In a small, cramped room in his Lake Worth home, Scott Marino is digging through his collection of old punk cassettes with a smile, and it's no wonder. The tapes read like an obit of SoFla bands: Jack Off Jill, Kreamy 'Lectric Santa, and Radiobaghdad.
In addition to a maze of cables, multicolored wires, guitar pedals, and large envelopes waiting to be sent out to college radio stations, the room houses a theremin, a MIDI sequencer, two keyboards, a saxophone, 28-year-old Marino's trusty clarinet, a laptop, a drum set, and a small wooden percussion instrument from Cambodia shaped like a frog.
This is the office and recording studio for Whiteroom Records, the label Marino started in 2000. "I'll start writing using my MIDI stuff, then add keyboards, or sometimes I have a melody on guitar, and once the structure of the song is done, I record it onto the computer," Marino explains. "I'll listen, and if I think it needs a real drummer, I'll get someone to play drum tracks. My songs have a lot going on in them, multiple bass tracks and guitar tracks. I usually play all the instruments and end up experimenting with my vocals, speeding them up, slowing them down."
Marino, a tall fellow with a round, boyish face and a voice that cracks when he's excited, plays a cut he's been working on. It's a jerky, dissonant, swirling breakbeat track with layers upon layers of intricate, tweaked sounds and chopped-up vocals. It sounds like three people harmonizing, but it's all Marino.
"See," he says with a smile, "an actual band could never get that mess together."
Marino's process of getting the "mess" together is quite involved; it takes a good ear to thread the right beats into a cohesive patchwork. But he also incorporates not-so-traditional ways of creating a musical mess, such as sheet music, which he used to create some of the quirky music on his Whiteroom compilation CD. The disc rounds up four separate projects, one of which is called "Beeps & Tones"; its three songs were written by drawing notes on sheet music, cutting out an interesting part, and looping it. "I'm still not really that good reading and writing sheet music, but that's a life mission," he laughs. "Just learning how to get a perfect recording is a job in itself. I guess if I put all my time into learning it, I could, but, ya know, I have to eat dinner."
Since starting the label in 2000, Marino has been plugging away inside his Whiteroom, preferring to record his own music. "I used to have dirt bikes, and I sold them to get my first drum machine," Marino recalls. "Then I started buying other equipment, and it just kept piling up. So I moved to my Mom's garage, and all the equipment started building up in there. Like, my bed was on top of two speakers. I just can't throw anything away. I think every equipment geek is like that."
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And looking at his current glut of equipment, it's easy to see why playing live could become unwieldy.
"It was hard to have an electronic band back in the day because computers didn't run sequencing stuff," he says as he fiddles with a beat-up drum kit. "There's a lot of old stuff in this room, but I still like to use it. Like, the electronic sensors on these drums -- you could put them on a bucket, anything flat, and they'd still work."
In addition to "Beeps & Tones," the Whiteroom comp includes works by two of his old bands, Arthur's Chair and Curisau, plus three solo tracks, including the dreamy, ambient "Everything's Mechanical." His penchant for using found instruments also turns up in the Arthur's Chair tune, "Sloppy Bloody," which consists of a tin whistle, pots, and pans. The Curisau song "Molly Gaybles" features sax, violin, background noise of a kitten playing with a toy, and guitarist John Gayle singing with his head inside a large streetlamp cover stolen from Clematis Street.
And it's on Clematis Street where Marino spins at Respectable Street every Friday night on the small, foliage-ridden back patio for an event appropriately titled "In the Garden." "I spin bands I like to give them exposure, and I spin my music," he says as he browses the Whiteroom jukebox, which houses Q and Not U, Chicks on Speed, American Analog Set, and Starlight Mints, among others. "My goal is to get people to listen to music they wouldn't usually hear in some dance club, not necessarily dance music. Stuff they can bounce around to, twitch to. Whatever people do in a club."