Mark In Harmony (Big Bass Balls pt. 2)

The first time I interviewed Mark for this newsletter (Summer '96 Issue), we learned a bit about Mark Harmon's musical background and influences. We learned that he is not your typical "hick", i.e., a young man who was born and raised in a small town in Virginia (ironically right off of Interstate 77), who has fond memories of seeing bands play to crowds out of the back of a trailer. Both he and his brother Bill became interested in playing music at an early age, and although Mark wanted to play guitar, circumstances led him to pick up a bass (of which we are all very grateful for).

Of course there is much more to Mark Harmon than music. He is a very devoted husband and father of two, buoyed only by his faith in Christ. Mark has an acute intellect for the spiritual and godly things in life which at first may take a few people by surprise. So without further ado, let's delve deep into the things that make this man tick.

1) You have got to be one of the busiest guys I've ever known. You've got the job at Hewlett-Packard in management which takes you out of town and state from time to time, a band which takes away many of your evenings and which also takes you away for periods of time, a family, mortgage, car payments,,,,, brother how do you do it?

"Jeez, I'm not sure how to answer this one. Well, I've basically got two jobs - one that pays the bills and the other one that pays the heart. Although I'm extremely grateful for the job that pays the bills, I'm actually surprised that I'm still doing it. The only reason I took the job was because I thought that within a short period of time, some music endeavor would take off and I could make a living doing what I really want to do. But as we all know, it hasn't worked out that way yet. Nonetheless, I'm very grateful for the opportunities the band has afforded us. We've met a lot of people out on the road because of our music - we must have one of the most loyal group of fans out there - and I've been extremely blessed by their kindness, their willingness to discuss real issues, their perseverance in prayer for us (which we always need!) and their encouragement. My only hope is that my energy level keeps up at this level until, hopefully, something breaks for the band."

2) You and Cindy have a very special relationship, and have been together now for a long time. How did you meet your wife and how much of an impact has she had (or continues to have) in your life?

"Cindy's church had a youth singing group (including a band) that performed contemporary Christian music. A friend of mine played trombone in the band and told me they needed a bass player. I was always interested in playing as much as I could (being 16), so I joined. As I was meeting people during the first rehearsal, I noticed Cindy and was instantly attracted to her. Unfortunately, she was a year older than me, in a pretty heavy relationship with some other guy and I was out of luck. Not only that, but during the next few rehearsals, she didn't even show up. Turned out that the relationship she was in fell through and was pretty hard for her. She returned a while later and we eventually started dating which led to marriage a few years after that. Cindy and I have been through incredible ups and incredible downs together. Only the strong commitment we have toward each other and a shared faith in Christ has kept us from going off the deep end. I can't begin to explain to you what she has meant to me or what impact she's had on my life. She's always been extremely supportive of my interests in music and has sacrificed a lot for it over the years. I'm very grateful for her."

3) Your kids are great! Please describe the both of them for the fans.

"Our daughter, Ana, was the first to come along. She's very independent and also very interested in music (she's currently taking violin lessons). I love her self-confidence, although it gets her into trouble occasionally, and I see a lot of myself in her at times. Dylan, our son, is very much like his mother. He's very smart, athletic, people-oriented and has a kind, gentle spirit. He's now getting to the age where he and I are starting to develop a special relationship - one that I hope and pray continues."

4) Like most people in this world, you've had a rocky relationship with God. Give us an overview of how you first came to Christ and your walk with Him since then.

"Well, my first encounter with God came when I was 12. Although I grew up in a Christian home, things really started to change when my dad decided to take us out of the church we attended. (It turned out that our new pastor didn't believe in the virgin birth or in Christ's resurrection.) We started having "church" every Sunday in our home and during this time, my mom and dad's relationship with God became very serious. My parents got heavily involved with Hal Lindsey's ministry and started weekly bible studies with some other couples. Looking back, this obviously influenced me. To be honest, I'm not sure what my relationship with God was during my teen years. I think the "moral" aspect of Christianity sunk in - the "relationship" part I'm not sure about. Kinda hard to explain. Anyway, when I started college, the rebellious part of my nature kicked in. I became extremely involved in drugs, which about killed me. Fortunately, after a couple of years, my dad offered me a plane ticket to California so that I could get away and spend some time with my brother. A cooling off period. My brother and his wife, who are Christians, nursed me back to health, physically, mentally and spiritually. It was during this time that I renewed my relationship with God (or I should say, the other way around).

"I wish I could emphatically state that "he lived happily ever after" at this point, but of course, we all know life presents a lot of twists and turns. I have definitely experienced the "mountain tops" and the "valleys". To my regret, I've brought a lot of what I term "valleys" upon myself because of selfishness, dishonesty and pride. God calls us to "take up the cross" on a daily basis and I'm just now getting to the point where I sort of understand what this means to me in my day to day life."

5) The 77's still manage to rile a few feathers from time to time at their shows. Not many people appreciate "mosh pits" occurring in their church, but to see a 77's show you just can't sit on your laurels, you have to get involved. How do you explain to people the mission of the band and why you guys aren't on stage preaching the Gospel during a rock concert?

"I guess I don't look at the 77's as a "Christian" band. I've always viewed the 77's, even before I joined, as an eclectic rock-n-roll band that is made up of Christians. Obviously, a lot of what we sing and talk about is going to be related to our faith and the problems we face on a day-to-day basis, but unfortunately, we've been deemed too secular for the church and too "Christian" for the mainstream. Some people in the church have accused us of purposely being controversial for the sake of being controversial and some clubs have gotten mad at us because we didn't sell enough alcohol during our shows because of the type of crowd we attracted. We always seem to be caught in the middle. The only mission we've ever had in this band, since I've been involved, has been to create music with the highest integrity concerning the lyrics/music and the hope that God would somehow use this noise for His purposes and glory. That it would touch people where they're at and somehow make this life a little more enjoyable or tolerable. I mean, we love what we do. We each feel that God has given us unique talents and abilities that are to be used in a responsible way. God gave me the love of music and the love of making music, but it sure seems like a curse sometimes."

6) How do you deal with your own children when it comes to the music they listen to?

"Since they're still young, it hasn't really gotten to the point yet where Cindy and I have had to worry about what they're listening to. I've really tried to expose them both to all forms of music - jazz, classical, rock, bluegrass. Ana really likes the band Frente, some rap, and believe it or not, the 77's. Dylan likes Hanson - well, maybe I should start worrying."

7) Tell the folks about your new bass!!

"Well, it's not so new now. I finally found an upright bass that I could afford last year. It's a 1952 Kay upright that's in pretty good condition. I learned to play upright when I was young, but never had one of my own. So, when this opportunity came along , I took it. I've done a few sessions with it and my chops are starting to slowly come back. It's a very demanding, physical instrument, but I love the way it sounds and the way it that it makes you think differently when composing or playing. It's the one instrument I see myself playing when I'm 70 years old."

8) You and Bruce have been writing while Mike's been on tour - - how's that going along, and when do you think the next 77's record will be out? (Can I still call them records?)

"Bruce and I have basically been doing some pre-production on a bunch of songs the two of us wrote when we were in Stockholm. We're trying to get them to a point where we feel comfortable with the arrangements, vocal melodies and lyrical ideas. We're hoping to get started full-fledge with the project when Mike gets back. Bruce and I have also been writing and recording some fusion/jazz compositions, along with some other musicians, and hope to have that done by the end of the year. But to be honest with you, I'm extremely anxious to get started on the new 77's record because I think it's going to be strong melodically and chart some new territory for the band. This band is so diverse and musically strong that each record ends up being a different adventure! The other cool thing about this record is I think we're going to sell it ourselves through the webpage and maybe one or two small distributors. We'll be able to shop it ourselves to any interested mainstream labels, which is something we haven't been able to do before. Hopefully, it will be out next spring. "

NOTE: For you Strawmen fans, Mark, Dave, and Bill have been writing via tapes sent through the mail, and they plan to get together this summer and record another album! (It has been 10 years since "At Home"!). We'll be sure to let you know when this comes out!

I guess if I had to describe Mark Harmon in one word, it would have to be "committed". He is a role model in every aspect of the word, from faith to family, to work. I dare say that he is by far one of the hardest working men in the business, and is an example to me every day.

Look forward to much more coming from this man musically as well as in this newsletter in the future!

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