Zodiac Mindwarp Interview

August 16, 2010

Websites: www.zodiacmindwarp.com – www.myspace.com/zodiacmindwarp1
Interviewer: Skid

The world of rock ‘n’ roll is filled with interesting characters, but few are as mysterious and outrageous as Mark Manning’s alter ego Zodiac Mindwarp. Like something ripped out of a science fiction novel, Zodiac Mindwarp & The Love Reaction stormed onto the scene in the mid ’80s and faded from public view as quickly as they arrived. With his partner in crime Cobalt Stargazer, Zodiac is about to release his new album We Are Volsung — an album that came together during his search for God… or something like that!

Sleaze Roxx: How did We Are Volsung come together and what was the inspiration for the new CD?

Zodiac Mindwarp: I’ve written two books with a friend of mine called Bill Drummond who is in the KLF. We had written these books where we went to the North Pole and the Congo, and each of these had a mission. The last one was to find the devil. We went to the Congo and decided we were going to go and find God (laughs).

Sleaze Roxx: Did you find him?

Zodiac Mindwarp - Sleaze Roxx InterviewZodiac Mindwarp: Well we haven’t yet, but I was thinking what is God anyway? I was thinking maybe, he’s not like this Christian God. Then I discovered the Norse God Odin and I was thinking, you know, I kind of like that guy much better than the Christian one. He’s like more fun and that was it really. It took off from there and I bought all these books about Norse mythology. I said these guys are really rocking — like Thor, Vali and Loki. You know this is like a fun religion. They are kind of like the Greek Gods in the way they are human and they are fallible instead of the Christian Gods were all these saints, walking around with halos over their heads and never fart or shit or do anything wrong (laughs).

The inspiration came from me and Bill just sitting around thinking about it. That is where it came from and it just spiraled out of control and we ended up with a bleedin’ album. A fucking concept album, and I couldn’t even do half of it… it’s half a concept (laughs).

Sleaze Roxx: I think the CD is very good, but I also think it contains some of your darkest work. Would you agree?

Zodiac Mindwarp: Yeah I’m pleased with it. I’m proud that it’s not perfect. It just makes you want to do more. God forbid for the perfect album — then that’s it, you’d just put your slippers on and go to bed. The great thing about art, and all its manifestations, is that you never achieve perfection. If you did you don’t do anymore. So when I finish I’ll finish, and then you’ll find me in a wheelchair in an old people’s home. But until then I’m going strong.

Sleaze Roxx: After releasing your last two albums independently how did you get involved with SPV Records?

Zodiac Mindwarp: Well we got this spritely young drummer who wears gold shorts on stage and he hates them. He keeps saying all the time, ‘man why can’t I just wear my fucking metal gear. Why do I have to wear these gold shorts all the time? I look gay.’ Cobalt says, ‘listen, they are iconic gold, always remember your soul’. ‘But I look gay man I don’t like these’. Listen just do what the Stargazer says. If he says wear gold shorts, wear gold shorts. ‘Fucking hell man, alright, I’ll wear them but I don’t fucking like it’.

Sleaze Roxx: But he’s wearing them is he?

Zodiac Mindwarp: He’s wearing them yeah. Cobalt won’t let him on stage without his gold shorts. I think there is something going on between them (laughs). He’s like a spritely young fella and he’s Brazilian, which is kind of weird. We’ve had some weird drummers. He’s got connections in the music industry. He plays for some weird progressive rock bands and things.

‘What’s is it with this fiddly diddly music Bruno?’ I ask. He’s one of those drummers that actually composes music. He comes in with a song and it’s like, ‘it’s just drumming Bruno’. He’s like, ‘no man listen, brr brr brr, and then you sing there and then, brr brr brr’. I’m like, ‘it’s not a song Bruno it’s just drumming. It’s just fiddly widdly drumming. For God’s sake Cobalt what are you doing with this boy?’

Sleaze Roxx: Maybe he won’t last in the band very long.

Zodiac Mindwarp: No he’s the best drummer we’ve ever had. He’s a phenomenon, but we can’t figure out whether he’s mentally ill (laughs). He writes songs on the drums. ‘Are you out of your mind, just follow the Stargazer’, we tell him. ‘Oh fuck off man. All you rock guys are all the fucking same’, he says.

Sleaze Roxx: Do you have any plans to tour behind the new CD?

Zodiac Mindwarp - Sleaze Roxx InterviewZodiac Mindwarp: We’ll be doing a world tour. Back to the question about the SPV deal, it was Bruno who sorted it all out — the insane little Brazilian drummer. Maybe he was shagging the owner’s wife or something. I have no idea. But we were quite happy sailing around in the backwaters doing these obscure gigs in shitstown Ohio and playing in the Midwest and staying in the Worcester Hotel. These strange places where only the scummiest rock bands ever play. They couldn’t believe that we were there. We did the Midwest tour and stayed in the fucking worst motels you’ve ever seen. Blood stains in the bathroom and doors that don’t fit. The guys at the gigs would say, ‘where are you staying?’ We’re staying at the Worcester. ‘The Worcester? That place man, they rent by the hour.’

Sleaze Roxx: Sounds like the perfect place for Zodiac Mindwarp.

Zodiac Mindwarp: I kind of liked it (laughs). Is that a swimming pool or is it a pond, and I was like I don’t know, but it’s green. He found a record company and I think we are going to be staying in real hotels now. I’m going to miss green swimming pools and bullet holes in the walls.

Sleaze Roxx: I guess you could still stay there if you wanted to.

Zodiac Mindwarp: Cobalt doesn’t like camping. He likes his luxury.

Sleaze Roxx: Speaking of Cobalt Stargazer, there was a false rumor out there that he had died a while back. He’s been your sidekick for so long could you ever picture yourself recording without him?

Zodiac Mindwarp: No, never. He’s the man. There are probably only two guitarists that maybe come close to him. One is Jimi Hendrix (laughs). The other is Ron Asheton from the Stooges. There is something about Cobalt’s guitar playing — it’s just unhinged. When he kicks off in that sleaze sound there is no stopping him — he’s like a force of nature.

Sleaze Roxx: He’s good to have in the band then.

Zodiac Mindwarp: I don’t think he’d be in any other band. I don’t think any other band would have him (laughs).

I’ve got a good little outfit now. We’ve got Jack Shitt on the bass, and he chose that name by the way, we didn’t choose it. We said, ‘what do you want to be called?’ He goes, ‘I’ve got to have a fucking stupid name. If I’m going to be in The Love Reaction I can’t be called Dave Rimmer’. I go, ‘that’s a fucking stupid name to begin with. Dave Rimmer.’ I said to Cobalt, ‘why don’t we call him Jacky Zero?’ And he was, ‘that’s just like calling him Jack Shit isn’t it?’ He says, ‘Jack Shitt, yeah I like that. It’s a good one that. I like Jack Shitt’. I said, ‘are you sure you want to be called Mr. Shit?’ He’s, ‘yeah I fucking like it! Yeah Jack Shitt, that’s my name! I am Jack Shit!’

Sleaze Roxx: Does that mean you are going to have to find a better name for The Cat?

Zodiac Mindwarp: I wasn’t keen on The Cat. But the reason he is called The Cat is because that boy — he’s from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Jack found him. All he basically does is sleep, then he wakes up and eats a triple cheese burger, then he falls asleep, and then he wakes up again and goes, ‘hey do you want a fuck’ and he prowls around. All he does is fuck, shit, eat and sleep — and in between he drums (laughs). He’s like a fucking cat. All he does is fuck, eat, shit and fucking drum. He’s like a fucking cat. He’s, ‘yeah that’s my name, The Cat. I AM The Cat!’

Sleaze Roxx: You once said that the band was a piece of art. Do you think there is enough art in the music scene today?

Zodiac Mindwarp - Sleaze Roxx InterviewZodiac Mindwarp: There are a few bands I like… I can’t think of any at the moment (laughs). But we are all in the same game. My mother said, ‘if you’ve got nothing good to say about anybody don’t say anything.’ I think that holds with me. To be honest I don’t really listen to anybody else apart from the work I’m concentrating on at the moment. I listen to the radio and I watch music television and when a good thing comes on I’ll fill my vodka glass up and dance around the room a bit and think wow that was good.

It’s difficult to find rock on TV, it’s all that hip hop. It’s people talking over beats, I don’t really get it. I can’t understand what they are saying either — something about hoes and bitches (laughs). There must be some good rock. There is some out there but I’m not particularly interested. I’m more interested in perfecting what we are crafting. We are doing some gigs with Alice Cooper in a couple of months which I’m really looking forward to. Alice has always been like a shining light for me.

Sleaze Roxx: Alice Cooper has always been my favorite too.

Zodiac Mindwarp: When he covered Feed My Frankenstein I was ‘fucking hell man!’ If you can imagine waking up and it was Christmas, Easter and Halloween all at the same time! Alice has just covered your song and I was like, ‘what? Jesus Christ almighty. Nah I’m dreaming.’ I had written a song and Alice Cooper’s done a version of it!

To show how egocentric and retarded I am, I occasionally Google myself (laughs). There is a band called Rat Daddy. I don’t think they are still around, I think they changed their name, but they did a fantastic version of Spasm Gang. There was this guy called Sleazegrinder who had this album Snake Oil Supercharm which was a double album of all covers of the songs I’ve written and I was thinking they are better than mine. Am I like fucking Bob Dylan? Do I write great songs but perform them shit? Bob Dylan’s songs are always better when somebody else does them, and I was thinking, am I some sort of metal Bob Dylan? Do I write really good songs but my versions are crap (laughs)?.

The Rat Daddy’s did Spasm Gang and it’s like, well that’s how I thought it sounded in my head but when I listen to my own version it sounds like Bob Dylan. There was a version of Wild Child by Generous Maria, a Swedish band, and it was fucking awesome and I thought that’s what it sounded like in my head but our version was shit! Me and the Stargazer write these good songs but we don’t really pull them off (laughs).

If you check out Generous Maria’s Wild Child and Rat Daddy’s Spasm Gang on Snake Oil Supercharm from a guy called Sleazegrinder, they are fucking awesome. Some of the other ones sound a bit too much like a cover band version of us, which is not a good thing — because we are a cover band version of us anyway (laughs).

Sleaze Roxx: When you were talking about Alice Cooper, he always says that Alice is only a character he plays on stage. How are Zodiac Mindwarp and Mark Manning different from each other?

Zodiac Mindwarp: Before I go on stage I wear Cobalt’s contact lenses because I’m very short sighted. I can see 6 inches in front of my face, I mean it’s a blur. Cobalt is short sighted as well, but he wears contact lenses because he’s a vain fat fuck (laughs). Well before we go on stage, usually 4 minutes before we go on stage, Cobalt puts his contact lenses in my eyes. So when I’m on stage I’m seeing through Cobalt’s eyes and the prescription is slightly wrong (laughs). So I can see the audience but I can’t see the set list. So I’m always stumbling around stage a little bit, and then after we get off stage I rip them out straight away and put my glasses back on, and Mark Manning is back. Thank God for that.

Sleaze Roxx: Then you look at the set list and realize you sang the wrong song?

Zodiac Mindwarp - Sleaze Roxx InterviewZodiac Mindwarp: Well I look at the set list and the crew usually mess around with it and they write it upside down and backwards and stuff. So I look at the set list and it’s like, ‘what does that say?” They are, ‘you can’t see it anyway you cunt’. So I’m pretty much out there on stage, I can’t see the set list and I just look at Cobalt in desperation and say, ‘I’ve got your eyes Cobalt’. He says, ‘yeah I know. This one’s called High Priest Of Love.’ I just fly by the seat of my pants.

Sleaze Roxx: With the success of Motley Crue’s The Dirt autobiography and upcoming film do you wish someone would turn Fucked By Rock into a movie?

Zodiac Mindwarp: I think that would be impossible. It would have to be by a science fiction director (laughs).

Sleaze Roxx: It would be an x-rated movie anyway.

Zodiac Mindwarp: I don’t know. I think that was an accurate documentation of how bad it can go. Those guys suffered a lot, they suffered a lot of drug addictions and death. But we’ve always embraced our alcoholism. We don’t feel bad about it (laughs).

Sleaze Roxx: But don’t you think Zodiac Mindwarp is the type of character that would be tailor made for a movie or TV?

Zodiac Mindwarp: That would be fantastic. I’d love to see who played me, it would have to be somebody gorgeous (laughs). Actually it would be good if a woman played me. It really would be fun, yeah.

I’ve never thought about it actually. I’ve always been under the radar, I never really thought anybody was noticing us. We play shitty little gigs all over the world. We travel all over Europe and America but we don’t really do press. We like to rock, and we know there are people out there who like to see us rock, and we enjoy staying in shitty hotels and sleeping seven hours in a bus — having picnics in supermarket carparks. We are kind of rough and ready.

Sleaze Roxx: After reading Fucked By Rock is there anything that was off limits to Zodiac Mindwarp?

Zodiac Mindwarp: No (laughs). We never really indulged in drugs which is interesting. We were always a drunk band, which is kind of strange because most bands seem to get into drug abuse, but for some reason we never did. We tried them but we found heroin boring. It was like what’s the point of sitting around looking at your big toe all day? Cocaine was like, ‘you fucking talk enough Cobalt, why don’t you just shut up?’ ‘Sorry Zed, it’s just the cocaine.’ ‘Well stop taking it, aren’t you boring enough? Why would do you want to be extra boring’ (laughs).

So we kicked that on the head, we didn’t bother with the drugs thank God. It was just excessive alcohol. AT least we were all pissed on the same drug — and it’s legal. So we pass on drugs… and we pass on homosexuality (laughs). We’ve got a big gay following but they dress up straight when they come to our gigs.

Sleaze Roxx: Only the drummer can wear the gay clothes.

Zodiac Mindwarp - Sleaze Roxx InterviewZodiac Mindwarp: Yeah but he doesn’t like it. He does NOT like it. ‘I look fucking gay man I’m not wearing these gold shorts. Fuck this shit. I’m wearing my metal clothes.’

Sleaze Roxx: You once said it took you 20 years to forgive Kid Chaos for leaving to join the Cult. Apparently he became a pre-med student. Is that something you could ever have imagined him doing?

Zodiac Mindwarp: He was very young. He was the youngest member of the band.

At this point in the interview Zodiac asks his personal assistant for a cigarette. ‘She’s a mental nurse, she really is. My girlfriend, she looks after mental patients. I think I’m like a side project (laughs).

Anyway, he was very young. He was 17 when he joined the band and I think he just wanted too much too soon and the Cult were really into the band in our early stages and they were touring America and he thought, ‘wow fuck Mindwarp I’m going to join these guys, they want me.’ So he joined the Cult and they sacked him after the first tour (laughs). But then he formed a great band called The Four Horsemen, then they all started dying. Oh shit, the stars are not aligned! So then he went off and he decided to do something good with his life. He decided to become a doctor. Life follows strange paths and he decided to hang around with old people looking at their backsides with stethoscopes. Good luck Chaos. Karma does work. You behave like an ass and you end up looking at asses (laughs).

Sleaze Roxx: Tattooed Beat Messiah still continues to have a cult following today. At the time did you feel like you were part of something special?

Zodiac Mindwarp: I think it was the ninjas (laughs). I found all these strange films with ninjas and things in them, this was 1987 and nobody really knew what a ninja was back then. Nobody really had tattoos or anything, then Tattooed Beat Messiah came out and all of a sudden overnight every metal band were covered in tattoos and they were all going one louder than me. It was like, ‘fucking hell what have I done? I’ve unleashed a force of evil on the world’ (laughs). These nice little metal bands with their spandex trousers and big hair, looking like girls, all of a sudden they are covered in sailor tattoos and full sleeves… and Tommy Lee gets a body tattoo. Fucking hell what have I done? Before us there weren’t any bands that were really heavily tattooed, but now it seems like if you are in a metal band you have to be covered in bleeding tattoos. Apart from Cobalt who only has a wiggly worm.

The idea was when we started the band we all had the snake tattoo, the Mindwarp tattoo. We were supposed to get it on our arm, behind the elbow, so we could do this rock salute and we would all have this tattoo. Cobalt had it on his arm, like this little wiggly worm (laughs). I said, ‘Cobalt what the fuck is that?’ He goes, ‘this is my Mindwarp tattoo and I’ve got the snake.’ I said, ‘but it’s in the wrong place and it looks fucking stupid.’ He said, ‘fuck off Zed, I will have my tattoo where I want it.’ It looks like a wiggly worm, it’s not an evil snake — so now he has the wiggly worm.

Sleaze Roxx: Tattooed Beat Messiah got reissued a couple of years ago. Do you have any plans to reissue some of your other hard to find albums?

Zodiac Mindwarp: Well Cobalt is the boss really. I’m just the singer, he deals with all that stuff. I’m just in the shadow of the big man… literally (laughs).

Sleaze Roxx: Zodiac Mindwarp was almost too over the top to fit into the music scene during heavy metal’s peak. How do you think you will be received today in the age of American Idol, YouTube and MP3 downloading?

Zodiac Mindwarp: I hope we will inspire a bunch of kids to pick up guitars and lose their minds and just rock hard. To be in a rock band is hard work, you don’t get a shortcut. It’s about practicing, rehearsing, and it’s like being a fucking reject. You’ve got no fucking friends, all you’ve got is your guitar and a bedroom and parents that are pissed off with you. And you just practice and practice and you perfect your skill and you retreat into, and invent, your own world. The ‘Rock Idols’ want all the trappings that come, but the trappings isn’t what it is about. We tour America — me, Cobalt, The Cat and Jack — we get on the plane with a bass guitar, the Sleazegrinder (Cobalt’s guitar), a couple of cymbals, and we use the support acts gear. We hire a car and that’s it — we travel from city to city in a car. That is how dedicated we are. To me that is what rock ‘n’ roll is, we are traveling minstrels. We go from city to city and if there are 20 people, or 200 people, or 2,000, or 60,000 like at Wacken, it doesn’t matter. Cobalt said to me, ‘when we do get a low turnout just think of it as a free rehearsal.’ I think that is all our gigs ever are, free rehearsals (laughs). You know if you are rehearsing in a studio in London it’s like $50, but when we do gigs it’s like they will pay us $50. It’s like a free rehearsal!