MARK KOZELEK’S LIFE OF CRIME23 May 2007

Mark_kozelek_crop Remember Irish crime writer John Connolly and his MOJO obsession? Say hello to Mark Kozelek, the former Red House Painter and Sun Kil Moon mainman, whose music features on a compilation CD that came with the former’s last novel (wonder where he got that idea?). Connolly describes Kozelek as his muse and audio equivalent; Kozelek repays the compliment in this interdisciplinary interview with Mojo’s Andrew Male.

Click below for interview…

When did you first become aware of the work of John Connolly?
Mark Kozelek: I was contacted by his publisher. They told me that Red House Painters’ Summer Dress was one of several songs that inspired characters in his novel The Black Angel and they were looking to put Summer Dress on a compilation that coincided with his book.

What was your take on his books?
Eerie, cozy, seductive. He has a way of moving in and out of tender and violent, of warm and cold, like I haven't seen before, and the way he cuts from characters and settings so rapidly, it keeps you on your toes. His characters will seemingly have no connection, each chapter beginning like a new book, then it all ties together. It's masterful. He describes and writes like a poet. Each paragraph ends with a trail of magic dust behind it - the details are so rich, vivid, nothing is left out. What's also fascinating to me about John is his grasp of American culture - the landscape, the politics, everything. I wouldn't guess by his writing that he wasn't from here. The way he'll describe a New York neighborhood or an island off of Maine is 100 per cent accurate and totally fresh. He's incredibly knowledgeable historically, culturally, on every level.

Have you met him?
Yes, we met when I played in Dublin in 2005. He gave me a signed hardback of The Black Angel. That was so thoughtful... how he and his girlfriend Jennie had made it out to the show, stayed until the bitter end and found me. I found him very kind and genuine. Coincidentally, I’d just seen someone reading The Black Angel on a plane on the way to Europe for that tour. Then after meeting John, I noticed it in the bestsellers racks at airport bookstores. That's when it all came together that this guy was a fiction heavyweight. That's how it all connected. I'm 40 so I'm not finding information online, I don't come from that background. How I discovered John and what he was about happened in a real way. It really meant something.

Do you see parallels between your music and John's books?

Yes, mostly in the elaborate, poetic description. I agonize over detail and John is also unusually descriptive. There are also parallels in the contrast between light and heavy. In my music, in songs like Duk Koo Kim or Salvador Sanchez, there's a lot of brutality, but in songs like Brown Eyes or Summer Dress, there's a lot of tenderness. Musically, if you listen to early RHP records, I can't think of a better example of the sudden jump from gentle to violent. John’s novels do that too - they use the same kind of dynamics. One minute someone is lying in bed, in a soft, serene setting, then CUT to a hooker being slapped around in an alley.

Has he influenced you in the way that you have influenced him?
Not in an obvious way, but he has inspired me. When a guy like John praises your work, it makes you feel like you're doing something right. John just has a way of tying words together that makes you pause, causes you to crack a smile at how great his writing is. He's very lyrical. For me, being aware of other poets – one’s that are good at it - it keeps you sharp. And it doesn't hurt to know that guys like John are listening.

How do you feel about influencing him? His books are quite creepy...
I’ve always been interested in true crime, watch tons of Court TV, A&E and horror films, so I've got a tough stomach and am very much at home with that side of John's writing. Plus, in his books, the violence is intermingled with the supernatural, which softens the blow. As far as me influencing him, that is unbelievably flattering. I tend to meet mostly musicians who I’ve influenced, which is nice, but can be boring, like school teachers meeting other school teachers - not much to learn there. But when you meet an author like John, and they're inspired by your music, that has a special place. That's the ultimate praise, when an artist from a different medium, like writers or directors, are inspired by what I do. Growing up, skipping school and playing guitar all day, I would have never guessed that one day I'd have an influence on someone as acclaimed and talented as John Connolly.

Mark Kozelek’s book of lyrics, Nights Of Passed Over is published in July by La Mano 21. He will be playing a solo show at London’s Shepherds Bush Empire, October 29th. A live Kozelek track, Have You Forgotten, features on the soundtrack to the August-released documentary, The Trials Of Darryl Hunt.

A new compilation CD – featuring a brilliant mix of acts including Midlake, Sufjan Stevens and MOJO’s own David Sheppard – comes with hardback copies of Connolly’s new novel, The Unquiet. It’s called Into The Dark; find out about it here…

Or find out about Voices From The Dark, the comp that came with The Black Angel and features Red House Painters’ Summer Dress…

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