Updated: Jan 8, 2020
In the past seven months, I've spent time writing about other artists and their creative endeavors. But when have I shared much concrete information about myself as an artist?
With the release of my latest album, Phénix Noir I, it is about time that I give my fans the Marc Avery edition of the Artist in 10.
Who is Marc Avery? Why the different names?
So Llama Ruckus was an anagram for my real first name, LaMarcus. "Llama" came from childhood nicknames that I was too insecure to embrace, while Ruckus represents the nonsense and chaos that would hinder my growth and esteem.
Most folks knew Llama Ruckus as the laid-back slacker with too much confidence, lack of self-control, and loyalty/faith in all of the wrong people. But Llama Ruckus is the alter-ego I created to explore and experiment with the vices and virtues in college and post-grad life. Since I never really knew myself outside of what others projected; I needed time to expose myself to the complexities of the world. I was able to stand in circles and expand my reality beyond the arbitrary labels of good and evil. I wanted to differentiate myself from narrow-minded, dogmatic views of the community and religion in which I was raised. Every album/mixtape/visual medium created as Llama Ruckus illustrated the conflict and chaos that came with this particular duality. (i.e. Every album cover is in two-tone color to reflect this duality.)
Unfortunately due to my objectiveness, I became differentiated, but not integrated into the circles around me. In an attempt to become the man in the middle looking around, I became the man on the outside constantly looking into the world in which I did not fit. I made mistakes that I did not want to follow me as the man I would grow to become. Fortunately, the "Llama Ruckus" alias allowed me to create without ruining who LaMarcus Avery Grier could become outside of past mistakes and failures.
I don’t think I’ll ever "kill Llama Ruckus”. Marc Avery is simply the man behind the curtain attempting to bring himself to the surface. I am just a man obsessed with sports, sci-fi/fantasy stories, and exploring nature and landscapes. I am a writer with multiple directions - composing music, constantly journaling on philosophy, working random jobs the acquire digital marketing and database management - but no focus. I am a jack of many trades and master of none. I'm just a simple flawed man ready to stop observing and illustrating for the world around me. I want to start speaking what is the truth of my present self.
I loved Rice Krispy Treats cereal as a kid - not the regular ones, but the Rice Crispy chunks like the actual snack. Now I’m more tame with my taste; I prefer a combination of Honey Bunches of Oats and Honey Nuts Cheerios bananas.
Your favorite (childhood) cartoon/TV Show?
Ed, Edd, and Eddy. I was pretty much a nerd like Double D with a strict mom as a kid. Oh yeah, I can't forget about Kids Next Door and Static Shock.
Favorite Smash Bros character?
Pikachu- but I was never really good at Smash. I was more of a Mariokart kid.
What is your hobby to make you money, hobby to keep you in shape, hobby to keep you creative?
Money - Soccer statistics and database management
In Shape - Soccer, Skateboarding, Biking and Camping
Creative - Freelance Journalism, songwriting and music production
If tape decks were still around, what 5 songs would automatically get on your mixtape?
This list changes frequently… but currently, my five picks are:
Mac Miller - Therapy
Childish Gambino - LES
Kali Uchis x Tyler the Creator - After the Storm
Khruangbin - Friday Morning
Toro y Moi/Les Sins - Grind
What was the inspiration behind Phénix Noir?
Every release from 2018 felt like an upgrade to my style and state of being. I had been completely unhappy with my routine and “role” in the world. Since I wasn’t progressing in my corporate career, I felt very inadequate and continued to burnout. Elysium024 was like my quarter-life crisis, while Rejex025 felt like the last stage of grief: acceptance.
But things started to unravel as the year went on. I lost myself when my greatest blood relative and family glue passed away from a long, on-and-off battle with cancer. It was a silent pain. Suddenly, my whole life came into question; I just felt num. This lack of expression seemed lethal to my creative mind. There was nothing left but to once again tear down my walls of reality and start from building myself as I needed - not what the world saw and labeled “LaMarcus Avery Grier”.
Much of this album is a concept of an alternate reality where Jay Gatsby gives up his West Egg “new money” lifestyle for a simpler life. The intro is named after the author of The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald. Throughout the album, there are multiple parallels and references to this alternate reality. Like the person I have been trying to become since high school, this album needed to be the revelation of a journey that I have been trying to happily conclude for years.
How did this album come together, terms of the creative process and personal journey? Does it do its classified genre justice?
I knew that I would need to take a break from music for extended periods of 2019. Since I felt that I had nothing to build upon after As I Live and Think, I was ready to walk away from music altogether when the exit opportunity presented itself. I felt that I had told every story from my past and that there was nothing left but to moving forward into my next phase of life - if I would live to see it.
This album turned out as scatter-brained as I have felt for the last 18 months. There isn’t one style to define this album. It gradually goes from grunge rock to house to lo-fi hip-hop in 25 minutes. But that is a part of the story. Every element is carefully selected.
I believe that it broadens the modern form of trip-hop. The genre was a post-modern blend to hip-hop and jazz experimentation. I see the genre’s future growth in blending common song structures and established music theory with simplistic chord progressions and uncommon instrument arrangement. Jazz broke rules, hip-hop broke rules, so why can’t trip-hop?
What is the best feature of the project?
Sonically, Reunion is my favorite. Tucker Zodd’s electronic organ was fantastic. When he sent out a recording of the melody, I was immediately inspired to write lyrics.
Lyrically, the title track is my favorite. I was really happy to add my friend DJ AA to this project. Rigs B was icing on the cake.
But Epiphany is the core of this half of the Phenix Noir series. It is the final message of this half of the Phénix Noir series, and a poignant connection to my Great Gatsby references throughout the album - Like the line, “What Gatsby abdicated after Myrtle died? Headed back home after death, or would he be alive?”
Where could you see the project being enjoyed?
I’d like for my work to eventually gain enough attention to where I can make music for niche audiences. But for now, I specially craft albums to be a multitude of vibes and moods.
I definitely want my music to be appreciated on long car and bus rides. I could see fans of Mac Miller, Earl Sweatshirt and Kid Cudi digging this. But if anything, I want my music understood and felt in the loneliest moments of life. This project will eventually be embraced in two modes: loss and resurrection.
My Final Grade:
-The Best Tracks: Van Goghes the Neighborhood, Epiphany, Escapism, Reunion
-The Bad Tracks: We Belong Here?
-The So-So Tracks: Ani Molli the Anachronism, Apsis, Phenix Noir
-Cult Influence: 4/10
-Mainstream Impact: 0/10 -Lyricism: 7.5/10 -Artwork/Visuals: 6.5/10 -Originality: 8/10 -Range of Style 8/10 -Choice of Style: 6.5/10 -Delivery/Performance: 7/10 -First Impression/Enjoyment: 7.5/10 -Staying Power: 6.5/10
Final Score: 6.5/10
Phénix Noir I is now available for streaming and purchase on major platforms and streaming sites everywhere. Phénix Noir II is planned for release this summer.
Marc Avery is an aspiring songwriter and producer from Atlanta, Georgia. His primary genre is trip-hop; blends of elements from funk, surf rock, chill hop, blues, synthpop, and psychedelic rock/jazz.