TCM Contributor Charles Peters recently caught up (briefly) with Cool Hand Luke’s Mark Nicks to talk about the band’s newest project as well as their decision to call it quits.
From marching in drumline and being in awe of Led Zeppelin IV, drums have always been a huge part of the life Mark Nicks from Nashville-based band, Cool Hand Luke.
“When I heard Sunny Day Real Estate that really changed the game for me,” he told me (Charles Peters) as we discussed the many bands that graced his record player in his formative college years. From Pearl Jam to the wasted indie talent of Sub Pop Records to Guns N’ Roses, Nicks was well versed in heavy sounding and heavyhearted rock music when he left high school. At this juncture of Nicks’s life he joined with some friends Brandon Morgan and Jason Hammil, whom together (with their backs to the crowd) started pounding out hard, fast punk rock.
After three full length albums the band went on hiatus but Nicks breathed new life into the project with new members and new approaches. “As time went on, I started messing around with piano, so when I had a melodic idea I could share it.”
In 2007, Floodgate Records went under leaving Nicks with a finished record that had been recorded in Glow In the Dark Studios, Atlanta, GA.
What was the process of recording The Sleeping House like for you ?
“It seemed like a really long process,” Nicks told me. “We recorded for about a month with Matt Goldman in Atlanta and that was a great experience. I love Matt. He’s a really great producer and a really great guy. And I’m not from Atlanta so I spend the nights in the studio, so for a month that was my life. After we did the main tracking we shopped the record around and no one was interested in it. From there it took about a year and a half to put the record out. I went into the studio about a year after we recorded it to just tie up some loose ends and a few parts in here and there.
“I don’t know I’m proud of the record but it was such a headache getting it out that sometimes when I think about it doesn’t seem like a positive thing. It was very taxing actually.”
When did you decide there would be an end to Cool Hand Luke?
“I don’t know; I still don’t know when the end of Cool Hand Luke is [laughs]. At the end of 2004, when we were touring together, we weren’t getting along all that well. It was clear that none of us were really enjoying it, it had just become like a job for us. So we decided to just take a break. In that interim is when I played drums with the Chariot.
“Then we came back together [after six months] and I wasn’t satisfied thinking that Cool Hand Luke had just fizzled out because it was so important to me and I think to a lot other people. Also I had our manager calling me constantly with tour offers and the label wanted to know what I was doing. I wanted to keep doing music. But I wasn’t sure whether to call it Cool Hand Luke or not and I felt almost pressured into doing that. For the past year I haven’t had a band it’s just been me playing solo and it makes sense now to call it Cool Hand Luke because I’m playing mostly CHL songs. When I put my next studio record out it mostly likely won’t be called ‘Cool Hand Luke’. I’m actually working on ‘Of Man’ and there another record that’s just kind of, you know whatever songs. But ‘Of Man’ is what I’m trying to focus on, so I can hopefully get that out this year.”
“Of Man” has been poised to be the last Cool Hand Luke record. From what he told me the amount of music he’s taking ranging from classical, to gospel and older music. “[laughs] I still listen to Mastodon.” Thematically are very distinct from one to the next. “I’ve been thinking a lot about the intersections of theology, faith and art. I feel kind of let down that there’s nothing more engaging out there in Christian rock or pop.” There’s a lot of hope in what he’s saying, from the way he said it, it seemed like a catalyst in him to make a better record than what is on his horizon.
As for what’s next for Cool Hand Luke, it’s all up in there for Mark Nicks. He is filled with a burden to attend seminary and finish Cool Hand Luke with excellence and poetic justice.