For all intents and purposes, Mark Linkous is Sparklehorse. And yet, despite a welcome move to a western North Carolina mountaintop and noteworthy assists from Tom Waits, Danger Mouse, and The Flaming Lips' Steven Drozd, his latest release, Dreamt for Light Years in the Belly of a Mountain (full of rural atmosphere and pain and served with a light psychedelic dressing), took five years to produce. Before he embarked on his Sparklehorse tour, we spoke with Linkous about just what took him so damned long.
New Times: I would imagine, living in the Smoky Mountains, that oftentimes you'll walk away from the house and find a place to just sit for a while.
Linkous: Oh, yeah. Definitely. I like doing that. I did that a lot as a kid growing up in the South. I spent so much time out in the woods, just walking for hours and just days. You know, summer seemed months and months and months longer when I was a kid, because I was outside in the woods every day.
Clubhouse Music Venue in Tempe
scheduled to perform on Tuesday, February 6
NT: Would it be a violation of nature if you took along a pen and a notebook? Or maybe even a guitar? Do you do that when you go out, or is it pretty much just you and the dog, and the peacefulness shouldn't be interrupted?
Linkous: Unfortunately, I need to be more disciplined about doing that. I don't do that often enough. I think I get lazy sometimes . . . and I'd just rather watch a black-and-white movie on Turner Classic Movies and be content.
NT: But laziness isn't the answer to "Why five years since the last record?"
Linkous: No, that was more just I felt like I couldn't work, because I think I got in a real bad state of depression, and I got in this kind of void that I couldn't really get my head up out of. It's always been there, I think, since I started making records, but I was always able to keep my head above water.
NT: It sounds damn near agonizing. Did you have any fun writing these songs? Is fun even in the vocabulary anymore?
Linkous: They were pretty hard to write. And there were probably more songs written out of pretty bad pain than the last few records. I don't know why they came out as pop songs, but it's funny that a lot of them did. I can't really explain that.
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NT: Well, there is some redemption here. The record isn't all mortality and all that it implies.
Linkous: No. I mean, I've hoped that people, since the beginning, have been able to recognize the optimism and the hope in my records. That's something I don't ever want to lose.
NT: So let me go back to the question before. Have you had any fun in the last four years?
Linkous: Yeah, a little bit. I had fun recording some of this stuff at Tarbox (a recording studio outside Buffalo, New York). Steven from The Flaming Lips came and played drums. Yeah, I had some fun on this record.