Remembering Mark Hollis - by Jerome Dillon

"I like silence. If you're going to break into it, have a reason for doing it." Mark Hollis

The Talk Talk records changed my life: The Party's Over' rarely left my turntable in '82 and '83, 'It's My Life' was in my Walkman for '84 and '85, and 'The Colour of Spring' was the only cassette in my 1976 Chevy Impala for the better part of three years.

I was 19 when 'Spirit of Eden' was released. Looking back, that record was a benediction -- or rite of passage. I was in awe and realized what a callow musician I was. It convinced me that the most crucial component of the creative process is risk. It gave me direction.

'Spirit of Eden' is fearless and brutally honest. Everything is exposed for what it is, or more importantly, what it isn't. At points it's deceptively fragile and delicate, only to shift suddenly into midrange guitar feedback and a violent battery of drums and percussion.

When 'Laughing Stock' was released, I thought it was an amazing record, but it felt like the end. I didn't think that Mark Hollis and Tim Friese-Greene could go any further. Lee Harris and Paul Webb had become an astounding rhythm section: perfectly balanced in supporting, pushing or staying inside the music.

In 1998, Mark's solo record was released and at first listen, I was reminded of what a callow musician I was. At 3:00 into the fifth track, "A Life (1895-1915)", the instrumentation deconstructed -- leaving only an isolated shaker in the left channel. For the next 1:26, the arrangement swelled into one of the most hypnotic and solemn sections of music I'd ever heard: alternating bars of six and seven with a repeating piano motif and vesperal female vocals soaring above the mix. When the record finished, I sat dumbstruck. It was so smart, restrained and visceral -- it pissed me off.

My favorite singer, songwriter and band. The impact is immeasurable and the music's depth, emotional resonance and atmosphere are timeless. Thank you, Mark. Godspeed. Jerome Dillon

Further reading:

Say Goodbye to Musical Genius Mark Hollis With These Gems .

Mark Hollis And Talk Talk’s Brilliant, Nuanced, Stubborn Visions .

Pencilstorm Remembers Mike Parks

Fans and friends of Mike Parks will be gathering to see Willie Phoenix at the A&R Bar Friday, February 2nd. It's a post CBJ show. Details here.

League Bowlers guitarist Mike Parks succumbed to cancer on Sunday, January 7th. I really don't know how old he was and I guess it doesn't matter anyway. Mike was a gentleman and an artist and it was truly an honor to stand next to him onstage and get to listen to all that amazing guitar playing up close. Not that you needed to be close once Mike cranked up those two VOX twins, but you get the point. I'm going to turn it over to Ricki C. and Jim Johnson from here as they knew Mike longer and better than I did. - Colin G.

Click here to read: Mike Parks - Guitar Slinger.....written by Ricki C. in 2014, updated 2017

Jim Johnson -  I guess it's time to post my thoughts. I lost one of my best friends yesterday. Mike Parks passed away peacefully yesterday, with his wife, Danya Linehan, and his cats by his side. Mike had a lot of cats. More than one household really needed, but Mike loved his cats. He had this thing, a sort of telepathy with cats. If you know anything about cats, you know cats don't trust anyone. Cats trusted Mike. They knew he was one of them, and they loved him as much as he loved his cats. It really was amazing to see.

I first met Mike, back in the "Sugar Shack" days. I think he was playing in Flasher, and I was playing in Lizzy Borden. I used to watch Mike play, and he would do this thing, with a violin bow and an echoplex. It was amazing. Every bit as good as Jimmy Page, but I didn't have to go to Madison Square Garden to see it. I could stand 5 feet away, at the Shack, and then walk home. Those were amazing days. I thought to myself, "I hope I get to play in a band with this guy someday." My wish came true. Mike and I played in three bands together. The Retreads, Willie Phoenix and the True Soul Rockers, and the League Bowlers. All cool bands, and it was a pleasure to share the stage with Mike. The Retreads used to play at Bernies, and we had a gig the day Mike's first child was born. We weren't sure if he would make it to the gig. After all, his kid was being born. Mike showed up 5 minutes before we were supposed to go on, dressed in full Operating Room scrubs, including surgeon's mask, and played the gig. I wish there were pictures. That's the Mike I remember. There are some tapes of the True Soul Rockers playing the High-Beck, floating around in cyberspace. The band was really at it's best in those days, and if you ever get to hear the tape, you'll hear Mike and Willie Phoenix, tearing it up. Those two together, man, it was magic. That's the Mike I remember.

After the TSR's broke up, Mike quit playing for a while. I used to call him, and he'd say, "Man, I'm retired. I'll do my sculpting. I got other stuff I can do." I said "we'll see." I went on to join the League Bowlers, and when we needed a guitar player, I suggested Mike. I said "Come down & jam, and if you hate it, you can go back to your sculpting." Long story short, Mike had a new rock & roll home. Colin Gawel had some cool songs, and we recorded them with Rick Kinsinger. Some Balls was born. Rick reminded me of a story about Mike not long ago. Mike was having a little trouble coming up with a lead for a song, so I told him, "Play it like Chuck Berry would, if he was in a surf band." Needless to say, Mike NAILED it. He had an amazing amount of Rock & Roll Knowledge. After all, he lived with the MC5 for a while. That's the Mike I remember. Some Balls Deluxe is finished, and Mike left some great guitar playing for us to remember him by. Colin said not long ago, "There are a lot of guitar players that are artists. Mike is an artist that plays guitar." There's a difference. The world lost a gifted human being yesterday. I'm lucky to have known him, to have him in my life, and I have some great memories. That's the Mike I remember.  - Jim Johnson

Jim mentioned Bowlers producer and sometime stand-in Rick Kinsinger above, I thought his comments were worth sharing as well:

There are losses that make me sad, not just for the ones who knew and loved the departed, but also for the people who never knew them, because now they never will. Mike Parks is one of those. Whether you knew him or not, your world just got a little less cool, less colorful, less weird, and less kind. Rest In Peace, Mike. - Rick Kinsinger

Along those lines, as Mike was fighting his illness while trying to finish Some Balls Deluxe, Rick would literally take a small recording rig to Mike's bedside so he could record his parts. With the circumstances being what they were, Rick recorded EVERYTHING Mike laid down. The final song on Some Balls is one of those moments of Mike just messing around and having some fun. We thought it was the perfect way to wrap up the record and I think we will wrap this post the same way. 

Click here to play 11th Frame by Mike Parks  .  


Remembering Pat DiNizio - by Colin Gawel

Remembering Pat DiNizio - by Colin Gawel

I remember the night I first met Pat DiNizio. In 1995 Watershed played the Cubby Bear in Chicago and our A&R man for Epic records, Frankie LaRocka, was flying into see the show. This was odd for two reasons, we never played the Cubby Bear before or after that night and there was really no reason for Frankie to fly from New York to see this gig. Our album Twister had been out for a couple of months and there really wasn't much going on. His job was more or less done. But Frankie was a rock and roller's rock and roller and so he looked after us long after other corporate executive types would have quit caring.

“Hey, Biggie, tell these guys not to suck tonight. I’m bringing somebody to see them. It might lead to something, it might not, so don’t make a big deal out of it. But don’t suck either”.

During the show, despite the cold temperatures outside on Addison St, I remember sweating profusely on stage. I was consciously thinking, “Is it just me or is it really hot up here?”

Turns out it wasn’t just me, early in the gig Biggie accidently spilled a beer into the Cubby Bear light board he was manning. The good news is that it didn’t short out. The less good news is that every light locked on into full brightness for the entire show. However, other than that, nothing about the show was noteworthy. I suppose we must have played OK because after the show Frankie invited us over to a booth in the back of the bar and said, “Fellas, I want you to meet my friend Pat DiNizio from the Smithereens.”

Pat said hello and asked, “How would you feel about going out on tour to open for the Smithereens?” I can only assume our jaws dropped open as we nodded in the affirmative. “Great. Biggie, go get some more drinks for my new paisans.”

We sat and bullshitted into the late hours and I remember at one point our good pal Lou Brutus, who was working in radio in Chicago at the time, pulling me aside and saying “I cannot believe I am sitting in a booth drinking with fucking Pat Dinizio and Frankie Larocka.” I was surprised by how excited Lou was. Being a major DJ, he had met practically everybody in rock n roll. Hell, it’s wasn’t unusual for him to field a call from Gene Simmons while having breakfast on a Tuesday morning.

But for Lou, spending an entire night boozing with Pat and Frankie was just one rung below partying with Springsteen. Lou was born and raised in New Jersey. These two are rock royalty in his world.

Anyway, when we told everybody at Epic and our agents at Pinnacle the good news, they were decidedly lukewarm. “Why would you go out with those guys? They are washed up. You should hold out for something better.”

Hold out for something better? Ever since we had signed with a major booking agency, our dates had dwindled to nothing. It was the classic major label tale: “No reason to go out until something is going on. Be patient.”

We came at it from the opposite view. We had always been DIY from the beginning. So our attitude was, "We need to get out and make something happen.”

We fired our agent and took the Smithereens tour. It was the best decision we ever made.

This wasn’t like 5 shows. It was a bunch. Off the top of my head-- DC / Baltimore / Raleigh / Greenville / Wilmington / Charleston / Louisville / Detroit / Indy / Chicago / Memphis / Vinton / Little Rock/ Houston / Dallas/ Amarillo / San Antonio / El Paso / Phoenix / LA / San Diego / Vegas.

I’ve never had so much fun. Really. It’s the most fun I’ve ever had. Every show was a blast. I enjoyed the Smithereens every single night. It never got old. And the 'Reens guys and crew, Ira and Chopper, were all like big brothers to us. I don’t know how other tours work but we would hang out together, stay in the same hotels and they would even invite Watershed guys to ride on their bus between some shows. It was a nice break from the van to sit up front in the bus watching Chinatown with Pat and the fellas. I’m pretty sure most headliners don’t do that for the opening act. By the end of the tour we had a bit during "Blood and Roses" where Jim walked into the crowd, and I would grab the guitar and take over the lead part as a “random fan,” (ala Bill Black from the Scotty, Bill and Elvis years) The crowd loved it. Like I said, it was fun every night.

Needless to say we got to know them pretty well. If they were a group of family siblings Pat was the brilliant, entitled first born. He was the ringleader, which has its pros and cons for any family. Next was Jim. The Dave Davies-esque hellraising younger brother to Pat. Dennis was the studious one. You could always count on him. Steady as his tempo. And Mike was the firery and athletic baby bro. Sick of taking shit from his older “brothers,” there was an aura of danger around him. But he brought fire to the stage every night.  I liked all of them very much.

Sometime after the tour, Pat was doing a solo thing and asked if Watershed would back him up at a show at Ludlow’s in Columbus. Hells yeah we would. So Herb, Joe and myself along with our pal Andy Harrison boned up on the material and the show was a smash. What an honor to stand next to Pat onstage playing all those great tunes. It was also the night I met my lifelong friend Brian Phillips for the first time.

We would stay in sporadic contact with Pat through the years and it was always a pleasure when we would reconnect. And he never lost his ability to write a catchy song and sing it in his distinctive style. Go play any Smithereens record today and you will find that it would sound great in any decade. Nothing sounds dated. It sounds fresh and classic and the same time. How rare is that?

And don’t sleep on their last studio release, the amazing 2011. Produced by Don Dixon and recorded by Mitch Easter. (WOW!)  It sounds as cool as any in their amazing catalog.

We lost some big names in 2017, but nobody touched me like Pat Dinizio. I am forever in his debt for writing those amazing tunes but more importantly, inviting a little band like Watershed into the world of the Smithereens. It was an honor.  - Colin Gawel (click here for Colin page)

Below are a couple of Smithereens tunes for your pleasure. 

The first Smithereens song I heard or more likely saw on MTV. Always crushing.

From Smithereens 2011. 24 years after their debut.

A Date with The Smithereens is my favorite Reen's record. It didn't hurt that this is the tour we did but I still think it's their most consistent top to bottom. Dig this little gem.

This clip shows off the diversity of Pat's songwriting and the Smithereens. And it's always fun to see Belinda Carlisle of The Go Go's.

This full show from MTV catches the band in all their young garage band glory. Early hits with a dose of Surf , Kinks and The Who. Wow.

The awesome Blood and Roses. It was breathtaking every time they played it. This clip was filmed around the time we were touring with them. This is how I remember The Smithereens. RIP Pat DiNizio. 


Colin Gawel founded Pencilstorm, plays in the band Watershed and fronts The League Bowlers.