While still in his teens, American born guitarist/singer Mark Lizotte was snatched from his Perth based bar band, the Innocent Bystanders and launched on to the Australian charts as the leader of Johnny Diesel and the Injectors.
A career was born and Mark was inevitably known as Diesel.
Johnny Diesel and the Injectors inevitably moved from Perth to establish themselves in Sydney in 1987 and quickly became known for Diesel’s extraordinary versatility on the guitar and his rich, soulful voice.
The band’s debut album shipped platinum and entered the charts at #2. It was the biggest-selling album of 1989.
Hepfidelity, Diesel’s first album under his own name (1992), was a mega-platinum smash and earned him ARIA Awards in the ‘Best Album’ and ‘Best Male’ talent categories. He is the only artist to win ‘Best Male’ Awards on three separate occasions (1992, 93, 95).
The next albums – The Lobbyist and Solid State Rhyme confirmed his status as one of Australia’s most uniquely exciting and significant recording artists.
Diesel is one of those rare talents who has immense popular appeal and is also a musician’s musician. His guitar playing is always tasteful and inventive. It’s based around the rock and soul that Diesel heard growing up as the son of a saxophonist.
A non stop six years that followed included extensive touring, recording and starting a family and was capped in 1996 with the Short Cool Ones project that he cut with blues harp player Chris Wilson.
However steeped in the classics he may be, Diesel is not afraid to experiment either and the move to NY was part of that process.
“We made a run for it,” says Diesel with a laugh. He and his family relocated to New York where he started from scratch. “I just needed to wipe the whole canvas. I didn't want to be around familiar things. I went to New York with nothing, I didn't even have one song.”
Diesel scored a residency at the prestigious club Arlene’s Grocery. He was discovered all over again, this time by Mammoth Records who teamed Diesel with legendary producers Jerry Harrison and Gavin Mackillop for the Soul Lost Companion album.
In 2002 Diesel and family moved back to Australia. He assembled a band and also began gigging as a solo artist.
The nakedness of performing with nothing more than an acoustic guitar helped him to re-examine his own work and take a fresh perspective.
“I always wanted to be in front of an amp. I didn’t even own an acoustic guitar for the first eight years of my career,” he says of the solo shows. “I can feel the economy of playing solo has influenced this album. Now when I play with two other people it sounds like ‘wow‘ because I’m so used to the sounds I’m making by myself. Anything more is pure luxury. It gives you a really good sense of reality.”
The 2005 album Singled Out put Diesel back on the radio and back amongst the ARIA nominations.
It also gave him a hankering to pump up the volume again.
And Coathanger Antennae was the scratch for that itch!
It was recorded in two months with Diesel backed by new companions in bassist Richie Vez and drummer Lee Moloney. “I want to make records where I can play with other people and just have fun,” says Diesel.
“This album is the most liberating record to date,” he continues. “It’s the first time the pressure is there to make a good album and nothing else. We approached it like the Stones or the Beatles used to do where we’d just put down a few takes live and then picked the ones that we all felt good about .”
This is an album by an artist embracing maturity – although he is still only 39 years old! The album ranges from heartfelt ballads to soulful rockers and some flat-chat rock & roll.
“I always wanted to be an electric guitar player. I always wanted to be in front of an amp and an audience” says Diesel.
That pretty much describes Coathanger Antennae
10 QUICK FACTS
(Born Mark Lizotte in 1967 in the US and grew up in Perth)
• Father Hank played saxophone
• First band known as Innocent Bystanders discovered by the Angels.
• Debut album — Johnny Diesel & the Injectors — entered the national charts at #2
• Name change to Diesel in 1992 followed by #1 album Hep Fidelity
• 1993 album The Lobbyist also #1
• ARIA Award for Best Male Artist in 1992 and 1993
• 1996 Moved to New York with residency at Arlene’s Grocery — a prestigious club gig. Signed to elite label Mammoth (Joe Henry, Juliana Hatfield)
• 2002 Relocated to Australia
• 2005 released acoustic LP Singled Out
For a limited time available with bonus DVD - Behind Coathanger Antennae features live footage & interviews