Every 10 years, Mark Deutrom goes through some fresh hell.
Take 1998, a couple of hells ago. Deutrom was recording his first solo record – the excellent The Silent Treatment, which gets the 20th-anniversary reissue treatment today from Season of Mist – as his first marriage dissolved and he then was kicked out of the Melvins, grunge/alt-metal icons for whom he had been playing bass for much of the Atlantic Records heyday.
“When I went into to record The Silent Treatment, I was still in the Melvins and when it was done, I wasn’t,” said Deutrom, recalling the tumultuous two-week recording period. “It was very strange not being able to participate in this very emotional thing going on.”
“Everything’s happened on the eights, so to speak,” added Deutrom, who turns 60 this year. “As I speak to you, I am literally growing more fingers – and horns.”
Deutrom – solo artist, Neurosis producer, ex-Melvin – still has his sense of humor about him. He’s going to need it; he faces quite a mountain of a year. Season of Mist will reissue five – FIVE! – of his solo LPs in 2018 and it also plans to have Deutrom’s newest solo LP, which he’s in the process of recording, out this fall.
“They’re effectively licensing my back catalog. They’re the first company I’ve been involved with that has a plan, sort of taking this material out of obscurity,” Deutrom said from his Austin home. “It’s kind of like they’re breaking me in as a new artist.”
There might be no better place than The Silent Treatment to start. In 16 tracks, Deutrom flashes moments of utter brilliance – much of the catchy but hyper-pressurized alt-metal on the LP’s first half anticipates the fame of Queens of the Stone Age, but is somehow more dimensional – and mixes them with avant-garde asides and the occasional flight of Bizarro-world balladry.
Though Deutrom says – take note! – he would have offered up some of that material to Buzz Osborne and Dale Crover following 1997’s Honky, his last record with the band, and the title of The Silent Treatment is a direct reference to his attempts to connect with Osborne and Crover, the LP is not a very Melvins-centric recording. Yes, songs like “The Hobnail Paisley,” “Chihuahua” and “Van Diemens Land” rock with a capital R. But, elsewhere, “The Hottentot Venus,” whose glassy guitars and chasm-whispered vocals sound like they’re recorded underwater, calls to mind Bedhead. “Gateau de Amour,” in its bizarre presentation of anti-fidelity, flirts with the electronica and avant leanings of a period act like Oval. There’s even an odd song about former tour-mate Kurt Cobain (“Fat Hamlet”).
“I had been in a recording studio or two by that point in time,” Deutrom laughed. “Really, there are a lot of different sounds on there. The thing that gave everything a unified sound was Chad Bamford, my engineer, and Joe Barresi, who mixed it. These guys were absolute monsters; they made this vast variety of material hang together really well. ”
“It’s a strange and interesting – a very transformative – record for me,” he said.
The new reissue of The Silent Treatment also comes as a double LP – its first appearance on vinyl – and Deutrom said the sequencing lent itself nicely to four “mini-album” sides.
While Deutrom is quick to acknowledge “there are a lot worse bands than the Melvins to be a former member of,” he still sounds, all these years later, like a man at odds with the situation, a musician who hasn’t fully processed his role in a particular event. That’s in stark contrast to the rock-accessibility of at least a good half of “The Silent Treatment,” which will make longtime Melvins fans reconsider just how much Deutrom lent to the sound of epic records like Stoner Witch and Stag. (I mean, after all, this is the guy who co-wrote “Revolve.”)
“I think there’s a certain harmonic language I brought to the Melvins that wasn’t there before,” Deutrom said, modestly. “The idea of dissonance as a musical goal – that’s something the Melvins always did. I think I contributed to more of the musical side of dissonance. Anybody that hears the Melvins and all the phases they’ve been through, they can hear it.”
Deutrom, though, is no musical novice. He studied composition at CalArts in the 80s – amid legends like John Cage and Morton Feldman – and even took part in a group-piece for the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.
“It was just a bold –“ he paused to laugh, “hideous, narcotic-fueled concoction.”
The Silent Treatment has aged better, though Deutrom says he now listens to it with different ears.
“It’s very strange to revisit that – it was a very traumatic record to make,” he said. “I’m a different person and it’s a different time.”
Plans going forward?
Bellringer, the sure-footed rock ensemble Deutrom fronts as singer/guitarist, isn’t releasing anything soon – contrary to the anticipatory excitement fans experienced when the single “Stumble Bum/Triangular Object” appeared, out of the blue, recently on Bandcamp – but Deutrom is anxious to play more live.
And, then, there’s that sense of humor.
“After Season of Mist has built me into the incredible brand I know I can be,” he laughed, “I’ll be coming out to a place near you.”