Wyrd Question Daze: Philippe Gerber and Mark Harris
Where did you come from and where are you going?
Mark: I was born in Birmingham UK – even as a kid I was fascinated by experimental / electronic music – as a teen at school in the late 70’s and art college in the early 80’s my buddies were all listening to chart music, or Led Zeppelin et al. whilst I was listening to Stockhausen, Brian Eno, Free Jazz, Krautrock and Motorik. I would spend hours recording radio static and speeding it up slowing it down on reel to real tape recorders and messing about with oscillators experimenting with sound – I guess what I’m doing now is just an extension of what I was doing all those years ago.
As for where I’m going? Never had a clue where I’m going, I just follow anything that I get the ‘hmmmm that’s interesting’ vibe from and go with that.
Philippe: I was born in France, but I have German roots from my father’s side and Asian/African ones from my mother. (she is from La Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean.) I think my love of music/sounds was born from being raised as a CODA child. I started listening to stuff like Depeche Mode, Prince, The Cure from an early age, as well as heavier stuff like Motorhead, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, etc. I started playing guitar from an early age and I never stopped since. I’ll be into music until the day I die! I want to keep pushing the boundaries of my music and I’m hoping to play more live shows in the near future.
What preoccupies your mind these days?
Mark: As I’m your average Anarcho-Communist leftist, the appalling state of the world at the moment. Apart from that I’m fascinated by the creative possibilities of new technology, AI in particular – the human interaction with these technologies could potentially open up whole new vistas of creativity to explore.
Under lockdown I’ve started experimenting more with MIDI programming using multiple chains of probability gates to create endless generative music I’ve put some examples up on my SoundCloud site particularly the ‘Staring at the Sun‘ series – https://soundcloud.com/mark-harris
Philippe: I’m becoming a real misanthrope – it doesn’t worry me too much to become one. It just shows how I’m feeling less and less in touch with humanity. I think it’s happening to more people since COVID. Being a long-term nihilist, I’d say I’m heading into the right direction haha. The only thing that could preoccupy me is to not be able to be creative on a daily basis. I need to play and record music all the time, it’s the only thing I really want to do in his world.
Name a favourite taste, touch, sound, sight and smell
Mark: Taste – this is a weird one… ‘Bloaters’ which is a dry smoked herring which used to be common along the Norfolk coast (the East Of the UK) where I spent a lot of time as a kid – almost impossible to track down these days but the taste sends me right back
Touch – Snow / Sound – Sea / Sight – As a kid I would set for hours watching clouds develop and change / Smell – Fresh ground coffee.
Philippe: Favourite taste: hot pepper sauce. I love the way it gets my mouth on fire. I’m addicted to the taste to be honest.
Favourite touch: my wife’s hair and skin.
Favourite sound: the sound of nature. Birds, ocean waves, anything humans don’t produce. Which is weird, since I’m a music lover generated by humans. It’s a real paradox.
Favourite sight: the ocean and the sky blending together.
Favourite smell: coffee!
Describe one of your most vivid dreams or nightmares
Mark: I’m blessed as I can often lucid dream – so I’ve had many times where I can wander about in a dream walking into landscapes or exploring dream buildings and interacting with what I find there. But I guess the most memorable on was I was on a beach and these massive Lovecraftian Cthulhu like creatures came out the sea – As I walked up, I saw they were made of pots / pans and various cooking utensils – Anyone who can offer an analysis of that is welcome to it.
Philippe: a dream where I’m floating and falling at the same time, some kind of out-of-body experience. I try to scream, but no sound is coming from my mouth, I’m kind of lost, struggling to get back into my body. But at the same time all these dead people under me are trying to devour me. I had this dream when I was kid, and it still haunts me. Like some kind of after death experience. Some kind of visions of the hereafter.
Have you ever had an uncanny experience?
Mark: Oh boy… can of worms there! my family particularly on my Mother’s side of the family were heavily into hard core spiritualism … My grandmother and grandfather used to sight in a ‘rescue circle’ where they would help earthbound spirits into ‘the higher realms’ she told me of heavy Oak tables lifting off the floor and flying across the room smashing into the wall – my Dad and Step Mother swear blind they saw a spirit materialise right in front of them at a seance (“just like Star Trek” as my dad put it).
Personally, the strangest thing I saw was a walk past the old cottage I used to live in and they had demolished it and workmen were rebuilding it – what was strange was that they didn’t have any modern machinery and the dress looked out of place… Not thinking anything of it, I was coming back 1/2 hour later and the cottage was there completely normal- maybe I experienced some kind of time slip or something.
Plus, I was extremely ill a few years ago and spent two weeks in intensive care and three months in hospital – I spent a whole month solid hallucinating.
Philippe: I have had visions for as long as I can remember. It’s related to a part of my brain that is over-stimulated sometimes. The first one I can recall was at 6-years old. I screamed in my bed asking my sisters to remove the cross that was on the wall above my bed. I could see Jesus going down the cross and coming right at me. I think there is a reason I chose the JOHN 3:16 moniker for my project. I have learned to live with these visions, they can be really inspiring.
How does your sense of place affect the way you express yourself?
Mark: A formative experience when I was a kid in Norfolk… the area we stayed around was called ‘The Wash’ where the sea would go out for miles and the salt marsh would go inland for miles. That area of the UK is almost like Holland it’s extremely flat … All along the coast during WW2 they built small hills along the coastline with concrete bunkers looking out to sea so they could lookout for incoming invasion of the UK.
I remember as a kid sitting on top of one of these hills looking out to sea you could see the lights change on the water and mud flats – and see storms grow and fade miles out to sea and inland … I often think this has been a massive influence on my work particularly my ambient pieces, as I’m interested in very gradually change and development
Philippe: I lived in different countries and cities – Paris, London, Geneva, Philadelphia. The way I’m writing music has been directly connected to where I live. Philly can be a rough city and I think it really affected the song writing. ‘Tempus Edax Rerum’ – the second JOHN 3:16 album – has been written and produced here in Pennsylvania. It’s a cold, raw, dark album.
What has particularly touched or inspired you recently?
Mark: I recently rediscovered the drone work of Pauline Oliveros. The Album ‘Deep Listening’ is incredibly moving!
Also, Ellen Fullman’s work with the ‘Extreme Long String Instrument’ an instrument she developed:
The film ‘First and Last Men’ with score by Icelandic composer Johann Johannsson with text by the English communist philosopher / science fiction writer Olaf Stapledon.
I also was very moved by Laurie Anderson’s Animated Film / Album – “Heart of A Dog” when I heard the album, I was incredibly moved almost to tears…
Philippe: ‘The Requiem’ by the Hungarian-Austrian composer György Ligeti, Cliff Martinez’s score for ‘Too Old To Die Young’, as well as a couple of Japanese films such as ‘The Human Condition’ (Masaki Kobayashi), ‘The Sword of Doom’ (Kihachi Okamoto) and ‘When a Woman Ascend The Stairs’ (Mikio Naruse). I have been reading much more lately too, rediscovering some books from Hubert Selby Jr, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Paul Auster, etc.
Tell us a good story, anecdote or joke
Mark: I was recently thrown out of the local supermarket for allegedly throwing cheese at an old lady. I was doing my Saturday morning shop and picked up a large ball of cheese, then dropped it and in trying to catch it I fumbled it & it bounced off my hands right into the face of a rather posh elderly lady… I Immediately went to apologise but she looked at me with complete indignation and started shouting ‘you threw that at me! You threw that CHEESE AT ME!” It was so absurd I started laughing as I was trying to apologise…. this took it to a whole new level – she started shouting “YOU THREW THAT CHEESE AT ME AND YOU’RE LAUGHING AT ME!!! SECURITY SECURITY!!!!!” Eventually a store manager came and I was escorted off the property being told “We don’t want your sort here, you should know better at your age”.
Philippe: Back in 2007, I had the chance to record at the ‘Electrical Audio’ in Chicago owned by Steve Albini. I recorded the first and only ‘Heat From a DeadStar’ album there. It was produced by Rick Harte of ‘Ace of Hearts Records’ and Bob Weston of ‘Shellac’ (long time pal of Steve Albini) was the sound engineer. We spent a couple of weeks in Chicago, I was hanging with Bob Weston, checking his every move on the mix console, etc. We had pizza, hot dogs and other unhealthy food together. Then long after the recording, he got me a VIP pass to the ‘All Tomorrow’s Parties’ in London in 2008. I managed to hang out with the Shellac dudes, as well as OM and other cool bands. Good memories.
Mark Harris: Twitter – Instagram
Philippe Gerber: Twitter – Instagram