INTERVIEW: Mark Datter
Updated: Feb 24
Mark Datter has been constantly evolving his ever flourishing sound and takes strong influence from heavy metal and rock. With his debut EP 'Annihilation' however, you wouldn't think this was the case upon the first listen. The Baltimore born songwriter and multi-instrumentalist has delved into the world of synthwave and the many directions you can go into within it, and the result is a hugely potent 5-track EP full of quirky surprises throughout.
'The Equaliser' is brilliantly written and structured and feels like a perfect introduction to the EP. 'Annihilation' feels more psychedelic and a bit more twisted, with wonky synthesisers throughout and an 80s inspired drum accompanying. It's a well bodied and transcendent work of art from Datter, and we spoke to him all about the EP, it's story and everything in between.
Hey Mark! How are you? Good start to 2022?
I’ve been doing well thank you and yes it has been a fairly productive start of the New Year which is a new concept for me because I usually slack off for a few months.
Tell us an interesting fact about you not related to music!
An interesting fact about me, not about music ... .would probably be my obsession with anything horror. I rarely watch or read anything that’s not horror related in some capacity (except for Star Trek or Star Wars and that might actually be the second “interesting” *nerdy* fact about me). It might actually be negatively affecting my mental health a little bit but I usually get some good ideas from it.
Tell us all about your sound and style. Who influenced you?
There’s definitely a huge influence from horror soundtracks and 80s sound palettes but I originally started this project with the intention of doing like a reverse Tame Impala type of deal and it kind of manifested itself into something totally different.
I love certain 80s aesthetics and have tried to incorporate those while making it sound more updated. Not sure if I’m pulling it off or not but I’m having fun at least. There’s such an electric energy to 80s pop or new wave that has definitely been making a comeback in the last couple of years.
I think some of the more major influences/ bands & producers that are constantly in my listening rotation would be in no particular order: Mitch Murder, the Midnight, Oingo Boingo, Drab Majesty, Deafheaven, MGMT, Billy Idol, Iron Maiden, and Phish. All of these guys have played a major role in different aspects of my writing and how I want my music to sound.
I played in what I guess most people would call a jam band for years called Electric Love Machine and I think I was always kind of pushing for a certain sound that I was envisioning but it gets super difficult when three additional creative minds are involved. While I loved every minute of playing with those guys and learned so much about the industry and performing, I never really felt like I was a full musician (if that makes sense) because I hadn’t really finished a whole song by myself. This was an opportunity to prove to myself that I could do that.
You released your debut EP 'Annihilation' last year, what's it about as a whole?
There was a point where I was really having to reevaluate who I was as a person, how I was spending my time, and how I was approaching being a musician and it got pretty dark for me for awhile in a lot of ways. I’ve had so many amazing people in my life that whether they know it or not have played a huge role in my growth. The EP largely is a story about myself or people I’ve encountered. It’s about destroying old habits, admitting and coming to terms with faults and flaws, and breaking down those barriers that are holding you back from reaching your full potential. You really need to embrace that darkness though because there is beauty and knowledge in it and ultimately will allow you to grow if you let it but it’s also easy to get sucked in and feel like you’re drowning so everything is a balancing act.
How was the recording and writing process?
The recording and writing process was actually super easy to be honest. I went years without writing or producing anything of value and right when the pandemic started I had an idea to do a black metal/synthwave project that I didn’t really take anywhere but a lot of it was used for the last song on the EP “Ghosts of Repetition”. That idea kind of sat for about 8 months and then in March of last year, while I had nothing else to do because of the pandemic, I started writing “The Great Equalizer” as well as lyrics (which I have never really written in my entire life) and the ideas just came pouring out. Actually a lot of the writing was done while I was watching Star Trek: the Next Generation. I would go for a run and then just post up for hours with TNG on in the background and crank out music. I found it super relaxing and really good background noise that I could tune in and tune out of without having to know what was going on. I was sending bits and pieces of the songs to friends who seemed to really like it so that was super encouraging. I think I had all the music and lyrics for the EP completely written, recorded, and half produced in Ableton within about 3 weeks.
The production process was with my good friend Chris Honsberger who goes by the alias Deltanine and when I tell you I didn’t know the first thing about production that is an incredibly gross understatement. All I knew is I wanted him to help me mix everything and he basically right off the bat was like, “Nah we should put this here and add this here,” and I was like, “Oh we’re doing all of this then…” We did that for about 6 months spending hours a night multiple nights a week. The foundation of what I originally had is definitely still there but I didn’t ever imagine any of it would sound like it currently does. I couldn’t be more grateful though that he pushed me and helped me through that entire process because I learned so much in the process and the way I have been approaching writing and producing recently has done a complete 180º. I still kind of want to release the EP as I originally had it just to show the initial intent and how it changed.
What's your favourite song on the EP if any?
It varies depending on my mood but I think the song that rings the most true for me consistently is “Shapeshifters” because it reminds me that while everything and everyone is constantly changing they’re just trying to make something meaningful with what they’re given and that’s the most important thing especially right now when everything in the world is absolute insanity.
What's in store for Mark Datter in 2022?
I’m currently nearing the end of the writing process for my next release so I’ll end up going back in the studio with Chris to start getting these songs ready for distribution whenever that’s finished. I’m also laying the groundwork down for a live band so stay tuned for that! Not sure when that’ll be happening but I’d expect to hear something about it by summer time.. ish..maybe? I dunno lol. Deadlines and timelines are the bane of my existence.
Listen to the EP in full here: