Mark Gage loves a challenge. Even one as big as what Magna Carta offered him.
His mission: to do electronic remixes of tracks created by the progressive rock label’s stable of artists. His biggest obstacle: poring over Magna Carta’s vast catalog to find the right songs for the daunting project.
The end result is “Sonic Residue From Vapourspace (The Magna Carta Remix Series Volume 1),” released Feb. 5.
Gage, who works under the guise of Vapourspace, admits he thought it was going to be drudgery to sift through all of Magna Carta’s albums, but as he listened to tracks from such artists as Steve Morse, Niacin, Steve Walsh, Attention Deficit, Bozzio Levin Stevens and Liquid Tension Experiment, he began to appreciate their musicianship.
“I got the original master tapes and was able to dig deeper into their performances,” Gage said. “Once I started to break down the songs, I noticed that the main difference between techno and prog rock is that prog musicians want to fill as much of the space as possible with notation and virtuosity. The techno set is the direct opposite; it’s all about minimalism. So really what I wound up doing with all these tracks was taking away from what was actually there and it helped bring out a lot of the stuff that was buried underneath a lot of the performances. It highlighted even more the beauty of the pieces.”
Some techno performers might have been put off by the Magna Carta project, but Gage says it wasn’t unrealistic for him to take on the job.
“A lot of people would’ve been really snotty or snide about it,” Gage said, “but to me, I thought a lot of what I do electronically – which I’ve been calling neo-classicist electronic, for the lack of a better term – anything I’ve put out that’s original material definitely draws on classic electronic groups like Tangerine Dream or Klaus Schulze. And those people aren’t that far from prog rock.
“There was just a question of defining what it was exactly I was going to do for the label. When they called me, it was a rather open-ended thing, ‘Do you want to do something for the label?’ I didn’t own releases of the label, but I was familiar with the label. I knew that I wanted to work in the context of newer things, like from the past two years. Mind you, we started talking about doing this project over two years ago now, and I started working on it over a year ago, so we were drawing from releases from that period of time.”
One of the highlights is Morse’s “Led On,” a tip of the hat to Led Zeppelin.
“What I did is similar in structure to the original, but definitely different in outcome,” Gage said. “That one, I think, you can actually lay the original version and the other one over the top of each other. They’re exactly in time. Through the whole project, the original intent of the performers is still there, but it still has a Vapourspace texture to it.”
Gage’s next project is a techno-pop collaboration with DJ Punisher, aka Michelle Herrmann, of Detroit. Teamed as Mimi & Boyd, the two will release a full-length disc, “Angular Island,” on Phthalo Records sometime in April.
VAPOURSPACE ON THE WEB: www.vapourspace.com.
More updates: Joe Henry, Marcus King, Lily Kershaw, Poliça, Sarah Brightman, Jerry Leger, Simple Minds, Grateful Dead, etc