Mark Kozelek - Biography
By Marcus Kagler
As the mastermind behind such critically lauded bands as Red House Painters and Sun Kil Moon, singer/songwriter Mark Kozelek has made a career from constructing intense confessional bedroom music. A key figure in the American alternative “slowcore” movement of the early 90’s, Kozelek practically owned a slowcore sub-category where brutal autobiographical songs were transformed into pillars of existential beauty. After a four year stint on 4AD consisting of four acclaimed Red House Painters albums, Kozelek found himself without a label and a fifth RHP album, Old Ramon (2001-Sub Pop) sitting on shelf in label transition limbo with no set release date. Loath to release music under his own name, Kozelek finally bit the bullet after two years of waiting for Old Ramon, and released his first solo work, Rock ‘N’ Roll Singer (Badman Recording Co.) in 2000. Consisting of three Bon Scott era AC/DC covers completely reworked as acoustic melancholy only Kozelek can achieve, a few RHP b-sides, and a cover of John Denver’s “Around and Around” the collection divided critics and fans with some singling out the AC/DC covers as brilliant and other’s slamming the album as Kozelek throw away tracks.
Kozelek returned the following year with What’s Next To The Moon (2001-Badman Recording Co.) an entire album of subtle reworked AC/DC covers with Kozelek utilizing only his distinct baritone and an acoustic guitar to transform the brash hard rock of AC/DC into heartfelt folk songs more akin to Nick Drake. The album was an amazing achievement but fans and critics were still hungry for original material. A few months later Old Ramon was finally released to the highest critical praise of Kozelek’s career and Red House Painters best selling album. During the holiday season of 2001, Kozelek released a limited edition live solo LP, White Christmas Live (2001-Sub Pop) only available through mail order and consisting of 12 live tracks from a solo tour of Scandinavia, including the holiday favorite “White Christmas”. Unfortunately the whole Old Ramon conundrum soured Kozelek’s experience working with outside labels and he dissolved Red House Painters shortly after the release of Old Ramon to begin work on his new incarnation, Sun Kil Moon. Largely a continuation of RHP, the Sun Kil Moon material explored more subtle musical and lyrical content than ever before and after releasing the debut album, Ghosts of the Great Highway (2003-Jetset), Kozelek formed his own label, Caldo Verde Records, which has released the majority his solo and Sun Kil Moon material to this day.
Kozelek has spent the majority of his time writing, recording, and touring Sun Kil Moon material ever since. The second SKM album, Tiny Cities (2005-Caldo Verde) harkens back to his AC/CD days, only this time it was an album of stripped down Modest Mouse covers. The third SKL full length, April (Caldo Verde) is not so ironically due in April of 2008. Kozelek also has a side project of raw experimental rock music with Low frontman Alan Sparhawk called Retribution Gospel Choir, whose self titled debut full length will also be released in spring of 2008. Kozelek has only released one other solo album, Little Drummer Boy Live (2006-Caldo Verde), a limited edition companion piece to White Christmas Live featuring 20 live tracks of Red House Painters, Sun Kil Moon, and Kozelek solo material recorded at various venues between 2003 and 2006.