Marc Houle Interview: It was a perfect chapter in my life
Ahead of rocking Space on Thursday 20th June we caught up with Marc Houle.
Last updated: 3rd Jun 2013. Originally published: 31st May 2013
Canadian techno producer Marc Houleis the eptimoe of twenty first century electronic musician. Eschewing Djing to play live, he’s managed to find that perfect balance of raiding the past for his very own brand of Teutonic futurism, coming to prominence as part of the Minus vanguard assembled by Richie Hawtin as he took techno to world conquering levels at the start of the last decade.
Houle split successfully with Minus alongside other former minimal ambassadors Troy Pierce andMagdato form the record label Items and Things, and has recently collaborated with the queen of electroclash Miss Kittin and formed a synth band La Foile. The video to their track ‘Her New Dress’ is below.
We caught up with him to discuss his Ibiza dates at Space, the ever evolving electronic music scene and how the early influences of neighbouring Detroit made Canada a breeding ground for techno visionaries.
Your collaboration with Miss Kittin is due out shortly. How did the hook-up come about and can you give us a little bit more information on your relationship with her and how her catalogue of music makes you feel?
I loved her music with the Hacker when I was living back in Canada. It was such a great sound because it crossed between the old new wave stuff I loved and the techno and electro sounds I was hearing in Detroit at the time. Eventually when I started touring I would run in to her and eventually we became friends.
One day she was coming to Berlin so we came up with the idea of having some fun in the studio. The music we made turned out really cool so we decided to release it. It was just the right timing I guess.
What was the greatest inspiration on you growing up? What lead you to electronic music?
It was a combination of a bunch of things - watching Sesame Street when I was little, listening to The Wizard on Detroit radio, seeing Koyaanisqatsi, playing Commodore 64 a lot, getting a Casio synth and spending weekends in Detroit at parties. There's just something about that late 70's early 80's electronic machine sound that I love so I listen to music from that era to get as much of it as I can.
How has the electronic music scene changed since you started out?
It's funny but Detroit music really stands the test of time. It's really hard to tell at times if the tracks DJs play sometimes are new releases or 25 years old. Growing up there was Techno and House. Techno people didn't like House and House people didn't like techno. But these days everything is a mixture of 10 different genres. It's a nice progression.
Your live sets provide a welcome visual spectacle to a scene that largely lacks ‘live’ performers. Was this a conscious decision, or simply the way you prefer to work? And do you arrive with a pre-planned idea in mind of what you want to achieve or completely go off the fly?
I was just a closet musician. I wasn’t out mixing and playing live when I first started out - I would just make tracks every day in the studio. When my first releases came out, Richie Hawtin invited me to play a few shows in Europe and gave me an MS-20 midi controller and I picked up Ableton and went to work.
Since then I never wanted to start DJing or anything. It's much better for me to play what I know best and it's also great because it fuels me to make more tracks in the studio. It's the perfect balance for me. When I play I usually start pretty neutral and depending on what the people dance to I explore different areas. Nothing's planned out - it's more fun that way.
Do you prefer producing or playing live?
Ah they're both so important to my sanity. Yin and Yang sort of thing. Sometimes I have time off and go crazy in the studio or tour a lot and miss playing real synths. I'm lucky to have a balance going on.
Ibiza Season is here. Whereabouts are you playing this year (if you can let us know!) and can you tell us about your relationship with the island?
I'm playing with my good friends at Wet Yourself at Space. Ibiza is definitely one of a kind. It's sort of like an island version of Berlin - you can go there and relax or you can party every day. But unlike Berlin, it's sunny and warm.
How also has Items and Things progressed, and was it good to make the break from Minus with the support of Hawtin?
For sure. It was just time to move on and try something new. I was very comfortable at Minus and those people are all good friends but I wanted to force myself to push harder and try to do different things and make different sounds. It was a perfect chapter in my life though.
What is it about Canada that seems to produce the world’s leading minimal and techno artists?
A whole bunch of us are from Windsor, Ontario which is about 1km from downtown Detroit. So we were very lucky to be so close and to attend all the great warehouse parties of the day. Every weekend there were 2 or 3 underground parties and we just went all the time and absorbed the scene. Being from Windsor meant we could zip over to downtown Detroit usually much quicker than the people who actually lived in the suburbs. And Canadians are cooler.
If you hadn't found you're calling as a producer, what do you think you would be doing instead?