While most men have dreams of rocking out onstage behind guitars, Mark Mallman’s aspirations have always been a little… different. You won’t find a typical rocker in Mallman. Instead, what you get is a wild man climbing up on his keyboard, straddling it, and sometimes pretending to lasso a horse.
On top of this rampant behavior, you’ll also find a band bellowing out fantastically high-paced and jazzy songs that bring a dancer out in anyone. Mallman has played piano since the age of three, so this type of behavior only feels natural to him. “Piano, to me, is the most pure and closest to my spirit, it makes the most sense to me,” says Mallman. “It’s the least confusing instrument, musically.”
Outrageous, Absurd Parody
Despite his ruckus-rousing sets, it’s important for Mallman to keep confusion at a minimum. In real life, he is a functioning and working musicians. But onstage, an uncontrollable force takes over. Thus, the antics. “It’s hard to classify it. I can’t classify it myself, and I guess it’s because I do kind of allow my intuition and cosmic side to just do its thing,” admits Mallman. “I think some of it is an outrageous, absurd parody on the foolish nature of what happens at a rock concert. But it’s also a pure expression of the nonsensical dance and superhero fantasy that’s hanging.”
Mallman is the type of performer who, despite his best efforts to keep his onstage persona separate from his everyday life, toes the line quite often. “There’s two defined people. There’s who I am, and there’s Mark Mallman. They’re two different people, but sometimes I think who I am onstage is closer than who I am day to day,” says Mallman. “That person wouldn’t make it in the world, they’d end up in jail or an institution. But sometimes I feel like society is so confined, the only place I can really be myself is when I’m onstage playing my songs.”
One fan at a time
It sounds like Mallman is a little at war with himself, and that attitude is prevalent in his latest music video release for “Monster Movies.” In the video, Mallman eventually turns into a sort of rock monster. Luckily for his fans, that’s something they get to see happen in the flesh when he’s on tour. Mallman toured North America heavily for ten years, but now prefers venues such as the Replay. “I do have a really strong connection with small roadhouses because I’ve been playing in them for so long,” says Mallman. “I feel really at home in them. I like the Replay, I like the attitude of Lawrence… If I feel good and trust my emotions and it feels nice and happy and positive, I keep doing it.”
Making a strong connection with fans in the Midwest is particularly important to Mallman. “I feel like I have a really close relationship in every city that I play with my hardcore fans. I always tell them, people who meet me, you should be my fan as opposed to Coldplay because they’re not going to know who you are, they’re not going to meet you,” says Mallman, who relies on that interaction to keep up the momentum. “There’s something nice about knowing an independent artist. My fans mean a lot to me, they keep me going.”
For now, it’s full speed ahead. In between his attempts to occasionally break away from music, Mallman says he was always pulled back in. So eventually, Mallman owned up to his primal instincts and now goes at it 100%. “This career chose me, I did not choose it. I went to art school to become a painter, I worked at a TV station and edited news. Every time I pulled away from music, it pulled me back,” Mallman confesses. “It sounds insane to think that somebody screaming in the front of a tiny little bar and shaking their hips in some archaic Elvis fashion feels like it’s their spiritual connection, or that it’s their destiny. I think it’s beyond destiny. I think it’s my destiny. I think it’s truly who I am, and I can let society tell me who I am. I should be able to make albums and do it my whole life.”
To see what Mark Mallman is capable of doing onstage, see him at the Replay on Friday, September 19th.
Words and photos by Fally Afani