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What I Learned at Bandcamp: Mark Erickson of Colorstore

Mark Erickson

On Sept. 6, a sound wave rippled through the local music community– Mark Erickson had passed away. Erickson was the creative force behind Colorstore and contributed to local acts ROAR and Gospel Claws.

In an effort to help raise funds for Erickson’s children Sophie and Jack, local producer and long-time friend, David Nichols has released the first track off of Colorstore’s unreleased LP Random Sum of Everything Please. The song can be purchased on Bandcamp. All of the money raised will be donated to Erickson’s children.

The Spec reached out to Nichols about his friendship with Erickson along with some of his favorite memories, read what he had to say below…

Can you give me a little background on yourself? Do you work with any other local artists?
I’m a Phoenix native and faculty at Glendale Community College where I teach Studio Music Production and Music Business and Mass Media. I’ve taught Record Production at the Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences, the Audio Recording Technical Institute, and the L.A Recording Connection. I grew up working in valley record stores and DJ’ing through college and began recording bands in my parents garage while I was in high school. From 1988 to 2011, I owned & operated Livinghead Audio Recording Studios in Phoenix. Reagan was president when it opened it, and Obama was President when it closed! 🙂 I recorded the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra for weekly broadcast on KBAQ for over a decade including performances of Itzhak Perlman and Yo Yo Ma, and I produced recordings of the Korean Symphony Orchestra in Seoul.

I have also recorded and/or mixed: Akon, Ciara, Flotsam And Jetsam, Fountains Of Wayne, Ice-T, Jimmy Ray Vaughan, Meat Puppets, Ne-Yo, Teddy Riley Band, Sevendust, Sister Sledge, T-Pain, and Type-O-Negative. More local artists include Francine Reed, Jefrey Taylor, Tommy Ash Band, Charles Lewis, Chuck Hall Band, Mighty Sphincter, 100 Iced Animals, Van Buren Wheels, and Big Nick & the Gila Monsters.

How long have you known Mark Erickson and what was your relationship with him?
I knew Mark about 18 years. I recorded albums with him for two of his previous bands; Nations in Dust, and Blueshift. It wasn’t until Blueshift played one of the concerts behind Livinghead Studio that I looked up- (the band was playing on the back of a flatbed semi truck we were using as a stage)- and there was a very competent vocalist, pulling a nice Peter Murphy. The rest of the band was fine too, nothing too spectacular. But then there was Mark. He was slamming chords out of a old Fender Rhodes keyboard and had a Les Paul hanging down that he’d strike a hard between flailing himself on the keys. He was crying out these back-up vocals that overtook the lead vocalist not in volume but in sensitivity and importance. I looked up and I think I said it aloud to myself; “Oh. That guy’s a superstar.” I know that sounds funny. I meant rockstar or something, but I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. I was hosting the show but I just stood there watching, and that was the first time I realized what he was. He was so wonderful and incredible. I was lucky to experience him. It was like he was our own private Syd Barrett or something. I owned a studio for 23 years and I’ve never met a more talented and original artist. I know that he garnered a lot of comparisons to Radiohead or Pink Floyd (I recall a heckler at an early show yelling out “There already IS a Radiohead!”), but some people have simple musical tastes and they aren’t listening. They can’t hear something fantastical and original when it’s right in front of them.

What are some of your favorite memories of Mark Erickson? How was it recording with him?
I remember Mark rolling in the grass in my backyard holding his daughter Sophie. Laughing and whispering softly to her to calm her.

My memories of Mark in the studio include the two of us sitting cross-legged under the recording console listening to the balance of the bass in the mix. One day we wrapped each other in rolls of toilet paper and tracked the whole session as mummies. I once told Mark that I was refusing to shave or cut my hair until he finished his album. I finally relented after over a year of unfettered hair growth.

Mark and I developed a practice of bringing a song to play for one another at the beginning of each session to set the mood. He really liked George Harrison‘s demo of “All Things Must Pass” off Anthology 3 and I turned him on to the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band song “I Won’t Hurt You” which Colorstore later covered in concert.

Will more songs from the album be released via Bandcamp?
Bandcamp has been a great way to make people aware of the album, we had almost 300 listens in the first week. More importantly, it’s also a way people can contribute to the account the band set up for Mark’s kids. It is my goal, however, to release the record as a vinyl LP. I don’t know if I can afford to do it, but I know that is what Mark would have wanted. I’d like to have Roger (Seibel– of SAE Mastering) master it. He mastered all the other Colorstore albums, and I’ve already got Casey Mckee onboard to do the cover design based on Mark’s original concepts. Casey, one-time drummer for Colorstore, is a fine artist living in Berlin and has done the artwork for previous Colorstore albums.

Anything else you’d like readers to know about Mark, this project or these unreleased songs?
Well, the album was unfinished, so in many cases, I am having to find an early scratch vocal to use, but everything else was pretty much in the can. The scratch vocals are really nice because he’s not self-conscious like he might be for an actual take. He talks to me from the booth mid-take, or after a take to tell me what he thinks of it, and I might include some of that stuff. He really developed into a wonderful performer, but he’s still a little shy here. It makes it more personal and sweet.

On the track I’m woking on now, Mark and I had a conversation about the greatest sounds you ever hear. I said to him “I know sometimes a crying baby drives people up a wall, but I don’t really mind it. At some primate level, back when we were in caves, it must mean life. A new member of our clan.” then I said “I think the sound of running water in a stream must be wonderful to us instinctually.” He asked me; “O.K., What’s the best sound you can hear. Now.” I answered him with “I love you.” then Mark said “I disagree… It’s I love you too.” He then played his Rhodes through a vocorder while I mouthed the words “I love you… I love you, too.” and that’s how the song ends.

2 Comments

  1. Amazing.

  2. you really think mark would want his talking between lines and takes to be a part of the songs? i doubt it, he was much too meticulous and self-conscious… seems like it pleases you/us more than being what he would do, but i digress… good luck with this project, can’t wait to listen!

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