Mark Reeder

Composer, producer, remixer and DJ Mark Reeder reveals his formative influences, including Brian Eno, Tony Wilson and a Moog gifted by Klaus Schulze

Photo: Chihiro Lia Ottsu

ELECTRIC LADYLAND

“When I had just turned 11, I did a load of odd jobs, saved my birthday and Christmas money and told my parents, ‘I’m going to the model aeroplane shop’. But I got on a bus to Manchester, bought Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Electric Ladyland’ and smuggled it home! Coming back on the bus I’m thinking, ‘If my mum sees this album, she’ll put it in the bin! What’s an 11-year-old kid doing with a record with naked women on the front cover?’.

“She definitely wasn’t a Hendrix fan, either – she’d seen him playing guitar with his teeth on Lulu’s show. I was very attracted by that kind of thing, and I liked the reaction that my mother and father had to this kind of music. It spoke to me somehow.”

EARLY ROXY

“My first-ever gig was Roxy Music in 1972, at the Hard Rock in Manchester. I was completely petrified. I arrived late afternoon in my school uniform and blagged my way in by helping the roadies, who put me on the guest list. 

“When I got into the club and people started coming in, it was all these towering guys dressed in glitter and stuff. It was quite intimidating, as I’d never seen men dress like this before, with make-up on. I lived in the arse-end of Manchester, and there weren’t any people like that. Or if there were, you maybe just hid in your own home and got dressed up, but back then you certainly didn’t go out on the street like that. 

“It was an eye-opening experience to see Brian Eno onstage wearing feathers… I had no idea what Roxy Music looked like, as I’d only heard their records. That first gig changed my entire view on things.”

VIRGIN TERRITORY

“I’ve always shared the music I listen to, and I take great pleasure in giving someone a nice surprise. I hope the music I play will take you on a journey, help you think outside the box, or maybe take your life in a different direction.

“Last year, an interviewer pointed out that Tony Wilson was influenced by the music I played him. I had a part-time job in Manchester’s Virgin Records shop, and Tony, Rob Gretton, Peter Saville and Malcolm Garrett all came into the shop regularly – literally every dinner time. Tony would spend an hour listening to music and asking what I thought. I remember trying to get them to listen to Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’ when it came out in 1977. I was like, ‘Fucking hell! This is amazing!’. But it was derided as disco, and the only person I managed to convince that it was good was Howard Devoto from Magazine.”

UNKNOWN PLEASURES

“When I heard ‘Unknown Pleasures’ for the first time, I was elated. Ian Curtis had given me a cassette of what was going to be Joy Division’s first album, which would end up as the ‘Warsaw’ bootleg years later, so I already knew some of the songs. But they were just demos in comparison to the actual album. Hearing it was like a religious experience, like, ‘Ah, so this is what you can do. From those ideas, you can make it into… this’.

“It was a total revelation as to what production actually meant for me because I had never even been in a studio before, and I didn’t know what the job of a producer was. To hear that record as a demo from the band, and then hear it as a finished album just opened everything up. I realised you can play something in your bedroom, make a few tracks, give it to a producer, and they might turn it into something completely magical.”

SYNTH EPIPHANY

“The first time I heard a record playing synthesisers, my mind was blown. My cousin wanted to buy a stereo and we went to some guy’s house and he played us ‘Switched-On Bach’ by Wendy Carlos. After that, I wanted to hear any record with that kind of simplifier sound on it because I just couldn’t get my head around it. It sounded so futuristic!

“My first synth was a Micromoog, given to me by Klaus Schulze. When I was in the band Die Unbekannten, we went out for a drink with this girl called Elisabeth Recker who ran Monogam Records. We’d just released our first single on Monogam, and I wanted to use more synthesisers, but I didn’t have one at that point. She was like, ‘Oh, I’m going out for dinner with Klaus Schulze next week’, and she managed to blag one out of him! So, Klaus gave us a synth.”

MADE IN GERMANY

“Coming to Berlin in 1978 was another revelation. It was completely derelict – bullet-riddled from the war, every other brick was black, everything was cheap, and it was open 24 hours a day. You could go out drinking at midnight, then carry on drinking until midnight the following day. It’s still like that.

“In Berlin, I feel that I’m living in the last bastion of free thinking. There’s a certain amount of trust. On the underground, for example, you could just go down the stairs and get on the train. You don’t even have to buy a ticket. It’s up to you, whether you do or don’t buy the ticket. It’s not regimented here like it is in a lot of places, and it’s not as expensive. You don’t feel that the state is trying to make as much money out of you as possible, like it is in the UK, where they’ll be taxing the air you breathe next!

“My new album with Alanas Chosnau, ‘Life Everywhere’, is about living in totalitarian systems and how that affects us. All the songs are like love songs, but with a hidden meaning. Imagine a love story between Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Because of the war, we thought it would be better to bring forward the release so that people could listen to the songs and see the relationship with what’s going on now. The cover represents the global cage of humanity being trapped.”

‘Life Everywhere’, Mark Reeder’s collaboration with Alanas Chosnau, is out on MFS

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