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Riffs, Rants and Rumors: Mark Eitzel Won't Be a Stranger

Mark Eitzel is almost pathologically disinclined to talk shit. Even in situations where it might be in his best interest to offer up some sort of self-serving statement, he seems practically honor-bound to push a pin into the balloon. For instance, in analyzing his upcoming release, Don’t Be a Stranger, the erstwhile American Music Club singer/songwriter admits his affection for the record but immediately follows up by observing that he usually hates his own albums. It’s hard to be subjective about the things you make, he explains. Actually, if I was a real rock person I’d say ˜No, it’s fucking great, it fucking rules, it’s the best thing the world has ever fucking seen!’ That’s what I should be saying. ˜This turd I just took is the best thing I’ve ever done.’ I respect people like that; we need them. No, we don’t, he recants, they become Presidential candidates.

So it’s no great surprise to venture into Don’t Be a Stranger and encounter songs like Oh Mercy, containing the wry lines I’ve got party talk for all your party guests/my topics include facism and rising crime/and when I outline the coming doom of the USA, well that’ll insure everyone’s good time. Despite having earned enough critical plaudits for his songwriting to fill a grain silo, Eitzel is similarly unsparing of himself in looking back at 2009’s limited-edition Klamath. I didn’t want it to be [a small pressing], he says, but I could only afford to make, like, 500 of them. The album’s genesis was me at a friend’s place in Happy Camp [Calif.], and it was so beautiful up there. The first piece I wrote was an electronic piece, to the absolute horror of my fans, but I really love electronic music, even though I’m no good at it. I wrote this electronic piece about a tree, and it started from there. At the mention of his earlier electronic-oriented album, 2001’s The Invisible Man, Eitzel says, That was another mistake. I’ve done a lot of electronic music but I stopped because the people who buy my records hate it with every fiber of their being. But I still make it for myself. I’m a songwriter, you knowI get booked at Americana festivals [laughs].”

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