Mark “Kaz” Kasprzyk started Redlight King as a vehicle for his songwriting a decade ago, after moving down from Canada to Los Angeles, seeking out the “most super-rad” musicians in town for a pair of albums on Hollywood Records -- 2011’s Something for the Pain (which included the Rock/Alternative hits “Old Man,” a tribute to his dad featuring a vocal sample granted by Neil Young himself, and “Bullet in My Hand”) and 2013’s Irons in the Fire (highlighted by “Born to Rise,” a song that played over the end credits of the 2014 Kevin Costner film, Draft Day).
Mark worked on new material for three years and is now about to unveil the results from the upcoming third full-length Redlight King album, the first he’s recorded for an indie label, in this case, Parts + Labor Records, teaming up with its co-founder and house producer Jimmy Messer (AWOLNATION, Kygo, Kelly Clarkson). On songs like the first single, “Lift the Curse,” which channels ‘70s era Aerosmith and AC/DC, and “Nobody Wins,” borrowing a Motown bass line and “Sympathy for the Devil” percussion, Mark’s new direction doubles down on his blues roots and moves away from the hip-hop/rock hybrid he’d become known for.
Mark delves deep in new songs like “Long Way to Heaven,” another tribute to his late father, a schoolteacher and race car enthusiast who first turned his son on to blues pioneers like John Lee Hooker, Little Walter and B. B. King. Kaz was brought up in Hamilton, Ontario, an industrial blue-collar city known as “the Pittsburgh of Canada” (“But I like to think it’s more like Detroit,” he says) -- which was also the hometown of U2 producer and noted musician Daniel Lanois, giving him the incentive to learn his craft.
“You had to come with the goods,” said Kaz. “You didn’t show up until you knew how to do it.”
Mark formed the band Kazzer, which was signed to Epic Records, releasing its 2002 debut album, Go for Broke, leading to a nomination for New Artist of the Year at the 2004 Juno Awards, and a single, “Pedal to the Medal,” which was featured on the soundtracks of the 2000 remake of The Italian Job, the 2004 film Catch That Kid and on the TV series Malcolm in the Middle, as well as several video games.
For any number of reasons, the latest Redlight King releases reflect a declaration of independence for Mark K, a bet on his own future.
“This is the first time I really understood what being independent means,” he says. “I’m no longer feeding the machine. The dinosaurs are losing control. At the end of the day, if I write a song, I should own it. I hold the cards. Over the years, artists have been holding the cards without even knowing it.”
Having put in his requisite 10,000 hours, Mark is proud of what he’s accomplished, but firmly believes the best is yet to come. “I couldn’t have made this record 20 years ago,” he says. “I’m just trying to be in the same world as those musicians who influenced me. I want to do something great before I die.”
“My music has always come from a real, genuine place,” he adds. “You can hear it in my voice and in my lyrics. I live and die by my authenticity. I don’t have anything else.”