An actor, singer, composer and poet, Marcus Reeves has brought his theatrical style of cabaret to London’s variety stages, from the Battersea Barge to The Double R Club. C.J. Lazaretti speaks to the glitter-faced polymath about Black Tears, his upcoming debut single.
Black Tears sounds like a straightforward pop single, unlike the more theatrical songs you perform in the cabaret circuit. Why did you choose it as the first single from Quicksilver?
As an independent, unsigned artist, whichever song I put out as my first official release will define what people think I am. Black Tears is a good taster of what I do. But I’ve always written in different styles.
The next singles from Quicksilver – The Masquerade Macabre are possibly even more pop-rock. Other songs show more mischief, camp or theatricality, but as some of my more mainstream live shows have shown me, not everybody’s ready for that on first listen.
What brought you to cabaret in the first place?
The team I had worked with on my last major project, Postcards from God – The Sister Wendy Musical, did not bring out much of the project’s charm, or add much panache to the music. After the two rather lacklustre productions in 2007 and 2008, I found myself stuck as a writer and performer. I had songs to play. However, they felt either stale or like segments of shows I had written or half-written, but not expressing my own voice. It was then that I began performing more on the cabaret circuit than the music scene, and I started experimenting with new stage looks.
What’s up with the glittery face?
My glitter-face look was influenced by the make-up style of Pierre La Roche, who designed for David Bowie and The Rocky Horror Picture Show with a strong dash of Lindsay Kemp camp. I’ll let you into a little secret: originally, the design for the “mask” was going to be blue, until a helpful friend pointed out that it might upset a certain well-known ukulele-wielding blue lady.
The glitter changed to holographic silver, and along with that came the nickname “Quicksilver”. It’s a reference to the fact that my music changes in style, and also a coded nod to the stage theatrics of Freddie Mercury.
It’s a character, then? I smell a concept album here.
The album has a loose storyline that takes in the themes of identity, love and death. Songs like Behind the Mask and Welcome to the Underworld were written specifically with Quicksilver in mind. The actor created the character from the outside in, but it has then taken over and written the script.
You’re one of many British cabaret performers to enlist the help of musical director Michael Roulston. Have you two worked together before?
Michael and I have been working on the songs that make up Quicksilver for about two and a half years now. We met almost four years ago, to work on a revised version of Postcards from God, a large and formative project for me.
Legal wrangles meant that we couldn’t work on the project straight after the last production, so in 2009 Michael helped arrange and produce the songs in Three Zero, my rather ponderous “introspective retrospective” about turning 30. We finally got cracking on a concept album for Postcards in 2010, which was a great success given that we tried to record 18 songs in very little time and on a small budget.
Michael continues to be an incredibly sophisticated arranger and musical director of my work, as well as a very valued and candid critical eye. I certainly wouldn’t be where I am now without his input, and I hope our collaboration can continue for a good while yet.
The words “phonographic industry” conjure a bleak image in these days of slumping record sales. Why release an album now?
My goal with Quicksilver has always been to create a significant body of work that introduces me as a songwriter and performer to new audiences, and shows my existing audience another side of me. I almost let a well-respected record producer talk me out of the whole project on the grounds that “nobody makes albums anymore,” but in fact that wobble drove me on further to follow my vision.
Do you worry about piracy?
At this stage, I don’t worry about people sharing my music online illegally. There’s not a lot I can do to stop them, and if they like it enough to do that, then that’s actually more important to me. Everyone of my age remembers taping and sharing music they loved as a teenager, so it would be hypocritical of me to wag the finger now that I’m on the other side of the mic.
What’s left to complete the album?
Nick Trepka (who produced Tricity Vogue’s The Blue Lady Sings) has done brilliant work so far on the six teaser songs I’ve put up on SoundCloud. I hope to complete work on the remaining seven tracks as soon as possible. I will be launching a crowd-funding project in the new year to finish the project.
What are your plans to promote the album?
Last year I presented a semi-staged version of Quicksilver at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, which had a great reception. I hope to perform that again at some point. I’d also love to play live shows with the musicians who recorded the album. The new year will bring at least one more single, and the album will definitely see the light of day in 2013.
Marcus Reeves launches his debut single Black Tears as a digital download on iTunes on November 5th. See www.reevescorner.co.uk for downloads, upcoming dates and other details.