Mark Van Hoen has his first release for some time as Locust, You’ll be Safe Forever, due this month on Editions Mego. DPAK got the chance to speak to him, and he was kind enough to speak back:
First off I must thank you for supporting the website from more or less day one. Do you think music blogs have any particular role to play or is there too many of them?
You’re very welcome, I am always glad to hear from anyone interested in my music, as long as it’s clear to me that their reasons are genuine. Music blogs are of course very important. I discover new music though them myself. It’s valid to have people writing who are free from the guidelines of larger publishing entities.
You have been recording music for over 20 years now, does your creative desire still burn as strong and have you had periods when you’ve, well, lost the hunger?
Actually it’s over 30 years! I have been releasing for 20, but I first started recording in 1981. Of course, inspiration fluctuates, but the desire to make music as a form of expression has been with me since I was 14. I can’t see that ever changing. In recent years, particularly since having a family of my own, the challenge is to find the time to complete the many projects I would like to undertake. It makes me wonder what I did with all that time before!
Above, Mark Van Hoen’s ‘Unknown Host’, 2011 and how Locust sounded in 1995 with their ‘I feel Cold Inside’
The new Locust release is with Editions Mego?
Yes, a new Locust album is complete and scheduled for release this month (April). I’m glad to be working with EMego again, and I’m very proud to be on the label.
This is probably a question you have had to answer many times before but what is the main difference between recording as Mark Van Hoen and recording as Locust?
I think I have already answered part of your question above! The history of the Locust name is a bit of a messy one, but to try and simplify; The first 3 Locust albums were just me. Then, from the 4th, they became more like a band or collaboration. Once that had happened, I thought it best to leave it that way, so I then began to release music I’d made by myself under my own name. The new Locust album is also a collaborative effort, my friend Louis Sherman, a kindred spirit and 13 years my junior, has made the record with me. I had been asked to perform live on a radio station here in New York called WFMU, and I wanted to do something new. I asked Louis to perform with me, and it went so well that we decided to develop the set into an album.
Are you in any way active in the New York ‘scene’, for instance do you attend gigs, DJ nights, or do you prefer to just keep yourself to yourself, a low profile as it were?
I do go out when I can, although I think being part of a ‘scene’ is something I left in the past. The things I go out to tend be a very wide variety of events and happenings, almost random in fact.
What is your opinion on the commercial side of the industry as it stands? Do you actually make a living out of what you do and do you think it’s a good thing that more and more musicians now provide music for free?
I think something really has to change, but
I fear that now it is normal to give away music. That means that the nature of music will change, and that certain styles of recorded music will suffer, or never get made at all. I do make a living, but certainly not only through record sales. They form a small part of what has had to become a wide diversity of methods of making money through the skills I have developed as a musician.
Do you keep up to date with new music as much as you can and pay for the stuff that you like?
I do keep up, and yes I do buy things that I like, although only of they are available on vinyl. I do not like CD’s, and I don’t like to pay for downloads. I would sooner play back off youtube to be honest. I recently shut down my spotify account, after realizing that it cannot work to have services like this. As an artist/writer, most of the royalties I receive are less that 0.1 cent per play. youtube is apparently the same, but I do think it’s a great way to discover new music. I would say that I don’t spend any less on music than I have ever done.
In what way do you think electronic based music has evolved during the time you have been involved in the industry, and do you still think it has the power to surprise, to be original?
It has evolved of course, and by it’s own nature, that’s stimulated by technology. I do think that a shift was caused about say 5 years ago, by the recording ‘studio’ becoming very affordable (or even free) to anyone with a computer of a certain level of speed. For me the jury is out as to whether or not this is a good thing in the long term. It’s an inevitable part of the evolution of electronic music though. There are those who will use it to create and bring their own styles and emotions to the fore, but then there are those who use it to conform and remain conservative; and that’s now extremely easy to do. It’s very hard to be original now, at least in a fundamental way.
Why do you think a lot of artists in your field like to use old synths and equipment from the 1970s? That is true isn’t it, or did I just make that up?
It’s true yes, I think it’s really for the same reason certain rock guitarists use old guitars. It’s for a certain vintage tone. These old instruments set you apart from all of the software emulations and digital software. They somehow seem more ‘human’ as instruments I think it has something to do with the analog circuits being prone to instabilities, temperature drift etc etc that give them a sound that’s more intriguing to listen to.’?
What have you enjoyed listening to the most lately, any favorite albums, tracks, labels?
I love the new Scott Walker, farts and all. I’ve just been listening to a lot of Grouper, whom I had never heard until recently. I’ve also been enjoying a podcast series put together by Locust member Louis Sherman and his friend Jme Giggino. It’s called ‘phases’ and is an amazingly deep exploration into the history of electronic music.
Leaving the most profound and difficult question to last; what is your favorite letter of the alphabet?
I have never really thought about it, but at a push I would have to say ‘X’ because it seems evocative, mysterious and mathematical at the same time.