Today for my Meet the Musician feature I’m very pleased to be joined by Mark Palmer who has played double bass for many rockabilly and psychobilly bands. We caught up recently to chat about his early musical experiences, how he learnt to play the double bass and which rockabilly and psychobilly bands he’s played and recorded with over the years.
FIRST MUSICAL MEMORIES
My first memory of music was Showaddywaddy and my 1st live gig was seeing them on or around my 9th birthday. My sister took me and I was blown away. That would have been 1977. I was very naïve at that age and the Punk thing passed me by completely, unfortunately.
I guess around 1979/1980 I found Two Tone and by the time I was 13 I was a Skinhead (a very weedy one). Myself and a couple of friends were lucky enough to have pretty easy-going families so, in 1981 we ventured to Brighton to see Madness live for the first time. It was around the time that “It Must Be Love” was released. JoBoxers were the support band and I remember them getting verbal abuse from some nasty looking Skinheads down the front.
I stuck with the Skinhead scene for a couple of years getting quite heavily into Oi. I was still loving the likes of The Specials and Madness, but the racist side of it wasn’t for me. It was rife! So by the time I’d reached 14 or 15, I’d turned my back and just stuck to wearing Adidas, Fred Perry and band t-shirts. (I still love Adidas now.)
At 16 I got my first motorbike and just enjoyed that.
PSYCHOBILLY IN HEAVEN
My introduction to Psychobilly came via a friend of mine playing ‘In Heaven’ in his car. That was it! I was hooked! This would have been 1984/85 if my memory serves me well.
Obviously, there was no internet so I relied on Sounds, NME & Melody Maker to try and find out what it was all about and what was going on. The guy that had played me In Heaven was a Psychobilly so he pointed me in the right direction. First, a flat top. Then bleached jeans, check shirts and boots became my daily thing to wear.
Luckily there was a tiny record shop in the town centre that had a small Psychobilly & Rockabilly section and they would order records in for you which was great. The first album I bought was Stampede by The Meteors. From then on I’d buy as much as I could afford.
PSYCHOBILLY GIGS IN THE SOUTH OF ENGLAND
I managed to get to some gigs in Brighton which were an eye-opener. I think my first gig was at a venue called The Richmond for Frenzy and The Long Tall Texans. That was me hooked! It also got me completely in love with the psychobilly double bass, although it would a long, long time before I got one. The Richmond hosted regular Psychobilly gigs so I’d go whenever I could. I got to see bands including The Guana Batz, The Midniters, Torment, and The Texans on numerous occasions. It was a great time!
There was only me and one other guy in my town that were into Psychobilly so I never really hung about with anyone else. My ex-wife got into it so I was lucky enough to get to the Klub Foot but only 3 times, unfortunately.
I’d always had friends involved in the scooter scene and had owned a couple. I ended up joining The Talismen Scooter Club and did some national rallies for a couple of years but I found it difficult to finance and dropped out of the scene. I did get back into it again many years later but dropped out again to concentrate on music.
FINALLY, A DOUBLE BASS
After years of wanting one, I finally had got my first double bass and spent a couple of years desperately trying to learn how to play it. Around 1999/2000 I decided to go to college to learn properly. Around the same time, I started to get busier as a bass player.
College was a massive eye-opener. The only course for double bass players was Jazz courses, talk about in at the deep end. I had a great time. I studied for 2 years and got all of my diplomas. I was asked by one of the tutors if I would do a gig as a duo, he was a phenomenal guitarist and we ended playing as a Rockin’ Blues duo for about a year.
PLAYING DOUBLE BASS LIVE IN PSYCHOBILLY BANDS
I’ve played double bass in numerous bands over the years, The Caravans, Mojokings, Radiacs, Griswalds, Pharaohs, Racketeers, Ben Cooper’s solo project, Boston Rats. The Caravans was mainly recording. I think I did 3 fairly low key gigs but recorded over 20 songs with them including 2 tracks on The Rockabilly Clash compilation. Every gig with The Mojokings was fantastic, pure energy and working with 2 amazing musicians. Paul Scoulding (Vocals/Guitar is one of the nicest people and I’m proud to call him a friend.
Standout psychobilly gigs that spring to mind are The Griswalds first come back gig in Italy, headlining The Ukrabilly Bang in Ukraine, The Old School Psychobilly Festival with The Pharaohs, Moonshine Madness in Holland and Bedlam Breakout with The Boston Rats, plus more I can’t remember.
Over the years I’ve not done as much recording as I’d like. A lot of things also never got released. I recorded an album with a Rock ‘N’ Roll band called The Rhythm Boys which never saw the light of day. I played on a Noxious Toyz album which did get released. Numerous Caravans tracks. I played in a kind of Indie/Punk/Rockabilly band and I have a batch of recordings that nobody has heard so I might do something with those one day. Mark Penington was the drummer. I’ve also recorded on Oakville Pete‘s album City, it’s the band I currently play in.
WESTERN STAR RECORDING COMPANY
One afternoon, I got a message from Stevie, frontman in Psychobilly band, The Bastard Sons of Cavan, asking me if I would go down to Western Star to put double bass down on 3 tracks. I’ve always been a massive fan of The Sharks and I saw it as a great chance to properly meet Alan Wilson so I agreed straight away. Luckily Alan liked the tracks enough to offer us an album on the condition that myself and Paul Mummery would be the rhythm section. The BSOC finished the album around the summer of 2016, I think. I got on really well with Alan and we soon became firm friends.
Just before Christmas that year, Alan got in touch and asked me if I would pop down and play double bass on a track. Of course, I jumped at! In January of 2017, Alan had a stall at a Surfin’ Wombatz gig and that’s when he gave me the job of Western Star house band double bass player. I’m still blown away by it. I get to work with someone I’ve respected and admired for years, who has become one of my closest friends. His wife Lindsay and daughter Ava have also become people I feel very close to. They have been fantastic friends, especially through my illness.
So far, I’ve recorded The Bastard Sons’ CD album, A Kinks’ tribute and a Joe Brown tribute, both with Alan on 7″ coloured vinyl. Two guys that are friends of Alan’s recorded songs they had written and I played on those. They were great fun and only 10 copies were made so a big thank you to Fred Ruff and Graham Bice. I’ve had tracks on a couple of compilations including one to be released soon which is all rare tracks.
I’m recording with Brett Waters from The Bullets and Ben Turner under the name The Howlin’ Coyotes. I was still quite unwell and asked them both if they would record a couple of songs I’d written. We went down to Western Star for a three-day session and on day 2 Alan said it was sounding so good we should consider becoming a proper band which we all agreed to. We’ve just done the second session so hopefully, we’ll get the album finished and released fairly early next year.
LIVE GUEST APPEARANCES THIS YEAR
A real highlight was being asked to get up and do a song with iconic rockabilly band, The Polecats, something I’ll always cherish. I seem to remember you noticing how terrified I was lol. I’ve also got up and done a song playing the double bass with the psychobilly band The Sin Kings a couple of times. Spud, is one of my closest friends and I love the band.
I’d just like to thank a few people if that’s ok. Thank you to the following for being with me every step through my illness. Sam Brown, Alan Wilson, Lindsay and Ava, Ross ‘Spud’ Taylor and his wife Mel, Melanie, Elaine, Norm, Pete, Chris, Sam, Jake and Gee Hawkes, Steve Young, Kev King, Brett Waters, Ben Turner, Ginger, Mark Carew, Rich Bennett, Kev & Ash, Mark & Niki, Alan Hall, Lindsay. I’m sure I’ve forgotten someone for which I apologise. I do also want to say a huge thank you to you for asking me to do this.
Cheers Mark, it’s been a real pleasure.
You will find link’s to Mark’s bands and Western Star throughout the text but you may also like to read other musical posts that I’ve published lately:
- Musical Features & Interviews at Tea & Cake for the Soul
- Find out the latest gig listings at UK Psychobilly Gig Guide.