POWER OF POP INTERVIEW: MARK BACINO

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Mark Bacino is a Pop Underground favourite whose music (featured in three albums – Pop Job, The Million Dollar Milkshake and Queens English) gets mentioned whenever rock journalists need to define the best power pop music out there. We talked to Bacino about the past (his acclaimed music), the present (his new single, “Not That Guy”) and the future…

Name and occupation for the record, please. 

Mark Bacino. Singer-songwriter, producer, snappy dresser and sometimes hack, music journalist.

How would you describe the music you write & record?

I guess I would describe my music as ultra-melodic, pop music. Using the term “pop” in more of a Beatles/Beach Boys/Big Star fashion rather than, say, a Katy Perry sort of way.

Pop Job has been essential listening for power pop lovers for quite a while now. Why do you think Pop Job hits the spot for listeners?

I’m not exactly sure and I’m flattered, thanks, but if I had to venture a guess I’d say that the songs on that album are very short, purposely crafted, succinct blasts of power pop. The kind I’d hoped would appeal to hard-core fans of the genre. Since the album came out close to 18 years ago and we’re still talking about it, I suppose I must have gotten lucky and done something right. 

Since then, you have released two albums while basically “shilling for the man” (as you say in your bio) – how do you feel about that?

I guess I wish I’d released more of my own music over the years, but “shilling for the man” (laughs) by producing music for others, writing about music and composing for TV/advertising helps keep the lights on so…

What is your assessment of the music industry in 2016 compared to the 1990s?

It’s really very different these days. Back when I signed my first deal with Parasol (Records) back in ’98, that was pretty much the only way you could get your music to people on a mass scale; via recording budgets, label distribution and record stores, etc. The technology now is such that anyone can make a record in their bedroom and distribute that song directly to their fan base the very same day if they so choose. The tools and the internet have levelled the playing field, for better and worse. The down side is now there’s a huge glut of some not-so-great music out there making it incredibly difficult for folks to rise above the din and get heard. I think that over-saturation, coupled with the advent of streaming, and more specifically the royalty rates associated with streaming, has made it hard for journeyman musicians like myself to make a living but I’m hopeful that will eventually get better. 

What is your songwriting process? How do you come up with the melodies? Use your new single “Not That Guy” as an example.

“Not That Guy” was written pretty much the way I write all my songs; I find myself sitting, absentmindedly strumming a guitar – or it could happen at the piano too – really just to amuse myself, messing around with different chord patterns ’till I hit upon something that I like and that feels undiscovered to me. Once I get a chord pattern in place, I then, usually, start humming or singing nonsense words over the top. This is where I find my melody lines. Up to that point it’s all a very inspiration fuelled process. Then the hard work begins – structuring the song, cutting the fat, writing proper lyrics that fit the mood of the music in place of the nonsensical words etc.

Is there an album in the works? If so, when can we expect a release?

As it stands now, the long-term plan is to release an album. In the short-term, I’ll probably be periodically releasing singles on the road to completing the album proper. Unfortunately, my schedule doesn’t allow me to record as much for myself as I would like, so compiling a full album’s worth of material has become a bit problematic. That said, I am always working, however slowly, on something for myself and rather then stick those tunes on a shelf as I wait to amass an album’s worth, I thought, why not release some songs as I finish them?

Do you believe that melodic pop-rock still has a place in the contemporary music world? Why or why not?

I think melodic pop will always have a place in contemporary music. It may fall in and out of fashion in varying degrees and it may present itself in various guises as it’s done over the years, but at the end of the day as much as people love rhythm, beats, etc, they also love a good melodic hook, whether they consciously know it or not, and I don’t see that ever going away.

How do you define success?

Success, to me, I think – in addition to having your health and great family and friends – is the happiness derived from doing what you love to do on a daily basis while being able to sustain yourself doing it.

What are your music plans in the next couple of years? 

To try and be as musically “successful” as possible (laughs).

… still there’s more …

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