Mark Griffin pulls himself out of bed at 6 a.m. to make it to his first day job at the Amazon Fulfillment Center in Irving. After his shift stacking boxes in the dusty heat, he heads home, grabs some lunch and starts preparing for his first live show as MC 900 Ft. Jesus in nearly 15 years.
Then he heads to his second day job, at a local bookstore.
“When I first started MC 900 my plan was to put out an EP and sell it through this distribution network that we bought our records from at that store VVV [Records] I was working at all through the '80s, and hopefully sell enough copies to make enough money to make another one,” Griffin says. “Then, just pretty much immediately, I got involved with a record company and to get them involved you’ve got to commit to live shows. I kind of got dragged into it but I just made the best of it.”
Griffin, a classically trained musician, had built a name for himself playing with the Telefones and touring as a trumpeter before becoming the eclectic rapper/poet MC 900 Ft. Jesus during the late '80s and early '90s. His music blended together elements of jazz, electronica, spoken word, industrial and anything else that happened to catch his fancy. He gained a cult following with tracks such as "The Truth Is Out of Style" and "If I Only Had a Brain," which had a music video directed by Spike Jonze that was famously featured on Beavis and Butt-Head.
But Griffin, who is now nearing 60, walked away from the music business while recording what would have been his fourth album. “I had sort of lost my sense of humor about it,” he says. “The big thing about MC 900 is we’re a pretty dark thing, but it was like I used to at least try to be kind of funny and I got to the point where I didn’t think anything was funny anymore and I still kind of am that way.”
Citing a lack of inspiration as well as waning support from his record label, Griffin went on to pursue his commercial pilot’s license. While more of a pipe dream than a plan, he says he loved flying but by the time he was ready to start looking for work as a flight instructor, 9/11 had happened and Griffin found himself back at square one.
“It wasn’t that I was so burnt out on the music business, really. I kind of went through the short little golden age where the music business really treated me good compared to a lot of people who came out of Dallas around the same time I did," Griffin says in between assisting customers. “I just got to a point where I … just hit the wall.”
Alcohol became an issue for Griffin as his career waned in the '90s. “I kind of floundered around for a couple of years,” he says.
These days, he says his 40-plus-hour work week keeps him too occupied to slip back into bad habits. “I haven’t had any alcohol in eight months and it’s been amazing the amount of energy I have now all of the sudden,” Griffin says.
He's excited about playing a live show for the first time in a long time. “It’s weird because I never wanted to do live shows before and now I’m really kind of stoked that I’m going to be doing one. That’s kind of a first,” he says. “I kind of didn’t even have the desire to listen to anything for several years.”
After a conversation with former Buck Pets drummer, Ricky Pearson, about the band’s 2016 reunion show at The Kessler, Griffin says his desire to take the stage once more just clicked in his head. By the end of that night, he sent a text that Jeffrey Liles had been hoping to get for years and headed to his storage space to unpack his gear, which had spent nearly 12 years collecting dust.
Now Feb. 3 will be the day one of Dallas’ most beloved cult classics comes back to life in a quartet featuring Griffin’s former touring musicians Chris McGuire and Greg Beck, as well as Wanz Dover, who Griffin says has been vital to translating MC 900’s electronic sound to the live experience.
The show will feature songs Griffin says he hasn’t played since 1991, due in part to the difficulties he had replicating some of his more electronic-inspired tracks on stage. Now armed with modern technology and some helping hands, MC 900 Ft. Jesus will dig deeper into its catalog than ever before for this show.
“What happened was I’d been gradually coming around to wanting to do it for quite a while,” Griffin says. “I’m getting old I guess. You find yourself sort of counting the minutes you have left in your life, you know. Am I going to spend the rest of my life just working these two freaking day jobs? I've got to get something more going here just for my own personal satisfaction.”
Griffin hopes to eventually take the show on the road and is currently gathering ideas for a possible new album to help make that tour a reality. He says his former label Nettwerk has already approached him about a new album, more than two decades after Griffin left the studio.
The chance to finally hear a fourth MC 900 Ft. Jesus album almost sounds too good to be true, but even if things don’t fall into place, the stars have aligned and brought one of Dallas’ most unique musicians back from the brink, and at least for a moment, back into the spotlight.
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