Mark Hanley was born in Akron, Ohio, and began studying guitar at age 12; his first live performance was in 1975 while he was still in his teens. His first record release was in 1983 by the group, The Room 101. In 1985, he joined the local band, Sister Ray, which released several singles and four albums, receiving favorable reviews in Rolling Stone, Spin and Forced Exposure. In 1989, just before the fall of the Berlin Wall, Sister Ray toured in Berlin, Switzerland, Spain, Basque, France, Belgium and Holland. After returning to the U.S., the band played in Detroit, Columbus, New York City, Pittsburgh, Akron and Cleveland. Sister Ray’s final album was released in 1990. Subsequently, Mark played in several area bands and in many genres and began live electronic performance with Lars Brondum, which he still continues to do today. He enjoys performing solo concerts of guitar-based electronic music that often feature guest musicians and poets. Currently, he resides in Youngstown.
When did you first realize you wanted to play music? Did the desire to compose come along with the desire to play? Or later? Was the guitar always your first love?
I think I wanted to play and compose music before I was old enough to understand the concepts. I have been moved by music as far back as I can remember. Drums and percussion are my first love, but for the sake of sanity to my family I began playing the electric guitar, which is a very quiet instrument by itself. The amplifier came later.
I do remember playing around with the piano we had in our house before that...lifting the lid and plucking the strings. And spinning records backwards.
How did you steer toward electronic music? Who or what have been your main influences in electronic music?
When I was very young, most music just gave me the creeps. Anything Walt Disney, popular musicals and TV commercials were almost like fingernails on a blackboard, so to speak. Maybe the result of sticking a safety pin in an electric outlet as a toddler...I don't know why. But science fiction movie soundtracks always attracted me and, later on, music from all the spy and sci-fi TV shows.
Many things that influenced my interest in electronic music are not directly related to electronic music. There was "Good Vibrations" and "Wild Honey" by the Beach Boys as a child, even "Strawberry Fields," but I loved short wave radios in the 60's and 70's. Richard Pinhas and his group "Heldon," were important to me in 1976 and when I first heard the debut Pere Ubu LP back in the day, I knew there were many new frontiers to discover. I feel fortunate to have seen synthesizers when they were in a primitive stage and then seen them become affordable for everyone. It's a great time to live.
You recently went abroad to perform. Can you tell us a little about that experience?
My current project is called "Non Stop Now." It includes my friend and collaborator, Sonia Nouioui who lives in Tunis, Tunisia. I went to Tunisia this summer to meet her and record her reciting her poetry and other writings. Tunis is a very large and extended city and it is not easy to simply go there and perform. I will have to settle on having our music played on the radio for the time being. I was surprised to learn about the popularity of traditional American country music and 80's club music while I was there.
What do you envision for your future, musically speaking?
As for the future, I plan to continue with Non Stop Now and release a CD in the U.S. and distribute it to Tunisia, Algeria and Turkey, hopefully within a few months. I don't lay out too many plans because there is always something new to catch up with.