Monday, September 5, 2011

Mark Holcomb - Undertow part V

John Pettibone with Undertow at El Corazon, 10/3/2009, Photo courtesy of: Tom Holcomb

What were the [post-Undertow] projects everyone was doing?

I started a band called Dempsey with nobody in Undertow.

And you were the singer AND guitarist, right?

Yeah, and I apologize to anybody who owns that record. Send it back to me and I will send you (long pause)

Send it back to you and you will reimburse them?

(whispers) Yeah. (laughter) Please don't, because actually, I won't.

I was going to say, people actually WILL take you up on your offer. You don't want that to happen!

No. I would like to have as many Dempsey records as I can have, but I will not reimburse you. I feel bad for Dave Mandel for putting it out out of faith. God bless him. And then Demian and John started Nineironspitfire with nobody else from Undertow. And Murph and Demian played in this band Nothing Left, that was a little bit more crusty, but they were fucking really good. Everybody loves Demian. Demian is like our baby brother. Everybody loves Demian, so all the bands, everybody seemed to have Demian in it. I was doing Dempsey, and I was either hanging out with John or Demian, probably Demian, and Demian was like, "Yeah, do you want to play second guitar in the band?" And I was like, "Yeah, but I don't want to write anything at all. I got my own thing going on, but I like playing together." John was totally into it, so I ended up playing with those guys.

With Nineironspitfire?

Yeah. And Demian actually left town to go on tour with Deadguy. While he was away I ended up writing like five songs or something, so I became kind of a part of that band.

You wrote songs for Nineironspitfire?

Yeah. The demo - if anybody has got it, I wrote four out of the five songs.

Mark Holcomb with Undertow at El Corazon, 10/3/2009, Photo courtesy of: Tom Holcomb

And what percentage of the music would you say for Undertow you wrote?

It's hard to say. I wrote the majority for sure, but I don't think the songs would have been the same without anybody in the band. And there would be weird moments where Demian would just be fooling around on the bass, and I'd be like, "Holy shit, what's that riff?" Take that riff, and then I'd write two riffs around it. And without Murph playing drums . . . Murph would be like, "That song is too slow. I'm going to play this fast beat." And it would change the song. I usually came to practice with an idea for a song, and it would happen organically. I probably wrote 80% of the music, and 50% of the lyrics, I guess.

What's Digh Down?

I was really into Burn, and I felt like with Undertow, I was writing straight up hardcore riffs or whatever. I had my own style, but I was trying to branch out and do something more clever. And I wrote two songs with Dave Excursion on bass, Murph on drums, Ron Guardipee singing. I think at the end we had four songs, but I just couldn't write that well. I could write Undertow stuff.

Did those songs ever come out?

One of them got released on an Excursion compilation, but I don't think any of the other songs did. I think I wrote good song, and I thought I could write more, but I just couldn't.

What year was that?

That would be '93.

How did Undertow get back together in '95?

Somebody from California, I can't remember his name, called and said, "We'll fly you down. Do you want to come down and play two shows with Snapcase, and we'll pay for the trip?" We were like, "Yeah, fuck it."

Was it Igby?

Yeah! We felt like we had never played a last show, and at this point everybody in the band is getting along great; we all go see each other's bands . . . and free trip to California so . . . and [with] Snapcase who we really liked. So yeah, fuck it, let's do it. I think we all felt like we needed to play a last show in Seattle, but we were like, "Let's go to California."

Demian Johnston with Undertow at El Coazon, 10/3/2009, Photo courtesy of: Tom Holcomb

And then that summer you toured Europe. How did that happen?

I think both [California] bills were different, but both shows we played with Snapcase. Maybe Strife as well.

Yes. Strife definitely.

Played both shows?

I don't know. I went to the one in Hollywood. They played that one.

We played with Ignite, and they were going to Europe. I think their drummer and Murph became friends, and they were like, "Do you want to go to Europe? We know you're broken up." And we were like, "Well fuck it. We've never been to Europe and probably will never go, so why not? I want to see Europe." Everybody in the band is getting along, we don't have to write new music. There's no reason to not go. So we did it and it was fucking horrible.

What was horrible about it?

I don't think that anybody got along with Ignite. Everybody in Undertow I think got along with one member, but not the same member.

Of Ignite?

Yeah. Those guys were like college dudes. They were all from the scene, but we were on a totally different page, and nobody got along morally or ethically or anything. I think their drummer quit twice. They got in fights every night. We were on a bus and they treated it like they were fucking Mötley Crüe. Everybody was there to see Ignite and they were like, "Who is this fucking Undertow band?" The reception wasn't well . . .

John and Mark with Undertow at El Corazon, 10/3/2009, Photo courtesy of: Tom Holcomb

Because they had already been to Europe.

Yeah, a bunch. And they were big in Europe, and they were a little bit more poppy than us. And then we would open up for them. The reception wasn't well except for the people who knew who we were. We should have been on a different tour. We should have been out with a hardcore band, not Ignite. And just nobody got along.

You're trying to say Ignite ain't a hardcore band?

Not in my eyes. They served a purpose, but in '95 you're playing what you did in fucking '86. I think they were more a pop punk band than they were a fucking hardcore band.

What gnarly shit did those guys do on that tour?

Oh man. I don't even want to say. It was fist fights. It was what I imagine a fraternity being like. Dudes spraying themselves with whipped cream and climbing into your fucking bunk naked. One member of the band bet us to see how many grapes he could stick up his ass and got up to nine, and only eight came back out.

Oh my god!

One member of the band tried to stick an orange up his ass, and there's money involved. He was like, "I want to get this money," so one of the other members then proceeded to push the orange up his ass with the heel of his foot, and the orange broke open and all the citric acid went up in this guy's anus. For days he'd be like "my ass is still..." (laughter) Edit that as you see.

It will not be edited. [Some Ignite tour stories were actually edited out per Mark’s request – Ben]

God bless those guys. If you like Ignite, you like them. My experience with them was I liked one member, I was mildly okay with another member, but it was just MADNESS. It was madness man. It was what a fraternity was like, and to me that's not hardcore.

I've heard other stories regarding them on that tour that also involved anal pranks, if you will. I'm sure there were plenty.

Yeah it was being in a fraternity.

Ryan Murphy sets up the drums with Undertow at El Corazon, 10/3/2009, Photo courtesy of: Tom Holcomb

Tell me if you recall this. Someone told me this a long time ago. Maybe you were there. One of them lit his own pubic hair on fire and turned the lights out in someone's house. Might not have been Europe.

They definitely lit their pubes on fire. I haven't thought about that in a while.

And then one of them defecated on a girl’s car as she was trying to start it and get away from them. Know anything about that?

Could be. I know there was a guy [with] a girl in the mud. He came back after playing a show, and I think we were in Germany somewhere, came back out of a field covered in fucking mud." And then he came back and asked everybody if they wanted to fight. Just out of fun. He wanted to fight, and everybody in Undertow was like, "Nope. We are cool." And their roadie was like, "Yeah I'll fight you." Just out of fun. And he proceeded to beat the shit out of this fucking roadie. Boxing, fistfight, it wasn't like he was on the ground kicking him. Hit him a good six or seven times in the face. His face was swollen for days.

And then Undertow broke up for good when you got back from Europe, as a real functioning band.

Yeah. Everybody in the band was getting along great, especially because we didn't like the guys in Ignite, so everybody in the band was getting along great. Murph really wanted to move to the east coast, which I guess we'll get to, but everybody was in transition, and was like, "This is great that we're all still friends, but let's do our own thing."

Around this time, I guess at the end of that year, you moved to New York City.

Well Murph actually moved to New York. We met Shift on tour. I guess we're getting into that phase.

You met Shift on what tour?

Europe. We were supposed to do a U.S. tour with them, but this was a time when we didn't know if we were still a band or not. We were thinking about getting back together, but thought we shouldn't. And then we played shows with Shift in Europe. Two shows I think? Might have been three. I was a huge Shift fan, so I became friends with Josh [Loucka, Shift singer/guitarist] pretty quick, I guess. And then when we came back, Sam [Maloney, Shift drummer] quit. In the European tour she said when she gets back, she's done doing the band. So Norm from Texas Is The Reason calls me and says, "Hey, I heard Murph is moving to the east coast. Do you think he'd want to play for Shift?" I called Murph and told him, "Here's a free trip to New York. You can stay on the east coast." So Murph took it, did a U.S. tour with Texas Is The Reason and Shift. And Sam I think at this point said she wanted back in the band. And Murph was like, "I don't want to be in this band." So it was mutual. I think the whole time Murph was like, "If you guys need another guitar player, Mark will fucking move out in a second. He loves you guys." So Murph hooked me up. So I moved to New York. Josh called me, and said I had about a week to decide. I think it was the end of January. So I moved to New York, February 1 [1996].

John with an Undertow sing along at El Corazon, 10/3/2009, Photo courtesy of: Tom Holcomb


Anonymous said...

And that should do it. Great band but enough is enough. This is turning into a too long novel.

Cheesegrater said...

Las Palmas Theater, Hollywood was Undertow, Snapcase, Strife, Ignite, 1134, Palefire

Showcase Theater was Undertow, Snapcase, maybe Mean Season (?)

Andrew said...

I think Chad (Strife) Started Nine Iron Spitfire with those dudes...

Ben Edge said...


That pretty much does it for Undertow talk in this interview, aside from a little bit of talk later on about them doing reunion shows in '09. But Mark's life doesn't end there. There is plenty of interesting stuff to come, believe me.

Anonymous said...

Ignite suck

xfarsidex said...

If you think it's enough and don't like anything else Mark did aside from Undertow, stop reading here. I however want to know more about Mark in Shift.
I remember Undertow being reasonably well recieved in Europe in '95. I had lost interest in Ignite by that time, too melodic, Zoli sounded like he should have sung for a Hair Metal Band. But it was definetly not like nobody cared about Undertow or like nobody knew who they were and it was great for the straight edge kids since Ignite did everything they could make it clear they were not straight edge after L&F had advertised them for being just that to get sales running.

Anonymous said...

ignite were SOOOOOO creepy. OLder dudes, just totally prowling on younger girls... although most girls on the East Coast were like what is up with these dude?? WHo the fuck LOOKS like that!?

Lesta said...

Can we get a post dedicated entirely to Ignite tour stories that includes chicks they banged and "Motley Crue" type shenanigans?

Anonymous said...

i want to hear the other recorded digh down songs (besides the one on the excursion comp)! i actually saw them play once at a house in san diego with strain and undertow (i'm sure unbroken must have played this show as well, but i forget who else).


farside said...

The Nineironspitfire demo was the only material I liked by that band. I was disappointed with the actual record.

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