Magda, Marc Houle & Troy Pierce Talk


Originally born out of Minus and the Run Stop Restore project, Items & Things has gone on to become a powerful three headed hydra, with bosses Magda, Marc Houle and Troy Pierce all contributing releases to the label, alongside the likes of Jimmy Edgar, as well as uncovering fresh talent such as Madato and Danny Benedittini along the way. On top of running the label, the trio have been taking their intimate underground ‘Down and Out’ parties far and wide in the last couple of years, and they arrive in London on Saturday to take over The Loft Studios, preceded by a reputation for throwing some of the finest parties around. R$N caught up with them to talk about the label, the parties, blowing up balloons and mexican death traps….

R$N: Firstly, please introduce yourselves and tell us a little bit about how Items and Things came together.
Marc: We formed when we were still on Minus as a way to release the stuff that we came across in our adventures that we felt needed to be released but really didn't fit the Minus sound at all.  When we realized we didn't fit that sound either, we decided to take the small boutique label up a notch to be our main platform. 
Magda: Troy, Marc, and I had already worked together on a project called Run Stop Restore so starting items and things was a natural progression since we had many similar musical interests.
R$N: The events side of Items and Things is called Down and Out and on your website you promise detail in decoration and for the experience to be full of surprises. Are you influenced in this by the attention to detail showed by pioneering NY clubs such as Nicky Siano’s Gallery? If so, who’s job is it to blow up the balloons?
Marc:  I think the idea of decorating for a party has been around for at least 50 years.  The whole idea of a Down & Out party was to go back to how things used to be for us – playing and attending more underground locations with a less mega club feel.  We have a machine that blows up things for us.
Magda: yeah its called me. i do all the work. i slave away blowing up hundreds of balloons before each party. no wonder i never make it to dinner. 
R$N: It’s quite novel for the three head honcho’s of a label to play together at every night you put on. You must be a tight unit!?
troy – we are so tight it hurts (sometimes)
Magda: We have known each other for at least 45 years so we are very used to it. I have all of marc's tracks memorized by heart since 1984. 
R$N: In regards to running the label, who does what – do all three of you have distinct roles?
Marc: We’re not really good at roles so we all just pick up the slack of what’s needed.  I'm definitely more technology based so I can help a little more with all the server stuff or tech needs.
magda: Since troy and i get most of the demos we choose potential tracks for the label and then the three of us make the final decisions on the releases and artwork. we have a great team behind us who really keep moving things forward. everyone works very hard and it has been a very exciting year.
R$N: What can you tell us about the guests you’re bringing over with you to play at your London party at Loft Studios on 4th August?
Magda: we are bringing the young 'uns from the label: madato and danny benedettini. madato plays live and he has a very unique sound thats something in between italo disco, post punk, and techno. danny will be dj'ing and starting the night right. we also have a special guest that night, tim paris who made an amazing track for items a few months ago. he will spice things up at the party for sure
R$N: What have we got to look forward to in relation to the label’s output in the not so distant future?
Marc: We’re excited to have one of our original releasees Click Box to put put another great EP. 
magda: The three of us are currently working on a collaboration EP with miss kittin and i'm also working on my own EP for the fall.
R$N: Where have you taken the Down and Out parties so far, what have been particular highlights?
Troy – Highlights for me have been the first one we did in berlin (awesome crowd/great venue, reminded me why i moved to berlin) and the mexico city one. the mexico city party had a great vibe, amazing voodoo decor and a deadly backstage area with a four foot gap you had to traverse, open windows (2/3 story drop to the street) and a super ghetto breaker box/electricity outlet with exposed wiring all with in arms reach…. viva la mexico!
Marc – Yeah the backstage at that Mexico show was a deathtrap but somehow we all managed to avoid falling or getting zapped.
magda: i am especially shocked that i didn't fall in that hole
R$N: You say that the remit of Tracks and Things is simply to put out the music you fall in love with, having said that – what unifies the releases you’ve put out so far?
Marc: Yes it’s funny how similar our tastes are.  We all generally like different music but all meet up in a sort of Venn diagram.  Tha’s the Items and Things sound.
magda: i think we lean towards certain sounds because we are all from the midwest and grew up listening to music from detroit/chicago and share similar influences.
R$N: How familiar are you all with London, have you spent much time in the city and what are your favorite things about it?
Troy: I have spent a decent amount of time in london over the years and really enjoy it there. i can always count on good food (mango w/lime from pret, any indian delivery) and great shopping. also the best place to get my haircut on the planet, miss you Gregg!
Marc: I love the music from Suede to Iron Maiden.
magda: The food! living in berlin i miss the variety of interesting restaurants found in london. there are also so many cool exhibitions to check out. i really enjoy my trips to london and always try to stay a few days.
R$N: Finally, a question for each of you individually and a collective question for all of you to finish off:
Marc: You’ve produced 1,000s of tracks to date and play a unique live set each time you play. How do you remain so prolific and how do you approach your live sets?
Marc: I’m old.  I’ve been making a few tracks a day or sometimes a few a week for years now.  It slowly adds up.  It’s like looking back at how many games you’ve played – It’s fun doing it so you don’t mind.  For me if I stopped making music I would freak out and turn into the Hulk.  For my live sets I would get so bored to play the same 10 tracks every week.  This also helps during the week because I know if I don’t come to a show with new stuff,  it will grow tiresome to me and I’m sure that will show to the people as well.
R$N: Magda, How important do you think growing up in Detroit was for your own personal taste and eventual involvement in music and has it been overshadowed by what you’ve since learned and experienced as a resident of Berlin?
Magda: without growing up in detroit i would not be here right now. it completely influenced my musical taste. i don't think that experience can ever be overshadowed. moving to berlin opened my eyes and ears to a whole new scene and a new chapter in my life but detroit will always be my home.
R$N: Troy, You produce music on your own and also collaborate with others,  under your Louderbach moniker and also Troy & Reka. Are you more at home working alone or do you prefer the collaborative approach to creation?
Troy: I think i am most comfortable working on music alone… but there are situations (troy + reka and with heartthrob) where two heads are better than one. In the case of louderbach though we almost always work apart, gibby in los angeles doing the vocals and myself in berlin coming up with the music.  
R$N: What’s going on with Run, Stop, Restore – is that finished with or can we expect to see further releases from the three of you together in the future?
Marc: We talk about it from time to time but it would take so much time to do it right that it's on hold for awhile.  We would have to not only write an album together but practice a live show and think about a proper tour.  It's just not possible right now with our tight schedules and now all the responsibilities of the label. 

Down and Out happens this Saturday 4th August at Loft Studios with Magda, Marc Houle (Live), Troy Pierce, Madato (live), Danny Benedettini and Tim Paris.
Full details here.