INTERVIEW: Mark Lyell -  From Metal to Synth

INTERVIEW: Mark Lyell – From Metal to Synth

Here at GIITTV we like to feature up and coming artists, those of which many people may not have heard of, but that we feel have real talent

Meet Mark Lyell – 29 year old guitarist/songwriter/producer from Dundee, Scotland now residing in Edinburgh. Picked up by a small independent Croatian record label last year – Modular Grid Records who have been remixing his tracks,  Mark’s musical influences are far and wide ranging. Still looking for a vocalist to collaborate with, we think his music is strong enough to stand  alone.

Do take a read, and have a listen. This young man knows his stuff.


GIITTV: You have been making music for quite some time, but really settled into it seriously about a year ago? What inspired you take the plunge?

ML: I’ve been writing music for as long as I can remember, even back to childhood when I would spend long car journeys off in my own little world composing melodies in my head and getting goosebumps at the musical crescendos I was creating. As I got older, my love of writing songs didn’t diminish but I realised I might actually have to learn an instrument to make them a reality so I picked up a guitar at the relatively old age of 18 and resolved to learn to play it as well as I could and over the years I’ve dabbled in other instruments and studied music production and all of this coupled with a couple of my tracks being picked up by a small label last year has led me to where I am now. The last 11 years have been spent learning and improving to a point where I can feel reasonably comfortable pursuing this professionally. So while I would say I’ve always been focused on being a musician, I would definitely concede that it’s only in the last year or so that I’ve felt comfortable enough with my level of proficiency as a player to put stuff out publicly.

GIITTV: Your background is in guitar, your initial influences heavy/speed/death metal, now you seem to be approaching something very different. Tell me more about your influences and why the change in direction?

ML: On the surface it may seem surprising that I was finally inspired enough to pick up and learn to play the guitar thanks to my obsession with bands like Iron Maiden, Metallica and Rush because the music on my releases doesn’t really contain any obvious nods to those influences but I don’t think I’m particularly unique in that respect. I think the vast majority of people who dedicate themselves to music have a very broad genre-spanning taste themselves. It would be dishonest to claim that my “style” at a guitar player isn’t firmly rooted in the traditions of heavy metal but I’ve always had a love of making “weird” music and experimenting with sounds. Again, I wouldn’t claim that sets me apart from the crowd but while I was thrashing away on an out of tune Squire Stratocaster in my bedroom as an 18 year old trying to learn his favourite Maiden riffs, I was still composing songs in my head that sounded nothing like the metal I was obsessed with. The problem was, it took me a long time to figure out how to translate the ideas in my head into actual music, looking back I’m not really sure I even quite understood what kind of songs I wanted to write other than a vague concept of sinisterly-experimental sounding instrumental music, concept albums containing vague references to things that people would have to dig deep to decipher and a musical aesthetic that you couldn’t get to the bottom of just by scratching the surface. Hearing a band like Boards Of Canada for the first time was a huge turning point in my life, as I dug deeper into their music it started to dawn on me that THIS was exactly how the vague musical concept in my head could become a reality. It truly was a case of that old cliché “where have you been all my life?” proving to be dead on the money. Of course, I’d like to believe the only thing about Boards Of Canada that I’ve taken inspiration from is their vision and concept for how they want to present their music but I have no hang-ups about admitting that I’m hugely influenced by them musically as well, without (hopefully), sounding too similar to them. I genuinely have long believed though that the best and most honest musicians in the world, whatever kind of music they happen to make, are sort of audio sponges, soaking up parts of lots of different influences from their favourite music and their life and background and Frankensteining it into great music.  If I can be recognised one day as a musician who approaches his songs like that, I’ll be content.

GIITTV: You use some interesting techniques to create your music….in one track you are actually using your guitar to create the sound of a synth….why do this…and how?

ML: I love it when I get complimented on the synth sounds in songs of mine that contain no synths, beautifully illustrated in a song I recently put out on Soundcloud called ‘Pirates Of Camperdown’ but it does happen a lot. I suppose it’s like that old myth that humans only use 10% of their brains, the guitar is a wonderful thing, probably the most diverse analogue musical instrument there is. You can make it produce all manner of whacky sounds and tones, the possibilities are limited only by your own imagination. I’ve never really understood why someone would want to become an amazing guitarist only to play generic rock riffs. Not that I’m saying I don’t love the sound of a good old fashioned distorted guitar, but I could never limit myself to that with my own playing, I would be far too conscious of all the things I’d be missing out on.

GIITTV: You don’t use vocals as yet…so your music can take on more of a soundtrack/musical score feel to it, is this something you are happy  with, will you be collaborating with a vocalist in the future?

ML: I couldn’t tell you the number of songs over the years that I would categorise as songs I absolutely love and have listened to thousands of times but couldn’t tell you a single line from the lyrics. For some reason, the rushes of adrenaline and emotion that everyone gets from listening to great songs are almost always brought about in me by the music itself rather than the lyrics. I am a lover of great lyrics and they can give me goosebumps too but sadly not as frequently as music itself and I think my own stuff is probably a reflection of that. While, as I said earlier, I’ve been composing music constantly for what feels like my whole life, I write lyrics very sparingly and again I’ll have to tip my hat to the influence a band like Boards Of Canada had on my life in making me realise that a song can have meaning without needing vocals. I have zero interest in writing songs that are just a nice melody for the sake of a nice melody, however much I might like to listen to them, every song I write has to mean something to me and I want it to mean something to whomever listens to it as well, whether they get the same meaning from it as I do or not. I also have zero interest in expressing the meanings behind my songs in plain terms via lyrics which leave little to the imagination – not that I’m opposed to that style of song writing in any way, shape or form. It’s just not for me personally. Every once in a while I write something which needs singing to make it complete and just like I don’t want to limit myself with my playing, I also don’t want to be writing instrumental songs my whole life so I would be very surprised I’m not collaborating with a singer in the future.

GIITTV:Apart from Boards of Canada, who are you listening to at the moment, what bands/artists out there are inspiring you?

ML: I still practice a couple of hours a day playing along to old favourite metal songs from the likes of Maiden, who are the only band I can honestly say have never once bored me. I also find myself increasingly drawn towards bands who marry ambient music with rock in varying degrees of heaviness like God Is An Astronaut, Isis, Mogwai and a criminally-underrated Russian band called The Morningside. I’m also only recently (to my shame) discovering Roy Montgomery, a guitarist from New Zealand who likes to make his axe come out with all manner of crazy tones, I’m absolutely loving his stuff at the moment. As with everyone who’s serious about music, what I’m listening to changes all the time but the people I mentioned would be a fairly good window into what’s influencing my own stuff at the moment.

GIITTV: What are you working on at the moment? I also know you would like to be in a band again, and play live…will you go back to your metal roots?

ML: I’m currently recording an album which the label who put out my first EP have expressed an interest in releasing for me. While I love doing “solo” stuff, I definitely crave an environment of collaborative song writing and my love of heavy rock and metal is too strong to not be in a band making that kind of music. As I said earlier, I think most people who make music seriously want to have their fingers in a lot of pies so to speak. Plus, I really need to make use of my backlog of metal riffs which I can’t in all good conscience credibly insert into my solo stuff







God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.