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Preview: Mark Kozelek at Central Presbyterian Church

Staff Writer
Austin 360

By Andy O’Connor

Editor’s note: This article was originally published December 20, 2013

Mark Kozelek’s had a busy 2013.

The year started with the release of his covers album “Like Rats,” named for the first track on Godflesh’s “Streetcleaner,” which he also covers on the record. While it has some covers one may come to expect – Ted Nugent’s “Free For All” makes sense given Kozelek’s AC/DC and KISS covers in the past, and “Rats” is fairly gloomy – but also features some surprises, such as Bruno Mars’ “Young Girls” and Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You Babe.”

Kozelek, best known as the leader of Sun Kil Moon and former frontman for Red House Painters, became known through his explorations of depression and hopelessness (“Katy Song,” from Red House Painters’ 1993 “Rollercoaster” record, remains one of the most beautifully bleak songs ever), but has displayed more of his sides in recent times. Next came “Perils From the Sea,” a collaboration with Jimmy Lavelle of the Album Leaf. Also released in 2013 was “Mark Kozelek and Desertshore,” his album with Desertshore, which features Phil Carney of Red House Painters on guitars and Sun Kil Moon drummer Mike Stevens. Kozelek had played bass on the band’s previous album, but took over singing for this record. For those that miss Kozelek’s electric band days, it’s a real treat, and he doesn’t lose his sometimes sarcastic, sometimes tender, always poignant lyrical voice. He already has two records planned for 2014 – “Benji,” a Sun Kil Moon record set to be released in February, and a Christmas album for next year’s holiday season.

Too busy to play live? Not at all. He’s playing Central Presbyterian Church on Sunday, a little over a year after his sold-out show at Scottish Rite Theater.

Austin360: Last year, you played Scottish Rite. This year, you’ll be at Central Presbyterian. What about playing non-traditional, intimate venues appeals to you?

Mark Kozelek: Well, you said it, the intimacy. I’m playing guitar alone, it’s nice when people are seated and quiet. I think the audience appreciates me playing these rooms, too.

A lot of these reworkings differ from their originals, but the most stark is ‘Like Rats’ How were you able to work the cold industrial stylings of Godflesh into something that is far away from the original?

I don’t know — I’ve been doing it for years, with AC/DC, Modest Mouse, KISS. You just look at the words and forget about the music.

What intrigued you about “Young Girls” to cover it? What intrigues you about modern pop music?

I heard that on “SNL” and covered it the next day. Young girls drive all guys nuts. It’s a relatable song.

“Richard Ramirez Died Today of Natural Causes,” from Benji, is both hurried in its pace, but also reflective. What was the inspiration for making that song?

My girlfriend sent me a text that said “richard ramirez died today of natural causes” when I was at an airport and the song unraveled out of that. I had a lot going on, at the time, as we all do in life. The only thing that didn’t make it into the song was an ear infection I had at the time.

You’ll be releasing a Christmas album next year. What made you want to record these songs?

I’ve always wanted to do a Christmas album, but never found the time, or the inspiration. I had the time, in november, and recorded two songs. After that, the rest flowed. We wrapped it up in about 2 weeks, at the most.

Planning For Burial has a song called ‘I Put Red House Painters on a Mixtape For You.’ Is that something you would recommend a young music fan in love to do?

Damn I’m 46, have never heard of this band. I like the name! It’s 1:37 a.m. here in Chicago. I gotta go. thanks!