Kicking Back with Mark Bingham

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Published on: January 24th, 2009
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Wednesday, January 28, 2009 at 5:00pm
It's been a while since Mark, owner of Piety Street recording studios has been by the studio, so we've got some catching up to do. Tune in on Wednesday, January 28th (11am to 2pm CST) to see Mr. Bingham is up to these days. Mark Bingham Bio by Bill Milkowski A singer-songwriter-guitarist during the ‘70s who became an in-demand producer-arranger-engineer in the ‘80s and ‘90s, Indiana native Mark Bingham has presided over countless jazz, rock, pop, blues, zydeco, brass band and hip-hop sessions since relocating to New Orleans in 1982. A longstanding colleague of Hal Willner’s, Bingham participated in a series of influential Willner tribute recordings that came out in the ‘80s, including 1984’s That's the Way I Feel Now: A Tribute to Thelonious Monk, 1985’s Lost in the Stars: The Music of Kurt Weill and 1989’s Stay Awake: Interpretations of Vintage Disney Films. His eclectic solo debut, 1989’s I Passed For Human, included guest appearances by downtown music mavens John Zorn and Elliott Sharp and jazzers John Scofield, Steve Swallow and Joey Baron as well as poet Allen Ginsberg. Bingham also worked on R.E.M.’s best-selling album, 1991’s Out Of Time, doing the horn and string arranging. Born on Jan. 30, 1949 in Bloomington, Indiana (a block away from the birthplace of Hoagy Carmichael), Bingham won a high school battle of the bands judged by Howard Cosell and Cousin Brucie Morrow, which led to a staff songwriting gig at Elektra Records. He attended Indiana University, where he formed the Zappa-inspired Screaming Gypsy Bandits and also began his own indie label, Bar-B-Q Records. During this period he also produced recordings by the Indiana-based new wave band MX-80. In 1975, Bingham moved to New York City, where he played guitar in Glenn Branca’s abrasive no wave guitar bands. In 1979, he formed the experimental trio Social Climbers with bassist-singer Jean Seton Shaw and keyboardist/arranger/composer Dick Connette. The group released one album on Hoboken Records which featured Devo-ish robotic synth tunes played with a pre-Sonic Youth no wave attitude. And in 1980 he produced Branca’s minimalist electric guitar manifesto, “Lesson No. 1” on 99 Records. In the Fall of 1982, Bingham moved to New Orleans and began making records with local artists like bluesmen John Mooney and Boogie Bill Webb, clarinetist Michael White, the Rebirth Brass Band and the Golden Eagles Mardis Gras Indian tribe. In the late ‘80s, he played guitar on the Hal Willner-produced Lion For Real, a collection of Allen Ginsberg recitations against an avant garde-ish musical backdrop. During this period he also composed the music for playwright Julie Hebert’s “Ruby’s Bucket of Blood,” which had its premiere at the Contemporary Arts Center in New Orleans and subsequently toured to theaters in San Diego, Berkeley and San Francisco. In 1993, Bingham opened his first professional studio, The Boiler Room, and subsequently engineered, mixed and/or produced recordings there with a wide variety of artists, including singer Charmaine Neville, jazz guiarists Steve Masakowski and Phil deGruy, pianist Jon Cleary, bassist George Porter Jr., alto saxophonist Wessel “Warmdaddy” Anderson, trombonist Wycliffe Gordon, trumpeter Leroy Jones, blues singer-songwriter Mem Shannon, salsa trombonist Jimmy Bosch, poet and NPR commentator Andrei Codrescu, the Yockomo All-Stars, Cubanismo! and the New Orleans modern jazz collective Astral Project. Since 2001, Bingham’s Piety Studios has become a magnet for local Louisiana artists as Smokey Johnson, Tab Benoit, Dr. Michael White and the New Orleans Klezmer All-Stars as well big name artists from around the world seeking to soak up some of the ambiance of the Crescent City. In recent years, Piety has hosted sessions for Elvis Costello and Allen Toussaint (2006's The River In Reverse), New Orleans icon Dr. John (2006's Mercernary), harmolodic guitarist James Blood Ulmer (2007's Bad Blood in the City: The Piety Street Sessions), founding member of The Fugs, Ed Sanders (2007's Poems for New Orleans) and trumpeter Nicholas Payton (2008's Into The Blue). Bingham remains in touch with his indie label roots by also recording and collaborating with neighborhood alternative rock bands like Morning 40 Federation, Herringbone Orchestra and The Happy Talk Band.
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