Born and raised in Richmond, VA; left home in his teens and moved to New York City, then to Los Angeles. Addresses: Record company--Capitol Records, 810 Seventh Avenue, 4th floor, New York, NY 10019;; 1750 North Vine Street, Hollywood, CA 90028-5274; Phone: (212) 603-8600; (213) 462-6252.
Alternative pop band Sparklehorse was formed in 1995 by native Virginian Mark Linkous, who survived a near-death experience in 1996 after releasing his debut album, Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot. He went on to release Good Morning Spider in 1998. Rolling Stone magazine's Mark Binelli described the album as "a weird and wonderful record that combines the idiosyncrasies of Southern folk art with the sweeping drama of Radiohead's OK Computer." Jonathan Perry at www.rollingstone.com wrote, "For all its haunted reflections, Good Morning Spider sounds not like the work of a man who's fallen down to die, but rather like a man who somehow, against all odds, has gotten to his feet to live."
Mark Linkous was born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, but left his native state while still in his teens in search of a record deal. With dreams of stardom, he moved to New York City and then to Los Angeles, joined various struggling bands, and eventually grew weary of waiting for a career break; success seemed elusive and fickle. But he heard a Tom Waits recording , and it inspired him to move back home to Virginia and to follow his own individual muse. In Richmond, he joined a band that played, as he told Perry, "nothing but 300-year-old Irish songs." He attempted to discard everything he knew about music in order to start over with a fresh, more honest perspective. He told Perry that that particular time of his life was dedicated to abandoning everything and "learning how to make art out of pain or clay." Linkous had felt that modern rock at the time was missing the crucial elements of innocence, honesty, and purity of purpose. So, back in Virginia, Linkous began recording unusual sounds that echoed in his mind: he sang through toilet paper rolls, recorded with his grandmother's washing machine running in the background, and utilized the odd sounds of various toys. This novel, whimsical approach led to a contract with Capitol Records in 1995 and the release of his debut album, Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot.
Members of the alternative band Radiohead, whose members share a similar musical perspective with Linkous, heard his debut release while riding around in a cab in Egypt, and promptly invited him to join them on tour. Linkous explained to Binelli, "So I made a band out of these motorcycle buddies" in order to tour with Radiohead. Linkous and his friends formed a band and forged a friendship with Radiohead while touring; Linkous toured again with Radiohead the following year in 1996.
During that second tour with Radiohead, Linkous accidentally overdosed on anti-depressants and Valium. He passed out in a London hotel room for more than 12 hours with his legs pinned underneath him, cutting off circulation to his legs. When paramedics arrived and attempted to straighten his legs, the procedure triggered a heart attack. Linkous had seven operations to save his legs and required a three-month stay at St. Mary's Hospital in London. Doctors said his legs would have to be amputated, and he was confined to a wheelchair for six months. Linkous was in a morphine-medicated state for two years after the accident and ended up wearing leg braces. He told Perry, "For a while there, I was really scared that when I technically died which I guess I did for a few minutes that the part of my brain that allowed me my ability to write songs would be damaged." While Linkous was confined to the hospital, he received numerous cards and letters from fans who told him how much his debut release had meant to them. His hospital walls were covered with these letters, and they lifted his spirits and helped him make it through the ordeal.
Linkous not only survived, he eventually returned to his Virginia farmhouse to create Good Morning Spider, which contained, as Perry wrote, music "as old as it is new, as bare as it is busy." His sophomore release was rife with a cacophony of peculiar sounds, improbable instruments, and unexpected delights. Taken in total, the music Linkous created on Good Morning Spider was a type of restless-sounding dreamscape that rustled with Appalachian flavors, rustic folk music, and mid-fi pop. The result was material with a timeless quality. Jonathan E. Segel of Camper Van Beethoven played guitar, keyboards, violin, and glockenspiel while on tour in 1998 and 1999 with Linkous in Australia, New Zealand, and the U.S. in support of Good Morning Spider. David Lowery of Cracker, formerly with Camper Van Beethoven, is a frequent Linkous collaborator, and the Lowery-Linkous single "Sick of Good-byes" from Cracker's 1993 album Kerosene Hat was tapped by Capitol Records as Good Morning Spider's first U.K. single. The single was also featured on the television show Felicity in 1999. In addition to multi-instrumentalist Segel, Linkous's touring band also included cellist Sophie Michalitsianos, drummer Scott minor, and bassist Scott Fitzsimmons.
Although the material on Good Morning Spider is largely a product of Linkous's accident and its aftermath, he has always displayed an impressionistic songwriting style. His post-accident, sophomore release was more introspective than his debut release, and all of the songs on Good Morning Spider examined the fragile, fleeting, delicate quality of life as well as its tangle of conflicting emotions. The coronet-laced "Painbirds," the gentle acoustics of the nursery rhyme prayer "Saint Mary," and the memorable "Chaos of the Galaxy/Happy Man" were especially poignant and written with great sensitivity. The single "Pig," noisy and rambunctious, was reminiscent of Linkous's punk rock days in New York City and Los Angeles. He told Binelli that he credits the strong creative showing on his sophomore release less to his close brush with death than to his beautiful and awe-inspiring surroundings at home in Virginia. He said, "When I first moved back here, I was able to appreciate the open spaces and just make the music. It didn't matter if it ever got recorded. That's when I started doing good music, I think."
by B. Kimberly Taylor
Mark Linkous's Career
Joined various struggling bands; moved back home to Virginia; joined a band that played traditional Irish music; began recording unusual sounds such a vocals rendered through toilet paper rolls, the sound of a washing machine, the odd sounds of various toys; signed with Capitol Records, 1995; released debut album Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot, 1995; toured with Radiohead, 1995-96; accidentally overdosed on anti-depressants and Valium in London,1996; survived to record and release Good Morning Spider, 1998.
- Selected discography
- with Sparklehorse
- Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot , Capitol, 1995.
- Chords I've Known , EP, Slow River, 1996.
- Good Morning Spider , Capitol, 1998.
- Calgary Sun, February 28, 1999.
- Rolling Stone, March 18, 1999.
- "Sparklehorse," http://www.rollingstone.com/sections/news/text/ (September 24, 1999).