In Music

The Ghosts of Laura Palmer - aka Mario Martin - will take the stage three times in three days, beginning tonight at the Harley-Davidson Museum. (PHOTO: Corey Hengen Photography)

Catching up with The Ghosts of Laura Palmer

As a Milwaukee-based DJ himself, Mario Martin – known by his stage name The Ghosts of Laura Palmer – has no problem with Paris Hilton performing at Summerfest in a few months. He has no intention on signing any petitions. In fact, during his time living in Los Angeles, he actually met the polarizing tabloid star and hotel heiress.

"She's great; she's beautiful," Martin noted. "She walks around and there's like a light following her. Let's also remember, petitioners, that she has the money and the time on her hands to learn the craft from the best in the world. She has Afrojack and Laidback Luke. Those are her teachers; that's like having Jack Kerouac teach you how to write. Those are good names, so I don't think she's as laughable as people might make her out to be."

When it comes to his own music and persona, however, Martin comes at his Ghosts of Laura Palmer efforts from a very different mentality and approach than the gossip queen. For him, it's far from just about making a name for himself – which partly explains why his face is blurred and out of focus in his recent photos.

In fact, when he and Andy Gulotta formed the analog DJ outfit back in April of 2010, they had much loftier ambitions than simply playing music, noting to OnMilwaukee.com back in 2011 that they "wanted to resurrect soul and funk," playing the likes of "The Yolk" by Harvey Scales & The Seven Sounds, "Funky World" by Silky Vincent and anything by James Brown – all spun on vinyl.

"What spoke to me and what spoke to (Andy) was that it meant something more than just trying to make money," Martin said. "It was a means to get emotion out. James Brown wasn't really following a path; he was doing his own thing, and everyone doing their own thing kind of sounded similar to one another, and with that, it became a genre. Ultimately, they didn't care; they just wanted to get the music out there. They were all bleeding for their art, so that's what drew me to it. It was honest; now, it's so compartmentalized."

After a quick start and burst of attention from its debut CD "Blackbird," however, The Ghosts of Laura Palmer stepped back a bit. Time issues caused Gulotta to step down from the duo, while Martin also backed away from the spotlight in recent years and went somewhat underground, noting an "oversaturation of style" flooding the market, on a national and local level.

"The common joke right now in 2015 is that everybody's a DJ," Martin said. "I'm not denouncing the title, but that's partially why I don't have 'DJ-something' in my name. I want it to be about the music. I wonder who am I; I'm just a medium. You get me in a room with a bunch of vinyl, I'm just curating for you. Ultimately, I curate the party, judging what people need."

After some time focusing on smaller, private musical endeavors and engagements, however, Martin and The Ghosts of Laura Palmer are jumping a bit back into the scene. This weekend, he's performing two sets at Blackbird Bar in Bay View, one during Happy Hour on Friday and another Saturday night alongside DJ Justin Carloni.

"For the Happy Hour – a first; why not? – I wanted to a lot more reggae and dance hall," Martin previewed. "Saturday, (Justin's) specialty is hip-hop, so I'll probably go more soul to offset that. I'll also throw a ton of curveballs, random stuff like "Nasty" by Janet Jackson just because everybody in the place will be like, 'I hate that song! (whispers) God, I love that song.'"

And then, when the crowd is least expecting it – boom – Ace of Base.

"It's like a mandatory thing," Martin joked. "Then people get upset, and then I'm happy. But you got to listen to Ace of Base tonight! A South Korean pressing, never released in the states! That's always a gas."

Fighting through a case of "not so much writers block, but ambition block" over the past two years or so, Martin and The Ghosts of Laura Palmer is also looking at working with DJ 80 again on some potential mixes hopefully to come out by the end of 2015.

Before that or either of the Blackbird sets happen, however, Martin will perform Thursday night at the Awear Fashion Show at the Harley-Davidson Museum beginning at 5:30 p.m. The event raises funds and awareness for the Sojourner Family Peace Center, a cause that Martin has strongly supported and backed since The Ghosts of Laura Palmer's creation almost five years ago.

"I didn't come from those beginnings – which I feel very fortunate for – and because of that, it resonated coming from a single mother household," Martin said. "It just kind of made sense. Something clicked in me when I heard how many people have it so much harder than I did."

In their first year, the DJ provided the music for the runway show – a "nerve-wracking" experience considering they only play vinyl with no presets, making it hard to adjust to the unpredictability of a fashion show. Even so, Martin noted it was still a blast, and after having to take the following year off due to timing issues, The Ghosts of Laura Palmer joined back on board the event. In fact, this year, the DJ not only providing some music, but he's also serving as one of the auction items, up for sale to perform at an event of the winning bidder's choosing.

"I just hope I don't go for, like, $8," Martin joked. "I'm really hoping I make them some money. For me, it's just a fun time, but for them, it means services, maybe electricity for another day."

No matter the monetary amount, he's doing his part in making a positive impact on the community around him. And as for The Ghosts of Laura Palmer's musical mission, to resurrect soul and funk?

"There's still a lot of work to be done," Martin said four years later. "It sounds so pompous to say I'm doing that – because I'm not; I'm sure there's a ton of bands out there that are really trying. I'm a fan first, and what I try to do is play music for other people that I like, and hopefully they'll like it too."

Of course, while we were on the topic of resurrections, it only seemed fitting to ask a DJ called The Ghosts of Laura Palmer what his thoughts were on the upcoming "Twin Peaks" revival.

"I think it's the coolest thing," Martin said. "Coming back 25 years after Laura Palmer says in the Black Lodge, 'I'll see you in 25 years,' I think it's absolutely genius on the part of David Lynch and Robert Frost. What do I want to see? Ultimately, I want to see Agent Dale Cooper come out of the Black Lodge where he was stuck and possibly go out on his own spree. It'd be a great twist of character because he's such a man of law."

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