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Maddening Genius Dead Voices On Air's Mark Spybey's new biography (of sorts) details the revolutionary act of making music

Maddening Genius

Dead Voices On Air's Mark Spybey's new biography (of sorts) details the revolutionary act of making music

by Alan Rider, Contributing Editor
first published: April, 2024

approximate reading time: minutes

The thing that shines through most is the almost revolutionary zeal and integrity that Mark clearly applies to everything he does.

Spybey coverMARK SPYBEY
Explicit In Purpose
(eMERGENCYheARTS)

There are a lot of rock biographies, both ‘official’ and ‘unauthorised’ out there, all purporting to give the inside story, never before seen photos, anecdotes, and eyewitness testimony to offer you an intimate peek behind the curtain, so to speak. So what’s so different about ‘Explicit in Purpose’?  Well, whilst it is unlikely to be made into a TV mini-series or film like some, it has a huge amount to recommend it over those sorts of weightier, name-dropping, tomes.  Firstly, Mark doesn’t feel the need to spin things out into 400+ pages.  This is quite a slim volume at under 80 pages, including illustrations, but all the better for that.  Mark doesn’t pretend to be a writer either, or that this is vying for inclusion the best sellers lists (nice though that would be).  No, this is a set of very personal reflections and opinions, frequently expressing his fears and doubts about what he was doing, mixed in with short but descriptive passages setting out how he came to work with personalities from Skinny Puppy, the rudimentary recording facilities he had to grapple with, and the songwriting and recording processes he stumbled his way through. As a self-confessed non-musician and luddite, he was nonetheless excited by the possibilities offered by the nascent electronic music scene and the early internet and in the process has produced a clutch of evocative and compelling albums, including his most recent, Dead Voices On Air’s ‘Dadu’ .

‘Explicit In Purpose’ tracks us through his move to Vancouver from his native North Yorkshire, his departure from Zoviet France to form Propeller, Dead Voices On Air, the collaborative act Download, and Reformed Faction, and his love of improvisation and the magic that can come from collaboration with like minds when there are no rules.  Mark declares at one point that he is not a front man, nor an artist, yet it is clear he has been the catalyst in everything he has been involved with.

‘Explicit in Purpose’ jumps about a fair bit, it’s true, made up as it is of mini chapters with headings like ‘Taste’, ‘Inspiration’, and ‘Happenstance and Infinity’.  It flits rapidly between re-printing archive photos and lyrics, short descriptions of how individual songs and albums were created, thoughts on the whole creative process, and stories of how he met influential characters in his life, such as the wonderfully named Darryl Hell. The thing that shines through most though is the almost revolutionary zeal and integrity that Mark clearly applies to everything he does. “The very act of making music is a revolutionary act.” he states at one point, “It’s always political”.  He bemoans the need to commercialise art (“Commerce just gets in the way”) and the impact of digital technology and streaming (“Nowadays music is easier to make, but harder to sell”). ‘Explicit in Purpose’ is chock full of quotable instances like that.

That this is published by Scott Crow’s eMERGENCYheARTS collective comes as no surprise either, as they too specialist in breaking rules.  On the evidence of this, Mark Spybey is very definitely a one off.  Described on the cover blurb as “a genius, if a maddening one”, Explicit in Purpose’ tells the story of just how far a can-do DIY attitude and no musical boundaries can take you.  Which is everywhere and nowhere.


essentials
Mark Spybey's Explicit in Purpose is available from eMERGENCYheARTS, here→

Alan Rider
Contributing Editor

Alan Rider is a Norfolk based writer and electronic musician from Coventry, who splits his time between excavating his own musical past and feeding his growing band of hedgehogs, usually ending up combining the two. Alan also performs in Dark Electronic act Senestra and manages the indie label Adventures in Reality.


about Alan Rider »»

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