Her Space Holiday
The Final Countdown
by Dorian S. Ham

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 15 years since Her Space Holiday, the one-man as band known to his friends as Marc Bianchi, unintentionally became the Godfather of indietronic. At the time (the early ’00s), it was a revolutionary move to combine the DIY sensibility of indie rock and hardcore with electronic music as the medium instead of guitars. So while Bianchi may have been using the same four-track recorders as his contemporaries, what he plugged in was vastly different. He also became an in-demand remixer and tackled tracks by everyone from Xiu Xiu to REM. But all things must come to an end and Bianchi has announced that his latest release, his recently released self-titled album, would be the last Her Space Holiday record. On the eve of that album’s release he took some time to field some questions.

You’ve declared that this will be the last Her Space Holiday record. What were the reasons for the decision and did you know going into the recording sessions that this was the last one?

Marc Bianchi: I knew that it would happen eventually, I just didn’t know when. I was in Japan about a year and a half ago playing a show and as soon as I stepped on stage it hit me: I need to start winding this project down. I have said everything that I needed to say. I first started piecing the album together a good two and half years ago. At that point, I didn’t think that it was going to be the last album. But after I moved to Texas and started tracking and mixing at Sundayhouse Studio, I knew it would be the final album. So, it was evident midway through. I think knowing this fact made me push myself a lot harder in the home stretch.

Is the name of your new label, No More Good Ideas, a tongue-in-cheek play on those reasons?

MB: Actually, No More Good Ideas is the exact opposite of how it sounds. When I was in Japan a few years back, my friend Heisuke (Kitazawa, an illustrator who works under the name PCP) and I were meeting with my label manager about putting out a picture book we did together called The Telescope. We had all of these elaborate ideas for packaging. Every time we brought something up to the label manager, we started off by saying, “I have a good idea.” Of course, every “good idea” raises the cost of manufacturing, so after a while he said “no more good ideas.” We both got a big kick out of that. It kind of became a creative mantra for us.

Why did you decide to self-release this record?

MB: I wanted to have control both on a business and creative level for the last one. I have been fortunate to work with some great labels over the years, but I knew this album would be low key enough where I could handle releasing it myself. It was a way for me to end things solely on my own terms.

Her Space Holiday continues on the live instrument path set on XOXO, Panda and the New Kid Revival. Was that record the point of no return for what Her Space Holiday would be?

MB: Yes, I think so. There are still a lot of electronic elements on this album, so it is definitely closer to the older records than XOXO, Panda was, but I guess from a songwriting aspect, it is hard to go back to editing samples and arranging things with a mouse after you get into playing instruments again. I do miss electronic music, and I am fairly confident that I will make some purely electronic songs in the near future.

Was that a weird transition going from electronic music to live instrumentation? What type of problems did you run into changing your approach?

MB: It wasn’t weird for me at all. It was a lot more fun and freeing. I think it was difficult for people who enjoyed the earlier albums, and live shows could be really tedious. You would definitely have some folks sitting through the newer songs to wait for the older ones to begin. With these final shows, I am going to be focusing mainly on older material from The Young Machines, The Past Presents the Future and Manic Expressive. I want to be able to play those songs one more time before I hang it up.

I read that on XOXO it was still a solo affair, but on this record you have guests helping out. Did that make things a little easier or more fun to have someone to bounce ideas off of?

MB: It was really great working with my friends. Some offered vocal harmonies, others arranged their parts. It was nice recording with Eyad again. We haven’t been in a proper studio together since Indian Summer (the post-hardcore band in which Bianchi played guitar in the early ’90s). It was also great working with my friend and the record’s coproducer Stephen Ceresia. He really provided an open environment for me to experiment. I got the benefits of working in a professional studio without worrying about the budget blowing up as the clock ticked away.

How would you compare this record to other Her Space Holiday records?

HS: I feel like this album is really peaceful. I can definitely hear the change I have gone through in my life on this record. Even though some of the songs have incredibly dark subject matter, I am much more relaxed and not as angsty. That may not be everyone’s cup of tea—and I totally get that—but I just wanted to be true to how I am feeling now.

Are you planning on touring for this record? And if so, are you going to make it a full band experience or a hybrid between the two phases of HSH?

MB: I will be playing some dates, I believe, but no full band on this one, partially because of economics, but partially because I want to do it as an electronic set. I want to play the older songs with their original arrangements. I may play one or two songs off of the new record and XOXO, Panda, but I am not looking at these shows as promoting the album. I am looking at these shows as a chance to play all of my favorite songs from the past 15 years.

What was the very first HSH tour like?

MB: It was really really rough. It was me and my then girlfriend, Keely, touring around in her Honda Civic playing to crowds who weren’t interested at all. The first couple of years of touring were definitely a tough learning experience. I don’t think they were really enjoyable at all, just necessary. I don’t play in front of big crowds at all now, but the people who come generally seem to be excited to hear certain songs. That makes it a lot of fun.

What do you imagine your recording future to be and how do you see it being different than HSH?

MB: I want to be doing a lot more film scoring and production. I got a chance to record my friend Hanni El Khatib’s album, Will the Guns Come Out, a couple years back, and I really enjoyed the experience. I would like to record more records for other people. I love making music and creating, it just isn’t the all-consuming thing it was for me in the past. I am trying to live a really balanced life and spend time with my friends and loved ones as much as I can.

To switch gears and talk about remixes for a moment, how do you decide who/what to remix? Is it just a case of people contacting you and requesting a remix or does it come about in a flash of inspiration?

MB: Most of the remixes I have done in the past were for friends of mine. A lot of times, they were done as a trade. There were a couple of instances (REM, Elastica, Kool Keith) where I was approached by either the artist or their management. The remix game is really different right now because technology is so advanced that you don’t need to get the individual parts from the artist directly. You can chop things or find acapellas all on your own. It is pretty amazing how inventive young producers are these days.

What’s your process when remixing a song?

MB: I rarely use the instruments from the sessions. I like to start with just the vocals. It is really interesting to listen to acapellas outside of the normal song environment. You definitely get a whole new emotion from someone’s voice when you hear it by itself. Then I usually start with building a simple beat just to make sure everything is on point timing wise and then I will move on to the bassline and go from there. Before you know it, you have a completely new track. It is a lot of fun rebuilding someone else’s song.

Looking back at the past 15 years of Her Space Holiday, what is your proudest moment and how would you sum up Her Space Holiday?

MB: I don’t think there is one proudest moment that stands out for me. However, the thing that has meant the most to me are some of the responses I have gotten from people through the years. When someone takes the time to write to you and tell you that your songs have helped them get through a tremendously hard point in their life, you truly feel grateful. You feel like all of the things you went through in your own life were worth it. It makes you feel connected to a stranger in a way.

I feel like Her Space Holiday was just one person’s story of growing up. There were a lot of mistakes I have made in my personal life. There were also a lot of courageous and caring moments as well. And each one is in the music. I am just glad that this all has a happy ending.