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The anatomy of equipment: simple hacks with Money Mark

Ben Johnson and James Perla Aug 17, 2015
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As part of a series about music technology called “Noise Makers,” we’re talking to musicians about their favorite noise-making device. For this week’s installment Marketplace Tech host Ben Johnson had a conversation with Money Mark about simple hacks and making music from unexpected sources. 

If you ask Mark Ramos Nishita, or Money Mark, about his work with the Beastie Boys, you might end up hearing more about minutiae of writing a song than say, what it’s like to be part of a multi-platinum group. He remembers the marginalia of the Check Your Head album, released in 1992, specifically: “There was a time when we were building the studio in Atwater village at the same time as we were recording. They were playing basketball in the other room. I was screwing a screw into the wall and it made this incredibly amazing sound. And [Adam] Yauch came in and was like, ‘We should just record that.'”

The spontaneity of incorporating an accidental sound into a studio album fits within Mark’s musical ethos: “There’s this Japanese saying that if you sharpen the knife too much, you actually make it dull. So, there’s a point when you have to have an emotive force there to inject into all this stuff that’s around you.”

This philosophy derives from Mark’s childhood — As a kid, whenever he would get a new piece of gear, his father, who was an electrical engineer, would take it apart in order to understand how it works.  

As a result, Mark’s music making involves less polishing and more tinkering. For a live performance, Mark says: “I actually just bring everything out on the table. Nothing is really hooked up. But I think even that is the theater of it — Getting the cables and patching it all together and making a chain. And this is how it sounds in the end. All of that to me is very entertaining. I always wanted to know what was behind in the wings of the theater and what was really making all that magic happen.”

Click the media player above for an extended interview with Money Mark which includes a live demonstration of a musical hack involving a cell phone, an amplifier, and a quarter.

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