Marc Houle: “I learned early on to never compare myself with others”
“Jager Blow-Out”, having presented us Zombie Nation and The Hacker, are back to throw some black paint on to the way-too-pink Valentine’s Day. The Canadian minimal techno pioneer Marc Houle is billed to do just that, and before the trip he agreed to answer some of my questions. It’s actually our second interview so I managed to do some connections there. A great personality and a great live artist. Be sure to check both the text and his show. Friday in Opium Club, it is.
When we talked in Berlin five years ago (before the CONTAKT show) you said you weren’t sure how long you are going to live in the city. You are still there, though, is that permanent now? Have you considered other countries, like Japan as you mentioned then as well? Or maybe North America, as it seems to have evolved in terms of electronic music?
I think I’m a bit jaded. I’ve seen great cities change before my eyes then had to leave. So when I first came to Berlin I assumed that this great city would eventually change for the worse but here we are years later and it’s still as great as ever. I guess I’ll stay here as long as Berlin remains as great as it is. I sometimes wonder where I would go if I had to but I can never come up with an alternative.
Another thought of yours from the same interview was that you’re more a track artist than an album artist. Since then, however, you’ve released two artist albums! Does that mean your approach to the format has changed? Or you still think you “have to” release albums in order to stay in the game?
I still am a track artist but I was lucky for those 2 albums. For Drift I had just got a guitar and settled in for a dark winter’s day. I was able to write all those rough ideas in a day. So they were individual tracks all written at the same time with similar sounds and the same overall feeling. Since then I haven’t found a day like that and have been writing single tracks. I think nowadays the album concept isn’t so important so there isn’t a stress or a cloud over my head saying I need to make a whole concept album.
A few years ago it was three of you that together closed the chapter of M_nus in your lives. Is there a possibility you, Magda and Troy will start solo labels and solo paths some time from now, when Items & Things will have fulfilled its mission?
Oh it’s possible. I don’t really worry too much about the label as long as I can make music the way I want to. So if in some time my music doesn’t fit anymore I might have to leave but as of now everything is just perfect.
Which artists, apart from Magda and Troy Pierce, would you say have been the defining ones for Items & Things?
That’s really hard to say – I mean everyone on our label brings a unique aspect that makes the overall sound of the label. We’re all so different so I think it’s more of a sum of parts kind of thing.
What’s planned for La Folie, the live project you presented last year? An album? Or maybe it was an one-time project? Are you planning more projects like that in the future?
La Folie was something that’s been going on for a decade – It started when I was living in Canada before the whole techno career and it’s something that I really love to do. It’s my chance to play chords and fast drum beats and use instruments that don’t really fit in my techno tracks. We were looking for the right label to release the album we recorded but didn’t come up with anything good so we decided to hold off. There is no hurry on that stuff and I would rather wait than waste.
As a live artist, you’re still very much a part of the DJ world, which is what makes electronic music world turn around. Do you get insulted when people call you a DJ or expect you to play a DJ set? If that ever happens, of course!
Nah – I call myself a DJ sometimes – it’s just easier. Instead of trying to explain that I am up there playing all my original compositions and every show is different, it’s just easier to say ya – I’m a DJ. Those who care know the reality and as long as people are dancing I don’t care too much.
Your name was included in the RA Top 20 live acts. How do you feel about the fellow artists that were also included? Which are your favorites in terms of their technical abilities and setup? Do you watch what other live performers do, how do they enhance their shows etc?
I’m not really too concerned with top lists and stuff. I’m not sure who else is up on there but I’m sure they deserve it. I learned early on to never compare myself with others. When I’m out somewhere I’m not really analyzing and researching as much as I’m partying like everyone else. It keeps it fun and makes me happiest.
It seems that you’re rather cool with people ripping your tracks from YouTube or downloading them by torrents. At least that’s what I thought looking at your Facebook posts. So, are you? Should music be free? But you still sell your releases…
Yeah I think people should pay for music but the current model is so retarded that it really makes no sense. If bread cost 40 euros a loaf I would be stealing bread all the time. I think they need come up with something that can make everyone happy – I think they’re getting closer but in the meanwhile I would rather someone steal my track than not hear it at all.
You’ve played in Boiler Room. How do you like the concept of a party being streamed all over the world? Doesn’t it lose its intimacy then? Can one party as hard in his bedroom as the ones in the club?
Of course watching a party on a screen is not the same as being there and interacting but for some it’s a great way to see what’s out there and maybe it will bring more people to a good party. It’s not for me – I don’t sit at home and watch boiler room sets but I’m lucky enough to travel around the world and see these clubs first hand. Maybe in another life I would be some kid at home watching and getting influenced and learning that there is some great music out there if you dig deep enough.
Can a track produced on one’s laptop in a bedroom be equally great to the one produced with various hardware items in a well-equipped studio?
Of course – It doesn’t really matter what you use as long as you’re having fun using it. Personally I love my analog gear but in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter what stuff you use as long as you make a great unique track that will make people dance and push the boundaries a bit
What are the best initial investments if one wants to start his own hardware collection?
If you don’t have to get hardware then don’t. You can pick up software on the cheap and you don’t have to worry about a great sound card, mixer, cables, ground buzz etc. If you need to get hardware than that’s a different story of course.
Have you encountered any great results that people achieved with the Remiix app? Do you see the app a marketing tool or do you believe it can boost people’s creativity and maybe discover new albums?
I haven’t see what people have been able to do with it – for me it’s always been fun. I did an update last year where I threw a bunch of new sounds on it and I had lots of fun with it on planes and stuff. It’s still my backup in case there is a computer disaster.
What do you think, or hope, will be stopping / leaving / gone from electronic music in 2014? And what new will come in?
The more that time goes on the more that the genres are blurring together. I’m hoping that the repetitive shuffle sticks with the 3.7 sub bass boring minimal crap will die and people will spend more than a few right clicks making their tracks. I’m also hoping that the big DJs out there will stop playing the easy formula tracks that make people scream for a half a second but are soon forgotten. And world peace.
D.D. 2004 - 2016
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