- The car: Dodge Challenger
- Profession: Record label executive, writer, producer
- Age: 32
- Hometown: Edmonton
- Shared the stage with Avril Lavigne and Sum 41; founded and played bass for the punk band Closet Monster
- Started indie record label Underground Operations and discovered Lights, Stereos, Protest the Hero, Holly Springs Disaster, and Abandon All Ships
- A judge on the YTV's talent series The Next Star; nation-wide auditions kicked off in Halifax on April 28 and continue throughout May. Show begins in July
Mark Spicoluk is one of Canada's leading music men. Now 32, he has played bass for Avril Lavigne, Sum 41 and Closet Monster, the band he founded.
But he has an exceptional eye for talent, too. At 16, he started indie record label Underground Operations and discovered among others the Juno Award-winning band, Lights. Now, he's the guy who finds new artists and signs them to a record deal for Universal Music Canada and Gene Simmons' new record label.
He's also a judge on YTV's talent series The Next Star. Spicoluk likes the spotlight, even on the road driving his 2010 Dodge Challenger.
Why did you buy a Challenger?
All I've ever owned until this car were really shitty hatchbacks that I'd buy one year and spend two years driving it into the ground.
And then I finally saved up enough to get a decent car. I remembered an old movie, Vanishing Point, in the '80s. It was about a guy driving a Challenger all across the country. I was, like, “That's really cool!”
As dumb as it sounds, it felt like I would be comfortable driving it – like it was me. I've always stood out a bit. Then I got it black with black tint and, wow, I look like Batman!
What do you listen to when driving?
Really loud music.
These days, I've been listening to a band called Abandon All Ships, it's a hard-core electro band.
I've been producing their record. I'm doing mix references. My production partner at the studio I'm at only likes to reference in the Challenger.
So when we dump down a mix he's, like, “Okay let's go to the car.” We go, sit in the car and crank it up. The sound system is a very common kind of sound system but it's also beefy at the same time. It's great for referencing what a common sound system would sound like.
Do you know what's under the hood?
Everyone is really impressed with the Hemi engine. It's a V-8 5.7. It's got about 420 horsepower.
A lot of people expect me to know more about the car than I do. I've caught up now. At first, I thought I'm just buying a car. But there (are) a whole bunch of people I've got respect for because I've dug into the Challenger world, its history. It's getting me into muscle cars. I might want to buy a classic car next.
What do you think of the old Challenger compared to the new one?
I've never driven an old one and I can't wait to – just to compare.
I remember seeing that movie as a kid and thinking that is the coolest-looking car ever. To be honest, I think the old one is way cooler. I'm kind of bummed I have this one and not an old one now. My next one is going to have to be an old one for sure.
Any speeding tickets with it?
Not yet. Unbelievably.
I think I got those all when I was younger. So now I know a little more of when I can get away with speeding and when I can't. I like to drive fast, but I try not to.
This thing has got a hell of a kick. When I put my foot down and I got to go somewhere you just feel it. But it's really smooth at the same time which is nice. It's got some jump to it – it's insane.
What was your first car?
It was a Toyota Tercel. Literally light blue, hatchback. A piece of crap. I remember with my band trying to fit all the equipment in the back and we smashed the back window. It was the worst day of my life. We had to drive to Niagara Falls in the middle of winter with no back window.
I had a Firefly at one point, a Geo, a Geo Metro – I always bought these little cars that just blew around the city. They were good on gas, easy to park, and blended in.
Now with my Challenger it’s the exact opposite. But it’s really nice to be able to drive an automobile of this standard. It’s a huge step forward.
What's your best driving story?
My first tour across Canada I was taking an apprenticeship with a guy who owned his own studio. He did these annual tours and he'd book a tour for himself to record bands in every city in Canada. I went on his last one because I said, “I'll come with you and do all the work and you can borrow my mom's minivan for the whole tour.”
I was 18 and in love with the idea of getting out there and doing this. We did a month-and-a-half across the country recording different bands all over. But when we got to Vancouver he had to get home in 46 hours. He said, “I have to get home because my wife is going to kill me.”
We made it from Vancouver to Toronto in 46 hours. We would do 12-hour shifts. The first shift was great – you get a little weird. By the end, I honestly think I was partially insane. To make that kind of dead-head drive was amazing.
It taught me a lot. After that, I spent about five or six years touring Canada with my own band. A lot of time, I was my own driver. I did a lot of shifts more than 12 hours. Once, we bought a short diesel school bus and we ripped out all the seats but four and welded in this cage half way down to hold the equipment back and we built a platform at about eye level that was our bunk. It was like a giant coffin. You couldn't roll over in it. But you could slide in.
We took that school bus at least three times around the country. But the tranny kept going. We had a half-broken hockey stick we called the magic stick. If we popped the hood and smacked it with the stick it would start shifting gears again.
What's your dream drive?
One day I want to drive all the way to Costa Rica.
I just love driving. It's the only time when I can listen to music or reflect upon anything. It's nice to get away and be able to breathe.
This interview has been edited and condensed.