Spider Webs

Mark Griffin resurrects MC 900 Ft. Jesus

"I'll get a little cash up-front for that; that'll definitely keep me going for a couple months," Griffin says. "But it's definitely getting to the point where I'm gonna have to put out a new album or get a day job. Probably both, actually."

After so many years of disuse, Griffin finds that his task is twofold: Reshape his ever-evolving musical vision, and get back in touch with his inner 900 Ft. Jesus.


Spider man: Mark Griffin, above and at left with Spike Jonze on the video shoot for "If I Only Had a Brain," is making music by himself again, as MC 900 Ft. Jesus.
Spider man: Mark Griffin, above and at left with Spike Jonze on the video shoot for "If I Only Had a Brain," is making music by himself again, as MC 900 Ft. Jesus.

MC 900 Ft. Jesus started out as just Griffin on his own, with help from DJ Zero, who was previously "just some guy that would come in and scour the [VVV] used-record bins." The product and the two-man live show were very much electronic. Then, as he set off to tour with Nettwerk labelmates Consolidated, he started gradually expanding his lineup.

"That's actually what set me off in a jazz direction," says Griffin. "We were all kinda sittin' around listening to electric-period Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock from around that period, and I was really into the Mahavishnu Orchestra stuff."

Griffin hooked up with Harvin and mates, and MC 900 found himself presiding over a land of muted trumpets and swirling jazz motifs, years before Tortoise made jazz fusion cool again among the indie crowd.

"The Spider album was sort of a culmination," says Griffin. "That may have been about as far as me, not really a jazz musician, could take that. Maybe that's a component of why, when we went into the studio after that, it sounded like we were just rehashing the same ideas. It was really just my own directionlessness."

Now Griffin has come full circle, making music by himself again, inspired by a new generation of electronic music. "What I've been listening to these past few years has got nothing to do with what I was doing in the past," he says, citing Lisa Germano, German dubsters Pole and the abrasive Finnish duo Pan sonic. "I've been trying to figure out how I can twist old MC 900 into something that would inspire me musically these days."

And just who is old MC 900 anyway?

"MC 900 Ft. Jesus is this nebulous concept that allows me to go off on any crazy direction that pops into my head, really," says the man himself. "It really changes from song to song, but there are certain themes that keep on popping back up--the inane silliness, the real threatening and crazy kind of personality. Some of those ideas came from various nuts that I've met in my life. Crazy people and my encounters with them."

Which leads to Griffin's explanation for taking Roberts' infamous vision as his name: "If a person who was a couple sandwiches short of a picnic decided that he was gonna become a rap artist, what kind of crazy name would he come up with?"

Armed with a hard drive's worth of new material Griffin characterizes as "experimental...kinda quiet and mysterious and just turned down a few notches," the MC will lean heavily on his Spider and Dream-era material for the trio of shows he has planned. First will be a show Thursday at the Mercury in Austin, followed by gigs Friday and Saturday at Trees and Dan's Bar in Denton. For these shows, Griffin will be joined by Harvin, Palmer, McGuire, bassist Dave Monsey and guitarist Phil Bush, and the results may go a long way toward deciding the future of MC 900 Ft. Jesus.

"I'm still kinda plugging away at the record and trying to figure out what the hell I wanna do next," says Griffin. "I've got another show with Kitchen Dog Theater right after that [Reckless, which opens November 17 at the McKinney Avenue Contemporary], so I'll get back to it around the holidays and either set up a tour of Europe or just buckle down and try to finish an album.

"That's one thing I'm really happy about. If I decide to wake up one day and do something about it, I can do it. If I don't feel like fucking with it, then I don't."

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