Name: Marc Nguyen Tan
Occupation: Musician/graphic designer/DJ
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences?
Something like 25 years ago maybe? I studied piano before that, but I started to set my first home studio during that time. In terms of early influences I had a particular interest in improvised/experimental and industrial music listening to bands like Einsturzende Neubauten, Nox, Bauhaus, current 93, Coil ...
For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?
I'd been playing and recording music at home for a long time before releasing the first Colder album, it was mostly a hobby. But I've always played or collaborated with friends, people I knew – I was just not taking it very seriously. The kind of music I was doing back then was somehow similar to what I was listening to, from experimental/industrial music to electronica/glitch. Things became clearer when I had more time to dedicate to my own music practice and also when I started to use my own vocals in my arrangement.
What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
There were many, but the biggest one was probably the live side of things. I was more or less handling my way in the studio, but on stage it's been a completely different story where I had to learn everything from scratch through trial and error. I have difficult memories of the first year of touring because even though it was a funny experience, all in all, there were some very tiring and frustrating moments to it.
Tell us about your studio, please. What were criteria when setting it up and how does this environment influence the creative process? How important, relatively speaking, are factors like mood, ergonomics, haptics and technology for you?
The first two Colder albums have been recorded mostly on a laptop with a very minimal setup. Now I'm working mostly with hardware electronic instruments. I play with a mix of vintage and new analogue synths, monos and polyphonics, also some Eurorack modules and some digital machines from the '90s which have a particular tone/texture a bit like the FM synths from Yamaha.
What are currently some of the most important tools and instruments you're using?
This sampler called Elektron Octatrack … it's the electronic instrument I have been waiting to play for years. It's got a very original interface and a huge modulation matrix. It's standing in the centre of my studio now, I use it all the time ...
Many contemporary production tools already take over significant parts of what would formerly have constituted compositional work. In which way do certain production tools suggest certain approaches, in which way do they limit and/or expand your own creativity? Are there any promising solutions or set-ups capable of triggering new ideas inside of you as a composer?
I pretty much work the other way round, so I can't say too much about this particular question. For “Many Colours” I wanted a particular sound and I started more looking for specific pieces of gear/synths/keyboards that could help me get that sound without having to use plugins and such. Besides, I'd say that one of the most interesting things in electronic music today is this revival of analogue and modular synths and the fact that gear is becoming more and more affordable.
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece or album that's particularly dear to you, please? Where do ideas come from, what do you start with and how do you go about shaping these ideas?
It really depends on the nature of the project, what I want to do … For “Many Colours”, songs are based on improvisations and sketches. I record 5 or more per day, and then after a week, I listen to all of them, pick the most inspiring. Starting from there I can almost have an idea of what the final result's gonna be …