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Mark Mallman to bring antics to Turf Club

Minneapolis’ resident piano bangin’ performance rocker lives in his own world and you’re welcome to step inside.
Mark Mallman jams retro rock that occasionally transforms into performance art.
Image by Mark Mallman
Mark Mallman jams retro rock that occasionally transforms into performance art.

Mark Mallman has been playing music in Minneapolis for years with the goal of getting sloppier.

You might not guess that based on his extensive musical training and reputation around the Twin Cities. Mallman’s known for his brazen stage persona and isn’t afraid to add some glam debauchery to his brand of piano-fueled retro rock.

The Wisconsinite has completed four “Marathon” songs, which he plays continuously for days at a time. For “Road Rogue,” his latest run, he played cross country in a van for 180 hours. He took breaks to sleep, but he was hooked up to an EEG controller that turned his brain waves into MIDI information to keep the music rolling.

Mallman has performed everywhere in the Twin Cities since the late 1990s, earning a dedicated fan base with his gregarious personality and prolific discography. A&E caught up with him to get the scoop on what’s next for him.

What’ve you been doin’ today? Have you been running around a lot?

Yeah, I’ve been writing most of the day. I DJed last night, so I didn’t wake up till, like, 2 p.m. I might lock myself in the studio this Saturday and just work.

You find it pretty useful to confine yourself?

I hate it. But it’s the only way to get the work done, you know? Like, you gotta work at some point — sometimes it falls on a Saturday night. I get in the groove, buckle down, have some whiskey and write music all night. Probably till 5 a.m.

I know you were writing about the idea of outer space on “Double Silhouette,” and that idea was reflected in your latest marathon. Is that concept sticking with you and appearing on the new record?

With the new record, I’m directly using material that was written during “Road Rogue.” Marathon IV was using samples and lyrics from “Double Silhouette,” too, you know, trying to integrate the two so you can’t see the forest or the trees.

(Laughs) So it’s all blurred together?

As a creative person, I don’t think it’s good to know entirely what you’re doing. Like, rock music is not about the intellect. If you try to intellectualize the creative process, you end up creating a dead cadaver. You have to fight against that; like, for me, I’m a composer for my job.

When I’m working on an advertisement or a score for someone’s project, I have to be intellectual. I’m channeling what they need. But when it comes to my own work, I do the opposite.

When you’re marathoning for days, is there any intentionality to it? Do you try to stay deliberate about what you’re doing, or do you go into a trance?

That’s the goal. The goal is to go to Valhalla; it’s like “Dante’s Inferno.“ It’s a creative experiment. It’s not fun. It’s also like, you know, perfecting ballet. How many different skill sets can I have so I can become invincible or indestructible as a musical force? I’ve done a lot. I keep wanting to do shit. I perform in refrigerator boxes. I perform with brain waves. I want to do anything I can to expand on this thing that Vincent Van Gogh said: “There is something inside of me; what is it?” I love that quote. Inspiration is not about rationale; it’s not about logic — not when it comes to art. That’s what’s great about the marathons. Even when I was a kid, I would just do something crazy and try to pull something out of it.

Tell me about the musicals you’re making.

(Laughs) I’m working on two. We’ll see. Everyone’s always telling me to write musicals. I wrote my screenplay last year, and people liked it, so we’ll see. That’s all I want to say about it for now.

Your performance style fits the genre. You’ve got enough energy for Rodgers and Hammerstein, man.

There’s something about the concept of musical theater that inspires me. Then there’s the other part that makes me want to gag, makes me want to commit suicide, makes me want to die. I don’t know — it’s archaic and so far removed from the human experience that it’s laughable.

People have been telling me to write a rock opera for years. I would never listen to it — like, I can barely get through a Queen song, though I can respect the band. What could be cool is if I could write these musicals and never have to perform them or listen to them.

Your onstage persona is very different from the guy I’m talking to right now. How did you go about developing a theatrical live show where you can pick up a keyboard and fire it at your audience like a semiautomatic machine gun?

That’s me. That might be closer to who I really am. We’re prisoners of society. We have all these social laws and caveats and standards.

When you get on stage, it’s your world, you know? Like Shakespeare, he says “all the world’s a stage,” but for me, it’s the opposite: “All the stage is a world.” I can just be myself. I can be me. I can be enraged. I can cry. It’s like flying. I can’t live as that character in my life — I mean, I do sometimes. But is it my pure spirit? I think it is. Don’t you feel sometimes that you want to break free from all this stuff and rules and just express yourself?

We all have this sort of performance we give every day — this person that we want to be seen as.

Your world and my world are incredibly and universally different ’cause they’re just hypotheses about what reality is. What’s great about art is that it allows us to bypass this. Art enables us to see the world more fully. I just keep wanting to go back to that Van Gogh quote.

It’s hard to see what you’re swimming in when you’re in the fishbowl, right?

Exactly that. I used to say what I did on stage was a character, but I don’t sit around trying to define it anymore. Some of it is parody, and some of it is rock history, and some of it is some dude playing in Minnesota in a bar. I don’t know (laughs). The more I know, the less I understand, you know? All I know is that I can’t stop, and I won’t stop. This isn’t a career you choose; it chooses you. That’s just the way it is.


What: Mark Mallman with Botzy and Bomba de Luz
When: 8 p.m., Wednesday
Where: The Turf Club, 1601 W. University Ave., St. Paul
Cost: $10
Ages: 21+


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