I had the chance to talk to Mark Nicks of Cool Hand Luke about having time off from the band and the new album that is due out January 23, 2007. Unfortunately, due to time constraints we had to correspond through email. Mark reformed Cool Hand Luke after having a year off from the band. He brought the band back with two brand new members. Mark plays drums, piano, and sings, while newcomers Joey Holman and Casey McBride play guitar and bass respectively.
CoryIVM: What is your involvement in Invisible Children?
Mark: My involvement started with just trying to tell all my friends about it and getting people to watch the film. I hosted a party at my house last year and raised almost $900. Last fall I went on tour with Underoath and Thrice promoting Invisible Children. I basically, had copies of the movie and literature and tried to talk to people about it. You’d be surprised how little people care about children in another country compared to buying a band hoodie.
CoryIVM: I can’t even imagine. So how does it feel to return to Cool Hand Luke after having a year off?
Mark: It was so scary at first. I was scared that no one would care or that people would think I was full of myself. I had fears that God’s hand wouldn’t be on this anymore. Anytime I make a big life decision I really question my discernment. “Is this something God is calling me to do or is this something that I want to do, so I’m saying God is calling me to do it?” Everything was different. I wasn’t playing drums live anymore and it’s a brand new band. But now that we’ve been playing for a while, I’ve found that it’s really not that different. We play a lot of the same songs that we used to, and our purpose hasn’t changed. We’ve really seen God move this year, and that has encouraged me and given me peace about this decision.
CoryIVM: How have the new members changed the band, and/or what have they added to the band?
Mark: You know, the new members haven’t changed the band as much as I thought it would. Our new songs sound different, but I think that has more to do with me than them. I think the next record was going to sound different no matter who played on it. The writing has changed from what Cool Hand Luke was when we first started playing. We used to just get in a room and make stuff up. Now, I usually bring in ideas on piano and we flesh them out from there. Joey and Casey have brought in some ideas, too. One of the new tracks on the record that’s coming out in January called “Wonder Tour” is an idea that Casey brought in. Casey is a great bass player. I think Brandon (our old bass player) is one of the best bass players I know of, so I was worried that I would never be satisfied without him in the band, but Casey has definitely risen to the occasion. Joey plays very similarly to both Chris and Jason in a lot of ways. As far as guitar goes, the songs are changing and calling for different things than you would have heard in the past and Joey is trying some new stuff. Overall, though, I think if you didn’t know that there were new members in the band, you probably wouldn’t be able to tell just from listening.
CoryIVM: What can we expect from the new stuff?
Mark: The new songs are a little more rocking than the last record. Not all of the songs, mind you, but there are some guitar driven songs that are a little more up tempo than usual. There is a dark, melancholy feel to most of the songs. I would say that’s due partially to what I’ve been living and what God has been teaching me, but also that’s just how I tend to write. I’m drawn to minor chords. They are more emotive to me. We’ve written a lot of new music, but we’re still sifting through it and refining it. I’m anxious to see how they are going to turn out when they are recorded.
CoryIVM: Do you have a name for the new album yet? If so what is the meaning behind it?
Mark: We have a new album coming out January 23 called “The Balancing Act”. It will be a collection of songs from the whole eight year span of Cool Hand Luke included some rare, hard to find songs, and three brand new ones. “The Balancing Act” is the name of one of the new songs, but I thought it would make a great title, too, given the nature of the album. Everything about it has been a balancing act, especially for me personally. There is a constant balance between being a band and being a business, between being on stage and being humble, between being disciplined and being legalistic, between being musicians and being ministers of the gospel. It’s always hard, and we’re always learning. I’ve learned more from being in this band and having relationships in the guys in this band, particularly Brandon and Jason, than I’ve learned anywhere else. We are also writing for a new record that will come out somewhere down the road.
CoryIVM: Do you have an overall message or theme for the record?
Mark: Christ glorified. We hope we can make music that allows people to get even a small glimpse of how big Christ is and how great his love for us is.
CoryIVM: Who/what has influenced you in writing for the new material?
Mark: I’m influenced in a lot of different ways. I have musical influences that are probably obvious. I’m very inspired by film scores. But more than that, I think the time away from this band and the relationships I’ve had have influenced my writing a lot. Lyrically, I’ve just been writing a lot about what I have observed and felt. I’m trying to be careful not to write so subjectively that I alienate listeners. I’ve always wanted to write songs that people can be a part of and actually sing along with in earnest. Again, it’s a balancing act.
CoryIVM: Will there be a lot of piano on this record like in “The Fires of Life”? And what type of instruments will you guys be using on this record?
Mark: There will be a lot of piano since that’s primarily what I play now, but we are trying to make a balanced record that doesn’t sound like all piano ballads. As far as instrumentation, it won’t be too different from what we’ve always done. We’ll probably pull out a few weird things in the studio but no big departures from the typical instrumentation that we’ve always had. I’ll still be playing drums on the record, and it’s been fun writing the parts.
CoryIVM: What are your up and coming tour plans?
Mark: We will be in the studio this winter, so we will only be playing spot dates, but we will be touring to promote the new record in the spring.
CoryIVM: Any last thing you would like to say?
Mark: Thank you for caring.
CoryIVM: Your welcome, God bless