The Alchemist

I met Mark Dye in 1995. shortly after signing my first record deal. It was a crappy record deal with a band that I was in with my dad, and it got me no where; but EVERYBODY has to have that first bad record deal.  Its a right of passage.  What I didn't know at the time, was that there was gold buried in the layers of rubbish. Mark Dye was a living alchemist and I just stumbled upon his lab.

There are seemingly, ordinary people, who walk this earth that I am convinced, are oblivious to the fact that they have changed the world.  I believe this about Mark.  He ran a simple studio out of his home for years, in the quiet, Shore Acres section of St. Petersburg, FL.  He's a talented musician and a great producer, and all that stuff that you would expect of someone that does it for a living.  But there is something different about Mark.  He turns mundane things into gold, and quietly changes lives in the process.  While this story is about my experience the numbers of stories, greater than mine, that were created through Mark's work, is astounding.

image of a rattlesnake next to a polaroid photograph, some Iron Mike guitar picks and a slide

What does this photo have to do with the story? Well...that's another story.

As a young man, I still remember walking into Mark's house for the first time, and on the way to the little bedroom where the studio was, there was a room FULL of CD's, DVD's, and books on every subject and style of music you could imagine. I was astounded.  All I really wanted to do was sit in that room and look for titles. It felt like looking at treasure. All those jewel cases!

In the early days, I'd just show up, and record my parts and leave.  We did this for about two years before I walked away from the band that had the record deal and struck out on my own. This was a pivotal moment in my career. I didn't know it at the time, but I was about to tap into something very special.  I began to write material and record it with Mark.  Alot of it was pure crap, that amounted to nothing.  Some of was good stuff that I am still proud of today.  What was really special though, was the pure crap, that 60 minutes later became a wonderful song, because Mark recognized the potential in both the song, and its clumsy composer. 

With each session that went by, Mark began to introduce me to all sorts of things, just in passing.  I'm sure at the time he probably thought it was going in one ear and out the other, but I was actually listening.  He would talk about Black Sabbath, and the Beatles and then Captain Beefheart, followed by Frank Sinatra and finish it all off with the laser discs version of Billyjack and old Star Trek videos on VHS.

Mark had the first flat screen, high def TV I ever saw in my life. He drove one of those crazy Fiero cars for YEARS.  Way after it was cool. He has long hair like Harry, on Harry and the Henderson, but would wear a silly old man hat when he'd come out to one of my horrible performances.  He poured 75 year old shots of Scotch while quoting Monty Python and reminiscing about the 70's in LA and the rock scene that spawned so many great artists. He could talk mathematics, or the Olympics. He can play classical piano, or honky tonk pedal steel.  He flipped ridiculous, moon-pie sized coins and yelled at you for wearing your shoes in the house.  It was glorious.

I used to snicker sometimes when I left, because in a way, Mark is a borderline eccentric; not like a crazy hermit.  He is just....well....Mark Dye.  There's no one quite like him.  Eccentric or not, I would find myself envying his brilliance, just a few short minutes after chuckling, and I would making mental notes about the little things I would see him do.

There are two kinds of musicians.  (Country AND Western...sorry)  Some musicians live for the performance. They need that approval of a crowd, or the satisfaction of flawlessly performing a piece of music. Steve Vai is like that,  Working with Mark taught me that I am the other kind of musician.  I find the greatest reward in creating music, more than the live performance.

All this time....I was learning and changing.  I went from being a part time musician that viewed music as a hobby, to someone who wanted to be in the studio, creating trying new things. 

Then one day, I moved away, and our sessions ended.  I missed out weekly sessions; but everything has its season, and life moves on. 

Except, the Alchemist's work wasn't finished.  

He had started a process; a bubbling mixture of crazy ideas that combined both discipline and complete chaos. It was sometimes frenetic, uncontrolled energy, and sometimes, complete silence, and self control. It was always growing. It was always changing. It was becoming something new.

Something different.

All those years of Zappa, and Tony Bennet, and and Michael Jackson and GWAR.  Stuff that is seemingly unrelated can sometimes be beautiful when its subjected to the right process. So when a goofy kid from St. Petersburg, Florida, started mixing techno, and hip hop, with traditional hill country slide guiar, the idea offended people. It was WRONG.

"You can't do that." they said.  "That's not the way it goes."

But the kid would mutter as he would disappear into his own little room.  A room just like Mark Dye's room.  And he wrote and recorded, and deleted, and wrote some more.

And then one day he came out.  In his hand he held this thing.  He took the thing and he played it for people.

They liked it.

In fact, many of them LOVED it,

So he took the thing, and he made copies, and started selling the thing, and people were BUYING the thing. 

And the thing....

...was called "swamp stomp".

And I am its king. 

All because, of an Alchemist, in a little room, in a little house, in a quiet neighborhood. 

Thank you, Mark, for everything.

SEVEN WONDERS OF THE WORLD

by ELYSIAN FIELDS

SEVEN WONDERS OF THE WORLD by Elysian Fields

Mark Dye has just released a new album, Seven Wonders of The World with his group, Elysian Fields and its outstanding!   You can preivew the album HERE.  If you are looking for bubble gum pop, this is not it.  While its very catchy stuff, its the kind of music that pushes the boundaries of performance and composition.  In other words, this is high skill level, complex music; some of it is downright mind blowing.  I go back and forth between a couple of songs, but ultimately I think Colossus of Rhodes is my favorite

So, new album time at Iron Mike's always calls for FREEBIES and celebrations! Sooooo.....

  • Anyone who orders Seven Wonders of the World, automatically qualifies to get the digital download my latest album, Swamp Stomp, for FREE!  By the way, Mark produced two of the tracks on Swamp Stomp: Dead Man's Stomp, and Keep Walkin'.
  • AND...we will run this special until the end of the day Sunday.  Monday morning we will draw a name from those who bought Seven Wonders of the World.  That person will win a t-shirt of their choice from my website, and Swamp Stomp on CD. 

If you have bought Mark's album, simply forward your receipt to admin@ironmikenorton.com and we will send you the download of Swamp Stomp and you'll be entered into the contest.

 

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