From The Desk Of Doug Gillard: Memory Lanes (Mark Edwards And MDID)

Doug Gillard is known (rightly so) for his guitar wizardry in bands such as Guided By Voices, Cobra Verde, Death Of Samantha and, for the last few years, Nada Surf, but that notoriety sometimes overshadows the fact that he’s an accomplished solo singer/songwriter. With his third LP, Parade On (Nine Mile), Gillard continues to show off his virtuosity—solos like the one on “On Target” are just ridiculous—as well as his knack for catchy, folk-inflected power pop. Gillard will be guest editing all week. Read our brand new Q&A with him. To see more photos corresponding to these entries, go here


Gillard: In Cleveland, Mark Edwards had been a friend of mine and a fellow DJ at WCSB. His radio show exemplified the type of minimalist and dark sounds he would later put into motion as a writer/performer. The Fall, Orange Juice, Josef K and, of course, Joy Division and most of the Factory output were the things he played, along with some U.S. underground brilliance such as the Embarrassment and Tripod Jimmie. He started recording music under the name My Dad Is Dead around 1985. Mark appeared live as a one-man band, using just a guitar and a Roland 808. I accompanied him on additional guitar for one of his early appearances around that time.

Mark released his first album on the Cleveland startup St. Valentine records in 1986, which began a constant and steady stream of creativity. By 1988, like Death Of Samantha and the Reactions, he was signed by NYC’s Homestead Records, eventually releasing the masterpiece The Taller You Are The Shorter You Get.

Mark is a multi-instrumentalist, playing drums, guitars bass, etc., on his records. He had a brilliant method of having a drum machine and real drums alongside each other in the mixes, making for a pretty fat drum sound. He played live as a trio often, using members of Prisonshake—namely Scott Pickering and Beat Farm studio’s Chris Burgess, along with Tim Gilbride and Jeff Curtis. Pickering and Curtis would also go on to serve time in my band Gem in the mid-’90s.

Come 1990, Mark was assembling a band to tour in Europe and asked me if I’d like to be a part of it. Death Of Samantha didn’t have anything booked at the time, so I jumped at the chance! Mark set it up so I would play drums for half the set, while he handled frontman duties on guitar, then we’d switch for the second half and I would just play guitar as Mark sang behind the drum kit. We played concurrent with the Roland drum machine, too, for most of the set, a move I was thankful for, as it certainly kept my timing in check on the drum kit.

First stop was Nijmegen, Netherlands. We had some days off due to cancelled shows, so we got to hang out in Nijmegen and bum around for a couple days.

Many stops in Germany and Switzerland followed, and I seem to remember meeting up with Happy Flowers for a day or two as our paths crossed, and Mark was friends with them. Our driver/tour manager was Kurt, a surly but hilarious German of Turkish descent. We stayed in places of varying quality, from squalid rooms above the Rose Club in Koln to youth hostels in the Swiss Alps. One sort of B&B hotel in Germany had a red curtain just off the breakfast room downstairs. Curious, Tim peeks in to see a one-lane bowling alley! We then joke about the “secret bowling alleys of the S.S.” I thought that Mark’s dark cerebral music would go over perfectly in Germany, but at that time, something else was taking hold, and we started to see people in our crowds wearing Mudhoney T-shirts. They had just toured, and that was really the sound the kids were clamoring for. Still we had fun and had some unforgettable experiences.

We played Berlin just after the wall fell, and we walked beside parts of the crumbling structure. One town we played was Braunschweig, an industrial city not far from the former East Germany. We get to the club, called The Line, and do our soundcheck. I wander up to see where the band hang room is, and I am followed by the hospitality kid working at the club. He is carrying a mirror with yellow crystals chopped up and arranged into rows. He says, “Here, you do.”

I said “Oh, huh? What is it?”

“It eez a-crank”

“Oh, hmmm, well, I … ”

“We have all bands do it who play this club. It is our welcoming. Go ahead.”

“OK then.”

I snort the stuff and am speeding nicely for the next three hours.

“Yez, we are not named ‘The Line’ for nothing, you know?”

On the Swiss motorway en route to a gig in Thun, a rogue stone hits our windscreen, shattering the whole thing to pieces. Having 60 more km to go, we soldier on, with no windshield whatsoever, covering our mouths so we don’t swallow insects. We play the show and at night are led somewhere to stay in dorms in the dark of night. We wake up to see beautiful grounds near a pond and huge jagged snow covered Alps just outside the window. Kurt gets the windscreen replaced, and we get to hang out here until he gets back. It was like being in a beautiful postcard.

The hotel in Amsterdam was known for putting up touring bands and had a little letter board with the names of what bands were staying there, as a sort of “we welcome” statement. I thought it was great we were staying there with the Celibate Rifles and Killing Joke that night, but noticed they had us billed as My Dad Dyed His Head. We told them they got the name wrong, but they said they found the real name too offensive, so they altered it a bit. My Dad Is Dead is offensive and Celibate Rifles is fine? One can only wonder what happened when Butt Trumpet came through town?

We missed the first ferry from Oostende, Belgium, to Dover, U.K., to get to our Peel Session at the BBC, so we got the next one. Arriving two hours late, our engineer for the day, ex-Mott The Hoople drummer Dale “Buffin” Griffin, was none too pleased when we got to Maida Vale. He helped us load in, and we quickly got sounds. We perform the basics for our three songs, then, as is the case at BBC sessions, you are encouraged to do a couple overdubs, such as additional vocals or guitar solos, etc. When we heard the mixed versions, we couldn’t believe the rich warm sounds they got from our scratchy little tracks. Go BBC!

Later that year, Black Francis asks My Dad Is Dead to open shows on the Pixies’ U.S. tour for their new album, Bossanova. I am asked to play on this tour as well. We started in Toronto and went to Boston, New York, Detroit, Chicago, Minneapolis, Omaha and Denver.

It was a treat to see a 90-minute Pixies show every night, and I can’t think of a night where I didn’t go into the crowd to watch.

At First Avenue in Minneapolis, we watch some of the set from the back hallway beside the stage. First Avenue has a sort of balcony level where the audience in a packed crowd can sit and dangle their feet if they so choose. I looked up during “Wave Of Mutilation” to see one exuberant girl in the balcony smiling from ear to ear, legs swinging from between the rails, mouthing the lyrics, except I could see that she was forming the words “wave of jubilation.” Hey, who’s gonna burst that bubble and tell her the real title? She was having a blast.

Charles was extremely nice to us and always tried to make sure we were being treated well. He even took us to dinner in Denver. I seem to remember sharing an enthusiasm for Texas guitarist Lonnie Mack, and he lent me a cassette of a fave of his, Travis Wammack.

Denver was our last show, and the Pixies took off for the West Coast. Mark is in the back hassling with the promoter to get our money, which they were trying to withhold for some reason. He emerges triumphant and we speed off to drive back home.

Mark put out records under the MDID moniker until 2010, when he consciously put the name to bed with a few celebratory final shows. I was honored to be asked to be part of these and also have a chance to play again with my old friends Scott Pickering and Jeff Curtis along the way.