"[The Phantom Six] never went away. I’m not one of these guys who can get a record out every two years, but it’s consistent though. I’ve kept doing it for a long time. I don’t plan on stopping."
And today's interview is with a longstanding pillar of the Morgantown scene who is a rocker, a songwriter, and even a producer. This… is Mark Poole.
Mark Poole is part of The Phantom Six. Follow them on social media as they gear up for a new release. Hear more #WVmusic on A Change of Tune, airing Saturday nights at 10 on West Virginia Public Broadcasting. Connect with A Change of Tune on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. And for more #WVmusic chats, make sure to go to wvpublic.org/wvmusic and subscribe to our RSS / podcast feeds.
On beginning in music:
A really good friend of mine named Scott Fetty, who lived in Morgantown for a long time and was a drummer, I got started through him. He had a band in junior high school, and I went to see them in the talent show [laughing]. I was blown away that I could have friends that were 14-years-old on stage playing “Taking Care of Business,” and they had explosives on stage. One guy, Gary Turner, had a top hat and jumped off a Fender Princeton amplifier when the explosion went off. And it was only ten inches tall, so it was a very Spinal Tap moment.
But Scott and I were skateboarding buddies and he was like, “If you get a guitar, I could probably get you in this band,” so that’s how it started. I’ve got to thank Scott for that. I convinced my parents to get me a guitar for Christmas. And by May of that year, Scott made good on his promise, and I was in that band playing house parties. I guess that was the first thing I did moving forward to actually become a musician. I started taking lessons from John Gallagher in Parkersburg; he owns a store there now called Gallagher’s Music. It seems like everyone in Parkersburg has taken lessons from John at some point.
I played in cover bands, and I just tried to get good at playing guitar; no singing, no songwriting until I was in my early twenties. But I played in cover bands all through high school, and we played in bars before we were 18.
On performing with The Larries:
The turning point was a band called The Larries. In early college, Todd Burge formed The Larries. I wasn’t in the band, I was just friends with them, but they were the only band in Parkersburg doing original music… and they really couldn’t play their instruments at the time. At all. The first gig I went to see them, Wes Poole (the drummer) had a Sony Walkman in his pocket, and he had to play the cassette play of the practice between songs so he knew what to do on drums [laughing]. They were really just starting out, and I had already made a little bit of a name as a guitar player in high school cover bands and things, so everybody thought I was crazy when I wanted to join. But I thought “I don’t want to play in cover bands all my life. I’d rather go with my friends and do original music.” That ran its course after three years. Todd moved to California to work for the record label that signed the band, and the whole thing kind of fell apart. Just another one of those stories of your first record label experience being bad.
Todd eventually moved back to West Virginia, and that’s when we formed 63 Eyes. That was the really big changing point for me. I started writing songs, singing a little bit. I got a real thrill out of being able to play a song I had written. 63 Eyes was around for ten years, and I developed as a songwriter during that period.
On working with Todd Burge:
Todd has been a big influence on me. He was the principal songwriter in The Larries and 63 Eyes, so I learned a lot by his methods. He was the person who demonstrated that it wasn’t that hard and it could be done. Todd was always like, “If you spend more than an hour on it, you’ve already overthought it.”
You know, we had some disagreements over the years, and there was maybe a little bitterness at times but we’re almost family. We’ve been together so long.
On playing in The Phantom Six:
We never went away, but if you trace the pattern of my musical career, it moves very slowly. I’m not one of these guys who can get a record out every two years, but it’s consistent though. I’ve kept doing it for a long time. I don’t plan on stopping. But it’s been five-and-a-half years since our last release came out.
After the record came out in late 2011, I basically spent all of 2012 trying to push it. We’re not really a band that can head out on the road for long periods of time. We’ve maintained pretty regular practice schedules. We shot two videos. We’re a very DIY band, so we made the videos ourselves. We played a good bit of gigs that year, and we did radio promotion (which is a lot of work to package 400 copies of your CD and send them out). After that, we just started writing songs for a new record, but we get two songs done a year. To me, it doesn’t feel like a reunion; just another slow process of trying to come up with 15 songs. And we’re almost there. We’ve been doing it separately since William Matheny’s been on the road a lot.
On the growth of the #WVmusic scene:
It’s cool seeing friends that have gone on to pretty impressive success. Todd’s had a successful career. Karma to Burn play in front of huge crowds all over Europe. Like I tell everyone, it’s good for all the West Virginia bands when any band is successful. The tide rises with their success, and everybody gets more notice.
The internet is a completely different way to go about things. In the 63 Eyes days, it was all done snail mail. The internet has changed everything. Maybe something’s lost; there was something really cool about that old method of doing stuff. I wouldn’t say it’s easier for bands now, but it’s easier to network. It seems like there were a lot more rock’n’roll bands when we started out, and there’s been a move towards singer-songwriter and newgrass bands. There’s a lot of music bringing back old-time sounds.
Music featured in this #WVmusic chat:
Phantom Six- Outta this Wasteland
63 Eyes- Trucker’s Misery
Phantom Six- Will (Don't Let Me Down)
Support for 30 Days of #WVmusic is provided by Bunj Jam Music, featuring the album, Todd Burge Live on Mountain Stage (2006-2015). More information at toddburge.com.
Support for 30 Days of #WVmusic is provided by Kin Ship Goods, proud supporter of DIY music and the arts. Locally shipped worldwide at kinshipgoods.com.