Active since early 80’s, Mark Lane produced since his early days interesting and thrilling electronic music. During the years he grew along his art and after the listening of his newest release “The Anti-Tech Testament 1981-1985” I was really curious to know more about him. Let’s discover together his story…
Chain D.L.K.: Let’s go back to early ’80s. There was a younger Mark that…
Mark Lane: The main difference in today verses the early 80’s is that in those days I was learning to become the artist Mark Lane. After countless recording projects and collaborations, 20 years of painting, five years of art school, the success’s and joy’s of life, and the failures and heartbreaks, I finally understand my artistic station. I’m much more productive, focused, and assertive in my work than ever because I know what I want from it.
Chain D.L.K.: What made you decide to record your own stuff and what kind of emotions did you want to cover?
Mark Lane: When ever or what ever really were just variables in my equation, I think it was only a matter of time before the innate need an artist has to create work would have kicked in. By 1980 the time was right both in music and in my life to get serious about recording. From a practical point of view the 80’s presented the technological advent of the portable studio, and affordable synthesizers which made it possible for the first time in history for the independent electronic musician to produce his own demos and to chronicle his progress during rehearsals with reasonable fidelity. These technological advancements did not set the new wave off but certainly fueled the fire. I had been doing tape splicing experiments much like “Devils” at the time and when I finally saved my money up and bought my first synthesizer. Practically a toy by today’s standards the instrument provided a new array of sound color that definitely gave me the confidence to put my work out there. As far as the emotions in my music I really think they have just come with life experience. Nothing trumps time.
Chain D.L.K.: What has been the main difficulty about using gear that was hard to synchronize and what was your way of working back then?
Mark Lane: I never saw the equipment as hard to sync but rather I embraced the awkwardness of certain machine pairings. My real challenge was what to use when. Granted I ran into walls trying to recreate certain types of sequencing I was hearing from the commercial bands of the day, but for the most part I took what I could get out of my low tech machines and ran with it. I really had no choice but to be extremely creative with the limited resources. I think I was more successful some times more than others; it really was a learning curve. In the end I think it has made me more of artist than programmer. Now days anyone can create a synchronization of any sound or sample within a composition and there is a lot of non restraint out there. I’m extremely cautious to put more emphasis on the texture and color first and then usually the appropriate synchronization will reveal itself.
Chain D.L.K.: Looking to some of your photos I noticed that sometimes you wear a white make up on your face. I think that this pairs with the kind of semi dramatic and theatrical vocals you use on some tracks. Do you agree?
Mark Lane: While I’ll agree with you that there is a dramatic relationship between the visual and audio elements within my work. In the case of the “Black Lipstick” photos I really was just referencing in the practice of musicians adopting a personification with each release. Inspired by David Bowie in the 70’s and 80’s the practice became the platform that many artists such as Fad Gadget and Visage used to market themselves in the early 80’s. Pretty standard by now it really was something new at the time and I was only paying homage to those days.
Chain D.L.K.: How did you get your first record deal? Can you also talk about your link with the European scene (De Fabriek label and later with MetaWave)?
Mark Lane: I first became linked to the European scene in the early 80’s because of my work with On-Slaught Magazine. I had established a very large network of friends and contacts way before computers were ever even dreamed of. So when I announced that I would be coming to Europe to perform Richard Van Dellen of De Fabriek suggested that I release a special edition vinyl 7″ on his label. We had a great time producing the project together all the way down to inserting the discs into the sleeves. MetaWave was quite a different story. Alexis Von Poser was just a fan of the music that approached me with the idea of releasing some material on a label he and a friend were putting together.
Chain D.L.K.: I’m curious about the track called “Tsar”. What is it about? I’ve never been aware of a track talking about a tsar…
Mark Lane: The song “Tsar” is really a universal theme about how those of wealth and power are often so far removed from the realities of the common person. In the case of the tsars there was a naivete or disconnect between those of noble birth and the person in the street. Tragic yes, but today’s leaders know better and choose to make economic war on their working class citizens while lining the pockets of their corporate partners.
Chain D.L.K.: On your first recordings I can hear the same influences that people like Fad Gadget or Bauhaus had as well some electro/experimental approach on others. Can you talk about the evolution of your music?
Mark Lane: As a teenager my ears lived on a steady diet of David Bowie, Roxy Music and of course Kraftwerk. I think once Bowie had released “Low” it was all academic. We could all feel the new wave was on its way and the race to be part of it was on. Later artists like John Foxx, Gary Numan, Fad Gadget, Magazine, Bauhaus, Wire, and Pere Ubu all played their role in influencing me. But just as equally important were the countless recording sessions, rehearsals, and collaborations I did while out touring. The process of finding that certain sensitivity between two or more musicians is probably where much of my musical growth has come from.
Chain D.L.K.: In the mid ’80s you did a European tour with Klinik. What do you feel about it now in respect to then?
Mark Lane: I feel now as I did then about the Klinik. They were and are some of the best artists I have ever had the pleasure of working with. I remember thinking at the time that they were a cut above the rest in creativity and perseverance and time really has proven that to be true. They just seemed to get the job done when it counted. At the time they had just released their first LP “Sabotage” and I had just released “Who’s Really Listening?” so the climate for such collaboration was just right.
Chain D.L.K.: On the double compilation “The Anti-Tech Testament 1981-1985” you put the whole track list of “Who’s Really Listening?”. You did the same on “Who’s Really Listening?+” released by MetaWave Classix back in 2001. What do these recordings represent to you?
Mark Lane: The “Who’s Really Listening” sessions were the pinnacle of the early 80’s for me. I felt at the time that I had established a style I could work within and grow as well. The sentimental value in that work is also immeasurable. I fell in love for the first time while making that record and had my heart broken just after touring it so it has a very special place in my heart as well as an underlying sadness.
Chain D.L.K.: With “The Anti-Tech Testament 1981-1985:” why did you chose to use only half of the space you had on the double set when the 25th year anniversary release was the perfect one to gather all your first recordings?
Mark Lane: For my 25th anniversary it was my intent to make the core thrust of my early work available to another generation. In no way was it meant to be a full and comprehensive collection but rather a best of the best offering from that time period that would not only act as an introduction to a new generation of listeners, but would make available for the first time on CD ten rare tracks for those who missed out on “Kill Joy” and all of my early vinyl work. The notion that I somehow wasted space on the CDs carries connotations of consumer entitlement. I have never pandered to those pressures and don’t plan on starting now. Music (Art in general) is about quality not quantity. With that said I must sadly report that the master for “Love Is So Aggravating” disintegrated in the restoration process and the two masters for “The Reflection” were lost by the postal system so we were not able to include them on this release. In addition a full and comprehensive collection would have filled up close to four CDs and in my mind that release should be on vinyl. Vinyl was the medium of the day and its sound still carries the spirit of the time. And as we all know the cost of something this large (several discs) prices many consumers as well as distributors out of the mix.
Chain D.L.K.: Do you think you’ll ever do a definitive edition of your first period?
Mark Lane: Yes, of course. There are countless live tracks and rehearsals, recordings with other artists, cover songs, and more unreleased and rare material to include. The potential for an archival monster is there. How to make it digestible and affordable for both the fan and for my small label is the real question. It may be that I will have to release it on another label with larger resources, whatever happens I’m sure it will come in due time.
Chain D.L.K.: “Creepy a la Weepy” (released in 2004 by Metawave) sees your music changing slightly from the old style as it gathers more polished songs with other particular ones like “Opus” or the same “Creepy a la weepy” where you had a certain “twisted” approach to melody thanks due to the use of dissonances. What kind of sound/solution did you want to reach on that record?
Mark Lane: “Creepy a la Weepy”, “Shadow Merger”, “Black Lipstick” and ten to twelve outtakes from those sessions will appear on a 2xCD next year entitled “Composite.” There will be nearly as much unreleased work in the package as has been made available. In the core of that work you will be able to really hear the evolution of a more dissonant Mark Lane. It was a place where the structures of the songs were constructed primarily with samples verses the structure of keyboards on “Halcyon Sentimental”. I’m particularly proud of the abstract qualities within that body of recordings, but also feel to stay in one mode closes options and creates traps in the composing process. “Creepy a la Weepy” did not arrive as a preconceived notion but it came about much like a large work of art does. There were countless sketches and approximately forty songs that I composed to get down to the core eight that were presented. I’m not a big fan of rushed efforts as I feel development of ideas, fermentation and editing are essential in my artistic process.
Chain D.L.K.: On that recording you covered “Praying to the Aliens”, an old song by Gary Numan’s Tubeway Army. Why did you choose that one?
Mark Lane: First of all I think “Replica’s” was and is still one of the best recordings of that time. Numan had a real break through with that work especially with songs like “Are Friends Electric” and “Praying to the Aliens.” For me “Praying to the Aliens” has always been about the alienation that comes from being different. Today we give a lot of lip service to the celebration of our differences. How much of it is really heart felt I can’t say, but I suspect that is why the song still carries so much relevance today.
Chain D.L.K.: “Inner Most Folds” has again a different sound in respect your oldest releases. It opens with the orchestral track with the same title just to pass to electronic songs that sounds more introspective (similar thing happened to John Foxx, which alternated electro songs with semi ambient stuff). What changed?
Mark Lane: I don’t think anything has changed and I’m very flattered that you would make such a comparison. However, John Foxx has explored ambient and classical themes on several albums. I think a comparison of the few songs I did to the caliber of his exploration would not only be unfair to him but to me as well. While I really appreciate his work and feel that he certainly has and continues to influence me, after twenty-five years I’m confident that the work I’m doing now will hold itself upright in history. If you will compare the “Black Lipstick” and “Shadow Merger” CDs to the new work I think you’ll find a similar introspection. With “Inner Most Folds” I was really just trying to create a special collectible object with some unusual tracks on it in celebration of my 25th music anniversary. The classical music references were an attempt to tie the music to my oil paintings on the cover in a sort of erudite/ fine art manner. Sure it’s a little different but that is what makes it so special.
Chain D.L.K.: Have you ever thought of doing collaboration again?
Mark Lane: Yes, I have no doubt that I will collaborate with many other musicians in the future. Timing or finding time is always the dictatorial force there. I’m currently focusing my efforts on re-releasing much of my back catalog that has been out of print or was previously unreleased, and writing and recording a new CD LP. With today’s music climate there is a rekindled interest and respect for work that was done in the 80’s and I’m honored to be part of that. But with all do respect to those who look to me as an artist from the past, wait until you hear my new work. It is packed with minimal electronic jewels that even leave me in wonder.
[interviewed by Maurizio Pustianaz] [proofreading by Mark Lane]