Photo: Jennifer Deutrom

Mark Deutrom Celebrates 20 Years of the Silent Treatment (album stream + interview)

Tracked during what became a permanent break from his role in the Melvins, Mark Deutrom's The Silent Treatment has had a long and circuitous path but it's now ready to be received by what might be its widest audience yet.

Mark Deutrom‘s The Silent Treatment arrives on 9 February via Season of Mist in multiple formats. This reissue kicks off a series of such releases from the former Melvins bassist culminating in a brand-new record. The collection was Deutrom‘s inaugural solo run, tracked during a single week in 1998 at a Los Angeles studio. Between the first and last day of tracking he also found himself excused from a band he’d worked with for over a decade and had been a member of for nearly half that time.

“Leaving the Melvins while I was making the record was sort of a watershed moment,” Deutrom recalls. “It was a great period of transition for me. The album has a lot of points of sentimentality in it.”

One such sentimental touchstone is the appearance of Deutrom’s childhood friend John Evans. “He’s someone I’d grown up with in El Paso”, the multi-instrumentalist and composer recalls. “We were the two rock guys at school. His mother was a musical director, so we played in productions of Godspell and Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris. We got to realize a childhood dream of playing together in a studio and making a record.”

Joe Barresi, who mixed the album, and engineer Chad Bamford had put in hours on then-recent Melvins LPs, Stoner Witch and Stag and some of the material had been submitted for various LPs from the band prior to Deutrom’s solo tracking. “It sounds like a buffet because I wrote just two or three things specifically for it,” he says.

The record’s new lease on life is in part due to a confluence of events, namely Deutrom’s desire to have his records reach a wider audience. As he’s continued to make albums since the early 2000s, their visibility was limited. Working with Austria’s Rock Is Hell, a tiny boutique imprint, didn’t afford him the visibility that Season of Mist promises to. And Season of Mist, a mainstay of extreme metal, also gets to diversify its roster.

“It’s been really great with these guys and I’m working on this new record that will be out later in the year,” Deutrom says. Despite suffering from bronchitis, he was generous with his time and willing to stroll back to 1998 and fill in some of the important holes in the saga of The Silent Treatment.

The Silent Treatment is out 9 February; Season of Mist has also announced the next Deutrom reissue, The Value of Decay, due 6 April. Orders from the Season of Mist store for all things Mark Deutrom may be made here.

Where did The Silent Treatment begin? Is this something you were starting to work on during your time with the Melvins?

It had a fairly lengthy gestation. Obviously, I’m a songwriter. When I joined the Melvins, I continued writing material and some of that ended up on the Melvins’ records. By the time we got to Honky, which was the last thing I worked on with them, I’d written pretty much half of that record. I was constantly throwing stuff at them to listen to for consideration for recordings. I wasn’t giving them everything I was writing, so I had this pretty huge backlog. After Honky, I started thinking about wanting to use some of that material that I’d written. We’d put that record out and toured for it and we had sort of a down period. I thought, “Here’s a really good time to collect all that material and put it out.”

I think during the Honky tour, I had about 45 minutes worth of stuff I’d played for Buzz [Osborne] as we were thinking about the next album. He really didn’t appear to be that interested in it. So, that was also an idea of, “Well, I worked on these songs and I think they’re pretty good. I want to put them out.” So, it’s a collection of things that I started writing, halfway with the Melvins in mind, and that backlog of other material.

Did you have any idea of maybe trying to put together a band?

I thought it would be cool to have a band and tour in the downtime from the Melvins. We would do some serious touring. So, the idea of touring for two-three months and then going home, sitting around for a week, then going back on tour wasn’t in the cards. Touring was difficult for us, physically demanding, the travel. I’m not B.B. King or anything. In my mind, I had that I wanted to go out and play some of this stuff. At that point, I was still in the Melvins, so figuring out how to make that work was sort of the next step I never really got to.

You made this in the late 1990s but there are elements that are reminiscent of records from the 1970s. At times I’m reminded of Hawkwind or Rough Mix by Pete Townshend and Ronnie Lane.

Yeah, that’s a great one!

Were you drawing inspiration from those records? Even in terms of the sequencing? Because records like that weren’t necessarily about having you wait for the single.

I’m kind of a child of the ’70s. That’s when I started listening to music seriously and having all the aspirations that certain people get as a teenager, as far as thinking about music. The ’70s loom large for me, influentially. I listen to everything all the way across the board that was put out in that time, from Miles Davis to Tangerine Dream to the staples like Led Zeppelin. Growing up in West Texas, at that time, I had to grab things from places like In Concert on TV or reading about stuff in Rolling Stone or Circus. I never had a lot of rules about which genre I wanted to jump into.

As far as Silent Treatment goes, anybody who knows the catalog of pop music in the ’70s can kind of hear the flavors in there. There’s a lot of them.

The late 1990s is also this time where so many records had a heavy sheen on them. This is the antithesis of that.

There you have the difference of economics at work. The stuff that gets on the radio has a juggernaut behind it. Publicity and, more importantly, money. The stuff on radio is like a hall of mirrors. It’s just reflecting the most popular things that are going on. If you cast your mind back to 1998 and what was on the radio, it wasn’t stuff that sounded like this.

There’s a song called “One Thousand Delights” which, when I was tracking it with Chad Bamford, I had Dionne Warwick’s “Are You There (With Another Girl)”, the Burt Bacharach song, in mind. It’s got this incredible production to it. It sounds like 15 people playing live in a room at the same time. She was cutting the track live.

So, I wanted to emulate that type of feeling. That was the direction I gave him for it. If there are sounds that seem nostalgic or reference a particular feel and time, that’s intentional. Stuff that was recorded in the ’60s as compared to what’s recorded now is utterly different. It’s like comparing animation from the ’60s to animation now. I was definitely looking for an organic quality.

There’s also a sense of humor apparent on this record. And, not to harp on the ’70s thing, I think of albums by Harry Nilsson and Todd Rundgren where you’d encounter those almost sketches between more serious material.

It’s just part of a personality. If you have humor in your personality, it’s probably going to come out in your art. There are even humorous things in Vincent van Gogh paintings, which is incredible, considering his personality. Shostakovich has humor in his music. Beethoven. Everybody. Penderecki. Messiaen. Melvins had a lot of that too. One thing we had in common was a pretty raucous sense of humor. If you look at the stuff I did with them, that certainly surfaces. Ideally, bands are prismatic and show a bunch of different sides. It just makes things more interesting. And more real.

The record is being released as a 20th Anniversary Edition. But my sleuthing reveals a 2001 release date.

I recorded it in April of 1998 in Los Angeles. When I was in the recording studio, I was asked to leave the Melvins by Buzz. He literally called me up during the recording session and said that my services were no longer required. Really, all I could do was put the phone down and get back to work.

I finished making the record and started making phone calls. I thought it was a good record and I kept making phone calls and kept making phone calls. I made phone calls for two years. Finally, some guy in England who had a tiny little label managed to license it to Tee Pee records.

What were you hearing from labels about what they didn’t like?

[Laughs.] Well, I was talking to basically everybody I could talk to. I was hearing, basically, in the nicest possible way, “We don’t like it.” Nobody’s going to say what they really mean. Everything is very coded. You have to draw your own conclusions from it. It’s an entirely subjective matter but for me, it’s still kind of a mystery as to why nobody wanted it. I was going, “Hey, it’s me! I was in the Melvins! You’ve heard of them, right?” I had done production work for a lot of people too. But it was mostly, “We don’t have time. Our roster’s full.” The usual kind of stuff. I’m fairly thick-skinned, so I just kept thinking somebody would pick it up. It’s a good record.

There was still some kind of music business in place when the album came out. What was the reception?

This is one of those bad timing things. Tee Pee was going through a kind of implosion of their own. The record just fell flat. It fell right into this perfect storm of horrible, horrible times. So, the record fell into nothing. I think there was one ad put out for it some place. I think it got two reviews. Both of which were really good reviews, incidentally. Then it just disappeared off the face of the earth. It happens.

It did manage to find an audience. How do you think that happened?

Probably through the underground. Before everybody had everything, there was a kind of one-upmanship over who could show who the most obscure thing. I think it became one of those cool, obscure things. It floated around. I just continued working. Whenever I did something new, people referenced The Silent Treatment, so there was a mini feedback loop for it. Melvins have an audience and there are people who are completists within that. They’ll take a sandwich wrapper from Dale [Crover]. Now it’s getting a bit of a second life, say that it’s the 20th anniversary and confuse people like yourself.

It’s coming out for the first time on vinyl via Season of Mist. It amuses me that this is the first issue in that format given that there’s surface noise on some of the tracks.

[Laughs.] There’s a certain metaphysical aspect to that, absolutely. For me, it was being lo-fi, engaging in retrograde nostalgia. All those hip-hop guys were doing that. My using that was sort of a mini homage to what those guys did with keeping the scratch noises in. It’s another way to remove the sterility of things. I hadn’t thought of that. Will there be people who hear that and try to return the record? “Ugh. The pressing’s defective!”

It sounds like you’re still really happy with this record and that it still holds a special place for you.

I think it’s a great record.

1. Toshiro Mifune
2. The Hobnail Paisley
3. El Morocco
4. One Thousand Delights
5. Chihuahua
6. Coffinmaker’s Complaint
7. Fat Hamlet
8. The Hottentot Venus
9. Borehole
10. Your Necklace
11. Revelator
12. A Catastrophe
13. Honey Drop
14. Gateau d’Amour
15. Van Diemen’s Land
16. Candlelight and Wisteria
17. OKC (Bonus Track)Follow Mark: