music morsels indie music November 2006 

by Mark E. Waterbury

Darren Wilsey

ARTIST NAME:  Mark McCrite - vocalist/songwriter/guitarist for Rocket Scientists
MUSICAL GENRE:  Progressive Rock
BIRTHPLACE:  Springfield, MO
# OF CDs SOLD:  Brand new CD that has already sold out of first pressing prior to release date
FAN BASE: Several thousand worldwide

MW: How did you first connect with Erik Norlander?

MMc: When I first moved to California, Erik was in one of my classes in high school. We got together and started playing in bands right then. So we’ve been playing together for twenty-three years.

MW: Have you always been into progressive rock?

MMc: Absolutely. We were both big fans of ELO, ELP, Pink Floyd and those types of bands. One of the first things I did when I met Erik is even though he was also into bands like ELP, Yes and Genesis he had never heard King Crimson’s “Court of the Crimson King” so I lent him my vinyl album. He really got into that of course. We also were both into Asia because that was one of the few bands that was actually still around at that time and had members of the bands we liked in them.

MW: Were you involved in other projects with Erik before the Rocket Scientists?

MMc: We started off with more casual projects in high school. Then within a couple of years we started doing things seriously with bands doing original music and playing on Sunset Strip. We were in various projects, some more pop oriented and some more prog. We were in a prog act called Relayer and we even ventured into that Sunset Strip pop metal scene in the late 80’s - something we are not very proud of. (Laughs) Rocket Scientists actually started in the late 80’s and we have been doing it ever since. It has gone through quite a few generations, and was about five years before we released our first album.

MW: Did you have a particular concept right from the beginning about how you wanted Rocket Scientists to be compared to other projects you were in?

MMc: Totally. We were always into the progressive music, and back then the whole L.A. metal thing was happening so we were kind of freaks because of us doing the prog music. We definitely wanted that kind of band. Erik was into that Rick Wakeman, Keith Emerson kind of keyboard style that definitely shaped part of our sound. I was more into somewhere between progressive music and the Beatles influenced power pop. Kind of like the role Adrian Belew had in King Crimson were you have someone writing real solid catchy songs with the progressive arrangement. That was part of our style, and then the other part mostly from Erik is his being the chief lyricist in the band. He’s really into science fiction and bands that draw heavily on the sci-fi lyrics, such as the Pete Sinfield written songs in early ELP and King Crimson, and with Blue Oyster Cult and Hawkwind. It brings together the accessible pop influences with the progressive arrangements and sci-fi themes. That sums up what Rocket Scientists is all about, and I think it has been that way from the beginning.

MW: How did you meet with Don Schiff?

MMc: Don was a session musician we met half way through making the first record. We had used a lot of different players and different bass players, but when we started playing with Don, everything just clicked. At that time he was playing the fretless bass and Chapman stick, and we thought that was really cool. It gave the music a unique texture.

MW: In the beginning, what did you do to promote the Rocket Scientists name?

MMc: We did some promotions through Progression Magazine and Music News Network. We even did some advertising through Pink Floyd’s fanzine Brain Damaged. Basically anywhere we thought people who were into prog rock would be looking. At the time there was not really a big scene, Marillion was one of the few bands that was popular at that point. We weren’t really touring either, although we did a European tour after our second album was released. We did do a tour of Europe and the U.S. in 1997 and we recorded a live CD and video from that. It was interesting because it was the first time we had carved out a sound together as a four piece band, which is why we released a live album at that time because things came together in a different way and showed different sides of our playing.

MW: It has been eight years between the release of your third CD “Oblivion Days” and the new CD “Revolution Road.” Why was there such a long break? Do you consider Rocket Scientists more of a project than a full-time band?

MMc: At the time, it was more of a project, because it was not constantly alive or growing or evolving. But sometimes with a project, it can mean that you are not very invested in that and that is not the case with Rocket Scientists.  We are a hundred percent invested in it and we love the concept of it. When I finished my solo record in 2000, I had kept writing, I was kind of on a roll with my writing. I got some demos together and played them for Erik. I didn’t really know what to do with them because they didn’t sound like Rocket Scientists, but didn’t sound like my own music either. When (Erik) heard it, he thought we could totally make a Rocket Scientists CD out of it. We started getting to be friends with a druMMcer named Shaun Guerin, and he did a show with us in 2002 and just like with Don, it really clicked. We were going to start working on the record and then tragically Shaun's life ended, so we were kind of back to square one. It killed our momentum. We went back to the other projects we were doing.

MW: What rekindled the project?

MMc: We worked on it little by little in the background. Erik and I got together and worked out a lot of the songs. We did that for six to nine months and completed a demo for most of what would be the record. Between everything else we were doing, it kind of sat on the shelf for a few years. One thing that rekindled it was when Erik was touring with his trio, he ran into this vocalist David McBee. We had always been interested in (depending on what the song calls for) pushing the boundaries and getting a little heavier. David had just the right kind of voice that we were looking for and that helped bring it back to life. Erik got a big chunk of studio time and we went in there and knocked out the bass and drum tracks. That kicked it into high gear and it was not that hard to finish it from there.

MW: How do you feel “Revolution Road” stacks up to previous Rocket Scientists recordings?

MMc: I think it is better. I think everyone has gotten better. We didn’t stretch out as much in the beginning, although by the third CD we really had it together. “Revolution Road” has been so long in the making and has involved so much thought and so much evolution to the songs, that it goes much deeper and makes a much more powerful statement.

MW: Along with the evolution of your sound, has there been an evolution in the promotion of “Revolution Road” considering the pre-release buzz that has sold out your first pressing before the CD has even hit the streets?

MMc: I think there is a lot more interest in prog music now. With bands like Spock’s Beard and Porcupine Tree and Flower Kings, there is a whole new audience that we can talk to who are very receptive to what we are trying to do. There is a lot more work out there from Erik and Lana Lane and the legacy of our other works have created more general interest in what we are doing. We’re working with some great people who are helping to promote us and they are doing a great job as well. We were so driven to finish this thing because it was so long in the making that we wanted to start playing it live and talking about it.

MW: You previewed some of the music live at Cal Prog and will be performing at the Rites Of Spring Festival next year. Do you feel there will be more live performances involving this CD as well?

MMc: Definitely. I don’t know to what extent, but we really want to do some touring this time around, not just one offs here and there.

MW: What do you feel you need to do to create greater success for Rocket Scientists, and do you feel Rocket Scientists is morphing into more of a full time band and not just a project?

MMc: I do think it is headed that way. It is hard to predict the future or when we will all be able to come back together and do a new recording, or how the tour is going to go. I do think the momentum is such that we are poised to do that. We just have to keep doing it and keep getting out there and keep the momentum going, and I think it can happen.

Division of Serge Entertainment Group