People with Passion: guitarist Marcus Rezak

People with Passion: Marcus Rezak

Interview September 22, 2010

Rezak, performing with FiveSTAR at LaSalle Power Co., May 2010 (photo by Michael Litchfield)

We are at Rezak’s West Loop apartment. The windows look down upon the Lake Ave. El line. The room is filled with guitars and books of sheet music. Rezak is mindlessly picking at a sun burst fender telecaster, his fingers working independent of our conversation. He sits in a chair across from me. I set my tape recorder on the arm of his chair for my usual sound check. “Sound test for Marcus Rezak, September 22, 2010,” I say. Before I can give further instruction, Rezak begins a guitar jaunt of simple amusement. It lasts one minute and five seconds…

“Digital Tape Machine started a year ago as a studio project, which was intended initially to do video game music, licensing, stuff like that. The project was started by Dan Rucinski from Land of Atlantis. I was asked to play guitar and compose a bunch of guitar parts. That was my initial role. Other people were brought into the project to help influence things – over the last year it’s been getting refined and developed into a finished project, which it is now, and will be pressed into an album in the coming month. But uh, only over the course of the last couple months have we assembled a live group. Taking it out of the studio. We’ve wanted to make it a live thing. Dan and I, at least.

“Our first gig was actually very recently. We’ve gotten out of the studio to rehearse for that gig over the last couple months, or at least preparing over the last couple months. We had to do a lot of work to get everything aligned, because we have pre-recorded tracks underneath the music that a DJ is doing, so it took a couple extra rehearsals to get that going. We had our first show recently at One-Earth Music Festival. We played the 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. set which was very fun…”

There’s nothing more instructive than getting out and playing in front of people. Performing. It’s a very real life kind of experience. On the other hand, being in the recording studio in a high-pressure situation where time is money and people are expecting you to deliver is also very real. You’re being told by a producer what to play – at least directed to what they are looking for. You’re being instructed as you’re doing your job.

And teaching, you learn a lot too. You learn a lot about yourself. You learn a lot about people, particularly younger people. I find myself realizing things about how to teach a kid or relate something to a kid a certain way, because every kid’s different. You may have to do something six different ways until you finally get it with somebody.

Talking about all of those different experiences within the one act of “I play the guitar,” do you find that you have different motivation when you’re on stage with just one other guitarist, against being in a band and having two guitarists, like you and Jared, against, say, FiveSTAR, where, you know, you’re the guitar…

Rezak (left) and Jared Rubin (right) trade guitar parts with The Hue at Double Door (photo by Ryan Gac)

It’s totally different, because it’s a different sort of interaction. In the Hue we’re doing something that is not as common.  We are being two lead guitar players and two rhythm guitar players at any given time. Typically there’s a rhythm and a lead player. I’m used to doing both just fine. But we go back and forth. There’s more listening. Normally when you’re playing guitar, you’re listening to the drums and the bass, and whatever else – to the soloist if you’re playing rhythm, and if you’re soloing you’re just kind of doing your thing. But with the Hue, we bounce off of each other. We’re interactive. It’s a lot of three-part listening at all times between the drums and the bass and each other, Jared and I. It gives people something to watch.

That’s different than being in a group that’s like, you know, FiveSTAR or Governor Switch, where I’m the only guitar player and the only harmony instrument. I have more space to fill. I don’t have to be as sparse or selective. I can play chords when I want to. When the solo comes, I can just solo. It’s the role of the guitar player at the easiest level. You know your job when you’re the only harmony and sometimes lead instrument. As a guitar player, you should know that.

Everyone’s got an underlying character about them. That will never change. And then there’s that top layer with a lot of people: more adaptive, can flex to different situations. Be slight modifiers of their typical behavior. Not that they’re even conscious of it sometimes. It just happens. When I go into different musical situations, I do have that top layer that’s sort of the chameleon inside of me, to adapt to be right for the given situation, to make it sound good and to have my attitude be where it needs to be. I’m not going to go into an acoustic (pause) – well, I don’t know. Maybe I would go into an acoustic gig and start playing some heavy stuff on it. It wouldn’t sound bad. But typically if it’s going to be a folksy, singer-songwriter gig, I’m not gonna be like, “I’m gonna come in and shred all over the place,” just crazy. Be more melodic, and tasteful, and play less, if anything.

I’ve seen you with The Hue doing the dueling guitar thing, and with FiveSTAR or 56 Hope Road, and I’ve seen your two-man acoustic set with dude from 56. Regardless of the set-up, what is it like to be on stage playing guitar? What is that experience like?

Rezak (third from left) with Digital Tape Machine (photo from RoseMountainPhoto.com)

It’s a lot of fun. It’s complete escape for me. Serenity. It is. It’s the one thing that I enjoy doing the most. It’s like a vacation. (Laughs.) Even if the music’s extremely intense and vigorous and hard, it’s still a vacation because it takes my mind to just focus on the music. I’m lucky that I’ve found that that’s my favorite place to be.

In front of large crowds, that feeling gets enhanced, by a lot. To know and to see people enjoying it is the biggest rush. Certain times when I’m playing certain kinds of music, I’ll get more into it than others. It’ll just be like that. Some music doesn’t require as much focus necessarily. It requires more feeling. Which I know right away. Other times it’s very involved and I’m completely immersed into the music itself. That in combination with people enjoying it – that’s what it is for me. Because I feel the rush. That’s my selfish side. I feel the rush of it. It feels good to just play.

I was always a real bored kid. Not that I didn’t have things to do. I was always very curious, and I got bored with things after I figured them out. I learned them and there was nothing more to do with them, so I was just bored. When I was – I think I was 11 – I got my hands on a guitar for the first time. And was like, “Wow, I’m making all of these sounds that I’ve heard before,” you know, just off the bat. The person whose guitar it was showed me a Nirvana song that was really easy. That just felt like an escape for me…

As time has gone on, I’ve realized that understanding the guitar and playing it as well as I want to is an infinite conquest. I will never get bored playing guitar, ever. There’s always more to it. That in conjunction with it being sort of, on a personal note, an emotional escape at times when I was younger. Playing was a distraction, a place to channel my feelings. It started as a hobby, but quickly turned into an extension of myself.

Jack M Silverstein is a freelance writer covering music and culture in Chicago. Contact him at jack@readjack.com, or say hey at twitter/readjack or facebook/readjack.

Catch Marcu s online with marcusrezak.com, The Hue, 56 Hope Road , FiveSTAR, Governor Switch, and Digital Tape Machine.

Check out photographers Ryan Gac, Michael Litchfield, and Rose Mountain Photo.


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