Mark Murdock

Season One: Episode Three

Co-host of the Rock N Roll Bedtime Stories podcast, Mark Murdock, picks “Slot Machine” by Superdrag. Ryan talks with Mark about opening for Superdrag, meeting Alex Chilton of Big Star, and… Mötley Crüe? Yeah. Mötley Crüe.

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Season One Mixtape

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Mark: I had a record label, I worked at a record store, picked up girls at the record store, awesome. Worked at the bar where all the bands that were booked that we played on college radio. And then I moved to New York, I just went out a lot. And then I moved to Colorado, and I met a guy. And we became really good friends and then we just, we accidentally met at a – real true story – at a Superdrag show and I was by myself.

So I went up to talk to him and then we decided to start hanging out and then he was like, I’ve been in a couple of bands. “I got a couple of songs” and I was like, “well, I’m kind of writing” and so we started writing and then we just started to figure out, well, how could we- how could we actually make a band out of it? And then we realized that we can write and we wrote and then we had quasi-hired guns. So, you know, we had like a really excellent drummer.

And then the guitar player we had was like younger, like 19, I guess. And then our bass player was a drum & bass DJ. He was a classically trained piano player. We had him playing four strings. You know, just doing the thing. Three Jewish guys, a Puerto Rican and a redneck. And so that was the bio. That was like the first line of the bio.

So we, we did clubs. We were doing like 500, you know, 500, 750 seat theaters and stuff. And we were just openers. So we were generally at the bottom of national act bills. We just figured it out after a while. So Denver was like a fucking gross place where you had to go out and sell your tickets beforehand to get people to come to the shows.

And then you would get paid a fee on top of the night. And I didn’t drink alcohol the entire time I lived in Colorado and I was the guy who would go get the money at the end of the night. And then, and then, and then we opened for Superdrag.

Ryan: And that brings us to this episode’s song selection. On Season One we’re talking Opening Tracks and my guest today, Mark Murdock, picked “Slot Machine” off of Superdrag‘s 1996 record, Regretfully Yours.

Mark and I actually met in our respective day-job capacity but as we were talking between meetings we realized we both share a background in radio. He has also been in the podcast game for some time now. First with the show Ice Cream Headache, on which he and his podcast partner Brian talked with the likes of Steve-O, Michael Buble, Grace Slick, and more.

Mark and Brian went on to later create The Story Guys which has since evolved into their current show, Rock N Roll Bedtime Stories, on which they cover some rumors and lesser-known lore around your favorite bands and songs such as Jimmy Buffet vs the Drug Police and The Misfits vs San Francisco. They also have the occasional guest such as Brian Vander Ark from The Verve Pipe and John Ferguson from The Apples in Stereo. If you’re into nerdy rock and roll podcasts, which is to say, if you’re a fan of this show, you’ll probably enjoy Rock N Roll bedtime stories. And if you’re listening because you were referred by Rock N Roll Bedtime Stories, well, this entire episode is basically a side quest. Let’s Make A Mixtape.

[Intro music by Scotty Sandwich]

Ryan: Slot Machine. Why’d you pick it?

Mark: Well, it actually goes into another song, there’s “Slot Machine” and “Phaser.” So it’s like two, two songs in one.

I grew up in a very small country household with no one around and my big sister had left and so I was listening to country music until I found her records.

And then I’m a Gen-X person. I had MTV in ’81 so I went through the 80s music, the new wave music, until metal was on in the afternoons or Friday nights on MTV. And then at some point I got from Mötley Crüe and Quiet Riot to Slayer,

And then I went to college, in those first couple years of college, I was the guy that had the metal show and then I don’t know what happened.

Oh, yeah, I know what happened I lived with some people we had to get out of the apartment I moved into an apartment by myself and I got all new friends. kind of. And then I don’t know what happened.

I ended up meeting just a different group of friends and all of a sudden I’d met John, the singer of Superdrag. He was in a class of mine, I guess when I was a freshman, and then I went to go see their band.

And so from all those things, something had never happened. I never had listened collectively to like the Beatles and Big Star exclusively. Like I didn’t listen to Revolver and Rubber Soul. I didn’t really listen to Big Star.

And I just started listening to My Bloody Valentine when I was 18 or 19 and the band was a swirl of those things. And so going to see them was fun. It was like “hissing, throbbing, humming” or something was on their first bumper sticker and all the shows started with that song.

So, the reason why I liked it was, the room was pretty smoky, pretty much every time that band would start, it smelled like Otto’s jacket, if everyone understands what that reference is.

They bleed into each other and there’s a lot of drama about it. “Slot Machine” drops Princess Leia, that’s in the lyrics. So I never liked music really like that until whenever I got to that age. And then I became a, a super fan of, of Superdrag, really. And so it’s like track one off of the album. Even though it’s two. And then the guy from My Chemical Romance made a, what’s his name?

Lead singer? Bah.

He made a comic. And then in the comic, he mentioned “Slot Machine & Phaser”. And I was like, “fuck, do other people know about this?” Because I don’t think that people would know that much about it. So for me, it was a life changing moment. It was a switch for me.

Ryan: I love those songs that really define a point in life, and sometimes a turning point in life, and I love being able to flip through a playlist of your life and see “oh yeah that that was a moment that really the the switch flipped and I saw or heard things in a completely different light.” Um, Yeah, I love that. I never- thank you for picking this one, first of all, because I’ve never actually taken the time to dive into Superdrag.

I went through a huge 90s alternative phase in my earlier years. I loved Toad the Wet Sprocket, anything that, you know, came around with that sound, but Superdrag wasn’t- wasn’t in the rotation.

That was before Spotify was a thing. So it’s more, I would have to go to the used CD place and see what they had. So it was me picking up stuff, you know, Collective Soul, various 90s hits, but Superdrag wasn’t, wasn’t there. And I went and listened in full after you picked this one.

I was like, I know it’s not really fair to say that “the 90s is a genre,” but if I listen to Superdrag, that’s the 90s genre right there.

Mark: That first record is very 90s sounding. And when you listen to the second record, which has the best name ever Head Trip in Every Key, it sounds like that was the 90s band’s second experimental record. You can kind of just tell it’s like, “Oh, there was the budget.” Jerry Finn produced it, who produced a lot of records or whatever, but Tim O’Heir produced the first record who produced like a bunch of Saboteur records or whatever.

But yeah. So, and the thing that that band gets stuck with is the buzz bin thing. At the same time, that song “Sucked Out,” Electra made a video for it. Well, they made a deal, right?

So here’s just the dirty details. So Electra made this dirty-detailed deal with MTV. Metallica’s on Elektra, this is ’91. No, this is, wait, wait, it’s 96. So this is, uh, “Ain’t My Bitch” or whatever, like, Load, Reload, whatever the fuck, whatever Metallica we’re talking about.

So put that time period in your head and now Elektra had these two other bands that they got on MTV at the same time and one was Nada Surf. “Popular” was that song. And then Superdrag had “Sucked Out.” And so people throw shade at Superdrag because of that song. And that song was the song that they had to go back and write after the record was done to have a single, is what that song was. So people throw shade at the band because they don’t know the rest of the songs ’cause they only have heard that song.

Me and my pal interviewed a guy who has this awesome book called Nöthin’ But a Good Time: The Uncensored History of the ’80s Hard Rock Explosion, but it’s not stupid like Poison’s. There’s an interview with Vito Brada from, from White Lion. It is a magnificent book about 80s metal and where things went.

We were talking off the mic and he was like, “oh yeah, Superdrag’s in the Valley of Dying Stars is one of the best records of the last 25 years.” I’m like, “who the hell says that, man?” Not many people do. It’s like one of those bands you can be like, “we’re big in Japan.” I think that first record sold like six figures, 100K, 200K copies in Japan.

It’s like the joke from the fictitious band in Singles. “We’re really big in Belgium.”

Ryan: I need to do my homework. And I had the Singles soundtrack, but I’ve never actually watched the movie. And I need to change that about myself. I’m reflecting in disappointment in myself right now.

Mark: I’m, I’m a Gen-Xer.

Ryan: It is required watching for Gen-X, I believe, yeah. Yeah. It wasn’t Chris Cornell was in that as a, in a cameo, right. As, or not even maybe a cameo. He was just in it in one of the bands, right? Yeah.

Mark: Eddie Vedder is in it too. And they have a fictitious band called Citizen Dick. That’s the fictitious band.

T his song is so instrumental to me, Ryan, because eventually I had to learn- I learned how to play it. It took it took 20 years. Yeah, it’s like, oh, okay I got it and like it’s the song I warm up to when I’m practicing. So it has everything. It’s a moment in time for me and it’s several moments in time for me. And now 30 years later, it’s the song when I’m up by myself that I warm up when I’m playing guitar.

Ryan: So it’s integral into your daily life.

Mark: Yeah. Cause I can, I can hear it a lot. It’s weird. It lives in my head for free.

Ryan: Tell me about the band what I don’t think you mentioned the name of the band that you were in.

Mark: Oh the the band I was in that was called The Pause and it was more which some friends of mine were like, “so it’s like kitten paws, is the logo?” And I was like, “this sucks.” This is like totally lost in translation.

So this is 2001, 2002. So we had a website that looked like a boom box and it had the back, play, pause and forward button. And so when you, you clicked on the pause button, it would show- the bio would come up. And when you hit play, it had MP3s of songs that we had. It was one of those things where like the idea came into a larger thing.

And then after a while, I was like, you know, I wish we were called, you know, Alligator Fuck House or something. It but that was the. That was the name of that band.

Ryan: Now, I feel like there’s an obligation for you to start a band called Alligator Fuck House. It just seems like a perfect band to go on tour with King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard.

Mark: Those two sound perfect. Yeah.

Ryan: I want to see that bill.

Mark: Yeah. But the band that I was in, that was most like your band, but not at all like your band or as good as your van at all. It was called Boom Orangutan.

Ryan: Oh, I like that.

Mark: And everything was tuned down to C. So I don’t know what Doomsday Profit-

Ryan: We’re C-standard.

Mark: Okay. Yeah, so that was math for me learning how to play two whole steps down because none of that made it I was like, I don’t get it. I’m an amateur really.

Ryan: I mean, I’m still learning every day, man.

Mark: Just there’s, there’s a finite number of chords or notes, but you’re going to stumble across them.

Ryan: Exactly. Yeah.

[Segue music by Scotty Sandwich]

Ryan: I had a little bit of an internal calculus and it went off pretty quick. They’re on your podcast, Rock N Roll Bedtime Stories and also Story Guys. The, the OG, there’s a running joke about the Mötley Crüe. It was maybe, maybe five or 10 minutes in. That you mentioned Mötley Crüe.

Mark: Right, it like- it’s just- you know what? everyone has their own shit.

I have a couple of mental diagnoses and it sucks, and they’re things I will live with forever, but this feels like a Tourette’s thing that I have. It really does. I feel like sometimes we naturally, on the podcast, that we get to Mötley Crüe somehow, but I do think that sometimes I’m driving us there and I’m going to get us-

I’m somehow going to get us to Tommy Lee honking the horn with his dick on the boat. I’m going to- somehow I get us there. But yeah, it’s a running joke. But I think I bring us to water every time.

Ryan: I think there’s something, there’s something to it because the guy that we’ve recorded with, twice now, he actually ran sound for Nikki Sixx and there’s an autographed bass and his recording studio and a bunch of other tour memorabilia and stuff.

Shout-out to the one and only Scotty Sandwich who is also the composer of this show’s theme music.

Mark: So can the sound guy set the rumor straight? On whether Nikki actually knows how to play bass or whether he plays to a track or not? At some point, it came out when these nasty things were coming out- between Mick and the band or whatever. I think it was Mick that said, “You know, Nicky didn’t play the entire time.” That whole arena thing. Yeah, not at all.

And then there was- Bob Rock had an interview. See, man, I can- see here where we went? You just opened up-

Ryan: I mean, let’s go.

Mark: Bob Rock had an interview, Mötley Crüe has a new record coming out, and Bob Rock is producing it again, Dr. Feelgood, and he, in an interview, said that Nikki thought that he didn’t actually record the bass tracks on several records, that he came in and recorded the tracks and then he was hammered and he would come back the next day and he wasn’t sure if someone had re-recorded or recorded over his bass tracks.

Like someone came in and cleaned them up and he didn’t really know. We all know that KISS is playing to track- like that’s out in the open. Doc McGee has said like, you know, yeah, they’re totally- Paul is singing to a track at times. Totally. Mötley Crüe is kind of, they’re being a little sly about it if they’re not.

I mean, Vince is definitely not singing to a track.

Ryan: Well, there was that, that, that one, I don’t know if this is in your head, but there was that one recording that. I don’t know if I say “that, “that one recording,” if you know the one that I mean, I feel like you do.

Mark: Well, it’s, it’s, it’s the one that has the closed captioning of what he’s really saying.

Ryan: Which I don’t remember right now, but it was, I just remember it was insanity.

Mark: I just wish, I just wish those were the real lyrics to “Dr. Feelgood.” [Sings] “Dr. Feelgood.” I could have picked “In the Beginning” off Shout at the Devil because that was like a totally weird experience as a kid hearing that. But yeah, I totally picked Superdrag as mine.

Ryan: I don’t think you could have picked a better one.

It means something significant to you, and I think that’s ultimately what this is all about.

Mark: Yeah, and it’s kind of a lot a part about who I am, kind of. Sounds a little cheesy. That’s more than cheesy. It’s like I’m talking about like a Wayne Newton song that touched my life.

Ryan: Songs have that ability to have footnotes on our lives that we keep going back to and there’s science around music and memory and how being able to- I will remember I listened to a lot of music as a kid when we would drive 12 hours up to Western New York and, in order to get through that drawl of a drive, I would just listen to CD after CD after CD and I would have memories trigger when I’d be listening to a specific CD and there’s a specific scene going on outside like we’re crossing a mountain or something.

I have that triggered into my mind. The next time I’d pass it, I’d start to hear that song that I was listening to the last time in my mind because there’s such that strong connection that music really has and weird things that it does with our brains and, I don’t know, it’s hard to describe. It’s just something you feel, and it’s integral to, I think, who we are.

Mark: Yeah, traveling in the backseat with headphones on as a kid is a very different experience. I mean, it exists now, like, kids are wearing headphones in the backseat, but they have other things going on. They’re playing games, they’re doing something else, they’re talking to someone. We were just having this singular experience listening to music.

This will age me and tell how old I am> I remembered being somewhere traveling somewhere and being in the car with just my mom and dad, which was a disaster. Everywhere we went just a freaking disaster, not like a David lynch movie, it just sucked like everything was a disaster. And so I had those big gigantic headphones to tune them out, kind of, and I remember listening to the- it was the live broadcast of Live Aid, so that’s ’85, we’re driving to like Alabama or somewhere, and it was on like multiple radio stations, you would turn the dial and it would be on different things.

So I remember that, and then discovering Z Rock. Which was in the 80s, it was a syndicated metal network, and a boss of mine that I met in Denver, he was a DJ on there and his name was Nasty Nigel, and he had a British accent, but he was really just this guy from fucking Colorado. Nasty Nigel! Like he had- I can’t do the voice, I don’t know exactly even what it was.

But I remember, like, they played W.A.S.P., they played Slayer, they played everything that was awesome about metal, and the best story about Z Rock is my friend Pete, who is Nasty Nigel, he was hanging out with Taime Down from Faster Pussycat, really late one night, hammered, and he accidentally dropped the British accent in front of him, and then no one knew he was doing the act, no one knew that Nasty Nigel was Pete. Heads up to Pete, the best boss ever.

Ryan: What was kind of the inspiration point for you to go into radio and how did Superdrag have that- Would, could you credit that as part of it or is that before or after?

Mark: Music was definitely an escape from, I was trying to get away from what was going on in my house. And so when I was 14 I was on the radio.

Ryan: Wow, okay.

Mark: I mean a small place small town, you know, it’s like I figured out there was there was a lady there and her daughter went to school with me and like I asked and I got to do it and like, super easy and once I figured it out immediately, like I knew I could do it. My voice sounded fine.

I had to learn to undo southern accent things really fast. I found out what those things were because no one opens a microphone and says “You’re fixin’ to hear ‘Freebird’” like no one that’s not a that’s not how you talk in real life people. That’s not how DJs talk.

Ryan: Even if you are, in fact, fixin’ to hear “Freebird.”

Mark: Yeah, you’re not. “Coming up next in six minutes.” Like it’s whatever the hell they say. I always was doing that. And then at some point I had to- I mean, it’s kind of- you grow up. It was- it’s kind of- there was no way to make money doing it. But it did give me, when I was in college, the opportunity to play that band on college radio, like to death and then, you know, to have them do live stuff and have them like on a couple of compilations and things. And it was super fun.

So being that connectivity with it was, was really great and, and actually getting to be a part of. Local music and that connectivity was really, that was the funnest stuff ever because it really is, it’s like, it’s a community and there’s, there’s something that’s different about it when you’re actually a part of it versus from outside looking, looking in.

Ryan: I definitely had that experience when I was doing college radio. I was trying to really focus on getting our radio station to value the local music scene because Chapel Hill has this very well known scene in the late 80s and the 90s. I mean, you got Polvo, you’ve got Superchunk, you’ve got the Mountain Goats coming out of here. Amazing, amazing music, but it has its lulls. And I think it kind of lulled out of that, peak-90s, and then was really coming back full force in the early aughts.

There was some amazing, amazing music going on. It was- you could- you’d have to choose what show that you were going to go to. We’re going to go to a show in Raleigh, Durham, or Chapel Hill on a Wednesday night, because all of the bands were playing that you love, and it was going to be the right decision, no matter what you made.

So I really tried to focus on that with the radio station and it really was like that community. And then, uh, kind of fading out of college and having another lull it kind of dipped. There was less much less activity coming out of the area and then starting Global Garage and kind of building a different community.

It’s not local music. You can’t actually, necessarily go and visit a person, but still creating this kind of community because music means a lot of the same things to people, no matter the borders. And so it’s kind of interesting looking at the differences and similarities between a local scene and then a global scene on a very narrowed, musical focus. I don’t know if that made any fucking sense or if I’m just rambling.

Mark: Oh yeah. By the way, I lived in Knoxville and so Chapel Hill was like this holy land to the east of us. Tours would start in Knoxville, or probably they’d end there. So we saw all of those acts and bands and then sometimes the Memphis bands are like the, you know, they would come through and then- I live in Louisville now and Louisville bands would come through like I saw King Kong and Crain before I knew that they were from here.

I moved here and had no idea that Slint was from Louisville. I just didn’t know. My favorite band from Chapel Hill/Raleigh was Picasso Trigger, which I don’t think a lot of people liked. And it was Cathy Poindexter, who was the lead singer, and she played the trumpet periodically.

They kind of were like a little bit of a joke/parody thing a little bit, but it was heavy and when they would play in Knoxville, they would make- not make fun of the Archers- like they would say really nasty things about the Archers of Loaf. And then they would say something like:

“all you motherfuckers like UT football here. NASCAR is the best fucking sport. You motherfucker.”

Like it was like that, this nasty, weird, kind of fake vitriol with this unbelievably very gorgeous lady in a cowboy hat, spitting like at everybody. And they were, they were my favorite band for sure.

But I did like Polvo and all those other bands too. And, and a lot of those bands, your Superchunk, Five Eight, and there’s all these other bands are around in the area. They ended up doing a lot of shows with Superdrag. So I couldn’t, I couldn’t miss. The, uh, the scene that you were around and I couldn’t miss it because of where I was at to.

Ryan: Yeah, that would have been a super bill to have Superdrag and Superchunk. I hope they did that at some point. If not, missed opportunity.

Mark: I did see kind of the quasi-revamped Big Star. When it was Alex Chilton, Jody Stevens, and then the two guys from The Posies, and then Superdrag opened for that. And that, that was kind of special.

Ryan: That’s incredible, that you got to see Chilton too.

Mark: Yeah. I got to meet him once and he signed a CD for me and he had a cigarette in his hand and the ash was like 70 feet long and he had one of those silver pens that you shake, the paint pens that has the ball in it/

And I was like, “Mr. Chilton-” I didn’t know what to fucking- I was like freaking out. I’ve never been star-struck about things and I was a guy, and I was like, “Mr. Chilton-” and he’s like “just call me Alex” and I was like, “why do you have one of those paint pens?” and he said “Class, kid” or “Class, man” and then the cigarette ash’d all over his crotch and then he pushed all the cigarette ash off his crotch and he goes, “class, man.”

Ryan: What else could you say after that? That is perfect.

Mark: I know. I was like, this is the best moment ever. Yeah, it’s so good.

Ryan: Oh, shit.

Mark: And without Alex Chilton, there probably wouldn’t really be a Superdrag or other, a lot of other bands too. So,

Ryan: Well, thank you so much for a handful of stories. Uh, this is a blast and listeners, you can catch Mark Murdock The Story Guys podcast and Rock N Roll Bedtime Stories. If you want many more stories. Mark anything that you want to talk about, promote, where can people find you?

Mark: No, I just hope people go say, see Doomsday Profit. They’re a band I’ve really always wanted to see. And I’m sure Ryan will tell you about that when he has time to, for sure.

Ryan: Oh, you’re too kind. Well, thank you so much for joining me. I really appreciate it. Always a pleasure to chat with you.

Mark: Yeah, you too.

Ryan: Mark Murdock, everybody. Seriously, if you enjoyed this episode go check out Rock N Roll Bedtime Stories.

Be sure to check out the show transcript for a bunch of videos and such, including some information that Mark followed up on after like a YouTube video of the complete “Bender” sessions, Superdrag’s 8-track demo recordings for Regretfully Yours. Recorded by Nick Raskulinecz who, to quote Mark, “went from East Tennessee to winning Grammys twisting nobs for the Foo’s and Rush.”

As well as a song from Superdrag’s second LP, Head Trip in Every Key, that was also recorded for a compilation. The note Mark sent along with the link is, quote “John recorded 2 separate vocal tracks here. He was apparently soaked in LSD in the vocal track on the right side of the cans”

So, give that a listen with the context.

You can hear Superdrag’s Slot Machine if you follow the Season One Let’s Make A Mixtape playlist on Spotify or YouTube, if that’s your preference.

Be sure to subscribe and rate the podcast as that helps the show get discovered. You can follow the show on social, whatever your channel preference is, @letsmixtape. And join me next week when I talk with Kudani, a prominent #vinyltok TikTok-er, lifelong music collector, and music lover. Thanks for listening.