Let’s get one thing straight: Money Mark does not tickle the ivories – he rocks the keys. Unofficially recognized as the fourth member of the Beastie Boys, creator of four eclectic solo albums and participant in numerous collaborations, this wonder behind a Wurlitzer is hitting the stage at Absinthe on Friday night.
“It’s gonna kick your ass,” Money Mark said of his upcoming Santa Barbara gig. “And I will promise right here that I will bring my gong and bang it to start the show.”
Despite being a versatile musician and keyboardist extraordinaire, Money Mark is actually a carpenter by trade. Before becoming the heavily sought-after musical collaborator he is today, Money Mark designed and built sets in Hollywood, one of the most notable being the set for “Pee-wee’s Playhouse.”
Money Mark’s carpentry skills also led to one of his most productive musical collaborations. While working as a handyman in the early 1990s, he accepted a job to do some repairs on the Beastie Boys’ Silverlake, Calif. home. Soon enough, he was a full-fledged member of the Beastie posse, making monumental songwriting and musical contributions to 1992’s “Check Your Head.” The rich psychedelic sonic texture of Money Mark’s keyboards steered the Beasties off the path to frat-rap purgatory as he continued to make significant contributions to their “Ill Communication” (1994) and “Hello Nasty” (1998) albums.
“The Beastie Boys collaborations are unforgettable for me,” he said. “We all had an amazing time, from start to finish. Meeting them and working on that shit… I couldn’t even begin to say how amazing that was. That’s a whole other interview. I don’t even have words for that.”
Born Mark Ramos-Nishita, he was given his alias by the Beasties. “I think it was Adam Yauch who gave me the name,” he said. His new moniker was immortalized by the Beasties on the classic track “Finger Lickin’ Good” with the rhyme: “Keyboard Money Mark, you know he’s not having it / Just give him some money, and he’ll build you a cabinet.” Did he earn the nickname by leading a bling-bling lifestyle? “No! Not at all,” Money Mark replied with a laugh. “They should have named me Thrifty Mark.”
In his down time from touring and recording with the Beasties, Money Mark released four solo albums and pursued a variety of other collaborations. He worked on the Dust Brothers’ production team (that’s Money Mark playing the groovy organ lick on Beck’s “Where It’s At”), he played on “Deltron 3030,”Santana’s Grammy-magnet “Supernatural” and contributed to projects by artists ranging from Yoko Ono to the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion to Trick Daddy.
Aside from his impressive resume of studio work, Money Mark considers his live performances to be his trademark. “It’s experiential. It’s a journey,” Money Mark said, describing his stage show. “Everyone in the room contributes to my show, whether they know it or not. Everyone is the star. I’m going to play a clarinet with a balloon, and, uh… I can’t even describe it. You’ll see it at the show.”
And if you do go to the show at Absinthe on Friday, be sure to bring along some lumber. If you’re nice and rock out to Money Mark’s keyboard extravaganza, he just might build you a new bookcase or desk after the show.