Thursday, August 20, 2009

Memphis Music Spotlight {Marvin Stockwell} Changing the World Through Music


I'd like to welcome our third and final guest for the Rock for Love Q&A series, Marvin Stockwell, a performer in the benefit with the band Pezz and more importantly the co-creator and coordinator of the Rock for Love concert from the beginning.

Every band on the bill this year is a big part of what’s great about the current Memphis music scene. If anyone wants a crash course in great Memphis music, they need to show up this weekend.
~Marvin Stockwell on the Rock For Love line-up

Tell us about your initial and present involvement with the Church Health Center.
I joined the staff of the Church Health Center in October of 2004. I am the PR Manager for the Center, which means I work with the media, write and edit everything from press releases to copy for brochures, our website and our quarterly newsletter.

I have read that you, Marvin, wanted to give back to the CHC for the care they gave you and many others. What exactly pushed your idea into reality? Was there anything that made you think you had to do this like it was sort of meant to be?
I feel blessed to work here, first off. To be able to use my skills as a communicator to help further the mission and work of the CHC, a place that helps so many people lead healthier more joy-filled lives, is great.

I’ve played in Pezz for almost 20 years and the thing that drew me to the whole DIY punk and hardcore music scene was that it was powerful, energy-filled music that had a message. The core messages are personal responsibility, doing it yourself as well as learning to work with others to achieve a common goal, and changing the world for the better. Not all punk/hc is about that, but those are the bands that spoke to me and drew me to embrace the subculture. As much as punk/hc views religion as part of the establishment and rightly so (and I say that as a Catholic who takes his family to mass every Sunday), the punk ethos is countercultural and so is Jesus. To me, I see no division in the two; they work in concert. Religion often divides people but I am proud to say I work at a place that concentrates on the common denominator or serving others. Our diversity of support is what has enabled the Church Health Center to become the largest faith-based clinic of its type in the country serving uninsured working people and their families. In a music town like Memphis, lots of musicians are without health insurance.

Rock for Love has become an annual gathering where the music and creative scene gives back to a place that has helped many of them. That’s a pretty good feeling to see that take shape and grow like it has. I should point out that my friend J.D. Reager kicked this thing off by asking if I’d ever thought of doing a benefit show. I said I had mulled the idea. He’s the one who said, “Let’s do it.” Right out of the box, first year, with no experience doing sponsorships, we raised about $7,500 for the Center. Last year it was just shy of $23,000 and we are gunning for $25,000 this year. We were pleasantly surprised that monetary sponsorships kept pace with last year, despite the recession, so now all we need is for everyone reading this to come to the Hi Tone and Shangri-La and have a good time to put us over the top. We’ll need an especially packed Hi Tone to get there, but we’ve got a great lineup.

How easy or difficult was it to get people on board in the initial year: musicians, sponsors, volunteers, attendees?
Not difficult. People really responded generously. The Church Health Center is naturally in touch with the faith community, medical community and health-and-wellness community because of our mission and work, but this show has allowed us to approach the music and creative scene and ask for support that is in the context of what they do. We certainly can’t take all the credit for this success. It has succeeded because Memphis is a great city filled with talented people who care and are generous with their time.

As the benefit is growing in recognition, is the event coordination getting any easier in any way or is it trying to work harder to stay ahead of last year?
I won’t lie to you; it’s a lot of work, and we don’t know how to do anything less than swing for the fences. We’re always trying to blow it up bigger than before. Having my buddy Jeff Hulett on board last year was a real boost to J.D. and me and, as Jeff has grown in confidence in his job as my counterpart here in the CHC PR/Marketing office, he’s been even more effective this year. It also helps that we’ve had a great partner in the Hi Tone and, this year, in Shangri-La. The money raised is important, vitally important, but I’m just as proud of the fact that we have all hands on the pile so to speak. This is a feather in the cap of the entire music and creative scene. Our business community has also had a strong showing and not just music-related business like Elvis Presley Enterprises, who came on as co-presenting sponsors with SunTrust and Makeshift Music this year. How huge is it that SunTrust came on board again this year after all the banking sector has gone through? We appreciate them. The Center City Commission, Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, B.B. Kings - the list goes on and on.

Was the Hi-Tone a key component to the success of the event? I hate to admit I haven’t seen a show there yet but would love to go just because everyone says it’s a great venue but I’m afraid that might be misstated. From your perspective, could it be the Hi-Tone's reputation as a great venue is gained from such great musicians consistently performing there?
Jonathan and Dan at the Hi Tone have been true partners in this, and Jonathan has gone out of his way this year to make the show special. They’ll have a beer garden out back this year. He cooked up this thing with the Redbirds to have a storyteller there at AutoZone Park to raise even more money for us and get the Rock for Love 3 info up on the Jumbo-tron. The show was at a now-defunct venue the first year but has been at the Hi Tone last year and this year.

The Hi Tone is a great club. It is THE venue to play in town for its size. They treat people right, and once you establish that you’re a great venue that treats people fairly, word spreads.

So you have the perfect mix of a great venue and great local music {smart groundwork for a benefit concert}, how much of your benefit audience would you guess is actually there just for the music?
No idea. I’d like to think that it’s a mix of motivation. We worked very hard to get a must-see line-up that is diverse and draws different crowds of music lovers who are into different varieties of music. We’ll have everything from singer-songwriters to the lighter side of indie rock to garage rock to punk rock. Whatever your volume preference, we’ve got you covered. People come to see a show and I think what puts us over the top is that people also love the Church Health Center.

Is the audience for an event like this any different than from your regular gigs?
If so, how?

Sure. A lot of the same people come to both, but benefit shows also get people who don’t normally come to shows or who rarely come to shows to come out of the woodwork.

About Pezz
Pezz formed in Memphis in 1989 as a punk rock band and since has released 10 albums and toured all over the US and Europe. Pezz draws inspiration from the likes of Husker Du, Social Distortion, Articles of Faith, Leatherface, Crimpshrine, Jawbreaker, Fugazi, Marginal Man, Superchunk, Naked Raygun and of course, the Bad Brains. Band members include Marvin Stockwell, Ceylon Mooney, Christian Walker, and Anthony Siracusa. Currently, Anthony is traveling across Europe via bike as part of his Watson Fellowship year. His blog about his year-long four-continent trip studying how people use bicycles is
here. Our good friend Shawn Apple {Evil Wizard Eyes, Bury the Living} is filling in on guitar. Shawn is a great guitar player, so he’s learned a lot very quickly and we sound really solid with him in the lineup.

Tell us a little about what the fans can expect from your performance at the benefit.
We bring everything we’ve got every time we’re out. You can hear samples and see our video here
.

What does it mean to you to be a musician in Memphis? Does being in Memphis have any effect on your music?
Oh, I could write a short novel. I am proud to be a musician in Memphis. I DO think there is something very special about our city: its musical past and its musical present; lots of great music happening here - almost too much to fully appreciate. I am proud to be a member of this music scene.

As a musician, what are your “Memphis Insider Raves”?
Hmmmm. If you mean great local bands that go un-noticed, our friends While I Breathe I Hope are great. Karma Elektra; I’m a huge fan of the Compulsive Gamblers who just played a reunion show. I’m a huge fan of the Simpletones and am glad they are playing RFL 3. Every band on the bill this year is a big part of what’s great about the current Memphis music scene. If anyone wants a crash course in great Memphis music, they need to show up this weekend.

The CHC and the Rock for Love benefit are 2 things I am sure many will say make them proud of Memphis. What are other things you would say Memphis can be proud of?

*Rock and roll was born here.
*The self-service grocery store {Piggly Wiggly} started here.
*Overnight shipping {FedEx} started here.
*Holiday Inn; so much good came from here and so many great initiatives are going on now in Memphis such as Smart City, Revolutions Community Bicycle Shop, MPACT Memphis, the Greenline rails to trails project, Shelby Farms, the Farmer’s Market, and
Rock-n-Romp. There’s too much great stuff in Memphis for one person to do.

What fans can expect.
“We have a concert film in the works that will screen at Studio on the Square and be available on DVD shooting for around Christmas time. Live from Memphis and Rocket Science Audio have been there every year working their asses off to capture great live Memphis music for posterity. There may be an audio component of this as well. Maybe we’ll run the table and put it out on vinyl. Who knows?”

~Marvin Stockwell

A compilation cd entitled "Makeshift #5" featuring performers from the first Rock for Love concert is available here.

Thanks Marvin!

Make sure to come out to the show. Buy tickets at Hi-Tone or Shangri-La Records.
Also make sure to look for Pezz's newest release “When Giants Walked the Earth” split LP with While I Breathe I Hope on Makeshift Music. The album cover below is not the latest but my favorite. It’s so cute, which I’m sure is the worst description for a punk/hardcore album. Sorry Marvin.


Related Links Pezz / Marvin’s Blog
Related Posts JD Reager / Jeff Hulett / Church Health Center Documentary + RFL Info and Line-up

Photos from Marvin Stockwell. Banner graphic design by Sophorn.

1 comment:

BJ said...

Love it! He's a great Neighbor too!

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