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From the basement to your headphones
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Basement studio wizard Mark Edwards. Edwards' musically spacious CD, "Rewind Tomorrow," was designed to be heard on headphones. (Photo courtesy of Princess Records)
Digital technology has helped spawn thousands of basement studios across the country. Singer songwriter Mark Edwards of Minneapolis has one. For Edwards, a father of two with a full time day job, having a basement studio has meant having an artistic life after the kids go to bed.

Minneapolis, Minn. — "I like when my dad plays music."

Five year old Adeline Edwards is one of her father Mark's biggest boosters. Which is good, because her dad often borrows her sound-making toys to record samples in his basement studio.

Mark Edwards, who as a performer goes by the name of "The Original Mark Edwards," lives what some would view a charmed life.

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Image Edwards with his "See 'n Say"

"I get home at 5:30 or 6:00 at night," he says. "Usually I have dinner, hang out with the kids until bedtime, which I try to do at 8:00 or 8:30. And then if it's a band night in my mind, I come down to my studio downstairs and just get cranking. Then it can be until midnight or 1 or 2 a.m. It depends on how influenced I am."

Edwards has been writing songs since he was a kid. When he was 13, he used a cheap, multi-track tape player to record them. He didn't start seriously pursuing music until college, when he and his friends formed "The Domo Sound."

The Domo Sound specialized in epic sounding, effects-driven space rock in the tradition of Radiohead. To the surprise of all the band members, The Domo Sound hit the big time after only a few coffeehouse performances.

"Four shows into our career we end up on Conan O'Brien, playing, because we entered a college band contest and we won," Edwards says.

The Conan O'Brien appearance probably set the bar too high for The Domo Sound. Edwards says the band members put a lot of pressure on themselves, set unrealistic goals and ended up imploding. It wasn't a very fun time, and Edwards' new CD, "Rewind Tomorrow," is his artistic response to that experience.

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Image Playing electric piano

"When I started this project, I really wanted to say, you know, why do I do this? I did this when I was 13 because I really loved it, and I want to get back to that," Edwards says. "And so this project's a lot like that. When I feel like doing it I can do it, and it's all about just loving to do music again, and not having any pressure anymore."

Edwards adopted the stage name, The Original Mark Edwards, kind of as an inside joke. He had done a Google search on his name, and when thousands of Mark Edwards turned up, he decided to become the standard bearer of them all.

He's a man of interesting contrasts. His muttonchop sideburns and hip apparel say indie rocker, but he works as a financial analyst for a firm that develops senior-level business executives. He's a devout Christian, but he loves the spacey, psychedelic, drug inspired music of the '60s and early '70s. You can hear those contrasts on many of the 11 songs that make up Edwards' new CD.

"I'd say I almost have two lives in this project," he says. "One is the recorded life, one is the 'live' life."

Edwards' recorded life is similar to most pop musicians with digital basement studios. Like many other artists, Edwards uses recorded samples and loops continually repeating the same sound or rhythm, as a background texture.

"On the live thing, everything is looped, so I don't use any samples, I don't use anything pre-recorded at this point. I basically record a beat box or I record a guitar line or something. And then I loop on top of it, and then the whole song eventually builds up from the ground," says Edwards.

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Image Edwards and family

"From a live standpoint it's almost like a science experiment in a way -- because it could fall apart, and has fallen apart," he says.

Many of the songs on "Rewind Tomorrow" are short by Edwards' standards, and get to the point in a hurry. Most have a trippy, spacey feel, with studio techniques a la Beatles and soaring harmonies a la Beach Boys. It gives them a peaceful, almost lullaby, quality. It's music made for headphone listening. If there's an overriding theme, it's to stay in touch with the moment.

One song is an instrumental entitled "Three Minutes To Impact." It's Edwards' musical image of what a plane crash might be like. He incorporates samples of Icelandic flight attendants giving instructions on what to do in case of an emergency.

"The music really works well with that vibe of impending doom, and almost has a peace about it, which would probably play to my spirituality. Almost like, we're going down, it's going to be all right, that kind of thing."

There are thousands of basement studios in America, where a flood of music is being created. Mark Edwards doesn't worry about whether his music will stand out.

"For me it all comes down to the songs," he says. "There are a thousand great guitar players and one great songwriter. and as long as the songs are written really well, they could be produced a thousand different ways and they'd probably still come across."

Edwards will celebrate his new CD, "Rewind Tomorrow," with a show at the Kitty Kat Club Friday night in Minneapolis.

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