A Fond Farewell to Her Space Holiday, Part One: An Interview
Since 1996, Marc Bianchi, currently of Austin, TX, has been recording under the moniker Her Space Holiday. The years and records and remixes he’s done during that time have seen him transform and grow as an artist, moving between electronic-based albums to records with full string arrangements. Throughout the process, he’s retained a gift for exquisite melodies and delicious hooks.
I’ve been a fan of Her Space Holiday since 2000′s Home Is Where You Hang Yourself, featuring the hit single “The Doctor and the DJ.” I’ve eagerly awaited all the album releases since then, and have included their impossibly catchy “Something to Do With My Hands” on many of the mixes I’ve made.
It was with sadness and pleasure that I heard Marc Bianchi was hanging up his alter ego on one last, self-titled record. This record finds Bianchi exploring many of the themes he’s visited throughout his career, making it the perfect dessert to a gourmet meal of highly palatable records. While I’m sad to see HSH retire, I’m glad there is a delicious final album, and I’m looking forward to seeing what Bianchi does next.
I’ve broken this interview into two parts since it was rather lengthy. Here is the first installment.
In order to understand the first part of the interview, as well as to laugh your cheeks off, check out this brief, ah, interview with Bianchi from SXSW. Give it a minute or so to get ridiculously awesome.
There. Don’t you feel better for having seen that?
On with the interview, part one!
ELM: The very first thing I must know, Marc, is what are the chances that your mother is the same as my mother?
MB: *laughs* FIfty-fifty. I guess you watched the YouTube video. Oh, man, that was so creepy. And they didn’t play a lot of the stuff that was in there. He just kept droning on and on, and I have this weird habit sometimes (because I’m adopted) when there’s certain moments that happen on the street that seem random and crazy. It was South by Southwest.
ELM: There was more to it than what they showed?
MB: It went on for a while. The guy told us his address said his name was E.T. and he pulled out his license to show us, and it was E.T., Edward Thomas. He just kept droning on. It was really uncomfortable but, you know, I wanted to hear what the guy had to say. It sounded like he could have something profound; he just didn’t wrap it up in the end. Oh, this is what he said. We all have different mothers, but we have the same Father. So he was talking about religion. I guess I looked like I needed some help or something.
ELM: My favorite thing was how polite and composed you remained through the whole thing.
MB: I don’t know if you’ve found in your life that really random, awkward moments in your life contain the most meaning. That guy could have had the answer to my entire life, so I wanted to hear what he had to say. If you’re not getting to the point after ten minutes, I gotta go. Luckily, my good friend who plays bass walked around the corner with an amp in his hand and said, ‘We gotta go.’
ELM: I shared that video with everybody.
MB: I’m glad my discomfort was your entertainment.
ELM: In the video, it looked like you have some kickass tattoos. What kind of kickass tattoos do you have?
MB: Well, the majority of my tattoos are not kickass. Like, I’ve got an alien in a turtleneck, and I wasn’t trying to be ironic, so there’s definitely some bad ones on there. The last set of tattoos were the stars on the back of my hands, and that was about seven years ago in Austin. I’ll get really into tattoos and then I’ll just stop. I got a lot of tattoos at once and then I just kind of lost interest. And, also, the older you get, the more you’re afraid of skin infections, or, like, ‘I might get poisoned or something!’ whereas when you’re young, you’re more fearless.
ELM: I think I got into Her Space Holiday in the most random way ever.
MB: How was it?
ELM: I was doing a job with trademark research where we had to see if a name was already being used by a company or something, and part of my job was going through newspaper articles and searching for phrases. One of the phrases I had to search was ‘holiday space.’ And all of the articles kept being about Her Space Holiday, and I was sitting there, on the clock, fascinated by what I was reading about you. I think Home Is Where You Hang Yourself had just come out.
MB: Well, that’s a while ago.
ELM: Yeah, it’s a while ago, but you were apparently getting great press for it. I had a boyfriend who had a radio show, so I asked him to look for your cd for me at the station. I’ve liked you ever since, and I was really sad to hear this would be your last record.
MB: It’s awesome that you found it that way. That is very random and interesting. I love making music, and I’ll always do a lot of stuff on the side and ghost-write for other people and dabbling in film scores, but I think after fifteen years–I had a record come out two years ago and another one two years before that–it doesn’t look like a lot’s going on but you still mentally,emotionally put yourself in that space where that is the priority of your life. That is kind of where you wrap a lot of your identity and your worth. I guess it was last year, I went to Japan to play with a friend at a party Hennessey was throwing, and right before we got on stage, it was really weird. All of a sudden, it wasn’t heartbreaking or anything, I just thought ‘This doesn’t feel right to me anymore.’ I was working on the last record, and I was like, ‘this has to be it.’ We’ll see what the future holds. I’ve met a lot of amazing people. There’s been good stuff and bad stuff, so I definitely don’t regret it, but it’s time to put it to rest.
ELM: Do you think you’ll do a box set or anything like that?
MB: No, people just don’t buy records anymore. There’s a handful that definitely do. Even with those bands that I’m friends with that are really really successful, it’s just everything has just dropped. I think the economy and with free downloads. I have a bunch of back catalog that’s available. I just have boxes of cd’s, and I’m trying to figure out a way where I don’t lose money, maybe have people send in five bucks and I’ll send them the whole discography. Really, I just want them to hear the music. I’d rather do something like that than try to make money and have it be a failed venture.
ELM: That makes sense. So I noticed, and I may have been biased because I read this in the press sheet, but on the self-titled Her Space Holiday album, you revisit themes from earlier records. was this a conscious decision?
MB: No, I don’t think it was conscious. I think it just kind of worked out like that. I realize looking back through the years I kind of stood in my own way when I was making records. The reason why the last record was made–it was called XO, Panda and the New Kid Revival–there’s no samples on it, it’s just instruments. I basically played everything. I was working electronically. I come from a hardcore background, and then I started making electronic music, and I was working with a lot of samples, writing stuff on top of it, but I wrestled with it, like, am I really making music? Even though the output sounded like music, I was using this technology. So I kind of rejected that in a way and decided to see if I could just make a record and write the songs and play the instruments and have it not be electronic. Once I got that out of my system, with this newer record, I didn’t have a fear of putting electronics back. I can do all of it together. Just instead, rather than using string samples, I hired this guy Stevie Black who’s an amazing arranger and composer. He did all the string sections and played all the instruments there. Probably if I made the record now, it would be heavy on the electronics side. But all of this is to say, no, it wasn’t intentional.
ELM: Throughout the discography of Her Space Holiday, there have been a lot of styles. How conscious was it for you to decide to make albums that differed from the preceding record?
MB: Yeah, it’s weird, it’s hard to kind of say, especially when you’re doing it for so long. I don’t know as a writer, if you get influenced, not that you want to rip anybody off, but if you read a novel or see a movie, it kind of seeps into your work, you know? So if you do something long enough, I think that your influences change a little bit as time goes on. Hopefully it’s not night and day, but I wanted to try to keep it interesting, at least for myself. I’m somewhat limited when it comes to playing instruments. Switching instruments or switching sounds a lot keeps it fresh. I can make different sounds even though I’m playing the same thing on different instruments.
ELM: How into the production and engineering side of things are you?
MB: It waxes and wanes. Right now, I think the more I feel I’m not going to be making records so much, I’m getting more into the production side. Maybe moreso with the arranging, not with the technical side. I’m just terrible at recording. Usually I record everything with just one mic. This record was the first time I went into a studio. I tracked everything at home but I went into a studio with a producer, and he gave me, basically unlimited time. Which is a blessing and a curse, ’cause when you know you’re working on a last record, you can kind of over-experiment. But I think moreso now, I’m definitely interested in learning about production rather than just doing the five things I’ve been doing for years now.
ELM: You’ve also done a fair amount of remixing. How do you approach a remix as opposed to how you approach making your own songs?
MB: Well, a remix–I haven’t done one in awhile–but usually when I do a remix, I just use the vocal track, and I try to make all the music around it. What I’ve found with remixes, when you listen to a song, you get one emotion from it. But it’s interesting how, when you just listen to the song a capella, you get a totally different feeling, one that may not be there in the song. Usually for a remix, I try to just listen to the a capella for a while and see what mood. ‘Cause there’s some pop songs that are really sad when you take away the music, just the inflection in the voice. So I just try to build around that, start with drums, underneath the vocals. For my own stuff, it used to be that I’d build the song completely as an instrumental, and then try to find a vocal melody that fit that. But with this new record and the record before that, it just started on piano and guitar. And usually I won’t start working on a song until I can find a vocal melody and build off of that.
To be continued! In the meantime, check out the following…