Fractures: Bits and pieces of Mark Zito

In the hours preceding his hometown show at Howler in Melbourne, I sat down with Mark Zito (otherwise known as Fractures) to talk about his musical journey. It was just a 20 minute chat, but there’s no doubt we covered a lot of ground – from the early days of piano lessons his parents forced him to take, to the injury which put his career on hold for a little while.

What first introduced you to music? Further to that, what drew you to making a career from it?

You don’t really have a choice in the matter when you’re a young bub. I used to apparently sneak off and turn on ‘Hit The Road Jack’ by Ray Charles. That used to be my thing. So that’s my first memory of music. Then, far from being voluntary I had piano lessons. Like you do when you’re a kid and your parents are trying to figure out what you’re good at? I didn’t gravitate towards it, and I didn’t love the lessons. But, I persevered. I was kind of made to do it to a certain level and then once I hit that level I could move onto whatever else I wanted. Then, I started getting a bit more creative and begun learning the bass guitar in year 7 – so I was 13, 14? Then, all the other instruments I started tweaking and twiddling with. That was it. But I never had any specific aspirations – it just worked out that I started writing songs.

The point I’ve referenced in the past is that I used to be in a bluegrass band as a bassist. So, not really a feature player. Just someone in the background. There were 3 very capable singers in that group so I never had to worry about it. Until that point, I’d never really sung in public – beyond school choirs and things like that. Then one day it did fall on me, but I had to sing on stage which I hadn’t done. I suppose I popped my cherry that way, then from that point I got a bit more interested in what my voice would sound like over music – which I’d been writing, but nothing like Fractures stuff – it was all pop, rock Vanessa Carlton kind of stuff. I experimented for about 6 months, then I eventually wrote a song called ‘Twisted’ and from there, the direction was a bit more set. I found my little pocket. The aspirations weren’t necessarily there, but people heard it and seemed to like it. Management eventually found me and yeah, fill in the blanks from there to here.

You’ve had a working collaboration with Andrei Eremin for the last couple of years. As the story goes, you first met in audio engineering class…

Yeah, correct. At RMIT. In the city. I couldn’t tell you the first time I met him or why we buddied up. Andrei far exceeded my abilities, but we still gelled. I had enough perspective to know I wasn’t the best in the class, but I could still do things very well. From there it became pretty obvious that he was going to be a guy I should remain friends, with beyond the fact that I got on with him really well. He had good prospects. Since then it’s kind of been hard to not go back to him. I went to Wayne (Connolly) to mix quite a few songs on this album, but I still wanted Andrei to be in there just because I can trust him. He knows what to do.

He’s kind of like the anchor of the Melbourne music scene, In a way.

Yeah, he’s like the central point. Like a gateway everyone passes through.

The same with Simon Lam.

Well yeah, he’s kind of like his apprentice. Now he’s almost his equal. They’re good for different things I suppose. That’ll be good, to see them take over the industry. There’s a lot of people how mix, but not so many people who do it well. And they do. It helps, giving you more options and knowing that you trust them.

You’re no stranger to collaboration. What value do you find in it?

Just flexing your muscles, more than anything. Half the time it’s an exercise, I don’t really go in there with any idea as to what will come out of it. I mean sometimes it’s trash that’ll never see the light of day. I guess you learn things about how you could work or improve and vice versa. You get stuck in your own little pocket, so collaboration gets you out of your comfort zone. The other artist might have an idea that you wouldn’t necessarily gravitate towards, but then if you step back and be subjective for 2 seconds you realise it’s actually cool. It’s handy for networking too. It’s pretty incestuous the Melbourne music industry. Once you know one person, you kind of know the rest. It’s basically just going through the Rolodex.

One thing I’ve noticed is that your work isn’t really collaboration heavy, it’s very independent. But, you’re credited on a lot of other things? Is it a deliberate choice to keep your work solely your own? 

Yeah, 100%. Fractures is me. I make the songs alone at home, so none of these writing sessions have ever gone in the direction where I was like ‘that could maybe end up on my record…’ I don’t know, it’s just a personal thing. I’m pretty good at not being a control freak when I collaborate, so I may as well have my outlet where I can be in charge. For now I think it’ll just be me. But I’m happy to work with everybody else.

You often work in a solitary environment, away from other stimuli or influences. Why does that  resonate with you?

On the chances I can get away and lock myself out, or lock everything else out in the world – it just rids you of distraction I suppose. If you’re somewhere where you’re not getting internet… That’s half the battle. I tend to ignore regular sleep patterns when I get into those modes. Which I don’t often do, but there’s something about it which is conducive to being creative and getting in the mindset that allows me to make the music that I write. I could write other music during the day and things, but for some reason as soon as it’s dark I’m like ‘yep – here we go. This is it.’ Then if you can get some rain in there too that’s perfect. I don’t know, I guess it’s just the isolation factor which allows you to focus more. There’s nothing on the periphery.

You did a bunch of writing on the Mornington Peninsula didn’t you?

Yeah I spent a week there, at Anthony, my manager’s family beach house. I got about 3 songs out of that. Not necessarily all of them from start to finish. But I just sat there and finessed them for the week – got them to where they are largely on the album. There’s something about it. It’s evocative. If I can do it, I do. But I don’t have that many friends with beach houses. It’s tough (laughs).

You had an accident in 2013 which put things on hold for a little bit. What happened?

Little bit, yeah. I fainted at home when I was living with my parents. Hit the deck, broke my neck – that was that. The diagnoses was like, ‘you’ve got to be in a halo for 3 months barring any weirdness in your recovery’. I essentially had a big contraption wrapped to my head for 3 months – which limited what I could lift and I couldn’t quite sing properly, or at full volume. It was shit, and I was grumpy, but it was pretty straight forward as far as these things go. I got out, had a month or so when I was a bit weak and then I played my gig about 2 months after. As far as these things go, it was a horrible injury and it could of been very bad. But I came out of it pretty fine. There’s no real residual effect beyond a little bit of scarring on my head., things like that. It gave me a little bit of time to take stock. It allowed me to redirect my music. The recovery was pretty unremarkable – I was just at home, watching a lot of television. It was shit, but that’s okay.

It happened a couple of weeks before your first gig, didn’t it?

I think the week of. June the 13th it happened, and my gig was on the 17th or 18th. Can’t remember what it was going to be. I knew it was going to be at The Toff. It happened the week of. Shit timing. We didn’t really think it was that bad until I got to the hospital and they scanned my neck. It was interesting. But there’s people who’ve had worse injuries and a far worse time than me. So I don’t really get too hung up on it.

During your recovery, was the idea of making music again stressful or was it something that kept you inspired?

It wasn’t stressful, it was just frustrating. Like I said, I couldn’t sing properly. So I think I came up with maybe one or two ideas. I don’t think that I kept any of them. I couldn’t even pick up a guitar and I just wasn’t in the headspace where I felt like it. I was just annoyed at myself and for being in that situation. I defintely tried, but it just sucked the life out of me for a little bit. Just didn’t feel the need to do it. When the brace came off, I was good to go. But those three months, I pretty much had off from music.

What matters to you about being an independent artist?

Probably what I mentioned before about my control tendencies. Just having final say on everything. I back my sensibility – not to discredit anyone else’s opinions, but I don’t necessarily want to hear them. I’m writing these songs for me, and if people like them that’s a bonus. I guess I’m a little wary of ‘outside help’ if you want to call it that. There’s nothing wrong with labels, it’s just that’s my one hesitation. And if I can fund it myself, why not? The returns are greater and I have greater control over the music I release. Control is the key word.

If you don’t mind me asking, How did you fund the album?

Basically synchs. TV shows, things like that overseas. There’s always stuff rolling in there. Spotify for some reason has been very kind to me. My stats are irrational compared to the airtime I’m getting here. Things like that. I haven’t been doing too many gigs, so it’s certainly not from that. It was nice, I didn’t have to go begging. No grants or anything this time around – totally self funded. The EP was a grant, which was great. I didn’t need to this time around.

Still here, The debut record from Fractures is out now.

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