What I’m Listening To is a series where we talk to exciting artists and musicians and get a five song slice of their current playlist. 

“We started jamming after work, mainly to get back into the practice of playing regularly, but quickly decided that it would be fun to put a new band together with the right elements.”

Mark Kaiser. Photo: Dead Man!

Mark Kaiser went to his first punk show when he was ten or eleven. He was staying over at a friend’s house and the friend’s older brother, who was watching them, wanted to go see Agent Orange and some local bands play. Not wanting to leave them home alone, he took the younger boys to watch the bands play in a nearby back garage of an abandoned store in a strip mall. “I was thrilled and terrified, I’ve been hooked on DIY everything ever since,” says Kaiser, bassist of Male Gaze and co-founder of Mount Saint Mountain record label.

Kaiser would grow up to join several bands including Mayyors, Gift Of Goats, and Shove, in addition to starting his first record label in 1992. Omnibus Records became an early home to bands like The Shins and Mates of State before burning out after twelve years of “music industry nonsense.” While he still loved “process of releasing records and discovering new music, [he] couldn’t deal with the whole ‘bank account and babysitter’ expectations of running [a] somewhat ‘real’ label.”

However, it was not long before he was back in the label game, starting Mount Saint Mountain with his friend Jay Howell (now cartoonist for Bob’s Burgers, Sanjay & Craig, artist and cartoonist for Vans, and art curator for the new Playboy Magazine). Howell was living in Sacramento at the time and the two of them had toured the US “relentlessly” during the nineties with their old bands. They were already booking DIY shows in Downtown and decided to do a scaled back version of a label, offering only limited edition or vinyl only releases as well as zine and other printed materials.

Kaiser calls it “Less of a business and more of an art project. All of the fun without the hassle (sort of) and the obligation. We kicked it off with three releases that sold out fast (The Mall, Sic Alps and Thee Ohsees) and its been going strong ever since.” In the beginning, Howell did a lot of the album artwork, but lately has been too busy with TV and movie work, so Kaiser “keep[s] it going.”

About four years ago, Kaiser added another band to his resume: Male Gaze. He was staying on a friend’s couch in San Francisco, having just moved back to the Bay Area from a three-year stint in Los Angeles. There he reconnected with his old friend, drummer Adam Cimino (formerly of The Mall) who had a practice space in an alley near 6th and Market. They started jamming together after work, mostly to get back into playing regularly, “but quickly decided that it would be fun to put a new band together with the right elements. We had some direction in mind but needed a guitarist. A couple of my favorite SF bands had just broken up, including Blasted Canyons who had played with my old outfit Mayyors at one of our last shows.”

Kaiser then reached out to guitarist Matt Jones who was also his contact at their record pressing plant and “things fell into place pretty quickly after that. We started writing and recording in that little space and it’s continued to evolve ever since.”

So what is bassist and record label runner Mark Kaiser listening to? “[T]his changes from moment to moment. There are records dropping on my doorstep almost every day and I’m constantly seeking out something new to hear. As I type this I’m sifting through African and Brazilian reissues on the Mr. Bongo label from the U.K. and my band mate is sending me YouTube video of the B.Boys and Marbled Eye, but these five tracks got the most listens this previous week.”

Front – ‘Polaroid’ (1981) -“German post-punk, dark and angular. Like a weird uncle to the Brain Bombs or the A-Frames. I love the repetitious, driving rhythm section. Before we started Male Gaze, Adam (drummer) and I were wood-shedding in our SF practice space trying to capture this vibe.”
Solid Space – ’10th Planet’ (1982) – “Dark, weirdo minimal wave from this pretty obscure cassette release that was getting leaked on message boards a few years back. I contacted the artist about reissuing this on vinyl years ago, but didn’t get a response. I love the low-fi quality of this, rough 4-track recordings that feel incredibly intimate in their sparseness. You can almost hear your way around the room these tracks were recorded in.”

Dream Decay – ‘YÚ’ (2017) -“This is one of my favorite LPs of 2017 so far, huge surprise (I don’t know why). Played with them in Seattle late last year, this opening track off their YU LP is a banger. Can’t get enough of the heavy bass and drums pairing.”

Miller – ‘Baby I’ve Got News For You’ (1966) -“Originally found this on a blog years ago, but finally found a reasonably priced 45 on Discogs. Supposedly the first official psychedelic release, it sounds like a noisier version of the Troggs. Everyone I play this for falls in love with it.”

Black Marble – ‘Iron Lung’ (2017) – “I guess I’m on an 80s dark wave thing again, but this track really hits every note for me. Love the hollow bass and sparse guitar wrapping around a great pop song. The first LP was also great, and has a track called ‘UK’ that I put on repeat anytime I have to fly anywhere. Calms my damn nerves. This new LP has a pretty sizable step up in production.”

Male Gaze is looking forward to a busy summer with a tour that includes dates “up and down the West Coast in June, Europe in July, the Midwest in August, Europe again in September and maybe the East Coast in October.” They also have a new LP coming out at the end of the month. Kaiser says Miss Taken has more “of our late-80s UK goth-pop vibe than the previous two” albums. He says he’s excited about Jones’ more “pop-oriented songs,” and if the title refers to anyone in particular “Matt’s not telling.”

Catch Male Gaze at the Red Museum (212 15th St, Sacramento) on June 17th with Part/Human and Glass. The show starts at 8 pm and is all ages with a $7 cover fee at the door. Miss Taken drops on June 30th.

As for the bands on the Mount Saint Mountain label, Mall Walk is touring the US while Cruel Summer is touring with the 80s British band The Primitives and then noise-pop band The Swirlies. Find tour dates, albums and more here.

Words: Katta Hules.

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