Exclusive feature Photo by Lisa S. Johnson (Author / 108 Rock Star Guitars). MGT will be featured in her upcoming 2nd edition.
British musician Mark Gemini Thwaite (MGT) has been the guitarist for many industry luminaries with an extensive and impressive list of bands that he’s been involved with along with various live and recorded appearances. His talents have literally rocked through many different genres for the past three decades with precision and ease, embracing industrial rock, alternative rock, alternative metal, gothic rock, and hard rock, just to name a few.
MGT has worked with the following, The Mission, Tricky, Peter Murphy, New Disease, Spear of Destiny, Theatre of Hate, Mob Research (with Paul Raven of Killing Joke), Canadian band National Velvet, Big Paul Ferguson (Killing Joke) and currently with The Wonder Stuff.. And if that wasn’t enough to catch your attention, he’s also had various live and recorded appearances with Gary Numan, Al Jourgensen (Ministry), Revolting Cocks, Roger Daltrey (The Who), P.J. Harvey, Alanis Morissette, Primitive Race (with Chuck Mosley of Faith No More), Ricky Warwick (Thin Lizzy), Ginger (The Wildhearts), Stan Lee (Marvel Comics), Franz Treichler (The Young Gods), Miles Hunt (The Wonder Stuff), Ashton Nyte (The Awakening), Burton C. Bell (Fear Factory), Laurence “Lol” Tolhurst and Porl Thompson (The Cure), Ville Valo (Finnish band HIM), Warrior Soul, Michael Monroe (Hanoi Rocks) and Michael Ciravolo (Beauty In Chaos).
Torched Magazine is honored to have had this exclusive opportunity to talk with MGT. We touched on many highlights from his extensive and illustrious career, past and present. He gives us his insight into touring with Peter Murphy’s Bauhaus Ruby Tour ft. David J and drummer Marc Slutsky, working with industry luminaries along with inspiring moments and memories, his favorite go-to guitars and why, and touring with The Wonder Stuff!
Stay tuned for Part Two of this exclusive interview with MGT where he goes into highlights and challenges in regards to Peter Murphy’s long awaited residency at The Chapel in SF and favorite albums played live, his favorite hobbies outside of music and details on his contributions to Peter Murphy’s solo albums Ninth and The Secret Bees Of Ninth EP, spotlighting tracks ‘Rose Hunter’ and ‘Uneven & Brittle.
Photo courtesy of MGT/Schecter Guitars
You just finished up a worldwide Ruby Tour with Peter Murphy (along with David J and new drummer Marc Slutsky) celebrating 40 years of Bauhaus that included shows in South America, Australasia, Europe, and North America (including Mexico and Canada). What were some of your favorite highlights and challenges during this historic tour?
MGT: Some folks may be unaware that although I’ve been Peter’s guitarist on and off since 2005, I actually wasn’t in Peter’s band last year, John Andrews had stepped in as Peters guitarist since 2016, and as the Ruby tour with David J was about to commence in Brazil.. the band heard last minute that John needed an emergency stomach operation and wouldn’t be able to make the first month or two of the Ruby tour. I got the call asking me if I could step in at the 11th hour – literally 4 days before the tour was due to start – and I was on a plane two days later bound for South America, to rehearse in Sao Paulo before the first show there.
I had the advantage of having toured the Mr Moonlight Bauhaus 35th Anniversary tour with Peter back in 2013, so many of the songs in the set list were already ingrained in my muscle memory, just had to learn a few Flat Field songs I’d not played live before.. Dive, Small Talk Stinks, St Vitus etc. It was an exciting opportunity and I seized it with gratitude, and after the South American and Australian dates were completed, it was decided by Peter & David that they would like me to stay on and complete the European and US tour dates as well, which I happily agreed to. There were so many amazing shows on this tour, it was an honour to get to play the classic Bauhaus songs with David J – one of my favourite bassists, and Marc Slutsky was amazing too, a real powerhouse drummer and ultra solid. We all agreed that there was a chemistry between the band that I hadn’t experienced before, very special…
MGT, Peter Murphy and David J in Thessaloniki Greece, December 2018 (Photo: Manos Kalafatelis)
Over the course of your extensive and impressive career, you’ve had the opportunity to work with many industry luminaries/peers. What are some of your most cherished or inspiring moments working with the following?
Wayne Hussey / The Mission – I joined The Mission way back in 1992.. at the time I was living in West London, and was playing guitar with Spear of Destiny and Theatre of Hate, both lineups formed and fronted by Kirk Brandon.. we had recorded the ‘Sod’s Law’ album and subsequent tour… I auditioned and was offered the job with The Mish that year.. and whilst we were writing and recording songs for the new Mission album that was later to become ‘Neverland’, the Mission’s label Polygram opted to release a singles collection, albeit a form of Greatest Hits.. the band had over 14 top 40 hit singles over their illustrious career… the label asked for two new songs to feature as bonus tracks so Wayne gave them new songs ‘Afterglow’ and ‘Sour Puss’.. the former featured some lead guitar I was particularly proud of, and to see this track released as a single in 1994 and included on The Mission’s ‘Sum and Substance’ singles album alongside classics like ‘Wasteland’, ‘Deliverance’ and ‘Tower of Strength’ was exhilarating.. even better was to perform ‘Tower Of Strength’ – remixed by Youth of Killing Joke – with the band on legendary British TV show ‘Top Of The Pops’ in 1994, which was an institution when growing up in the UK. To many, appearing on TOTP was akin to having ‘made it in the music biz’.. the truth was far from it, but nevertheless it was tremendously exciting for my family!
Gary Numan, Wayne Hussey and MGT – Photo By Kriz Crane / 2015
Tricky – Wayne chose to disband The Mission and move his family to America back in 1996 after we released and toured the ill fated ‘Blue’ album, and I kicked around in various new band projects in London until 1998, when I was asked if I wanted to audition for Tricky’s band, he was a former member of Massive Attack and considered at the forefront of the Trip Hop scene. I was a fan of his seminal ‘Maxinquaye’ album and was surprised when told they wanted someone ‘who can play like Anthrax’. I auditioned and got the gig, and all was revealed – Scott Ian of Anthrax had played on several tracks on Tricky’s new album ‘Angels With Dirty Faces’. Performing with Tricky was always a great experience, akin to a Jazz gig – Tricky never used a fixed set list, preferring to have a shortlist of songs to peruse on stage, he would roll a spliff and ponder the list and call out a song that tickled his fancy to the drummer Perry, who would tell the bassist and keyboard player, and then to me. This made each gig particularly exciting, as you never knew which song was coming next. A particular highlight was in Cleveland USA on one of the tours.. there was a Motorhead poster backstage, and Tricky reminisced on his fondness for ‘Ace Of Spades’, and as we walked back out for the encore he said ‘play the riff from Ace of Spades’ in my ear. This was not unusual for Tricky to suggest such things, and I started playing the iconic riff and the band joined in, and Tricky made up a spoken word rap on the spot. The crowd went bezerk, they sensed how impromptu it was and the electricity was in the air. We later recorded a version of the jam on Tricky’s ‘Vulnerable’ album called ‘Where We’re From’. Rest in Peace Lemmy, Flithy and Fast Eddie..
Peter Murphy / Solo – I was a fan of Bauhaus back in the 80’s, and Daniel Ash was also one of my fave alternative guitar players, with his simplicity and minimalism buzzsaw approach.. I was a big fan of his later work in Love and Rockets as well. Back in 2005 I heard through mutual friends that Peter was looking for a new guitarist for a US tour to promote his new album ‘Unshattered’, and I quietly approached his management offering my services, and as luck would have it, I was in the middle of a move from London to Los Angeles – I was married to an American living with me in London, hence had a green card – and Peter’s rehearsals were to be in Los Angeles as well, plus I was told Peter was impressed by my background as guitarist for both Tricky and The Mission. With all the boxes ticked, I joined up for rehearsals and this lead to a decade or more of touring and recording with arguably one of the best frontmen and singers in rock today. I parted ways with Peter’s band in 2015, but in 2018 I was invited to return for the Ruby tour featuring Mr David J, and as David was also one of my all time favourite bassists, I jumped at the chance and have to say the Ruby tour featured some of the best shows I’ve ever played.
Gary Numan – I’ve known Gary socially for many years, nearly 20 years now.. Gary and his wife Gemma would come down to Mission shows in the mid 90s, and we formed a longtime friendship.. I ended up reworking some of Gary’s classics for his ‘Hybrid’ album back in 2002, and a few years ago when he had just moved to Los Angeles and needed a guitarist to step in for his Splinter tour in 2013, I happily agreed.. Nine Inch Nails guitarist Robin Finck was supposed to do the tour dates, as he had played on the ‘Splinter’ album, but he was called away last minute by Trent Reznor for some NIN shows in Japan.. luckily for myself and Gary, Robin returned just in time to make our last show at the Observatory in Santa Ana California and he joined us all onstage for 6 songs! That was a blast… I’ll never forget learning ‘Are Friends Electric’ on a Bontempi electric keyboard I had when I was 13, and to actually get to play that song onstage with Gary 35 years later was mind blowing for me… still is.
Al Jourgensen of Ministry – My association with Unkle Al was brief really, I got to know Al and his wife Angie back in 2009, and was invited to come to Al’s 13th Planet studio in El Paso and record guitars on the Revolting Cocks album ‘Got Cock’. Also got to write and record some new solo material for Al with late Ministry guitarist Mike Scaccia, and bassist Tony Campos. This resulted in Al releasing one of our collaborations ‘Its Always Christmas Time’ as a single in late 2009 (released in 2010). The sleeve art was listed as ‘Al Jourgensen with Mark Thwaite’ so I was pretty blown away by this. We ended up recording half an albums worth of material, but the project was shelved for whatever reason and Al reformed Ministry – who were on hiatus at the time – and put his focus back into that. Guitarist Mike Scaccia later died of a heart attack on stage, so that was a real shame…
Funnily enough I’ve just completed a remix featuring Unkle Al on vocals, for my friend Michael Ciravolo – president of Schecter Guitars – who covered T-Rex classic ‘20th Century Boy’ for his Beauty in Chaos album, and got Al to sing on the song. Michael asked me to remix the song with new beats and invited me to add some lead guitar, so who was I to refuse…. that remix album debuts on 21st June.
What is your favorite go-to guitar or guitars and why?
MGT: I’ve had an artist endorsement with Californian based company Schecter Guitars for many years now, and had a few models in recent years customized to my requirements, which has resulted in the Mark Thwaite Signature Solo-II custom guitar which debuted at NAMM in 2017… this guitar is based on my love of Les Pauls and features all the aspects I look for in a versatile touring guitar, with my choice of coil tapping Seymour Duncan humbuckers (allowing for Les Paul fat chunky tones or twangy Fender esque tones in single coil mode), plus my choice of a Bigsby B7 etc… So the MGT model has definitely been my go to guitar in the last 2-3 years, and also the black PT custom fastback guitar played on the majority of the Ruby tour set .. I have quite a varied collection of Gibsons, Fenders & Gretsch guitars, plus assorted models including a Taylor acoustic, Recording King banjo, mandolin, 4 and 5 string basses etc. When recording in the studio in recent years, been leaning towards my Gibson ES295 hollowbody or Gretsch 6120 hollowbody for their unique tonal qualities, and sometimes my Telecaster, but invariably my MGT model or a Les Paul will get used as well.
Your next musical project includes touring and working on new material with UK band The Wonder Stuff. Can you tell me a little about this new adventure and how you feel about switching gears and playing bass instead of guitar?
MGT: Yes I’m playing bass on the Wonder Stuff shows in May.. this will raise a few eyebrows amongst long term fans… I’ve known Stuffies frontman Miles Hunt since the 80’s – we both hail from the same musical scene in the Midlands UK, in fact we were even born in the same hospital, one year apart.. Miles had guested on my ‘Volumes’ album released back in 2016, and we had talked of recording more material together, maybe as a side project.. we resumed writing last year while I had some down time, and after completing 3-4 songs pretty swiftly – Miles lives in UK and I live in Los Angeles, so we file share demos, with Milo adding vocals to my demos or my adding guitars and bass to Milos demos… so after we had completed 3-4 songs, Miles said ‘ I think this should be a new Stuffies album’ and I found myself in the band..
We completed nearly a dozen songs last year before getting that call to step in on the Peter Murphy tour, and just prior to getting that call, Miles had told me of some Wonder Stuff dates in May 2019, and that original founding guitarist Malcolm Treece was returning for the shows, performing the bands classics.. as I was now in the band because of the new album, which I had played most of the bass on as well as loads of guitars, I suggested to Miles that I could step in on bass for the May shows, introduce myself to the fanbase, then when we tour and perform the new album later in the year I could side-step to guitar. It’s a new challenge.
Always loved playing and recording bass in the studio and have done a few gigs as a bassist in my youth so it should be a blast.. There’s also a long history between my old band The Mission and The Wonder Stuff, with the band touring together, so it feels like a nice bookend to my history with The Mission as well.. Wayne Hussey and Milo are great friends, and Wayne likes the new Stuffies material we’ve written.
Thank you very much for taking the time for Torched Magazine!
Keep up with Mark Gemini Thwaite/MGT