"Sometimes I end up crying on stage," Scott Mercado says as he looks down at his keyboard.
"A lot of musicians are depressed; that's why they make music," I tell him.
"There's a difference between sadness and depression, though," he says, "but I get very emotionally involved in my music. I cry at movies all the time. It's just the way I am."
Mercado wiggles around in his chair and begins clicking on random file folders on his laptop.
"Man, I don't want people to think I'm a weenie. Here, listen to this. Tell me when you hear it," he says, fiddling with knobs.
An electric punch of guitars and keyboard loops blare out from the tiny laptop speakers. A whispy strain of his voice oozes out from behind the mess of eerie loops. The volume is much too loud, but I don't dare complain. This music is, after all, Mercado's proudest moment, dearer than a first-born and far more coddled. He unexpectedly cuts the clip and begins clicking away at something else.
"You get the idea-it's sad. Kind of like me sometimes. Do you like it?" he searches, moving on before I answer. "Yeah, I have hundreds of these just sitting on my computer."
I originally intended for our interview to be a 30-minute lunch affair, but like most conversations with Mercado, our give-and-take exchange grows chatty legs and travels into the early evening hours. Almost the entire time is spent watching Mercado's eccentric mannerisms and listening to his even more eccentric musical gesticulations.
He takes me from room to room in his North Park home. Most striking is the simplicity of his darkened bedroom, where Mercado makes most of his music. Splashed across one corner are parts and shells of computers, plugged into musical outputs and sprawled onto his bedside table.
"This is where the magic happens. I love recording in here," he sighs. "But this computer has been giving me trouble lately. I haven't had the chance to use it for a few days."
Mercado has things to fill his time. An intimidating eccentric and a musical talent whose fidgety and sporadic mannerisms make a case for severe Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Mercado has more musical outlets than the Casbah soundboard. After backing up other people's projects, Mercado and his Manuok alter-ego are finally coming out with their own band, own album, own project.
His main squeeze, Via Satellite, recently signed with Loud and Clear Records and has an upcoming release and tour, despite bandmates Tim Reece and Drew Andrews' absence while touring with The Album Leaf. To fill the time, Mercado works on Manuok (pronounced man-you-oh-kay, taken from a bathroom stall door), for which he will release a brand new album in the fall. He's begun scoring an independent film. He is recording drums with The Incredible Moses Leroy's Ron Fountenberry. He produces websites for Joshua Krause, Incredible Moses Leroy and The Album Leaf.
"I would say I get distracted easily," he shrugs.
A self-professed workaholic, Mercado bought his first drum set by mowing lawns near his childhood Los Angeles home. In 1991 he joined a shoegaze goth band called Aura and continued in a few other rotating lineups that were, admittedly, "astoundingly terrible."
Appropriately, in Los Angeles he is known purely as a talented drummer-"I would argue that I was more successful in L.A."-while San Diego has adopted him as an all-purpose guitarist-keyboardist. Presently, he begins digging through his old records, vowing to show me his past projects.
Mercado pulls out a vinyl copy from his mid-'90s band, Period. The music is ethereal, beautiful and full of light industrial breaks of guitar and loops-a bit reminiscent of Via Satellite and extremely indicative of Mercado's current Manuok tendencies.
"I've come a long way since this band," he says without looking up," but you can still hear the same tendencies coming out in Manuok and Via Satellite and everything else I do.... San Diego has been a good place for me to let this out."
Flash forward to the next evening and Mercado is tucked into the near corner of the Casbah stage, crouched over his guitar next to Reece and Andrews to begin Via Satellite's set-ending tune. Wailing over the top of the instrument, he pounds his feet to the ground and screams into the microphone.
Violent and intriguing, the sold-out crowd is frozen before the band cuts out all at once. No tears this time. Mercado stares out at the crowd for a moment before nonchalantly bending over to pack up his equipment to return, one more time, to his bedroom, where his computer waits.For Manuok's show schedule, visit www.manuok.com.