Strawberry Spotlight with Vorderhaus
Lady Audio: Hi everyone and welcome to the Strawberry Spotlight Radio Show! Our guest this week is Mark of Vorderhaus. Mark, welcome to the show! How are you today?
Mark: Hey I’m good thanks! Thanks. Yeah I’m having a quiet Tuesday in Berlin.
Lady Audio: Oh that’s nice. My first question is always what attracted you to the realm of music?
Mark: Oh well, that’s a big question. I guess my mom, you know. I mean she was always playing Beatles and Lennon and stuff like that and Buddy Holly. So I would just attack her record collection. She had some other strange stuff in there like Mireille Mathieu. And all these people from the seventies. And I would just find stuff and ask her questions. I remember playing Merry Christmas War is Over and saying who’s this? And she goes “Oh it’s John Lennon” and I’m like “Who is John Lennon”? “Oh he was a Beatle”. “Oh and who were the Beatles”? and so it went. And then I fell in love with things like that. ELO yeah so that kind of got me into it.
Lady Audio: Nice. So how did Vorderhaus get started?
Mark: Well Vorderhaus was the Detox Twins before and it was kind of this like Post Punk electronic thing. Very fast and everything was at 158 BPM and how many variations can you make of 158, you know. Then I got to this one song, My Situation, and it just didn’t fit. Tt was still 158, and we did it in our last performance with the Detox Twins. I was singing it because it just wasn’t working with a female vocalist doing the rest of the stuff. I thought suddenly then or around then I started to realize, hang on, this might be the beginning of something else. I gave it to the record company and they said this is great don’t change anything. They got really sort of up on that “really don’t change anything” and I was like alright, I won’t. They said to just do more and let’s do something else and then I did a couple more tracks and they said this is all great let’s just do an album not even singles and I didn’t realize that was going to take me a year! But yes, so it just sort of started on the back of something else.
Lady Audio: Okay, so Detox Twins. Because I saw that on your BandCamp as well.
Mark: Yeah, I put up a couple up because they’re very rare now. There are only like a hundred hand-pressed on vinyl. There was this hand-pressed vinyl thing happening so most people can’t get a hold of the tracks. So I put them up on Bandcamp so people could go there to listen to them or download them if they wanted to. You know, and hear what that was about.
Lady Audio: That’s cool. So what’s the story behind the name of the band, Vorderhaus and then also Detox Twins?
Mark: Okay well, Vorderhaus, was initially what I did for Polytechnic Youth. They’re called Deep Distance as well. I think Polytechnic Youth is a subsidiary label like a sister thing that they began later on, but initially it was Deep Distance. The first thing I put out with them was under Hinterhof. Which a hinterhof is like a backyard in the states. Like say if you’re living in a building in New York, maybe you’ve got a yard in the back where the bins are kept. Or where people are hanging out sometimes in the summer, or whatever. Here it’s called a hof and a hinterhof is behind the building. It’s what’s there. So I kind of liked the name, so when I was asked to do this album, I was thinking of what to call it and I thought Vorderhaus because I knew these songs were much more honest. So Vorderhaus is the front of the building. It’s the facade on the street. What you see is the building itself. And I thought that was quite apt because these songs aren’t imagined, they’re basically sort of reflections of me, or whatever, or the people around me. So it’s kind of like the truth. What do you see is what you get.
Lady Audio: Nice. What do you like most about music, in general?
Mark: I guess what I like about music the most, for me, is the trust that you need to be able to really engage it. So whatever format or genre you’re choosing, you have to at some point you know, well maybe you don’t know, but you have to like find your voice and that takes trust. The moment you begin to trust yourself, something happens and you can experience so many different levels at that point. The beauty, the engagement of who you are, what do you want to say, etcetera, etcetera. And then you just keep following it and something comes at the end. So it’s a creative process. I think the authentic creative process that intrigues or interests me the most.
Lady Audio: What lovely answer. Thank you so much for that. It was like a hidden message in there directly for me.
Mark: I think for a lot of people, and I’ve done it too, is that you’re trying to do something. Trying to sound good to your peers or whomever. In the end you just hear what’s really there. In the moment you sort of start to allow that to seep through. Then something really good comes, for me anyway. And I’m sure for many they will agree, but it’s getting to that point were you don’t know where it’s going but that doesn’t matter. You just keep following it and there’s this trust. But at the end it will come right, you know?
Lady Audio: Is there anything about music that you dislike?
Mark: That’s such a huge question, isn’t it? I mean there’s so much I dislike. Like nearly everything on German radio. There’s the whole business, for me personally, it does nothing for me. Sometimes I’m making a coffee or something in the morning and I’ll think, “I know, I’ll switch on flux FM” it’s a Berlin Station here. and it’s just drudge. And I’ll say it’s still going on! It’s still going on and within 5 minutes the power button gets hit again and I’m back into the silence. So yeah, I don’t like commercial music particularly. Or the business end of commercial music. It’s what they think we want to listen to and I think that a lot of good people, the people we would really enjoy, are ignored because of that fact. They know what the people want, so I think it’s people or the moguls, or whatever you want to call them, that decide what we should and shouldn’t listen to that makes music ugly.
Lady Audio: And now I want to ask you some questions about the album, Minor Activity. So who recorded and mixed the album?
Lady Audio: And did you master it to?
Mark: Yep. I did everything start to finish.
Lady Audio: Wow.
Mark: From beginning to end. I chose my mastering frequencies, if you want to call it that. That space and everything. The feel I knew I sort of wanted to hear. I didn’t want too much bass, I didn’t want it to be too punchy. There was a certain feeling that I liked. So I just placed every song within that and I kept that same sort of EQ and panoramic field, and levels, and made everything conform to that. So the mastering was quite easy once I discovered it and I had done it on the first song. Then I just followed through with everything else. Well, maybe not the first song. Right about the third song that I sort of agreed with myself that that’s where I wanted it to be.
Lady Audio: So when you were recording the album, can you describe or tell us a story of one of your most frustrating experiences?
Mark: I don’t know if I was ever really frustrated because, like I was saying before, you know, I was just trusting the process. I had no idea whether something was going to come out well or not. There weren’t too many obstacles. It just kept on moving through. I kept on moving through. Everything moving forward. I didn’t have any battles particularly.
Lady Audio: That’s really great. It just sort of fell into place. That’s cool.
Mark: Yeah completely. It was just very pleasant. Sort of watching it evolve. One of the things I really like about making music is the joy you get from your efforts and things that you do. Nothing else in life gives you that. In a way, it’s a blessing for every creator or creative, or whatever you want to call it. So I was just often very, very pleased with myself. Not because I was doing something good, or whatever, just because there was this elation to be expressing myself. To be just really enjoying it, you know, it was great.
Lady Audio: I really like the title track that’s called Minor Activity. What’s the story behind that song.
Mark: Well, Minor Activity is kind of like the closing of the journey you know it’s when all the drama’s have subsided. All the things you’ve been chasing, the things you’ve been avoiding. When all that sort of falls away and becomes memory. Something that just sort of dances gently in the back of your mind. All the thoughts that you had before. It’s something you can tune into or you can feel it around you. It’s nothing that is owning you or controlling you in any way. So it’s just… it becomes a part of you in your evolution, or whatever you want to call it. So it just moves around in its very gentle, minuscule way. This is what I mean about Minor Activity. It’s the particles of who you are, you know. And they work in waves. It subsides and then the tide comes in again, and the colors are stronger and then all that goes in this ebbing and flowing with no particular time. It’s without any particular frequency, but it’s just a reminder, if you like, it comes back and it reminds you. Then it ebbs away again.
Lady Audio: Another song I really like is Catacombs. What is that song about?
Mark: Catacombs. It’s about… honestly this is kind of a weird one really. Because this is about dreaming. I used to dream a lot about having these empty rooms in a house that I was afraid to go into. And I knew that there was stuff in there but what stuff I had no idea. There was stuff that I didn’t want to deal with. They were almost haunted. They were haunted by entities or something. They were at the top of this house and I’d have these dreams. It wasn’t always the same house but the theme was recurring and I wouldn’t go into them. And I think that doing this album and being wherever, it is that I am, or was in my life at that time, I decided to engage those rooms and see what was within and to fill them. Because they were empty rooms there was no furniture in them and I started to put furniture into them. I think that’s what it’s about, I guess. I can’t be alone. I’m sure we all have these spaces that we don’t dare to engage until it comes to a point where there’s nothing else to do but engage it. So I guess I started to engage it, and I was talking about someone that was guiding me to those empty rooms with love. But I made it very aggressive. The track is really kind of quite hard you know, but the voice behind it is very gentle. Even though it’s distorted it’s very gentle. It’s quite vulnerable in a way because again, it’s about trust. It’s about sort of someone leading you into these rooms and saying it’s going to be okay. Go in and find out what it is that you’re afraid of.
Lady Audio: I really like the laser being sounds laser beam sounds. How did you create those pew pew pew pew? What did you use?
Mark: What synthesizer?
Lady Audio: Yes.
Mark: I bought myself one of these cool (Korg) Minilogs. I just decided to go nuts with it. Okay just do a minute and a half of it. And I thought you can edit it afterwards if you want. Then I listened to it and I thought f*** that, I don’t want to edit it. I like it the way it is. So I just sort of left it as I had done it. But yeah it was the Minilog. I was just sort of testing out oscillations to see what it could do. Putting it through paces. It’s quite good. Everyone should get a Minilog, especially if you put it through a really nice stereo chorus. I’ve got this Roland RSP 550, and it’s got this Dimension D preset and I put the Minilog through that and it just sounds incredible, you know. It just sounds like it should have cost 10,000 Euro not 600.
Lady Audio: So what new projects are you working on now?
Mark: Well, I’m kind of looking back at the Detox Twins because I’ve been reading reviews lately and they say “are the detox twins dead?, was that just a thing”? And I thought maybe it’s time to revive the Detox Twins. I’ve done a couple of new tracks for Vorderhaus and I was thinking, where do I go from this album I’ve just written a couple of songs, and one of them is a bit Fad Gadget a bit Back To Nature. But maybe that wouldn’t be the worst thing, because it’s a great song. Tt was a great time, and music as well, you know. When I’m writing my stuff I really don’t ever listen to anyone else. People might listen to the album and say oh you sound like this or you sound like that. You sound like Human League or Fad Gadget. I’ve had all kinds of people sort of thrown at me. But I wasn’t listening to anyone. And if I was listening to music I was listening to stuff that was way removed from electronic music. I was listening to Revolver or ELO, Out of the Blue. Stuff like that. Stuff that didn’t relate at all to Vorderhaus. And I was just thinking tonight that there’s no rush, you know. I’ve just done an album. It’s just gone out. I don’t have to worry about it. Well I should do something else now. I wouldn’t mind doing something with the Detox Twins because I like the sort of punk element it’s very f*** you. there’s a track we did called I’m Not Available and she’s just like “I’m not available” and that’s all she says through the whole track. She’s got this German Berlin accent. I thought, I want to do a fast full-on electronic track telling whoever it is she’s not available.
Lady Audio: Yeah that’s cool.
Mark: So I’d like to do a new Detox Twins single.
Lady Audio: Cool. So now it is time for a scenario.
Lady Audio: Are you ready?
Mark: I hope so.
Lady Audio: It’s very late at night and you’re standing on a subway platform waiting for the last train. The platform is empty except for a young man sitting with an old Casio keyboard. He just finished a song and silence fills the station. You snap your fingers a few times to listen to the reverb. The young man starts to play again along with your finger snaps. What is the song he starts to play?
Mark: You know the first thing that came to my mind was Sound of the Crowd, Human League. You know that… (singing song) …something like that. That’s a night time tune waiting for the last U-Bahn.
Lady Audio: Cool. Cool.
Mark: He would just be playing that bass line. It’s not really a bass line but that riff.
Lady Audio: Cool. Yeah I could totally hear that happening.
Mark: And it would echo down the platform.
Lady Audio: Yeah alright.
Mark: That’s a great question. Do you ask everyone that question?
Lady Audio: No, actually. It changes for every single guest. I listen to the music of who I’m going to have on the show and then these little scenarios come up and I come up with a different scenario for every artist.
Mark: Nice one. Yeah that’s a cool question. It was fun.
Lady Audio: And last but not least, what is your favorite flower?
Mark: Favorite flower. Oh without doubt it’s the rose. I love roses. There’s a park in London. I grew up in London and there’s a park that’s called Regent’s Park. They have a rose garden and when you go there, the most beautiful thing about it is that they have roses anytime of the year. Well maybe not in… I’ve never been there in the mid of winter. But all of these roses have great names. They are all these like, you know, I guess people blend all these different types. They mutate the roses and they give them new names like Stargazer or Jupiter’s Arrow, or whatever. I love just going through and reading all the names. Especially on a hot summer’s day when you’re walking through Regent’s Park and just being caught in that. Yeah that’s pretty special. Yes, so the rose. That’s my favorite. I grew some on my balcony last year in fact. They survived right the way through till about January. Frosty roses. But yeah I like roses and I say that I like William Wordsworth, which I do. I’m going to Grassmere in May and follow the footsteps of Will’s. But he talked about daffodils, but for me it’s roses.
Lady Audio: Nice. Really pretty. Roses are beautiful. So where can people go to and listen to and purchase your music.
Mark: Well they can go to… we just did our first gig last Saturday at Tommy House in Berlin. So if this is getting out to anyone in Berlin, we are planning more shows here. I’m going to put up some video footage on the Vorderhaus Facebook page so people can have a look at what we’re doing. In terms of if they want to purchase it they can either go to the Polytechnic Youth website. And I have a couple of hundred albums stuck in my kitchen. I’m doing signed copies of the album with your name on it if you require me to butcher it. Not just because of your name but with my signature as well and I’ll send you a signed copy for just a few euros. So on Bandcamp that’s where you can go to get a copy of the album and you can also download at least a decent digital version there as well.
Lady Audio: Well thank you so much for joining me today Mark, I really appreciate it.
Mark: Yeah it’s been a pleasure. It’s been a pleasure. Thanks for having me.