In the right place at the right time – A small adventure with Mark Reeder

There is only one person in the world who:

1. Has shared music with Ian Curtis of Joy Division
2. Played punk with Simply Red’s singer
3. Befriended krautrockers
4. Lived with Nick Cave in the eighties
5. Played both post-punk and new wave and toured Europe (played illegal concerts in the Eastern Bloc)
6. Produced a lot of post-punk and art punk albums (the first one to record a record with a Roland 606 & the only westerner to have produced an album in East Berlin)
7. Hosted a few UK Television shows
8. Bossed an electronic music label (Masterminded For Success)
9. Helped shape Die Neue Deutsche Welle
10. Met Tilda Swinton when she was in her twenties
11. Starred in splatter films (now regarded as works of art)
12. Has seen the Black Sea as early as 1978 (yes he met people from what he calls Securitate)
13. Launched Paul Van Dyck
14. Helped New Order relaunch in 2000

This man, Mark Reeder knows no rest, he tours even these days with New Order, recently being back from their Australian tour, and he somehow has found the time to answer us a few questions.


Mark by the Black Sea

Hello Mark, talk to us about soundtracks and why you love them, please.

Yes, its true. I love film soundtracks. I have many, but I don’t collect everything, mind you. This addiction probably stems from my earliest childhood. The first soundtracks I can remember were by Barry Gray for the Gerry Anderson puppet tv shows, Supercar and Fireball XL5.

and later Stingray
and Thunderbirds

the musical future portrayed in these shows was always the Twist or Jazz with an element of electronic, but then came the TV series DR Who. It changed everything. I absolutely adored the main theme to this sci-fi TV series, as it was very scary and futuristic sounding. The theme was made purely with electronics. I was aware it was totally revolutionary.

This was in 1963 and long before synthesizers even existed, this iconic TV theme was written by Ron Grainer, who also wrote the theme to The Prisoner and The Omega Man and the sounds were created and performed by Delia Derbyshire

who later played in the band White Noise. Of course it didn’t stop there. I started collecting the singles of these shows as a kid, then I graduated onto soundtrack albums. Morricone and Bernard Herrmann were early favourites. There is something about film soundtracks that fascinate me. It’s like therapy. I just love to listen to them and reenact the film scenes in my mind when I hear them. Some are wonderful compositions. Naturally over the years I have collected as many as I could, and some forgotten or lost scores were only released in the ‘90s, or recently on CD. Such as the scores for Things to come (a sci-fi film from 1936) or Twisted Nerve. I like the more mysterious sounding scores and especially sci-fi. New composers like Alexandre Desplat, Ben Salisbury & Geoff Barrow, or Cliff Martinez have made some great modern film scores which are really worth checking out.

You’ve met quite a few new artists and bands travelling around the world. Have a you got a top five new cool bands?

Yes that’s true, I’ve met and seen quite a few. I was recently in Taipei and I saw a Taiwanese band called Zen, who were really good.

You’ve interacted with a few Romanian artists such as Mircea Florian, Steaua de Mare and listened to Adrian Enescu’s soundtracks. What do you think of us and our electronic experiments?

I love it. It was a real discovery. This style of eastern European electronic music was mainly withheld from us westerners during the cold war, just as Romanians had great difficulty in obtaining western music, it was equally as difficult for us in the west to obtain music from the eastern bloc. I would always go over to East Berlin in the hope I would find something exciting in their record shops, but it was mainly classical or propaganda. I would still buy it. At least Romanians could listen clandestinely to the John Peel show on the BBC World Service short wave and somehow get to hear what we had, even if you couldn’t buy it. When I travelled to Romania in the 80s, the only records you could buy in the shops were Romanian classical and folk music, or music heralding the dawn of a new age under the guidence of the great conducator Nicolai Ceaucescu as sung by the choir of the young pioneers corps, or communist workers party anthems, that kind of thing. The serious kind of avant garde electronic music was practically unavailable.


You are quite a roamer. How is travelling around the world what are you favorite places?

I feel I am very privileged to have been able to travel so much over the past few decades. However, I am not the type to go on holiday to Ibiza and spend three weeks drinking cocktails and soaking up the sun on a beach. That is much too boring for me. I am definitely not a beach person. I am a city kid and I like cities and exploration. I especially loved travelling through the communist eastern bloc and even more so to have experienced Romania before and after Ceaucescu, and because of it, I am able to see beyond both sides of the coin. I must say it was always a fascinating and unique experience for me going to these communist countries, it was like visiting a parallel world. Very science-fiction, but ive also visited places like China, Japan, Russia, Mexico, Colombia or Taiwan which are equally just as interesting. I must say Prague and Budapest in the ‘80s were wonderful, virtually void of tourists. I have also travelled to Canada and the USA too and very recently I was in Australia with New Order. Travelling certainly broadens your horizons and helps you to understand the world around you.


What were the four Best Shows Ever in life?

I have no idea. That is just too difficult a question to answer and I can’t nail it down to just four. That is impossible, I’ve seen too many great gigs. Impressive were surely my first concerts such as Tangerine Dream, Bowie and Roxy Music with Brian Eno and bands like Hawkwind or in the punk era, the last night of the Electric Circus (but I don’t remember much of that), The Buzzcocks, Johnny Thunders and my last Joy Division concerts in Berlin and Manchester a few months before Ian died, or Kraftwerk and the Residents, or last week the New Order concert together with the Australian Chamber Orchestra in Sydney Opera House, that was a very special event indeed.

Talk to us about djing. You are an amazing remixer and you were there when djing and parties started to be special in Manchester and Britain.

Thank you. The era of djing and clubbing was something I discovered when I moved to berlin in the late ‘70s. The djs played very different music to the clubs in Manchester. The ‘80s arrived and with it a new form of underground dance music, it was deep, trippy, drug-induced and electronic. It was mainly the sound being played in the underground gay clubs of the USA. This sound was revolutionary and it shaped the way I listened to dance music. I loved going clubbing. As for djing, well to be honest, I never wanted to be a DJ. I used to make mix-tapes for my friends, but I never saw myself as a dj and was never so ambitious as to want to be one. I prefered to sit in the recording studio producing music, but meanwhile, I have come to enjoy it, as I see it as an opportunity to play my kind of music to people that most have probably never heard it before in their lives. That makes it exciting and fun. Although, I don’t play traditional techno, trance or house music sets, that the majority of today’s dj’s play. My music is not like that at all. It has a retro-modern flavour. It sounds familiar in some ways, ‘80s almost, but its modern, but also I might throw in a couple of older, weirder tracks too, as well as some of my own mixes and remixes.


Can you share with us your story when it comes to Graphic design?

I originally wanted to be a graphic designer and studied advertising art, that was the good bit, but once I started work, I hated it. Being the youngest in the ad agency, I was always given the worst jobs and the worst of all was the job of Letrasetting. Letraset were sticky letters on a plastic sheet, which you rubbed down onto the paper. I loathed that job. I also thought the people who worked in advertising were all horrible too. They were constantly conspiring to corrupt their rivals clients in the hope of snatching the business accounts from them. I learnt a lot from advertising though and especially later, when I started to make my own records, I was able to put my education to good use. I designed all my own record covers and also for most of the records I released on MFS, as well as all my adverts and flyers.

Can you please make a top five of your most appreciated Krautrock albums?

Probably not. Cosmic Jokers: Cosmic Jokers, Popol Vuh: Aguirre, Can: Soon over Babaluma, Guru Guru (der LSD Marsch), Neu! (Both albums), Cluster: Zuckerzeit, Faust: Faust & Faust IV, early Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream: Zeit, LA dusseldorf: viva, Michael Rother: Flamende Herzen, Amon Duul: Collapsing, Nektar: Remember the future

Tell us a little bit about your relationship with Ian Curtis of Joy Division and his love for reggae music.

I have no recollection of the first time I ever spoke to ian Curtis, but the conversation was probably something like: “can I listen to this please?” .

He worked in Rare Records, a hippy record shop in Manchester and because he was the youngest working there, he was the only person who would actually ever talk to me. We would always chat about music, but always venture onto other topics like world war 2, ancient history, alien life, death and especially suicide (he was fascinated by it), esoteric stuff or mysticism – fun topics like that.

He was also very funny. He was a total prankster, finding any opportunity to spin a yarn or play a trick. That’s how I found out that he was also ambidextrous too. I never had the impression he was depressed. Mind you, he really only let you see the side of him he wanted you to see.

After he left Rare Records to work in insurance, he would come to our little Virgin record shop where I worked and occasionally buy records.

Sometimes new things, but mainly he would listen to reggae. I think he preferred to shop in the underground market, because it was cheaper. Ian was actually a huge reggae fan. I was very surprized the first time I saw him performing with Warsaw at the last night of the electric circus, the legendary Manchester punk venue too, because he never seemed the type of person who you would think would want to get up on stage and sing. He always seemed quite introverted and although we spoke about many things, he didn’t say he’d joined a band. I liked that approach. Surprise your friends.

What’s the one funny thing you remember about Nick Cave in the eighties in Berlin?

He had a dreadful sleeping habit. He would go to sleep, then after a few hours, he would shoot bolt upright in the middle of the night – every night – and let out a loud scream, like a kind of howling wolf noise. He warned me about this, but I was still shocked the first time he did it. He was a lousy sleeper, probably worse than me.

Where did the name Shark Vegas your second Berlin Era band come from?

From the David Bowie idea of throwing a bunch of random words on the floor and selecting them. After Die Unbekannten (The Unknown) I wanted something which would sound ambiguous or strange, that didn’t mean anything in particular and especially one that didn’t suggest our musical direction. After the release of Blue Monday and Confusion, Bernard Sumner invited us to perform with New Order on their European tour. We had also acquired two new band members and so we decided we should change our band name too, as no one outside of Germany could pronounce Die Unbekannten.

What is your favorite type of desert?

The Mexican desert. It looks like Mars or perhaps Venus. Blazing 50”C, stones, rocks and boulders, with the occasional cactus.

What should we expect from your set in Cluj?

I hope that B-Movie will inspire the audience and motivate them in some way. For the generation who lived through the ‘80s, it might be a nostalgic trip down memory lane, to visit a place they were not allowed to visit during the Ceaucescu era, and it might also be interesting for those who were not aware that this sort of scene existed (there are even some people who lived in West-Berlin, who were not aware this avant-garde scene existed!), but it is really for a young audience. To show them what kind of things we experienced, and it’s for all those who yearn for inspiration, B-Movie will provide them an insight. As for my DJ set, I will probably play some music from this period, as well as retro-modern music and a few of my remixes too. We also have a live performance by Crowd Control, which is well worth watching. I look forward to seeing you there.