Mark Corrin is a Liverpool born, Manchester based writer, producer & radio broadcaster. He currently presents a weekly radio show for Salford City Radio 94.4FM and is the bassist with popular Manchester based act Rose & The Diamond Hand as well as producing an impressive array of solo material. Mark took some time from his busy schedule to chat to us as part of our Introducing series. Read on and get to know the man himself.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. What’s the story behind Mark Corrin – the musician – and how would you describe your sound?
I stared experimenting with making my own music on an Amiga computer back when I was a teenager in the 90s. I was also learning acoustic guitar and writing weird little songs on that. A little while after that, I started collaborating with friends and we would write and record stacks of songs in a variety of styles (especially synth-pop) on 4 track cassettes.
My earlier musical influences came from stuff like The Cure and Bomb The Bass, having grown up in the 80s. A bit later on it became more international music like Serge Gainsbourg and Pizzicato Five that interested me. Also everything I heard on the John Peel Show. That really opened my ears, I’d tune in for a grunge band or electronica act or whatever, and come away with a newfound love of calypso, dub reggae, ambient, noise, experimental stuff, etc. I was always really into making pretty eclectic compilation tapes!
The “Shirokuma” project (the name under which my first music was released), started in the year 2000 or thereabouts. That name (meaning Polar Bear) was related to the increasing influence of Japanese music on the kind of thing I was doing at that point. Cornelius was very inspirational especially. I was fortunate enough to visit Tokyo for the first time around then and I was also collaborating on some songs with Japanese friends as well.
John Peel started playing my demos on his BBC show quite a bit around this point. This meant a lot to me, having grown up listening to the show. A while after this I moved to Manchester from my home town of Ormskirk, near Liverpool. I sent out demos to various labels at this point. A label called Faith & Hope Records put out the debut Shirokuma album and single around 2004, and I also did a download EP thing with Twisted Nerve Records around then. There was also a live radio session on Nick Luscombe’s show and my debut single “Moonlight In The Afternoon” was remixed by Max Tundra and Andy Votel.
After that I started working with Valentine Records. I think I have put out 7 albums in total so far (I’m never quite sure, just counting them now for the record!). “Secret Moves At The Midnight Chess Club” (2004 in the pre-Valentine era), “Penguin Map Mijinko – Adventure Island” (2007), an early years compilation called “Lobster Rock Emporium” (2008). Then there was a mini album just called “Shirokuma” (2010), then “Abandonware” (2012), “Ojos De Gato” in 2014 (all those LPs were released as Shirokuma apart from the second one) and “Archipelago Quest” in 2016 under my own name. I’ve also put out loads of EPs and collaborations and side projects besides.
An enjoyable thing about being involved with Valentine Records has always been the live events side of things, of which there have been many highlights. A big one for us all was performing in an improvised band along with CAN’s legendary frontman Damo Suzuki in 2012. It was so great to hang out with him and work with him.
I am also fortunate enough to collaborate regularly with many talented friends who inspire me with their own wonderful music. This includes artists like the Greek electropop singer Ria Mazini, Paul Millsopp of Reigns Of Monty Carlo, an incredible vocalist called Luna, the multi-talented Caro C who also organises the Delia Derbyshire Day, and of course David Fox of Valentine Records as well as many more. I have also collaborated on lots of other different projects along the way too, everything from experimental pop like “Octobuse” with Mita Lupa to a metal project with “Chalice”
I also played guitar for a while in Poppycock, the band of Una Baines (formerly of The Fall / Blue Orchids / Nico’s band), and then I joined the quite gothic/downtempo band Rose & The Diamond Hand, who I currently play bass for too. They are so much fun to play with and a very talented bunch, with Rose on vocals, Leonie on drums, Bob from Ten Mouth Electron on keyboards and some wonderfully surreal live dance work from the Gwen Osmond who also makes her own really exciting music as both Trianglecuts and Saboteur. We just put out our debut EP “Universe Is Woman” on German Shepherd Records recently too.
In addition to this I also present my own weekly radio show on Salford City Radio 94.4 FM. It’s a diverse broadcast and I try and play and support as many of my favourite upcoming acts from the local and international scenes as I can. The other week I also had a new track of mine played on BBC 3’s Late Junction show too, which was lovely to hear as it’s a big favourite to tune in to.
In terms of how I would describe my own sound…well, it can vary a lot. I am often fusing ideas from quite disparate sources just out of curiosity until something strikes me as interesting and unusual. There are certain motifs that tend to recur of course, though. It had tended to be mainly more downtempo of late, but the new album is returning to a more up-tempo electronic sound too. I love psychedelic, folk and ambient music, so there are often those influences, also lots of international and experimental music. There are also bubbling electronics and sometimes it becomes poppy, punky or danceable. It’s about half and half instrumental and vocal these days. Good track titles are always important as well and strong melodies of course. I love collaborating too, so I get really inspired sharing vocals or collaborating musically with other artists, so that interplay can be quite a feature of the sound.
What motivates you to create music and inspires it, your aesthetic and vibe?
Well, lots of things inspire me. Travel is one thing, collaboration is another thing, I love working with people whose work I connect with. The sheer fun of experimentation is another, it’s great just playing around with sounds for the hell of it. I write constantly too, I must have turned out maybe five or six finished song lyrics a week for about two decades. Half of the time I don’t even have time to record them, but it’s just an enjoyable exercise anyway. There is always a lot to write about and I’m a great believer in making your own entertainment!
I use cut up experimental techniques quite often too, both whilst lyric writing and composing. Absolutely anything can be an inspiration for a track too, from an obscure myth or legend, a person, a city, a vegetable to the old biggies like love and politics. Seasons and colours very much too. I still can’t help but compose in terms of colour too, like “that bass is very blue”, “those strings need to be paler pink”, etc.
Aesthetically, well there are lots of things I really like the sound of that contributes. I am fond of found sounds and field recordings, vintage synths, the female voice, harpsichord, flutes, pure bass tones, nonstandard / industrial percussion, acoustic guitars, interesting scales etc. I like unusual tempos and time signatures too, Moondog is another big favourite of mine. Vibe wise, it varies, often it’s warm and playful, sometimes it’s moody and bleak, sometimes it’s mixed up. It’s enjoyable to sing a sad song with a sweet melody or a sweet song with a sad melody. The most fun thing is the process of creation itself, that’s always the main motivation really.
You mainly work and record as a solo artist but also work with others in bands and in collaborations. How does your creative process differ between your solo and collaborative work?
There are just so many ways to work on something, so it is quite different depending on who and where and what kind of music it is. Often these days it is a case of ping-ponging stuff via dropbox, one person adds one thing, the other adds another thing. I find that quite a productive and convenient way of collaborating as it can be done at each person’s own speed and convenience. What you do miss then though is the fun human element. Of course it is much nicer, if it is geographically possible, to hang out in person and collaborate in a social, relaxed, spontaneous kind of way. When working like that, I don’t think perfectionism matters in the slightest. You can fix nearly anything in post-production, so you can just enjoy yourself and do some fun takes.
If it’s just me working on an entirely solo track, generally I would just do it all myself at home or wherever in a couple of hours. Very straightforward and it’s always fun, but it’s a bit hermetic of course. It’s always nicer to have someone else to spark off. I do prefer doing mixing and all the boring “washing up” parts like editing takes, EQ-ing, mastering as required, etc when alone. It can get tedious or annoying for others if you are sat listening to the same 3 second loop of a track on headphones for half an hour trying to edit or fix something! If I am collaborating with a band, again, it varies on what I am doing. I am perfectly happy to just shut up and play what I am given to play, its great being a cog in a machine that is making this wonderful sound. Also it’s sharpening different skills to songwriting and production, and very much in real time.
You used to perform under the name Shirokuma, was there something in particular that prompted you to hang up that moniker and start working under your own name?
Well, it was a number of things, I mainly just felt like a change. Also, I was doing my radio show by then and was probably getting more known for that, and my own name is usually a bit easier for non-Japanese speakers to pronounce. If you google it Shirokuma seems more associated with a popular anime called Shirokuma Cafe these days in any case ! Plus some unimaginative band who couldn’t be bothered looking to see if the name was currently musically in use had decided to nick it for their project name too. I wasn’t very impressed, but there isn’t actually much you can do about it, and there will always be a lot of duplicate band names floating around the world these days. So I just let it go, and in any case, I had been feeling it was time to start afresh anyway. I am happy I did so, Valentine Records are actually re-issuing some of the later Shirokuma LPs under my own name just for consistency really , but I love the Shirokuma era and I feel very fondly towards it.
You have released a lot of music over the last year via your label, Valentine Records including a massive 12 EP series over the space of a year – how did you manage to cram so much music into that time?
Haha..probably by not sleeping enough ! But I work quickly anyway and once the project was underway I was really enjoying the challenge and I think it produced some of my best work and some great collaborations. As usual you will always have to juggle your creative work around your many other life and work commitments. So, it is important to attempt use your music making time economically and to realise when something is finished. Whilst I want things to sound good, I am not generally fond of over-production and spending too long on things, and I simply don’t have the free time even if I wanted to ! If I had a month off I’d probably make a triple album, so it’s perhaps a good thing that never seems to happen….
Finally, what does the future have in store for Mark Corrin – gigs, releases, new ventures?
Lots coming up as usual! Firstly I am very proud to announce my new single, which is collaboration with my friend Ria Mazini. I have been a fan of her excellent music for years, she released many classic songs with her former band Mikro on the Greek electronic pop scene and also recorded a great collaboration with the ambient artist Miktek. This new collaboration of ours is a very dancable and catchy electropop song which will be out very soon on Valentine Records. It also features some gorgeous remixes from AnalogueTrash artist Vieon and Valentine’s David Fox.
Talking of AnalogueTrash and Valentine Records, I am very excited to be performing at the Foundations festival at the Kings Arms in Salford on the 25th and 26th November. So many amazing acts are playing from both labels, I am looking forward to seeing sets from Vieon, Babyslave, Factory Acts, Syd.31, Reigns Of Monty Carlo, Dead.Pixel, St Lucifer and many more. Plus some incredible special guests like Japan’s Psydoll and Interference with Lone Taxidermist and John Doran from The Quietus. Promises to be an excellent weekend!
Also I am working on some other musical collaborations, including a new song with the ace new German artist Rubberdollies, plus some exciting new collaborations with old friends Caro C. Paul Millsopp and Luna.
I have also been asked to write an article on the modern Istanbul alternative music scene for the great music writer Mick Middles’ new website, which I am working on, interviewing some gothic, electropop and black metal artists. It will be fun to get back into writing some music journalism.
In addition there are regular gigs planned that I am performing with Rose & The Diamond Hand, including a gothic Christmas party show at Gullivers in December, which should be a good night!