“I’m a composer soundtracking a child’s after-school action figure playtime” – Mason Mercer
As a general rule, we try to listen to everything that hits SiM’s various media channels. This can be tiresome at times, but it has its rewards when you discover something which really catches your attention. This happened recently when we were sent Mason Mercer’s “slobber EP”. Based in the heart of New York City, the 22 year old adventure pop-musician tours around the world playing guitar for multiple straight-edge hardcore bands. Slobber is his first attempt at making music on his own, and the product is raw energy, full of DIY undertones and sexual repression.
How would you describe your music in ten words? A composer soundtracking a child’s after-school action figure playtime.
Your EP contains songs called Circumcision, Scrappy-Doo and Slime, where did you get the inspiration for these songs Circumcision: the theme for this song came to me in a vision-like trance while I was in bed half asleep. I always struggle with the tensions of wanting to stay a kid forever and the impending challenge of growing into a formidable adult. I had a vision of a snake shedding his molt and then eating it for energy. The snake was simultaneously growing up and staying young by fueling his next journey with the fruits of his youth (the molt). I felt it was very meaningful and it brought me more tranquility about growing up than anything before.
Scrappy doo: this song is an anthem for taking your life into your own hands (along with the majority of the album). The track opens up with the line, “what I gotta do to get there?” (“There” being your desired state of being). I try to get where I want to be by getting my hands dirty and trying things and learning from failure. Being scrappy means using creativity and cleverness to acquire.
Slime: I thought some of the noises I recorded for this song I felt were similar to the perceived sound of slime being poured out. I took the theme and ran from there!
You describe yourself as an “adventure pop musician”, what, exactly, is that? I describe my music as adventure pop for two reasons. First off I think the content of the music and the aesthetic of the noises qualify the music as candidate for the soundtrack of a creature jungle adventure movie. Secondly, concerning the dynamics of the song (which I place a high importance on perfecting) play out like a journey of sorts. There are dangerous parts, there are rewarding parts and there are the transitions between both.
What is on your MP3 player right now? I’ve been on the road for over a month now. During these times I listen to tons of new albums. Some of the music I’ve been jamming on this journey is “Hum: you’d prefer and astronaut” “The chills, kaleidoscope world” “keep it clear a lesson you’re gonna learn” “the first step: what we know” and “get the most”.
What are your musical influences? My dad is a huge roots reggae fan so he raised me and my brothers on it and I can definitely feel that universe of sound and riffs has permanently flavored my own stylings. When I was first getting into music on my own I listened to a lot of rap metal. Although that label doesn’t describe my music, the energy, flow, and dynamics management of rap metal is something I try to include in music. The softer parts of my songs are influenced by some of the most pleasant guitarists of oldies and bossa nova aka santo/Johnny and Luiz bonfa. The production and theories of experimental music and hip hop music should definitely be mentioned here also.
You were recently in Austria and will be playing again in the near future. Where were you exactly and what did you think of the country? I went to Villach, Austria two weeks ago. I didn’t play there but I got to stay there and it was beautiful! I felt Austria was very clean and seemed very modern.I got the sense that keeping order was a high priority in Austria. A lot of the city was intended to be traversed by foot, which made it have a quaint vibe. The town was flanked by enormous mountain and an enormous lake which made me feel like, although I was in a city, I was being cradled by Mother Nature.
Your EP Slobber has a definite raw, DIY feel to it, how long did it take to record and what was the most difficult part of the recording process? Slobber took me about a year and a half from start to finish. I started my senior year at university, but then my computer where I had been recording crashed and I lost most of my work. This hardware malfunction set me way back, but allowed me to really focus on revising my work to be the leanest cut of jam I could serve. The hardest part of making slobber was getting to a place where I could properly work on it. I travel a lot due to constant touring with the various bands I play in. And when I moved to NYC (during the writing of Slobber ) I could hardly get time or privacy to make too many advancements on the album. Finally I had to carve out a retreat at my parents house in missouri that would be 100% devoted to the completion of slobber. Looking back I like how long it took me to finish, the album scrapbooks a very important year of my life and serves as the soundtrack to that era of memories.
You live in NYC and have been on tour in Europe recently. What would you say are the major differences between the music scene in New York/US and Europe? Honestly I think with the prevalence of the Internet and user uploaded content the differences between cultures are very minuscule. I’m on tour with one of my youth crew hardcore bands in Europe right now and it’s interesting because the dance moves in the pit are almost identical to the dance moves in America 5 years ago. I wonder if there is a transfer delay of culture? Some of the more culturally similar to America countries we’ve played I can tell the kids have identical dance moves to what is currently hip in America right now. In these situations it seems there is no delay time in the transfer of culture. One difference I can sense is that people here don’t take live music for granted as much. When a band is playing they seem more respectful of the notion that a band is performing.
If we had one weekend to spend in New York, what should we do? If you come to NYC for one weekend, I think that you should go on a date. I know that sounds weird, but seeing the streets through the lens of romance covers NYC’s idiosyncrasies in a warm haze. Also you should try and sneak into a special event or premiere. You will get free food and see celebrities and people wont know the difference! They’ll think you are a celebrity too!
What are the 3 essential things you personally need to have with you/around you before you start writing/recording a song? This is a great question for me because I’m so particular about the juju of the room that I make music in. The first and foremost thing I need is privacy. Making experimental music you need to feel comfortable and confident to try anything, no matter how unconventional or wacky it may be. If other people are in the picture during the writing process, whether you mean to or not, you will change your writing behavior inadvertently. Second thing is mints. I love sucking on mints or chewing gum while I write. It keeps me focused on the creation and not on the outside world. Oral stimulation seems to occupy the part of your mind that wanders off into the other parts of your life. Third thing is titilating room decor. I record in my bedroom, and I always have it decked out with weird pictures, and little weird objects. When I’m playing my eyes are gonna look at what’s around me, I want the decor of the room to match the music I make. A little tip, if you want to make a huge poster, you should blow up the size of a picture on Photoshop and crop it into multiple page size images. Then put it together like a puzzle. It’s cheap and a great way to make your room a more creative juice inducing environment.
Any bands coming out of NYC that we should know about? All my NYC roommates have music projects. Check out Sports Guy (sportsguy.bandcamp.com), Bwedge (bwedge.bandcamp.com) and Mimus Galli (who is currently absent of an internet presence) will be dropping his debut EP soon. It is similar to my music and is amazing!!!
More about Mason Mercer: