Introducing Mark Northfield and Cherry Mint Koala
WHO THE HELL ARE YOU?
I'm a pianist, composer and singer/songwriter from Berkshire, England (following formative years in Norfolk and a spell in London). Also founder member of occasional piano trio Cherry Mint Koala (alongside two seriously fine musicians: violinist Charlie Brown and cellist Tony Woollard).
I tend to make precise, thoughtful and slightly melancholic rock/pop with a prominent classical and theatrical streak, often featuring other vocalists. At the risk of blowing an imaginary trumpet, I've been labelled 'a treasure' (Bluesbunny), 'a maverick genius' (Rhythm n Booze) and 'an excellent composer' (Altsounds). I've also been accused of writing 'marvelously crafted tunes' (Sputnik).
Musical comparisons? The Divine Comedy and John Grant co-writing a musical, possibly. Other notable influences include ABBA, Beethoven, Kate Bush, Pink Martini, Cole Porter, Nils Frahm, Pet Shop Boys, Radiohead, Chopin etc. I also like an indecent amount of pop music from just about any era and can't resist a good, old school 12inch extended version. So there.
My professional work as a pianist for dance has helped shape my eclectic output. Although I'd worked with Tony and Charlie on many previous recordings, Cherry Mint Koala developed as a result of project performances at the arts school where I'm currently Head Ballet Pianist for an MT degree course, managing a small team of class musicians. It's a lively and creative working environment; a great place for developing new ideas and twisting tunes from various genres and eras into unexpected shapes.
STUFF RELEASED UP TO 2016
To date, I've released several albums and EPs - the albums are listed in the main menu on this website. I've also explored my visually creative side through promo videos (stop-motion animation, puppets, drag/zombie action etc), been a finalist in the UK Songwriting Contest (with 'The Forecaster' from Alterations) and gained BBC local radio play for a festive single co-performed with my husband Gareth Forster and a community choir from South London ('Christmas Eve, Gracechurch St' - a charity single for Crisis). BBC Radio 2 also used my cover of Robyn's 'Dancing On My Own' for a series of trails in 2014. This track was included on my Europop covers album 'European Dream'.
Most of the original stuff I've recorded can be found through my Bandcamp store, with CD and downloads available of the albums. Unfortunately they don't allow covers to be sold (well, not legally they don't!) so European Dream is a streaming experience, or it can be downloaded from iTunes/Amazon/CD Baby and such like. There is no physical format of that one.
After that covers project, I had a fair period of mulling over what to do next. I was pretty distracted and depressed by what was then happening in the wider world and the decided turn for the populist worse signalled by Brexit and Trump. Discovering various podcasts (especially Remainiacs) and going on various pro-EU marches helped me understand just how strongly other people also felt about this, and what we stood to lose if the Hard Brexiter fanatics got their way (sad to say, they pretty much did). There was a shared recognition that something decidedly dodgy and underhand had taken place in 2016; this gradually revealed itself and became more worrying as the months and years slipped by.
It didn't occur to me until summer 2019 that perhaps this political and cultural crisis deserved a creative response. But a conversation over a meal one night with a work colleague and her husband (who happened to have worked closely with Theresa May during her time as PM) set me down the path of doing what I thought would be a one-off rough home recording on my phone, just for a laugh: a short and jolly reworked version of 'Singing In The Rain', re-titled 'Dying In A Ditch' as per Johnson's (in)famous promise (another of his many lies).
It wasn't a one-off. A second jaunty tune swiftly followed. The third mid October set an exact chunk of text from a Remainiacs podcast (Ian Dunt attempting to explain the nonsense surrounding GATT Article XXIV in 60 seconds) to an original - if highly derivative - light-operatic style piece, interwoven with Chopin's Minute Waltz. The sweary but adorable Mr Dunt retweeted it and I suddenly had an afternoon of a constantly pinging phone...
So the path was pretty much set from there. And while some of these have been more successful than others (possibly because they caught a highly-charged moment when people were especially pissed off: e.g. the Cummings Barnard Castle trip, or The Truss/Kwarteng mini-budget debacle) it's been a rewarding endeavour.
While the topical satire will sporadically continue (because Brexit is still a dumb idea, populism still alive and kicking, and our politics still an absolute binfire) I'm now thoroughly immersed in a new recording project. Whilst I've wanted to make another album for several years, the necessary expense of living was getting in the way and I was finding it hard to justify the considerable outlay involved. At least recording satire on one's phone is free except for the time spent...
But then a completely unexpected and generous offer last year galvanised me into action, and so the past six months have involved much compositional scribbling and playing around with ideas. After all the continual grimness of the past few years, I really felt like writing some songs which carried a spark of joy, even if it's only a light being through the darkness. And I also wanted to mess around with some less well-known classical themes and reframe them, because some great tunes from years gone by deserve to be given new settings.
The plan is to have everything recorded by the end of summer, get a few promo videos together and start putting out some individual tracks. I'm sure there is going to be too much material for one album, so rather than go into the recording sessions with preconceived ideas about the end package, I'm going to see what we end up with and then decide how to group things.
Looking forward to getting stuck in and meeting some old friends along the way. :)
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