Rocket Queen: Dedicated Follower of Fashion

Mark Pickerel’s latest move puts him back behind the counter, with records on the shelf.

It's an early Sunday evening in Belltown, and Mark Pickerel is standing in the doorway of his pop culture–centric retail outpost, Damaged Goods, dressed impeccably in a vintage black suit and a discreetly textured navy blue button-down shirt, his spiky hair splayed skyward in his signature style. The local drummer, most widely known as a founding member of Screaming Trees, opened the store this past January, in the space just north of Roq la Rue Gallery and a few doors south of the Rendezvous.Damaged Goods doesn't fit neatly into a particular retail category. While nearly half his stock comprises collectible records, reissued CDs, and a few assorted 8-track tapes, the small space also bursts with original movie posters, a carefully curated selection of covet-worthy rock shirts, quality vintage clothing, risqué barware, rock biographies and photo books, and fantastic thrift-scores, such as the black-velvet painting of Isaac Hayes tucked in one corner. Even if he weren't so dashingly dressed this evening, quick perusal of the clothing racks makes it evident that proprietor Pickerel is someone who takes the sartorial seriously."It is important to me, and I don't really know why, except that from a very young age I was fascinated by the album artwork that accompanied my favorite songs, and what the cats were wearing," he says, sitting with his legs neatly crossed, a stack of gently used punk-band shirts in his lap. "Even simple stuff like Creedence Clearwater Revival. When I first examined their [record covers], I was also into Elton John and the extravagance of Bowie and T. Rex, but I was also really conscious of the other end of the fashion spectrum, where the people were just dressed in really basic work clothes. I was always really impressed with the musicians who conveyed something through fashion."His store's clothing selection reflects the range he describes, from the Germs and Black Flag shirts he holds and the perfectly preserved denim pieces scattered throughout to the elaborately embroidered Western shirts and sequined ladies' cocktail dresses hanging nearby. The vinyl selection is sorted into his own sly categories, with dividers labeled "Something Recent That's Actually Good," "Hippies Use Backdoor," "Satan Worshippers," and "LOL" (for classic comedy records).It's not Pickerel's first foray into retail; he owned a record store in his hometown of Ellensburg for more than a decade, from his early days in the Trees until he closed it before moving to Seattle in 2005."Rodeo Records was actually located inside the video store that was owned by the [Screaming Trees co-founders Gary Lee and Van] Connor brothers' family," he recalls. "So all of the Screaming Trees—including [frontman] Mark Lanegan—worked at the family video store in high school." When Pickerel left the Trees in 1993, his side project Truly (featuring former Soundgarden bassist Hiro Yamamoto) was signed to a major label, and he lost interest in retail. "When grunge took off, there was this massive major-label feeding frenzy," he continues. "We got swept up in it, and couldn't refuse this offer from Capitol Records. It was hard to juggle both careers."Pickerel eventually migrated to a life as a full-time touring musician (he was Neko Case's road drummer for two years) and a session drummer-for-hire (most recently on records by Shane Tutmarc and Brandi Carlile), later settling into his current two-pronged role: fronting country-blues solo project Mark Pickerel and His Praying Hands and playing drums with tightly calibrated pop-rock outfit the Tripwires. However, long-term gigs on the road are no longer an option—or a desire."My wife and I had a baby girl almost two years ago, and it has become apparent that I can't just hit the road as often as I used to. I needed some source of income besides just music. At the same time, I had to find work that would accommodate all these other pursuits. I couldn't really think of anything besides getting back into retail and running my own shop. I thought it would be great to open a place that showcased several of my interests besides just music."Music remains in the picture, especially on Record Store Day (for more on RSD, see Music News & Notes, page 43), 2–7 p.m. this Saturday, when Pickerel will host an all-day showcase of performances featuring his friends, family, and colleagues, including Bloodshot labelmate and punk icon Exene Cervenka, rising alt-country siren Star Anna, and sister Megan Pickerel and Herman Jolly's new project, Buzzyshyface."Even though this hasn't been the best year for me as a musician financially, it's been one of the most rewarding in terms of the types of projects I've been involved in," he says, greeting a couple browsing a curio case of tiki barware in the corner with a smile and a nod. "I can't remember a year where I've been so involved with so much music that I just truly love. In a way, it's good that all these different developments have happened in the sequence that they have. I think we'll do well here."

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