Colder Interview by Alexander Laurence
Colder in a one-man band that comes from Paris, France. They have released their first album “Again” (2004). Colder is actually the work of graphic designer and video producer, Marc Nguyen Tan, who in his spare time has developed one of the most accomplished and critically acclaimed debut albums. He began making music with his background working as art director for TV and fashion. During the last part of 2002 he produced his first musical project and sent a few demos out. Output Recordings soon signed him.
Colder “Again” was finally released in late 2003 and immediately discovered by fans and critics. The album seems like an intimate journey by a lonely traveler in an abandoned city. The CD also includes a DVD which is very much part of the complete experience. The record is reminiscent of Joy Division and Coil but is also very modern. It is a combination of dance music, rock, industrial, and techno. It is its own genre really.
Colder made their live debut at the famous Elysee Montmartre venue in their hometown Paris. Soon after Colder performed to a capacity audience of six thousand people at Europe’s premier music festival, Sonar, in Barcelona. Colder has since performed at many European stages and festivals. They have even played with The Rapture on their French tour dates. I spoke to Marc before his recent show at Bowery Ballroom.
NOTE: This is a rare interview with this band. Not many people in the USA have seen this band. They only played once in Fall 2004, and that tour included dates at Spaceland and Bowery Ballroom. I get contacted all the time about Marc Tan and COLDER.
AL: How long have you been doing music?
Marc: I have been playing music for a long time. But I have only been doing it seriously for a short time. The band has only been playing together for a year. I have been recording things for at least ten or fifteen years. The whole Colder thing was just a coincidence. It started about two years ago. I did it for professional and personal reasons. There was a time for three months where I had nothing planned. I had some free time. I decided to spend that time focusing on making music.
AL: You are from France?
Marc: I was born in Paris. I have always lived there. I am from a real boring area. It’s in the 15th arrondisement. It’s very Catholic.
AL: Do you come from a very musical family?
Marc: No. They were all involved with medicine. I used to listen to music at an early age.
AL: Did you play instruments or did you come from a technical background?
Marc: I used computers quite a lot. I use it like an eight track recorder. I record things in it. I am not a very good musician. When I play some guitar or bass lines, I just play some simple notes. I play some stuff on keyboards. I use the computer as a multi-track recorder. I don’t use sophisticated gear.
AL: What was the first track you did?
Marc: That was “One Night In Tokyo.” I recorded it all in three months. That was the first song. The last song was “Silicone Sexy.” It’s more techno sounding.
AL: Was the recordings done as an album format in mind?
Marc: For me, the album format is really important. I don’t like the single format. I don’t like releasing singles from the album. I like how you can listen to a whole album and it can tell an abstract story.
AL: How do you start working on a track?
Marc: Basically it’s about personal things that have happened in my life. The record was written after I had been traveling often for a few years. The Colder record talks about those travels in a real distant way.
AL: You did all the vocals on the record?
Marc: Yeah. I did all the vocals and all the music. I did all the artwork. I had one close friend mix the record and master it. He did it more properly. I know nothing about mastering.
AL: The record has been out a while in Europe?
Marc: It was released a year before in Europe. The record is exactly the same. It has one CD and one DVD. It’s a set.
AL: Since you did this all by yourself, when did you start a band?
Marc: That was coincidental as well. Two months before the record came out, I had a dream about a live band. In the dream I was talking to my friend who now plays with Colder. He was saying in the dream “Maybe we should try to play Colder live?” I wasn’t into it too much in the dream. A half-hour after having that dream I got a strange email from Trevor Jackson, from Output Recordings. He said that he couldn’t sleep that night. During that night he had a dream of a band playing Colder live. Trevor’s description was so accurate and close to what my friend was talking about that we thought that maybe we should do it. We spent two months in a rehearsal studio. That’s how the band started.
AL: How many live shows have you played?
Marc: Maybe about forty.
AL: Have bands did you listen to when you were growing up?
Marc: Some guy wrote something in a French webzine like “the Strange thing about the Colder record is that you feel the border between the influences and personal life were so close that they melt into one another.” I think that guy is quite right. I could tell you my influences and it would be about a thousand band names, so it would be boring to recall. When I was a teenager, and also at this moment in my life, music is so close to my life. I listen to music every day. I have always been a fan of certain bands but that changes always in different periods of my life. It’s very difficult to acknowledge certain bands. I have always been a fan of what I call “Darker Pop” or “Pop Obscure.” It’s like older pop music that is very intimate. It goes from Nick Drake to The Scientist. The Scientist has been doing dub records since the 1980s. There are bands like Coil, Non, Current 93 and Death In June.
AL: Some of those bands have strange politics.
Marc: I don’t care about the politics too much. I am more concerned about the music and the feelings.
AL: What sort of bands do you play with?
Marc: It’s all various people. We are a small band. Ninety percent of the time we are playing as a support band with bands who are kind enough to accept us. We are not picky who we play with.
AL: Are you playing with more techno people or bands?
Marc: It’s true that we are playing in clubs, so we do play with bands and club music. We always have DJs playing with us. Sometimes we have played with rock bands. In France we supported The Rapture.
AL: Do people play your record in Clubs?
Marc: I guess that they do. I heard that some DJ in Germany used to play a few tracks. When the record came out they were playing it in clubs in France. I don’t go to clubs very often so I don’t know if they are playing my records.
AL: This is your first tour of America?
Marc: Yeah, this is our first tour ever. We are starting today. We played one show in New York during CMJ a month ago. We played a show in Denmark. We went back to Paris. We came to America two days ago. Tonight is the first show of the tour. We will be Los Angeles in three days.
AL: What are your impressions of playing in America?
Marc: We have always like to play in New York. This is our fourth show in New York. We have met a lot of cool people. Tonight is a special night because the election just happened. It is strange to be here right now because we are doing a gig that is a social entertainment. It’s is during a difficult context.
AL: What songs do you play in the live show?
Marc: We play most of the songs from the record. We also play two new songs. Those songs will be on the second record.
AL: Do you have any advice for people who want to do records?
Marc: No. My advice is no advice.
AL: Have you done any collaborations with other bands or singers?
Marc: I would like to but so far there is no real plan. There is only one English band that I know of that would be interested in some form of collaboration. They are called Chris & Cosey.
AL: Have you seen any of the Throbbing Gristle performances?
Marc: The only thing I saw was Genesis P-Orridge. It was a movie soundtrack.
AL: Are there any novelists that you like?
Marc: I like all the Russian writers like Doestoevsky and Checkov. I like a lot of things about Eastern European culture.
AL: Have you been there?
Marc: I have been to Warsaw, Poland.
AL: What do you think of people comparing your music to Joy Division?
Marc: For some people it makes sense to compare the whole record to Joy Division. I like that period and place where Joy Division comes from, and for me, it doesn’t just stop at Joy Division. It goes much deeper. I am very interested in where that band is coming from. I am interested in the whole musical culture. I am interested in bands from the same time from France and the USA. In France, you had a band called Marquis de Sade. If you asked me what band you preferred, Marquis de Sade or Joy Division, I couldn’t tell you. They don’t sound like each other, but they were around at the same time. There are a hundred bands from that time.