Mandalaband

Marc Atkinson

Composer and lyricist. Instruments: acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass guitar and vocals.

Marc was born Mark Atkinson on Saturday 30th March 1968 (the same day that episode three of the Patrick Troughton adventure ‘Doctor Who: The Fury From The Deep’ was transmitted!). After advice from a mentor who went by the name of James Cristie, he changed the ‘k’ in his name to a ‘c’ and it has stuck ever since!

Marc was born in his family home of Elm Tree Cottage, New Earswick, York. His Dad, John, ran the attached Elm Tree Garage and his Mum, Joyce, was a full time (and supremely loving) Mum. One of three children (his brother Paul was born in 1965 and sister Janine in 1972) Marc was a shy but imaginative child even at an early age - even if he says so himself!.

His earliest memory is of watching (yes, you've guessed it) Doctor Who on an old black and white TV set. It was the episode where The Sea Devils rose up from the water (which dates it at 26th March 1972 and a Jon Pertwee adventure!) - Marc's head is full of such facts.

He attended New Earswick Primary School until 1978 (Tom Baker was The Doctor!) and then became a pupil of Clifton Without Primary. A year later he moved up to Canon Lee Secondary School. It was at this school where he met Bryan Josh and Liam Davison, now best known as members of Mostly Autumn.

In the summer of 1983 (the Peter Davison era) the school friends decided to form a band. At first this band was called Risen and then, before their first live performance in 1984 (Colin Baker's debut year!), it became Expressions.

With Marc on lead vocals and bass guitar, Bryan on lead guitar, Liam on rhythm, Darren Farmery on keys and Nigel Dennis on drums, Expressions began gigging, performing both cover versions and their own original compositions.

Various line up changes occurred between 1983-1989 including the involvement of Andy Seddon on bass and Michael (brother of Liam) Davison joining on drums. But the nuclei of Marc, Bryan and Liam remained intact. Yet even though the band played many live gigs and recorded a lot of original material, the next rung up the musical ladder evaded them.

In 1989 (Sylvester McCoy was The Doctor and the show was about to go into a sixteen-year hiatus!) Bryan Josh decided to leave the band and, with Liam's ‘promotion’ to lead guitar and Andy ‘Rob’ Swann joining on keyboards, the band transformed into Frontier.

Frontier was a slick outfit and performed many successful shows, playing both a mixture of their own material and a few choice covers. By now the band members had given up their day jobs and were making their money from live work, so rehearsals were an almost daily occurrence as the band had a full time rehearsal room at The Windmill pub on Blossom Street in York.

In 1990 the band entered Fairview Studios in Hull to record a five-track demo released as Big Talk. The session was engineered and produced by John Spence, who would later work successfully with both Gabriel and Mostly Autumn.

Big Talk was the most accomplished work the band had made to that point and brought them to the attention of local label TSR. The band was signed at last and the result was a full album entitled No Man’s Land - which also featured the talents of Simon Waggott, with whom Marc would work again eighteen years later in Mandalaband III.

Unfortunately, soon after the release of the album, both Liam and Mick, disillusioned at the band’s lack of ‘proper’ success, decided to leave. The rest of the outfit carried on for a while with Simon Dixon and Matt Boucher, along with Marc’s sister Janine assisting on backing vocals (a post previously taken by Heidi Widdup in 1990-91). But by the end of 1992 Frontier had at last run out of steam and played their last gig at the infamous Spotted Cow in York.

Marc then took to the club circuit, playing with the aid of backing tracks (aaaahhhh!!!) and his acoustic guitar. In 1993 he also co-built The Barn Studio with Rob Swann and Dave Clements – a small recording set up in Copmanthorpe near York, which he still records at to this day. Marc’s vocals for Mandalaband’s ‘Beautiful Babylon’ and ‘Solomon the Wise’ were recorded there with David Rohl.

In 1994 Marc briefly joined forces again with Bryan Josh and became a part-time member of One Stoned Stoneman, a project that would eventually turn into Mostly Autumn. But before that The Beatroots were born. An acoustic outfit comprised of Marc, Bryan and Liam, along with, at first, Steve Jensan, and then Gary Watkingson and Iain Jennings. This new band was a hit at most venues they played. A combination of humour and music, The Beatroots was an extremely ‘tongue-in-cheek’ project and went on to record ‘Live and Unsliced’ and the charity single ‘Rod, The Deep Sea Fisherman’. The band is still an ongoing concern (some people are very concerned!) with re-union Christmas gigs performed in 2007, 2008 and 2009.

As well as continuing his solo career, Marc put together a new band, The Company, in 1995. This band went on to support such names as The Kinks, The Strawbs and Tanita Tikaram before splitting at the end of 1996 (the same year The Doctor returned briefly to our screens in the guise of Paul McGann!). Around this time, Marc also began performing acoustic shows with The Company’s George Hall, when the duo played many successful shows together. He also worked closely with Rob Swann at The Barn Studio and they co-wrote many songs together and even played the occasional acoustic gig. Rob continues to work occasionally with Marc to this day and Marc will have the honour of being Rob’s best man at his wedding in September 2010.

Marc won the East Coast regional final of the 1995 Search for a Star competition and came second in the North Yorkshire Star Trail in the same year. In 1996 he won the BBC Radio York Doctor Rock Songwriting Competition with his song ‘The Closest Thing’.

At the beginning of 1997 Marc formed a new band – Gabriel – which played both as a six-piece outfit and a two-man acoustic-based act. Among the many gigs they performed was a well-received support to Jimmy Nail.

Members of the first incarnation included Bryan Josh (later of Mostly Autumn), Iain Jennings (Mostly Autumn/Breathing Space), Shelly (ex-Dare) and Dave Hardy (Goose Horns and many local bands).

In 1999, after the original line up of Gabriel gently disbanded (mainly due to the fact that Bryan and Iain were getting very busy with Mostly Autumn) Marc joined forces once more with Andy Seddon and Rob Swann to create a new version of Gabriel (www.gabriel-music.co.uk). This version played many gigs and started to attract a loyal local following. The band went on to record their debut album Ascension in 2000, and Unplugged and The Barn Sessions in 2001, The Feel EP and Demology 1 in 2002, Demology 2 in 2003 and The Demology Collection in 2004. Supports performed during this time included Jools Holland, Paul Carrack, Glen Tilbrook, Paul Brady, Nick Harper, Mostly Autumn, Caravan, Damien Wilson, Rod Argent and Colin Blunstone.

Gabriel’s Ascension CD featured Allan Scott on drums (ex-Mostly Autumn) alongside Heather Findley (Mostly Autumn), Angela Goldthorpe (MA), Iain Jennings (MA) and, alongside the guitar talents of Bryan Josh (MA), Liam Davison (MA) and Colin Ellsworth. Colin would go on to join the band for all their live work during the promotion for Ascension and would stay with the outfit until 2002.

He was replaced in the band by Paul (Q) Cusick, who impressed the other members by (nearly) pulling off BJ’s huge ‘Faith & Betrayal’ guitar solo at his audition! Paul went on to work with Marc in Riversea and has recently recorded his superb first solo album Focal Point – see www.paulcusick.co.uk.

At around the same time as Q, Alex Cromarty joined the band. A very likable, young and talented musician/drummer, Alex brought with him a sense of fun and excitement that the rest of the band gladly fed off. Alex continues to work with Marc and will be providing the drums for Riversea’s debut album. He also played on Q’s album and works, along with his girlfriend Louise, as the acoustic duo The Wigglers – see www.myspace.com/wigglersmusic.

Graham Hodge had been a member of Gabriel since 1998 and, with Marc, played many acoustic gigs – which eventually resulted in the Gabriel Unplugged CD (2001) and lots of nights of laughter and music. As a slightly older soul, Graham brought with him much warmth and humility, and his subtle guitar work and beautiful, rich voice were a blessing for Marc. Graham continues to work with Marc and has provided contributions to all of Marc’s solo albums. He also performs his own solo acoustic gigs – see www.grahamhodge.co.uk.

In 2001, Marc met the love of his life, Tamsin Davies, and Tam continues to be a source of inspiration for many of Marc's songs.

As well as concerts with Gabriel and the Gabriel Unplugged duo, Marc continued to play solo acoustic gigs, as well as acoustic sets with his sister Janine. With Jan he released an acoustic covers album, Sketch, in January 2004. Also alongside Janine, Marc became a bona fide ‘wedding singer’ when he co-founded function band Celebration which went on to enjoy many successful gigs between 2000 and 2004.

Around this time Marc also helped out with backing vocals for Mostly Autumn, singing on The Last Bright Light, The Anthology and Passengers albums. Along with Rachel Cohn (Karnatika/The Reasoning) and Gina Dootson, he also appeared in the three-strong backing vocal line-up on MA’s live Story So Far DVD - see http://www.mostly-autumn.com/.

By 2004 Gabriel was finding it increasingly hard to find good music venues to play at, as its all-original set was at odds with the increasing emergence of tribute bands. The band therefore decided to concentrate more on studio work and song writing, rather than live performances. So the band members set about collecting songs for what they hoped would be a strong comeback album. Unfortunately, although many songs were written and demoed during this period, the results were never quite good enough for all concerned and therefore never made it to a public audience or released in any official form. Although Marc hoped that the band would eventually re-emerge stronger than ever, Gabriel never performed live again and its members slowly drifted onto other projects. Andy and Rob, now a drummer, went on to co-form Rottn Karma – see www.myspace.com/rottnkarma.

The year 2004 also saw the birth of Marc’s beautiful daughter Enya. The occasion was marked by the releases of his first solo CD Seasons of My Life. Seasons… was written as a journey album and, as Marc continued to play more and more acoustic gigs, the CD found a small, but appreciative, audience.

By 2005 Doctor Who was back on our screens (at last!), this time in the dour form of Christopher Eccleston, and Marc began putting together songs for what would eventually become his This is Where We Are album. By the time of the CD’s release in 2006, David Tennant was The Doctor and all was right with the world. At the end of the same year, Marc began writing lyrics and melodies to Hartlepool-based keyboard player Brendan Eyre’s instrumental tracks. The first co-written song was called ‘Out of an Ancient World’ and this collaboration developed quickly into a project called Riversea - see www.myspace.com/riverseamusic.

Riversea are currently working on their debut album and its promised release sometime in 2010 is much anticipated (by none more so than Brendan and Marc). Joined by Paul Cusick in a three-piece acoustic outfit, Riversea played a well-received support for The Reasoning in 2008 and released ‘The Demo’ EP to celebrate the event.

Also in 2008, Marc released a double disc of all acoustic originals/covers, called Wood & Wire. In addition to Marc’s desire to showcase his song writing talents, the CD was also made to be a promo for his acoustic gigs and has worked well as a calling card at venues throughout the country. Marc continues to play three to four acoustic gigs per week (he played his very last ‘backing track’ set in 2008 much to his own jubilation) and can be seen at venues throughout the Yorkshire(-ish) region - see www.marcatkinson.co.uk.

It was after hearing Riversea’s Out of an Ancient World, on Myspace, that Mandalaband’s David Rohl got in touch with Marc. David liked Marc's voice and asked if he’d be interested in providing some vocals for two upcoming Mandalaband releases. Marc jumped at the chance and can be heard on the BC – Ancestors album singing two songs, 'Beautiful Babylon' and 'Solomon the Wise'. He has yet to record vocals for the AD - Sangreal album, but hopes to go to David’s villa in Spain sometime early in 2010 to lay them down. There are also plans for Mandalaband to tour sometime late in 2010, and the first rehearsals can be seen on YouTube - see http://www.youtube.com/user/MANDALABANDIII.

Between 2006 and the present day, Marc has also been writing an ongoing novel called Eternal, described as a ‘time travelling, spiritual adventure that seeks to find the answer to life’s greatest questions’. Marc hopes to have the book finished sometime in 2010.

So 2010 is a year of exciting possibilities. Not only is Matt Smith’s Doctor going to be superb, and the writing in Doctor Who greatly improved because of the leadership of the brilliant Steven Moffatt, but 2010 should also see the release of Riversea’s debut album, Mandalaband’s AD – Sangreal, Eternal and, just possibly, Marc’s next solo album! Exciting times.

www.marcatkinson.co.uk
www.myspace.com/marcatkinson68

Discography
EXPRESSIONS (1983-1989)
  • Guilty (1983)
  • Edge of the World (1984)
  • Low Profile (1985)
  • Dreams (1986)
  • In the Night (1987)
  • Back in the Good Old Days (1988)

All cassette releases

FRONTIER (1989-1992)
  • Big Talk (1989) (cassette release)
  • No Man’s Land (1991) (vinyl release)
  • Jealousy (1992) (cassette release)
SOLO (ongoing)
  • Prelude (1993)
  • The Barn Demos (1994)
  • 3 (1995)
  • In-between the Bingo (1995)
  • Faith & Betrayal (1996)

All cassette releases

THE COMPANY (1994-1996)
  • Destabberised (1995) (cassette release)
THE BEATROOTS (1994-ff)
  • Live and Unsliced (1997) (cassette release)
  • Rod, The Deep Sea Fisherman (1998) (CD)
GABRIEL (1996-2006)
  • 1:1 (Cassette Release Only) (1997)
  • 5 Track Demo CD (1999)
  • Ascension (2000)
  • Gabriel Unplugged: The Acoustic Sessions (2001)
  • The Barn Sessions (limited edition) (2001)
  • The Feel EP (2002)
  • Demology (2002)
  • Demology 2: Pause (2003)
  • The Demology Collection (2004)
MARC & JAN UNPLUGGED
  • Sketch (2003)
SOLO (ongoing)
  • Seasons of My Life (2004)
  • This Is Where We Are (2006)
  • Wood & Wire (2008)
RIVERSEA (2007-ff)
  • The Demo EP (2008)
  • Out of an Ancient World (2010)
MANDALABAND III (2009-ff)
  • BC – Ancestors (2009)
  • AD – Sangreal (2010)
Additional
  • ‘Natural Resonance’ Compilation Album (2003)
MOSTLY AUTUMN (backing vocal appearances)
  • The Last Bright Light (2001)
  • Heroes Never Die ‘The Anthology’ (2002)
  • The Story So Far (2002)
  • Passengers (2003)
BREATHING SPACE (backing vocal appearances)
  • Under the Radar (2009)
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