Mark Ayling

Acoustic Artiste


1.   Mark Ayling, the man, the mystery, the melodic merchant - tell us about your travels thus far to this moment in time?

I started out playing drums at a very early age, playing and gigging with loads of bands over the years.  I had moved around England a lot and 8 years ago I relocated to Scotland and, after playing in a couple of unfulfilling bands, I stumbled into writing my own songs purely by accident.  I had been listening to an old band I was briefly in back in '96, we lasted no longer than a couple of months, but something in those old songs made me pick up my battered acoustic guitar and start strumming and stringing a few words together.  'Warzone' was born.  I put a few of those early demos up on Myspace and got a some favourable comments, even though they were crudely played, sung, and recorded.  Around this time, I found that another band I had drummed for in my early twenties, Proud City Fathers from London, had recently got back together after a 17 year break and were recording new songs and playing the odd live show.  One thing led to another and I got invited down to support them.  Up to this point I had already recorded my debut album, but decided that if I hadn't played live by the end of the year, I probably never would.  So, on 20th November 2011, I headed down to Kingston to play at the Fighting Cocks and the rest, as they say, is history.....

 2.  There is a very sobered thread within the weft of your tuneage, deliberate, a mirror image of your emotive stance or just a mood you are moving through like an ever changing artist?

It's certainly not deliberate, I write what I write so I guess it is either a mirror of my inner feelings or a mood I am moving through.  My lyrics aren't exactly what you'd call 'cheerful' so it would be hard to sing with a smile on my face, it would also be false as I wouldn't be feeling like that inside.

 3.  The one man stand way of delivery must be a tough route to take, heaving the pressure about and relying on no-one but yourself - tell us about those moments before you go on stage and also what are the frustration levels like when you hit a dry period?

Funnily enough, I used to get a lot more nervous playing drums, despite being a lot more confident behind the kit than I am singing and playing guitar.  Someone once asked me if it was difficult playing without a band to fall back on but I have never been in the position of being a frontman in a band, so wouldn't know.

When I first started playing live, I did get nervous.  It's hard not to, especially as it all rests on my shoulders, there's no place to hide.  I still do on occasion but you have to just concentrate on the job in hand and once I'm halfway through the first song, things usually start to settle down.  The more you play, the easier it gets.  When I haven't been onstage for a while, the nerves do re-appear, but give it a couple of gigs with no (or not too many) mistakes and things calm down again.  I feel you should always have an element of nervous energy or tension, it makes for a better performance, there's nothing worse than someone that looks as if they're going through the motions onstage.  As for dry periods, thankfully they are few and far between for now.  As for endless inter-band conflicts, members not turning up for rehearsal, I thankfully don't have those problems anymore.
 4.  Cretinoid Codswallop says 'the burger will shatter the circumference and the digestion of rubble will upend Arthur Mildews marriage to the turnip factory'.  Now I know you once spent some time in a secluded cottage with Mr Mildew (what went on is anyone’s guess) and I'd like to know the full meaning of the Codswallopian quote if you don't mind.

Not to be too pedantic, but I think you'll find the original quote was 'veggie-burger' and it basically means that, if Arthur had taken to eating a healthier diet, as opposed to burgers all the time, he wouldn't have needed to continually crunch on turnips to treat his IBS . I obviously can't say too much about our time together for fear of incrimination, but I will say this - We had endless arguments pertaining to turnips and 'neeps.  I tried to explain that they are not actually the same thing, but he wouldn't listen.  If ol' Mildew had gone vegan as Codsy had suggested, they both could have avoided a whole load of grief.
 5.  Those six-strings take some manipulation, it is hard to avoid influence - how do you compose a tune and try and keep it as 'unique' as possible?

Tough question!  I know it probably sounds like a cliché but I just write how I write without going out of my way to be different or original.  I think I stand out from a lot of other acoustic singer/songwriters as they often want to sound like other singer/songwriters, acoustic punks or folk musicians.  When I write songs, I want it to be as full and as big a noise as possible from an acoustic guitar, a full band production whittled down to a one-man band!   
 6.  The best and worst gigs to date, the best and worst gaffs and the best and worst bands you have played with?

I've been very lucky and have played with some brilliant musicians and at some great gigs. 

Best gigs:- any that went smoothly and where the crowd appreciated what I do, whether large club or pub back room.

Worst gigs:-  anywhere the audience were louder than the musicians.

The best gigs can sometimes be unexpected, like last year's Xmas party in Kirkcaldy with TV Smith and 4 local bands.  The main gig was unfortunately cancelled due to the roof leaking and its possible/imminent collapse so Tim & myself asked if we could play in another room.  We ended up playing in a small dining room, completely acoustic, and it turned out to be a great night, a real one-off.

I played Inverness last year to 3 people, one of whom decided he'd heckle me.  He told me that, although my guitar playing was good, my singing was 'shite'.  He then proceeded to ask me if I could play something by Bob Dylan.  The irony of being told I can't sing by a Bob Dylan fan was not lost on me..... 
 7.  Is your local scene a yokel scene or is it thriving - clue us in man!

You'd think, given where I live, surrounded by fields where only the sheep get rowdy, that the answer would be 'yokel', but there are, and have been, so many great gigs around.  Aberdeen is the obvious choice, being the nearest city, with loads of good venues and some great promoters, not to mention a thriving punk scene.  There are punk gigs further out in the 'wilds' which are worthy of a mention; Fraserburgh has a semi-regular night thanks to Forman and Skizofrenik and Peterhead used to have a great night once a month thanks to Billy, but unfortunately his gigs are getting further apart.  There are also some folk/acoustic gigs around that I am fortunate to have been asked to perform at like the Kelpie up in Banff, thanks to Kate and Kevin but, again, things are slowing down due to dwindling attendances.
 8.  Would you live in a watch face for 34 years, would you eat a telephone and would you replace your eyebrow with an Alsatian.  All serious questions, all political all needed answers and explanations?

No - I could maybe do 30 years in a watch face, but I think 34 would be pushing it.

Yes - If it was made of marzipan

Maybe - Saddle, Blanket or Sable?  A man has to colour co-ordinate.....

 9.  Your gripes with the whole music scene and sub-scenes and of course, your pleasures?

Too many bands chasing too few gigs, far too many tribute acts taking up space, too many people willing to pay good money to see said tribute acts, too many people in it for their own gain, too many bands selling from the stage (a necessity, I know, but it looks naff!), too many gigs where the promoter hasn't got a clue and puts on 4 metal bands supporting an acoustic artist, far too many 'sub-scenes'....

Pleasures?  To be able to get up and play and spread the word and to get my songs out to people.
 10.  Heroes and zeroes in life and music and what are the 3 main characteristics of a person do you most admire?

Too many heroes and too many zeroes to mention in such a short space.  3 main characteristics are:-

A good set of teeth

 11.  Pool Cue Peter and Slag Heap Samson are taking up tobogganing only using refrigerator based food substances - go build them a machine and give them some tips man.

I won't help them.  That Pool Cue Peter is a dishonest piece of work (snakey hoor in local dialect) and he never paid me for the design work I did on his chocolate fireguard.
 12.  And lastly, remove the scabs form the incredible crusted man, Larry Leproid and place them down to make letters, which will make words which, I hope, will promote your cause!

I am Mark Ayling, acoustic punk troubadour, angry, passionate, sincere.

Read all about, listen to it and buy it here - or here