A Donnie Iris Collaborator Steps Out On His Own
Scene Magazine, August 22-28, 1985
By Rosemary O'Brien

"It's just a little hobby," said Donnie Iris and Cruiser's keyboardist-prodocuer Mark Avsec about his recently released solo project, CELLARFUL OF NOISE.

Avsec began working on his solo debut last winter at his home in Twinsburg after completing the latest Donnie Iris and the Cruiser's album NO MUSS... NO FUSS. The project didn't start out, though, with Avsec planning to do a solo album.

"I always like to be busy doing something," he explained. "I've got an eight-track studio in my basement, and one day I was talking to Mike Belkin (Belkin Productions - Ed.) and I told him I'd like to try writing some songs.

"I didn't really feel like getting involved with another artist or anything like that," he continued. "I've done a lot of that. I just felt I needed to be by myself. I wanted to be able to write lots of songs without having to try to write certain kinds of songs.

The album features nine pop-rockers and one lush ballad. Avsec said the 10 tracks were chosen out of about 40 or 50 songs he wrote. This project marks the first time he took over the lead vocalist role.

Avsec's musical roles began at the age of 17 when he began playing the circuit. He was a member of a couple of bands before joining the White Funk group Wild Cherry in the mid-70's. Shortly before the demise of the band, Donnie Iris was included in the band's lineup. After that stint, Avsec manned the keyboard for Jonah Koslen's Breathless. While still a member of Breathless, he began working on outside projects with Iris.

With Donnie Iris and the Cruisers, Avsec's role was always producer-keyboardist and Iris was always the artist. CELLARFUL OF NOISE, which is on the CBS Associated label, was Avsec's opportunity to express himself in the studio.

The album's title stems from the feelings he got from doing recording work in his basement. He said he enjoyed working underground, and when he decided to get serious about the project, he contacted Kevin Valentine, the Cruiser's former drummer, who is now a member of The Innocent. Avsec wanted Valentine to help him produce the record.

"Kevin's pretty talented in that area," he said. "He has always been more than a drummer. He's got good ears and he knows what to play. He thinks of the record as a whole.

"I'm the artist working on the thing," Avsec continued, "and then he can come in there, and I really need his input and opinion. And he can co-produce the album, which is what happened.

Besides Valentine and Avsec, the only other musician credited on CELLARFUL OF NOISE is guitarist Al Green, also from The Innocent. Avsec handled the rest. "I basically did all the vocals, keys and bass. We weren't exactly dealing with state of the art equipment, but we got into the spirit."

Avsec got his first taste of being a producer when he and Iris began working together. Avsec was learning how to stack voices, which eventually let to the Donnie Iris and the Cruisers' sound.

"The more you stack, the more incredible it would sound. If you were going to use this type of sound, it became real animated. Donnie came in and we did that. From the way it sounded, it was incredible.

During the past few years, Avsec has been honing his skills as a producer by working with several Cleveland area acts. "I was just glad to get the experience," he said modestly about his accomplishments.

With all of this acquired knowledge to his credit, Avsec said that he now has the stamp of approval to express his own ideas, but his main concern right now is the completion of the next Donnie Iris album.

In the immediate future, he has no planss for any live gigs supporting his solo release, but a video might be in the works. "Right now I'm only thinking about three or four months ahead. What I want to do is make a great Donnie Iris album," he concluded. "That's priority for me."