Welcome to the latest Jupiter Room Transmissions and this time I am delighted to welcome Mark Peters who has compiled a mesmerising ambient mix and answered some questions for The Jupiter Room. As a long-time fan of his music, it’s such a thrill and honour to be able to feature Mark.
Mark Peters is a purveyor of emotional and hypnotic ambience. He weaves textured seascapes of dreamy electronics and delicate guitar riffs that lull the listener with their airy sonics and calming melodic waves. Infusing his music with a tangible emotional integrity, Mark excels at seemingly harnessing the ambient streams existing in the very air around him, plucking, mining and syphoning the eddying sounds and melodies from the ether, channelling them into a beautiful, cohesive whole. This instinct for building emotional waves of sound is abundant and Mark expertly forms and shapes these materials in the same way a sculptor will use raw materials to create an effigy.
Mark co-founded shoegaze band Engineers in 2003 and quickly established a loyal following of fans eager to bathe in the dreamy haze of guitars and effusive electronics. Drawing inspiration from various sources including Pink Floyd, The Beach Boys, Cocteau Twins, and Slowdive, Engineers‘ sound embraced pop and new age rather than rock, curving their sound and lending an airy, ethereal quality, perfectly encapsulated in 2020’s lush Pictobug. Mark has taken this philosophy with him into collaborations with Ulrich Schnauss, Elliot Ireland and dreamwave outfit Salt Rush. His signature is abundant on all releases and they shimmer with his transcendental soundscapes.
There is genuine alchemy at work through all of Mark’s compositions, evident in his solo work, notably the wistful, ambient Innerland released on the Sonic Cathedral imprint. Throughout Innerland, sound is treated with such emotional delicacy the listening experience is often breath-taking, transforming the listener’s surroundings into a symphonic synaesthesia. Mark shrouds his music with a subtle, warm, and hazy cloak of ambience, allowing it to settle like fine dust on ancient shelves.
So, there is currently considerable excitement and anticipation for Ulrich Schnauss and Mark Peters‘ latest release, a four track EP carved from the pair’s 2021 album Destiny Waiving, out Friday 25th February on Bureau B records. Four tracks have been reworked with live drums provided by VON SPAR drummer Philipp Janzen, and new dimensions have been opened. Tracks “Hindsight is 2020”, “Circular Time”, “Words Can Be Dismissed” and “Speak In Capitals” have become more organic, allowing the verdant, ambient textures to stretch gracefully across all four tracks.
Mark has been prolific over the last twenty years, releasing albums with his band Engineers, in collaborations and as a solo artist. A quick journey through key releases shows a musician on a beautiful career arc, honing his art and operating at the very top of his game.
Three Fact Fader (2009)
For me this is Engineers‘ finest moment, this is where dream pop and shoegaze fall into each other in beautiful and amorphous cascades. There isn’t a miss-step on this album, right from the opener “Clean Coloured Wire” we all know where this journey is going. Huge melodies swell and crash over storm barriers as each track gushes into the other. Ethereal vocals and hazy textures combine intuitively on tracks such as “International Dirge”, “Hang Your Head” and the title track “Three Fact Fader”. It’s a stunning collection of epic hypnotic swirlers and still sends chills.
Joining forces, once again, with Engineers co-pilot Dan Macbean. What started out as ambient improvisations in a Wigan rehearsal room became a lush 4 track album of mini epics. Mark’s dalliances in guitar-focused ambient realms are evident and ensure each track is a beautiful, liminal journey of discovery and hope. It seems everything is washed in a luminous melodic coat of multiple layers. Sounds cascade through deep textural atmospheres that cause an almost overwhelming flood of emotions. There are moments of pure blissed out beauty. Pictobug is an inventive, fascinating aural experience, as rich and detailed as anything by Vangelis and as subtle and delicate as one of Eno’s 1970’s ambient masterpieces.
Underrrated Silence (2012)
This was the first album that moved Mark’s sound closer to the electronic bliss of Ulrich Schnauss by, well, collaborating with Ulrich! And what a collaboration it is, containing everything that we love about Mark and Ulrich’s sound; dreamy melodies, bubbling sequencers, vibrant, warm textures and shifting tones. The blueprint had been set when Ulrich joined Engineers in 2009 adding his dreamwave electronics. Tomorrow is Another Day followed in 2013 and furthered the concept of atmospheric and cinematic audio vistas.
Salt Rush (2016)
Here Mark Peters teamed up with composer/producer and Engineers drummer Matthew Linley and vocalist Maud Waret and this project delivered exactly what we hoped. It is a blissful journey into dreamy, hazy and shimmery sonics. Maud’s vocals are gossamer-infused, floating on ethereal plains of washed guitars and warm synths. The melodies glitter like sparks of light cascading in a waterfall. It is an achingly beautiful and deeply immersive album.
Deep Blue (2015)
Mark Peters and Elliot Ireland (formerly of electronic duo Shaft) joined forces to craft a series of densely layered and atmospheric tracks on Deep Blue, a beautifully balanced and languidly paced collection of songs and instrumentals that sit somewhere between ambient, dream pop and indie rock. Melody is key and the hooks turn and tumble with each turn. It’s all too easy to surrender to the enveloping fogged-out haze of ambience. A collection of remixes was also released which took the dream aesthetic further offering something different, a new path through the dense and lush forest, a flickering weather pattern arcing to the horizon.
Innerland is Mark’s first solo album and we are invited on a trip through his North West of England homeland. Right from the off Innerland drifts gently into a diaphanous realm of pastoral ambience. Expansive, electronic soundscapes are underpinned by reverb-soaked guitar creating a meditative cosmic lull. Mark’s guitar is a poet’s quill throughout, spinning in and out of the electronic ambient realm, piercing the luminous mists with tiny, twinkling lights. It is a soundtrack of subtle guitars, sweetly padding drums, folding ambience and haunting, plaintive piano riffs.
Mark very kindly answered some questions for The Jupiter Room, giving us a fascinating insight into the man and his music.
Hello Mark, could you tell us a little about yourself?
I was born in Fazakerley, Liverpool in 1975. I grew up in Wigan and later lived in Manchester, London and York before returning to the area I grew up in 5 years ago.
My first professional musical engagement was in the band Engineers which began in 2003 and despite it not being a full time band anymore, still continues to some degree (a mini album, Pictobug came out in 2020). I’ve also made three albums with Ulrich Schnauss and in 2017 began a solo career with my debut ‘Innerland’, a period of intensive remixing and the first live shows I’d played in 7 years.
What is your earliest musical memory?
My early musical memories are focused on the floor below my parents record player. Over Christmas I relived them (I’m not alone I’m guessing) via The Let It Be album that I managed to make a complete mess of (I ripped the book apart too). Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Rumours’ was one I can remember being on constantly as well as my Mum’s early Beatles albums.
Something clicked when I heard my cousin’s Red and Blue Beatles compilations and I also remember a clear, Sony cassette being played a lot that had lots of early 80’s soul hits on it – the digital high end sounded really fresh to me and much different to my parents records. My own first record was Adam and The Ants : ‘ Prince Charming’
What did you grow up listening to?
First it was tons of pop, not any one thing really (the charts where much more varied in the 80’s so ‘pop’ was a much broader term than now I’d say) – Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis productions really appealed to me and the American records that are now known as Yacht Rock.
A guy at school played me some Pink Floyd when I was 15 which was a life changing moment as I started to learn to play guitar soon afterwards. R.E.M started me off on the indie music trail and I then started to listen to a lot of U.S underground bands and the psychedelic stuff that was coming out here in the early 90’s. That fed into my interest in guitar pedals so was very influential. Aged 16 I got hold of a cassette by a DJ called The Music Of The Spheres and that was year dot in many ways. A whole new world opened up instantaneously.
Where do you tend to draw your inspiration from, both musical and non-musical?
Music is where I get my inspiration from primarily. I can’t imagine listening to an album more than twice over even if it’s amazing. I’ve always got a voracious desire to find things I didn’t previously know to take me down new paths. New gear always has a good effect too. I pretty much come up with things I like every time I use a new piece of equipment…I feel fortunate, a lot of people get blasé or bored by my age. Art also has a great effect, in all it’s forms – I don’t feel that there’s any distinction between any of the arts and music included if I’m honest. Nature is also very important – even looking at trees or birds for a while has a meditative effect that can encourage me to try to come with a new idea.
How did your musical collaboration with Ulrich Schnauss come about?
I was given ‘A Strangely Isolated Place’ by my manager in 05’ (I only later found out that he’d had a meeting with our label where he discussed working with us) that we loved and influenced our second album ‘Three Fact Fader’ quite a bit. In 2008 I met Ulrich through my now label boss Nathaniel Cramp from Sonic Cathedral who asked me to DJ with him at a show he was promoting at the Brudenell Social Club in Leeds. We became friends, he joined the Engineers in 2009 and we began our collaborative work shortly afterwards.
Do you have a favourite time of day or night to write/record?
Late at night always used to be my favourite time to work but as time has gone on and I don’t respond as well to late nights, any time is fine. ‘Underrated Silence’ is so called as it was mostly written and recorded at night. We recorded two sets of long nocturnal jam sessions the first times we played together and pretty much wrote the album over two weekends. Something happens to your brain if you’re awake all night, almost like the energy you’d normally use to create dreams is employed in the ‘tangible’ world to some kind of practical effect (especially if you’re creating something non tangible)
Does your live setup differ to your studio setup and if so, how?
Yes, very much so. I work on a computer at home with a lot of software on it but primarily I’m a guitarist. I don’t have any enthusiasm for performing using a laptop and midi controllers, even though I enjoy watching others perform that way. My friend Dave Potter joined me for many of the gigs I played when ‘Innerland’ came out, running backing tracks off his laptop and subtly manipulating them. I’m working with a live rhythm section at the moment which is the first time I’ve played as part of a band for 11 years.
Do you compose quickly or do you spend hours tweaking and finessing your tunes?
Some things come quickly and some things take months. The more harmonically simple things that come from my comfort zone come really quickly – things that I can just play on guitar and I’ll just be happy with them straight away. Things I write on the piano roll (triggering synths etc) on the computer can go on for a while. I don’t view this as self indulgence or aimless meandering though, it happens because these tracks are more complex harmonically and require finessing to make them sound like they aren’t. I’ve always felt that this is where I’m self educating as a composer. I make a point of never learning what is happening musically but trusting that some innate development is happening that will benefit my music as time goes on. Mixing is another matter though – I’m only just starting to understand my rhythms concerning that process and how to make it less taxing – I use up a lot of energy up striving for the right sound.
Tell us about the mix you’ve done for The Jupiter Room.
I’ve wanted to compile this mix for a long time, so when Mike asked me I was over the moon. It’s mainly ambient electronica, the kind I play before I go to sleep or doing admin – tracks that have interesting moods but are relaxing or peaceful. As Ulrich and I have a release coming out via Bureau B on the 25th Of Feburary : ’ Destiny Waiving – Köln versionen ep’ (a collection of ‘self remixes’ featuring the drummer from Von Spar, Philipp Janzen), I thought I’d use the opportunity to premiere for one of the tracks : ‘Words Can Be Dismissed (Talking Snare Version).
What are you listening to at the moment? Who should we be checking out?
I don’t listen to a lot of brand new music and never have but I like a lot of the releases that have come out on the Azure Vista label lately – the label has a strong aesthetic that I really like. My label Sonic Cathedral also has some really nice albums coming out this year although I can’t say who by – electronica fans will be very happy about one of them though. The new Billow Observatory album called ‘Stareside’ on the Felte label is excellent (I’ve included a track on my mix, ‘Red Morning’) – I’d definitely recommend that.
What are you currently reading?
Prompted by The Beatles zeitgeist over Christmas I finally started The George Harrison ‘autobiography’ ‘I, Me, Mine’ which actually is more of a lyric book, the biog section only taking up a fifth of the whole book. I greatly relate to George – he was a savvy guy who didn’t tolerate authority figures and was constantly searching for a higher state of being that might transcend daily concerns. It prompted me to start listening to some Indian classical music, one of which, ‘Hypnotic Santoor’ by Pandit Shivkumar Sharma really stood out – if you want to shut out the noise of the digital world, stick that on and turn off your monitor. Robert Wyatt’s biography ‘Different Every Time’ was the last book I read – I really enjoyed that and found his story (particularly his activism) very inspiring.
Describe your music in three words.
Questing. Questioning. Quixotic
What’s your favourite sound?
Pedal Steel Guitar.
If you could make music history, how would you do it?
Single handedly overthrow our government (and all of the world’s fascist rulers /racists / exploitative corporations) with an unspeakably massive guitar chord that’s so loud and sonically meaningful that it’s somehow heard globally and human existence is unfathomably changed forever (for the better). Sorry, that’s a bit silly I know but I thought I’d aim high 😉
Finally, what’s next you? Where can you see your sound developing? When are you playing live next? Any new releases in the works? Any collaborations or remixes in the pipeline?
Although I’d rather not say too much at this stage, my sound has developed into a very interesting and unexpected realm and hopefully my 2nd solo album will be released later this year via Sonic Cathedral. It features a couple of guests who without doubt are the best in their respective fields – it’s been an absolute pleasure and honour to work with them and in my opinion, the results are are excellent. As I said earlier, I’m preparing a live show at the moment and expect to start playing live when I feel it’s ready.
Thank you Mark.
Destiny Waiving Dinked Edition EP is out Friday 25th February on Bureau B records.