Raised adjacent to Detroit in Windsor, Ontario, Marc Houle grew up fascinated by the embryonic blips and bleeps of '80s electronic music and video games. With his appetite further whetted by the emerging techno scene across the Detroit River, Houle became besotted with early synths and drum machine technology.
In '97, Richie Hawtin signed Houle to his M-Nus label, found him a home in Berlin and furnished him with gigs and a platform to thrive. You won't, however, find Houle delivering a DJ set any time soon, instead preferring to draw from his own remix catalogue and six albums' worth of material, including his latest, Cola Party, released on his own label, Items & Things.
Future Music magazine caught up with him to talk tech...
NEXT: Custom controller
Livid Instruments custom controller
“I have this controller that I had made from this company called Livid. I designed something on Photoshop, gave it to them and they were able to make a real controller for me based on that Photoshop design.
“I used to have this little Monome 64 thing, but that was a pain in the ass to program, and I also had this other controller that would break all the time. Finally, I got fed up and thought, 'Why not have one big controller made for me that incorporates all these different elements that I can bring to my shows?' I was lucky - they made a couple of them for free. They were actually prototypes that eventually led to the CNTRL:R that got released to the public - a smaller, scaled-down version.”
NEXT: Apple Mac
“I was always a PC guy, but once I was playing at DC 10 in Ibiza with my Toshiba laptop and I got a blue screen… I was on stage and everyone’s just staring at me: blue screen, blue screen!
"I was like, ‘Fuck this’, so I bought a Mac, and ever since then, it’s been really good to me. I switched when Windows '98 was becoming obsolete."
Solid State XLogic X-Desk
“I have a little Solid State XLogic from England, and I run the tracks through there, just to give it a different feel. It’s more fun when you’re mixing to nudge stuff up with your finger, instead of clicking and dragging. It might be psychosomatic, but it sounds warmer to me.”
NEXT: Genelec monitors
“Genelec seems to fit my ears and the frequencies I can hear, but for someone else, who maybe doesn’t have tinnitus, they would prefer Dynaudio or something like that.
“[Speaker selection] is so subjective that the only way to do it is to take some music that you really know and go to a music store and play it through all the different speakers. The ones that sound true are the ones that match your ears; then you take them home and see if the sound changes in your studio.”
NEXT: Steinberg Cubase
“When I was younger, I downloaded Cubase and was using that to record and sequence, and I just kept up with that because I know it so well. Cubase is the fastest way I can get my ideas down.”
NEXT: Eventide H9
“My favourite thing to do is run vocals through a multi-effects unit and just try things out to see what inspires me.”
NEXT: Hardware synths
“Over the last 20 years I’ve slowly been amassing synths, like the Korg Mono/Poly, Roland Juno-60, Sequential Circuits Pro One and Prophets, and for drums the LinnDrum, Roland TR-808 and 606. The sounds that I was in love with then are still the sounds that I love today. I don’t have the most expensive gear, but these have the most personality for me.
“I love playing every one of them because they’re all so different and I know them all so well. If I’m making a track and I need a melody, I know exactly what synth I’m going to use because that song has a space for certain frequencies.
“If there was one monster synth or VST that could do every one of those sounds, it probably wouldn’t be as exciting for me. Digital synths are catching up - they’ve probably caught up by now - but it’s the companionship I’ve invested over the last 20 years that makes these guys my friends. I’m kind of weird!”