Mark Mikel grew up in Toledo, Ohio, and has been making music much of his life. In the late 70's through late 80's he played with a group called Marikesh, and then created his own band, the Mark Mikel Hallucination, with some friends of his. He released three albums with this band in the early 90's (Blatant Ripoffs, Sorghum Pudding and The Idiot Smiles). In the mid 90's the group got another member and they became the Pillbugs.
The origin of The Pillbugs can be traced back to January of 1991. That's when Mark Kelley first called Mark Mikel up and asked him to form a new band. Kelley brought in drummer Dan Chalmers and Mikel brought in vocalist Dave Murnen and a guitarist who would eventually be replaced 4 times until they found the perfect fit with Scott Tabner (a mutual friend of Kelley and Mikel's).
They became The Mark Mikel Hallucination and started performing shows around Toledo. In 1996 after a respectable amount of local recognition and radio airplay, Mikel wanted to create a new identity for the group. "They deserved to be seen as equals and not just my backing band," Mikel said, "I came up with the idea of The Pillbugs and that we'd go WAY deeper into psychedelia. We released our first album on CD in 1998 on our own label (Omniphonic). I believe it was the first debut release to contain a double CD's worth of new and never-before-released music. Until someone proves me wrong - that's what I believe. The point is we wanted to make something people had to notice." This first release took off very slowly but eventually (with the help of the internet) became a somewhat sought after CD.
The second Pillbugs CD "The 3-Dimensional In-Popcycle Dream" (originally another double set) was completed in early 2001. With no real money to put behind it, it sat on the shelf until 2003 until later when they signed with indie label (Proverus). "Proverus had us strip down the album to 1 CD (a brilliant move actually) and then we inserted a 3D Viewmaster reel to make it really crazy," Mikel reveals.
That album was released during the summer of 2003. Proverus helped the group get a lot of notoriety (especially on the web) and also helped to book and manage gigs. 3D sold out of the first run in a matter of 2 months (most of them going to Japan). That was successful enough for Proverus to want a follow-up. The next summer they released their 3rd CD "Happy Birthday" though dark times were looming.
Mark Kelley had been diagnosed with a rare form of lung cancer in 1999. By the time "Happy Birthday" was released in August of 2004, Kelley had lost his voice completely and could hardly stand on his own two legs.
Knowing their wasn't much time left, the 5 friends took to recording one last album together. "Buzz for Aldrin" sessions began in Sept. 2004, just as Mark Kelley took another down turn and was admitted to the hospital. Recording continued with The Pillbugs not knowing if Kelley would ever return.
He eventually did return and was able to contribute the bass guitar to most of the album from his wheelchair- with a permanent breathing machine surgically attached to his throat. Then the studio recording equipment broke down and it was in repair for over seven months. "By the time the guy got around to fixing it," adds Mikel, "Mark Kelley was past the point of being able to record with us. It took me a long time to get back into the groove and finish the album."
"But we eventually finished it though the recording sessions seemed jinxed from start to finish."
To provide the right grandeur for the release, The Pillbugs employed renowned California artist Mark Roland to supply the CD art.
The new Pillbugs double disc set "Buzz for Aldrin" was released by Proverus on June 19, 2007.
The Pillbugs signed with Rainbow Quartz and their first CD with RQ, "Monclovia" was released on Oct. 30, 2007.
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