Maybe he reminds me of a high school teacher... like a grade eight art class teacher who does pastel paintings of buffalo!
Mr. Marshall lives a magicial wooden house in Portland with his best girl, breaking the hearts of many of his gay male and straight female followers. I was introduced to him years ago when he played Hoko's in Vancouver. My friend loved him and asked me what I thought of him. I told her he sounded like a mixture of "The Idiot"-era Iggy Pop, Suicide, and (sorry, Rex) Nick Cave. He was a novelty to me because he got was the only performer I'd seen in Vancouver that got in people's faces and wore a suit. What I said that day still stands, but I have become a super ultimate fan of Mattress. I've even bought several recordings from him...something my cheapness often prevents me from doing.
Rex usually sings alone with the aid of a tape player. He sometimes uses light props, sometimes gets down on his knees and sings to the ground, and often sings to the sky as if he is preaching. He doesn't even need a stage to be seen. He is a born performer and you shouldn't fuck with him.
When The Mutators and Modern Creatures went on tour together in the Spring of 2008, Rex let us stay at his house and Jeremiah (my hubby) and I got to sleep in his bed! Wow, I looked at the books on his bookshelf when I was in there...I believe there was some Bukowski. I fondly remember Rex's desert memorabilia, his piano, and the tidyness of his dwellings. I also fondly remember his laugh, which is in my top best three laughs list. He is like a character out of David Lynch film...except more polite, and more srexy than all the male Lynch-directed characters except for maybe Agent Cooper. Here is our email interview, which was well worth the three month wait!
Nikki Never: You've mentioned that you work at the library. At UBC's library in Vancouver, people are rumoured to have sex on the less occupied floors. What are some of the weirdest behind the scenes things you've seen at your library?
Rex Marshall: Last year, a dead kitten was found in the front of the library. In the bushes. Janitors picked up the cat, and threw it away in a trash can near the restrooms. I did not see this, but I did see the email that said "DEAD KITTEN IN TRASH NEAR LIBRARY OFFICE."
NN: What do you like about Portland?
RM: Portland is cheap and convenient. That is the definition of home I guess; a place where you know where to find the cheapest burrito and strongest coffee. I am also hobbled by my job and friends, two things I do not want to quit on just yet.
NN: What do your lyrics mean to you? (Especially, the line,"You've gotta
church that shit"?)
RM: You’ve gotta church that shit, often. I awoke one morning and said to my lady, "CHURCH THAT SHIT." It made perfect sense. I then ran a drum machine through some effects 'til it sounded like water dripping into a metal bowl. I then "portamentoed" the keys so it was a grand swell that could rise to the rafters. The words came later and I thought this is the most positive song I have ever written and maybe I should throw it out. I performed it soon after and realized it was very dramatic and somehow comic. And people understand that when I say, "church that shit, I mean church that shit."
NN: Tell me about your Canadian tour- I heard a rumour that you once said, "FUCK MEDICINE HAT!"
RM: I am writing a little book about that Canada adventure. Let’s say for now that Medicine Hat was either not ready for Mattress or Mattress was not ready for Medicine Hat.
NN: Your home and your music makes me think of the desert. Have you ever been to the desert? Do feel the same way I do?
RM: I am from Las Vegas, Nevada- the Silver State. The state where the government set off over 800 nuclear explosions because they didn’t think it would hurt the landscape of tan sand beige bushes and brown treeless mountains.
NN: Who or what do people say you sound like that really annoys you or makes you feel proud?
RM: Someone once caught the Captain Beefheart in my music and that was impressive. The same fella also found the Howlin' Wolf in there. Someone said I was like a David Lynch performance and that was O.K. I wouldn’t mind if people stopped the Nick Cave mention. Just because we are both tall, white men with similar hair doesn’t mean we sound anything alike.
NN: As I've told you before, I think you should be world famous by now. What are you currently doing to reach MY goal for you?
RM: I am putting together a band, I think...and ringtones! Someone may actually talk me into doing t-shirts too, though I don’t wear t-shirts and think there are too many in existence already.
NN: If I was to take you on an excursion, first to laser bowling, then to a fancy restaurant with Iggy Pop and Martin Rev, what would you wear? How would you style your hair? Remember, there are black lights at laser bowling, but it's not a trick question.
RM: I would probably not go because I would not know what to wear. Also, I am a poor bowler. The holes in bowling balls have a peculiar smell. Does anyone but me notice this?
NN: Do you like any bands from Vancouver?
RM: Honestly, I think Vancouver has a great music scene. Much more cohesive and together than Portland. Here, I feel like bands are trying to make it in a big way. Vancouver bands play to play. They put out records to give to friends and rarely bother about reviews or press. N. 213, Terrorbird, Twin Crystals, The Doers, Stamina Mantis, Shearing Pinx, Modern creatures, Nu sensae. I am forgetting some.
NN: This one's for your parents! Are you planning on having children? How
many do you want?
RM: I don’t have parents.
NN: What would you do if Phil Collins asked to do a duet with you, Lion King-style?
RM: This is a high school question I can totally get into. I would have him sign that I would get half of the royalties. Then I would use an alias, like Marky Mark.
NN: How long have you been making music?
RM: Twelve year anniversary coming up. I have been performing at various levels for about ten I think. How did that happen?
NN: How do you record your songs?
RM: Basement laboratory! I’ll send you a picture.
NN: Everyone in Vancouver calls you "Sexy Rexy." How do you react to
something like that?
RM: I was first called Sexy Rexy at Crestwood Elementary sometime during the 4th grade. It made me mad then. Now, well, the right person has to say it to make it work.
You can find Mattress at www.mattressmusic.com or www.myspace.com/rexmattress. He has a fantastic record out that I listen to with all my best friends! It's called "Heavy Duty" and it's solid gold, just like Mattress.