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You should know Mark by now. He is the DIY star, hailed by the Daily Telegraph as ‘the boy that beat the music business.’ Mark made quite a stir in 2003 when his debut single, ‘Get Through’, released on his own kitchen sink label (Mark Joseph Records) crashed into the UK top forty with no advertising, no radio play, no TV appearances, no media coverage and no budget to speak of, prompting Radio One to ask “who is Mark Joseph?”
Mark turned out to be a highly motivated, multi instrumental 22 year old singer-songwriter who built up his unique fan base through relentless touring. Born and raised in Luton and then Yorkshire, music was Mark’s escape route a place where he could exercise his over-active imagination. “I never liked the fake, manufactured, choreographed boy/girl band crap that was shoved down our throats when we were growing up. I like songs that mean something, played by the people who wrote them.”
Mark was a child of Britpop, hitting his teens just as Oasis transformed the UK’s musical landscape. In 1995, aged thirteen, he learned three chords on a cheap second-hand acoustic and life would never be the same. At 19, Mark’s dark good looks, exceptional talent, raw rock vocals and mean way with a song hook saw him feted by certain cynical elements of the recording industry. Confessing to a certain naivety (if you can’t be naïve at nineteen, when can you be?) he says, he was promised “everything I ever wanted and more”. What he got was a harsh lesson in reality. Chewed up and spat out by the time he was twenty-one, Mark resolved to take matters into his own hands. He took over the dining room and set up a small recording studio. It was a basic affair: drum-kit, guitars, keyboard, microphones and an old fashioned tape recorder. “No computers”, says Mark “All you need is the instruments and something to record them. Then it comes down to the songs and whether they are good enough.”
It was in that studio that Mark recorded the first version of ‘Scream’: ten songs about broken dreams and defiant optimism. He played everything himself, usually in one take (because he couldn’t interrupt his performance to hit the edit button on his sixteen track desk). “I am very proud of that album”, says Mark. “Every drum beat, every guitar hook was the way I wanted it”. He even designed the cover himself and directed his own ‘on a budget’ video.
By this time, however, Mark’s second single ‘Fly’ had hit the top thirty, and the music business was really on Mark’s case. At first, Mark resisted all overtures (“I thought, sod that, I can do it all myself”) but realised his one-man against-the –world routine might be difficult to sustain. In late 2003, he signed to Warner Music’s 14th Floor Records, a label run by Christian Tattersfield (the man who signed both David Gray and Damien Rice). The original plan was to release Mark’s album in its raw form, but then it was decided to re-record it. Mark says “some of the tracks were crying out for an orchestra and, you know, my violin playing isn’t too impressive”.
The album was re-recorded from scratch in LA with American producer Mark Tanner who had previously worked with Aerosmith, The Calling and Cheap Trick. “He’s a massive fan of British music, and so over the top enthusiastic it’s almost silly, I learnt so much out there” says Mark.
The track listing however remained the same “I didn’t want one new song on there,
I love the simplicity of all the songs on Scream. I’m not interested in how many complicated chord shapes I can fit in. I don’t want to hear musicians soloing for hours on end. I want something you can play on an acoustic guitar and sing along to.
Songs that will stick in your head so you can still hear the melody when you walk down the street.”
Four top forty chart hits later and with stacks of TV, radio and press coverage to his name, you will hear Mark being played on radio stations all over the world. His music is also extensively used by the BBC, ITV and Sky and on American shows such as ‘Smallville’ and ‘Grey’s Anatomy’. His last single ‘Lady Lady’ was a huge radio success, it was record of the week on Radio Two and was one of the most requested songs of the year. He has toured the country with his band and has supported big acts such as The Corrs, Leanne Rimes, Wet Wet Wet and Ocean Colour Scene.
He is now looking to move into 2006 with his second album to be called ‘Sold to Sound’. He is currently working in his newly refurbished studio, and is not only writing, performing, recording but also producing the album himself. Which kind of takes us back to where we started...
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