Karl has been a freelance writer for over 10 years. He's passionate about music, art, and writing!
Marcel Lecker is an Edmonton, Alberta based musician who goes by the moniker Battlemoose. He makes ambient electronic music that’s influenced by progressive electronic musicians from the 1980’s and ‘90s. His influences include Edgar Froese, Vangelis and Future Sound of London. He creates soundscapes that blend environmental samples with electronic sounds and takes a post-rock approach to referencing, and paying homage to, the artists he respects. I talked to him about where his love for music arose, his creative process and his future as a musician.
Interview with Marcel Lecker
Karl Magi: Talk about the roots of your passion for music.
Marcel Lecker: Probably my first instrument was a recorder that was given to me by a family friend when I was a kid. I took to it very quickly and really enjoyed playing it. Eventually, in grade school, I tried violin for a year and I wasn’t too excited about it. I started playing the clarinet. I had a lot of exposure to Dixieland music because my father liked jazz and Dixieland. He’s the one that urged me to go with the clarinet. I stuck with it straight through to the end of high school. By that time I had also gotten into alto and tenor saxophones, flute, electric bass, and messing around with reel-to-reel tape effects.
I was in anything that even resembled band or orchestra in high school. I went to a boarding school for the last couple of years of high-school because the rock ‘n roll lifestyle was affecting my marks rather dismally. There I was part of a four-piece chamber ensemble that I really enjoyed. I was also part of the stage band and the orchestra. If it had anything to do with music, I was involved with it.
At the end of high school, I had to make the decision about school or music. I opted for school and put the music away for close to 30 years. I’m going on 53, but when I turned 50 I got a whack of cash from a bunch of loved ones and when I thought about what I’d regret not doing, I realized that I had to get back into music.
I’ve got a massive music collection. I’ve always been interested in ‘70s/‘80s prog and electronic music. I was living in Victoria in the ‘90s and I started poking around in the electronica scene at the time. I got into Future Sound of London and The Orb. That music turned the page for me, so it was that sort of music that I wanted to make. I’m interested in the ambient stuff like Tangerine Dream as well as the ambient aspects of what The Orb and Future Sound of London were doing.
KM: Where did the name Battlemoose arise?
ML: It was the juxtaposition of something cute and kind of goofy with something intent and martial. I did martial arts (aikido) for 10 years which informed the martial aspect of the name. I thought of the name about 10 to 15 years ago and said to myself, “If I ever have a band, that’s what I’m calling it.” It’s also a bit of a nod to my younger self.
KM: What are the elements, ideas and themes that you want to explore in your music?
ML: I really like the whole movement behind post-rock music where everything is derivative and everything is a bit of a mishmash. When I’m doing stuff, I overtly reference people like Vangelis and Tangerine Dream. My music will be playing along and all of a sudden it will sound like Vangelis. I’ll try to bring that out and also try to put a bit of a twist on it by making it more modern or doing something else with it.
The other thing I like is soundscapes. I like taking snippets from conversations or mechanical sounds and working it into the music so that it adds to the ambiance. When I started doing that, it really shook my world. It was like, “Wow! This is cool.” The Orb always did crazy little TV and movie references which I really appreciated.
KM: How does the process of creating new music work for you?
ML: It usually starts with what I call the seed. The seed can be a little soundbite that I want to work with or a couple of sounds that really work well together. Usually what’ll happen is that I’ll start building on that seed. Up until fairly recently, I used to do a track a month. The initial phase would be the curiosity and the exploration. By the second week of the month, I have something and I’m starting to tighten it down. The last little bit I’d be paying attention to the levels and the other details.
Lately, I’ve gotten some new hardware and a new version of Ableton, so everything’s up in the air. I’m enjoying a bit of a break but I’m going to get back to it pretty quickly once my new system’s up and running.
KM: Where do you think ambient electronica fits into the broader contemporary music world?
ML: I think one of the places where you see some really cool stuff happening is in film. The score for The Revenant comes to mind. It was done by Ryuichi Sakamoto and Alva Noto. I think that soundtrack is a stunning piece of work. That’s really where I see this music fitting in. I’d say that it’s the exception rather than the rule that people would actually sit around and listen to ambient music. Usually you’ll be doing something else at the same time. What caught me about electronic music back when I was in school in the later part of the ‘80s was that it was quite repetitive and didn’t have words. It was just perfect for writing term papers. When you’re putting sentences together, it helps when there aren’t any words to distract you.
KM: What are your current and future plans as a musician?
ML: I just released my first label-based EP in December called Stasis and Still through a UK label. I’ve recently done a collaboration with a fellow from Milan, Italy and we’re looking for a label to carry it. I also have another collaboration lined up and we’re getting ready to start. Currently it’s looking like something along dark ambient lines, but you never know where it’ll go once you get started.
In the next year or so, I’m hoping to put together an album of some new stuff and one or two of my older pieces. Ideally, I’d like to do it through a label, but I may also do it on my own. I’d like to see how the label thing pans out. I’m looking at a limited run of CDs and vinyl for it as well. I'd also love to get into soundtrack work, but so far that’s a big unknown. In the meantime, I’ll just keep on doing what I’m doing and see where it takes me.
KM: How do you recharge your creative batteries?
ML: For a long time, I was deep into analogue nature photography. One of the photography writers that I really enjoyed was Freeman Patterson. He wrote a book called Photography and the Art of Seeing. He had a number of exercises for seeing that I apply to listening to the world around me. As I mentioned, I really enjoy using sound bites and environmental sound snippets which is informed by that process.
Travelling recharges me and gets me really listening to the novel world around me. I like busy places with lots of humans. I like to create a connection to people with my music either with the sound of them or the sounds of their machines. I also love listening to tons and tons of music, especially while I’m enjoying another love of mine which is cooking.