Mark Van Hoen
The Warmth Inside You (2004)
Download & CD Available via Bandcamp

1 He Run Far

2 Since Tomorrow Will Come
3 The Warmth Inside You
4 Dark Roads
5 Questioning The Start
6 The Help Without You
7 You Experience Me
8 Three People's Presence
Produced Mark Van Hoen

Mixed and Engineered by Mark Van Hoen





Mark Van Hoen has been making electronic music for a long time now. He was an early producer of post rock pioneers Seefeel, a contemporary of Aphex Twin on the (then very important) R and S label as Locust, but he's never quite got the reputation he deserves for his music.
Maybe this is because he hasn't followed the trajectory path of many of the artists who made it big in the days when I.D.M was the buzzword. He committed the cardinal sin early on of mixing electronics and vocals on his projects as Locust, and throughout his career he's pretty much stuck to using analogue equipment rather than the latest plug-ins, just using the digital gear to edit his music.
Listening to what he's done over the past 12 years or so over various labels from R and S to 4AD, it's clear that it's time Van Hoen's music was up for critical reappraisal. Just one example; in a brief listen one can hear the influence on Boards of Canada's damaged melodies and dense claustrophobia, more so even than usual suspects like the Aphex Twin.
Van Hoen's latest album The Warmth Inside You is completely instrumental. Following the same basic template he has always kept to, he builds complicated, unstable pieces. It's music on the brink between sleeping and waking states; nocturnal trance that draws you in. Maybe this is music for lovers; I'm not sure, the titles of the tracks seem to suggest so. The cover painting of a man and woman together in bed (but in a strange wonderland) suggest a surreal erotica; the music suggests a dangerous intimacy, all is not what it seems.
The music on this record seems to do nothing very much.  Van Hoen plays on rich textures, developing the music not by building up, but by morphing slightly, deepening in atmosphere, unsettling the listener.
The sublime "Questioning the Start" is built round a gently undulating chime, featuring a melody that reminds me of Augustus Pablo's melodica playing, pulsing in front off all kinds of dense noise and hidden vocal samples.
"The Help Without You" is all gamelan tones and slow radiophonic workshop melodies, dignified but exhausted. Finishing with "Three People's Presence", the detuned nature of the melody almost makes you feel sick: it's wrong, it's strange, but it sounds so rich.
This album is, however, more than just a mere collection of tracks; it seems to have a plan; taking on the cold nature of a virus, pulling you under to pull you apart, subsuming the area of the brain that finds everything fascinating, teetering on the edge of disgust and adoration.
Reviewer: Marcus Scott


The Milk Factory

For a man who has spent most of his career either in the shadow of bands such as Seefeel, Scala, or in more recent years, Mojave 3, in a producing role, or behind Locust, a project he has been leading for over ten years, Mark Van Hoen remains an emblematic figure of the electronic scene. With an instantly recognisable sound, combining heavy electronics with guitars and pop sensibilities, Van Hoen has helped shape part of the electronic scene of today.
Born in London in 1966, Mark Van Hoen grew up in Birmingham, before returning to the capital at the tail end of the eighties. Although he names influences ranging from Steve Reich to Brian Eno and John Coltrane, Van Hoen's first foray onto the music scene was as one third of Autocreation, a dance floor-orientated outfit with whom he released an album, Mettle, in 1994 on Belgian label R&S before leaving to concentrate on his solo projects. On that same year, he released a collaboration with Seefeel bassist, Darren Seymour, and his first album as Locust, Weathered Well. Combining elements of techno and ambient into dark electronic songs, Van Hoen began to developed his truly unique form of pop music. Weathered Well was followed by Natural Composite, which collected Mark's 1994 Peel Session together with the Needle and In Remembrance Of Times Past EPs. Over the next few years, Van Hoen has juggled between his own releases and his production work for Seefeel and, later Scala and Mojave 3.
Almost three years after the last Locust album, Wrong, Mark Van Hoen returns with his second album under his name. If, over the years, the Locust sound has grown to include occasional vocals, The Warmth Inside You returns to entirely instrumental compositions and focuses entirely on Van Hoen's analogue electronics and heart-warming melodies. The production is, expectedly, spotless; yet this album appears in some ways less polished than its predecessors. Emphasising largely on old-style analogue sounds, Mark Van Hoen gives this album a retro feel, evoking seventies film music far more than contemporary abstraction. Yet, The Warmth Inside You is more insidious and dark than it first appears. Under its faux air of nonchalant stroll through warm sonic landscapes, Van Hoen crafts some disturbing ambiences around dub-flavoured percussions, heavy bass lines and slow-paced ambient moments, contaminating melodies with rampant melancholy. Nothing here appears as it really is. Van Hoen hints at impressions, suggests emotions, and yet doesn't at any point impose anything. The Warmth Inside You is a work of great subtlety and the manifestation of an apparently limitless talent.
For this latest effort, Mark Van Hoen seemingly returns to his early sound, presenting here a piece of work that is at once evocative and dreamy, retro and modern, innocent and perverted. With The Warmth Inside You, he reasserts his position on the music scene and appears more confident than ever


Colin Buttimer Eleventhvolume.com

Mark Van Hoen is probably best known for his vocal-oriented project Locust, but he's also responsible for a series of forays into the world of instrumental electronica. What nominally differentiates Van Hoen's music from most of its electronic peers is the analogue technology he deploys, but what really distinguishes this particular album is the sense of a beating heart at its centre: technology is harnessed to examine emotional states, rather than to avoid them. The portrait on the cover of The Warmth Inside You provides a useful signpost to the subject matter explored here: a woman holds a large object redolent of a womb and, from a different angle, a bird against her stomach while her apparently troubled partner lies beside her. Anxiety haunts most of these eight tracks: beats lumber heavily along like turtles making their way down to the ocean and melodies occasionally float up like welcome liferafts in music that is alternately stormy, sepulchral and strangely comforting. Mid-paced tempos pulse all too patiently and are shadowed occasionally by high tones reminiscent of the sort of warning bleeps emitted by medical equipment. Van Hoen gradually increases the pressure by tracing out methodically rising and falling arpeggios. The result is a distinct tension between the inexorable progress of the music and the sense of apprehension which hangs over it like an unwelcome stormcloud. While much of the album delineates feelings of tension and foreboding, the album ends on an elegiac note with the throbbing bass and echoing chimes of Three People's Presence.



Under The Radar Magazine 2003


Mark Van Hoen is almost exactly like his music would indicate him to be, calm, cool and collected. He's an incredibly talented producer (Scala, Mojave 3, Sing-Sing) who's an artist in his own right, recording several albums using his own name (Playing With Time) and under his pseudonym Locust (Morning Light) that can be found at www.locustsound.com.  His layering of hypnotic male and mostly female vocalists over progressive electronic beats was exemplified in his latest double CD Wrong in which two discs are played simultaneously for increased effect.  Very little information has been published about Van Hoen and only one of his personal works has been released in America, so we're pulling back the curtain. On page 86 in the producers section of Issue 5 of Under the Radar we presented to you a rare US article on Van Hoen. Below is the full transcript of the transatlantic phone interview we did with him.

Nick Hyman (NH):  It's a quarter past six there correct?

Mark Van Hoen (MVH):  Yeah, that's right.

NH:  How's your day been?

MVH:  Good, I'm working on a new record at the moment.  It's been nice to have a relatively distraction free day.  Can you hear the wind?  It's a really windy day in London.  You can hardly stand up.

NH:  So you've been working on your solo record.

MVH:  Yes, my solo record under Mark Van Hoen.  I've put out two instrumental albums already under that name.  This is the third in a trilogy, yeah......not really.

NH:  Do you know what label you'll put that out on?

MVH: I'm quite into the idea of starting my own label.  I'm probably going to do it on vinyl only and electronic MP3 delivery because I want to try to cut out CD altogether.  I don't like them.  I think those are the best formats.  I don't care about CD's.  Vinyl records are nice to own.  CD's are convenient but MP3's are more convenient.  Hopefully that's the way music's going anyway with the Apple ITunes Music Store.  I think it's brilliant particularly for artists that don't sell that many records or 'underground' if you like, even though I don't like using that word.  I think it's great because you have the opportunity to sell your music directly to fans.  You don't have to pay somebody else, or a shop.  It makes it much more economically viable to spend a couple of months making a record and you can make three or four times the amount of money than you would have if you released it through traditional methods.  It also makes a vinyl release financially viable with the MP3 sales helping to pay for the vinyl.  It sounds kind of cynical but it's the only way you can continue to keep making music.  It's not primarily about making money but you have to justify your existence.

NH:  This might make it easier for an artist like yourself who doesn't have many domestic releases available?

MVH:  No, I haven't at all.  To my knowledge, one actually.  That was the Morning Light album, which came out on Sire in 1997 or 1998.  That's the only domestic release I've had of my music.  Of course a lot more of my productions have.  It's hard; I've never played over there either.  It's a difficult one because it's such a big place but I don't know what the answer is but it's all about marketing and profile.  It's just not something that's happening for me over there and Sire didn't do a very good job in '97.  It's a huge thing to undertake I guess.

NH:  Things were certainly different in the music industry then.

MVH:  In terms of people accepting that style of music?

NH:  There was a polar shift in the way the music industry was run then and now and it seems to be sinking.  Sire had a great album and dropped the ball.  How did your relationship with Sire begin?      

MVH:  As far as I can remember, I did a show at a club called the Vibe Bar in the East of London.  I think I was one of the first to play there.  I think someone invited Seymour Stein to the show and he turned up and thought it was great and he wanted to sign me for the US and he did.  Then after my record came out, everything got a little bit strange at Sire and they dropped pretty much everybody.  I think it folded a year later.  Maybe it was my record that broke them!

NH:  I saw it, but then again I was looking for it.

MVH:  Yes, apparently it was in a few shops in New York and Los Angeles.  It had some window display in New York and I think that was it.  I certainly didn't do much press.  I don't remember doing many interviews.

NH:  Did you resequence the album or did they do that?

MVH:  We did it together.  I wanted to make it a little more succinct and add a track I'd done for a film, which fit in there fine.

NH:  What film is "All Your Own Way" from?

MVH:  It was an Israeli film, quite obscure.  I think it was in Hebrew, so it only went out in Israel.  It was a sort of Jewish Romeo and Juliet. 

NH:  The Dybbuk

MVH:  It was kind of a spooky love story.  I've never watched the film all of the way through because I don't understand what they're saying.  It looks nice; it's a nicely shot film.  I really enjoyed doing the song and working with a full string section.

NH:  Do you get approached a lot to do film score work?

MVH:  I wouldn't say a lot, I've done a few bits and pieces over the years.  I did a remix for Splendor, the Gregg Araki film.  I did a couple of short films over here, one with Ewan McGregor, which was kind of a B movie type thing at cinemas.  They used a couple of tracks from Playing With Time on that and I did a couple of new things for it as well.

NH:  Let's talk about the new Mojave 3 record, Spoon And Rafter.  The first track is close to ten minutes long.

MVH:  Neil kind of got me to do quite a few electronic noises on there, so there's quite a lot of synth on there.  It is quite a change of direction, though there are a couple of songs on there that sound like the band has been for the last few albums.  It's not very different in atmosphere; It's still very chilled and laid back.  The instruments are definitely different with more synth.  We did the whole thing in Pro-Tools as well as opposed to tape so it has a more edited, non-linear sound to it.  I love it.  It's probably my favorite record I've worked on.  So I'm really excited about that coming out.

NH:  I saw the cover of the album and it's quite radical.

MVH:  I was just looking on their website and some of the fans had seen the cover and some really liked it and some hated it.  One guy said something about the cover looking like a tea towel.  The cover picture actually comes from a placemat.  So that guy was quite close thinking it was from a tea towel.  They just changed it and put the space man on there.  I think it's quite cool.

NH:  Do you prefer digital or analogue? 

MVH:  Both.  I love the sound of analogue but I love the versatility of digital.  Most of the time I try to use both.  But everything goes into the computer at some point and gets turned around and goes back to tape.  It's kind of the traditional sound of the best records.  My favorite sounding records are sixties and seventies recordings.  I think it has a lot to do with the time and the place and the equipment it was recorded on.  It's a case of really trying to use both.

NH:  Where did you grow up?

MVH:  I grew up in Birmingham in the center of England.  It's very industrial and mostly didn't exist before 1850 but exploded in the late eighteen hundreds then it became very desolate in the late 1960's.  It became quite urban, about as urban as you can get.  For me, I think that's probably why I'm so used to those sounds because you hear machines around you all of the time.  Cars, busses, trains and things like that.  I grew up with the rhythm that those things create.  I think that affects your musical psyche a lot.  Then I moved to London when I was twenty-two and I've been here ever since.  I love cities.  I feel the need to be in a city most of the time although I do enjoy a break.  I thrive on the pulse of the city, I guess.

NH:  What got you interested in music?

MVH:  I don't know if it was anything specific other than just music.  The very first stuff I Iistened to as a child was just kids stuff.  When I first started buying albums it was electronic stuff.  Things like Gary Numan, the earlier Human League and then I got into the more underground stuff at the time like Cabaret Voltaire, Kraftwerk and people like that.  It just kind of grew from there.  The first concert I saw was Kraftwerk and that was the first time I heard music really loud which completely blew me away hearing those electronic sounds so loud.  I still remember that vividly.  The first song I ever heard at that volume was incredible and still lives in me, I guess.

NH:  How do you go about choosing projects?

MVH:  It's really by listening to the demos by bands who want to work with me and trying to work out if there's anything I can really add to their vibe and their general sentiment and what their trying to do with the music.  I used to be very pure electronic minded but I've grown a little more in the past years since I've been making music professionally.  It's just a feeling thing and I enjoy songs.  It varies with different bands.  Some bands I work with I do little more than just record them and make them sound a little bit better and some I practically become a member of the band working on the record.

NH:  I got that feeling while listening to the Scala releases following Locust's Truth Is Born Of Arguments.

MVH:  There was a history there with Seefeel and me being in the band originally but then I started doing my own stuff and they got a record deal and carried on working with them, then everybody but Mark Clifford formed a new band.  I couldn't actually join them because I was signed to R&S as an artist.  It was basically me pretty much being in the band but not officially.  There's a track on Truth Is Born Of Arguments, "Penetration", that was originally done as a Scala track anyway.  They kind of almost merge into each other anyway.  The definition of it was anything that had Sarah's vocal on it was considered to be Scala most of the time.

NH:  Have you turned down any projects that you wished you wouldn't have?

MVH:  No, well yeah.  Not records, but sometimes live events and stuff like that.  I guess that sometimes they can't simply pay enough and it involves traveling and losing quite a lot of money and you think, "maybe I should have done that, it would have done me a lot of good". But not really.  I think that sometimes when people want to work with me on productions, usually I feel like somebody else could do the job and I don't have the skill set to work with a particular band because of their influences and stuff like that.  I feel like I might be trying to steer them in the right direction and it might cause friction.  I think that recently, I've been a good judge of it.

NH:  Are there projects that you wished you had turned down?

MVH:  I couldn't say, even if I had.  Actually no, I don't think so.

NH:  What do you think you bring to the table that separates you from other producers?

MVH:  It's really difficult to say because I've never worked with another producer.  I can't really say what the dynamic is when a band is working with another producer.  I would say that I'm very fast.  I don't personally enjoy the process of laboring on a sound or a track for a long, long time.  I think if it's going to happen, it's going to happen now.  If it doesn't happen in a couple of hours, forget it.  A lot of people have remarked on how fast I work, which maybe isn't so good.  I think it's more about feeling.  You can almost see the time stretching out in front of you.  I simply have to go through the motions of actually getting this done now.  You have the idea and you spend the next couple of hours getting it.  In an ideal word, I'd be able to think and it would happen instead of going through a mechanical process.  The faster I can do the actual donkeywork, the better the record's gonna be or the better the feel is going to be.  That's what I tend to do.   The other really strange thing that happens when I make a record is I forget what I've already done.  For example, when I make my own records, I'll make a track and listen to it again in three or four weeks time and don't remember when I did it.  I think I must go into a kind of tunnel or twilight zone where I'm not really aware of my environment and go into this musical mode, then I come out of it and it's almost like it's a split personality.  It sounds really weird, but that's how it feels sometimes.

NH:  Are there any producers that you particularly admire?

MVH:  Yeah, there are.  I really love what Nigel Godrich does with Radiohead but then it's always difficult to tell where the band ends and where the producer begins.  I guess it's kind of a symbiotic relationship with them anyway like George Martin and The Beatles.  He's another one I admire.  I know it's cliché, but I still think what he did with The Beatles is phenomenal.  There are certain tracks there that you could study and any technique in popular music in the past thirty-five years will be in that track, every single trick.  For me, there's nothing more incredible than that.  The originators or forging together popular music and avant-garde all into one melting pot.  That's always something I try to emulate in terms of technique.

NH:  Is there a project that you're most proud of?

MVH:  I think really, it kind of progresses over time.  I'm usually most proud of the last record I made but I always think I can better it.  Sometimes, as time goes by, you look at old records like Truth Is Born Of Arguments and when I first made it I was proud of it and then I thought it was awful for a while and now I think a third of it is really great again.  Some of it was really quite ahead of its time and also that it had a really nice warm feel to it.  I remember at the time that a lot of people didn't seem to like that record because it was quite divorced from what I'd done before.  Everything before is warm analogue sounds, whereas it was very digital.  I can hear lots of techniques I was using then on a lot of laptop music in the last three or four years.  I'm not saying that I influenced them, but I thought of those ideas a while back.

NH:  Is there anyone you'd like to work with?

MVH:  I don't know if I would.  It's difficult to say because the music the admire I always think it's kind of complete and it shouldn't be touched.  I almost usually into working with new people or people that I know.  It sounds strange.  I don't know if there is anybody that I'd like to work with.  I don't think I'd ever go and ask anybody to work with them, which I know sounds strange.  I never feel motivated like that.  It's quite a personal thing making music together.  I feel like I'd be going out looking for a job, if you know what I mean.  People who I admire musically, I already think that they're good and they don't need me.  If I hear something presented to me that's incomplete and their asking me to expand on what they're doing, I can get into that idea.

NH:  Are there any artists right now that you admire?

MVH:  I really like a new artist on 4AD named Vinny Miller.  I've done a couple of tracks with him before.  He sang a vocal on Wrong.  He's kind of gone off and become quite reclusive for the past couple of years and made a really great single.  I haven't heard the album yet, but I'm really excited about it.  I think it sounds really promising.  I really enjoy listening to Four Tet at the moment.

NH:  Rounds

MVH:  Yeah, I like that record.  Again, I can hear quite a few similarities with what I've done in the past on that record.  I don't think he's influenced by me but I can hear similar techniques and I enjoy someone else's take on those ideas I guess.  A lot of things I listen to now are old, old vinyl.  It goes back to what I said earlier about vinyl versus MP3 versus CD.  I tend to collect a lot of tracks on the Internet from friends and put them all on my IPod.

NH:  So you're an Apple person.

MVH:  I completely Apple dominated.  I just had a daughter a few months ago and her middle name is Apple.  After the computers and the record label.  With the MP3 thing, I tend to have a lot of tracks that I really love that are really new and current but don't know what they're called because I don't have to get up and put them on.  I don't remember the names, which is terrible, but I was never good at remembering names anyway.  It tends to be a lot of really new music on MP3, a lot of old music on vinyl and if there's more than one or two tracks I like by an artist I'll go out and buy the album.  But that doesn't tend to happen too often.  I think the art of the album is a dying one.  That sounds like I'm being very old and boring, but I do think it's true.  I think the Four Tet album is one of the few electronic albums that is consistently good at the moment.

NH:  What file-sharing program do you use?

MVH:  Lime Wire.  I should know a little more about it but I happened to come across that one.

NH:  What have you been working on lately?  Obviously the Mojave 3 record.

MVH:  It took quite a while, that record.  I've been working on it since August of last year and we finished about six weeks ago.  I've been doing a few live shows in Europe and I had a daughter and that's taken up quite a lot of time.  I did an album with a band called Edison Woods earlier this year.  I think it comes out pretty soon.  It's taken them quite a while to find a label but I think they found one.  The album I did last year was with a band called Velma, a Swiss band.  That's getting a proper release in Europe.  They were a great band to work with.  They're very different from anything I've worked on before.  I really enjoyed it.  We did it all on laptops and that's the first time I've done that.  We all lived in a house together for a couple of months and it was quite a concentrated period of time where we worked on the record and watched football.  It was around the World Cup and we recorded in France.  That was quite a different experience.  I'd like to do more of that actually.  I think it's a great way to make a record with no distractions. 

NH:  How did the Velma project come about?

MVH:  They approached me through my website.  To be honest, that's what happens with a lot of my work these days.  It's usually people who have heard the work I've done on other people's records or have heard my own records and they just e-mail on my website and send me their tracks and I take it from there really.

NH:  How did the remix of Slowdive's "Shine" come about for the soundtrack to Gregg Araki's Splendor?

MVH:  I was contacted by the musical director on the film and I spoke to Gregg and e-mailed him.  He's a die-hard Slowdive fan.  I thought it was a really interesting idea of his to marry up that early nineties shoegaze and dream indie pop and get them remixed by late nineties electronica.  That was a quite cool idea.  Some of it worked and some of it didn't. But it did make for a great soundtrack album.

NH:  Your song is the opening credit song.

MVH:  I thought it was a really beautiful opening, it looks great.  I sent him two mixes at the time.  One was the straight song version, which they used with electronic percussion and generally a little bit of processing.  Then I sent him a much more radical mix and I thought he was going to use that but of course he went for the one that sounded more like Slowdive.  I should have just sent him the weird one.

NH:  What do you think of the current resurgence of the shoegaze sound?

MVH:  I'm not really aware of it musically.  I've noticed that it's okay to like those bands again.  Maybe Neil will get a bit of production work out of it.  I think he's probably a bit more of an expert at that music than I am.  That's quite interesting.

NH:  What do you think makes a good producer?

MVH:  Being able to listen.  You need to interpret the bands ideas and always offer up lots of ideas and be prepared to have them turned down which is the hardest part for me but I'm getting used to it.  Trying to make the personal relationships within the band work when things get rough.  It's a bit of a juggling act I guess.

NH:  In America, we'll probably never see one of your live shows.  I've heard that that there's a visual component involved.

MVH:  It's kind of like The Avalanches or too Many DJ's live with samples and video.  I sample video clips from everywhere.  It's like VJ-ing really.  I use the sound at the same time.  If you see a vocalist on screen you will hear them as well.  If there's a clip of a guitar player running around you will hear that matched in time and key so that it makes a nice new song.  I've been doing that for quite some time now, seven or eight years.  Every new show I do I add a little bit more to it and change it around.  It's just evolving quite nicely.  It's something that's pretty much unrelated to anything else that I do.  It's unrelated to my records and it's unrelated to my productions but it's kind of running on its own at European festivals and they'll ask me to do another one but it's nothing to do really with my records.  It has a life of its own and I quite enjoy it.

NH:  Could you release any of those works?

MVH:  No, it's not really possible because of the illegal nature of it.  We did look into it once with a major lawyer over here but the costs were just phenomenal.  It wasn't even worth it, to start doing it.

NH:  Is there an outside chance that you would ever tour here in America?

MVH:  I'd love to, but I need someone to ask me to do it.  So, I'd be over there in an instant.  A few people have tried to organize things but it's always fallen through.  I suppose it gets a little bit expensive to fly me out there and whatever.  It shouldn't be.

NH:  There's another band called The Locust.  They toured here a while back and a weekly newspaper got my hopes up when they ran a piece about you playing here which was of course false.

MVH:  They've played in London as well.  I'm actually in touch with them.  My record company about five years ago asked them to change their name and they sent back this really horrible letter full of nasty language.  But then it's all right because they were called Locust but now they're called The Locust.  I e-mailed them about two years ago and they seemed quite friendly.  I think it's quite funny actually.  It doesn't really help when people get confused between the bands, but I think musically there's no confusion.  If they were anything like what I do I might try to work things out with them but the music is just so different. 

NH:  It'd be an interesting collaboration, Locust Vs. The Locust

MVH:  Yeah, maybe I should suggest that.

NH:  How did you get involved in music in general?

MVH:  I've been making music since about 1981.  I made music throughout the eighties.  I never really got to make a record until 1993.  It was around the same time that things were happening with Seefeel.  Mark Clifford was one of the guys I was making music with in the eighties and we kind of carried on in the nineties and formed Seefeel.  I met Daren Seymour, who was in the band, and we got on very well and we made some records together.  Darren was friends with Neil Halstead who was from the same hometown.  Neil didn't have anywhere to live and I needed somewhere new to live so we got a place together.  Just kind of friends of friends really.  I suppose its kind of vaguely like-minded people really when we get on and stuff.  At the time, Neil was in Slowdive and the height of it and didn't have much to do with what I was doing which was a pure electronic sound.  I think he was into what I was doing and he asked me to open for them.  I think it was their last show in London just after the release of Souvlaki.  I was expecting to get bottles thrown at me but I think the audience quite enjoyed it really.  We're just friends really.  I always regret it really because I'd never seen Slowdive play and I was clearing my stuff away while they were playing their set and I thought "oh, I'll see them next time", but there was no next time.

NH:  What your relationship with your labels R&S and Touch?

MVH:  My relationship with R&S was really good for a long time.  They treated me really good actually but towards the end they sold up to Sony and you know the rest of the story, you've heard it a million times.  A big label takes over and they want results.  The guy who ran the label is still really into me and what I do.  He's taken all of this money from Sony and he started saying that I needed to do this and do that.  It went a little bit sour for a while but in the end, when I left the label, it was reasonably amicable.  With Touch, I really admire what they do; I've always admired what they've done.  They've always been true to the music they release.  There's no question of them ever selling out.  Ironically, what I do on the label is probably the most commercial thing they put out.  I think they're great.  I think the whole concept of the artwork and the whole reason for being; I hope they go on forever.

NH:  Jon Wozencroft produces all or most of the artwork for Touch.  Do you work with him on your releases?

MVH:  It varies.  With The Last Flowers From The Darkness and Playing With Time he got pretty much full reign, although I did provide him with images for the inside.  I talked to him for what the feel was that I wanted.  He's just kind of knows, he's very intuitive and really has a sense as to what an artist wants.  I don't really know any other artist that's been disappointed with his artwork.  I think everybody just loves it.  With Wrong I did work with him quite closely especially with selecting the images.  I wanted a particular feel with the images.  We kind of came up with the images on that and I let him do the design and the layout.

NH:  Your website is heavily influenced by the artwork from that album.

MVH:  That's right.  I'm gonna change that pretty soon.  The website is going to be completely revamped.  I'm gonna have loads of MP3's.  I just signed up with a new server and I've got a huge amount of space so I'm gonna put a lot of downloads on there.

NH:  It would be cool to see the music video for "Return To Sender" from Mojave 3 which 4AD never released that you directed.

MVH:  I think it's great.  I think it's really funny.  I think it's a shame, they should have sent it out to some people.  It's kind of like a Beta Band video with that rough lo-fi feel.  I got to dress up as Elvis.

NH:  How do you manage to work with such amazing female vocalists?

MVH:  I think mostly from ads.  I put a couple of ads in NME and things like that and people have got in touch.  There were other people who came through publishers and people who were friends.  I don't know what the commonality is.  I remember auditioning quite a few singers and I've used them all except for one.  I find it really hard to walk into the studio to say that something really isn't working but I've been quite lucky that people have been really good.

NH:  Wrong was unique in that it had two CD's that you could play at the same time.  How did it come about?  Did The Flaming Lips' Zaireeka influence you at all?

MVH:  I actually read about that yesterday.  I didn't even know about that.  I can't remember what website it was.  It was really because I finally realized what it was that liked about writing certain songs.  That was the element or repetition.  I started writings some songs in modal keys that would have one note through the entire song and it would work with whatever chord you were playing.  For example, like a drone note that would work through an entire song.  There were still chord changes, so it wasn't all on one chord.  There was some variation, so you could make the track quite poppy like a traditional song but also there is that element of repetition.  I wrote all of the songs on an acoustic guitar in open tunings and then tried to boat the whole thing to synthesizers in the same registration, using the same techniques as a guitar but there ended up being no guitar whatsoever.  I thought that would lend itself for making a sonically different sounding record.  Then I realized as I was finishing it that there was this one note that you could play on every track, free of time, a drone note.  I thought, I could do it on Dolby Surround or I can do it as two CD's.  I decided to do it on two CD's because so few people have Dolby Surround sound.  I thought it would be a nice idea because you could choose where the second set of speakers were.  You could have it in a completely different room in your apartment or house.  I thought it was a good opportunity because the two CD's play together with a two or three second leeway so it wasn't too crucial how simultaneously you started the CD's.  I thought it was a really nice idea.  I tried it out with a couple of tracks and it really seemed to fill the room.  It sounded really nice,  I enjoyed it.

NH:  I tried it and it sounded remarkable.  The first CD works alone without the second disc.MVH:  Yeah, that was kind of the intention.  In a way I partly regret doing the double CD thing because I think it distracted from the first CD.  I think a lot of people saw it as a gimmick.  They focused too much on the double CD thing and didn't really listen to the first CD.  There were some good reviews but the other reviews were talking about the fact that it was two CD's.  I don't know if it was a good thing or a bad thing.  It still exists and it still stands.  I think it's a positive thing ultimately.  I'd like to put it out on Dolby Surround as well.  I'd have to look into the market of people who like Locust records and the market of who has Dolby Surround and I suspect that the intersection is very small.  We'll see.

NH:  How would you categorize your records?  Where would you place them in shops?

MVH:  I suppose I'd have to put them in electronica wouldn't I?  Nobody likes being classified.  When I first started, before the term electronica became really popular, I used to be put in dance music.  Then, people used to put me in trip-hop as well which I think is a dreadful term.  I think electronica is not too bad a term.  I think my records are electronic and I don't mind if there's an A at the end of it. 

NH:  How do you create?  What's your day like?

MVH:  It used to be almost like office hours.  I've never been one for working long extended periods of time.  I think after seven or eight hours, I think it starts to become negative with the labor and the let's get this done attitude.  It's better to do something else and come back to it the next day.  I've always been a great one for working in short concentrated bursts.  I find it difficult to go away from something for a long period of time and come back to it.  I like to work on one project continuously on a daily bases, but a short period of time each day.  I think you have to have some other life because your music should be about something, not some abstraction.  You should be living your life as well as making music otherwise there's nothing really for it to be about.

NH:  What was it like to work on the following projects, starting with Morning Light?

MVH:  Morning Light was really quite a disparate collection of recordings that were done at very different times and during different circumstances with different people.  To me, it doesn't really work as an album.  In a way it does because it flows but it shouldn't.  A lot of people seem to enjoy it.  It's my least favorite record that I've made.  It's not really an album but sometimes something nice can happen when it's not intended.

NH:  Scala, Compass Heart

MVH:  Compass Heart was quite an intensive session.  Very quickly done, with only a few demos knocking around, done by the rest of the band before.  We just came in and did it in three or four weeks.  There was a short break, then Daren and I made all of the short instrumental tracks that go in between the songs in a very fast and concentrated period of time.  It was really enjoyable.  I love those little pieces of music that are on that record.  Daren and I have been trying to get our act together and make another record, which is increasingly difficult with families and circumstances.  We will get there one day.  I really enjoy working with Daren.  I'm really proud of Aurobindo: Involution; it was a very simple and quick record to make.  A lot of people seem to love it.

NH:  Scala's Compass Heart and To You In Alpha came out around the same time, were they recorded at the same time?

MVH:  I can't exactly remember the timing of them.  They did do To You In Alpha with a different producer, but I worked on one or two tracks.  It was a bizarre time, but I don't remember the exact order they were done in.  It all seems like there was so much music making going on then.  It seemed like they were a million miles away but when I think back now they made the record either directly before or after Compass Heart.  They were like one mile away down the road but they seemed so distant at the time.  Looking back, it's strange that they got made so quickly.

NH:  Sing-Sing, The Joy Of Sing-Sing

MVH:  That was done in way that I would say a record should be made.  We worked in my own studio a lot and then we moved to a bigger studio using tape and traditional methods like a mixing desk and a mix engineer.  It was done properly if you like.  I think it's quite a big sounding record, a very poppy record.  I'm quite pleased with it.  I think they're going to come record some songs with me for their new material.  I think they want it more guitar oriented and a little bit more raw sounding.

NH:  Mojave 3, Excuses For Travellers

MVH:  I worked on it at the end.  It was about eighty percent recorded when I came in and I finished up the main songs of Neil's and added a few overdubs and then there were Rachel's and Ian's tracks that I did from scratch and mixed the album and added a few parts here and there.  It's enjoyable to me.  It was probably quite laborious for them because they'd been working on it for some time.  I think it's a beautiful record and my involvement on it was late on.  I really enjoyed the experience.

NH:  How did the "Master And Servant" cover for the Depeche Mode tribute album come about?

MVH:  I can't remember how that came about.  I think it had something to do with Sire.  I do remember getting a little feedback from the band.  Martin Gore said that it was his favorite on the record.  That was really nice because I had been a big fan of theirs in the very early eighties.  It was kind of nice thing to be involved with.  When I was doing it, I thought since they were already electronic that I would flip it and make it kind of a cheesy lounge song.  I thought it was quite funny.

NH:  What do you have in the pipeline right now?  I know the Edison Woods Seven Principles Of Leave No Trace album is being released soon.

MVH:  That record is very ethereal.  There's a lot of cellos and violins.  A lot of harmoniums, it's very acoustic.  I think I tried a couple of electronic songs on there but they got scrapped.  I mainly mixed that record.  I recorded two songs on there, including Simon Raymonde coming over to do guitar overdubs on one tune.  We kind of went all around London with a laptop recording piano players and cellists and all sorts of musicians that was quite nice.  Some was recorded traditionally with tape and microphones and then we did two tracks with laptops, which was a nice change.  It was very different than anything else I've worked on.  I worked alone with the lead singer and songwriter Julia and it was nice to only deal with one person's opinions.  I very quickly got used to what she wanted.  It was a quick process.

NH:  You said that you are working on your solo album.  Anything else?

MVH:  I've been working with a band called Seafood, kind of an indie rock band.  I'm working more with Emma and Lisa from Sing-Sing.  I'm gonna be doing another Locust record later in the year, another vocal record.  Apart from that, that's really it at the moment.  I'm hoping someone else will come along soon and I'll work on their record.  It usually happens once every three or four months, someone will contact me.  I guess it's due now.  I'm enjoying the time to make my own records.  I haven't put one out in a while.  Wrong was pretty old when it was released.  The last record I recorded was Playing With Time and that was in 1998.  That was five years ago, I guess it's time I caught up.

NH:  Would you ever release a rarities record?

MVH:  I'd actually like to.  I'd like to release a single CD of favorites from various albums.  There are so many different releases from different labels under various names.  There are one or two tracks from every record that are great.  If you could pull all of those and put them on one record it would make for a really good listen.  Some of the releases are really hard to get.  I did a track on the Invisible Soundtracks record on the Leaf label, which I think is beautiful and almost impossible to find.  Things like that, my favorite tracks from here and there which would be nice to bring them together so people could hear them.

NH:  What do you think of electroclash?

MVH:  I did a bit of work with Ladytron, actually.  I liked it.  For me it does sound like early eighties music.  I did some programming for their live show. 

Interview by Nick Hyman
Photos by Nicky Sims