A Miner, the guitar-less solo venture from Mark With the Sea frontman Marc Oswin, has just released his debut album As Water Fills My Lungs. We sit down with Oswin as he lets us in on everything A Miner.
Hey thanks so much for chatting to Forte! First off can you introduce us to A Miner?
A Miner is a solo project that I’ve been working on for the past three and a bit years. It is electronic music, but not danceable, although I’m sure it would lend itself to some interesting interpretive dance.
Congratulations on the debut album, As Water Fills My Lungs, can you tell us a bit about the creation process?
Thank you. It was a new piece of sound equipment that kick started the creation process. I purchased a vocal harmoniser after seeing Ben Salter (The Gin Club, Giants of Science, The Wilson Pickers) use it to amazing effect at The Eastern in Ballarat. The idea was to use it to fill out my vocal sound at solo shows, but I got hooked on the hard tune sounds and really dialled it up to be as robotic as possible, whilst maintaining decipherable lyrics. I also wanted the instrumentation to reflect the machine-like nature of the vocals. For the first time I used keys as my primary writing tool and this helped to shape a very different sound. Whilst I have been performing these songs live for the past three years, it has been a stripped back version with just keys and vocals. I used these elements as the foundation and then built upon them with keyboard and software soundscapes. Some songs changed completely from how I originally envisioned them once I started recording them, but I was happy to take an organic approach to a process that was built on synthetic sounds.
Is there an overarching theme to the album that you’re trying to communicate on the album?
It is very hard to get past the melancholy entrenched in this album. It’s not something I necessarily set out to achieve, but there are certainly chords and sounds that my ears are attracted to and this has historically steered my lyrical content to a somewhat sad place. After a few songs started coming together I started to develop a narrative for the album that fitted with the robotic overtones. A Miner began to take on a robotic persona, this lead me to contemplate robotics and artificial intelligence. People are becoming so wary of these advancements in technology and there is certainly a fear that one day the machines will take over. In the case of A Miner, the machine is not equipped to deal with the complex range of human emotions and delves into a world of despair.
More on this, there is a disclaimer on the CD case about anxiety and depression etc. Is it your aim to evoke these feelings with your music?
I thought it was important to put the disclaimer in the liner notes purely because it is an emotional listen. It is 52 minutes of fairly unrelenting darkness. Although my writing rarely a first-hand account, I generally tell stories from a first person perspective, so this probably makes the experience more relatable. Heath McCurdy, who mixed and mastered the album, sent me a message during his part of the process and half-jokingly remarked he had to take a break for a few days as it was effecting his mental health. I laughed it off until I got into his first mix, that was when the underlying sadness really hit me. I had some teary moments. I think it’s important to feel something when you listen to music and I’m certainly not opposed to music inducing feelings of happiness – that’s just not my particular style.
Tell us about the lead single ‘Skulls Floating On’ – is there a story behind this one?
This is quite an old song, so it’s hard to recall where it originated from, but from memory, it was kick started by seeing footage of an Indian funeral ceremony that involved sailing the body of the deceased on a river.
Your music is fueled with minimalistic beats, brooding vocoder and dark-star synths. Who have been some of your biggest influences in the creation of this type of music? Where did the interest begin?
When I started this project 4 years ago, the use of auto-tune on vocals weren’t as prevalent as they are now. It really was this element that led me to want to build an electronic sound. The artist that has probably influenced me the most is James Blake. I love his production work and there is certainly a sense of drama in his arrangements. In terms of the use of synth to add a sinister element, it is hard to go past Barry Burns’ work in Mogwai.
In addition to leading Ballarat indie rock band Mark With the Sea, you’re also half of Heart of the Rat Records, which has released acclaimed albums by Freya Josephine Hollick, Epicure and The Dead Salesmen. What encouraged you to go into a solo venture with these two other projects well underway?
I enjoy so many different sounds and styles of music – writing for me is no different. I definitely have a list in my head of the different types of albums that I want to produce and now I want to tick them off while I still have the passion to do it. Heart of the Rat was initially set up for Aaron and I to have a vehicle to carry any release that we desired to put out into the world. Between us we are involved in some part in many of the bands we have put out – SWHAT, Matheson, Mark with the Sea and now A Miner – so the label is encouragement in itself. New releases help to keep the label fresh.
You’ve been involved in music for a number of years, what’s one of the biggest challenges you’ve faced, and what influence/effect did that have on your music?
The greatest challenge for me is overcoming the overwhelming self-doubt that the music I produce is not worthy of reaching a wider audience. I think this fact alone has held me back from getting out of my comfort zone and looking to play outside of the safety of my home town. That’s something I’d like to change for this release and plan to play more shows outside of my comfort zone.
Will you be looking at doing any upcoming gigs or performances as A Miner?
I’m currently planning how to bring the A Miner experience out of the studio and onto the stage. I want to produce a dynamic experience for the audience that is both visually and aurally effecting.
Thanks so much for chatting. To finish up, what comes next for you?
The idea is to align a run of shows to coincide with the release of the second single from the album, ‘Did you see the lights?’. I’ve recently shot a music video for it with Ballarat video production house, Mass Motion. It’s having the final editing touches applied. I’m excited to get it out into the world and to get out into the world myself.
Release: As Water Fills My Lungs is out now via Heart of the Rat Records.