El Paso Music Scene
10 September 2011

EPMS: Hey, how many years you've been playing live, i.e., before audiences?

Mark Fowler: 36 years! Pro-30 of those, and Full-time-17 of those!

EPMS: Where were you before you came to El Paso?

Mark Fowler: Well, I came here from California.

EPMS: What kind of music were you playing out there?

Mark Fowler: I played in a number of Cover and original bands, all over the greater So Cal area, worked with some up and comers in the R&B and Smooth Jazz fields, and played in Vegas and Laughlin. How I ended up here is my sister and her family live here. My dad was stationed here in the late 60's, and I have fond memories of living here when I was little.

It became increasingly difficult to navigate the recession as a divorced, non-custodial dad, so I needed a place to regroup, and make a fresh start.

EPMS: What do you think of playing in cover bands, as opposed to original bands?

Mark Fowler: Doesn't matter! As long as people play well, and the audiences dig it! I come at this from a jazzers perspective. No one ever gave Errol Garner of Charlie Parker crap for playing covers!

EPMS: Hey, I saw Joe Pass and Buddy Rich when I was a youngster in Houston... plus Sammy Davis Jr. What is your favorite venue here?

Mark Fowler: I haven't played many venues here, but so far, The Lowbrow Palace has been the coolest!

EPMS: Where are you playing right now?

Mark Fowler: Here, I will be joining the house band at the Alumni Lounge, and I play with Garden Grove, a Sublime tribute act. I also have a jazz trio in the works, but that's still in progress.

EPMS: What did you learn about music at UNM? How has that influenced you?

Mark Fowler: When I attended UNM, I learned a lot about music, but the thing I probably learned the most was how to balance a schedule of music versus real life. I juggled 4 performance groups and 6 electives. Some semesters successfully, and others not so! Hahaha! Still managed to practice bass, learn what I needed for gigs. I'd love to go back and finish my degree some time, but just for me.

EPMS: So, college was all about networking for you?

Mark Fowler: College wasn't ALL about networking, but that was an integral part of the experience for me. Plus, it helped having a dedicated space to hone my craft. I had never played upright bass before I went to UNM, but after 4 years, I became a horrible symphonic musician! Hahahaha!

EPMS: I always heard the challenge was to play an upright bass while lying down.

Mark Fowler: But it was great to explore music, and music history in a context like that. Dood...it' difficult, but can be done! I wish I still had an upright!

EPMS: I had one this morning. I have these magazines that help me.

Mark Fowler: Hahahaha!

EPMS: What tribute band would you like to see?

Mark Fowler: Two tribute acts I'd love to see: I have dreamed... this is a joke, but I also think it's a great idea: An All- Black Police Tribute, called the LAPD!

EPMS: What's the other tribute band you'd like to see?

Mark Fowler: I'd love to see an authentic tribute to the horn bands. Bring a big 12 or 13 piece band that can play Chicago, Earth, Wind and Fire, Blood, Sweat and Tears, etc.

EPMS: Ever heard of Med Flory? Bobby Troup? Julie London?

Mark Fowler: Oh heck yeah! Julie London and Bobby Troup were both on "Emergency," which I loved. My dad told me later, tht they were both Jazz singers, and I was shocked! And, I love Med Flory on Daniel Boone!

EPMS: Bobby troup was also a writer, I believe. He made some horrible comments about the music of the day - he was talking about The Carpenters!

Have you ever worked with two monitors (per person)? I haven't quite figured out the point of that, but it's a higher-end requirement you see sometimes.

Mark Fowler: Yeah. Seems like overkill to me. Makes the stage volume too loud. I like in-ears myself, but you gotta have ambient mikes, so you get some audience response!

EPMS: Whoah, explain that to me. I've never had in-ears myself; I'm not sure if they'd work for an independent sound guy. You wanna use in-ears that have been used by a hundred different people?

Mark Fowler: Oh hell no! I want my own in- ears! I'm way too germaphobic for that! I'm not even crazy about using someone else's mic! No...with in-ears, you sound great, but you don't hear the audience, unless the sound man can put a couple of mics up, and kix that into your feed. When I was in Vegas, we used them, and it was a little weird, until they did that. Saves your ears too, cause it doesn't have to be as loud.

EPMS: What do you think about the scene?

Mark Fowler: You asked how I am finding the scene here. That's a difficult question. I find that there's not much support of live music, or original music here, but that's not stopping some awesome musicians from doing their thing! There's a lot of great writers, players and singers around here, recording basement tapes and playing in coffee houses, and a lot of crappy bands drawing crowds at the very few places with live music. There's a lot of talent here, that's for sure!

EPMS: By support, you mean crowds?

Mark Fowler: Yes.

EPMS: Why do you think the crowds are so small?

Mark Fowler: For one, it's a transitory town. By that, I mean there is a lot of people here who are only here for a short time. They really don't take the time to find out where the good venues or bands are, because they don't plan on staying.

The other, and El Paso is not unique in this, it's a worldwide epidemic, is that there is just no respect given to live music anymore. Clubs would rather pay a DJ than a band, and people would rather hear their favorite hip-hop than try something new.

EPMS: How long do you plan on staying here?

Mark Fowler: I plan on returning to California, only because there is more music infrastructure there, but at the same time, if I could help build the kind of infrastructure the music industry in El Paso needs, I would stay. Honestly, each time you ask me that question, you'll get a different response! Lol!

EPMS: How do we build that music infrastructure in El Paso? What would it look like?

Mark Fowler: Shoot, I don't know! I believe one thing would be to have a network of venues willing to showcase original bands, but also willing to pay them. I think having great sound and lighting, and a festival mentality would be cool too. By that, I mean mixing of genres (to an extent). I also think having more clinics and things at the local music stores, and more opportunities for music to be seen and heard by younger people. I have the idea of doing a "Bass Day" somewhere, but haven't put together the wherewithal to do it! Anything else ya wanna know?

EPMS: No, thanks Mark! Good luck!