An Interview with Mark Makowy

By Karen Bliss
What! A Magazine
Date: May/June 1994

Something is brewing. Lives are about to change. Vancouver's Moist is about to become, dare we say, pop stars. It's weird. A gaggle of club waifs now wait outside the band's dressing room, giggling and whispering among themselves. One doe-eyed gal, giddy with achievement, tells of how she stole a kiss from one of the guys by asking him to help her "win a bet."

"Ooooh, " her friend coos. "What a great idea!"

"We're watching a lot of strange and interesting things happen," laughs Moist guitarist Mark Makowy. "We're pretty low-key about things. Occasionally now, we're starting to get noticed on the street. It's kind of flattering and it's kind of funny but it's best to remain low-key about it because it is a function of the hype."

There are other signs, too, that Moist is on its way up, like singer David Usher's appendicitis being used as a nation-wide news tidbit on MuchMusic's FAX. It's not quite like hearing your song turned into elevator music (and certainly not as harrowing) but it's a buzz all the same.

"Holy *%!@," Makowy exclaims. "I received a call from Erica Ehm at my parent's place (in Toronto). She wanted to get an update on his condition. It's amusing to us. Six months ago, no one knew who we were. I told her they took something the size of a volleyball out of his belly, and she repeated it verbatim on MuchMusic totally seriously. I was being tongue-in-cheek."

The whole pop phenomenon is one of those eighth-wonders. It doesn't just creep up on you or explode. It gives notice. People can sense it. There's an aura, this feeling in the air that, yes, these guys are it. It's not something bands like to talk about. It's embarrassing, even if deep-down they're lovin' every minute of it.

"We're not writing for teenage girls but if they want to buy our records that's great," says Makowy, missing the point - or ignoring it.

Right now, a whole range of people are buying Moist's album, Silver, especially since EMI Records Canada picked up the band and re-released the indie CD untouched.

And Moist has earned it.

Makowy, Usher, bassist Jeff Pearce, drummer Paul Wilcox and keyboardist Kevin Young have scaled the indie wall inch by inch since forming a year and a half ago. They dug their heels in hard and didn't let up, releasing an eponymous cassette, selling it off the stage, playing small bars, scuzzy bars, empty bars; you name it, their fingerprints are there.

With a non-stop work ethic, Moist metamorphised from this bouncy harmless pop band on stage into an intense rock band somewhere on the brink of desire and despair. Some might say, a band with character that's slightly shady.

Moist signed with EMI Publishing at the tail-end of 1993 and put their seductive, anguished grooves on compact disc for release in the new year. They named it Silver, after the wonderously inviting title track, and hi-ho, away it went.

The single, "Push," and emotive pained song with an edge, was added to commercial and college stations alike, accompanied by a superb black and white video that heightened the band's image.

"We didn't expect it to get into rotation," admits Makowy. "We just thought it would get us some play. And as soon as the video went into rotation, it seemed everything clicked into gear. The amount of impact MuchMusic has in this country is enormous. We noticed the difference, not only in terms of people buying the CD, but the attendance at the shows has gone up markedly. So I would attribute the fast rise to MuchMusic."

But playing the hey-let's-see-you-age-of-majority-card type of venues hasn't put Moist in touch with many of its younger fans, although they have done a couple of all-age shows. The band hopes to do an all-ge tour this summer.

"We recognize that the big percentage of our fans can't get into the clubs and certainly MuchMusic has a big impact on high school students," says Makowy.

Still, the fan mail pours into their drop-box in Vancouver but Makowy says they haven't received anything too rock 'n' roll despite the your-asking-for-it moniker.

"The best thing that happened was someone in Ottawa snapped a whole bunch of pictures and sent them to us. And they're the best pictures we've ever had. We're gonna try to get the rights to them because somehow this guy totally captured the live show, which no one else has been able to do."