Interview with Blabbermouth's Mark Roberts

Our tutor tells all on his new Blabbermouth project and why new artists need "to let the random in"...


'Music is more interesting if you make space to let the random in,' says ICMP Drums tutor Mark Roberts

Mark is well placed to give some great insight into what it takes to stay interesting. 

After years of success on the road and in the studio with the likes of chart toppers D:Ream, Massive Attack and Neneh Cherry alongside teaching, Mark's music currently lies across a wide variety of exciting projects. Perhaps best known as a drummer for hire, he runs Panic Studios  and hosts an eclectic radio show on Threads Radio

His latest endeavour is the eclectic sonic provocation of Blabbermouth, a new musical adventure in collaboration with PiL's Lu Edmonds.

With their debut full length album 'Hörspiel' imminent and featuring a huge range of collaborators including Yat-Kha throat-singer Albert Kuvezin and Mekons singer Sally Timms, we quizzed Mark on the new project, how it started and what makes him and his music tick... 

How did Blabbermouth begin?

I met Lu Edmonds many years ago via a manager friend of our’s Jim Chapman. We were introduced together on this album by Babar Luck who used to be the bassist in King Prawn. I was asked to do the drums on the record and kept in contact with Lu as I thought he was a really interesting character. He’s an amazing musician, plays in PiL with John Lydon, he was in the Damned, has played with the Mekons. Plus he plays some really interesting instruments. He has some pedal boards which resemble space ships!

We kept in contact and jammed together a bit. I’m into improvisation and believe that if you get offered musical moments with talented individuals, then you should seize them. So we ended up recording together a few years ago. We sat on the recordings for a bit and Blabbermouth began from there...


How did you put the record together?

The challenge with improv is that you end up with hours of music, which you need to try and make sense of. But Lu is a ProTools master, he has that kind of mind so we sat together for ages listening and pulling out the interesting sections.

What spoke to us was what made the cut, regardless of whether it was a good take or not - this was more about the atmosphere and aesthetic rather than trying to achieve perfection." 

Lu is also a great wordsmith and he started cultivating various texts and matching them with musical textures. Each song had a character and came out of that.

I started playing around with synths on different versions of the tracks. I played Lu all the rough sonic pictures I’d come up with, he liked them and it grew from there to the mixing and mastering to the final versions which you can hear on the record.

What are your hopes for the release?

We want to get it out to as many people as possible and make the most of the opportunities it creates for us. I believe musicians go through periods - sometimes you’re more open to ideas, other times you’re more closed - I’m definitely going through one of the former.

How does your teaching complement all the other projects you’re working on?

I just do a lot of projects really. A few years ago I didn’t and felt like I was in a bit of a box. Now I’m more comfortable working across different projects whether it be running Panic Studios or drumming.

I’ve always taught from the mid-eighties. I started at Drum Tech when it was one room some time ago. I’ve been at ICMP since 2010 which I’ve loved. I try to open up creativity in students and help them discover what inspires them. 

I like introducing various different ways of writing music to my students. There are ways of developing music by tapping into artists like Fela Kuti and music from all over the world that goes beyond sitting in the round in a Nashville style.

For me, I want to open up ears and allow musicians to be themselves and draw on their own creativity rather than imitate on trend sounds. I try and promote creativity and get people triggering and firing."

What’s the secret behind an effective collaboration?

I think when you work with different people, you need to let your collaborator be themselves too. If you ask someone to collaborate, let it be a two way thing rather than just having someone play drums for you. Respect the artist who is coming into collaborate. That makes it more interesting, if you let the random in. Unlikely collaborations can lead to really exciting sounds - be open to them. 

What’s your top advice for aspiring musicians on sustaining a career?

It’s about balance these days in music. To have a career you might have to do cover gigs and function bands to earn money. But it’s always thinking about why you did music in the first place. Being an artist is about you discovering what you want to do artistically and not really caring about what people think you should do. Juggle jobs but stay true to the original ideas you had.

There was a turning point for me when I did 25 years of touring, then I decided I wasn’t happy with the direction I was going in, I didn’t only want to keep playing for other people. That led me to where I am now.

Visit Blabbermouth's Facebook profile and Instagram to find out more.

Visit Dirter Promotions' website to learn more about their debut album.  

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by Jim Ottewill
April 25, 2019
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