Sitting down with Marc Ackermann (The Merricks)

The Merricks

Hello, Marc. You’re quite busy when it comes to your music. What is your creative process and what sources of inspiration (e.g. books, television, film) get your creative juices flowing?

As I’m also a writer (8 books published until now) and a plastician (some exhibitions in the 90s), I read a lot of poetry, philosophy (mostly presocratics and Nietzsche, not mentioning buddhists writings) and scientific essays. I find novels boring, I always guess what’s going to happen. It’s all, or a lot about form. I’m still found of Flaubert, Rimbaud or Dostoyevsky (amongst many others) because their form transcends the matter and the original message. For now, I’m deep in alchemical theories. I used to watch a lot of movies, but I don’t find pleasure in it anymore, except with artists like David Lynch or, more classical, Akira Kurosawa. The works of Giacometti and Bacon shaped me a lot. I don’t watch TV.

Your body of music takes on a number of genres, while your individual compositions are much longer than typical radio fare. What sort of artists have most shaped your discography?

As anybody, I’m influenced by the worst and the best…Sometimes, “bad” music can give you much more feelings than “good” one. To me, the frontier doesn’t stand between good and bad, but between alive or not. Nowadays, too much music sounds dead to my heart, even if it’s well crafted and ingeniously built. The “pop” format is quite annoying, I like to be free to create pieces that don’t fit in. I listen to what the sound has to tell to me, sometimes it needs one minute or less, sometimes it asks twelve minutes or more, there’s no law. Though I’m classified as an experimental/electronic creator, I always evoke myself as a “punk”, because it’s the first kind of music I played and because the notion of “energy” matters a lot to me. It’s all about generosity and pushing the walls always more far. More personally, I would say that the influences you can hear in my works are Chu Ishikawa, Mick Harris, Bill Laswell, Brian Eno, SPK, Front 242, Throbbing Gristle and early Kraftwerk.

In a related fashion, how do you think The Merricks‘ music has changed from 2011’s (In)famous to 2016’s Powerlessness?

Actually, I always composed music. I set my first band when I was 14, and later I came to work alone because it gave me more freedom of creativity. I started releasing my music on the internet in 2009, which is quite late. Until that, I was making “tapes” as a lot of musicians, I guess… The essential difference between my early works and now is that I am not looking for efficiency anymore, my sound is more “round” and evasive. Pushing the limits forwards. But maybe I’ll come back to “basics” later, no door closed.

A number of The Merricks releases have a short/simple title but you have two releases from December 2015. What does Shave My Spirit (1 and 2) mean thematically, and how do you name songs and releases?

“Shave my spirit” and the 4 “Zazen” releases are directly connected to my philosophical beliefs. I’m a quite mystical person, though I don’t believe in God, and Zen is not really a religion formerly speaking, because it’s build on the inner strength, spirit and capacities of human being, more than on external forces. For these two “suites”, I created the music after the name I gave, which is not always the case. Often, I give a title after what I hear of the sounds I built, but I don’t mind a lot about this, I really could give numbers to it instead, it wouldn’t change anything to me.

We’re a third done with 2016. What sort of plans do you have for the latter part of the year?

2016 should have been the year of 2 physical releases for The Merricks, for I decided not to put new works on the internet anymore, unhappily it begins quite bad. 2 CDs has been released on the now closed Belgian label “Hyphen Records”, in 2014 (Muddy sunrays) and 2015 (Autumn dogs). I set a crowd funding project to earn some money to press a third CD this year, but it didn’t work at all, so I will do everything by myself, which will take much more time, for I haven’t got any fortune… wait and see !

Let’s talk technology. What does your current recording and music production set up look like? What sort of upgrades do you want to add in the future?

I’m not a huge fan of technology, even if it brings great tools, it’s only tools. Creativity is a kind of psychic disease, I think, and I wouldn’t survive without it. It’s all my life since I’m a child. But I’m really keen of all analogical synthesis, it gives you a lot of potentiality in the shaping of sounds and structures. I like to mix the rugosity and instability of analogical devices with the hopeless defined form of computer softwares. I love this meeting of unleashed life force and digital rigor, it brings a paradoxical feeling and understanding of the matter. I don’t have a lot of stuff, and don’t want/need much more. I really enjoy the Dave Smith Instruments devices, they are very intuitive and powerful. I should say I used to be a drumbox collector, but it’s over now and I got rid of it, the computer softwares don’t sound always very good in comparison, but it’s much more malleable, and, after all, you can re-shape the original sounds even if takes lot more time to do. I still have (and play) the electric guitar I bought when I was 12, love it… My latest acquisition is the Pocket Operator drumbox (by Teenage Engineering, I think, not sure), a very good tool for live performances, but quite limitative. To finalize my set, I would like to get the Mochika XL by Atomo Synth, the Analog Four by Elektron and the Prophet 6 by DSI. Then it will be HEAVEN, lol !

How can listeners find samples of your music?

I released 185 albums in these last 6 years, so there’s a lot of stuff to listen to, maybe too much, I agree. Some releases are available for free on different netlabels (God Hates God Records, amongst others), but my main “headquarter” is The Merricks Bandcamp page, so don’t hesitate to check it out, the prices are very affordable. To have an idea, you can also check my Reverbnation page…

Thanks for speaking with us tonight. Do you have anything else that you would like to tell NeuFutur?

Thank you and sending best thoughts to you and your readers, take care of your beautiful souls, let’s blossom !

Author: James McQuiston

Ph.D. in Political Science, Kent State University. I have been the editor at NeuFutur / neufutur.com since I was 15. Looking for new staff members all the time; email me if you are interested. Thanks!

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