April 20, 2005
Christoph Marek is another musician who could be labelled a bedroom troubadour, an artist who wields absolute control over his art – in this instance, music. Marek created this recording in an insulated and isolated fashion – manning all instruments and devices to produce his debut on the Austrian label, Niesom.
I came across his music months ago when he made contact with me, shortly after I did a post on his music and new album. I have re-posted that piece at the bottom of this interview I conducted with the Austrian via email.
*Sixeyes: This is your first release, your label debut, what was it that pushed you
towards this goal, that gave you the impetus to accomplish what you have? Was
it a friend, an accquaintance, a cash windfall, access to equipment?
Marek: I’ve been making music since I was 13, been involved in several bands and projects, but my ideas where always streamlined by the bands’ mainstream-intentions. I’ve been also recording music as a solo-artist for quite a while, but this is my first step towards artistic freedom which is made public. The actual impetus for this release was the urge to let other people hear my music. The whole thing was enabled by the deal with the Vienna-based label Niesom, which has a very democratic structure.
*S: Is there any one musician that inspired this album, or inspired you to
pursue a musical career?
Marek: There is a vast array of musicians and groups which have influenced my sound. My inspirations range from the obvious singer-songwriters, such as Nick Drake, Will Oldham, Bill Callahan, Morrissey, Ben Gibbard etc. to more experimental stuff like Can, Neu!, Suicide etc. During the last few years I’ve got so bored of the average indie-guitar strumming-shy boy-stuff and got very excited about electronic music, especially the early innocent electro, house-music and more technoid stuff from German labels like Kompakt. Still I’m also touched by the raw emotions of blues singers and various folk classics such as Robert Johnson, Dylan, Guthrie etc.
*S: Have you ever wondered why you create music? Do you need to create? Are
you involved in any other artistic endeavours? i.e. painting, photography,
Marek: Music is the essence, the centre of my life, other things seem to circle around it. I’m obsessed by the interplay between sounds (and words) and the cultural landscape of pop. Songs keep coming without me asking for them. As far as other artistic endeavours are concerned, I’m doing also a lot of photography, mostly documenting the average. The photos on the sleeve and the art-work of my album were also made by me with some friends of mine helping me with the editing.
*S: Inspiration - how does it come? Is there a more common inspiration,
perhaps novels, films, or day to day life?
Marek: To be frank, the main sources of inspiration are my life and my experiences, these offer enough, not too say too much, to work on. I don’t write about things I’ve not experienced yet; by “experiences” I mean anything your mind makes you believe, that means obsessive deceptions are a kind of basis for songs. Sometimes I am also stimulated by other works of art. For example I once did musical homage to the movie “Klute” by Alan J. Pakula. On the album there is also a cover of Dido’s “white flag”, which I think is a great song.
*S: There are 18 tracks on the CD, a generous amount, did you, as many first
time recording artists do, have a deep well to draw from as far as songs was
concerned? In other words, had you written many songs in the years leading
up to your debut?
Marek: The CD was a try to compile some of the work I’ve done in the past two years. Unfortunately 77 minutes could not cover everything I’ve done. There are many songs waiting in line to be released. Hope I can accomplish this in the near future.
*S: When was the CD recorded, do you feel it truly represents where you are
now musically?(that is if it was recorded a year or more ago)
Marek: The CD was recorded exactly about one year ago, though as I said some of the material is much older. There is no doubt that one grows musically with every fantastic release one puts on the decks, so my musical direction has drifted a bit. My live-performances are a good vehicle for demonstrating this shift.
*S: Now that you have done a completely solo recording (all the credits on the
liner notes are yours!) would you do it all on your own again, or are you
looking forward to working with other musicians or a producer?
Marek: Sure, I’d do it again the same way. However, since I’m torn between being a totalitarian control freak and a laissez faire dilettante I’ll never do your mainstream-hurt noone-album; marek always ends up being a messy and edgy affair. Nevertheless, I’d love to be produced by someone who knows his trade and who’s really into it. My choice of heart would be James Murphy from the DFA. But I’m sure Trevor Jackson, DJ Hell, Rick Rubin or Steve Albini would also do some good work. As far as other musicians are concerned I’m an open platform. For live gigs in Austria I have worked with some friends, but haven’t done that in the studio yet. I find the format of a traditional “rock band” very exhausting and flat, especially as far as touring is concerned. We’ll see what kind of arrangement I’ll find in the future.
*S: Now a little more personal, where were you born and raised, have you got
brothers and sisters? Is it a musical family?
Marek: I was born in Vienna, Austria and raised in a small-town called Graz, still living here for the comfort, but I’m desperate for a change in scenery. We’ll see what happens. I got one brother, whose aims are diametrical to mine. Wouldn’t say that my family is musical, I’m the only one who’s been overpowered by the magic of pop.
*S: Finally, I believe you have studied sociology, has this affected or
coloured the way you approach songwriting or the way you write songs?
Marek: Yes, I’m a sociologist, though I have to admit that I’ve lost my faith in science. Science has influenced my work as a songwriter only to a certain extent. Much more it has affected the way I think about pop-music and culture in general. You’ll find my theoretical view on pop in a book on the actual state of pop-culture and the theory on labels I’m planning to write with Jürgen Hofbauer, fellow musician and one of the founders of the Niesom-label.
*Here is the re-post on Marek...
Every so often I find an innocent looking email sitting in my inbox and I innocently open it hoping it's that dream email from a well-known and respected editor/writer for a well-known and respected music publication pleading with me to come join him in an orgy of indie music freebies and a high six figure income (i said it was a dream ). Or it could be an unknown musician letting me know of his music, of his debut on an obscure European indie label (obscure to me at least), offering to send me a copy of his disc. That's what I got a few days ago.
The young Austrian's name is Marek, Christoph Marek, and the music of his debut album, "It's These Magic Moments That I'm Living For"(label: Niesom), catches the ear, teasing and flickering with a quiet strength. Singing in English with an Americana lilt, one that reminds me of Leon Russell at times (in "Chasin' My Fears' especially ), but a touch softer around the edges than Russell's voice - Marek's music is rich in textures and flourishes - from the string laden "Last Night' to the lo-fi fuzz of "Chasin' My Fears", to the acoustic twang and up all night vocal of the I-need-a-girlfriend-really-badly ballad, 'My Blow-Up Doll'.
The song 'Chasin' My Fears' has the feel of a late night after a few strong drinks - and the singer now sits alone in a hollow bus shelter, clutching his banjo twangy guitar, singing truthfully of his dreams and mistakes to the summer night insects buzzing in the mix. This song also, somehow, brings to mind a mix of the very early Tom Waits and the very current everything-including-the-kitchen-sink Tom Waits.
Download it and his cover of Dido's, 'White Flag', below.
from "It's These Magic Moments That I'm Living For"...
+ Chasin' my fears
+ White flag
Go here to stream four tracks from "It These Magic Moments That I'm Living For"
- when you reach the site, scroll down to page bottom.
at 10:49 PM