Marc Houle has been blazing trails in the techno world for over a decade. We caught up with him on the tail of releasing ‘Cola Party’ to discuss his commitment to the album format, the importance of keeping it weird and how to make the future sound more like Roxy Music and Kraftwerk.
Canada has managed to produce an astonishing number of talented electronic producers, from Richie Hawtin to Matthew Jonson, Tiga to Tim Hecker, Caribou to Konrad Black, the list is incredible… Do you have any theories on why that is?
Cause we’re smarter. I can’t really speak for the others but for me it was because of my proximity to Downtown Detroit mixed with a very musical family growing up. We sang, danced and played instruments. It was something we did and was part of our Canadian heritage and was definitely encouraged in my family.
You’ve just released your sixth studio album: Cola Party. Can you tell us a bit about the record?
For Cola Party I wanted to take a step back and show my overall sound instead of digging deep into a theme like I did in the past. It’s more of a fun record with some techno, house and weird breaky new wave stuff. I really like it because I can find a track in there for every occasion when I play out at shows.
Electronic music is massively singles-driven, why bother sticking to the album format?
That is a very good question. I think these days I do it more for myself. I like being able to look back at albums like milestones in my career. It’s also a good excuse to go deep in to a certain style then end like you’ve finished school that year. Like other old people, I’m sad that albums are going away but it won’t stop me from listening to full LPs at home. I think an album is more of a chance to set the mood and tell a story – the same way you wouldn’t want a DJ or band to go up on stage and play just one song then leave. So, hopefully it will find itself relevant again or at least in a new incarnation.
Cola Party is being released on Items & Things, a label you founded with Magda and Troy Pierce… what inspired you to start the label? What are the guiding principles behind it?
The reason we started the label was that we were coming across really good music on our travels around the world that didn’t fit the label we were on, but really needed to be heard. Later on, we decided to make it our primary label with the hopes of still keeping it weird and fresh but also as a platform for our own music.
Has your process changed much over the years? Are there any new production techniques or exciting tech toys you’ve incorporated into your studio practice?
Studio wise it’s somewhat similar – same synths and drum machines, but something I did last year that made a HUGE difference was to get my studio professionally treated for sound. They came in, measured the waveforms, put up walls and changed everything around so it sounded better. The difference is amazing. I can hear where everything belongs in a mix and I don’t get any surprises when I take stuff on the road or get it mastered. People have said there is a big difference in my sound now. It’s something I never really considered doing before and I assumed it didn’t make much of a change. It did.
What do you think of LANDR? What do you think of the potential for ‘intelligent’ audio tools and how do you see them affecting or interacting with artists’ creative flow?
I love the idea of being able throw something up and have it mastered. For me I always get albums mastered but for all the other stuff I leave it raw or master it myself. I would love to see LANDR grow and the options multiply. I could see me batch uploading a bunch of raw demos and say that I want them to sound like Roxy Music or Kraftwerk or something and have LANDR compress and EQ accordingly. I’m still experimenting how to use it with all my Ableton live clips for my shows. Keep going!
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Posted by Thomas Sontag, A&R at Turbo Recordings