An interview with Mark Deeks

Singers and audience members in Gateshead will need no introduction to the subject of this concert’s interview. Mark Deeks is our concert pianist, rehearsal accompanist and theory guru. Here he tells us more about his favourite music, how he feels playing with a professional orchestra and being complimented by Michael Tippett.

I know that your taste in music is very different to the music that Inspiration sings. How do you reconcile playing music which is so far removed from your taste?

Err… You could say that! It’s true that my passion is extreme metal, but it’s a bit of a myth that that’s all I like. I’m a big fan of R.E.M., Sigur Ros and Radiohead for example, none of which are metal. Also, I personally pick all the songs I arrange for Inspiration because I think they’re great songs, so you can also add to the list old jazz standards such as ‘All The Things You Are’ from this show, and Stevie Wonder and Marc Cohen from previous ones. The simple answer to how I reconcile all this with playing for Inspiration, is that I just love playing. Anything.

Is it exciting playing with orchestras of the calibre of Northern Sinfonia and Opera North?

Absolutely. Whilst my day job teaching music to young people can be very rewarding, it can also be incredibly frustrating. Being able to be part of a professional orchestra and (hopefully!) hold your own, is a lovely experience and actually pretty relaxing. You know that things are just going to happen rather than worrying about performances falling apart like they sometimes
do during the rest of my working week!

You’ve just released an album of your own music. Might you be able to find a way of working Inspiration into your next album?

Err… possibly!? I’m not sure where I’d put them all in the studio! On ‘Safesake’ I played and sang everything myself, other than the drums, and that was hard work enough! Who knows? Can I go for, “We’ll see”?

How do you find time to fit in your PhD studies with everything else that you do?

It’s getting harder. Especially as I’ve been building up my other freelance work too. What with my full time job as an FE Course Leader, increasingly regular performances, arranging and piano teaching too, life is as busy as it has ever been right now. I’m also in the process of becoming a theory examiner for the London College of Music and doing some Musical Director work. As you do.

What is your PhD about?

Essentially it’s the history of heavy metal bands who have used elements of national history, heritage and mythology as the inspiration for their lyrics, artwork or music. But unlike other writers who have touched upon the subject, I’m also doing proper academic analysis of the music itself as well, because contrary to popular opinion, it’s not just noise!

I know you are running a theory class for Inspiration singers. How do you make theory interesting?

Hopefully through my passion for the subject. As anyone who knows me will tell you, I’m a real geek when it comes to music theory. I love understanding how music is put together and why things work or not. I also enjoy trying to pass this on to
others. Especially if I can use a daft sentence or image to help them remember it!

Tell us something random about yourself!

Hmm, here’s a selection… My grandad was an internationally-regarded inventor of marine paint… I once had one of my orchestral pieces personally complimented by the English composer Michael Tippett… I used to be a community radio DJ… and I’m just about to tour a one man comedy musical that I’ve helped to write called ‘Monopolise’ with BBC Newcastle’s Alfie Joey. See you there!

For more information about Mark’s work visit his websites at www.markdeeksmusic.com and www.piano-player-newcastle.co.uk.

Mark Deeks

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