When Mark Kozelek came onto the scene in the late '80s, he was doing something that not many artists were doing: keeping things simple, and allowing for copious amounts of contrast. Kozelek has drummed to his own beat with little regard to the way that many others in the industry operate; he is a quiet man who often doesn't do much press, and his tours are often short and low-key.
But for as under-the-radar as Kozelek appears to be, his live presence proves quite the opposite. Kozelek has been cited as one of the most underrated singer-songwriters in the past 20 years. As a solo artist and with his projects Sun Kil Moon and Red House Painters, he's released around 22 albums and EPs. Sun Kil Moon established quite a good amount of acclaim for its 2005 release, Tiny Cities, which was made up of entirely reworked Modest Mouse covers. Kozelek has also appeared in a few movies, such as Almost Famous and Vanilla Sky.
Mark Kozelek stops by the Cedar Cultural Center this Monday evening to serenade us in support of his recent release, Admiral Fell Promises. Gimme Noise had a very special opportunity to speak with Mark Kozelek in what may be his only interview given this tour.
Gimme Noise: Do you feel that Admiral Fell Promises is a sleepier effort than your previous albums?
I don't know that I would describe it sleepier, but it's my most focused piece of work. It's really just based in the Spanish guitar style.
How have you kept your creativity flowing through all of these years of your musical career?
It's the only thing that I know how to do well. I don't know what I'd do with myself if I didn't have a creative outlet.
Do you have any personal traveling experiences that have affected the way you write music?
Overall it's just a very lonely life. The majority of your time is spent in transit, in airports, or pacing back and forth in a backstage area. Most places I play, English isn't even the first language. It's just an odd way of existing, traveling for 11 hours and then suddenly appearing in a room full of strangers. It's a weird life. It's impossible to not be affected by it.
How does it affect you when fans approach you and tell you that your music has changed their lives?
I've been doing this for 18 or 19 years, so I've become numb to it. I feel grateful that my music connects with people, but don't seek out praise or have an ego about it. Compliments embarrass me. I don't bask in compliments and I don't believe I'm any more important than anyone else.
Do you find it possible to write epic songs when you're in a happy mood?
I'm not sure I'm in a 'bad' mood when I write epics. Time just stands still when I write. I go into another space. These elements just come together and that's where music comes from.
When can we expect another opus like Ghosts of the Great Highway?
I have no idea what's around the corner creatively.
Can you reflect on your life in Ohio, and how do you feel your growing up there molded you into such a dynamic artist?
Artists come from all over the place, from all different types of backgrounds. Who knows? I had a good guitar teacher, that certainly didn't hurt.
MARK KOZELEK plays tonight, MONDAY, MARCH 14, at the CEDAR CULTURAL CENTER. All ages. $20. 7 p.m. doors.