“Some Important Lessons On Music”, by Mark Hollis – taken from an interview with Danish TV, 22nd February 1998.
When Mark Hollis brought out his only solo album (to-date), he gave this interview with a Danish TV station. It was interspersed with Talk Talk//Hollis songs, which were subsequently removed, to reduce the viewing time of the “actual” interview. I have transcribed the text of the interview here. I’ve followed this with the abridged interview itself. And finally, I’ve included video/audio for the tracks that were originally included in the TV programme.
My suggestion is that you listen to the tracks in between the various silos of the interview – musical ad breaks as it were!
1. Playing the Right Note.
“Before you play two notes, learn how to play one note, y’know. And that, it’s as simple as that really. And don’t play one note unless you’ve got a reason to play it.”
2. Love of Music.
“The reason you’re doing it is for the love of music. It’s not, to like, try and get some kind of commerciality.”
3. On “Spirit of Eden”.
” “Spirit of Eden”, I kind of think that was very much like, in a way where all those earlier albums were trying to get to. And then having got there, I then think the important thing is that, y’know, you either, you either just stop making records at that point because you’ve kind of reached what you were trying to get, or from that point, you seriously redress, y’know, these other areas that you, that you go for.”
4. The Magic of the First Take.
“When you improvise, and you play something for the first time, you kind of play it at it’s peak. And if you kind of like play something and then you think “oh I like that” and then you replay it, you never quite get it. It’s like the thing of demoing, y’know if you demo a track, no matter how badly you try to demo it, there will always be a quality within it that you subsequently would try to recreate, which you shouldn’t do.”
5. The Voice is an Instrument.
“The thing with the vocal is just y’know to, like you’re saying, treat it like an instrument. It’s not there to dominate. It’s just there to sit in the kind of landscape along with everything else, y’know, and it’s kind of like, start from a melodic point of view, then, think about the kind of y’know, the kind of inflections that it should have soundwise, and similar if you’re looking at a clarinet, at certain notes, there might be a certain kind of way you want to hear that note, that note, y’know sound, so that when you write the lyric you have that as an actual, y’know, block that you must write to. You must write this lyric phonetically in order for it to sing, with a certain way. And then you must write the lyric in a way that, when you sing it, you’re going to have belief in it.”
6. On “Laughing Stock”.
“You take like the first track on that album, ah, “Myrrhman”, and it was kind of like “Ok, Let’s, let’s write a track here where no part of it ever gets repeated”. Y’know, it’s just totally a movement like this (points hands moving forward in a straight line), rather than any recognisable song form. And then you move into like, “Ascension Day”, and it would be like, ok on this one, across these three verses, verse one will be a ten bar verse, verse two will be a nine bar verse, verse three will be an eight bar, and, but, that what you do as this thing is shortening up on you, vocally you’ve still got to hold it, but that what you do is you turn the on-beat onto the off-beat, and you have one person understanding the down-beat as being in this place in the bar and the person playing next to him not even realising that’s the down-beat at all but seeing it as the up-beat. So that was, that was the main premise to that album and again we continued with this free improvised form to it.”
7. Using Film.
“The one thing that I did wonder about doing for this album was to get together with ah, y’know somebody and make a film for this album. And that, that would interest me, but I don’t think, it would be much more a film along the kind of lines of, y’know, if you were sitting in a room and you were sort of like, just looking at an open fire, and you just have like this area of movement. I quite like things, y’know like, I like water as a form of movement. I think water’s got great shape and motion to.”
8. Make it Timeless.
“The ideal is that the album won’t be recognisable as having come from any time, having been recorded in any particular year. And the fact you’re working with acoustics, helps, means, you can’t date.”
“Ideally, the way to listen to it is alone, extremely quietly. I don’t think you should ever push the volume level beyond the natural volume that the instruments would have been in the room.”
“I like silence. I get on great with silence, you know. I don’t have a problem with it. It’s just silent, y’know. So it’s kind of like well if you’re going to break into it, just try and have a reason for doing it.”
“I can’t imagine not playing music, but I don’t feel any need to perform music and, I don’t feel any need to record music. I’m really quite happy just to play one note, and just to hit it at different volume levels. And just, y’know, see how long it will resonate for, before it stops.”
Tracks featured during the Interview:
1. Such a Shame – from the album “It’s my Life” 1984
2. Dum Dum Girl – from the album “It’s My Life” 1984
3. Life’s What You Make It – from the album “Colour of Spring” 1986
4. I Believe in You – from the album “Spirit of Eden” 1988
5. Myrrhman – from the album “Laughing Stock” 1991
5. Inside Looking Out – from the album “Mark Hollis” 1998