Never too late to make a mark
Not everyone is as self aware as this 59 year old, who has just made his first album, 10 cents above a beggar – Mark Gresty’s Pappadom Songs.
“My name is Mark Gresty and I am getting old,” said the man, whose songs reflect his journeys across continents and a lot of self-analysis.
Currently a teacher trainer, the Englishman who lives in Suwaiq has taught English at various places in Oman. “I came to Oman because it was a mystery to me and that was attractive.
Being older, I do not feel that adventurous now and am looking to settle down somewhere. The next time I move it will be to the place that they carry me out of, I hope,” he said.
When he was growing up in England, Gresty, like many young boys his age, was interested in music. “I have been a musician since I was 11. It started with piano lessons with my sisters but that didn’t even come close to satisfying the urge to do something as thrilling as music by the Beatles, Rolling Stones and The Pretty Things,” said Gresty.
At 16, against his parent’s wishes, he bought a ‘cheap bass guitar and a teach yourself book’ because he liked the sound of bass. “It was during the second wave of pop music, when the baton of creativity passed from America to Liverpool.
Every song was a giant step forward. Young people seemed to be taking control and getting rid of old attitudes,” he said.
For him, parental disapproval was an incentive to get better. “I had the usual musical inspirations of any young bass player including Jack Bruce from Cream, Jack Casady from
Jefferson Airplane and James Jamerson from Tamla Motown. As a general inspiration, Prince is God to me,” said Gresty.
Now, decades later, he believes that he is a dilettante. “I do a little of this and little of that but nothing to any specialist degree. As far as technique goes, I should be much better but I do not have enough time to hold down a job, live a real life and still put in the practice to move forward.”
He never gave up his ambition, however, to make his own album and kept writing and composing whenever he could. “I used to be in punk/new wave bands in the UK during the late 70s and early 80s. We ran out of money so I had to abandon music.
I kept writing but without an outlet and it seemed pointless. I assumed that I had run out of things to say to the world.
“Then last year, I started to write again and this time the songs just kept coming – 160 till date. Not all of them are great but some are not too bad either. People reacted very positively to them when I played them at charity events and to friends.
When I had all these songs, I started to think of what to do with them and the obvious thing was to record them since there are limited outlets for performing them here.”
His earlier attempts to contact the record companies were not successful. “I am not especially photogenic and with no hair I was never going to be every schoolgirl’s dream. But this time I thought I could do it myself. Not entirely by myself since friends and students have made significant contributions,” said Gresty.
The CD was recorded while on a vacation in Sri Lanka. “I was lucky to meet some great musicians. I recorded demos without guitar and beat box and then called in the musicians to fill in the gaps.
“I chose the songs I thought would make a varied collection of different moods, rhythms and styles. There are actually fewer ‘Jazzy’ things than I normally do but I will rectify that when I do the next album. Some of them are quite ‘Bluesy’ while there is also a lot of Latin stuff,” he said.
Gresty wants to market the album, which is now available on his web page (www.markgresty.com). “I have sent it to various music magazines and newspapers around the world and I hope that they will review it.”
There is also a music video of the song, Romantic Warrior, on YouTube. “My idea was to do a spoof black and white video like the Keystone Cops and Charlie Chaplin. “We incorporated a short crazy chase sequence and with the mother played by a man, it’s half pastiche and half pantomime,” he said.
Pappadom Songs, the second part of the album title, came from a friend’s jocular comparison of his songs to the Indian snacks that are tasty and easy to make without having much nutritional value. “Let the listeners decide how nutritious they are!” he said.