In Conversation With: The Mole
We’ve been fans of The Mole for some time and his wiggly, digger-indebted collage house has been a mainstay in our record bags. The Canadian’s acute sense of groove and commitment to keeping it “weird” has seen him release on the most forward thinking labels of recent years including Wagon Repair, Ostgut Ton and Perlon. His own imprint Maybe Tomorrow provided a home for his previous album, the brilliant Caregiver and does the same for this latest offering De La Planet.
The record draws upon the sample-based aesthetic of his earlier work and his enormous inventory of synthesizers providing a current snapshot of his sound. Indeed it is described as the “very audible transition from his days as a producer in Montreal to becoming part of the Berlin scene”.
We caught up with The Mole in between tours of the US and Japan as he took some time out at his brothers wedding in Pioneer Town, California. While you read, stream the new album below.
Thanks for taking the time to join us. Where in the world are you at the moment?
My pleasure. Thank you. I’m in pioneer town, California at the moment. Having a time out after my brother in law’s wedding. High desert. So beautiful.
You recently toured the US for the first time in 21 years and will be in Japan soon. Do you enjoy being on the road?
I do, very much. It’s a real blessing to be able to visit so many places. Meet so many interesting people, and maniacs. And to be able to share my music. A real blessing.
Do you get to see much of the cities you play in? Where is your favourite place to play?
Do I get to see much? It really depends on the schedule. Sometimes I have time and I can visit and eat and buy records. All the normal stuff. Really hang with my friends if I have some in town. But there have been times where I didn’t even get to eat. Not a total loss because I still get to see something of the place and people in terms of the party. Seeing people’s reactions to certain songs in certain moments tells volumes.
My favourite place? Well that’s quite a bit tougher. Can a parent really pick a favourite child? Maybe deep down there is one. But it is difficult and seems unfair. They all have something to offer. Something to learn from. And something fun. Ok, maybe one of my kids is stupid. But that’ll probably be the kid that takes care of me when I’m older. So later, won’t I love him more ?
Besides an old Myspace page and a Maybe Tomorrow Facebook page you don’t have much presence online. Is that something you actively look to avoid? How do you feel about the way it’s used these days in the music industry?
I’m a pretty social guy in person. So when it came time to get a MySpace page, meaning when my friends insisted I needed one, I did it. I don’t want to be the weirdo in the group. The guy in the corner who clearly just wants to go home. I like the buffet. Or the bar. But to be honest, I spend most of my online time looking at dog videos and new synth news. My friends don’t need updates on my kick drum movements or what color my hair is today. My real friends are happy when we hang out. Easy. No matter if it’s been a day or 15 years since we last saw each other. And I think that’s real friendship. In terms of work, I’d probably be better off if I had a social media team, updating people on my feelings about American politics or how someone’s public gender blunders hurt my feelings as a man trapped in a man’s body. But hey, I put out records which translate all these feelings and so many more, important ones.
And if you really want to ask me about equality in the door policy of country clubs in Saxony, come to my show, I’ll be happy to mumble something about hot dogs and underwater photography and my real feelings about the sexuality of yoga politics.
“Once all the interviews are over, I’ll still be jamming out, astral traveling right here on earth.”
Most of my jokes aren’t funny either, but I think if my dog could laugh, she would. George Clinton said in his autobiography that public relations is the secret power behind the music business. And I totally agree. But I didn’t start making music because I wanted to be famous. I did it because music chose me, and I wanted to give back to a community that has given me so much. And once all the interviews are over, I’ll still be jamming out, astral traveling right here on earth.
As a renowned prolific digger, what do you think of the Discogs culture? Are you finding much online these days, or still spending a lot of time in record shops?
I’m very much attached to the record stores. It’s how I started and how I continue. Truth is, I’ve never bought a record on discogs. I’m not against it. In fact, it is an amazing resource that I use all the time. It’s just not my shop. I like to hold it, smell it before I buy. Digging has always been about the thrill of the hunt. And the surprises waiting out there in the wild. There are so many records I want, that I could buy in an instant online, but it just wouldn’t be as much fun. Now, I say this as someone who lives near a lot of record stores. So I’m speaking from a place of privilege. But I can say, finding a record that I’ve been looking for for over ten years is such a great feeling. I almost yelped when I found Esther Phillips’ version of home is where the hatred is. Would I have yelped when it arrived at my house? Maybe … But for sure it wouldn’t have been as much fun.
So I love using discogs as a research tool. But I’ll never stop digging. Plus I’m a black crack addict. That’s what we call the wax at my house, black crack. And shopping online would ruin me. Truth be told, I’m just afraid to start. I’d need a new room in my house just for all the empty shipping boxes.
“I’ve never bought a record on discogs…Digging has always been about the thrill of the hunt.”
You have lived in Berlin for quite a while now. What is it about the city that keeps you there?
The pace of life. My friends. The record shops. And elterngeld.
It’s fair to say you’ve had quite an itinerant release schedule throughout your career. What is it that excites you about releasing on many different labels? Who have you found the most enjoyable to work with?
You know this is actually a tough question. I like working with my friends. There’s something peaceful about trusting and sharing with your peeps. Who’s been the most enjoyable? I think I’ll refer back to what are my favourite places to play answer on this. They’ve all been rewarding for different reasons. And I’m just thankful that so many people have believed enough in my music to want to release it. What a blessing.
It’s been four years since “Caregiver”. What have you been up to in the interim and why did it feel right to put out “De La Planet” now?
I’ve been busy trying to learn more about music and instruments and all the machines that help with recordings. That and drinking beer to reward myself for working so hard. There was something about this collection of music that made sense for an album. And my output seems to work in waves . One year it’s all remixes. The next it’s all eps. One season is all collaboration. So, this time is album time. Great!
The artwork for the album is intriguing. Can you tell us about that?
My friend Dave 3eige has designed all the Maybe Tomorrow art. He’s one of those super talented guys who seemingly can do anything well and make it look effortless. I’ve never seen him skate, but I’ll bet all my money he’s stupid good at it. We’re old pals so this is yet another example of me liking working with friends. He’s been privy to so much of my music, all the blunders and failures and the minor successes. And he’s always been an invaluable critic, which is priceless. So he really understands my process, my long term goals and I think this translates really nicely into the art.
It’s as crazy as my music. Digital and analogue. Drawing and picture. And not easy. It would be so simple to put a pair of tits on the cover. Just like I could put a naked lady in my music, but that’s not what I’m about, and the hardest part, Dave finds the humour (again, not everyone appreciates a Mole joke) and somehow makes it so you can see something new every time. I love it.
People often talk about how albums should be a journey or take on a more panoramic view of an artist’s work, and I’d say this new collection, much like your previous records, contains music for all scenarios. Does that resonate with your creation process? What was the process when putting this new record together?
My process is pretty much the same when it comes to making music. I head into the studio, and try to lose myself in the music. This record was mostly recorded in the same two to three weeks, which I hope ties it all together. Albums are a lot to ask of people in terms of time. A journey, or a panoramic? I’m not so sure. Some kind of snapshot seems more appropriate to me. I’m thinking about listening to one of Miles Davis’ albums for example. His career covered a lot of ground, conceptually and stylistically. And each one is more of a snapshot of that moment in his life. At least that’s my fanboy point of view.
“There’s two of me as well. The Mole. And Colin…The Mole never even heard of Led Zeppelin until Colin came around.”
So maybe the question is really – is this a snapshot of my life right now? Well now it sounds like last year to me, but that’s just being silly. Yeah I think it is. I know when I listen back to it, years from now, it will remind me of the studio in its current state. My living room today. The smell of my dog, and the feel of my couch. How out of tune my piano has become. And some of the lesser highlights as well. But these personal things aren’t really what most listeners will enjoy. Remember the short story Borges and I? There’s two of me as well. The Mole. And Colin. What Colin hears and likes is what future Mole will like. Colin’s always a little ahead of The Mole. A big brother perhaps. He certainly showed him all the good music. The Mole never even heard of Led Zeppelin until Colin came around.
The press release describes it as “quintessential Mole” and there is certainly a lot of the sonic collage aspects that have flavored much of your work. Where do you think this influence comes from?
I’m not sure. I think I stumbled into it via a lack of real skill or training. My education in music is community based. I learned everything I know from my friends. And somehow I fell into collage. I love all the references and double entendres. The name The Mole is a perfect example. So many meanings. Is he a spicy chocolate sauce? Or a hairy freckle?
Samples from films also play a prominent role in the new record. Where do you tend to search these out? What are you watching at the moment?
I pull samples anytime I can. Field recordings as well. There’s some birdsong in the album that I recorded during an especially quiet morning at Rainbow Disco Club’s festival. I tend to watch a lot of cartoons if I’m honest. I’m a big fan of Adventure Time. Which makes for fun conversations with my friends’ kids. There’s even a few sample of Jake’s real dad in there.
How will the material from the new record materialise in the live setting over the coming months?
Good question. There’s already a lot of the new material in my current live set. I’ve been testing it for months. In fact the arrangements for some songs were based on experiences from playing live. That’s how I knew I wanted a drum and bass (the instruments not the style of music) of going with the hat man for example. I only wish I could capture the magic that sometimes happens when people are all together. That most intoxicating brew of thrill and ritual. Magic and sex.
De La Planet is out now on Maybe Tomorrow.