Track By Track: Mile Marker Zero - Young Rust

By John A. Wilcox

Connecticut's very own prog rockers Mile Marker Zero are back with another opus. This one is called Young Rust and keyboardist Mark Focarile as well as guitarist John Tuohy are here to take us all through it track by track...

Track 1: The Great Unknown
MF: We started the EP with this song because to us it sounded like a song you would hear at the beginning of an arena show. The drum intro leads right into the huge opening chords. The first verse builds slowly, and the chorus releases into big majestic chords. Lyrically, we quoted several of our old songs, while stating that this something new that you haven't experienced before. Keyboard wise, this is one of the most diverse parts I have on the album. I use everything from mellotron to organ, or Led Zeppelin-esque string layers and even some industrial synths. This song is one of my favorite songs to play live.
JT: When we first got together in the practice room to write this song, we knew that we wanted to have a strong opening track for the CD. We wanted it to be something anthemic, with a slow, almost majestic groove. Dave (Alley, vocals) had a riff that initially was a little bit faster, but well suited to bring the tempo down and lock into that groove. The song came together in less than three rehearsals.
We knew that we wanted to have this song that literally says to the listener, "This is new... You have never heard an album like this before, prepare yourself", albeit in a much more poetic fashion. And in traditional MMZ style, every stanza of the verses refers lyrically to a previous song from either our last album, (Mile Marker Zero) or our first EP The Haunted. There's also a couple of lines in there for a song that's going to be on the next album. So watch out for that!

Track 2: Where I Want You
MF: Where I Want You is the single from Young Rust and completely captures in one song what Mile Marker Zero is all about. There are deep harmonic layers on top of heavy driving rhythms topped off with really memorable melodies. It features a great guitar solo from John during a really spacy Pink Floyd/A Perfect Circle style bridge. We gave the song the working title of A Decent Square after we worked out the bridge for the first time.
JT: Where I Want You was the first single that we released off the album. We've always been trying to strike a balance between good musicianship, long, detailed and involved prog songs, and shorter, catchier powerful rock songs. This song happens to bridge the gap between both. The vocal is catchy, the guitar riff is hooky, but in what other "single" are you going to find a half-time psychedelic Pink Floyd-esque solo section smack in the middle? I really enjoy playing that section live...I feel like it transports the audience to another level every single time we play a show.
Dave really stepped up vocally in this song, really hitting some awesome Chris Cornell-like high notes at the end of the song, as well as belting it out in the choruses. (Not to mention the great keyboard work of Mark, keeping the soundscapes and vicious organs that he's known for alive and well on this track!)

Track 3: Bound
MF: This is one of the most different tracks we have ever done. As a keyboardist, you'd think that I would have listened to Nine Inch Nails all of my life, but it was Dave who showed me their music when we first started hanging out. He started this as a loop on his iPad, and came up with the main melody right off the bat. At first, I wasn't sure how this song would fit with the rest of our material, but we managed to give it the "MMZ sound" while venturing to into a moody, erotic, almost gothy feel. I actually didn't play any of the keyboards on the track, because what Dave came up with in the original demo was so good. I went to rerecord the Rhodes part with a really nice Rhodes sound I have, but it didn't capture the mood of the original, so I left it alone.
JT: This track shows another side of MMZ that we have never really previously shown. This chord progression was originally played on Dave's iPad, and we fashioned an entire song around it. We even kept the Ipad version as the main keyboard riff! This is a thing that MMZ has never done in the past, and boy, are we happy with the result! This might be the most "produced" track on the album...with lots of vocal effects, percussion, keyboard and guitar layers. I had a blast pretending I was a layman's version of Trent Reznor (who the band likes unanimously as a production hero).

Track 4: Trick Of The Tongue
MF: This is the really "proggy" song on the album, and it was just featured in's Progstravaganza compilation. We were able to record this song up at Applehead Studios again with Mike Birnbaum and Chris Bittner, and it came out sounding massive. John Medeski from Medeski, Martin, and Wood had just finished a session there, and his piano and mellotron were still in the studio so I jumped at the opportunity to use them. I had actually never played a real mellotron before, and it I could literally feel the gears winding the tapes under my fingers when I played. It was a bitch to keep in tune, and we had to punch in several of the lines to get it right. Chris Bittner made me play the organ solo like 10 times. I was getting tired cause I was standing up and putting my whole body into it like Keith Emerson would, and every time I thought I had a great take, he'd say "you can do better".... I love Dave's melody in the chorus, and this song's message of manipulation always connects with the crowd.
JT: Trick Of The Tongue is in my opinion, our most progressive song on the album. This song has it all, an organ solo, a guitar solo, lots of syncopation, orchestration of various parts, a riffed out outro, and to top it off, a lyrical rant about misinformation in the media and government. That is to say, a perfectly proggy piece. Dave came up with the opening riff, and the song just practically wrote itself from there. It's strange with MMZ, the more technical progressive-y songs get written much faster than the shorter, more seemingly "easy" pieces. If I had to choose, I think my favorite part to play is the unison section in the 2nd verse.

Track 5: Toughest Love
MF: This song has a special place in my heart because while we were up at Applehead tracking this song, my wife found that she was pregnant with our son. She somehow managed to wait 3 days until I got home to tell me! This song has been around for a while, and was written early on in the Young Rust writing sessions. We went for a Queens Of The Stone Age vibe in the main riff, which I augmented with the harsh keyboard ostinatos. John plays one of his best solos in the middle, and the half-time outro is one of my favorite things to play live. You can see the audience's eyes light up when we get to that part, and sometimes they just start shoving each other around...
JT: We've had Toughest Love around for a couple of years now. This song has lots of quirky riffs that intertwine with each other. The keyboard parts on this song are some of my favorite on the album. Mark did a great job with making them fit like a glove! This guitar solo is probably my favorite one that I wrote for the album. Most of my guitar solos are improvised, or improvisationally based at least. However, this one was the only one that I fully composed in an evening. I was listening to the riff that we recorded at rehearsal, and thought a lot about the pacing of the solo. I knew I wanted some faster sections, and some quirky note choices on top of some of the chords. Blend that together with some bluesy phrasing, and you get the Toughest Love solo!

Track 6: Between The Lines
MF: Between The Lines came out beautifully, and must have been a bitch to mix with all the keyboard layers, guitars and harmonies throughout the song. I love how the motif of a little piano cluster in the beginning grows into a majestic chorus with all the beautiful counter-melodies and backing harmonies. We haven't had too many opportunities to play this live yet, so I'm looking forward to seeing the audience's reaction to it.
JT: Our closing track Between The Lines is the "epic" one of the EP. I love this song because it's dramatic in every part of the song; from Doug (Alley, drums)'s tom groove in the beginning, to the soaring strings in the chorus of the song, we wanted this song to feel bigger than life. The whole time, we wanted to make sure we were underscoring Dave's lyrical ideas by using driving riffs and soft string counterpoint when needed. The bridge of the song reminds me of maybe something that Yes or Genesis would do.


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