Interview with Marcus McDonald

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Below is an email conversation with Marcus. His album From the House of Trax is considered one of the all-time private press psych classics and really proves that great psychedelic music was continued to be made well into the late 70s.

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When did you start playing music and what kind of music did you listen to when you grow up?

When I was 14 my parents gave me a drum set and gave my sister a guitar… She didn’t like the guitar and everyone hated me having the drums so they sold the drum set and gave me my sisters guitar. I had a friend who was really good at playing guitar and showed me how to play Stairway to Heaven and Smoke on the Water and after that I was hooked but on my own so I beat on the thing until it sounded good to me and started writing my own songs.
 
House of Trax is a unique album and your music is hard to compare to something else. The sound on the album is both contemporary late 70s but also timeless. What was your main inspiration for the House of Trax-album?

The House of Trax was the name of the recording studio where I recorded my music… I had a friend one day hear me play and he said I have a friend I would like you to meet so he took me to The House Of Trax owned by Jim Fergusson who sat me in his studio and listened to some of my songs and said he really liked them and was willing to record them for me for free… What could I say but YES Thank You Very Much !!! it took 2 years of recording in his  spare time but we got it done. By the way Jim Fergusson was the program director for WHAS television station which was and still is one of the biggest TV stations in our area and Jim Fergusson was and is a audio pioneer and geniuses.  

Is it true that you only made 500 copies back in 1978?

Yes and the confusion was they pressed them at closing time on a Friday and I got 200 then and went back on the following Monday and they pressed 300 more. When they said it was closing time they really meant it.

And is the actual release year 1978 and not 1979?

Yes

Can you please tell me the story behind the record cover?

You will probably not believe this story but I assure you it is all TRUE… My best friend at the time had a camera and I had an idea… Hey lets go to this big cave I know about and I will put on these robes with chains going from my wrists down to the ground with some hands sticking out of the ground holding the chains add some dry ice and we can make a album cover that will represent locked inside a world. So we did. Now here is the funny part… We went to the local Kmart and asked to borrow the hands off of a mannequin for a photo shoot and they believe it or not said yes. Then went to a local factory that made dry ice and got a  box of dry ice {a big box} We went to the cave and set up everything and it felt like it was looking good until the effects of the dry ice making smoke wore off. So Austin my Friend with the camera said… I am going down to this creek I saw and fill up this jug with water to pour onto to this dry ice so it will make more clouds of smoke… I said SURE… While he was gone this family walked in who was spelunking  or just exploring the cave {Mom and Dad and a tiny little girl with a tiny little boy} Anyway they stared at me with the robes on and the smoke all around me and they just looked so startled… I could not help myself and turned and looked at them and said…  WELCOME !!! They then turned and Ran Away!!! I bet when they went home and told this story No One Believed them… Would you ?
 
Can you tell us a little bit about your TV-performance? Why did you perform the songs solo without the band you recorded the album with?

Well now that is a strange story… But to put it bluntly… They were scared to do a TV show and just did not show up for the gig and the TV people ask me if I would do it by myself so I did… It was a spur of the moment kinda thing and I had no idea what I was going to do so as scared as I was at the time I just pulled out some rabbits out of my hat so to speak and some of the lyrics were made up as I went along. Real professional stuff huh.
 
For me the music is much about other worlds and consciousness. Has this to do with psychedelic experiences or is this a misinterpretation from my part?

No it is NO misinterpretation on your part… To be very honest Yes I dabbled a bit into the psychedelic realm and for the most part if I had to do it over again I would do it again but at this stage in my life you could not convince me or pay me enough money to dare do that again. That is another story in itself.
 
“You are Playing with Fire, part 1 and 2” are great songs but was not on the original record although include on the WIS reissue. Was it recorded during the same sessions as the other songs?

Yes it was recorded during that same time but was not included because I was not real sure that it fit but the guys that reissued my album liked it so much I let them add it to the reissue… Funny thing about that particular piece of music… I was in the studio playing my intended songs when one of my guitar strings broke so for some reason I just started playing this tune on one string the E string kinda like a bass thing and those words just came out. Jim still had the tape rolling so he captured it. We liked it as strange as it was and ask another friend to listen to it and add a keyboard track and he did in one take then WaLa Playing With Fire was born.
 
On the original album the song Satan is misspelled to Satin. I assume that Satan is the correct title of the song?

Yeah I still feel bad about not only misspelling that but also not catching the mistake before the pressing was made. Thanks for bringing that up again.
 
Can you please tell us a little bit about your travel to California? Did it have a big impact on your music?

No but it was a very fun and cool time. I played some venues out there that was amazing for me. People followed me everywhere I mean I could not even go to the bathroom without people wanting to make me deals or shake my hand at the most inappropriate moment if you know what I mean.
 
Gary’s song is a beautiful song with a very interesting story. Can you please tell us a little bit of who Gary was?

Gary was a friend who went through some hard times and seriously I am not sure they were drug related but they locked him up in a place for crazy people so I wrote the song for him and had it sent to him there where they let him listen to it and strangely enough he listened to it over and over for 3 days and then said he recovered so the set him free… Huh Go Figure that one out.
 
Is the song “looked inside a world” about that we are trapped in our lives and how we have chosen to live them?

Yes

Or is it that our mind is limited not by imagination but through our perceptions and senses?

And Yes … That is a tough one because I am still living that dream or that life or well which is it.
 
Sweet Inspiration is one of my favorite songs on the album. What was your inspiration for the song and what is it about?

It’s my favorite too… I think if we all just gave this life the attention it was made for we All would be living the life that was intended for us… God is Good.
 
Your second album, the Return, has a different sound but some themes are the same as on your first. Many songs are about searching for answers in life and increasing consciousness. Can you please tell us why these questions are important for you? 

For the same reason I would hope they are important to you. I don’t think we are here to just live our life and be happy or sad or both and just die and never exist again… I think we all struggle to find the gift that is given to us  from the beginning that we just don’t seem to get. Life is a never ending exploration and we should be grateful to be a part of it. I AM
 
Do you still play music and have any plans for a third release?

Yes I do on both counts… And I am in the process of making my first movie CHAIN OF EVENTS a romantic comedy that will contain some of my new music and also plan to make yet another movie with hopefully even better and more inspirational themes and music. 

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Thank you very much Marcus for answering all my questions!