Mark Tranmer
Mark Tranmer

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gnac / Mark Tranmer Biography

Mark Tranmer started having guitar lessons at primary school. Whilst at secondary school, he started recording songs at home on his dad's 2-track reel-to-reel machine using guitar, a Casio keyboard and a couple of claves. Tranmer later progressed to a 4-track tape machine, and continued to record new ideas, fill cassettes with them, and subsequently fill shoe boxes with the cassettes. The shoeboxes were then placed under the bed at regular intervals.

Tranmer got into Les Disques du Crépuscule in 1983 because at that time he was into Josef K and all the other Postcard bands, and a lot of Factory stuff. In Red Rhino records (R.I.P.) in York, he noticed that The Durutti column - a band he was really into at that time - had a couple of songs on the 'From Brussels With Love' double album compilation that Crépuscule had put out. As as result he discovered the likes of Wim Mertens, Antena, Michael Nyman and Harold Budd.

A few years later Tranmer went to see a band called St. Christopher at the (as was then) Spotted Cow pub in York and ended up joining that band sometime in 1989 to play guitar, keyboard and tambourine at their live shows. St. Christopher joined the Sarah label for a few years from around 1989, and did a fair bit of touring in England, Scotland, France and Switzerland with other Sarah bands including the Sea Urchins, Action Painting!, the Orchids, Heavenly, Another Sunny Day, and the Field Mice. Tranmer left the band in 1990 to concentrate on filling more shoeboxes with cassettes, and managed to fill quite a lot.

The beginning of gnac was marked by the recording of a track called 'barman/horse' at home in late 1996. This piece uses a mixture of repetitive melodic guitars and samples from a Radio 4 documentary. 't.i.m.' is another example. The name 'gnac' is taken from the Italo Calvino short story called 'moon & gnac' which can be found in the volume entitled 'Marcovaldo'.

The first released gnac recordings appeared on the 'An Evening in the Company of the Vespertine' compilation in late 1997. Three gnac tracks were included: 'Can't Get Through to You', 'Une Chanson Du Crépuscule', featuring mini Yamaha keyboard sounds, guitar, and extracts from a Jean-Luc Godard monologue, and 'Sofia', which features guitar and samples of the sea. Kristen Lound of Amberley Records heard the Vespertine compilation and asked gnac to record a 7" vinyl single. It was agreed that the first 250 copies would be on mauve vinyl since the 3-track ep recorded for Amberley was called 'In Mauve'. In the meantime, gnac sent demos to other small record labels and both Earworm and Kooky quickly wrote back saying 'yes'. The Earworm single was 'The Moustache' / 'Armchair Thriller', with the first 250 on toffee vinyl and the remainder on regular black. Next came 'A Tangle With ' / 'The Broken Fall' on Kooky Records with the first 250 on racing green vinyl.

With all the early releases gnac wanted some kind of common theme running through the artwork Despite them all being on different labels, and so opted, in each case, for black and white sleeves with colour records inside (at least for the initial pressings). This idea continued with the fourth single 'Hennebert Sleeve' on Liquefaction records, with the initial press on ice-blue vinyl. Hennebert Sleeve is dedicated to Benoît Hennebert for his fantastic Les Disques du Crépuscule sleeve designs. The b side of the Liquefaction single, 'The Man With the Laugh Like a Rusty Hinge', was later released on CD on the expanded 2007 LTM reissue of the 'Sevens' compilation.

Around this time Vespertine was flourishing, with releases by Bear, the Bitter Springs, Lazerboy and others. Vespertine released the debut gnac album, 'Friend Sleeping' in June 1999. It went down well with the NME (7/10 from Kitty Empire), and subsequently music from that album was used on TV programmes such as Omnibus accompanying David Hockney's discussion of the use of lens projection techniques in painting. Another earlier song, 'Armchair Thriller' was used as the run-out credit and incidental music in another Omnibus about John Le Carre's work. A remix 12" single of 'Our Distance' (from the earlier 'In Mauve' ep) also appeared about this time.

In November 1999 Rocket Girl released the cd compilation 'sevens', comprising all the tracks from the first three seven inch singles with seven additional tracks. Also in 1999, friends in Tours, France, who ran Acetone Records, were putting together a series of singles to mark the end of the millennium; one single a month, and all the 12 single sleeves put together formed a big picture. Other singles included one by Roger Quigley (with whom Tranmer works in the Montgolfier Brothers) as well as singles by Papa M and Cavil. gnac's release for this series was 'Eighteenth Century Quiz Show' / 'The Trials of Dr Pangloss' on clear vinyl 7". 'Eighteenth Century Quiz Show' later appeared on the third gnac album 'Biscuit Barrel Fashion' (in identical form).

And then it went quiet for a while on the singles front, until April 2001 when a gnac track appeared on a split single alongside the extraordinarily named [Smooth] Operator for the Finnish label Octane Grammophon. It was initially thought [Smooth] Operator was Sade's ex-backing band but it later transpired that the Sade connection was different; this band were also called Sade once - it's a word in Finnish for rain. But Sade (the Finnish band) had to change their name to avoid confusion with the other Sade, and thought it would be a laugh to name themselves after one of the other, more famous, Sade's biggest hits!

In the spring of 2001, gnac released third album 'Biscuit Barrel Fashion' on Poptones. This collection of instrumentals was widely reviewed by the non-UK press, and perhaps most notably and most bizarrely was awarded album of the month in Russian Playboy magazine. Following this album release, gnac re-focused on work with Roger Quigley in the Montgolfier Brothers, and they released their second album 'The World is Flat' on Poptones in August 2002, having previously re-released their debut album 'Seventeen Stars' (originally on Vespertine) as the very first release on Alan McGee's post Creation label.

In September 2002, Mark Tranmer went to Japan to work with Ian Masters on the "Wing Disk" collaborative project. Five tracks were recorded, which later appeared on a 10" ep on French label Isonauta. In March 2003 gnac travelled to Moscow to play live at the request of promoter Artemy Troitsky.

In summer 2003 Mark Tranmer began recording music sessions for the third Montgolfier Brothers album ('All My Bad Thoughts') in a back-bedroom in Yorkshire. For this album most of the music recording is first-take guitar and piano. Those sessions led to three sets of material. One set became the music for 'All my Bad Thoughts'. Another set was always supposed to be instrumental rather than 'for the addition of vocals' and this set became 'Scoop of Ice-Cream Moon' (the Mark Tranmer solo album on Kooky, 2004). The third set of songs ended up in a shoebox under the bed, although three of these were later the basis of further recording in 2011 with “Bad Dancers Collide”, a collaboration with vocalist Elizabeth Carley, resulting in a 5-track ep "glimpses" released over 2 x colour vinyl 7" singles.

In summer 2004 Mark Tranmer travelled to Tokyo for a few days and stayed in Shinjuku, where he wrote one of the tracks for the new gnac album 'Twelve Sidelong Glances' in a hotel room overlooking the park. Other songs for that album were mainly recorded at home. The final recording and mixing was done in late 2005, and mastering completed in early 2006. The artwork was finished in March 2006 and it has a genuine Hennebert sleeve. The album was the first of three released by LTM recordings.

In 2007 gnac released a second album on LTM: "The Arrival of The Fog”. As well as 10 short-to-medium length tracks, this album also included two extended tracks: Bright Days In Winter, and Winter Blanket, both tracks with running times in excess of 10 minutes.

The final album releases with the name gnac were in 2010, on Tranmer's own Vertical Features label. "The Red Pages" is a double CD. CD 1 is a 25-track piano-biased record of themes and variations, recorded live in a studio in Rome with piano-virtuoso Alessandra Celletti and with Tranmer on guitar on some tracks and occasionally providing extra piano hands on others. CD 2 includes the gnac album "The Unread Pages”, a very electronic keyboard-based record, as well as some demo tracks for the red pages; some recorded in Tranmer’s home studio, others direct to mp3 recorder in Alessandra's flat in Rome.

More recently Mark Tranmer has released work under his own name - including a companion album to "The Red Pages" called "How Scarlet The Leaves" - appearing on clear vinyl 12" and CD. A special double CD edition of 100 copies of interlinked albums The Red Pages and How Scarlet The Leaves was released in late 2013, with packaging designed by Timothy O'Donnell (who has worked with 4AD). Tim O'Donnell also designed new artwork for Scoop of Ice-Cream Moon - used for the digital only re-release (which was also expanded to 20 tracks from the original 12). Other digital only releases, have included an album of "Three Long Pieces”, Mark Tranmer & Alessandra Celletti live in Rome from a concert in December 2010, and a digital-only single: "How Scarlet The Leaves IV" by Mark Tranmer.

Most recently, in May 2014, Mark Tranmer played live piano with the Montgolfier Brothers at special concert in Manchester Central Library Reading Room, as part of the "Museums at Night" events, which also involved the screening of several archive films of Manchester.

Various musical projects are on-going, and updates will appear on these web pages.

Mark Tranmer, May 2014.

gnac - Twelve Sidelong Glances

gnac - Friend Sleeping

gnac - The Arrival of the Fog
gnac - Twelve Sidelong Glances


gnac - Friend Sleeping


gnac - Friend Sleeping