to the same University, so it is great how they all act like a community and call upon each other for help when need be.
The music scene in Canterbury is getting bigger all the time, and I think he wants to establish himself in a smaller area, as opposed to somewhere like London, to make more of a name for himself where there is less competition. He prides himself on his dedication to DIY ethics. He believes it is so much more rewarding to do everything yourself and be independent, this is what the music scene in Canterbury is all about. He believes at the moment, the music industry is pretty good, although he thinks a lot of people would think he would believe otherwise due to the type of music he is in to. He stated that music is such a big thing, and asking what the current state of the music scene is quite difficult to answer because there are so many good things and so many bad things going on at the same time. There are a huge amount of festivals today and now live music has become a great deal popular, which is fantastic that young people are now more into getting out there and seeing music first hand for themselves, it has become more accessible. Mark thinks that for music the 60s were the greatest, but if he could travel back to any period of time is would be the late 70s early 80s to meet his favourite bands in their prime, for example Pavement, The Fall, Talking Heads, Devo, The Birthday Party, described as new wave post punk bands. The 60s to him were the most varied and creative era and doesn’t believe that we will get that kind of energy back due to cultural and political events at the time.
Independent music has already started to out-manouver commercial music, it has been since the 90s and has become incredibly fashionable lately Mark stated. When illegal downloading starting occurring, major record labels found themselves to be cut short, whereas independent labels had fans that were loyal and stuck by them and supported them. Fans also had more of an interaction with the bands, because independent record labels had cheaper more accessible gigs for the fans to remain loyal. So they were buying records and merchandise at the gigs too and business remained to turn over. In general, Mark believe that's independent music labels are far more durable than major labels because people have a strong allegiance to them, major record labels tend to publicise bands that are in the middle of a fad trend and so the music will not have as much longevity. With that in mind, he thinks that the future really does lie with independent music, music that he deems unimportant from such sources such as X-Factor will be produced by the major record labels, which is fine for some people but its not going to create great music.
Mark sees vinyl as being a part of the future due to indie kids listening to more ‘retro’ music.
These are various images from places around Marks home. As you can see from the top image, Mark loves food. He loves to cook and his fridge in constantly stocked, partly because his mother loves to cook too and is always sending food up. He likes to cook from scratch, his favourite things being roast dinners, in particular lamb, but he is also a huge fan of Greek and Mexican food. He has recently taken to making couscous with an array of ingredients and falafel is his new favourite dish to make, he actually tried to make me some during my visit. He showed me his guitar collection, but some of them are in his â€˜officeâ€™, which is actually a garage he rents off his father. In all, he has about 7 guitars and bass guitars and hope to keep his collection growing. He told me that his favourite make of guitar was Fender. He has a huge DVD collection too, roughly about 800. His favourite TV shows (he watches TV shows the most) to watch are The Prisoner, Seinfeld, Curb your Enthusiasm and Twin Peaks. What he does a lot in his pare time is either read, currently its Japrock; a book on Japanese rock, or watch an ancient hostory documentary. Since a young age he has been fascinated by history, especially ancient Greece. This summer he plans to go to Cyprus to explore the culture there, the see the first Christian church and to see his friend from University who has his own recording studio. As you can see, he is quite a collector of all things. He has a lot of stuff in his room, and is a little messy. But the mess is ordered in particular parts of his room. Strangely, in his draws and wardrobe, things were perfectly and neatly folded, but outside literally in a huge pile.
Film plays a big part in Markâ€™s life, after music it is his passion in life, so when the two come together it becomes even more interesting for him. He described a typical example of what he likes when it comes to DVDs; Japanese animated movies such as Studio Ghibli, which seemed as if he had every single edition, a trilogy of Spaghetti Westerns which are his favourite films of all time by Sergio Leone, Rocky, because its a classic everybody should have in their DVD collection, Rushmore by Wes Andersen, Karate Kid Trilogy, Mel Brookes Box set, because everyone needs a bit of slap stick in their life, lots of David Lynch, The Thing, The Fly, Southpark, Alan Partridge box set and There Will Be Blood, which is the best film he has seen in the cinema. Punch-Drunk Love was the latest DVD he bought for ÂŁ3 in Matalan.
Mark has a book on ‘Japanese for beginners’. He bought this because he wants to go to Japan after having passed through the city 3 years ago. The book ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ by Oscar Wilde is Mark’s favourite because he really enjoyed the imagery of upper class London life in that time and the dinner talk to which Wilde is most famous for. Mark has always been into his writing and having known about Wilde’s real persona, he could see how different characters were parts of his character. Mark feels that Lord Henry was Oscar Wilde seeing himself in his present time of writing the book. It made him feel sad, because its autobiographical aspects show suppressed feelings of Wilde. He is also very into history books, he watches a lot of history documentaries.
To continue his love for guitars, Mark plans to make his own from scratch using the knowledge he already has. He has started by buying a the body which he bought on eBay. This was originally black but he painted it his favourite colour to give it originality and his own personal ‘Stampe’. He then plans to buy the fret board/neck and make his own ultimate surf guitar configuration. This is going to be fitted with a tremolo; Fender Deluxe so that he can achieve ‘vibrato surf tone’. Surf music is a big influence on Mark as a guitarist, some good examples of this genre are Dick Dale, Link Wray, one of his favourite artists of all time and the record producer Joe Meek, The Shadows, The Ventures and The Tornadoes. This type of music is used a great deal in Quentin Tarantino movies, but he expresses strongly he is not a fan of his work.
Nougat Cakewave is a band who base their sound on improvisational sound. What happens in band practice, he considers to be more important than what happens on stage. What they do is not forced, it happens purely by accident, so they wait for one of the band members to start playing around, which is usually the drummer because he doesn’t have to do as much setting up. Eventually the other member just add to their sound, so it moulds organically into a jamming situation, it just happens. Then they will ‘jam’ for roughly an hour, until someone gets a headache and have a cigarette break and then they will go and do it again. So all in all its roughly about 4 hours of ‘jamming’. They always record what they play in a band practice session, so they can play back what they did (and also so they don’t forget!) They then discuss what they should change what could be improved and whether this sort of thing can be performed on stage. In preparation for a gig, they discuss what they all think worked well in a practice session and then convert those ideas into a structure that is fit for the stage. So, for example, Mark stated that they could begin with a very ambient section that leads into a heavy, aggressive and angular part but they will have no actual rules to how they get to that, they have to do by feeding off each other to maintain the improvisational spirit. They like to interact with each other when they perform so the pressure can be quite intense when on stage. Nougat Cakewave isn’t the sort of band to have very many gigs, not because they can’t get them but because their band is more for personal use. Also, the essence of his band isn’t to learn a set and perform, its more of a project that is based upon improvisation. Its also the kind of music that is probably not that accessible or commonly listened to if they were to just turn up at a venue. But they do play a lot at art venues, because they consider their music to be more of a creative entity, especially as on of the members is an Artist who also organises a great deal of artistic events in Margate in a venue next to the Turner Gallery. I did find though, that all the members of the band are quite shy, they are all intellectuals that delve into many creative avenues but are quite reserved as people.
Last summer, fortunately I had the pleasure of attending one of Markâ€™s gigs in Canterbury. These are some of the photos I took. Nougat Cakewave played two songs, they were both about 10 mins long and were instrumental. They were extremely good, on stage you could see that they lied to have constant interaction with other band members; they were either signalling when to come in, or laughing at themselves. They used a series of loop stations, which means a pedal records what you play and plays on a continuous loop, like having an extra band member. Mark organised the gig himself, with the help of a couple of friends in Canterbury. What had happened was that he had been a fan of a band known as Cougar for a while, who are an instrumental, post-rock band from Wisconsin. They were fantastic, everybody was literally watching with their mouths gapping opening at how
talented they were. So Mark told me that he had decided to try and put them on, because they would their genre and style of music would be suitable for his type of promotions company and similar to the rest of the bands. Mark found out when exactly they were touring the UK and got in touch with Cougarâ€™s PR who were happy to do the show. That's the fantastic thing about bands who have DIY ethics, is the sense of community spirit and willingness to help each other out, I had never seen such an incredible band in Canterbury before. Mark put on two other bands known then as Savlon (now Delta Sleep) and Benjin, who are good friends of Marks and suitable for the type of evening. All of the bands are instrumental post-rock. For Mark, the best thing about his job is finding a new band and being able to put them on, he explained that it is such a good feeling knowing that your going to bring people as much joy as the band have done for you. He is also in the process of setting up another gig in order to help his friends promote themselves, to expose Canterbury to what he feels is fantastic music and also for the experience with music.