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|Birth name||Mark Bonner, then Mark Kramer|
Mark Kramer (born 1958), known professionally as Kramer, is a musician, composer, record producer and founder of the New York City record label Shimmy-Disc. He was a full-time member of the bands New York Gong, Shockabilly, Bongwater and Dogbowl & Kramer, has played on tour (usually on bass guitar) with bands such as Butthole Surfers, B.A.L.L., Ween, Half Japanese and The Fugs (1984 reunion tour), and has also performed regularly with John Zorn and other improvising musicians of New York City's so-called "downtown scene" of the 1980s.
Kramer's most notable work as a producer has been with bands such as Galaxie 500 (whose entire oeuvre he produced), Low (whom he discovered and produced), Half Japanese, White Zombie, GWAR, King Missile, Danielson Famile, Will Oldham, Daniel Johnston, and Urge Overkill, including their hit cover of "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon".
Kramer was born in 1958 in New York City to a single Jewish mother. His birth father was Joey Bonner, a record promoter during the 1960s and 70s who was once the tour manager for Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin and other soul/R&B artists of the era. At age 2, Kramer was adopted by Gary & Rosalyn Kramer of Long Island; Kramer did not learn of his origins until 2008.
Through his birth father, who died in 2007, Kramer has mixed African American, Polish and Native American ancestry. Kramer has an older brother by birth, from the same set of parents, who was a senior VP in charge of radio promotions at New York City's Jive Records. Kramer's great-great-great-grandfather Essex Bonner fought in an all-black battalion in the US Civil War, and his great-grandmother Pinky Gowakawa was a full-blooded Native American from a tribe based in Virginia.
Kramer's adoptive father, Gary Kramer, sold cars, while Rosalyn Kramer was a Long Island housewife who worked sometimes as a bookkeeper. Kramer graduated from Sachem High School in 1976, then moved to New York City, where he would remain a resident until 2003, living mostly in the Tribeca district.
Early music career 
Kramer's first experience in the New York music scene came when he played in the band New York Gong (later renamed "Material"), led by Daevid Allen, in 1979 and 1980. Kramer played organ on one song on their 1979 album About Time.
Shockabilly and Butthole Surfers 
In 1982, Chadbourne, Kramer and Licht formed the band Shockabilly, which toured non-stop from 1982 until 1985. The pressures of living on the road overcame the band, and personal differences between Kramer and Chadbourne soon escalated, which caused the band to dissolve while on a US tour early in 1985. That tour included a brief tour of Texas with the then-unknown Butthole Surfers. Forging a close friendship with co-founding Butthole Surfers members Gibby Haynes and Paul Leary, Kramer was nearby when their previous bassist took his tuba and walked off their tour midstream. Kramer bought a Höfner Beatle bass and replaced him with one rehearsal. He soon found himself on the Butthole Surfers' debut European tour in 1985. While often acknowledging that it was without a doubt the high point of his career to date, Kramer has often said that he felt "lucky to have gotten out alive."
Production and studio 
Immediately after returning from the Butthole Surfers tour in 1985, Kramer took over a New York recording studio named "Noise New York", using a loan of $5,000 from an uncle. The studio was to serve as a mainstay for artists and bands both local and international, and Kramer became one of the busiest indie music producers in NYC. The first recording at Noise New York was the Buttholes' rendition of "American Woman".
Kramer formed the record label Shimmy-Disc two years later in 1987, and enjoyed immediate and lasting critical acclaim, releasing albums including Songs from the Pink Death. The label remained a favorite at college radio stations for the next decade. Shimmy-Disc artists included Bongwater, King Missile, GWAR, Naked City, Ruins, Boredoms, Damon & Naomi, Daniel Johnston, White Zombie, Yellow Plastic Bucket and Ween.
In the early 1980s Kramer met Ann Magnuson, New York City performance artist, when he ran the sound for a band she was in, Pulsallama, during their frequent performances at Club 57. After Pulsallama disbanded in 1984, the two began to collaborate, and in 1986 they formed Bongwater. Together they released five LPs, including Double Bummer, and culminating with their 1991 swansong, The Big Sell-Out. In 1991 they began a romantic relationship while Kramer was separated from his estranged wife, who was at that point three months pregnant with their daughter. After several months, Kramer decided to end the romantic relationship and reconcile with his wife, and the end of the relationship also spelled the end of the band. Several months later, Magnuson sued Kramer for $4.5 million for breach of contract, among other charges, and Kramer responded with a counter-suit. The subsequent legal battle resulted in the financial crippling of the Shimmy-Disc label, which never recovered. The lawsuits were eventually settled out of court in 1997 for undisclosed terms.
Association with Penn & Teller 
A pivotal moment in Kramer's early career came when Jad Fair of Half Japanese introduced him to Penn & Teller. Kramer soon found himself working eight shows per week as Sound Consultant on Penn & Teller's 1987 Broadway show, and composing the music for their Cruel Tricks for Dear Friends special. In 1992, Kramer formed the band The Captain Howdy with Penn Jillette, and together with guest artists Debbie Harry (of Blondie) and Billy West, they made two highly eclectic CDs together, both released on Shimmy-Disc. Following Penn's permanent relocation to Las Vegas in 1997, the group disbanded.
Collaboration with other artists 
In 1988 Kramer and Half Japanese singer Jad Fair released the record Roll Out The Barrel together on Kramer's Shimmy-Disc label. They reunited in 1998 and published the record The Sound of Music. An Unfinished Symphony in 12 Parts that year.
In 1990 Kramer discovered the two-man band Ween when they played a show at a small New York club, the Pyramid Club. Kramer struck up a friendship with the two, who had already been fans of the Shimmy-Disc label, and he convinced them to release their home-recorded demos on Shimmy-Disc, on what became the 1991 album The Pod. In 1992 the three went on a brief tour of England, where Kramer played bass. The tour did not go well, due to personality and creative differences between Kramer and the two members of Ween, although Ween band member Mickey Melchiondo said in a 2007 interview that "we're still friends".
Changes in ownership of studio and record label 
In 1992 Kramer sold his Noise New York recording studio and moved just across the Hudson River, where he'd found a house going into foreclosure with a state-of-the-art 24-track recording studio built in. He dubbed the studio Noise New Jersey, and continued to produce recordings there, including, most famously, Urge Overkill's cover of "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon". However, family illness and personal challenges weighed on him during these years, and the pressures of balancing his profile as an artist with his work as a producer and label head proved too heavy. Though it was during this time that he produced some of his greatest recordings, the consistency of his output had begun to suffer. It was at this point in time that Kramer began to look for a way to move the day-to-day management of Shimmy-Disc into what he had hoped in vain would be more able hands.
Shortly following the sale of Shimmy Disc and his recording facility to the Knitting Factory in 1998 (in which he was contracted to play a continuing role in the label as producer and Director of A&R), Kramer sued the Knitting Factory for breach of contract and soon found himself without a creative base for the first time in his professional career. This experience left him emotionally devastated and looking to exit the music business without delay. He did so immediately following his last European tour in November 1999, dubbed "The Last Tour of the Century", which, according to Magnet magazine, was "a creative flop and a financial bust."
Film and theater 
Envisioning a complete about-face, Kramer turned to his lifelong passion in film and theater, and in late 2000 he began studying directing under film and stage director Arthur Penn, whom he had met in 1989 when Penn directed Penn & Teller Get Killed. Kramer spent the better part of four years at New York's Actors Studio, where, in addition to learning directing, he did sound design and music for various productions at the Actors Studio Free Theater on 42nd street. This phase of Kramer's career culminated in 2002 when he composed the music for Fortune's Fool, the Tony Award-winning Broadway play directed by Arthur Penn and starring Alan Bates and Frank Langella, both of whom swept the Broadway acting awards for that year. Kramer had just been appointed assistant director on Arthur Penn's next Broadway play (Sly Fox) when his mother Rosalyn was stricken with a debilitating stroke, which drew him to Florida in 2003. She died 16 months later of complications thereof.
Work with the James Randi Educational Foundation 
After moving to Ft. Lauderdale area, Kramer worked for the James Randi Educational Foundation from 2004 until February, 2006. His main job was to manage the foundation's One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge with a million dollar prize to anyone who could demonstrate paranormal ability (the money remains unawarded.) Kramer also maintained the foundation's video library and oversaw the digital transfer of over 700 archival VHS tapes to DVD, comprising the most complete document of the life and career of James Randi. He says the work he did for James Randi was the most important work of his life.
Recent activities 
Kramer is associated with the formation of the so-called "slowcore" movement, thanks mainly to his production work for two seminal bands of the era: Low, and Galaxie 500. He continues to produce, mix and master a great variety of artists worldwide.
Kramer currently operates a private CD/LP Mastering and Mixing studio in Florida, and has resumed his activities as a record producer after a 6-year hiatus, during which time he produced only a handful of select artists, including Joy Zipper, Linda Draper, Jeff Lewis, and Danielson. In 2006 he announced the return of his record company, under the new name "Second-Shimmy". The debut release (released October 10, 2006) is I Killed the Monster - 21 Artists Performing the Songs by Daniel Johnston, featuring performances by Dot Allison, Jad Fair & Kramer, Daniel Smith (of Danielson) & Sufjan Stevens, Kimya Dawson, R. Stevie Moore, Major Matt Mason USA, Jeff Lewis, Joy Zipper, and Kramer himself, among others.
Second-Shimmy has worldwide digital distribution through Orchard Digital.
In 2006, Kramer worked exclusively on the LP Exaltation of Larks, a solo release from UK artist Dot Allison, which he cites as his finest work as producer/arranger, and features early 60s style orchestral arrangements on each song. The LP was released in September 2007 on Cooking Vinyl in the UK and P-Vine in Japan.
Kramer has released 3 solo records of "pop" music, and 2 CDs of "new music" on John Zorn's Tzadik label. He is currently working The Brill Building, his five-year effort to record cover versions of hit singles written in the Brill Building in the late 50s and early 60s, also for Zorn's Tzadik label.
By the beginning of 2007, Kramer began to focus more intensely on mastering, and less on the full-time producing that has kept him on the road since the demise of Shimmy-Disc in 1998.
In 2007 (amongst numerous assorted mixing and mastering projects), Kramer produced Finnish band 22-Pistepirkko in Helsinki, THE Nightjars in Wales, and Leader Cheetah in Australia. Also in 2007, Kramer remixed Mississippi for Steve Adey and visited the studio of A Shoreline Dream in October 2007 for a week long session mixing and mastering their album Recollections of Memory. In 2010 he returned to Sydney and Melbourne to produce a number of Australian works including The Glimmer's release Start A Fire, an album which frequently draws comparison to the music of Quentin Tarantino's films.
Kramer premiered his composition "Things to Come" in Tokyo in 2007. Hoping to perform the piece annually, he has subsequently performed it in Tel Aviv in 2008, Melbourne in 2009 and Paris in 2010. In January 2008 Kramer embarked upon his first tour since 1999's "Last Tour of the Century" with Jad Fair; 14 cities in 14 days in Japan with Mike Watt and Samm Bennett in a "dueling bass" trio called Brother's Sister's Daughter.
As of 2011, Kramer limits his music-related activities to mixing and mastering at his home studio in South Florida, stating that he will "not step foot in another airport until the permanent repeal of the Patriot Act."
Family and personal life 
Kramer's first marriage was in 1982, ending with divorce in 1994. Kramer has one daughter, Tess, born March 1992.
In 2005, Kramer married artist/painter Valerie Zars; it was the second marriage for both of them. The wedding took place in Penn Jillette's Las Vegas backyard, with James Randi officiating. Master magician Jamy Ian Swiss was best man.
- The Dawn of Shockabilly (Rough Trade, 1982)
- Earth vs. Shockabilly (Rough Trade, 1983)
- Greatest Hits (Red Music, 1983)
- Colosseum (Rough Trade, 1984)
- Vietnam (Fundamental Music, 1984)
- Heaven (Fundamental Music, 1985)
- Period (Another American Lie) (Shimmy Disc, 1987)
- Bird (Shimmy Disc, 1988)
- Trouble Doll (The Disappointing 3rd LP) (Shimmy Disc, 1989)
- B.A.L.L. Four: Hardball (Shimmy Disc, 1990)
- Breaking No New Ground! (Shimmy Disc, 1987)
- Double Bummer (Shimmy Disc, 1988)
- Too Much Sleep (Shimmy Disc, 1989)
- The Power of Pussy (Shimmy Disc, 1990)
- The Big Sell-Out (Shimmy Disc, 1992)
- The Guilt Trip (Shimmy Disc, 1992)
- The Secret of Comedy (Shimmy Disc, 1994)
- Let Me Explain Something to You About Art (Tzadik, 1998)
- Songs from the Pink Death (Shimmy Disc, 1998)
- The Greenberg Variations (Tzadik, 2003)
- The Brill Building (Tzadik, 2012)
- with Ralph Carney and Daved Hild: Happiness Finally Came to Them (Shimmy Disc, 1987)
- with Jad Fair: Roll Out the Barrel (Shimmy Disc, 1988)
- with John S. Hall: Real Men (Shimmy Disc, 1991)
- with Daevid Allen: Who's Afraid? (Shimmy Disc, 1992)
- with Kim Fahy and Jamie Harley: Egomaniacs (Shimmy Disc, 1993)
- with Dogbowl: Hot Day in Waco (Shimmy Disc, 1994)
- with Hugh Hopper: A Remark Hugh Made (Shimmy Disc, 1994)
- with Ralph Carney and Daved Hild: Black Power (Shimmy Disc, 1994)
- with Daevid Allen: Hit Men (Shimmy Disc, 1995)
- with Dogbowl: Gunsmoke (Shimmy Disc, 1995)
- with Daved Hild: Rubber Hair (Shimmy Disc, 1997)
- with Hugh Hopper: Huge (Shimmy Disc, 1997)
- with Jad Fair: The Sound of Music (An Unfinished Symphony in 12 Parts) (Shimmy Disc, 1999)