SAN FRANCISCO -- Mark Goodman is not one to sit in a songwriter's
ivory tower, peering down impatiently at those who would deign to offer advice.
Instead, he invites creative participation -- even allowing bandmates to tinker
and tamper with his songs.
Goodman said that during the recording of Magnet's recently released EP,
Which Way, he listened attentively to the suggestions of producer Matt
Wilson (Polara, Trip Shakespeare) for altering the lyrics to one song.
"Matt was very critical of the lyrics. I sent him 25 songs and he picked five," said
the 34-year-old singer/guitarist, seated on the edge of the stage at San
Francisco's Paradise Lounge. "
(RealAudio excerpt) used to be slightly different. It had the line 'I will haunt your
hallways,' which I initially thought was pretty good. But we changed it to 'I'll walk
through your hallways,' and now I don't know if it says 'haunt' in the song."
What he does know is that he appreciates what others -- many others -- have to
offer. Goodman's revolving-door modus operandi -- 19 musicians have
contributed to the Magnet sound since the band debuted in 1996 -- has not only
won him the approval of his fellow musicians but also has yielded a notably
wide-ranging collection of recorded sounds.
The EP's five songs -- recorded with the help of producer Wilson, who doubled
as drummer/guitarist, and bassist/guitarist Danny Brenner -- range from the
Way"(RealAudio excerpt), with its back-and-forth shifts between
crashing drums and sugary harmonies, to the swelling rock of
Limb"(RealAudio excerpt), with several stops in between.
Goodman, who enlisted former Velvet Underground drummer Moe Tucker to
beat skins on Magnet's first LP, Don't Be a Penguin (1997), has
extended his flexibility to the hiring of touring personnel. On Magnet's recent
seven-city West Coast jaunt, Goodman was joined by bassist Victor
Krummenacher, guitarist Greg Lisher and guitarist/violinist Jonathan Segel -- all
former Camper Van Beethoven members -- as well as former Poi Dog
Pondering drummer El John.
The Camper Van Beethoven connection began with David Lowery -- former
CVB singer/guitarist and current Cracker frontman -- signing on to produce
Magnet's upcoming LP, said Segel, 34. "I flew out to Virginia to record a Clash
cover with Cracker, and David was at the time producing Mark's record, so I
ended up playing a bunch of songs [for Mark] on various different instruments,
and then Mark called me up and said 'Hey, can you put together a band for the
West Coast?' "
Goodman's willingness to let bandmates experiment with his songs won the
approval of the 33-year-old Krummenacher, for one. "The best song on [the EP]
is 'Haunt,' which we're doing really weird versions of," Krummenacher said. "He
just kinda starts the song, and I've been playing feedback on bass throughout
the whole thing. On the EP, it's a nicely constructed piece of music, and live it's
been music gone crazy. It's really ironic doing it that way. One of the things I
appreciate is he's very flexible and he's into interpretation."
As the touring quintet ranges through the Pacific Northwest, Segel said he
frequently catches himself humming the melodies to songs they played the
night before. "I like his melodies and lyrics. I like playing those things. A lot of
times, the next day when we're driving in the van they run through my head,"
Segel said, citing "Which Way" as his favorite song on the EP. "I like the
intensity of the lyrics and the intensity of the song and how it's displayed in a
distilled format, with no excess and no frills."
The prolific Goodman already has wrapped up 11 tracks for a new LP that's set
for a September release. One of the songs, "In the Waves," details a near death
experience he had in Israel.
"I almost drowned in the Jordan River while I was rafting," Goodman said. "I was
in Israel right after a big snowfall, and [the raft] turned upside down and went
through a class-four rapid. I wasn't able to take a breath for a really long time
and I was about 50 yards away from going over a waterfall."
But, as the story goes, he survived and found the fortitude to pull a song out of
the near tragedy.
The question is, will he invite others to join him in putting the experience down
More than likely.