Mark Buchholtz Interview (April 2010)
Mark Buchholtz has enjoyed a long career in music (primarily as a keyboardist), working in a plethora of projects heralded and unheralded. In 1981 alone he worked with Micki Steele, Toni Childs and Steve Schiff in Nadia Kapiche, and opened for U2 (along with Steve) in Radiomusic. His most recent work is with the 1960s Italian soundtrack-influenced Ciao Cinecetta.
RIS: How did your career in music begin?
MB: The usual piano lessons as a kid, from ages 7 to 12. I lost interest for a bit then got into pop and rock music. I started playing in a “rock” band in 7th grade with some schoolmates. While in high school I made pretty good money playing in the southeastern Connecticut area. Country rock was pretty popular about that time so some friends and I joined a fairly well known singer and worked with her for a couple of years, doing some mini-tours of sorts. I guess things got more serious musically when I moved to L.A. in 1976.
RIS: Do you recall how Nadia came about? I understand the local ‘scene’ of the time was incestuous in that some of the members had already been playing together in other bands by that point. (As a sidenote, does the name ‘Nadia Kapiche’ refer to anything in particular? I’m guessing it was Toni’s idea.)
MB: I was in a group circa 1980 called “Radiomusic” that was started by Mike Gallo, formerly of the pop group 20/20. A core of Mike, myself, and Bill Millay were auditioning guitarists when Steve Schiff came around and decided to join forces. (Steve had been in a group called “1994” previously.) We eventually met and worked with Glenn Doty (guitar/vocals), too, for almost a year. About this same time Toni Childs had a group called “Toni and the Movers” that was getting a good reputation. Mickie (Michael) Steele was in the Movers. Radiomusic had reached a plateau of sorts at that time; we had two production deals that went nowhere; we had an opportunity with Tacoma Records that went nowhere. I was not happy in the band at that point. Steve approached me about working with a “temporary” new group which would be Toni Childs, Mickie Steele, himself, Richard Larsen on keyboards, and me on keyboards, and an as yet undecided drummer. Of course it took me about half a second to want to join. (As per the incestuous local scene concept, I recall Richard had been in an early version of the group “Berlin” which also included Toni on vocals for a short while.)
I recall Toni, Mickie, Steve and I meeting at Steve’s studio/residence in Westwood to try to write and record something. We created a tune called, “Eat Garbage” which was fun and I guess acted as the incentive to play live. The next thing I know, I got a phone call from Steve saying we were set to play Madame Wong’s. We never actually had even one “rehearsal” for the entire duration of the group. Either Mickie or Toni located a drummer for whatever we had and that was that. All improv.
We did several gigs at Madame Wong’s West and Cathay de Grande over the course of perhaps a couple of months. We never had a consistent drummer. I believe one of the shows included the drummer from Elton Duck… See Youtube (Nadia Kapiche 1981 Madame Wongs ) for a sample of one of the shows at Madame Wong’s West. Incidentally, the drummer at that particular show is amazing…
As to where the name Nadia came from… It was totally Toni’s thing. About when I started in this group, Toni was finalizing a 45 record called “Bitches and Bastards” that had apparently been recorded with “the Movers”. It was my understanding back then that she was dissolving the Movers and had decided to release the 45 under the name “Nadia Kapiche” instead. (To anyone who has seen this 45: please be aware I heard a rumour that the exposed body part on the picture sleeve may belong to someone you have heard of… ;P)
RIS: One of the more interesting and unusual features of NK to me is that their concerts were improvised rather than relying on a strict setlist of songs, so I’m curious about how that worked, if you can explain. Did it require much rehearsal early on to musically ‘gel’ on a level that improvisation was possible?
MB: Steve and I had worked for almost a year in Radiomusic, composing, arranging and doing a lot of recording etc, so were used to playing together. Richard Larsen (keyboards) and I were previously classical geeks who also loved synths and we got along great musically and socially, so playing with him was never an issue. Although I had not played live with Mickie before, she was never at a loss to come up with something solid and tastey and because it was immediately apparent that she and Steve had a good musical chemistry, I was able to work within their creations. Mickie and Steve had the insight to know when to “not play” and to leave space, too, which is equally important. Same for Toni and her spontaneous singing & verbalizations. She was amazing at coming up with stuff, hitting with stories and/or images.
Regarding preparation, there was no rehearsing whatsoever. It was a challenge, though, to keep from intentionally duplicating things you may have done on a prior successful night. It’s kind of a trap to want to fall back into that “safe” area, to duplicate things you know went well before. But we avoided that, although we did not play more than perhaps 6 gigs. I don’t kid myself into believing all the music was great all the time… Some of it was pedestrian. But alot of it was really good. And portions of some nights were brilliant, truly amazing. I recall Jeff Jourard coming up to me after one particularly successful show and telling me, “That was the best live music I have heard in years!”
On a side note, I recall a few years ago that [Robert] Fripp, Peter Buck from R.E.M, the drummer from Smashing Pumpkins , and others did a tour they deemed as all “improv”. I saw them in San Francisco. I was interested in seeing how and if they could keep things fresh, avoid the “safe” pitfalls, etc. I recall that some of what they did was really good, some was really pedestrian… and that Nadia Kapiche could have seriously held their own if performing next to them!
RIS: Did the members of Nadia Kapiche record studio material while together, or were they strictly a live band?
MB: Toni wanted to record some demos for a deal she was negotiating around the time of the live shows. So Toni, Mickie, Steve, drummer Ed Warneckie, and I went into a small studio around Sunset and Vine and recorded, “Coalmine” (a Toni tune) and “Giants” (a Schiff/Mike Gallo tune with extra lyrics by Toni). Engineering by Rich McKernan, a great guy with great ears.
RIS: What were your impressions of Michael as a musician?
MB: As a player she was rock solid and dependable. She never “blinked” during improv, she was always there and with some tastey stuff to boot. On a personal level, she was easy to get along with, although I can’t say we hung out a great deal. She was professional but not stuffy, stuck up or anything like that. Among musicians I knew, they respected Mickie for her playing.
RIS: In interviews, Michael has always mentioned having a wide variety of musical influences. Do you remember any particular influences she mentioned while NK was around? Were there common influences across the band?
MB: She liked a variety of musics including Fairport Convention, Yardbirds, and English groups of the day. Talking Heads.
RIS: Do you have any particular memories of Michael to share for the people reading this site?
MB: I recall Mickie telling me one time that she had heard a couple of the Bangles were looking for a roommate to share a house. She had also heard they were looking for a new bass player, so, she told me, “I did the first calculated thing ever in my life”… and met with them to be a roommate.. and to try to get an audition. The rest is history, as they say. In my opinion, I don’t think Mickie had much to worry about. She was a decent person. She didn’t come off as a cut throat type. As soon as anyone heard her play, her talent was obvious. I recalled thinking she didn’t have anything to worry about doing a straight ahead audition with the Bangles. On a side note, I saw “The Colors”, I think they were called then, which was the first “Bangles” group, at a small club in the Santa Monica area called, The Londoner. It may have been one of their first shows ever. They played Badfingers, “Want You”.
After Nadia had disbanded I recall wanting to record a bunch of tunes from the various groups I had recently been in. Ed Warneckie (on drums) agreed to give it a try. I called Mickie, hoping that if she played I could later get Steve Schiff and others to play and record and possibly get another group together. Well, Mickie showed up and upon seeing only me (and playing guitar no less) and Ed, asked, “What’s going on? What is this?” I confessed this was an attempt to get some things recorded and this was an idea “in progress”. To her credit, she set up her bass and we jammed for a while. She had worked with Snakefinger just before that, so as a goof, I broke into “Kill the Great Raven”.
RIS: How were the venues that Nadia played? Madame Wong’s West appears to have quite a reputation amongst people who remember the early 80s LA ‘scene’.
MB: Wong’s West was great because it apparently was an old grand restaurant with different rooms downstairs as well as a separate room upstairs and all these nooks and crannies to get lost in while waiting to play. It was a great place, always an interesting crowd.
RIS: I noticed one of the band’s surviving live recordings opens with a cover version of Louie Louie. Is that the only cover that you recall the band playing?
MB: Yeah, I guess that’s it as far as covers. I think I instigated that one as a goof, to see how far we could take it. That was me blasting away on my synth, distorted to hell through a hot preamp and echo unit.
RIS: How did Nadia come to an end? Some of the members stayed together in different bands, right? With those who didn’t, did you hear from them later?
MB: Toni went to England to work on more demos and see the scene in London. Steve Schiff and Glenn Doty formerly of Radiomusic went too, working with producer/composer David Barratt. They all apparently lived and worked at Jo Julian’s music studio. Steve invited me with them but I had an apartment full of stuff and little money then, so declined. After Nadia Steve Schiff, Glen, David Barratt formed “Three Lives” back in L.A., which I joined. Glen was later replaced by Doug Hammond (now know as Vaugh Trapp, see MySpace) Three Lives got great momentum in a short period of time, playing Club Lingerie, the Roxy and the Whiskey all within a couple of weeks of each other. Then Steve got an offer to join Nina Hagen for a European tour and left, so that was that. A fast ending to Three Lives which created bitter feelings. Doug and David Barratt went on to get a deal with Chrysalis Records as “Castle Bravo.” However that ended unsuccessfully, with another group using the name at a later time. Steve went on to co-write, “Don’t You Forget About Me” with Keith Forsey. I met Perry-Watts Russell through Toni and he and John Crawford had contacted me about joining the group “Berlin”, but I declined. I had had enough of being a sideman at that point. On an ironic note, Bill Millay from Radiomusic and I started writing together around this time and one moring at 3am I got a call from Kim Fowley. Bill and I wound up working on Fowley’s “Frankenstein” record, then Fowley starting preproduction with us on our own project, called “Root of Zero.” Fowley is every bit the dog described by others, yet is strangely fascinating in a perverse way. I recall he would refer to our music as “hamburger”. Of course I am not female and could hold my own given his “on” personna, so my experience was a whole lot different than Mickie’s apparently was with him in the Runaways.
After Root fizzled my Hollywood music “career” ended by choice.
I recently got in touch with Steve Schiff, who is still doing music only in Florida. He seems to have mellowed out over the years. He remains a great guitarist. I email Richard Larsen from time to time. His band “Una” is currently playing around L.A.
I hadn’t heard from Toni since she called me circa 1985 (?) while recording her first album at A & M studios asking if I could operate a Roland synth for her! She told me she would call me back and never did. I emailed her MySpace account a few years ago and got a short and plaintiff “Hi” in return. Now that I think about things from the past, I recall Mickie and Toni had a big falling out back in the day after Nadia. I bet the falling out was due to Toni not including Mickie in her plans when she got a deal and went to England. I have not seen Mickie since back in the day. I emailed her a couple of times at her MySpace site, even offering her recordings of Kapiche, but she never responded. From what I have heard, Mickie is burned out on the music industry. It’s a shame she doesn’t respond to my offer to get the Nadia recordings I have because I think she would be proud of her work!!
RIS: What other interesting acts did you know/tour with then?
MB: In Radiomusic we got the chance to open for U2 on their first American tour! We did not “tour” unfortunately, but only did a “one-off” show at the Woodstock club in the Anaheim area. We did get to meet and talk with all of them in L.A. prior to this show, thanks to Mike Gallo tracking them down at a West Hollywood hotel. They were not well known at the time, as evidenced by Radiomusic bringing in more people than U2 did! (We had hired a bus to drive people down from Hollywood to Anaheim and the club was pretty much empty until our busload arrived…) We met them again when they hit L.A. on their second swing through the states and played the Santa Monica Civic Center. I thought it was cool back then to get to meet them and even hang out for a while talking one on one. If you put those times in today’s perspective, it’s pretty unbelievable… Getting to meet and talk with U2 face to face, one on one, alone… I probably couldn’t get within 50 feet of them now ! Another tidbit: I recall knocking on their tour bus when it was parked in the lot at the Woodstock club before the show. They opened it and let me inside. I sat down for a bit and reviewed that we had met previously, which they acknowledged. They were all very polite and very nice people. Over our conversation they told me that Bono was bummed out because he had recently lost his notebook of lyrics and ideas by accidentally leaving it at a truck stop in Arizona! All the lyrics and ideas for what would soon become the “October” album! (I like to believe that some lucky bastard that found the book pulls it out of a secret box every so often for inspiration, as opposed to thinking about how some hectic waitress may have thrown it away, sight unseen. ) I recall kidding with the Edge about how the next time they come through L.A. he is going to have several great big Marshall amps and will be wearing sunglasses! I guess I wasn’t too far off considering the Pop Tour and that time period! Sorry this stuff doesn’t include Mickie, but maybe it will be amusing to some…
RIS: What else have you been up to musically since Nadia ended?
MB: I have written and recorded different musics over the years. I have several cds of material, all personally published. MySpace.com/lastthreelives has some spacey stuff in the progressive vein. MySpace.com/markbuchholtz has some off the wall samples of things from over the years. I currently am playing in a jazz quartet, “Counter Intelligence” in the Sacramento area. Myspace.com/counterintelligencejazz I also have a dedication site on MySpace to an electronic band I was in, “Knifelust” (just prior to Radiomusic and Nadia).
I have been recording soundtrack stuff for the past several years to keep myself amused.