Sometimes, humans can only take life one step per time, especially those that had to go through some difficult, personal downfalls. They all have a different way to express their anxieties, feelings or emotions and overcome them in their own way, either through physical expressions or, in the case of musicians, through their own artistic skills.
Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Michael Marquart, aka A Bad Think, knows one thing or two about going through difficult, emotional journeys in one's personal life. Through the years, his records have constantly shown Marquart's ability not just as a great composer of songs but also as an acute observer of everyday's life and how much that does impact relationships among people.
His brand new album, The Tragic End Of A Dreamer, is the artistic parabola of an ill-fated dreamer that goes through a series of highs and lows in his life's journey, superbly narrated by Marquart and his impeccable song-writing style.
Together with writing and producing the whole album, as Marquart has always done for every A Bad Think release, this time around the artist from FT. Atkinson, Wisconsin, has played also most of the instrumental and the vocal parts on The Tragic End Of A Dreamer.
When Bluebird Reviews has finally the honour to talk with the ex-A Flock Of Seagulls drummer about the release of A Bad Think's new album, Marquart sounds in great humour and explains briefly the length of time it took to write and record The Tragic End Of A Dreamer. "It took about two years of writing. The songs came to me gradually and the whole process, as I said, took almost a couple of years between writing, recording, mastering, etc. and I am very happy and proud about the finished result."
Undoubtedly, A Bad Think's new record sounds even more personal than any other previous release, digging deep into what it might have been, presumably, a difficult moment of Marquart's life. "Yes, it certainly was. As you know, all my albums are very personal and self-reflective. As many things happening in most people's lives, I guess, this album mirrors things happening in my life going along in a way, expecting to end as well in a certain way. Then, when you realise that things didn't actually go in the way you originally planned, rather than being upset, you start thinking "Well, perhaps that was the way I unconsciously thought that things were going to end like", almost in a sort of awakening way. All in all, rather than being a Tragic End, as my album title would suggest, this record sees a rather happy ending for me, which is good news!".
Marquart has always been a very prolific songwriter and A Bad Think's new record is an ulterior proof of it. The Tragic End Of A Dreamer sees an artist paying a meticulous attention on each note of every song, almost to accentuate the message that Marquart is carrying already through the lyrics. Given the time spent not just on A Bad Think's new album but on every album, Bluebird Reviews is wondering which of the two aspects, between songwriting and recording/producing is more time consuming for Marquart when it comes the time to make a new record. "Well, you hit it right on the head. I spent so much time on every note, even thinking about the spaces in-between all the notes or how certain lyrics need to go with certain chords. I think about all aspects, while making a record, including the most minute. It's always a very emotional and draining process for me, working on an album. There isn't a one particular part in the making of a record that is more time consuming than the other. It's all connected, the music, the lyrics, the atmosphere that I create, the feeling, the emotions that I try to deliver to the listeners. It's a kind of multifaceted experience for me."
The Tragic End is an album that carries many different layers of sound, sometimes verging into Ambient, some others into Southern Rock, Folk, Alt-Rock, even little hints of New Age, showing clear signs of a versatility that Marquart must have been carrying within since the early stages of his career. "Yes, music has always been kind of all over the map since I was a teenager. I have been, in the past, in all sorts of bands, Heavy Metal, Punk, Folk, you name it. As I write my songs, I always let them go freely without trying to steer them in a certain direction. I don't try to railroad them down in any particular genre, I just let them go wherever they want to go. Rather than trying to control where they are going, I just try to get myself out of their ways (laughs)!"
A Bad Think's new album is, in many ways, the ultimate modern Alt-Rock symphony. Marquart's songwriting on The Tragic End Of A Dreamer is exquisite, especially in the central section of the album, with that superb trio of songs that are The Animal, Loyal Men and For What It's Worth. A wonderful album which surely, on some stages must have had some particular tunes a bit more trickier to write and record than others. "The trickiest one would either have to be No Way Out or Loyal Men. For Loyal Men, I had to fight with that one for a while. The reason is that there was something that kept bothering me about that song, something I thought it was not quite right about it. It took me a while to figure out how to put together the pieces of that puzzle but in the end, I managed to do that. No Way Out, well, that particular song has got 115 tracks on it, which are all used on that tune and it was a bit of a challenge to keep it like that, as you can imagine. They were certainly the two tracks that needed a lot of extra work to be done but I am completely satisfied with the outcome."
Modern society can kill one's dreams but can never kill the dreamer. For an artist like Marquart and considering his personal vision of what music is all about and stands for, we are intrigued to find out how difficult it is, in nowaday's music business, to be able to remain true to himself as an artist without compromising any aspects of his art. "That is such a good question, because it is really difficult these days for artists to be able to do what they really want to do. If you happen to get lucky enough to land on a record deal, they try to make you sound and look in a way that it's not really you and, as a consequence, it really gets hard to stay true to yourself as an artist. I am very privileged and fortunate that Windmark Records lets me do whatever I wanna do and they create the leeway for me to be able to generate my music and my records. But it is really tough for any musician, experienced or up-and-coming ones, especially for the latter."
Once upon a time, music was considered a very therapeutic art form and it had a massive impact on people's lives. Bluebird Reviews was just wondering, in Marquart's view, how much can, in these days and age, the power of music be still therapeutic for people as much as it is for who creates it. "I still believe that music is very therapeutic. Back in the days, music was so powerful that you could hear a song, a pure piece of music and that would actually change your life and you could become a better person, simply by hearing that tune. I still believe that music has still got that power, even now. I feel that perhaps younger people get very distracted by things like Social Medias like Facebook, Twitter etc. and music becomes simply background noise for them. Perhaps I am a dreamer, but I still believe that there is people out there that takes time to listen to music and let the music take them to places of their souls that they did not even know they existed. That is the reason why I keep doing what I do, when it comes to make music, because I want to try and keep that belief alive."
Some of the lyrics in A Bad Think's new album quote "Sometimes the movie starts without a sound, and sometimes the movie ends too soon". Should Michael Marquart be able to look back to the beginning of his career and where he is right now, as an artist and as a human being, how would he describe the movie of his life so far? "You know, the older I get, the wiser I get and the happier I am. It's almost like a process in reverse, for me. When you are younger, everything looks great to you, you are happy and feel invincible. When I think about all the music that I played with different bands, in the past, I see that as a part of a whole process to get me through to realize that you really need to be true to your music, always. At the end of the day, what I play is who I really am and what I have to say and it's the best that I can do, as a musician, in that particular day. I wish I had this point of view and learn that lesson when I was younger, rather than playing the stuff that was popular at the time. But the good news is that, hey, I am still alive, I still keep going and I am still enjoying the ride. It's getting better and better as the years go by and I feel really good about where the movie of my life is taking me to."
Giovanni "Gio" Pilato
The Tragic End Of A Dreamer is out now and it is available via Windmark Records