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Music - Musicians - Interview | by SuccoAcido in Music - Musicians on 04/06/2005 - Comments (0)
Mark O'Leary

Mark O'Leary, during his life as a guitarist has performed with a great number of musicians all over the world. It is a jazz prerogative, not really knowing the meaning of boundaries. From Cork City, Ireland, he moved to Los Angeles at the age of 17 to study at the Musicians Institute, from where he later graduated. He has performed in over 20 different countries and played at some of the worlds top Jazz festivals and contemporary Jazz venues - United States, Canada, Japan, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, Macedonia. Greece, Yugoslavia, Romania, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Hungary, Italy.. M - Can you tell me a little bit about yourself? Do you like Jazz? Do you know Paolo Fresu? I would like to play with him someday. He is terrific musician. [After we decided to have an interview, the first series of questions - in reality - were directed to me]


SA: Sure.. I'm 30 years old, and I'm a little bit more "pop" oriented than you, I guess. It depends on the mood.. (…) And what about you?

M: I like to listen to people. I like the stories they have to tell. Whether its from Ireland or Africa, I'm interested. Avant garde Jazz is my preference music, I do like
other types, Electronic-Jazz-Experimental-Contemporary Classical and World music.
I'm Eclectic. What I try to perform I would like to think encapsulates all of these interests.
A lot of the great American improvisers have influenced me: Paul Bley, Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Steve Swallow. Irish composer Sean O Riada. Composers: Webern, John Cage, Morton Feldman, Ligeti, Charle Ives. European improvisers - Edward Vesala (who is a major inspiration), Tomasz Stanko. The great English improvisers, Evan Parker, Derek Bailey, Tony Oxley. Modern European composers like Webern, Kurtag, Arvo Part, Giya Kancheli, Erkki Sven Tuur, Penderecki. I was pretty much just into Avant garde until a few years ago when I visited Iceland. A friend there really introduced me to Electronica, so I started to investigate this world and really became fascinated by it, Gunter Muller, Squarepusher, Amon Tobin, Boards of Canada, early Kraftwerk, Tortoise, Scanner, Jim O'Rourke. Ever since I delved into this world I have kind of found something that was missing in my life. This is the jazz standard repertoire of today. It’s the same with world music, I kind of started playing traditional Irish music, but I also had an interest in Norwegian and Swedish folk music. I have performed in both idioms, then I discovered the music of Mali which I find inspirational-its so soulful. I find Avant garde soulful too, not just something for intellectual stimulation, well there is that dimension, but there is a kind of spirituality there as well.

SA: What kind of knowledge do you have about Italian musicians and Italy as a country in general?

M: Well, I know a little about Mazzini and young Italy. And I guess a little about how modern Italy came into being. I know the government is formed by a disparate coalition making it a little unstable. But Italy has a very strong place in the world, it is a very progressive nation and world leader in several area's. It has given so much to the world. I should also add, Italian women are very beautiful.. Food is incredible, scenery both Urban, Rural and seascape is astounding, and of course art; painting/sculpture and incredible architecture. Sometimes we can say the history of the world is the history of Rome. It is a goal to play in Roma, Milano, Venezia, Napoli and Palermo someday. When it comes to music, I like Paolo Fresu, Furio Di Castri, Enrico Rava, Franco D'Andrea, Salvatore Bonafede and Ettore Fioravanti very much, just to name a few. There is a pianist, Angelo Comisso, from Trieste who I like very much. But Fresu is someone I really would like to collaborate with. His conception is very strong. Italian Jazz/experimental music is very strong. I played at Udine Jazz a few years ago with Paul Bleys trio. So I spent some time in Trieste and Udine, really enjoyed it. We had a very interesting train ride from Venezia to Milano en route to Zurich, it was very interesting to view the interior of Italy from the perspective of a train.

SA: Do you think that your music is easy to listen to and to understand?

M: I think that there is a lowest common denominator in my music that people can connect with, in some projects its greater, in others lesser but it is there.

SA: Do you always use an electric guitar?

M - I also use a 12 string acoustic guitar. For electronics I use various pedals to manipulate the sound, I don't use laptop(not yet!!!!). Hope I'm not too boring…Just trying to be honest!

SA: At what age did you begin playing guitar? And how was your training?

M: Seriously at age 11…before that I was an aspiring drummer. Pretty much trying to work at home, I had a neighbour who got me going on guitar, who basically nourished me in the beginning. I was also inspired by an uncle who is a Pop/Folk musician, who gave me my first opportunities to perform, another uncle gave me my first guitar-that was it. I had to struggle on myself, my youth was spent trying to develop alone really. I went to the USA when I was 17, that was when I started to study formally. At the Musicians institute in Los Angeles. I really just immersed myself in the academia. That was my formal music education. The rest I learned from Records assorted books, research and on the bandstand, which is the best
education. Ironically now I'm a teacher also.

SA: And how is being a music teacher?

M: Let's put it this way: If someone gave me €2 million, a house, a jeep and a pretty cool wife, I would be quit tomorrow.. I have a question for you: what do you think of my CDs?

SA: I spent my last Saturday night reading a book about politics (Primo Moroni and Nanni Balestrini, “L'Orda D'Ora”) and listening to your two recent CDs (Leo Records, 2005), “Closure” (with Uri Caine at piano and Ben Perowsky at drums) and “Levitation” (with Tomasz Stanko at trumpet and Billy Hart at drums). Usually, I can listen while I read, if the music is not in Italian and possibly only instrumental. But after 10 seconds that I put the first CD in the "stereo", I realised that it would be difficult: I read a lot of pages, but I was continuously “distracted” by your music.. I have to say that it is a very "indeep" and emotional music, not cheering despite the blatant level of the timber and the main themes. Something happens in a subtle and close way, like the soundtracks of a noir or a thriller film suggest. I thought about Ennio Morricone and about "black" films of the late seventies. Very striking and "terrific". At the end of your last CD.. I felt like the silence had a new depth, the shining of what had remained of the music in the room..

M: I can understand, it is terrific, but I think it has some other emotions too.

SA: Terrific - It's tricky, because in Italian language the word "terrific" sounds like "frightening" or "scary"- but in the good sense..

© 2001, 2014 SuccoAcido - All Rights Reserved
Reg. Court of Palermo (Italy) n°21, 19.10.2001
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Bibliography, links, notes:

Pen: Andrea Pintus


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In duo with Jack DeJohnette
With Stomu Takeishi & Matt Wilson at Bowery, NY
Mark with z'ev - Cork, March 2005
Mark O'Leary

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