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On Holiday with Her Spaciousness: An Interview with Marc Bianchi

 

If you haven't already, soon you will likely experience the oeuvre of bedroom producer, Marc Bianchi. Having released five compact discs (one of which is a double-CD collection) in as many months and all on different labels, Marc's Her Space Holiday (HSH) persona has been elevated, according to NME and Melody Maker, to one of those things-to-watch. Neglected by much of the American audiences focused on Regis Philbin and the NASDAQ, Marc's recorded output is extending its reach beyond our shores.

"We're small everywhere but I guess we're less small in Europe" – Marc Bianchi


The HSH story began years ago as Marc cut his teeth in now-revered bands Mohinder, Indian Summer and Calm – on a parallel course with Albert Menduno (Mohinder, Calm, Duster, Haelah and recent solo recordings as The A-Set) who he shared the stage with playing shows around the San Francisco bay area. The career path is interesting to say the least. "It was crazy when we (Albert and I) played together (in Mohinder), things were so fast and crazy then, after a while we just wanted to slow down. We're just a lot older now. With Mohinder you would think there was a lot of anger or aggression. But I would say that was the happier of times, as opposed to us playing sadder, dreamier music now," Marc remarks.

Marc's leap from caucophonous punk rock noise, to calming post-rock, to delightfully engaging pop songs and remixes is dizzyingly curious. Two years ago, Marc made me a tape of songs from each project highlighting the timeline-ticks that marked the (band) transitions in his life. In one sitting, I could hear his metamorphosis, his maturing as a person and a musician. After playing the role as a contributing member, Marc began to feel he wasn't fulfilling his own potential as a song writer. Tiring from constant touring and band politics, Marc dissolved his musical relationships and struck out on his own. Well, honestly, he stayed at home listening to records, building a home-studio and began to record the relationship with his girlfriend.

"When I was in Indian Summer, we all started listening to Palace and Seam even though it was well out of the realm of what we were playing. After those bands, it was a Flying Saucer Attack album I got a hold of. Early on I was really into the textures (in FSA) maybe too much. I found myself beginning to use the soundscape stuff and the pedals to fill in the gaps, in my simplistic playing. Without actually having the musical ability (that his early band mates had displayed) there the texturing was a tool that I could use to fill in the gaps in my playing," Marc remembers. "If I had the samplers back then (one can hear this on his Audio Astronomy 12") I would have used those tools instead of the washy sounds."

Admittedly, I am awestruck by this Darwinian progression in Marc's music. From Silent Film's strumming guitar drones to Home is Where You Hang Yourself showcasing his recently discovered remixing talents, Marc's growth and change is nothing short of remarkable. Reader and writer alike have to ask how electronica became his raison détre. "I've never been a fan of straight electronic music, or instrumental music, but I did like Aphex Twin and Photek. Much of that changed when I heard Bjork's album. I was engaged by her electronic music containing a lot of pop sensibilities. It's not in my nature to make just straight electronic music like that," Marc admits. Mid-career HSH began to employ samplers and synths instead of guitar pedals, to sculpt his pop melodies. Much of what is contained on the latest release, Home is Where You Hang Yourself (Tiger Style) is the result of his new-found interests.

So why would all of this music come out in such a short span of time (not to mention a new single on Troubleman, and the re-release of the debut 12" coming out soon) "I sent you the first demo four years ago, so you know how old these songs are. A year later the first 12" came out, then there was a year and a half span that nothing came out, now everything (due to a multitude of delays) has come out all at once. On a personal level I am happy that all of this is getting released, because I wanted to document it all, but from a label perspective it can't be a good thing," Marc admits.

Marc and I have been corresponding for years via e-mail and snail-mail, never having met. The phone conversation that yielded the quotes for this article was our first real-time encounter – during that talk and since, there's something inside me that cannot confess to how much his work means to me. Marc picks up on this, "It's so weird, you don't even understand how much of a part you played in HSH and AIP (Marc's other project, a record label Audio Information Phenomenon) and you're a total stranger. In the beginning there were a lot of labels I was sending tapes to, but after a while you were the only person I kept sending tapes. Those were unstable times for me emotionally. You were always able to put things in perspective, maintaining I keep a sense of humor about my work."

I wondered what the grand plan was. "I don't see making a living off the sales of my albums. I don't want that pressure for fear of what it would do to the songs. It's so different than things were only a couple of years ago,I am trying to get adjusted to that, and everything will fit in after that settles. Right now our (he and girlfriend Keely) main goal, after all of this touring and stuff, is to live together again. Some of the content of the songs talks about this life we are working toward," Marc states.

The one thing that is not a surprise to me any longer is how much Keely Chanteloup fits into the HSH picture. Girlfriend, lover, label-partner, and musical inspiration, Keely has been an important focus in HSH song writing. Finding songs easier to write than confrontation and apologies, Keely has been the focal subject for nearly everything Marc has written (one exception is "Fan Club" on the Brave Noise release). Even before Keely became involved (vocals, keys, samples) in the live staging of these songs, they were collaborating. Marc will say that he's afraid of recording these songs as a band with others, but admittedly, Keely was on his mind and with him in spirit while each of these songs was constructed from skeletal fragile guitar chords to embossed completed works hanging in a packaged slab of plastic and aluminum.

According to Marc, "If you listen to the songs in chronological order you will hear the whole history of our relationship. The songs in the beginning of our relationship (The Astronauts are Sleeping CDs) talk about things we did that were hurtful to each other. We didn't have a good line of communication."

"I would feel weird if someone was writing songs about me" – Marc Bianchi

How does it feel to have your boyfriend write dozens of songs about you? According to (future bride in "The Doctor and The DJ" on Home is Where You Hang Yourself) Keely Chanteloup, "Her Space Holiday has been a large part of my relationship with Marc. Since the beginning, Marc was always extremely immersed in Her Space Holiday that it was almost like sharing him with someone else. Soon, I realized the songs were a line of communication between us that we desperately needed. It became a romantic correspondence of sorts that was really comforting to me. His songs really got to me emotionally and I still am very much affected by them. Since the beginning of our relationship it hass been this way, so I am touched rather than uncomfortable. Her Space Holiday exhibits the direction we are going as individuals and as a couple -- all of these situations and feelings that two people have together and alone."

"For me, this is where I feel safe." – Keely Chanteloup

Slowing down his efforts releasing other projects through his Audio Information Phenomenon (AIP) label, Marc has definitely switched gears. From the normal-bias cassette demos of 3 or 4 years ago, Marc is now (with the support of new label Tiger Style in the US, and Wichita in Europe) embarking on trips to Europe, Japan as well as across the U.S. "When I was on a small level, there wasn?t the pressure. If people liked the record that would be great there would be minimal press -- on that level if people wrote about the record it was because they liked it. Now with the support of a large publicity machine you can succeed or fail on a much larger scale," Marc states.

Her Space Holiday