Vic Mars

Musician Vic Mars takes on this month’s quick-fire questions

Hello Vic, where are you right now and what can you see?

“I’m sitting in my living room, watching a squirrel outside attempting a bin-forage to the music of The Wooden O.”

Your label describes you as an “enigmatic producer”. Without wishing to burst the bubble, tell us something about yourself

“I was born and raised in Hereford, moved to London, then to Japan, and back to London. I have no idea where I will end up. Possibly a full circle.”

Your new album comes with a gorgeous enamel badge. Wow, eh?

“Yeah, as you know, all the Clay Pipe artwork and design is by Frances Castle, the label owner. The cover artwork for the album and the badge look amazing. I’m not sure if the album and badge combination will continue with other releases, but I hope so.”

Badges used to be such a big thing. What was pinned to your lapels growing up?

“I think I had a Chewits badge and a ‘#1 Tintin Reader’ badge.”

‘The Beacon’ is your third album for Clay Pipe. What keeps you loyal to the label?

“I make a lot of music and have released stuff on other labels, but most of it wouldn’t suit Clay Pipe. I like the themes of the label, and they are all lovely people.”

For this release, you’ve swapped pastoral Herefordshire for the dramatic Brecon Beacons as your inspiration. How come?

“The previous albums were about Herefordshire, but they were also about memories and childhood. The Brecon Beacons were part of my youth too – day trips with the family and later with friends, and when I visited more recently, I found the scenery really inspiring.”

Wales is a mere jaunt down the road from where you grew up, but the landscapes couldn’t be more different could they?

“That’s true. But both are equally beautiful in my mind. It feels like the Black Mountains are always in the background in Hereford.”

What impact do you think the Beacons had on you growing up? How do you think those experiences have helped shape the record?

“I have memories of jumping off waterfalls in Ystradfellte and clambering to reach the tops  of the mountains throughout the summers of the 90s. Then, they were just days out, but looking back now I had amazing times there.”

I love the idea that in winter the distant ice-capped peaks served as “a childhood barometer”, a sign that where you lived might also be graced with snow?

“Every winter, it was important information at primary school. We hoped for snow and with it  a possible school closure!”

It never ceases to amaze me just how dramatic the landscape is in Wales. How do you go about capturing that with instrumental music?

“I hadn’t been to the Brecon Beacons for quite a long time, and I’d forgotten how vast they are and how they loom above you. When I went back a few years ago, I was thinking about what it  might sound like. The Moog helped me get the sort of big droney-sounding stuff, and I used slowed-down recorders and melodicas to try to convey the landscape there. Hopefully it works.”

The sonic palette is quite dark for you with the Moog to the fore. What’s your Moog of choice?

“My Moog of choice would be something like a Moog One, but due to budget restraints, I went for a Moog Grandmother.”

There’s a dash of Sakamoto in tracks like ‘Memorial Cairn’ and ‘The Obelisk’. Where do you think that comes from?

“I didn’t notice that until now. I am a big fan of his work, particularly the earlier stuff like the  ‘B-2 Unit’ LP. He has a lifetime of music, which needs exploring more.”

You’ve also introduced some live drums on ‘Pen Y Fan’. That’ll probably surprise some people?

“It’s not something I’ve done before on a release. I planned to have some energetic drums very early on, as I wanted the track to sound big. The drums on ‘Pen Y Fan’ were performed by Alex Thomas, an incredible drummer who has played with John Cale and Squarepusher. Luckily, he’s a friend of my sister-in-law. Thanks Tina! The drumming on ‘Ystradfellte’ is by Shawn Nakano, an old friend from my time in Japan, who’s also a great drummer. I’m really happy with how both drum parts turned out.”

You pick up on some interesting stories for this album, chief among them the legend of Llyn Cwm Llwch lake. There’s a mysterious door within the lake, said to open to an invisible island, right?

“So they say… but I think the door has permanently shut due to someone breaking the rules and stealing something from the other side. It’s only a small lake, but it definitely has an atmosphere.”

There’s also an old woman of the lake who uses music to gain the attention of her victims. Not casting aspersions, but your music is quite alluring… 

“Ha-ha! Thanks. That might make a good music video. Are they still called music videos?”

‘The Beacons’ is released by Clay Pipe

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