The Ward Report - September 10, 1987
American Music Club
Publication: The Ward Report
Author: Cary Tennis
Date: September 10, 1987
American Music Club will break your heart. There's so much pain in Mark Eitzel's singing, so much turbulent, hysterical intensity in the band's playing, that calling AMC's music depressing is as accurate and misleading as calling Bach's music pretty. Eitzel drags his skinned-alive body through continents of salt while he fashions balm for strangers' wounds.
In a move that restores one's confidence in the independent record industry, Frontier Records has picked up AMC's second album Engine (Grifter) for distribution. Eitzel calls it mainstream pop, but it is guitar-based pop born of desperate honesty and immense contradictions.
"I hold your dress, your dress is blue
I'm a coin that fell into the sea
Now stumbling around, I'm lost from view
Do you know what became of me?"
BACKGROUND: Vudi, 31, guitar. Born and raised in La Honda, CA. Played country music exclusively until 1980. Traveled around Asia studying Japanese & Balinese music. Started The Farmers in 1981 (a great band).
Dan Pearson, 27, bass. Born and raised in Danville, CA. No story really.
Tom Mallon, 30, drums. Legendary local engineer. Played guitar for 92 hours at Guitar Center trying to get into the Guiness Book of World Records. Lost. Joined AMC in March '87, so he wouldn't have to hear the band whine about not having a goddamned drummer anymore.
Eitzel, 27, born in Walnut Creek, CA. Army brat, moved to Okinawa, Taiwan, France and finally England where he started playing guitar and writing songs. Lived in England for 10 years. Moved to Columbus, Ohio, joined semi-notorious punk band, The Cowboys, in 1978. Made a single. Band broke up. Started The Naked Skinnies, made a single, moved to San Francisco. Attacked a member of the audience at the Sound of Music in the Tenderloin for applauding. Band decided he was "too unpredictable."
The business of attacking a person for applauding seemed to get at the heart of Eitzel's contradictory personality, so I asked him about it while drinking pitchers of Budweiser at Spec's Bar in North Beach.
"Did you attack this person physically?"
"I jumped on him and pushed him up against the wall, in his chair. And then he got up and protected himself, and then the bouncer separated us. I was pathetic. And then I walked all night long through the streets. And the other members of the band said 'Uh, well it was very unexpected'. As if I should have told them I was going to pick that time to freak out. I was doing a song called 'This Is The Beautiful Night'. I had broken all my guitar strings because I was pounding so hard on them. The guy was sitting in the front row. I guess he was enjoying it, but he was laughing and applauding, and it seemed - I smashed my guitar and I looked at him, and so the song is over, and now you're happy, isn't that wonderful, you deserve to die. It made so much sense to me, I don't know".
"Why is that?"
"Well I don't know .Because it's life, I can't help it, I set myself up to fall. I'm busy falling. The only music I like is music that makes me laugh. And he was like 'I dug you guys, wait a minute, I dug you guys, fuck you Mark'. But it didn't matter because there was something in him that was lying, there was something in him that was evil. I don't know, something I didn't like, something I decided to destroy".
"Did you feel exposed?"
"I felt like a fool. He was having the time of his life, and I think he was missing everything. Or maybe he was laughing because I'd broken all my guitar strings and was trying so hard to feel the song and that was somehow funny. And I was headlining at the Sound of Music and there was five people there, and we'd played there a lot. I hardly ever attack anyone because I'm a total wimp, I could get killed. "