BY THERON MOORE
When you think of guy who has a dream and a vision and then actually takes the time to carve it out, make it happen, that’s Mark, then and now. First and foremost he’s a good friend. He was a Cali transplant to Rockford Il back in the 80’s and became Radio DJ, repo guy, locksmith, band manager for Pure Aggression, you name it, he did it and then some. Snodgrass played an important role in the 80’s rock scene in Rockford Illinois. In his own words…
Church of the Necronomicon: Mark, you like myself played kind of a peripheral role when it came to the Rockford music scene back in the 80’s and 90’s, you had a radio show and I did a zine. Tell me about your radio show and how local music figured into it.
Mark Snodgrass: The show was on WLUV in Loves Park, IL… Serving the greater Rockford area, sometimes down to DeKalb when I fiddled with the knobs on the transmitter 😉 What started out as a way for me to get “Alternative” music in front of a major city who only had Top 40, Country and Oldies as their choice at the time, became a major support system for the burgeoning local music scene in the Rockford area.
While being different, eclectic and sounding like pirate radio was the initial draw for attention back when the show started, it was local music that rallied listeners, and support for my little show grew exponentially, as did the local scene now that they had an outlet to be heard by the masses, as opposed to a sweaty basement at the Cherry Lounge.
Church of the Necronomicon: How did you get that radio gig? What was the day and time you were on the air?
Mark Snodgrass: I was a California transplant. I grew up with choices and “alternatives” on the radio. It was natural to me. So when I landed in Rockford, I was like, what the fuck? Jeff Wicker is a radio “Personality?” Time and Temp Jocks prevailed, and the music was the same song, at least every hour, with 5 or 6 in regular rotation.
I wanted to hear the stuff Nirvana was putting out (Prior to Teen Spirit). I wanted to hear Dead Kennedys, Suicidal Tendencies… Classic Punk mixed with the new breeds like the Pixies, that new band called Pearl Jam… No one would touch that shit back then. Grunge was the term for the Mother Love Bone’s and Screaming Trees and of course Nirvana’s of the day. And I wanted to throw in some twists, like Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen.
I thought what I liked listening to had teeth, had a rhythm that wasn’t given a chance to be heard, and should at least be given a chance to be accepted or rejected… rather than being pigeon holed as obscure or to nonconformist. Which ironically is exactly why the local music thing meant so much to me… No one gave these guys a chance. They were relegated to backrooms and basements. Friend’s parties and bootleg cassette tapes. I saw the chance to deliver all of this over the airwaves in the second largest metro area in Illinois… and I took that chance.
Basically, Reader’s Digest version of getting the show… I did what I preached from day one on my show. You want to be “punk?” you want to break the rules? You want to cause change and revolt and make a difference? Then do it from within the system.
I got a job at WLUV as a salesman. I worked there for a week, gained the trust of the owner, convinced him Rockford needed a local alternative show to replace the top40 and sports crap he was satellite shoveling to the masses, and got him to give me a time slot. I started on Friday nights from 10pm till 2am, Pretty quick I got Saturday nights. Then Sundays. Then sporadically through the week… Live remotes n such followed and the thing picked up steam. Called the show “Listen to This.”
That station had never been in the ratings, but my timeslots were placing, and on the weekends I was number one. I was selling actual ads for my show and proved to Joe Salvi (the owner) that I was right. We carried on like that for about two years, till I got too full of myself, thought I could do anything I wanted to do… The FCC took care of that by suspending me from the airwaves for 6 months following an investigation into reports of foul language and suggestive content.
That’s not what they got me for, surprisingly, because there was tons of that going on. What nailed me was not logging commercials. They require you to mark down that you played a Dominos Pizza spot at, say, 11pm and it ran for 30 sec…Sears had an ad and it ran for 45 seconds, etc… What I failed to realize was that while I thought I was supporting the local scene, when I said, “Hey – Pure Aggression is playing at Hard Times bar tomorrow night and the doors open at 8pm…” THAT was a commercial. I just thought I was doing bands and fans a favor.
Even though I didn’t see a penny from that kinda stuff, the FCC saw them as commercials, because someone whether the band or the venue, was cashing in. Joe was in no position to argue with the FCC so he knocked me off the air. Quite honestly, he was crying when he told me. And… Quite honestly I was pissed and said fuck radio I’ll do something better, I’ll do TV. And “Look at This” was born. After two public access episodes I teamed up with Marc Peabody and landed on WTVO, then NBC. But looking back, I had a face for radio and should have made that my career.
Church of the Necronomicon: Did you have any local bands on your show?
Mark Snodgrass: I think I had almost every local band on the show 😉 See, when the story I just exhaustively told began, I was… a security guard. Yeah. Shut up. Anyway, one of the guys I worked post with found out about my show, and he’s like, “You gotta hear these guys, maybe put them on your show sometime.” And proudly handed over a cassette tape of some dudes named Sarkoma.
I listened to a couple songs, kinda dug ‘em and said Fuck it I’ll Play it. Never promoted it, never advertised, just put “Dog” on one night while I was doing my show. I never had the phones light up like they did that night. People were going crazy, fans were calling asking for more. People who didn’t know were calling asking who that band was I just played.
I started talking about it on the air. I never knew who they were or what to say about them. Remember, I wasn’t from around them parts for long. I played “Holidays” I played “Trolls Opinion” (having no idea what it was about 😉 ).
The rest of the week was filled with bands calling me to get on the air, notably Pure Aggression, who played a huge role in my deciding to really pursue and support the local scene. But yeah, Flac, Sarkoma, Pure Aggression, Shatterd Plastix, Decadenza, DMZ… A lot of the bands hung around the station, played acoustic sets, helped me torment listeners…
The station was crazy… my studio was basically a closet with a mixing board and cd players in it… and we would cram like 20 people in there… to fit any more we would have needed a lubricant. And not just bands… I had open invites for listeners to bring by music if they wanted people to hear it and I didn’t have it. Hell, dancers came from State Street Station to party and, um… dance. It was a wild scene, tons of fun. We never planned a night or a show. It just happened
Church of the Necronomicon: Tell me about the music format you had. I remember hearing punk, metal, etc. on the show.
Mark Snodgrass: It was eclectic… I have varied tastes, and I don’t think anyone only listens to one type of music, or locks into one genre. A lot of Metal dudes dig Johnny Cash. Some Pixies fans love Leonard Cohen. Stu from then Sarkoma likes Tom Waits and I like it all. So I played it all.
Kinda like I said above… there was no format. It just happened and evolved at the show went on. Never had a play list, never set a rotation, per se. Only thing I guaranteed was that I wouldn’t play the same song twice in a 4 or 6 hour show.
Church of the Necronomicon: How did you meet Greg Czaczkowski from the band Pure Aggression? Was it through the radio show? You were also friends with Sarkoma, correct?
Mark Snodgrass: Greg called me shortly after the Sarkoma thing. Yeah, I used to put my home number out on the air so people could call me and tell me stuff they wanted to hear. So Greg called, and we ended up talking for like 4 or 5 hours.
He was interested in getting his band, Pure Aggression on the air, sure. But what struck me was his passion for supporting the local scene. He knew a revolution in radio and local music was on the cusp of blowing up, and he damn well wanted to be part of pushing it over the top.
Greg is over the top. Anyone who knows him knows he doesn’t stop at 110%, He goes all out. I’ve never seen him do anything half assed or mediocre. After we got off the phone, I knew this guy was gonna be my best friend. And so we were.
He was one of the few who I met through the show that I became friends with because we connected, not because I could get him on the air. Same with the guys from Sarkoma. Stu, Tony and Brian, especially. When I quit the TV show and there was no more looking, or listening or anything to this… They always showed love.
I never really heard much in the years after from most of the bands… Really only Pure Aggression, Sarkoma and Decadenza stuck by me in my normal, non-public life. I owe those guys gratitude for not abandoning me in my “Has Been” years.
Church of the Necronomicon: I don’t think I’ve ever asked you this. Were you a thrash or metal fan back then? I know we went to a few PA gigs together, was it just to support Greg and the band?
Mark Snodgrass: I liked some metal, but it was Greg who introduced me to the really hardcore stuff. I went to shows with him and was blown away by the talent those dudes had that others dismissed as noise… and the pure energy and stamina that bled from the stage… it wasn’t until I saw bands like Cannibal Corpse, Demolition Hammer and of course, Deicide – Live, that I became an honest fan.
He also turned me on to stuff like Ice T… I was into old skool stuff like RunDMC and Public Enemy back in the day, but the whole IceT / Body Count thing was phenomenal. Yeah, I owe that to Greg for broadening my horizons.
Church of the Necronomicon: At that point in time when Pure Aggression was active, the Rockford metal scene was thriving. Did you think that maybe Rockford could’ve been the next big metal scene outside of LA?
Mark Snodgrass: I thought Rockford was going to be THE next big thing. I always said, we’re going to be the next Seattle… Not just for Metal, not just for Grunge… But the amazing pool of talent that was swimming around back then… every Genre really had something special going on. They should have made it… But… it kinda did the Rockford thing and fizzled.
Church of the Necronomicon: Looking back at that era, what’s your opinion now, all these years later? Do you think Rockford could’ve been the next big metal scene or not?
Mark Snodgrass: Could’ve, yeah… But Rockford could’ve been a lot of things… and never really was. It’s… Rockford.
Church of the Necronomicon: Looking back on it now, what circumstances do you think need to have happened then that would’ve propelled the Rockford music scene into the national spotlight?
Mark Snodgrass: Hmmm… I don’t want to take blame or credit by saying if I would’ve kept my head together and my ego in tact and found a way to stay on the air, but I’ve always wondered if that was part of it. Not even me, per se… but some outlet on the airwaves… it would have helped.
Couple other stations and people made valiant, if not misguided attempts at promoting local music, but it was all so… corporate. And never given a chance. The difference with what I was doing is that I didn’t have a station owner or company telling me what to do. The closest thing I had to that was Joe telling me that he heard Fuck go over the air 5 times, and to please knock it off.
Church of the Necronomicon: Did you promote shows back then? I seem to remember you might’ve done a Leaving Trains gig? Tell me about that one…
Mark Snodgrass: I played a small part in promoting Pure Aggression and Decandenza… We made this quasi company called Arsenal Group Productions with a label of Mac10 Music, and put together some really cool shows.
Um… The Leaving Trains thing… was more of a Train Wreck. They sent this really crazy demand list of perks and such when they were going to come to town. I flat out told their management I couldn’t provide anything of the sort, that I was just a small local dude and was lucky to find them a place to play at. Period. Cancel it, not gonna happen. Well, their label never told them, it never got thru that it wasn’t happening.
They were totally, understandably, pissed off at me. They called me for two or three days with threats of… well, tons of bodily harm and shitting into orifices… Ha, I was pretty freaked out and never booked another touring band gig again.
Church of the Necronomicon: Were you at one point managing Pure Aggression? Tell me about that, was it successful?
Mark Snodgrass: In a way, a little. I tried… But I had no idea what we were doing. Gave them some promo ideas, helped set up some shows, like a food drive for the homeless thing at Rock Valley College, but really, Greg was always the boss, it’s what he does, the position he puts himself in, because the guy has so much energy and dedication.
Church of the Necronomicon: What were the circumstances leading up to you disengaging from the Rockford music scene and moving on with your life? At that time I had joined the USAF and was out of town…
Mark Snodgrass: After “Listen to This” on the radio, I did the TV thing on NBC called “Look at This.” It was cool, and fun and all… Did to TV what I did to Radio. But after like, a year and a half, I just burned out on TV. It wasn’t the same. Radio… it was so… Immediate. If you did something lame, people called (me out) on it right away. If I did something cool, people called right away. I always had a built in audience, right there in the studio as well.
TV… it was me and sometimes a camera man. And me by myself in the editing room. And I’d work 60 hours a week to film, edit and package a 30 min episode… which I’d get no feedback on for two weeks when it aired. It was drudgery, and I’ve never felt comfortable in front of the camera. Not my thing. I was only doing it cause no one else did. So I bailed out.
I tried like hell to get back on the radio, but I was kinda black balled in a way. I made enemies of pretty much every station and jock I could make fun of. Ya know, we used to have bonfires at the station, burning other station’s stuff. Listeners would drop off ZOK shirts and WXRX stuff and so forth to win “prizes” (we were low budget, a prize might be a dirty coffee mug with the station owners comb in it, or an old scratched gospel record I found in the AM booth, or a leg bone from a deer the station dog brought back from the corn fields to chew on, stuff like that).
We’d make a thing outa burning them every few months. I mimicked a lot of the other jocks and got kinda good at pissing off pretty much everyone. So going back to radio was outa the question. So, I went back to the profession I learned while living in Washington DC for a couple years. I went back to repossessing cars. Not much I could do for bands when I was jacking their folk’s cars 😉
Church of the Necronomicon: Where and in what direction did life take you post the Rockford music scene and your involvement with it?
Mark Snodgrass: Well, I repossessed cars for years, man. Years. About 7 years ago, my life hit a dead end. Three bouts with cancer and neck vertebrae surgeries, hating my life as a repo man, and a miserable marriage left me depressed, pilled out of my gourd and about to give up.
I had an early midlife crisis and blew my life savings on trips to Europe and cars and pills and… pills. Ha. I split with my then wife, met my present wife, and she convinced me that in order to be happy and get better, all I needed to do was do what I love. What I was meant to do. Radio is a very close second, but she convinced me to pursue my only real talent, which is art.
I’m happy, have been clean (both cancer and pills) for 7 years now, and I own my own business. At my age, I had to face it that no matter how good I could paint, I’d never make money at it till I was dead. So I “sold out” and went the graphic design route.
Moved to the Quad Cities with Steph and my son from previous marriage and our son from my now marriage (he’s 5 now.. at 46 years old, that’s a trip in itself man) and got jobs at a few promotions companies till I built up a reputation kinda as THE designer in the area, especially when it came to Screen Print designs. After a couple years I quit my jobs and start my own company…
Church of the Necronomicon: What are you doing now?
Mark Snodgrass: Good Stuff Graphics & Design Co. That’s my place 😉 Do Commercial design and have a screen printing studio. I do a lot of work for guys in the MMA scene here, and now nationally. My style lends itself to fighters and stuff like that. Oh… and bands too 😉 I do other stuff, but it’s rare to see me do, like, Cub Scouts and cheer leader type stuff. I don’t do milk and cookies, I do blood and guts.
I also design websites and signage, company branding, logos, stuff like that. Basically, when people want custom, one of a kind stuff, and not cookie cutter crap, they come to me. I love it. I get the same reaction when people come to pick up their stuff as when someone sees one of my paintings. I may have sold out and gone commercial, but I’m still an artist, and that’s what sets me apart.
Church of the Necronomicon: Do you have a Facebook page or website you’d like to promote?
Mark Snodgrass: At the moment, I’m revamping my webserver. I just put SnodgrassInk.com up, which will be a bit of a social network for screen printers and designers. I’ll get goodstuffgraphics.com back up shortly, and will be launching a new site for my new label and bleeding edge design firm called AnarchInk at anarchinkco.com.
Oh, and ThatShirtSite.com is on the way. Till then, go see some of my stuff at my FB biz page: facebook.com/GoodStuffGandD …oh, and add me at facebook.com/PopeSicola