Custom Heavy   [September 2001]

Marshan music is goodtime groove, otherworldly happy music that combines Acrimony-like stoned sounds with Blind Melon-like melodies. Heavy, spacey, and blissful. The result is a toe-tappin', music to drink beer to (among other substances!). I was so taken with their new release "Kings Thursday on the Friday Street", that I decided to interview the lads and they kindly responded from their home in Scotland. So without further adieu, here are Kevin, Malky, Graeme and Scott collectively known as Marshan.

Custom Heavy: Tell us the storied history of Marshan. Where, when and how did the band form, who's in the band, what do they play, that kind of thing.

Malky: Four fuck ups met and ruled ... thank you, goodnight.

Kevin: Informative as always Mr Thomson, how about we let Graeme handle this one...

Graeme: Ok we originally formed as Dying Sun back in 1996. At that time we were playing more doom oriented stuff, although bizarrely enough, it had a punk influence, which led to us being described as stoner doom. At that time the line-up was the same as Marshan except we had a separate singer.

Scott: Yeah, he really didn't work out, leading to Graeme (and myself) taking up the vocal duties. Malky hits stuff, me and Graeme play guitar, and Kevin plays bass and makes weird trippy space noises. Graeme does most of the vocals, and I help out now and then.

Custom Heavy: I'm going out on a limb here... I think the Marshan is the first grooverock band that I've heard of that came out of Scotland. Give us your take on the Scottish rock scene. Are there any other bands we should be aware of?

Graeme: The Scottish scene is mainly based in heavy stuff, mainly Death Metal and hardcore. There is not much real rock around. There are a number of indie bands who are doing interesting stuff such as Mogwai, but in terms of the stuff that Custom Heavy mainly deals with, we are the only Scottish band doing it as far as I know. To tell you the truth, the British scene is actually not as large as the rest of the world. I mean you've got bands such as Orange Goblin, Hangnail, Blackrock and Khang, but there's probably only about 20-30 bands in the UK who are doing this kind of stuff. I guess there might be a lot more who have still to make their name, but in terms of bands with any kind of profile, there are not actually that many.

Kevin: The good bands in the local scene around Glasgow tend to be based on heavier ideals, like the phenomenal One Root and a hardcore band called Divide which we dig, but I've not heard from them in the last couple of years. Because of that we are looking to contacts outside of Glasgow to get relevant gigs.

Custom Heavy: Marshan uses two vocalists, both of them equally capable...just for the record who is singing what? And why two vocalists? Was this one of those things where both Graeme and Scott wanted to sing and wouldn't shut-up so in order to shut them up the band decided to have both guys sing?

Graeme: Ok, Scott sings the majority of "Purple Demon Blues", while I sing the rest of the stuff. After we got rid of our previous singer, none of us were really too keen to do the singing, in fact we still pretty much see ourselves as guitarists who just happen to sing. Anyway, we decided that some kind of singing was required, so Scott and I stepped up to the mic. It makes it more interesting having two vocalists as well, cause Scott has a completely different style to me. Although I do the majority of the singing, Scott will definitely always be involved, he's kind of the George Harrison of the band.

Scott: There's no big singer ego-trip thing going on in the band... it just so happened that I came up with a melody line for Purple Demon when we were jammin' it out. It's a case of if it works, go with it... and in the case of Purple Demon, having me singing seemed to work.

Custom Heavy: Who are the Marshan influences? There is a dump truck full of groove on the album, but also a concerted effort to maintain dynamics. In the review, I compared you guys to a more exciting Acrimony. Would you agree with this?

Graeme: I guess there's a range of influences, mainly rooted in British rock. Stuff like Zeppelin, Sabbath and Purple is obvious along with Cream, Thin Lizzy, The Rolling Stones, Hendrix and Mountain. We also dig old blues such as Robert Johnson and Howlin' Wolf, rock and roll like Elvis and Chuck Berry and jazz stuff too.

Scott: Good music's good music man, no matter where it comes from... whether it be Muddy Waters, Thelonious Monk, Black Flag, Stones, Entombed or Nebula. It's all cool.

Kevin: Lets not forget the modern stuff also - Hangnail, Goblin, Bitchwax, Roadsaw, Acrimony.....

Malky: I would add AC/DC.

Graeme: The dynamics comes from listening to stuff like Zeppelin II. The reason why that album is amazing is because of the range of stuff, from "Whole Lotta Love" to "Thank You" to "Ramble On". You should always have a good number of heavier tracks, but I think the listener gets more enjoyment if you break it up every so often so it doesn't get boring.

Kevin: The goal is to express a number of moods - to take the listener in a trip if you like.

Graeme: We have been compared to Acrimony once before. I only actually have one Acrimony track on a compilation cd, but I know Tumuli is supposed to be a great album. I don't mind the comparison, in fact I find it interesting. So far we've had Fu Manchu, Orange Goblin and now Acrimony. There's a lot of bands doing the Kyuss thing at the moment, so I guess at least we're sounding like different bands!

Kevin: Ahh yeah, I kinda see what you mean with the Acrimony comparison I think. Tumuli is an awesome album, but I'm the only one of us that has it and any similarities are purely coincidence!! Truely though, they're an great band so it's a pleasure to be compared favourably to them...

Custom Heavy: I have always sung the praises of producer Dave Chang in these pages. I think he brought out the best sounds of the aforementioned Acrimony as well as Orange Goblin. How did you hook up with Dave? How much has he influenced the Marshan sound?

Graeme: Well, I actually sent your review through to Dave cause I thought he might use it on his website. Kevin basically found out how to get in touch with Dave through Darren Sadler who works for Rocksound magazine (cheers Darren!). We really wanted the best guy we could get, and we just looked at our albums and Dave Chang seemed to appear on them all.

Kevin: He's a busy guy so we had to wait about nine months before he could fit us in, but we put that time to good use though and it definitely paid off.

Graeme: King's Thursday on the Friday Street was recorded and mixed in five days, so Dave didn't have much as much time as he would have probably liked. He obviously got us a pretty good sound, he was the difference between making this a reasonable demo, to something we could actually release on a label. We're hoping to get together with him for longer next year to do a proper full length, and we're sending stuff out to labels now to see if any of them would be interested in working with us.

Kevin: We're already thinking about production issues ourselves, and with greater input from Dave this time around the next record should turn out very interesting.

Custom Heavy: Two of my favorite tracks on the album are "Deep & Meaningless" and "Needle Eye". Can you give us the background on these songs both lyrically and musically?

Graeme: "Needle Eye" was actually a catalyst to us changing our name and parting with our singer. It was pretty much the first Marshan track, and had a very Sabbath influenced sound. It's actually quite an odd song for us 'cause most of the stuff we do is more rock and roll, but I guess that was us mixing our doom stuff with the groove direction we've now moved into. The lyrics were inspired by one of Scott's friends who was a heavy duty Christian. In our doom stuff we had a song that mentioned Jesus Christ, not in any bad way, his name just popped up. Anyway, this guy seemed to take offence at this, obviously tarring us as Satanists or something because we were playing heavy music and mixing in religious imagery. "Needle Eye" was just kind of saying to him that he judged us unfairly. Marshan don't have religious beliefs, we just like to drink!

Kevin: AMEN!!!

Graeme: "Deep and Meaningless" was the last song written for King's. It actually wasn't complete and we finished it in the studio. We had decided we wanted something a bit lighter, and while jamming the song out it suddenly became heavier at the end in a Stones manner. We decided to do some odd stuff on this track, like using brushes and stuff. The lyrics are interesting. I guess the first part is a kind of Love song (I don't mean that in a Celine Dion manner), but when it speeds up most of the lyrics were made up on the spot. Actually the last few lines aren't actually English, just a mixture of syllables. We were basically jamming out ideas in the studio. That's why it's called "Deep and Meaningless", the first part makes sense, the second part doesn't. However if you consider the song really deeply you can almost reverse the last statement. I was coming out with some weird shit at the end, which I've tried to analyze to work out what the hell my subconscious stream was saying. I'm not sure what I was singing but I'm sure it makes sense in some way.

Custom Heavy: How about live Marshan? How have the live gigs been? Who have you played with and where do you guys play?

Kevin: In the past we've had some great gigs with bands like Alabama Thunder Pussy, Karma To Burn, Orange Goblin, Solstice, Warning, Sloth, Sally, Khang, One Root and The Blood Divine. Hopefully we'll be able to get on with some of the US based bands heading over to the UK over the next 6 months (Karma To Burn + Sixty Watt Shaman, High On Fire + The Atomic Bitchwax, Bottom, Orange Goblin + Roadsaw, Nebula.....) We need to find the right contacts.

Graeme: We've got two shows arranged with a band called Area 54, one in Newcastle (Trillians) on December the 2nd and one in London (Kings Head) on November the 16th. Hopefully there will be more confirmed with them soon. We try to jam quite a bit live, which sometimes backfires. We recently did a tour called the Nu Titans tour which goes round the UK. As the name suggests it is mainly a Nu Metal thing, so there we were, sandwiched between all these tight Nu Metal acts, playing our extended jams and drum solos and things. The kids weren't really into it, so we tamed it down a bit and that seemed to work a bit more. Basically we'll play anywhere in the UK that will have us, but there are some plans afoot to see if we can come across to the US to play a few shows - we'll see what happens...

Custom Heavy: What does the future hold for Marshan?

Malky: Rock stardom and legend status

Kevin:There goes the drummer again on his rock star trip - best to ignore him. Who can tell what the future holds, but if things go our way we will find a label to help with the funding for our upcoming full length album (again with Mr. Chang) so we can get a decent length of time to record it. It's gonna be a lot harder than the Kings session, but we're looking forward to it.

I hate to ruin the suspense that Graeme has built up in the previous answer, but we're also thinking of coming over to the US next year to play SHoD IV, and maybe hook up with another band for a small tour around it. I mailed Rob Levey about it and he seemed like he might be up for it, so I've sent him off our CD.

Other than that who knows, but we are ambitious and have a tendency to come up with increasingly ludicrous ideas as time goes by and turn them into a reality. If we can keep doing that then it's gonna be a good trip...

Scott: Right now we're trying to get out there in England, Scotland, Wales (hell, anywhere that'll have us!) and play our asses off... show people how rock 'n' roll should be played!!.

Graeme: Yeah, we're trying to raise our profile a little with more gigging and some more publicity hopefully. We're also trying to get to know a few more people in Europe and the US, this scene is really very global, and it's amazing the cool bands and people you can meet just by messing around on the internet.

Custom Heavy: Any last words, observations or advice?

Graeme: Well firstly thanks to you Chris for all your help, indeed thanks to everyone involved with this music anywhere. I think there is a really healthy underground scene going on at the moment, and that's down to everyone involved in this community. I hope that maybe we can come across to the US to meet up with some of you, but if any of you are coming across to the UK don't hesitate to contact us.

Scott: Always listen to the purple rabbits in your head... they hold the true secrets of the Universe.

Malky: Its all about the music.

Kevin: If you ever need entertainment for a party, just give me a call and bring lots of beer & rum.

Thank you, and goodnight...

Read the Custom Heavy review of Marshan's "Kings Thursday on the Friday Street"

Chris Barnes