MC 900 Foot Jesus
by Su Chon
On a cold, snowy day, RAD got to hang out with Mark Griffin,
a.k.a. MC 900 Foot Jesus, in the huge bus where they travelled in
comfort. We offered to take him out to dinner and show him the
local sites, but he doesn't like to eat before a show. Instead, he
took some time out of his trumpet practice to talk with us. Mark
is an articulate, intelligent musician who spoke with a slight
- So you're from Dallas, Texas?
- Yeah, not originally, I've been there since 1979.
- How do you like Texas?
- It's nice, you know, it's too hot, but it's a cheap place to
live, and it's like, got, you know, even Dallas, the music
scene there has gotten a lot better. When I first moved
there, it was all just like bad fusion bands and a bunch of
like bad white blues players. Now it's like, over the
last...since the middle `80s, it started to develop a really
good club scene and a lot of bands and stuff there so even the
music scene is pretty enjoyable really now. I mean it's a
total Republican stronghold. Dallas is a big, very
conservative city, and that's not exactly my cup ofnd that's not exactly my cup of tea, but
it has its good points.
- How do you feel about Ann Richards being ousted out of office
by a Bush nonetheless?
- Yeah, well we'll see, I don't know. I feel guilty because I
wasn't there to vote, I would've voted for her.
- Was it that close, do you know?
- No, I don't think it was that close. I always feel bad if I
don't vote anyway.
- Well, that's really good. I haven't voted in a couple of
- Well, when I'm on tour it gets kind of spotty, but we were out
on the road. I forgot about dealing with an absentee ballot
and stuff like that. So I missed my chance.
- So do you live in Texas still?
- Yeah, but I've been thinking about moving out of there but I
- You don't know where? You don't want to move to like, L.A. or
- Well, I might do that, I don't know. I mean, it's like I grew
up as an army brat and we moved around a lot as a kid. So
I've lived in one place for fifteen years, it really was sort
of a novelty to me. But now, I feel like I'm almost ready for
a change of scenery so that's why I've been thinking about
- I was listening to your first album today, Hell with the Lid
Off. How dothe Lid
Off. How do you think you've changed since that point in
- It's pretty dramatic from that album to this album [One Step
Ahead of the Spider] because that album was done just, like,
basically with me working on a beat box and a sequencer and a
sampler so I pretty much put it all together in my bedroom.
Now, we've got to the point where there's a lot of stuff on
this album, it's this big 8-piece band, recording live in the
studio and it's a lot more varied musical sounds. It doesn't
nearly rely as much on sampling. There's only actually one
sample from a record on this whole new album. I did use my
sampler a lot but it was mostly like sampling myself or that
guy that just walked by is my saxophone player, I sampled some
stuff that he did. One time, I had like some videotape that
I had taken when were on tour in Europe, with him like
standing out on a sidewalk in front of a club playing his sax,
and I sampled a few notes off of that and that became like
this little sax part in this tune called "Buried at Sea." So
it's like I'm using it, but it's mostly on, it's not
like...I'm just not sampling records anymore. And the first
album was just full of samples from records of various times.
- I was looking at the lyrics on the fax American sent me, and
it was really interesting because I interesting because I was reading the different
lyrics. Like, "If I Only Had a Brain," it all sounds so
happy, like the music sounds upbeat. But if you really look
at the words, they're a little dark.
- Yeah, well, that tune is more, I see it as more sarcastic than
dark, but there are other tunes that are even more so like
that, like that tune which is going to be the next single,
"But If You Go," sounds like this little light, sort of,
halfway Afro samba type of thing with its nice little melodic
chorus. Then you have to listen to it a couple of times
before you get what's really going on. I like that type of
contrast, I like something that, you know, as you live with it
for awhile you discover that maybe it's not about what you
thought it was about or you discover things about it that you
didn't notice the first few times around. To me, that's what
makes good music.
- So are you trying to get away from the image, I know that a
lot of people think you're just a rapper...
- Mostly more people that just didn't, maybe just haven't really
heard that much or something like that. Obviously, with a
stage name like MC this or that people are just going to make
that assumption right out of the gate, but I think that, maybe
not so much on the first album but definitely on the last
albumon the last
album if you listen to it all the way through, you discover
that I'm not really a rap artist.
- What kind of music have you listened to that's influenced your
- Well, a lot of jazz stuff is what's been going through my head
lately, older jazz stuff like Miles, Weather Report, and
Herbie Hancock, John McLaughlin, and stylistically, a lot of
the tunes on the current album began from those types of
sounds, instrumentally and also just type of riffs that we'd
be playing. I listen to a lot of different types of stuff, I
do listen to a lot of rap music, I listen to a lot of
classical, not a helluva a lot but certain types of classical
stuff I listen to a lot, and whatever else catches my ear
really. I worked in a record store, too, actually I worked in
this little indie store for about eight years and so it's like
I got into a lot of really different types of music that I've
started listening to. Any given day, there's liable to be
some wierd thing on my turntable.
- That's cool, at least you're like, more well rounded
- The fact that I do listen to a lot of different things as
opposed to just one type of music maybe that's a heavy
influence on the type of thing that I do. There's all these
different styles kind of thrown together and if thrown together and it's because I
listen to a lot of different things as opposed to somebody,
like say, in the jazz community who's strictly into jazz or
somebody who's into the rap community who's strictly into rap,
just listens to that type of music and their albums sound that
way through and through. But I don't, I like to just throw
everything into this sort of stew and see what happens.
- I heard you got a B.M. in Music. Did you end up getting your
master's degree in music theory?
- No, I worked like a year towards it and then I stopped.
- Do you think you'll ever go back to it?
- Yeah, in fact I was talking to my sister last night, and she's
going to graduate school right now, and I was telling her that
at some point I might, we're talking about it. I might do it.
I would only do it just for my own entertainment really 'cause
I really liked, I was going for a master's in theory and
that's what I really like, music theory or music history. I
don't really want to teach college, but I really enjoyed some
of the classes I was taking along those lines and I kind of
wouldn't mind going back and doing a little more of that. But
I don't know even when I would have the chance to do that.
I'm always like so busy so if I start to get not busy, then it
would probably be a gowould probably be a good time to do it, to think about other
career choices, too.
- If there was one thing you could tell people, people you would
consider were your fans, what would you tell them?
- I don't know....Congratulations on your intelligence and your
If MC 900 Foot Jesus comes to your town, don't miss the show.
The eight piece band is amazing. The drummer was out of control,
and his green dreds were eyecatching. But you've got to see this
talented group! Mark on trumpet and the sax player are a
combination not to be missed. Look for the newest single, and grab
a copy of One Step Ahead of the Spider while you can. It's the
thinking person's album.
Copyright © 1994, Rational Alternative Digital