Guitar Gods - Mark Lizotte (Diesel)Mark Lizotte (Diesel)

One of the greatest buzzes for Perth’s music fraternity (and Perth music lovers) is to have witnessed the fortunate and seemingly charmed career of Mark Lizotte grow beyond Perth boundaries to take Australia by storm.  It’s no secret that (around 30 years ago) Perth would have loved to have kept the then extraordinary teenager to itself, but the gift that Mark carries with him clearly had him set on a path to greater success.
While the music industry takes it’s turns and makes it’s moves, Diesel managed to keep it all afloat – backed by solid support.
Diesel is a frequent visitor to WA and hasn’t lost his ‘down home’ touch throughout any of his shows – the mark of a pro, but also the mark of Mark.  Diesel’s history is plastered all over the web and couldn’t be written more concisely, other than perhaps in an autobiography.

For anyone under 30, the information below will also give you an indication about where the careers of some of the other well known Perth musicians mentioned began.

Under the name Diesel, American born guitarist/singer Mark Lizotte became one of the biggest selling and most awarded Australian recording artists of the late ’80s/early ’90s. He arrived in Perth as a child when the travels of his itinerant, saxophone-playing father exhausted America and the family settled in Western Australia. Lizotte always contended that he grew up with musical instruments in his play box. No instrument intimidated him, but it was the electric guitar which excited him. [Partial from Mark’s iTunes biography]

In his mid-teens, Diesel (as Mark Lizotte) performed with The Kind and Close Action. The Kind had Diesel with Denise DeMarchi, Suze DeMarchi, Dean Denton, Gary Dunn, John “Yak” Sherritt and Boyd Wilson. Close Action included Diesel on guitar, Bernie Bremond on saxophone, John Heussenstamm on guitar and Sherritt on drums. In 1983 he joined Innocent Bystanders, a Perth pub rock band, and they released a single, “Lebanon” in 1984 with the line-up of Diesel, John “Tatt” Dalzell on bass guitar, Brett Keyser on vocals, Cliff Kinneen on keyboards and Sherritt on drums. Innocent Bystanders travelled to Sydney to record their second single, “Dangerous”, released in July 1986. They had attracted the attention of hard rockers, The Angels, and went on to record another single and an album, Don’t Go Looking Back, which was released later in 1986, however Diesel had already left the band.

Johnny Diesel & the Injectors (1986–1991)
By June 1986, Diesel was back in Perth and had split from Innocent Bystanders, taking Bremond, Dalzell and Sherritt, and they formed Johnny Diesel & the Injectors with George Dalstrom as a second guitarist. According to music journalist, Ed Nimmervoll, the name Johnny Diesel was either from Lizotte’s days as a petrol dispenser or from a corruption of John Dalzell’s name being misapplied to him as the lead singer. Dalstrom left by the end of 1986. The band played a mixture of R&B, blues and Southern rock; they developed a local following in Perth but decided to relocate to Sydney in 1987.

Johnny Diesel & the Injectors moved to Sydney in September after taking up management by Brent Eccles, drummer for The Angels. The group began playing support shows for The Choirboys and The Radiators. They came to the attention of Jane Barnes, wife of hard rocker, Jimmy Barnes (ex-Cold Chisel), and through her recommendation, Diesel was hired to work on Barnes’ third solo album, Freight Train Heart. When Barnes took to the road to tour the album in November, Diesel was retained as lead guitarist, while Johnny Diesel & the Injectors were the opening act. It was the beginning of a long relationship between Diesel and Barnes, Diesel married Jep (Jane Barnes’ sister) in 1989 and the musicians became brothers-in-law.

Diesel’s band signed with Chrysalis Records and their eponymous debut album, Johnny Diesel & the Injectors, was recorded in Memphis, Tennessee with producer Terry Manning from August 1988 and released in March 1989. The album reached #2 on the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) Albums Charts. The first single “Don’t Need Love” was issued ahead of the album in October 1988 and peaked at #10 on the ARIA Singles Charts. The second single, “Soul Revival”, appeared in February 1989 and reached #9, while the third single, “Cry in Shame” also peaked at #10 in April. In all, five singles were released from Johnny Diesel & the Injectors, while “Looking for Love” was also a Top 40 hit, the final single “Since I Fell For You” failed to chart.

While touring United Kingdom in mid-1989, they broadcast a live performance on 14 May by BBC Radio 1 for the Tommy Vance Sessions, produced by Tony Wilson the recording was released as a four-track EP, Live in London, in August and peaked into the ARIA top 30.

At the ARIA Music Awards early in 1990, Johnny Diesel & the Injectors won the award for ‘Highest Selling Album’ (with more than 280,000 copies sold). Diesel appeared on Barnes’ live album, Barnestorming in 1989 and worked with Barnes on his studio album, Two Fires, during 1990. In the meantime, the only recording from Johnny Diesel & the Injectors for the year was a cover of Percy Mayfield’s “Please Send Me Someone to Love” in January, which reached #11. Diesel decided to go solo and disbanded the group in early 1991.

Diesel (1991–1998)
In August 1991, as Johnny Diesel, his solo career was launched with the single “Love Junk”, which peaked into the top 20. Diesel toured Australia with Barnes during the second half of the year. He had signed with EMI Music Australia and his second single, “Come to Me”, was released in November under the epithet Diesel—subsequent releases saw him billed as Diesel until 1998—which reached #8 on the singles charts. November also saw the release of Barnes’ next album, Soul Deep, with Diesel on guitar and also singing a duet for the Sam Cooke cover “Bring It On Home to Me”. Diesel left his management team of Eccles and John Woodruff. He undertook his solo Rock ‘n’ Soul Tour, early in 1992, with Kane Baker on drums, Leslie Barlow on backing vocals, Matthew Branton on guitar, Jim Hilbun on bass guitar (ex-The Angels) and Roger Mason on keyboards (Models).

His next release, “Tip of My Tongue”, appeared in February 1992, which became his highest charting single when it reached #4. It was followed a month later by his debut solo album, Hepfidelity, produced by Don Gehman and Manning, it was recorded in Los Angeles and Memphis. The album peaked at #1 on the ARIA charts and went on to sell more than 200,000 copies. A further two singles were issued, “Man Alive”, in May, which reached the top 20, and “One More Time” in August, which did not peak into the top 50. Diesel won ARIA awards for ‘Best Album’ and ‘Best Male Artist’ in 1993 from four nominations.

The Lobbyist was a mix of new songs, re-workings of some Hepfidelity tracks and a couple of covers. Released in August 1993, it also hit #1 on the Australian charts, and Diesel won an ARIA award for ‘Best Male Artist’ again, in 1994. The album spawned three singles, “Miss Your Water” in July peaked at #12 but neither, “Masterplan” in October nor “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” in January 1994, reached the top 40.

In May 1994, the EP Still Got a Long Way to Go was released, it had a duet with Barnes from his June album Flesh and Wood, however this did not chart. Diesel’s next album, Solid State Rhyme, appeared in November and featured the singles “All Come Together” (top 20), “Fifteen Feet of Snow” (top 30) and “Get it On”. Solid State Rhyme was co-produced by Diesel and Craig Porteils—it was another commercial success which peaked at #10. He won the ARIA award for ‘Best Male Artist’ in 1995—for the third consecutive time.

Early in 1996, Diesel recorded the album Short Cool Ones with Melbourne blues musician Chris Wilson as Wilson Diesel and was released in February. The project also featured drummer Angus Diggs, bass player Dean Addison and Bob Woolf on keyboards. Diesel supplied guitar, backing vocals and production skills on Richard Clapton’s Angeltown, released in May. Following record production, guitar, backing vocals and song writing work on Vika and Linda’s Princess Tabu album, released in October, Diesel went on hiatus. A greatest hits compilation Rewind – The Best Of also appeared in October. By year’s end, he had moved to New York City, with his young family.

To this point in his career, Diesel has sold over 800,000 records in Australia and won nine awards.

Comeback to present
In June 1998, Diesel signed with Mammoth Records under his birth name, Mark Lizotte. He returned briefly to Australia in November to perform at the Mushroom 25 Live concert alongside Wilson, Barnes and Vika and Linda. He made a comeback to the Australian charts with his September 1999 album, Soul Lost Companion, which reached the top 20 and spawned the singles, “Dig” (top 20) and “Satellite”. He returned to live in Australia in 2002, and released his next album Hear, under the Diesel moniker, in October.

On 10 October 2004, Andrew Denton interviewed Barnes on the ABC TV program Enough Rope, Diesel then performed with Barnes and his children, Eliza Jane, Jackie and Elly May. Around the same time, Diesel released Singled Out. An entirely acoustic overview of his career, it earned an ARIA nomination. Over the same period, he also worked with Barnes on his Double Happiness, including a duet on the track “Got You as a Friend” and providing musical backing including guitar, drums, bass guitar, percussion and keyboards on various tracks.

In 2006, Diesel released Coathanger Antennae, an album recorded in two months. Of it, he said “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”, emphasising the focus on live recording rather than studio polishing. Days Like These appeared in September 2008.

Diesel made guest appearances on the Australian leg of the 2009 Zappa Plays Zappa Tour by Dweezil Zappa, playing guitar and vocals after Ray White’s departure from Zappa’s group.
[Above from Johnny Diesel on Wikipedia]

Check out Mark’s tour dates, full discography, video, media and diary links on his website

Diesel – Official Website
Diesel on iTunes (read his iTunes biography and listen to/buy music)
Johnny Diesel on Wikipedia to links on more information related to this article.

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