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Interview with Marc Houle

At the beginning of March you are going to release your 5th album. All the four previous albums had been out on Minus. “Undercover” is now released on “Items & Things”, your label that you run together with Magda and Troy Pierce. Is this a kind of a statement for you to show that you are doing your own thing now? Or why did you decide to put it out on I&T?


marc houleI think most people don’t know that we left Minus. Finished! I’m not really going after any statements with this, it’s just for me the most fun and rewarding way to release my albums. I had great great times with Minus and they were very good to me and my career but musically we just went in different directions. Privately they are all still my friends. But I feel that now I can be truer to my music and my career.  

You, Magda and Troy were the faces of Minus, besides Richie Hawtin obviously. Maybe also Gaiser and Heartthrob. You were always looking like a big family. How and why did the breakup from Minus happen?
For years we were just sitting back and letting Rich do all the work and make all the decisions. It was nice and easy for us but of course you can’t do this forever and expect to move forward musically. We decided that we wanted to be the ones making the decisions and being 100% responsible for our image and sound. This along with the fact that musically we were drifting further and further away from the new Minus sound made us realize that it was time to leave Minus.

You are saying that “Undercover” represents your personal sound more than anything you have ever done before. Why did you chose “Undercover” as the album title? Is there a story behind the title?
It comes from the title track. Magda called me up one day and asked me to make a track that she could play with some fun vocals so I hung up the phone and went to work and those lyrics popped into my head. I liked them because they had the double entendre thing going on. 

marc houleThe album and the tracks sound very warm, analogue, “real” and organic. Did you use much analogue and external gear?
Well my love has always been with synths and drum machines from the 70’s and early 80’s. This one is loaded with them. The most prominent is a Juno 60 that I use for lots of the bass and pads. I did lots of solos with a monopoly and the drums were the 808 and Linn with sprinkles of other machines here and there. That warm organic sound is the thing I love most about music and for me to be in a studio creating it is pure pleasure. 

What were your influences during the work on “Undercover”?
My last album “Drift” was very cold, dark and sparse. I wanted this one to be a return to the dance floor with some catchy melodies. The tracks I have the most fun making are usually the ones that work best when I play live and lately I’ve been having lots of fun.

Your new tracks sound a bit more „free“ and more „happy“. Not so dark and spooky like lot of the Minus things. Was that a reason to have it out on I&T?
I always enjoyed lots of freedom and support from Rich and Minus but the track selection and album approval always remained with them. The last album was cold and dark but by my choice. I was stuck in a cold winter rut and wanted that in album form. What is different is that for the first time I am marrying my two worlds – my synth pop world and my techno world to make an album that is 100% my music style and not just half.  But every album I like to do very differently so I’m sure the next one will be something completely, well, different.

We also really like the album artwork. How did you found or how did you create this image?
My brother Dave who does all my albums and did all the Minus ones before I left, sat down with me and brainstormed by looking at all the ideas he had saved. After going through hundreds of images, the one that I couldn’t get over was that spooky photo of Lincoln. I think it’s the last one taken of him before he got shot. It just so eerie and mesmerizing that I couldn’t get it out of my head but the notion of putting Lincoln on the cover seemed a bit strange. He did some laser ghost eye thing to him to go with the album theme and we both agreed that however bizarre it may seem, it fits. I´m sure people will think oddly of it but in the end, it’s all about art and pleasure.

Will you be doing an album tour?
I sort of held off the idea of doing a giant album tour like I did last year with Magda. I think for this one I want to keep it simple and not be limited to playing the next 50 shows showcasing those 8 tracks. I will do a few special shows here and there but no mega tour this year.

Cool, thanks for the update and your time Marc!