Marker Starling alias Chris Cummings schreibt seit mehr als 20 Jahre wunderbare Songs. Und wenn man es schafft, über den Zeitraum das Attribut avant garde zu behaupten, dann sagt das viel über einen wachen Geist, immer wieder frisch getätigte Beobachtungen und den Mut, sich neu zu erfinden.
Am Dienstag, 31.10. tritt Marker Starling ab 21:30 im Nachtasyl auf - eine Gelegenheit, die man sich nicht nur einrahmen sollte.
Wir hatten die Gelegenheit, ihm Vorab einige Fragen zu stellen:
What is your favourite mistake?
You’ve hit a sore point here because I hate making mistakes but I still make quite a lot of them. Part of the joy of making recorded music is that you can erase the mistakes, or turn them into something that sounds intentional. But when you play live, you still make mistakes, which I do, a lot. And I hate it. But I think that it’s part of the “live” experience. If you can recover from a mistake without stopping the song, it’s a minor victory. Learning to play live has been a steep learning curve for me.
How did you meet the Wurlitzer electric piano?
In 1994 I played a Rhodes electric piano for the first time and it was a life-changing experience. I played in a band that rehearsed for 9 months, played 3 shows and split up. After that I resolved to start making my own music. The first time I played a Wurlitzer was in 1996. The difference between a Rhodes and Wurlitzer is that the Rhodes has a deeper and more authoritative sound, while the wurlitzer is thinner and more watery-sounding, but it has a lot of character, and the vibrato is very nice. They also weigh a lot less, so they’re easier to tour with. When you’re grown up playing only acoustic pianos, there’s something very freeing about electric pianos - they can be more gentle and less dominant than an acoustic piano. But they can also have more “bite.” It’s simultaneously cooler and warmer. It’s very special.
Can you repair a Wurlitzer electric piano?
No, but I know a guy who can. I get mine reconditioned every few years. It’s important!
Favourite cuisine (and why)?
It’s a hard question to answer, but in the end, a good felafel sandwich is the perfect food. There was one place that existed in the 1980s and early 90s called Aida’s. I still think about those felafels all the time even though I haven’t had one in 25 years. They were divine. And the sauce was divine. And so was the spicing. I imagine that Germany must have good felafels too (and shawarma). We are blessed to have them.
Favourite cousin (and why)?
Both my parents came from large families so I had lots of cousins growing up! Half of them lived in the U.S. and half in the U.K. Only one cousin came to visit me in Canada, in 1985, my cousin Steve, who was close to me in age, and he was the one I was closest to. He was a great guy! Still is - he is now a film editor in Bristol. I haven’t seen him nearly enough in the past few years/decades. It’s unfortunate. We should have a family reunion. It actually did a lot for my self-esteem, having so many cousins that we could all be in a little gang of kids whenever we got together. And they were amused by my Canadian accent and expressions.
Associations of Hamburg?
I’ve only been to Hamburg twice - once in 2004 and once in 2014. Both times, I played at the Golden Pudel Club. The first time, I had an amazing meal of fish in a lemon sauce at a nearby restaurant before the show that I’ve never forgotten. My wife Pat was with me on that tour, and we stayed up until 4 in the morning listening to a DJ playing a really strange and wonderful selection of songs including Paul McCartney & Wings album tracks and Phoebe Snow. It was the last night of the tour (with Scarlett’s Well, the band formed by post-punk legend Bid of The Monochrome Set) so we all stayed up late. The second time, I was playing with Von Spar, and we had a great show, and later on I met Captain Sensible from The Damned. He was very nice. We had our photo taken together. I praised his 80s solo work. I heard there was a fire at the Golden Pudel Club in recent years and I was very sad about that. It looks like they’ve recovered though - I just checked their website! I also had the sense that Hamburg was a bit of a different vibe from the rest of Germany. Being a port city with all that is implied by that, and being the place where the Beatles learned how to play professionally - all those things were on my mind both times I was there. Also, my wife's nickname for me is Pauli, so whenever I see the word Pauli it reminds me of her.
Who is your favourite Jazz artist?
I would have to say the pianist/organist Weldon Irvine. He made 3 incredible albums on RCA in the mid-seventies for which he had carte blanche, but they didn’t take off, so he was dropped from the label. But he was rediscovered in the ‘90s and played organ on the first Mos Def record. He committed suicide in 2002. It was really sad, and it really hit me hard, his death. He’d been a hero of mine for at least 10 years by then, but not only that, he had played a badly-publicized show in Toronto in 2000 and I missed it. He was my hero, because he wasn’t afraid to make messy-sounding tracks, and leave the mistakes in. A brave artist, in other words. He also made 2 self-released albums before his RCA records which are very personal. Check out his tracks “Morning Sunrise” and the 9-minute “Deja Vu” and also “We Gettin’ Down” which was sampled by A Tribe Called Quest.
Lately, my biggest jazz hero has been Blossom Dearie. She was a popular recording artist in the 50s-60s, but then she had her own record label in the 70s (Daffodil Records) and released some very idiosyncratic music, always in a somewhat commercial vein. This is the kind of stuff I like - the stuff that walks the line between the commercial and the avant-garde. She sang in a high, girlish voice, and was an impeccable pianist. She was a heavy player who didn’t get her due.
The best thing about touring?
Traveling, meeting people, staying up late, always moving on to the next place - it’s a lot of fun to me, since I don’t get to tour that often.
The worst thing about touring?
The part of the sound check when the drummer has to play the kick and the snare for a long time.
Thank you very much!