Marc Orleans (Sunburned Hand of the Man), RIP
Long-running guitarist and pedal steel player Marc Orleans -- who played in Sunburned Hand of the Man, Spore, Juneau, Enos Slaughter, Sunlayer, D. Charles Speer & the Helix, Eleven Twenty-Nine and more in his 25+ year career -- has passed away at 52. Ela Orleans confirmed the news, writing, "I would like to confirm, that Marc Orleans- the guitar genius (Sunburned Hand of the Man, Juneau, Enos Slaughter to name a few), grand chess player, painter and fly-fishing master, the person who gave me my surname and first guitar, has passed away on Thursday at the age of 52." Ela did not reveal a cause of death, though some of Orleans' peers -- including Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore and TV On The Radio's Kyp Malone -- have said Marc took his own life.
Kyp wrote in part:
Marc Orleans died by his own hand Thursday June 25th 2020. It might sound insensitive to focus on that aspect of his death, as we all die one way or another eventually, but it matters. He wasn’t an easy person, he wasn’t having an easy time, in this very uneasy time especially. I’d known him to express suicidal ideation with a regularity that would actually anger me back in the day. It felt like he was holding himself hostage and I didn’t know how to help. That feels fucked up to admit in this moment but when you’ve gone around and around with someone on this tip as an untrained no credentials having “good listener” you can hit a wall, but you can also be a friend. Marc Orleans was my friend and I loved him.
I met Marc at an improv session at some kids from St. Louis’s loft in East Williamsburg in 2000. There were at least 11 of us there playing over one another in a situation that felt far too loud to have been particularly enjoyable for anyone involved. He was playing a gibson firebird through a fender twin. I remember him being very direct and excited suggesting that he and I and Kevin Shea who was also there get together again and play. I was new to the city and had not found many folks I gelled with creatively so I was grateful for his enthusiasm and openness. I came to find hilariously that the volume of that first improv session was likely to a great part coming from Marc. As I’m sure you’ve heard “a twin doesn’t really start to turn over if you’re not pushing it at least past 4 on the volume potentiometer” which depending on the living room or basement you’re playing in leaves very little sonic room for much else. So we, Marc Kevin and I started a band called Fall in Love. Marc lived on Grand st. back then two and a half blocks from where I’m currently sitting. We practiced for a while in his apartment which was on the top floor of the building that was soon to hold the club Lux, the apartment directly below his was running guns into the neighborhood and eventually got raided. We played together for nearly three years until I got too busy with Tvotr and that bands heavy tour cycle. He’d already been in the Massachusetts bands Spore and Juneau, he played with Sunburned hand of the Man, played some with Meg Baird, D Charles Speer, a fixture for years busking the NYC Subway, I know more recently he was working with a blue grass band. I’m not capable of making a complete list of his musical offerings. He stayed busy.
[...] Something like 10 years ago he started working in what seemed like a very niche area of the film world operating the cranes that held the cameras for whatever type of shot you’d need that for. I was happy for him because it seemed to promise to alleviate some of the economic anxiety he’d been experiencing when he was primarily gigging and busking to cover his expenses. Of course through Covid productions were halted and so were gigs. That was weighing on him when I talked on the phone with him last. As was the isolation of quarantine and the ambient fear of getting sick. I can’t speak towards all that he was feeling and going through but clearly it was a lot.
I know that this man Marc Orleans, musician, husband, brother, son, fly fisherman touched a lot of people, left a deep impression on a lot of people. Shared a lot of beauty with this world. There is an abundance of fear, panic, uncertainty right now. Plenty commanding our attention right now. If you knew Marc though take a moment and remember him. Pour one out for him. Play a rag or raga for him. Sing an old timey song or leave your guitar turned up leaning against your amp and send up a feedback prayer for him. He was a hard one but he really gave it his all. If you didn’t know him I bet you can think of someone this description reminds you of in your life. Hold on to that person. Hold onto each other.
Read Kyp's full statement here.
Thurston Moore, who released some of Sunburned Hand of the Man's music on his Ecstatic Peace! label, wrote "love to Marc Orleans, amazing musician" and tweeted the following:
As Pitchfork reports, Orleans' Eleven Twenty-Nine bandmate Tom Carter also posted a statement, which reads, "made a lot of music with this beautiful and tortured individual who died because the world failed him. RIP marc glad you knew i loved you."
Chris Forsyth, one of Orleans' many collaborators, wrote, "Oh man, RIP Marc Orleans, such a sweet sad guy, always all about the music. Memorably, for me, he did a pedal steel overdub session on my Paranoid Cat record and tried to explain to me how that instrument works. Way over my head! Lovely guy. He also played in the 7th Ave subway stop in Brooklyn for years and I'd get to hear him play while waiting for the train on the reg. Said he got good rush hour tips there with all the Park Slopers dropping bills on him."
Longtime NYC show promoter Todd P paid tribute writing, "I got to know Marc Orleans back in the days when most of my life was in Greenpoint, across many conversations at Eat Records, Tommy's Tavern, the Palace Tavern. Marc lived music, and was accepting of anyone he met through it. Always a familiar face in the crowd. I will miss him."
Matt Sweeney wrote, "This is a terrible loss. Sending love to his family and friends. RIP Marc Orleans. His playing inspired me."
WFMU DJ Jeff Conklin, who says Orleans' band with Steve Gunn was one of the first he ever booked at now-shuttered Williamsburg venue Zebulon, posted a few tributes:
Watch some videos of Marc Orleans and stream Sunburned Hand of the Man's 2007 Four Tet-produced Fire Escape -- which Marc Orleans plays on -- and view more tributes to Marc below. Rest in peace, Marc.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1‑800‑273‑TALK (8255) or Live Online Chat
If you or someone you know is suicidal or in emotional distress, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Site. Trained crisis workers are available to talk 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Your confidential and toll-free call goes to the nearest crisis center in the Lifeline national network. These centers provide crisis counseling and mental health referrals.