Mark Doyle Interview
Mark Doyle is well-known in both the Syracuse and Central New York music circle.
He’s been a fixture in Syracuse Rock ‘n’ Roll since his days with “Jukin’ Bone”, a band that went on to sign with RCA Records. Mark Doyle has made quite a name for himself around the world actually.
He did session guitar work for Hall and Oates, Leo Sayer, and Judy Collins to name just a few.
That’s Mark singing background vocals, which he also arranged, on “Straight From The Heart” by Bryan Adams.
He recorded 2 albums as a guitarist/arranger with Andy Pratt, 2 albums as a guitarist/arranger with Cindy Bullens, and 3 albums as a guitarist/arranger with David Werner.
In the late 1980’s, Mark worked as a sting arranger for Producer Maurice Starr.
Maurice Starr’s stable of acts included New Kids On The Block, Tiffany and The Stylistics among others.
When this interview was conducted, it was November 6th 1981.
At that time, Mark was working with Meatloaf, which is where we started the interview.
Q – Mark, is “Meatloaf” coming to Syracuse, and if so, when?
A – That, I honestly can’t tell you. There’s been 3 different dates booked in Syracuse, 2 at the War Memorial, 1 at the Landmark Theatre. But, each one of those has been changed. I know we’re playing Rochester on the 15th, but, I don’t know about Syracuse. See, everything changes from week-to-week the way it is now because we’re basically going where the airplay is. As of January we’re playing in Australia and Europe and all of those dates are sold out ‘cause he’s really huge in Europe. We’re kind of playin’ the States by ear. So, I wish I could tell you more, but, I would hate to give you a date and have it changed anyway. You could just say there’s a tentative date booked at the Landmark Theatre I guess.
Q – How did you hook up with Meatloaf?
A – Well, about 3 years ago I got off the road with Andy Pratt. I had my own studio in Syracuse, and I was just writing and recording with this friend of mine, Joe Whiting. He called me 3 years ago to be in his band, but, at that point, I really wanted to just write. Over the last 2 years I’ve been an independent record producer. If there was ever a time not to be an independent record producer, producing un-known artists, it’s been the last 2 years. So, finally I got to the point where I really had to go out and find some highly visible, highly paying work. I was going to New York to audition for ‘Foreigner’. I also had a standing offer from this guy John Waite, who used to sing for ‘The Babys’, and is now a solo artist on Chrysalis. I was just about to go to New York when this friend of mine Bob Clairemountain, who I co-produced David Werner’s record with called me up. He was in the studio with Meatloaf mixing his album. Meatloaf was there. He got on the phone and said, ‘Don’t go with Foreigner! Go with me. Blah, Blah, Blah.’ He was really familiar with my work and he’s been a fan of mine for a long time. He basically just talked me into it.
Q – So, you could have been the guitarist in “Foreigner” instead of Mick Jones?
A – Not really. What that was, was they were looking for a keyboard player. I went there, and by the time I went to do the audition for ‘Foreigner’, I had made up my mind to go with Meatloaf anyway which was lucky for me because it turned out to be not what I expected it to be. When they first contacted me, I talked to someone in their management or something. They were under the impression they were looking for someone to play guitar and keyboards. It was like a much more visible position than it turned out to be what they were looking for. What it was, was just someone to stand in the sidelines and play keyboards, which I really don’t want to do anyway. So, I decided to go with Meatloaf even before I did this audition with ‘Foreigner’, basically because he was real familiar with my work and I didn’t even have to do an audition. One of the major things that persuaded me to join the band was that Terry Williams is on drums. He used to play in ‘Rockpile’ and all of Nick Lowe’s albums and Dave Edmunds albums. He’s been one of my favorite rock and roll drummers for years. So, as soon as I heard he was in the band, I thought this is a very persuading factor. Also, there’s a feature film called ‘Deadringer’ which features the band and features a lot of concert footage and features the band in kind of an acting capacity. That is going to coincide with the second half of the tour. So, a combination of a lot of things. He was interested in me, and nothings more flattering than someone who is familiar with your own work and also the visibility factor, the fact that I could play lead guitar. It just seemed to be the right decision at the time.
Q – I’ve heard you were also offered a position with Hall And Oates? Why did you turn them down?
A – Well see, I’ve never really been one who made what people refer to as smart career decisions. I’ve always been really interested in being partners with like an unknown artist. That’s one of the things that attracted me to production. The people that I’ve worked with like Andy Pratt, David Werner and Cindy Bullens; they’re not household names but, to me they just had some sort of unique spark to them, what I’ve always been after. It was the same thing in ‘Jukin’ Bone’ when I was with Joe Whiting. My ideal situation would be to collaborate with someone in either a production capacity or songwriting capacity or co-leadership capacity and build something up from the ground floor, so at the end of it you could sit there being successful and say, ‘Yeah, we did this ourselves’. I’ve never really been attracted to kind of hoppin’ on the bandwagon with someone who’s successful. When I was in my studio at home, just writing and recording I turned down like 10 offers in one week. It got harder and harder each week because all the money I put away I was spending. I don’t know. I like Darryl and John. They’ve asked me like three times to be in the band. Also, if I had known they were going to make an album like the ‘voices’ album, which is really much more my genre’ of music than what they were doing previous to that, that might have been more intriguing then. But, I had no way of knowing that. I didn’t really see myself suited to the band. They did. They thought I’d be perfect. But, I don’t know, you know?
Q – What kind of a studio did you have in your home?
A - I had a studio in Lafayette (New York). I found an old drugstore in Lafayette that my wife’s parents owned the building. It was really huge and had all these old prescription booths that you could use for drum booths and different things and there was a whole side that was all carpeted and wood paneling and there was another side that was just like linoleum tiles and real high ceilings. I had a couple of 4 track machines and it was pretty basic stuff. At that point I had been with Andy Pratt for 3 years and the whole thing just kind of dissolved. I wanted to just get back to writing and recording. That’s where I started learning the kind of practical side of production. It was pretty elementary kind of stuff. Two 4 track machines and the playback system, some drums, some instruments, rock ‘n’ roll posters on the wall.
Q – Did you record Syracuse groups in this studio?
A – No. It was strictly myself. Me and Joe’s songs. After that I started producing bands from the Syracuse area. A lot of bands. But, that’s all done at Roschill Studios in Marcellus.
Q – What do you get out of producing some of these local bands like “The New York Flyers”, “The Works”?
A – The Works. The Bashers. The Natives. Joe’s band – Joe Whiting And The Bandit Band. It works on a number of levels for me. First of all, when I was with ‘Jukin’ Bone’ my 1st experience in the studio, both of those 1st two albums we did were really devastating experiences because we were with a really unsympathetic producer. We were just made to feel unworthy of the whole situation. I produce bands for a number of reasons. First of all, there’s a lot of self-interest there because I love the studio. Any chance to develop my own tools in the studio, I’ll accept. But, beyond that for some reason, I can’t explain it, maybe it’s paternal or something, it’s real important to me that that if I see a band that has potential and they’re about to enter the studio for the first time, I would like to go in with them, because it’s important to me to let them feel like they have a future. As I said, my first experience was so devastating. Actually Joe and I are the only two people out of that band that continued on in the music business. A lot of that was just from the psychological damage done to us recording those first two albums.
Q – R.C.A. is a good label for solo acts like Elvis, David Bowie, and John Denver not so good for bands. And, there’s a wild rumor circulating around Syracuse that “805” has just signed with R.C.A.
A – Well, I was just at R.C.A. as a matter of fact, 3 days ago. There’s a guy at R.C.A. now named Dan Loggins. He’s new to R.C.A. He’s been there about 6 weeks. He signed The Clash and he signed Judas Priest. He used to be the head of C.B.S. International in England. I like Dan a lot. I think he’s a man with vision. According to him, R.C.A. is gonna be a totally great label within a year from now. They’re doing some things that are very atypical of R.C.A. Records. I was there playing him tapes from Joe Whiting and from the New York Flyers. He said, ‘These are Syracuse bands, right? I went to see a band called 805’. He gave me the impression that they were at least at the stage where they were taking a serious look at the band. As of 3 days ago, I didn’t hear anything about them being signed.
Q – I’d heard that they were signed last Wednesday in New York City.
A – Yeah? It’s like every band in the area kind of does that. They kind of put the word out about things like that. Then, when they don’t happen they feel really foolish. I hope they have been signed.
Q – I’m just hoping they can do something for “805”.
A – Yeah. Believe me, I was with R.C.A. for 5 years and I wouldn’t be walking through the doors of R.C.A. unless I thought there was a reason. There’s two good people there now. Dan is one of ‘em and this girl named Nanci Jeffries who also works for A and R. It’s like a different co. I immediately assume like everyone else that when they gave $16 million dollars to Diana Ross that that would blow all their development money for new bands, but a lot of things are happening in the record business because the business is in such a kind of sad state. Unfortunately a lot of the independent labels are going by the wayside which kind of forces the established kind of traditional labels to just get a better roster of talent. Eventually, if things continue the way they’re going, it seems like only major labels are going to be left. But, they both assured me they have a certain amount of money allocated for superstars like Diana Ross and they still have an equal amount of money allocated for the development of new music. I think any co. has to be aware that the whole…..you can’t stop pooling money into new music ‘cause it’s the future.
Q – Are you from Syracuse?
A – Well, I was born in Auburn (New York). That’s where my parents are from. My parents are both musicians. My mother plays saxophone, and my father is Bobby Doyle, he’s pretty well known as a piano player around town. I’ve lived in Syracuse for the last 15 years, and I live in Fayetteville (New York). That’s where I like to live. When I’m working all my expenses are paid anyway and I still manage to spend 4 months of the year in New York and 4 months of the year in Los Angeles. There’s no reason to live in either of those places. If that changed and my expenses were no longer taken care of then I would definitely live in New York as opposed to Los Angeles. I just love New York. I Love New York!!(Laughs). But, I love Fayetteville. I’m married and I have a daughter. It’s where my home is, where my parents are. There’s really no reason to leave, plus it’s amazing, the more I go around the country, the more I see that the music scene is Syracuse, believe it or not, at least the last time I was there, it’s a thriving kind of scene for local bands.
Q – Were you in “Free Will”?
A – Yeah.
Q – What was the difference between “Free Will” and “Jukin’ Bone”?
A – ‘Free Will’ was kind of an innovative kind of band. I’ve said this many times and it’s still true, considering the total picture, like the time period of when we existed and for what we were playing for the time, and just the way we looked and the way we played and the caliber of musicianship and writing, it still remains the best band I’ve ever been in for all of those factors. I still go back and listen to ‘Free Will’ tapes, only from the perspective of I’ll go back and watch ‘Napoleon’ or some silent movie and you have to really put yourself back into the time period. When we changed our name to ‘Jukin’ Bone’, by that time it was pretty much over. I’m really not proud of anything ‘Jukin’ Bone’ did although we have a lot of loyal fans that still look at that as the hey-day of music. But, when we were ‘Free Will’, it was quite an innovative band. It was a lot of daring things that we did and also, the whole look of the band. It was kind of a European looking band. It was a cool band to be in. The original five of us were great together. We lived together. We wrote together and it was just something that you never can go back to, you know 12 years later. When everyone’s 18 years old, that’s when it works. But, ‘Jukin’ Bone’ we changed our name because we recorded an album as ‘Free Will’. In those days, if you were signed to R.C.A., you had to use R.C.A. union engineers and R.C.A. studios both of which sucked the Big One for rock ‘n’ roll and we were at least aware of that, that we recorded at Electric Ladyland and hired an outside engineer and so somebody reported us. There was something in Bill board that said, ‘R.C.A. recording artists ‘Free Will’ have finished their album at Electric Ladyland Studios’. So then when we recorded the ‘Whiskey Woman’ album, it took a year for the record to come out and we had to change the name and it just got real bizarre. We actually had to wait until the union regulations changed. (Laughs). ‘Jukin’ Bone’ was just kind of a basic, obvious rock ‘n’ roll band. We were a ‘live’ band and we had a grasp on what went over in terms of playing for people and the more basic we played the better it seemed to be received. We kind of made this transition into a pure rock ‘n’ roll band which frustrated a lot of the original musicians in the band. Then, we just turned it into a band like Elf or something. We were just like a kick-ass rock ‘n’ roll band and it got pretty stale pretty fast.
Q – Now, after ‘Jukin’ Bone’, you joined a band called ‘Duv’ with Dave Hanlon and Ric Cua. Then, you did session work. How did you get from ‘Duv’ to doing session work?
A – I went to Boston and I had this deal where I had unlimited studio time at this studio, in Boston. Andy Pratt was co-owner of the studio. I was doing a solo tape of my own playing all the instruments. One day he happened to pop in and apparently I had a profound effect on him. He never met anyone that was quite as diverse or effective as me, or whatever. So, I started working with Andy. Through Andy I met this great producer named Arif Mardin, who had done The Bee Gees, and all the old Aretha Franklin and Rascals records. He’s just a legend in the music business. Arif really liked my playing a lot, so Arif got me to play on a Hall And Oates album that he did and a Judy Collins record that he did. Then Carly (Simon) asked me to join her band at one time and go out on the road with her, but, I was doing something else at the time. So I never actually recorded with her. That’s just the way it happens. If you can get heard by the right people in this business, then word gets around. Arif asked me to do the Hall And Oates record and they heard me, and I had the same effect on them as I had on Andy. For the next 2 or 3 years they were consistently trying to get me in their band. After I turned them down for the 3rd time I knew they wouldn’t ask again. I’m glad they’re doing so well. Their career has had a great resurgence.
Q – So, besides you and Ric Cua and Duane Hitchings, there aren’t too many Central New York musicians who have gone on to do national, international recording projects.
A – Joe English (Wings – Paul McCartney). There’s a lot of S.U. alummi. It’s funny, I was talking to Garland Jeffreys on the phone the other day and he wanted me to tour with him. He went to S.U. I never knew that. But, he and Lou Reed, and Howie Wyeth and some of The Rascals. A lot of people have gone to S.U. but, I guess you’re right, in terms of actually being residents of Syracuse since birth, me and Duane and Ric and Joe are the only ones. But God, four people from a town that size is pretty encouraging.
Q – You must think that there is someone out there, someone in Syracuse who is good enough to be signed.
A – Oh God, yeah. I wouldn’t be working…..all the people that I’ve worked with have the eventual potential to be signed. If their with someone like me that’s encouraging and understanding with them and helps them realize their potential in the studio then I think The Works are a great band. The Natives are going through personnel changes and they’re a bit kind of New Wave, but, even The Natives have potential for their age especially. The Flyers have their own thing. Everyone of ‘em really has a lot of potential. I think Joe Whiting still is a major un-discovered talent in Syracuse.
Q – Didn’t I read that Joe Whiting is working as a carpenter now and is putting a band together to work weekends?
A – He’s a lot more serious. I just went into the studio with him and we recorded two of the songs we’ve co-written. He’s having the record pressed like everyone else and it’s coming out real soon. I’ve really been trying to get some attention for him because he’s really great and he’s a lot more serious about it. Something’s happened over the last year, I don’t know what it is exactly, but, he’s really gotten to the point where he’s really serious about it again. As I say, what we went through with that band; we were all quite young, 18, 19, and 20, and just to go through what we went through with ‘Jukin’ Bone’ and to be promised the world and to have the whole thing kind of collapse on you, it’s pretty hard to recover from something like that. Even though Joe and I continued, I’ve had a lot more success than Joe has had. The repercussions of those years I think are still ringing in those years. He seems to be in good shape these days.
Q – With “Jukin’ Bone” it wasn’t only your record label that did you wrong was it? Didn’t your management play a role in the group break-up?
A – Oh, yeah. It was everything. But, when it comes right down to it, it was our fault. Really nobody can make a band go in and make a bad album. We knew we were getting ripped off. We were really into a lot of drugs, drinking a lot. It took me years and years to re-discover my love of music and to realize I’ve been doing this since I was 4 years old and to really kind of re-establish the honorable reasons for doing this. Like so many people that get into this business and fall for the glamour and think that it’s all sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, that’s really what happened with ‘Jukin’ Bone’. We fell for the whole trip. That’s what eventually destroyed us. So, it’s our fault. Sure, our manager ripped us off for $35,000 and sure our record co. didn’t do fuck-all to help us, but, they didn’t even have the best records in the world to promote. So, the ultimate responsibility is ours. I can say that 10 years later, but we went through years and years of bitterness blaming everyone else, but really the ball stops here.
Q – Jukin’ Bone went on tour with Three Dog Night and The Allman Bros. Is that true?
A – Sure. We toured with Z.Z. Top, Freddie King, The Allman Bros. Three Dog Night.
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