A Magik Markers performance is not a thoroughly organized event. Rather than scribble out a setlist, the Connecticut-bred duo of guitarist Elisa Ambrogio and drummer Pete Nolan craft long improvisations that teeter back-and-forth between rabid basement punk and, every so often, slightly laborious noodling. But this ability to spontaneously plunge into the unknown and unproven gives Magik Markers a certain mysterious allure that's not unlike a jazz musician or a religious extremist. On Magik Markers’ most recent album, Balf Quarry, the duo managed to channel its unhinged id into a relatively concise set of songs. The A.V. Club spoke with Ambrogio in anticipation of Magik Markers' performance on Sunday, May 10, at The Velvet Lounge, but we wound up spending more time talking about other things.
Awkward first attempts at making music
The A.V. Club: Were you in any bands before Magik Makers?
Elisa Ambrogio: No. Well, I played with some dudes I went to high school with twice. The drummer looked like a grown-person version of a Cabbage Patch kid. He was really obsessed with that show The Tick. He was a super nice guy, though. I played him my mix tape, which was all Warzone, Side By Side, and Revelation Records stuff. Then he put in King Diamond and said, "The band’s going to be like this." It was all of these weeping arpeggios and the singer had this insane range. I mean, you think you know what a metal singer who can get wild sounds like, but this was something else. Waaaa waaaa waaaaaa [singing in a piercing quasi-operatic banshee wail]. But it’s, like, a dude!
AVC: Okay, it’s sort of like Dream Theater.
EA: Totally. During our second practice, I was singing and I had my lyrics and this dude who was in the band was like, “Yeah that was good, but could you put your hair in front of your face and scream really loud?” I took my mic home and that was the end.
In Connecticut, Hatebreed is like CVS
AVC: A friend, who grew up in Connecticut, once confessed that he had seen Hatebreed more times than he had seen any other band.
EA: If you grew up in Connecticut, you couldn’t avoid seeing Hatebreed. They were everywhere. They were like CVS. If you went to shows in Connecticut and didn’t see Hatebreed—it seems like that would be a paradox. Jamie [Jasta, singer of Hatebreed] used to set up all these shows. Before he was in Hatebreed, he was in this band Jasta 14. They had a song called “Trippin' Balls,” which was awesome. I’ve got a tape of them. He used to write these lyrics that were, like, really rad adolescent fucked up beer poetry.
The Ulysses of hair-metal biographies
AVC: Have you read David Lee Roth's autobiography?
EA: Oh yeah, Crazy From The Heat? What’s amazing about that book is that all of his pictures, they’re not taken by his wife or family. Every photograph gets credited to his bodyguard, who’s paid to be there. It’s sort of like, “Oh, poor Diamond Dave. You don’t have any buddies.” Also, he backtracks and, with 20/20 hindsight, pretends to have been really important and really hip to a bunch of movements that he wasn’t really part of. Like, he pretends to be into the earliest punk scene in L.A.
AVC: I heard that he insists on breaking up the timeline. And that he said something like, “I don’t live in a linear fashion, so I don’t write in a linear fashion.” In a way, it sounds like the Ulysses of rock bios.
EA: That is awesome. I think they should put it out again and package it that way. David Lee Roth is not constrained by time, like Marguerite Duras or something.
Pondering rumors of new-age porpoise-lovers resorts
EA: Someone was talking to me about a weird new-age porpoise thing, where people pay to go to a new age facility and make love with porpoises. People are weird, so maybe that’s real?
AVC: How did you find out about this porpoise-lovemaking thing? Can you reveal your source?
EA: My source cannot be revealed on this. It’s a pretty valid source, but it could have been a joke.