Musician and recording artist Michael Marquart has grounded himself in music for most of his life. At the age of 13, he was performing originals in Wisconsin bars before joining Iowa-based Tokyo Rose in college. He toured with bands like ’80s New Wave phenom A Flock of Seagulls and lent his percussive skills to Canadian-bred Alias, a rock band that climbed the American charts with the 1990 power ballad, “More Than Words Can Say.”
Marquart spent about 28 days a month on the road for 20-some years. At a gig in Minnesota, he realized he was missing his growing family—and his own creative voice—for fleeting live moments playing other people’s songs. He found his way to Virginia Beach through family friend and well-known concert promoter and venue owner Bill Reid to open the Windmark Recording studio.
The studio found success. It housed The Neptunes (including Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo) as they were building budding careers. Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake recorded pivotal albums there. Superstar Timbaland was around. “It was a magic time then,” says Marquart. But he wanted to make some magic of his own.
Enter A Bad Think, Marquart’s star project that has gained strength over the better part of 16 years. He works with a seasoned group of session musicians and friends in the business like Bob Clearmountain, a recording engineer/mixer and record producer, and Dave Way, an audio engineer, mixer and producer. Clearmountain has worked with artists like Bryan Adams, Bruce Springsteen and the Rolling Stones. Way has produced names like Eric Clapton, Gwen Stefani and Stevie Wonder among many others.
“I make the kind of music I want to hear,” says Marquart. “It’s got a folk thing, country thing, rock thing, singer/songwriter thing…I want to make something that will last forever.” His most recent album is his tenth release, simply titled X.
The name nods toward the Roman numeral for 10 and a local roadway that marks an “X” near his home in Virginia Beach, where he still lives for about half the year. The X album is music technology at the height of what is possible now. Marquart’s interest in Dolby Atmos—which brings surround sound and an immersive feeling to his tunes—deepens the final product.
Each song seamlessly folds into the next, creating a soundtrack of sorts. Don’t be surprised if images of David Lynch films pop into your head. In fact, the X album includes videos filmed by Derrick Borte, another local artist and filmmaker who grew up in Norfolk and went to Old Dominion University, later releasing The Joneses, a dark comedy that he wrote, directed and produced. Marquart met Borte through a shared trainer at a Virginia Beach gym and the two have since made over 20 music videos together.
With X, the audio and visual experiences culminate with XMarksThe.Site, a digital scavenger hunt with infinite looping artwork showcasing Marquart’s past albums, influences and even his personal life. It’s a mix of where he came from and hint at where he’s going. It’s a hypnotizing and eclectic existence where the sun has an eye, the moon has a clock, guitars make up the clouds and checkerboard walls build and unravel. There are even prizes.
“They have cleverly wrapped my whole life story,” he says of the website. While Marquart’s tenth album was just released, he’s almost done with number 11 and starting on 12. He is in a constant state of creating and producing—while building onto incredible sound experiences.
MUSIC MAKER: After building a career touring with bands and finding success behind the scenes with major recording artists, Michael Marquart is continually discovering his own artistic voice.
One thing he doesn’t do is revisit past releases. “I like to move ahead,” says Marquart. “Those sessions are done and finished and like children who move on and never move home again.”
He records out of The Barn, an impressive home studio in Malibu, California. This space was constructed from vintage wood that flanked The Hollywood Bowl—a live outdoor concert experience in Los Angeles—about 100 years ago. He also has a studio in his Virginia Beach home. His own recording studios have allowed for more creative freedom, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Marquart’s dedication and love of craft is evident in his skillful songwriting and production. “It was always for the music and never for the money. My records are getting better, and my voice is getting better…I’m going to keep pushing till it runs out of steam,” says Marquart.
If you’re looking to get lost in sound, Marquart’s X might be the spot.
Album Review: Michael Marquart A Bad Think’s X
Michael Marquart’s newest release under A Bad Think is X. The striking cover features Marquart as a road weary cowboy ruminating in an isolated place.
The album’s first track, “The Meaning of Life,” is an invitation back to the glory days of college and alternative rock. Remember those days? When music was humble and honest, with a trace of jangly pop. Before Nirvana and the grunge movement changed everything.
The songs on “X” don’t begin or end but rather bleed into one another. “Hungry Eyes” is sweeping and melodic, while “The Avenue” finds a chorus absolutely dripping with guitar plucks and percussion. “Who Will Win” recalls Americana like The Flying Burrito Brothers, with an added pedal and lap steel to boot.
Personal favorite “One More Chance” is a deep dive into bouncy and hypnotic rock with an edge. This infectious tune will ramble around in your head like a tumbleweed.