Mark Van Hoen has been working on music for more than 30 years. Also known by his name Locust or as a former member of the band Seefeel, he released ‘Invisible Threads’ on the legendary Touch Records earlier in the year. After reviewing this magnificent album (you can read our review here), we decided to seek him out to find out more.
Cyclic Defrost: Hi there Mark, please tell us where you are now, and how is everything over there?
I have been living in Los Angeles for the last 4 years or so – it’s been great, I’ve enjoyed the difference in lifestyle to London and New York.. But it in fact I just sold my house. My family and I are currently considering living with in Berlin for a year, or perhaps remaining in LA.
Cyclic Defrost:’Invisible Threads’ is your first album under your own name on Touch after more than 20 years. How did your relationship with the label start?
I first met Mike Harding and Jon Wozencroft around time I as recording ‘Aurobindo: Involution’ with Daren Seymour of Seefeel. I believe it was Russell Haswell who introduced us.
Cyclic Defrost: What are the first thoughts that come to your mind when remembering those early days?
It was very exciting to have the enthusiasm of the labels and listeners for my music. I had been making music almost in a vacuum throughout the 80’s so it was great to find like minded people. It was a kind of ‘scene’ in a way, but everyone was trying to do something new, very inspiring.
Cyclic Defrost: Do you think that somehow the reception to these kinds of sounds has gotten better than previous years?
Not sure really. The ‘Aurobindo : Involution’ album I mentioned sold 3000 copies on CD and LP. It was as experimental as anything I’ve ever done. I couldn’t even wish for those kind of sales now. The music is easier to find for sure, but it is cheap and there is so much of it that the good stuff gets lost under the weight of volume.
Cyclic Defrost: In an ideal world, how would you present Invisible Threads to an audience?
Mike Harding and I did some octophonic sound projections of Touch releases at the Dorothy Chandler Paviliion in LA a couple of years back. It was great to hear that. I think the ideal performance would be 8 speaker, 8 video screen. I heard Stockhausen’s ‘Gesang Der Jungelinge’ projected in this way (by the composer himself) and I find it hard to think of any performance of Electronic music that was better.
Cyclic Defrost: What were your greatest experiences performing live?
I think the best 2 shows I did were Autocreation Live at the quirky club, London 1993 and Locust opening for Massive Attack in Marseille 1998.
Cyclic Defrost: Have you ever faced a period of no inspiration? And if so, how did you deal with that?
Yes I would say between about 1988 and 1991 I didn’t make good music. The whole acid house thing was already happening, but it wasn’t until 1991 that I went to a club in London and got into the right situation to understand it.. if you take my meaning. The song I heard that was really an epiphany was LFO by LFO. I was glad to meet Mark And Gez a couple of years later who were big fans of my first LP ‘Weathered Well’
Cyclic Defrost: What was the hardest thing to overcome to dedicate yourself to the arts?
I don’t find anything hard to overcome. I have been a husband and father for the last 18 yeas, which means I don’t devote as much time to music as I used to. But it’s not something to overcome..it’s just an aspect of my life that’s a higher priority than music.
Have you ever dreamed of a song and try to make it afterwards?
No in fact I have never dreamt music as such, at least not new music. I wish I did, it would be interesting. I have had bizarre dreams that have informed my music though – through the way the dream makes you feel as its effects cay throughout the day.
Are there any interesting stories that come to your mind from the times you were running a club in an old warehouse space in Brixton?
It was certainly an exciting time, when I think back now to the musicians that performed there is seems impossible..yet it actually happened. It wasn’t run by me as such, I just made a lot of suggestions for live acts and DJ’s in the first few months, but that spirit continued with James Bignell (the club owner) getting our friend Tony Wilson to curate and help run it. I saw him just the other night for the first time in many years, and we talked about how much innovation the club achieved. The stuff of legends!
Cyclic Defrost:’The mutation of rave in 1992 might not have been politically orientated, but anyone who argues it wasn’t caused by politics is a liar.’
I have to say that I didn’t really notice a mutation of rave specifically in 1992. It seemed to me to be a gradual evolution..and so I don’t really know how to comment on a political influence on something that I didn’t actually perceive in the first place.
Cyclic Defrost: Considering that you witnessed the progression of electronic music over the last two decades. I’d like to know if the 90’s Mark would be particularly surprised by something on nowadays scene?
I would say not – since 1998 I don’t think there has really been any massive innovation – just things done with more consistency and taken a little further in terms of focus. The internet has opened things up so that old music can be discovered and many more people can make music and publish it. Sometimes I can’t work out whether this is a good thing or not.
Cyclic Defrost: What did you think of Seefeel’s comeback in 2010 and subsequent release in 2011?
I thought the record was excellent..but I didn’t really think it was Seefeel, and Oto Hiax showed that it was the start of another (fantastic) tangent for Mark
Cyclic Defrost: Which was the first track that you made on ‘Invisible Threads’?
The first track was ‘Weathered’ which I did because Touch requested something new for a compilation. For the whole record I was very much influenced by other Touch artists (particularly Clare M Singer, Philip Jeck and Chris Watson) and the events I performed at, as well as the ‘Drøne’ project with Mike Harding.
Cyclic Defrost: Did you intentionally made the choice not to use any analogue synthesizers?
Yes..I felt like doing something without analog synths after decades of defaulting to using them. I was pleased with the results…I will be doing it some more.
Cyclic Defrost: You’ve explained that a few field recordings are present on this record. And I’ve spotted some outdoor sounds on ‘Opposite Day’, including birds and even a rooster at the end. Are there any stories to share about these ones particularly? Do you make field recordings frequently?
In fact I didn’t even notice the rooster! I don’t generally like bird sounds, but I loved this recording the water in an urban environment. The birds were hard to avoid, but I did filter them somewhat. I don’t make that many field recordings…just occasionally when I remember to take my recorder out.
Cyclic Defrost: How hard is it for you to to listen and/or make music in a completely intuitive, emotional way?
It’s the only way I can make it. I attempt to be more objective and analytical when I come to compile albums or collections of my music.
Cyclic Defrost: How would you define Ambient music?
I think I’m just sticking with the original Eno definition. Music that creates an ambience in an environment that also has a depth of quality that rewards intent listening.
Cyclic Defrost: Which is the place that you feel most comfortable at?
I still enjoy Berlin very much and Echo Park in Los Angeles.
Cyclic Defrost: What’s the latest thing that blew your mind?
I thought ‘Blade Runner 2049’ was excellent and very underrated.
Cyclic Defrost: And the latest great thing that you heard?
I very much enjoyed the live sets of Philip Jeck and Kara-lis Coverdale when I toured with them in 2016, their records are also great. But I would say that the most moving piece of music I have heard in the last decade is ‘Fairge’ by Clare M Singer.
Cyclic Defrost: Plans for the rest of the year?
More of the same I think! Making music, enjoying family life, traveling and fighting the symptoms of advancing into my 50’s !
You can find Invisible Threads here.
Photo credit Peggy Jones