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Pan American
Mark Nelson - A's the Q's

Fasten your seat belts - Mark Nelson answers our questions

I'm sure you have heard of Pan American, but maybe you thought it was an airline rather than a band. Well, it's both - kinda. Because Pan American is not exactly a BAND, but rather Mark Nelson's `solo` project if his other, by now legendary band Labradford are taking a break. Mark just released his second album under the new name, 360 Business / 360 Bypass, which he hopes to follow with a tour of Europe in March and probably another Labradford album before the year is over. He also took time out to answer some of our questions by e-mail recently and here is what he had to say:

Luna K.: The first and rather general question is: What' it like to be Mark Nelson at the start of the year 2000?
Mark: Well, excellent really. I got married last year and that's made me happy. My job is making music, I have a a a great apartment, dog and friends-life has never been better for me.

Luna K.: How do you feel about your status in the "indierock" community? (or do you feel linked to any kind of "scene" at all?!)
Mark: I feel linked to people-friends-who have shared some of the same music experiences I have. I don't feel like I have any particular status-I'm proud of the labels I work with and the people I collaborate with, and that is enough I think.

Luna K.: Please tell us how you feel you've matured from your first album (with Labradford) to the new one as Pan American?
Mark: I've gotten closer to having my own voice I think. The first record we did was pretty derivative I think. But I think we have grown and refined our ideas.

Luna K.: Compared to the first one, was it easier or more difficult to make this second Pan American album?
Mark: Both really. I didn't really know I was making a record the first time. I was just trying to learn how to program a sequencer and it just turned into a record. This time I was a little more self-aware, but also better at the computer so-both easier and harder.

Luna K.: How important is originality for you? It seems to me that you're constantly exploring areas where most other musicians haven't been before. Is that how you approach your music?
Mark: Like I said above-that is what i'm intrested in. it's those artists who have there own instant identity-whether it's coltrane or pole or elmore james that I am most inspired by.

Luna K.: Where is/is there a musical line you wouldn't cross?
Mark: There are things I can't do - I won't be rapping or writing an opera soon-but beyond that I hope that anything is possible.

Luna K.: How do you go about writing most of your songs? Do you write a 'normal' song and then go on to deconstruct it?
Mark: I do what I can. If god wanted me to write pop songs I guess I would be better at it. it all comes back to trying to get out what is inside. that is my goal.

Luna K.: Is ambiance/atmosphere more important to you than melody?
Mark: Not really. I think this new Pan American LP has a lot of melody in it. I prefer a more abstract melodic sense maybe Miles Davis not the Beatles - but melody is very important to me and I try to bring it into my records.

Luna K.: You invited some guests to play on this album. Was that some sort of a masterplan or did it happen by chance basically?
Mark: I've always wanted Al and Mimi from Low to sing on a record of mine. Their harmonies are one of my favorite things in the world.

Luna K.: Most of your songs are rather slow and quite a few people equate slow with being sad and unhappy. I'm sure you don't, but what makes you chose the slow tempo most of the time?
Mark: It seems that slowness gets overlooked in the world alot. It's something that intrests me. A slow place is a very rare place these days. But I'm changing it too. I'm up to 120 -130 bpm on some new things. Not Gabba yet but I'm trying.

Luna K.: I know that you like music from Jamaica and South America quite a bit... Any recommendations for our readers?
Mark: Caetano Veloso - a true master from Brazil. He had a record last year called Livero that should be easy to find and is very beautiful.

Luna K.: How do you feel about not selling too many records, despite favourable reviews most of the time?
Mark: I know too many people who spend too much time worrying about that.

Luna K.: And my last question: What are your plans for the immediate future? Can we expect a new Labradford record sometime soon as well?
Mark: Sometime this year I hope. Also a tour (Pan American and Labradford) in Europe in March and some US dates - Pan American - later this year.

Luna K.: Thanks for your time and good luck with the album, Mark!

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