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Mark Doylé

Celebrating 20 Years in the Shadows of Guitar Noir

Mark Doyle first issued his “Guitar Noir” project in 1999 to the great interest of many— including and especially—the Central New York listening audience. It is 20 years later marking the significant anniversary of what can be considered among the most important strides in music in our city. I listened to one tune and was hooked. Which means that the sound is not exactly an obvious sound. Rather, it makes suggestions that are curious, challenging yet hauntingly familiar.

In the meantime, Mark has been busy with a variety of projects. Projects for some household names, projects for not-so-household, and projects for himself. And here he is to tell us about it.

Chuck Schiele: Hello, Mark. Thank you for chatting with us, here, at Table Hopping/ Sounds of Syracuse.

Mark Doyle: Thank you, Chuck. I’m delighted to do it.

CS: I was already aware of your “Guitar Noir” project when Edgar (Pagan) shared with me, recently about how the project is active again. His enthusiasm for the project is robust, to say the least. So, here we go, man. You introduced the “Guitar Noir” project several years back. By now it appears to have a life of it’s own. How is the project going?

MD: Well, at the moment it’s going great because it’s in “active” mode. There’s a new album out which is getting some great reviews and recognition, and we’re gearing up to perform live again. I return to it sporadically. It started with “Guitar Noir” in 1999, I made another album in 2003, then it was another 10 years before I made “In Dreams.” “Watching The Detectives” came about because I realized we were coming up on the 20th anniversary of the first “Guitar Noir” album and wanted to acknowledge that in some way.

CS: What is it that compels you to pursue it?

MD: I’ve always been intrigued by film noir, shadowy, cinematic music, and the mood set by Jeff Beck’s version of “’Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers.” I was living in Boston in the early ‘90s and started making some instrumental demos. I gave a cassette to Matt MacHaffie, a Boston friend (and former Syracusan) who was writing for an industry tip sheet. He did a short review of the demo and wrote “…in a style that can only be called Guitar Noir.” So that really resonated with me and actually helped me focus the concept for the first album. Even so, that album was all over the place stylistically, although in my mind Ornette Coleman’s “Lonely Woman” and Thelonious Monk’s “Pannonica” were every bit as cinematic as “The Perry Mason Theme,” “Invitation” and Mancini’s lounge-y “Slow Hot Wind.”

CS: What is your artistic mission?

MD: In general terms that apply to every project I do, I strive to push the envelope and to create challenges for myself that make me perform at the edge of my ability. I want to move the listener in some way, so I use my own emotional response to the work as a barometer for that. And I try to perform each gig and produce each record as if it was my last.

CS: Who is working with you currently in the “Noir” situation?

MD: It’s me and Terry Quill on guitar, Bill DiCosimo on keyboards, Edgar Pagan on bass, Josh Dekaney on drums, and a string section with Ally Brown, Edgar Tumajyan and Joe Davoli on violins, Jess Tumajyan on viola and violin, and Kate LaVerne on cello.

CS: Interesting. I will look forward to seeing the next edition. Aside from Noir…..What else/other projects are you involved with, these days?

MD: I just finished producing a Mary Fahl album, “Winter Songs and Carols” that should be out in October. I did session work on a single from The Penetrators called “Bummertime.” I coordinated the release of a double DVD from Jukin’ Bone, “Live at Chevy Court” and we did a sold-out show at Auburn Public Theater this past month. And I have some touring dates in Connecticut, NYC, Geneseo and Toronto coming up with Mary Fahl, who I serve as Music Director/guitarist/grand pianist for. And then there’s my long-running band, Mark Doyle and The Maniacs, who play around locally.

CS: What would you consider to be some of the highlights of your career?

MD: Making albums with major stars like Bryan Adams, Judy Collins, Hall & Oates, and Meat Loaf. Arranging the strings on “Step By Step” by New Kids On The Block, which was a #1 record internationally. Playing five nights at Wembley and doing Saturday Night Live while I was with Meat Loaf. Co-producing with David Werner “From The Dark Side of the Moon” for Mary Fahl, which was a complete reinvention of the Pink Floyd opus.

CS: What is your best advice for up and comers to the music biz.

MD: Spend at least as much time developing your song-writing, playing and performing chops as you do on social media. You need to develop and feed your fan base but that won’t mean anything unless you have the goods to back it up. Be true to yourself. Know who you are and be it.

CS: Amen to that. What do you look for in a good song?

MD: Wow, big question. The songs that reach me most and live with me the longest seem to put me in touch with my humanity, whether it’s a resonance with my own life like in songs like “Yesterday,” “I’ll Follow The Sun,” “As Tears Go By,” “Warmth of the Sun,” “’Til I Die,” or something that summons empathy, like Dawes’ “A Little Bit of Everything,” Dylan’s “Just Like a Woman,” John Prine’s “Hello In There.” And then there are songs that just have a great story or point of view, like so many classic Stones, Tom Petty, Dylan or Lucinda Williams songs.

CS: When will we witness the next public installment of Guitar Noir?

MD: Saturday, November 2 at Auburn Public Theater.

CS: What are your thoughts on the music scene today and how it has evolved from where you/we all stared? How does it influence you? How has it been incorporated into your music life?

MD: It sure has changed. I don’t think you can say that it has evolved. After much thrashing and frustration over the last few years, I’ve come to accept what is as the new reality. It’s a streaming world. It’s not going away. The business that I knew is gone, all the gate-keepers are gone, all the A&R people are gone, the studios and the labels are gone. I know there are people that say that’s a good thing, and in some ways it is. You can make a CD in your bedroom now and release it and get it on Spotify and other platforms, but just because you can doesn’t mean you should, haha. There was a lot to be said for the gatekeepers. I remember when I was starting out with my first band, Free Will, and we would bring our tapes to record labels in New York and publishers and A&R people would say, “You’ve got one great song here. Come back when you have nine more.” And it would push us to go back and really try to come up with some great songs. We’d go back…”Now you’ve got three great songs, keep at it.” These days the one thing I discover when I’m producing some young artists is that they’ve usually been coddled by their parents and friends into thinking that they’re God’s gift, and they don’t want to hear feedback like that from a producer. There has to be a loftier goal and a higher sense of purpose than just going on The Voice and getting the sneaker endorsement.

CS: What’s in the near future for Mark Doyle?

MD: I’ll just keep carrying on doing work that I love and that inspires and challenges me. I’m grateful every day that I’ve gotten to do this as a life’s work.

CS: Tell the nice people out there how we stay in touch with you and your music?

MD: My website, www.markdoyle.com for any and all career things I’m doing, and then I have separate websites for The Maniacs, www.markdoyleandthemaniacs.com and for Jukin’ Bone, www.jukinbone.com

There are also Facebook pages for all of the above.

CS: Mark, thanks so much for doing this interview. I’ve enjoyed hearing abut Guitar Noir.

MD: Thank you, Chuck.

This Month Next Month: The Premier of Revue Review

On October 2, at 7pm, I will be hosting a showcase at the Listening Room 443 featuring the incredible talents of Christopher Ames, Bob Halligan Jr. and Colin Aberdeen. The event will showcase the music, song writing, and the up-close charismatic charm of each of these local treasures in unplugged fashion. All you music gormandizing nice people will come on down to dig the show and the super cool vibe.

Then:

In the forthcoming issue I’ll talk about what happened at the show in this new Revue Review component of my column – which you are reading, right now. We’ll also announce the next Revue Review showcase. I promise to bring you compelling talent every time, so come on down and let’s have a great time. It’s good for you. It’s good for our city.

Please also note the 2nd installment of Revue Review will take place on December 4. Details coming, soon.

Write to chuck.schiele@gmail.com for more information; or visit https://www.facebook.com/ChuckSchieleMusic; or facebook search “Revue Review. “

Chuck Schiele
Chuck Schiele is an award-winning musician, art director, producer, editorialist, artist, activist, member of SaltCityChill.com and fan of the CNY music scene. To be considered for this column, please write chuck.schiele@gmail.com.